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later that afternoon for making a dent in the “unchecked” flow of marijuana trafficking and use in the Wimberley area. But there are several problems with the official story. Astute viewers would have noticed the absence of a clip in the gun lying in the yard. Although both Burns and Stapp reported hearing the rifle’s bolt action before the door opened, Windle never fired a shot, and according to the Ranger’s report, the gun was later found to be completely unloaded, with the safety engaged. None of Rusty’s friends doubt that he came to the door with a gun anyone would have, they maintain. “You can’t tell me that any cop that was there at his house that night wouldn’t have come to the door with his revolver,” if he heard a pre-dawn disturbance outside his house, said Kasia Zinz. “What good is the right to bear arms, if you can’t bring a gun to your own door?” That Rusty knowingly would have pointed his gun at a cop they find much harder to believe. “He wasn’t some kind of extremist, or a wacko,” said his boss, Ernest Olsen. “I chew out enough asses in my business, and you get ’em heated up from time to time, and Rusty, it just wasn’t in his nature. He’d just say, ‘I’m sorry, you’re right.'” Accounts from other suspects arrested on the same night also cast doubt on the officers’ version of events. Kasia Zinz was arrested at her boyfriend’s house by a second team of officers, at about the same time Rusty’s house was hit. According to Kenneth Schlanker, her boyfriend’s roommate, the cops failed to identify themselves at all. When he opened the door, they were crouched before him, their guns already drawn. A second suspect \(who asked same treatment: no identification, and guns unholstered. According to San Marcos defense attorney Billy McNabb, the requirement to “knock and announce” is a well-established common-law doctrine for police visits, unless the officers have a reasonable suspicion it would endanger their lives. “That’s why we have that policy, to avoid tragedies like this one,” he said. San Marcos police policy likewise requires a reasonable expectation of endangerment before an arrest warrant for a non-violent, low-level drug offense does not generally fit that category. “I think they saw a rifle, had their guns already drawn, and panicked,” said Zinz. When the police searched the house, they found just two baggies of pot, totaling less than an ounce. Rusty’s friends and family say be was no different than most of the other suspects netted in the work of that evening: a working person duped into getting a bag for someone he thought was a friend. The task force called them “street level dealers.” DRUG WARRIORS The thirteen-member Hays County Narcotics Task Force was formed in June of last year, by combining personnel from the narcotics divisions of the San Marcos Police Department and the Hays County Sheriff’s Office. The squad is also assisted by a special liaison in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, two A.T.F. officers serves as a special crime analyst. Multi-agency drug task forces became common across Texas in the late eighties, following changes in federal drug laws, which, among other things, allowed such task forces to take advantage of “asset forfeiture” as a potent new means of funding their operations. By working in conjunction with a U.S. Attorney, task forces can “federalize” their investigations, allowing them to keep a much greater portion of returns from seized cash, weapons, vehicles, and even houses associated with drug-related crimes than they could under state laws. Despite Hays County’s seemingly propitious location along 1-35, a major drug corridor, the county task force’s numbers in its first year were unimpressive: forty-three pounds of marijuana seized, 1.4 pounds of powdered cocaine, and less than ten grams of heroin. Not that Hays County narcs haven’t been active. As of August 1997, almost one in three persons on probation in Hays County had been convicted of drug crimes. But the returns have been limited. The force spent considerable manpower and resources on the four-month A The informant’s cabin at the 7-A Resort, Wimberley Jana Birchuni Wimberley investigation. Yet approximately thirty of the thirtyfive charges eventually filed were for fourth-degree felonies, meaning they involved delivery of small amounts of drugs. The majority of charges were for marijuana. Rusty Windle came to the Hill Country to get a new start. He was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, in a violent, crack-infested neighborhood in decline, a place his mother refers to as the “armpit of Florida.” “He told me stories about that place, of people getting shot right in front of him,” his girlfriend Kristie Izzo recalls. “I never wanted to see it.” Rusty and his younger brother rarely saw their father, who left the family when Rusty was two. He took after his mother, a tough single parent who worked as an electrician. He dropped out of high school, married at eighteen, and THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9 OCTOBER 29, 1999