Ryan David Frederick is a prisoner in Virginia. On February 4, 2009, he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment following conviction for voluntary manslaughter for the January 17, 2008 shooting death of police officer Jarrod Shivers. The shooting occurred at Frederick's home in Chesapeake, Virginia during the execution of an no-knock warrant/exigent circumstances police raid serving a warrant to search for a marijuana grow operation. The case is notable for the magnitude of support the defendant received from his community, the press, and blogs, as well as for the relative leniency of the charge the jury chose for conviction in the death of an on-duty police officer.
Three days before police attempted a raid, the defendant's residence was broken into by a police informant who riffled through the defendant's belongings, reporting to the police that he found Frederick was growing marijuana in his garage and that several marijuana plants, growing lights, irrigation equipment and other gardening supplies had been seen on his property. In the course of the trial, Frederick was shown to be an avid gardener who maintained a koi pond and Asian plants in his yard. One of his plants was a Japanese maple tree, which resembles marijuana when its leaves are green. Based on this information, law enforcement officials secured a no-knock warrant to enter Frederick's home.
On the night of January 17, Frederick awoke to his dogs barking at an individual who was breaking in his front door. According to local interviews, Frederick fired his pistol at Detective Jarrod Shivers as he tried to enter through one of the lower door panels. The bullet struck Shivers in the side, killing him.
After the raid, the police found the gardening supplies and a small amount of marijuana. In Virginia, simple possession of marijuana is an unclassified misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense. The second offense carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and is a Class 1 misdemeanor. (Virginia Law Ref: § 18.2-250.1.) Frederick had no prior criminal record, and was placed by law in the first category.
According to critics, the Frederick case mirrors another shooting which occurred in New Hanover County, N.C., where college student Peyton Strickland was shot when a police officer participating in a raid on the student's residence mistook the sound of a SWAT battering ram for a gunshot. The officer discharged his weapon several times into the home as Strickland came to answer the door, striking and killing both the student and his dog. The department paid $4.25 million to the parents in restitution, but no charges were filed against the officer.
- "Virginia officer slain serving drug warrant" by John Hopkins, January 18, 2008, in The Virginian-Pilot
- "Frederick supporters plan rally outside Chesapeake jail" by John Hopkins, February 12, 2008, in The Virginian-Pilot
- "Senseless Overkill" by Radley Balko, March 12, 2008, on FoxNews.com
- "Ryan Frederick Case" tagged blog entries on WordPress.com
- "Guilty of manslaughter, Frederick faces 10 years" Tim McGlone, February 5, 2009, in The Virginian-Pilot
- "Another Drug Raid Nightmare" Radley Balko, March 18, 2008, in Reason (magazine)