Archive for November, 2007

Oops. Our bad.

Friday, November 30th, 2007

In Lawrenceburg, Indiana last week, Kayla Irwin, a young single mother, got served and protected by a paramilitary police attack squad:

A SWAT team raids the wrong home in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, now the homeowner wants some answers.

Police said they were led to the Village Apartments on the trail of fugitive Sean Deaton.

Convinced he was inside apartment 407G, the Lawrenceburg SWAT unit surrounded the building.

It looked like they were ready to go to war, one neighbor said. Some of the ones out here had AR15’s and shotguns.

Neighbors said police spent hours, ordering Deaton to surrender.

But when that didn’t work, they responded with tear gas and forced entry.

NBC News: SWAT Team Mistake Leaves Woman’s Home Wrecked

Only one problem. It turns out that the reason he didn’t come out to surrender is because he was never fucking there in the first place. They had the wrong apartment.

It looked like my apartment was on fire. The smoke was just blowing out of my windows, Kayla Irwin, the tenant of 407G said.

Irwin, a single mother of two, said she is unable to live in her apartment and didn’t even know the man police were searching for.

Now, she said, she has been left with the mess and no apology.

It’s all covered with poison. I don’t know where to start over with two kids, said Irwin. How do you start with replacing the items that your kids have had since the day they were born?

NBC News: SWAT Team Mistake Leaves Woman’s Home Wrecked

You can see what the assault squad left when they were done in the video news story. The windows are all boarded up. The inside looks like a disaster area. The reporter who did the story still couldn’t stay in the apartment for long before the lingering tear gas residues made it intolerable to stand inside. Ms. Irwin’s neighbor, Emanuel Brightwell, a soldier who had just come back from clearing landmines in Iraq, said that he’d never seen anything like it, and that while the cops were ransacking her place, it looked like they were enjoying what they were doing. They did not need to do all this.

Irwin said she appealed to the police, but hasn’t gotten anywhere.

They basically just said, sorry for the inconvenience. Go ahead and clean it up. Clean up our mess, Irwin said.

She said she’s had to borrow everything from family in the week since the incident.

She also said she can’t stay in the apartment because of the acrid gas residue.

An assistant chief and another officer were at the Village Apartments talking to Irwin telling her that they would try to get some money so she could clean her clothes and furnishing on her own.

This is the first time this has happened. I’m surprised the incident has not been remedied. We will take care of it the best we can, the assistant chief said.

NBC News: SWAT Team Mistake Leaves Woman’s Home Wrecked

Note that the boss cops had refused to do this, and barely even offered an apology for the damage that their own employees had caused, until the local TV news got involved. Once a reporter called the police department for a statement, it took about 30 minutes for an assistant police chief to make his way down to her apartment complex and make some vague offers to try and rustle up some petty cash to help her get her clothes and furniture cleaned.

In the real world, outside of statist power trip la-la land, when you fuck up somebody’s life like that and trash their house, all due to a mistake, you pay for what you did. That’s how civilized people step up and try to make it right. At a minimum, that would mean paying her expenses and her rent for the time she was unable to live in her own home, paying for a professional cleaning of the apartment, paying to replace anything that their goon squad destroyed, and paying restitution for the family pet that they killed in the process. Also, in the real world, when you have make this kind of thing right, you pay for it; you don’t just get to send a bill to a bunch of unwilling third parties who never agreed to get involved. Here, the people who pay for it should be the cops who trashed her house and the police commanders who ordered them to do it. And I mean pay for it out of their own personal accounts. Of course, public servants that they are, they will instead pass along whatever costs their fuck-up may incur straight to a bunch of innocent taxpayers who had nothing to do with the raid.

If you want to know why cops keep forming heavily-armed elite goon squads, and keep on indulging in this sort of macho paramilitary dick-swinging exercise, no matter how many times they end up ruining, hurting, or killing innocent people in the process, well, that’s the reason right there.

(Story via Karen De Coster @ LewRockwell Blog 2007-11-21.)

Law and Orders #3: John Gardner of the Utah Highway Patrol tasers Jared Massey in front of his family for questioning why he was pulled over

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Update 2007-11-29: Some of the quotes from commenters were re-ordered to correct for a misplaced copy-and-paste.

Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies. They routinely force their way into situations they have no business being in, use violence first and ask questions later, and pass off even the most egregious forms of violence against harmless or helpless people as self-defense or as the necessary means to accomplish a completely unnecessary goal. In order to stay in control of the situation, they have no trouble electrifying small children, alleged salad-bar thieves, pregnant women possibly guilty of a minor traffic violation, or an already prone and helpless student who may have been guilty of using the computer lab without proper papers on hand. They are willing to pepper spray lawyers for asking inconvenient questions and to beat up teenaged girls for not cleaning up enough birthday cake or being out too late at night. It hardly matters if you are an 82 year old woman supposedly benefiting from a care check, or if you are sound asleep in your own home, or if you are unable to move due to a medical condition, or if the cops attack you within 25 seconds of entering the room, while you are standing quietly against the wall with your arms at your sides. It hardly even matters if you die. What a cop can always count on is that, no matter how senselessly he escalates the use of violence and no matter how obviously innocent or helpless his victims are, he can count on his buddies to clap him on the back and he can count on his bosses to repeat any lie and make any excuse in order to find that Official Procedures were followed. As long as Official Procedures were followed, of course, any form of brutality or violence is therefore passed off as OK by the mainstream media, while a chorus of sado-fascist bully boys in the newspapers, talk shows, and the Internet will smear the victim and howl for the obliteration of any notion of restraints on the use of force in securing compliance with police demands. Then they will sanctimoniously explain how cops need to be able to shove you around and then beat and torture you with impunity so that they can protect you. Whether or we ever wanted or asked for their protection in the first place.

One increasingly popular means for out-of-control cops to force you to follow their bellowed orders is by using high-voltage electric shocks in order to inflict pain. Now, in fact, tasers were originally introduced for police use as an alternative to using lethal force; the hope was that, in many situations where cops might otherwise feel forced to go for their guns, they might be able to use the taser instead, to immobilize a person who posed a threat to them or to others, without killing anybody in the process. But in practice, police culture being what it is, any notion of limiting tasers to those situations very quickly went out the window. Cops armed with tasers now freely use them to end arguments by intimidation or actual violence, to coerce people who pose no real threat to anyone into complying with their instructions, and to hurt uppity civilians who dare to give them lip. They often do so even when the supposed offense that they’re responding to is completely trivial; they often start tasering, or keep on tasering, after their victims have already been rendered helpless by the circumstances or by an earlier use of force. Among civilized people, deliberately inflicting severe pain in order to extort compliance from your victim is called torture; among cops it is called pain compliance and is considered business as usual. So shock-happy Peace Officers can now go around using their tasers as 50,000-volt human prods in just about any situation, with more or less complete impunity. In those rare cases where media criticism, mass riots, or a lawsuit does force some minimal accountability on the police force, the handful of low-level officers who face punishment are portrayed as bad apples and the whole thing is written off as yet another isolated incident.

Last week, the latest isolated incident came to light thanks to a pending lawsuit and a dash camera video posted on YouTube. John Gardner, who works for the Utah Highway Patrol, pulled over Jared Massey on U.S. highway 40. Here is what happened:

The nearly 10-minute video clip, which has drawn nothing but negative comments toward the trooper on YouTube, shows Gardner approaching Massey’s SUV and asking for his driver’s license and registration. Massey asks how fast he was going, which prompts Gardner to repeat his request.

I need your driver’s license and registration — right now, the trooper says.

Massey continues to question Gardner about the posted speed limit and how fast he was going but hands over his papers. The trooper walks back to his car.

Gardner returns to the SUV and tells Massey he’s being cited for speeding. On the video, Massey can be heard refusing to sign the ticket and demanding that the trooper take him back and show him the 40 mph speed limit sign.

What you’re going to do — if you’re giving me a ticket — in the first place, you’re going to tell me why … Massey says.

For speeding, the trooper interjects.

… and second of all we’re going to go look for that 40 mph sign, Massey says.

Well you’re going to sign this first, Gardner says.

No I am not. I’m not signing anything. Massey says.

Gardner tells Massey to hop out of the car, then walks back to the hood of his patrol car, setting down his ticket book. Massey is close behind the trooper pointing toward the 40 mph speed limit sign he’d passed just before being pulled over.

Turn around. Put your hands behind your back, Gardner says. He repeats the command a second time as he draws his Taser and takes a step back.

The trooper points the Taser at Massey who stares incredulously at him.

What the hell is wrong with you? Massey asks.

