With battering rams and flash-bang grenades, SWAT teams fuel the risk of violence as they forcibly enter suspects’ homes. Five months and 85 miles apart, two cases took starkly divergent legal paths.
SOMERVILLE, Tex. — Joshua Aaron Hall had been a resident of the Burleson County Jail for about a week when he requested a meeting with Gene Hermes, the sheriff’s investigator who had locked him up for violating probation. The stocky lawman arrived in the featureless interview room on the morning of Dec. 13, 2013, placed his soda cup on the table and apologized for not getting there sooner. He asked in his gravelly drawl if they would be talking about Mr. Hall’s own case.
“No,” said Mr. Hall, a methamphetamine user and petty criminal who was facing his most serious jail time. “I want to give you something else.”
Mr. Hall reminded the investigator that they had spoken previously about the narcotics trade in the vast flatlands of central Texas. “Gene, you said you wanted to eradicate the problem,” Mr. Hall said. “And I’ve been thinking for the past couple of days that, you know, maybe I’m put in this position to help you do this.”
“All right,” the investigator said.
“I know of an illegal grow operation,” Mr. Hall volunteered.
Investigator Hermes nodded. “Big grow, small grow?”