There is no question that the events near Snook in the early morning hours of Dec. 19 were tragic. What is equally clear is that 31-year-old Burleson County Sheriff Sgt. Investigator Adam Sowders didn't have to die. There was no need for the "no-knock" search warrant that law enforcement officials served on Henry "Hank" Magee that terrible morning.
Deputies were acting on a report from a jailed informant that Magee was growing marijuana plants inside his home off County Road 278. Further, the believed, Magee might have had possession of stolen weapons.
The no-knock warrant was duly authorized and allowed the eight law enforcement officers to enter Magee's home without alerting him to their presence. Officers said they did call out they were law enforcement when they battered down the door, but Magee said he didn't hear them. Instead, roused from sleep by what he said he thought were armed intruders, Magee grabbed a gun and fired, killing Sowders.
Magee, 28, was arrested and charged with capital murder and drug charges. On Wednesday, a Burleson County Grand Jury no billed Magee on the capital murder charge. He was indicted on the drug charges, though, and will stand trial for those.
In 10 hours of testimony before the Grand Jury, District Attorney Julie Renken made no recommendations on the capital murder charge. It would have been easy for the jurors to hand up an indictment for capital murder. There certainly was enough public outcry for them to do so.
Instead, they courageously decided there simply isn't enough evidence that Magee knew when he fires that the intruders were law enforcement. Absent that evidence, it was proper for the Grand Jury to no bill Magee on the capital murder charge, as painful as that might be to those who knew, respected and loved Inspector Sgt. Sowders. It is natural for them to want the capital murder charge to go forward, but that would not be justice.
The events of early morning on Dec. 19 are the reason that no knock warrants are used rarely any more. There simply is no reason to do so in the vast majority of cases.
This is not to point the finger of blame at anyone. Everything was done by the book and handled properly.
Magee's attorney Dick DeGuerin noted, "There was no real justification for handling the search warrant in the way it was handled. It could have been easily done by knocking on the front door during broad daylight. The alternative would've been to wait till Hank drove to the store or to work. No reason to go in like an invading army and bust down the door."
DeGuerin is right.
Of course, our law enforcement officials put their lives on the line every day, and we are grateful for their service. It is imperative that they have the proper training and equipment to do their jobs as safely as possible.
Sadly, as we learned with Brazos County Constable Brian Bachmann, tragedy can strike in the beat of the heart and even the best precautions aren't always enough.
Still, there was no reason to employ a no-knock warrant on the home of Hank Magee. Officers could have knocked and waited for him to answer. They could have waited until he left his home. There was no advantage in not waiting, in not knocking.
Nothing can detract from the years of exemplary service Adam Sowders gave to the people of Washington and Burleson counties. His death leaves a hole that won't be filled.
But faced with a lack of solid evidence, the Grand Jury acted properly,