Gardner repeats the command to turn around two more times as Massey, with part of his right hand in his pants pocket, starts to walk back toward his SUV.

What the heck’s wrong with you? Massey can be heard asking as Gardner fires his Taser into Massey’s back. Immobilized by the weapon’s 50,000 volts, Massey falls backward, striking his head on the highway. The impact caused a cut on Massey’s scalp.

Geoff Liesik, Deseret Morning News (2007-11-21): Trooper’s Taser use pops up on YouTube

The newspaper account omits that at this point Massey is screaming in pain. While the cop kneels and handcuffs him, he gives Massey a lecture about how he should’ve followed my instructions.

Massey’s wife Lauren, who was seven months pregnant at the time, gets out of the SUV screaming and is ordered to get back in the vehicle or risk being arrested. Gardner handcuffs Massey and leaves him on the side of the highway while he goes to talk to Massey’s wife.

He’s fine. I Tasered him because he did not follow my instructions, Gardner explains to the audibly upset woman.

You had no right to do that! she responds. You had no right to do that!

While Gardner is still talking to Lauren Massey, her husband gets to his feet and approaches the trooper from behind. Gardner takes the handcuffed man back toward his patrol car and again orders Lauren Massey to stay in her vehicle or risk being arrested.

Officer you’re a little bit excited. You need to calm yourself down, Jared Massey tells Gardner before being put into the trooper’s patrol car where he continues to demand an explanation for his arrest.

Geoff Liesik, Deseret Morning News (2007-11-21): Trooper’s Taser use pops up on YouTube

Gardner’s response was to sanctimoniously tell Massey, who never made any threatening motion, and who hardly even raised his voice until a weapon was pointed at him, that No, you’re a little excited, because you weren’t following my instructions. As he marches Massey to the police car, and informs him that he’s going to jail, Massey demands to be read his rights. The officer’s response is to threaten Massey with another shock from the taser. Please note that, at this point, Massey is already handcuffed and has done nothing other than talk back.

The video concludes with a demonstration of the cavalier buddy-buddy culture of policing:

When a backup officer arrives on the scene and asks Gardner what happened he tells them Massey took a ride with the Taser.

Oh, how was it? the unidentified officer asks.

Painful, isn’t it? Gardner responds.

Geoff Liesik, Deseret Morning News (2007-11-21): Trooper’s Taser use pops up on YouTube

After they’ve finished jeering at their handcuffed victim, the other cop asks what happened, Gardner tells some plain lies about the sequence of events, and gets a clap on the back for his efforts. Meanwhile, the bellowing blowhard brigade chimes in in the reader comments:

This reminds me of what is wrong with America, and what, if not rectified will be the recipe for our demise. Respect. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, I was taught to respect authority. That meant my elders, law-enforcement, teachers, whatever. Kids now have this sense of entitlement that is unmatched anywhere else on this Earth. They think that if they make a mistake they can just hit the ‘reset’ button like on their video game and start over. Well, life is not like that. There was once what is called the Greatest Generation. This is not it. What we have is the Worst Generation. No wonder other countries hate us. We are gluttons in every thing we do. This sniveling little brat needs the full measure of the law brought against him and that trooper needs a pat on the back for doing his job. I’m still dumbstruck by this. To have it called into question like the officer was in the wrong. WAKE UP MORONS! It’s not the teacher, the officer, the bus driver, or etc. IT’S YOUR KID.

Erick, 12:44 a.m., 21 November 2007

Accept to sign the paper … Than between a trooper and a driver could be argue, misunderstand, etc. Next step to see a judge to have speeding charge or dismiss the ticket, which the judge, the driver and the trooper have neutral and work together. The trooper has a reason is protect himselif when the driver was too close to him. (the school or the trooper training trained him the rules).

—Anonymous, 6:17 a.m., 21 November 2007

Those officers out in the desert put their lives on the line every day. They don’t know when stopping someone if they are a housewife or a murderer. If an officer places you under arrest you don’t turn around and walk away. The guy was way out of line. Sign the ticket and fight it in court.

not right, 8:28 a.m., 21 November 2007

I think releasing the video is Massey’s way of testing the waters for his lawsuit. But as he should see, he’s not getting everyone on his side. He started the who incident by his disobedience to an officer. He left the officer no choice, and a jury will see that.

