Jacqueline Simon, Guest Writer
On Aug. 23, Illinois State Trooper Nicholas Hopkins, husband and father of three, was killed in the line of duty while executing a search warrant in East St Louis, Illinois with other members of his SWAT Team. What wasn’t immediately known to members of the general public was the type of search warrant being served. It was later learned that Officer Hopkins was attempting to serve a no-knock search warrant.
A no-knock warrant is a warrant issued by a judge that allows law enforcement officers to enter a dwelling without prior notification to the occupants such as knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell.
According to Dr. Tim Maher, undergraduate director and outreach program coordinator for the criminology and criminal justice department at the University of Missouri—St. Louis, no-knock warrants always require judicial approval. The no-knock warrant is usually associated with an arrest warrant or a search warrant. Its primary purpose is to catch people off guard who would otherwise pose a significant threat to law enforcement officers. The no-knock warrant also reduces the likelihood that evidence is destroyed, particularly drug evidence, says Maher.
The suspect in Hopkin’s case has been identified as 45-year-old Christopher Grant of East St Louis. On Sept. 13, Grant was indicted by a grand jury and charged with three counts of first-degree murder, armed habitual criminal, unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon, two counts of armed violence, and three counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.
Soon after Grant’s arrest his family took to social media to get his side of the story out. The Grant family expressed extreme remorse and issued a public apology to Officer Hopkins’ Family. According to the Belleville News Democrat, Grant’s family said that the suspect heard a loud bang and thought that someone was breaking into his home. When he discharged his firearm, he thought he was protecting himself and his home against a home intruder. According to Torrence Grant, the suspect’s brother, when another brother spoke with the suspect by phone, the suspect was crying and devastated that he had shot a police officer.
The article posted on Belleville News Democrat’s Facebook Page garnered thousands of comments and shares. Users from both sides expressed strong opinions for and against the use of no-knock warrants. One of the most shared comments came from Facebook user Josh Jenkins. Jenkins comment started with, “Unpopular opinion,” then he went on to express his disdain of the use of no-knock warrants, citing a homeowner’s right to defend themselves against home intrusion and an individual’s right to due process as determining factors for why no-knock warrants should no longer be utilized by law enforcement officers. If it hadn’t been for the no-knock warrant, the officer in this case would still be alive, in Jenkin’s opinion. During a phone interview, Jenkins says he majored in legal studies at the American Military University in Charleston, West Virginia. He says he served 10 years in the United States Army as an infantryman and served as special operations in Syria. Jenkins believes that no-knock warrants are generally preserved for extremely violent individuals or suspected terrorists. Not a low-level drug dealer with no history of violence against others. According to Maher, no-knock warrants aren’t unusual and a homeowner does have the right to stand their ground to protect their dwelling inside and outside of their home. Maher went on to say that considerable judicial thought goes into the issuance of no-knock warrants and that they are issued if there is enough reason to believe that if given notice the officer’s lives would be at risk. Maher believes the use of the no-knock warrant will be evaluated more as a result of the officer’s death.