Originally created 11/25/06

Inquiry sought in 92-year-old's death



ATLANTA - A civil rights activist representing the family of an elderly woman killed in a gunfight with police will ask for a federal investigation into her death.

"People in the community are angry, and rightfully so," the Rev. Markel Hutchins said Friday, adding that he will travel to Washington, D.C., on Monday to deliver a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting a Department of Justice and FBI investigation into the death of Kathryn Johnston.

"We don't think the Atlanta Police is going to police itself," the Rev. Hutchins said of his request for a federal probe.

Ms. Johnston, who police said was 92, was killed Tuesday evening by undercover narcotics agents. Authorities say the agents had obtained a search warrant for Ms. Johnston's home after buying drugs that afternoon from a man there. Police said the agents identified themselves, but when they knocked down Ms. Johnston's door, she opened fire and injured three of the officers.

"Ms. Johnston represented every African-American or American grandmother," the Rev. Hutchins said. "They (police officers) should have known who lived in the house. Why did they hold a warrant?"

The Rev. Hutchins said he has spoken with U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney about the incident.

"As this horrific incident has all the signs of an egregious violation of Ms. Johnston's civil and human rights at worst and police officers using poor judgment and unnecessary force at best, I appealed for both of their support and assistance in our efforts to get an immediate audience with the United States Department of Justice," the Rev. Hutchins said in a statement.

He also will ask the Department of Justice to send its community relations team to ease tensions between police and people in the neighborhood, which he described as "crime-riddled and drug-infested."

Neighbors and relatives have called the incident a case of mistaken identity. The Rev. Hutchins said criminals in the community often impersonate police.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said his office has launched its own investigation into the fatal shooting, but said a preliminary review of the case shows the officers "had a legal right" to search the home.

Bullets struck all three officers. Authorities said all are expected to recover.