Testing the waters, 9:04 a.m., 21 November 2007

As for some requirement to show him the sign I have never heard of anything of the sort. The kid kept ranting about his rights. Funny. Too much tv for him

Relax, 9:44 a.m., 21 November 2007

Please also note that attempting to ask a police officer a question constitutes resisting police, and that a 50,000-volt electric shock is just a natural consequence of the resistance. Cops certainly haven’t any discretion in whether or not to escalate the use of force:

It amazes me that people think that they can resist police and expect to not suffer the consequences. The man was willfully disobeying a lawful command from an officer, and got tasered for it. Why should anyone be surprised? If it were otherwise, everyone would be non-compliant towards officers. If the guy felt that he was being ticketed erroneously, he should have fought his battle in the courtroom, not on the street.

Jim, 7:42 a.m., 21 November 2007

Note that Gardner never, at any point in the video, claimed that anything that Massey did in the encounter was threatening or that he felt he had to defend himself. He explicitly stated, over and over again, to Jared Massey, to his wife, and to a fellow cop, not that the reason for his actions was self-defense, but that it was to coerce compliance. Gardner also never told Massey that he was under arrest until after knocking Massey to the ground with his taser. However, cop enablers are not about to let the mere evidence of their senses get in the way of fabricating excuses for police violence:

Everyone knows you can’t approach a cop from behind, especailly after you have refused to sign the ticket (which you have to do). Then you walk away when he tells you 4 times to put his hands behind his head. The taser wasn’t called for, and then the reason why he was getting pulled over was shady for sure. And the cop started to lie to the other officer in the video about what happended. Both in the wrong, but the kid posed a clear threat by walking behing the officer (twice in fact). STUPID!!!

Both are in wrong!!, 7:32 a.m., 21 November 2007

From the video I saw, the guy deserved it. He was ignoring orders, started to walk back to his car and started to put his right hand in his pocket. I can see why the officer wanted to end his refusal to obey right then. It’s easy to see that the officer might have been concerned that the guy was going to reach for a gun, or go get one from his car, or just get in his car and take off. Had the driver obeyed, there would have been no need for the Taser. But, looks to me like he asked for it. No sympathy from me.

Deserved it, 8:41 a.m., 21 November 2007

It is pretty apparent from the you tube video that the gentleman that was tasered was not cooperative with the officer. While he had a right to ask the questions he asked, he has a responsibility to follow the directions given him by police. I stand by the officer; when someone chooses to act the way this gentleman did, and place an officer in a situation where he may feel at risk, that person has to accept the consequences for his actions.

Derek, 9:19 a.m., 21 November 2007

Third, you start walking away from a cop that is telling you that you’re under arrest, expect something bad to happen.

l, 10:11 a.m., 21 November 2007

I think the officer was well within his rights to protect himself. When a command is given, you obey it? If you don’t then it is considered not compliance, then you fry them.

Funny, 12:58 p.m., 21 November 2007

Meanwhile, an anonymous contemptuous thug asks:

OK all you couch-Cops, once the guy refused the cop’s orders and was walking back to his car, clearly to drive away, what do you think the cop should have done? Some how, some way, he had to keep the driver from doing that. Had he not, how do we know there wouldn’t have been a much more dangerous high-speed chase. It’s clear the guy wasn’t going to sign the ticket, and when you don’t do that, cops are instructed to arrest. The solution wasn’t to let the guy go free just because he disagreed. The driver caused this confrontation.

Better suggestion, 9:00 a.m., 21 November 2007

Even if it were clear, which it certainly is not, that Massey intended to drive away, the notion that the cop Some how, some way … had to keep the driver from doing that is completely preposterous. If he just drove off, then the cop can bloody well look up his license plate number and mail him the ticket. But the notion of letting a Bad Guy temporarily get away with a minor speeding infraction is so repugnant to the nature of both cops and their sycophants that no solution other than a 50,000-volt shock on the side of the road even comes to mind.

Meanwhile, while many commenters show a healthy outrage at Gardner’s obviously abusive behavior, most of them seem to feel compelled to pepper their statements with cavils about how Massey could have acted better, or about how I support police officers, I have sympathy for the difficult situations policemen face, both people behaved badly, The public should be respectful of law enforcement as a matter of principle, etc. etc. etc. Most of those who suggest a concrete penalty for Gardner suggest that he should be reprimanded, or re-trained, or reassigned to a desk job, or temporarily suspended, or perhaps even fired. To hell with that. The behavior of both Gardner and his fellow cops, based on the contents of the video and the laggard pace of the investigation, is despicable. Gardner should be indicted and prosecuted for assault and battery, and he should be forced to personally pay compensation for Massey’s pain and suffering.

