26 years before Breonna Taylor, no-knock warrant in Boston ended tragically

BOSTON — Dan Linskey is still haunted by the mistake committed by Boston Police investigators 26 years ago.

“Oh, it was a nightmare,” Linskey said.

Linskey is a former Superintendent-in-Chief, but in March, 1994, he was a young patrolman, helping officers execute a no-knock search warrant at the home of a suspected drug dealer.

Linskey said he was outside watching a window when officers entered the wrong apartment and tackled a 75-year-old reverend named Accelyne Williams.

Williams suffered heart failure and died during the raid.

It was a major embarrassment for Boston Police and a learning experience for Linskey, who estimates he was involved in 1,500 search warrants throughout his career, including around 150 no-knock warrants.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I stayed up at night because we had a no-knock search warrant in the morning, and I was worried about what could happen,” Linskey said.

The death of Breonna Taylor in March forced a lot of states and cities to reconsider no-knocked warrants.

No-knock warrants are used to maintain an element of surprise when investigating a dangerous suspect, Linskey said.

But they’re also extremely dangerous, he said.

“Even with a ‘knock and announce’ in the middle of the night, if you don’t hear that, and you’re startled from your sleep, you think someone is coming through your door and you’re not engage in criminal activity, your likely thought is you need to defend yourself,” Linskey said.

“If I can enter that home without a no-knock search warrant, then I should do every effort to do that if I can,” he said.

State Rep. Liz Miranda and Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem introduced a bill in June that would outright ban no-knock search warrants in Massachusetts.

In July, the House approved an amendment to only allow the use of no-knock warrants if police didn’t suspect children or adults older than 65 were in the home.

The State Senate proposed its own version of a police reform bill that would have required investigators to establish “probable cause that if the law enforcement officer announced their presence their life or the lives of others will be endangered.”

Linskey doesn’t think lawmakers should ban them entirely because they’re still a useful tool in extreme cases.

“I don’t think it would hurt if the legislature wants to put steps in place, [like] break glass only in case of emergency,” Linskey said.

The House and Senate approved similar police reform bills this summer.

Those proposals remain in the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.