Ex-cops apologize for deadly drug raid ahead of sentencing

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- A former police officer tearfully apologized Monday for his role in an elderly Atlanta woman's shooting death during a botched drug raid, and another told a judge he prays daily for the victim.

"I used to think I was a good person," ex-cop Gregg Junnier said before breaking down on the witness stand during a sentencing hearing in a federal courtroom in Atlanta, CNN affiliate WXIA reported.

Junnier and two other ex-officers, Arthur Tesler and Jason Smith, face prison in connection with the November 2006 drug raid that left 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston dead in a hail of gunfire.

Investigators later determined the raid was based on falsified paperwork stating that illegal drugs were present in the home. The killing prompted a major overhaul of the Atlanta police drug unit.

Smith, like Junnier, apologized during Monday's sentencing hearing. The proceedings were expected to resume Tuesday.

"I pray daily for Ms. Johnston. I also pray other officers in Atlanta will have the moral fortitude I didn't have," Smith testified Monday, according to WXIA.

Smith, Junnier and Tesler pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to violate civil rights resulting in death. Smith and Junnier also pleaded guilty to state charges of voluntary manslaughter and making false statements, and Smith admitted to planting bags of marijuana in Johnston's house after her death.

Tesler was convicted on one state count of making false statements for filling out an affidavit stating that an informant had purchased crack cocaine at Johnston's home in a crime-plagued neighborhood near downtown Atlanta. The informant denied having been to Johnston's home, leading to investigations by local authorities and the FBI, and the breakup and reorganization of the Atlanta police narcotics unit.

Police said Johnston fired at them with an old pistol during the raid, and they shot back in self-defense. Johnston's one shot went through her front door and over the officers' heads; they responded with 39 shots, hitting Johnston five times.

"Her death was the foreseeable culmination of a long-standing conspiracy in which the officers violated their oaths of office," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon-Peter Kelly said, according to CNN affiliate WSB. The officers "regularly swore falsely" to get warrants and make cases, he said.

Federal prosecutors said officers cut corners to make more time for lucrative side jobs providing additional security to businesses, often while on duty and for cash payments.

Johnston's family was not in court Monday. But U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes heard a letter from Johnston's niece during the hearing, and family spokesman Markel Hutchins told WXIA he hopes an FBI report of the case can be used to prompt additional charges at the local level.

"The real culprit in this is the culture within the Atlanta Police Department and the higher-ups that laid the foundation. Why aren't they being held accountable?" Hutchins asked.

The probe also led to guilty pleas by the police sergeant in charge of the narcotics unit and another officer who admitted to extortion, federal prosecutors said.