If you’re baffled that cops could feel free to indulge in this kind of outrage, and that numerous fellow cops, prosecutors, and freelance bullies would rush to defend it, while even the opponents make only timid and isolated efforts at mild criticism, it may help to remember that in most of America, there is no such thing as a civil police force anymore. What we have instead would be better described as elite paramilitary cadres, often referred to as Troopers and organized into a chain of command with military ranks, who are occupying what they regard as hostile territory. Here as elsewhere, the occupation forces are going to serve and protect us, whether we want them to or not, and if we don’t like it then they’ve got more than enough firepower to make sure they can protect the hell out of us all anyway.

More Kathryn Johnston

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

The Drug War Chronicle has a long piece up on the Johnston anniversary, which includes the results of their Zogby poll on paramilitary tactics.

Check the comments section for firsthand tales of police/SWAT overkill.

Drug War Roundup

Monday, November 26th, 2007
  • No-knock raid, arrest, seizure proceedings, ruined lives–all a big mistake. Police mistook a sugar factory for a meth lab.
  • An editorial that captures drug war logic at its finest: D.A.R.E. almost certainly doesn’t work. It’s a huge waste of money. In fact, there’s at least a chance it may do some damage. But let’s go ahead and fund it anyway. Because comparatively, it’s not that much money. And if it does do harm, it’s at least “manageable” harm.
  • Cop takes marijuana from seized evidence, gives a little to a drug user in order to win him over as an informant. Texas court says, “no worries!”
  • From the zero tolerance follies: Students suspended for snorting fake cocaine in an anti-drug commercial.
  • Via Stop the Drug War, John McCain butts heads with a LEAPer in the video below. I’d say Sen. Straight Talk stumbles. The answer to McCain’s meth question is easy: If drugs were legal, meth would quickly go the way of bathtub gin and wood alcohol. We have meth because it’s a cheap, potent high. Just like people drank shit during alcohol prohibition that made them go blind. People will stop rotting out their teeth and risk blowing up their basements if safer, cheaper, amphetamines are available.

  • Rally Against Police Abuse on Saturday 4:00PM. 4 Dead in 19 Days.

