I…can’t…. I just can’t.


 

If you’ve been visiting the website these last several months and reading the blogs Doc

and I put up, thank you very much. If you’ve even contributed to the conversation with a

comment or a question, an even bigger thank you is coming your way. I’m thinking a fruit and

cheese plate and a nice Northern California meritage; I’ll check with Doc about the budget.

 

Anyway—you’ve been reading and you know that I have a tendency to go pretty long with my

contributions. I also do my best to back up my arguments with some research in an effort to add

something meaningful to our internet discourse rather than detract from it.

 

Today, I can’t. Today, I just…can’t.

 

Today I don’t feel like being even handed, conciliatory, or give anyone the least bit of a

benefit of the doubt. I’m extremely frustrated and I don’t feel like justifying that I feel that way.

Please feel free to disagree with me. Leave a comment, ask a question—keep visiting the

website. If you enjoy my longer work, there will be more of it.

 

Just not today.

 

The grand jury that was convened to investigate the probable cause to lay charges against

Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the officer accused of killing Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York,

declined to indict December 3, 2014. If you were anywhere near a TV or social

media in July of this year, you saw the video that was shot of the officers taking Mr. Garner to

the ground; Officer Pantaleo was the one using the chokehold at the center of this controversy.

But, after the initial reporting, not much else was heard about this case. I think one could

attribute it to a local affair of not much national significance—there were no mass protests or

sustained violence after this incident (unlike in Ferguson). But, I think the presence of the video

could be the big difference. There was no serious dispute as to the facts: Mr. Garner was

verbally confrontational with the police, he was taken to the ground by four officers, yelled that

he couldn’t breathe, and then died. The medical examiner ruled it a homicide caused by the

chokehold and compression of Mr. Garner’s chest.

 

 

These facts are bad enough on their face; the video is horrifying to watch. The national

conversation, especially in the wake of non-indictment of Darren Wilson in Ferguson, is focused

on the racial tensions between African Americans and police. I have thoughts on that important

discussion, but my frustration with this incident, with the death of Michael Brown, even with the

death of Trayvon Martin, is this insistence that they somehow deserved what they got; that this is

somehow good police work (George Zimmerman wasn’t a police officer, obviously); that if you

resist, or go for an officer’s gun (even if you don’t get it) that death should be an expected

outcome; that we as a society should be ok with that.

 

Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown were unarmed. Eric Garner had a

criminal record; Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were accused of being physically

aggressive. Michael Brown appeared to have taken some cigars from a convenience store,

according to the surveillance tape. I’m not arguing that these men were angels; I’m not arguing

that they were model citizens; I’m not arguing that their conduct was above reproach.

I’m arguing that NONE OF THAT MATTERS!

 

Concerning Michael Brown, several people I’ve talked to insist on pointing out that he

was a thief, went for Darren Wilson’s gun, and was intending to shoot Darren Wilson. I don’t

care—doesn’t matter. He was unarmed, was fleeing the scene (according to Wilson’s own

testimony) and Wilson was in his car. Rather than reengage, Wilson could have stayed in his

vehicle, called for back up, and pursued from a distance. Instead, Michael Brown is dead.

 

Eric Garner became verbally confrontational with police while selling loose cigarettes on

a public street. He started shouting at them. The video shows him possibly resisting the officers

putting hand cuffs on him; frankly, the officers step in so quickly it’s hard to tell. He’s taken to

the ground and held there, despite his insistence that he couldn’t breathe. At that point, the

officers could have eased the pressure and moved Mr. Garner into a position where his chest was

not being compressed. They could have saved his life. Instead, Eric Garner is dead.

Trayvon-Martin-Shooting-Target

Travyon Martin was killed by an armed private citizen. George Zimmerman declined to

disengage despite being told to do so by law enforcement. He could have left Trayvon Martin

alone; he could have waited for officers to arrive. Instead, Trayvon Martin is dead.

 

In each of these circumstances, there were alternatives to death. That I should have to

attempt to justify “alternatives to death” by itself is incredibly disturbing. But, let me try to put

this in perspective.

 

Eric Garner may or may not have been resisting arrest. In Iowa, resisting arrest is a

crime. If you resist arrest by a police officer, you can be charged with a simple misdemeanor. If

you injure the police officer during the resistance, you can be charged with an aggravated

misdemeanor—punishable by up to two years in prison. If you seriously injure the police

officer, or attempt to seriously injure the officer, you can be charged with a D felony—

punishable by up to five years in prison. In the video, it appeared that Mr. Garner moved his

hands away when the officers attempted to cuff him. This could be resistance, at which point, in

Iowa, he could be guilty of a simple misdemeanor—a maximum 30 day jail sentence or a

maximum fine of $625. Mr. Garner was killed while possibly committing a crime that very

likely would have seen him pay a fine amounting to less than half a months rent for an apartment

in downtown Des Moines.

 

Michael Brown may or may not have gone for Wilson’s gun. What seems undisputed is

that he didn’t get it and he was running away. In Iowa, given what may have been an assault on

Darren Wilson, Michael Brown could have been charged with a D felony. He could have done

some prison time, or been put on probation. There is no death sentence in Iowa for a D felony.

There is no death sentence in Iowa period.

 

That people don’t want to see any of these killings as racially motivated is

understandable; it’s an uncomfortable topic that requires some hard questions and some harder

answers. It’s naïve, but it’s understandable. That people think that the conduct of these

victims—conduct that would have gotten them jail time at worst—warrants death in the streets is

inexcusable. It’s disgusting. We should expect better from our police. We should expect better

of ourselves.

trayvon brown garner

Police officers have a very difficult job. I sympathize with the anecdotes I have heard

from highway patrol or city officers who have told me they sweat every traffic stop. I have

heard stories about ride alongs to execute search warrants that turned ugly. I am in no way

suggesting that police officers don’t face threats. I am saying that we expect our officers to be

trained effectively enough to assess a threat properly and deal with it reasonably. What

happened to Michael Brown and Eric Garner was not reasonable. It was not excusable. We

need to do better; Michael Brown and Eric Garner deserved better.

 

And that’s ALL they deserved.

 

Lefty

aka Blake Lubinus

Read More:

Let’s Talk About Sects, Baby.

Thanks for the Progress, Democrats. (Now get the Hell OUT!)

Thoughts?