    Friday, November 23rd, 2007
    Greetings: In just 19 days, 4 unarmed Black men died at the hands of one department: Miami-Dade Police. And they want the right to carry shotguns. On Saturday, November 24, 2007, beginning at 4:00PM, the community will rally for justice and against police abuse at the Miami-Dade Police Intracoastal Station, located on Biscayne Blvd. and 156th St. in North Miami. The rally will follow the funerals of Michael Knight and Frisco Blackwood, two men shot dead by Miami-Dade Police on November 12. Virtually anywhere else, the violent deaths of four unarmed people by one police department would trigger headline news and federal investigations. However, in 2007's Miami-Dade County, the deaths have not been tied together by the media or even elicited any public statements by elected officials, not even the Black ones. The shocking silence of the elected officials and the unwillingness of the media to ask questions, speaks volumes about the state of Black people in this part of the United States. However, in a real demonstration of people power, the Haitian-American and African-American communities, along with people of good will of every race and nationality, are joining for a single rally for justice for all victims of police brutality. This rally might usher in a new day in communities fighting injustice together, rather than separately. Over the past few months, Miami-Dade Police have launched a series of aggressive police sweeps, targeting Black communities and people. These aggressive police units- locally known as the "jumpouts"- feature police jumping out of unmarked cars with guns drawn and pointed while barking orders to scared and confused people. Men, women and children in Liberty City, Little Haiti, Overtown, North Miami and other Black communities are forced to lay down on the ground, take off their shoes and socks and endure disrespectful treatment, even when doing nothing wrong at all. The end result was predictable: the same police encouraged to and rewarded when engaged in overly-aggressive police tactics, killed four unarmed Black men in 19 days. On October 25, 19 year old BG Beaugris talked with his younger brother and two friends a mere 100 feet from his own apartment, having just completed his father's laundry. Undercover "jumpout" Christopher Villano saw four Black men and, according to Villano's lawyer, considered them "suspicious." Villano jumped out of his unmarked car, gun drawn, and ordered the young men against the wall. After finding nothing illegal or dangerous, Villano engaged in a verbal argument with BG before jumping on him and placing him in a headlock. With his free hand, Villano drew his weapon and shot BG once. As he lay on the ground injured, Villano shot BG twice more, killing him. On November 7, Roger Brown was apparently driving erratically before being stopped by school and Miami-Dade police. Several cops jumped on the 40 year old Brown, claiming he was resistant, behavior typical of individuals suffering a mental health crisis. According to witnesses, after tasing Brown, police kicked him in the face and beat him with night sticks before placing him in a "hogtie" position and throwing him in the back of a cruiser. Brown stopped breathing and was pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later. On November 12, Frisco Blackwood and Michael Knight were dropping a friend off at her Little Haiti home. A marked Miami-Dade police car followed them and eventually pulled them over, allegedly for running a red light. The rented SUV pulled into a dead end- leaving the three with nowhere to run, even if they wanted to- and the police jumped out of their cruiser with guns drawn on the car, all for running a red light. The guns and barked orders made Blackwood nervous and police open fired when the vehicle did not do exactly what the cops wanted it to. After getting hit by multiple bullets, Blackwood's body convulsed uncontrollably, throwing the vehicle into reverse. The female passenger in the back seat was shot in the leg and survived watching her friends die at the hands of the police. These deaths would not happen in wealthy white neighborhoods, not because there are no criminals there, but because police do not jumpout with guns drawn on traffic stops or on white people doing their laundry. We urge all people of justice to demand an end to the unfair police practices in the Black community. Attend the rally on Saturday, November 24, 4:00pm at the Miami-Dade Intracoastal Station, Biscayne Blvd. and 156th St. We also urge you to attend services for Frisco and Michael. Services for Michael Knight Viewing • Friday, November 23 • 6:00PM-9:00PM • Poitier Funeral Home • 2321 NW 62nd St. • Liberty City, FL Funeral • Saturday, November 24 • 10:00AM • Jordan Grove Baptist • 5946 NW 12th Ave • Liberty City, FL Services for Frisco Blackwood Viewing • Friday, November 23 • 9:00AM-9:00PM • Wright Funeral Home • 15332 NW 7th Ave. • Miami, FL Funeral • Saturday, November 24 • 2:00PM • Westview Baptist • 13301 NW 24th Ave. • Opa-Locka, FL CopWatch • Haitian American Grassroots Coalition • Power U Youth • Miami Workers Center • Haiti Solidarity Committee • Bolivarian Youth • Veye-Yo • South Florida Peace & Justice Network • Miami-Dade NAACP forward, Max Rameau CopWatch a project of the Center for Pan-African Development

    Alex White, Hero?

    Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

    Today’s the one-year anniversary of the Kathryn Johnston raid. One part of the case I think has been overlooked over the last twelve months is the role of Alex White. White was a paid police informant for Atlanta police when the Johnston raid went down. When the officers who killed Johnston realized their mistake, they knew they had to find someone to play the role of the fictional informant they claimed in the search warrants made the controlled drug buys from Johnston’s home.

    Knowing what we now know about the corruption and brutality of Atlanta PD’s narcotics division, White’s refusal to play along was pretty extraordinary. He claims he was put in an APD patrol car and pressured for hours to lie for the narcotics team. He finally escaped and called 911, then notified federal authorities, then told his story to the media. Had he played along, most of the country would probably think the 92-year-old Johnston was a drug dealer, or at least was allowing one to use her home, and that her death was unfortunate, but justified. We’d also never have known of the rampant corruption, perjury, and abuse of the informant system at APD. Much of it would likely still be going on.

    White faced the possibility of retribution from the cops he worked with (who had, obviously, already shown themselves capable of criminal activity), as well as from the many drug dealers he’d helped put in jail. He had to put all of his faith in the federal officials investigating the case.

    Last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a feature on White, and on what’s happened to him since he came forward. Not sure most people who read the piece will find White particularly sympathetic. He did of course traverse the morally dubious world of a professional snitch. Still, there’s no question that his actions in the Johnston case were honorable, and proved critical to getting out the real story about what happened on Neal Street last November.

    Yer’ Morning Links

    Wednesday, November 21st, 2007
  • I’d like to get me one of these Moringa Oleifera trees.
  • Support the troops! The Pentagon is asking soldiers who were permanently disabled in Iraq to return portions of their signing bonuses because they’re now unable to complete their tours of duty.
  • Speaking of bad public relations, really, what the hell is Wal-Mart thinking, here? Who makes these decisions?
  • Another death after a “non-lethal” tasering.
  • Here’s an interesting way to “de-donate” from your favorite presidential candidate.
  • Alabama LP candidate for governor Loretta Nall is encouraging people to send sex toys to the state’s attorney general in response to his efforts to ban them.
  • SWAT team raids wrong home, makes huge mess, leaves family living there to deal with it themselves.
  • 4 Dead in 19 Days. Rally Against Police Abuse Saturday 4:00PM

    Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

    Greetings:

    In just 19 days, 4 unarmed Black men died at the hands of one department: Miami-Dade Police. And they want the right to carry shotguns.

    On Saturday, November 24, 2007, beginning at 4:00PM, the community will rally for justice and against police abuse at the Miami-Dade Police Intracoastal Station, located on Biscayne Blvd. and 156th St. in North Miami. The rally will follow the funerals of Michael Knight and Frisco Blackwood, two men shot dead by Miami-Dade Police on November 12.

    Virtually anywhere else, the violent deaths of four unarmed people by one police department would trigger headline news and federal investigations. However, in 2007′s Miami-Dade County, the deaths have not been tied together by the media or even elicited any public statements by elected officials, not even the Black ones. The shocking silence of the elected officials and the unwillingness of the media to ask questions, speaks volumes about the state of Black people in this part of the United States.

    However, in a real demonstration of people power, the Haitian-American and African-American communities, along with people of good will of every race and nationality, are joining for a single rally for justice for all victims of police brutality. This rally might usher in a new day in communities fighting injustice together, rather than separately.

    Over the past few months, Miami-Dade Police have launched a series of aggressive police sweeps, targeting Black communities and people. These aggressive police units- locally known as the “jumpouts”- feature police jumping out of unmarked cars with guns drawn and pointed while barking orders to scared and confused people. Men, women and children in Liberty City, Little Haiti, Overtown, North Miami and other Black communities are forced to lay down on the ground, take off their shoes and socks and endure disrespectful treatment, even when doing nothing wrong at all. The end result was predictable: the same police encouraged to and rewarded when engaged in overly-aggressive police tactics, killed four unarmed Black men in 19 days.

    On October 25, 19 year old BG Beaugris talked with his younger brother and two friends a mere 100 feet from his own apartment, having just completed his father’s laundry. Undercover “jumpout” Christopher Villano saw four Black men and, according to Villano’s lawyer, considered them “suspicious.” Villano jumped out of his unmarked car, gun drawn, and ordered the young men against the wall. After finding nothing illegal or dangerous, Villano engaged in a verbal argument with BG before jumping on him and placing him in a headlock. With his free hand, Villano drew his weapon and shot BG once. As he lay on the ground injured, Villano shot BG twice more, killing him.

    On November 7, Roger Brown was apparently driving erratically before being stopped by school and Miami-Dade police. Several cops jumped on the 40 year old Brown, claiming he was resistant, behavior typical of individuals suffering a mental health crisis. According to witnesses, after tasing Brown, police kicked him in the face and beat him with night sticks before placing him in a “hogtie” position and throwing him in the back of a cruiser. Brown stopped breathing and was pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later.

    On November 12, Frisco Blackwood and Michael Knight were dropping a friend off at her Little Haiti home. A marked Miami-Dade police car followed them and eventually pulled them over, allegedly for running a red light. The rented SUV pulled into a dead end- leaving the three with nowhere to run, even if they wanted to- and the police jumped out of their cruiser with guns drawn on the car, all for running a red light. The guns and barked orders made Blackwood nervous and police open fired when the vehicle did not do exactly what the cops wanted it to. After getting hit by multiple bullets, Blackwood’s body convulsed uncontrollably, throwing the vehicle into reverse. The female passenger in the back seat was shot in the leg and survived watching her friends die at the hands of the police.

    These deaths would not happen in wealthy white neighborhoods, not because there are no criminals there, but because police do not jumpout with guns drawn on traffic stops or on white people doing their laundry. We urge all people of justice to demand an end to the unfair police practices in the Black community.

    Attend the rally on Saturday, November 24, 4:00pm at the Miami-Dade Intracoastal Station, Biscayne Blvd. and 156th St. We also urge you to attend services for Frisco and Michael.

    Services for Michael Knight

    Viewing • Friday, November 23 • 6:00PM-9:00PM • Poitier Funeral Home • 2321 NW 62nd St. • Liberty City, FL
    Funeral • Saturday, November 24 • 10:00AM • Jordan Grove Baptist • 5946 NW 12th Ave • Liberty City, FL

    Services for Frisco Blackwood

    Viewing • Friday, November 23 • 9:00AM-9:00PM • Wright Funeral Home • 15332 NW 7th Ave. • Miami, FL
    Funeral • Saturday, November 24 • 2:00PM • Westview Baptist • 13301 NW 24th Ave. • Opa-Locka, FL

    CopWatch • Haitian American Grassroots Coalition • Power U Youth • Miami Workers Center • Haiti Solidarity Committee • Bolivarian Youth • Veye-Yo • South Florida Peace & Justice Network • Miami-Dade NAACP

    forward,

    Max Rameau

    Ho ho.

    Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

    Here’s a funny prank, courtesy of a cop in a southwestern suburb of Chicago. Try it on your friends. If you screw it up, you can still count on the mayor of your city to get your back. Provided that you’re a cop, of course.

    TINLEY PARK, Ill. (STNG) — The owner of a Tinley Park pizza joint is seeking $2 million in damages from the village and a Tinley Park police officer who allegedly Tasered him this summer, sending the restaurant owner into convulsions and causing him to bite off a piece of his tongue.

    Alexander Mendez, who with his wife owns Guardi’s Pizza and Catering, 16711 S. 80th Ave., filed a lawsuit Thursday in the federal court. The couple said Officer Joseph Vega shot Mendez in the head and shoulders with a Taser gun as part of a failed prank last June.

    Police Chief Michael O’Connell referred questions about the incident to village administration. Mayor Ed Zabrocki said the Taser shot was an accident and all Taser guns were recalled after the incident.

    Vega was disciplined for taking the Taser gun out of his holster, Zabrocki said. Zabrocki said attorneys advised him not to provide any more details.

    According to the lawsuit, about 9 p.m. June 15, Vega came to Guardi’s and ordered pasta salad. When Mendez walked into the cooler to get the food, Vega asked Mendez’s wife if she wanted to see Vega scare her husband. She said “no,” according to court documents.

    Then, Vega allegedly pointed the gun at Mendez’s head and fired, causing the prongs to stick to Mendez’s right temple and collarbone. Mendez went into convulsions and later became unconscious. He also bit off a piece of his tongue, the lawsuit said.

    Vega is accused of immediately removing the Taser prongs, which caused Mendez to bleed profusely. Vega then called for back-up, and a supervisor and two detectives showed up and confiscated bloody towels, Mendez’s bloody glasses, the Taser prongs and the video surveillance equipment in the restaurant, the lawsuit claims.

    WBBM 780 Chicago (2007-11): Tinley Park, Cop Sued For Taser Shooting

    (Link via Radley Balko 2007-11-17.)

    Tuesday Links

    Monday, November 19th, 2007
  • The Hoboken SWAT-Hooters scandal apparently goes all the way up to the Hoboken police chief.
  • New study says our soaring prison population has little effect on crime. I haven’t read the study, but even though it plays to my biases, I’m a little skeptical, here. I think lots of things have contributed to 15-year drop in crime, but surely the number of people we’ve locked up at something to do with it, no? That it isn’t to say that crime wouldn’t have dropped otherwise, or that the whatever part of the drop due to high incarceration rates was worth the costs that come with locking so many people up. I’m just skeptical of the sweeping conclusiveness with which the study’s being reported.
  • David Harsanyi has the details on an outrageous state-sanctioned theft of property. A judge managed to seize a couple’s land for no other reason than he developed an “emotional attachment” to it, and didn’t want them to be allowed to develop it. So he simply took it.
  • Lawsuit says four Plano, Texas police conspired with a man’s ex-wife to frame him for a DWI. And it looks like he’s got a pretty strong case.
  • North Dakota farmers are asking a federal court to overturn one of the stupider collateral effects of the drug war: the ban on industrial hemp. You can’t get high on the stuff. It’s illegal because lawmakers are afraid drug cops won’t be able to to distinguish hemp plants from demon weed.
  • Send your own personalized Peyton Manning pep talk to a friend.