It's likely that items in this post will offend some people. Good. This should disturb most of us.
I've been following the surreal and violent events from North Carolina about the shooting death of 18-year-old Peyton Strickland, gunned down by police in their "investigation" of the theft of two PlayStation 3's. Some previous posts are here and here.
Certainly more tounges are wagging about another news story in North Carolina, the one involving the Duke Lacrosse Team. The story has been getting great ratings.
But let's be honest - all the speculating and pontificating on that case is pretty much a standard story in American athletics. The majority of athletes do not always make the news for drunken, drug-fueled, sexual assaults. However, enough of them do so that we might as well include arrest and conviction records along with the stats kept on the players of pretty much every sport. If anything, the events concerning what happened at Duke should inform most of us that the term "sport" is equitable with the term "justice." It's a game where the win is determined by the abilities of the legal "players" and not by notions of Justice.
The killing of Peyton Strickland does bother me though.
Let's say for argument's sake that the teen was guilty of beating someone up and stealing their PS3. What followed that crime is lunacy. And what the Hanover County Sheriff's office did over the last week to raise money for the now-fired deputy who did the shooting -- raffle off a PlayStation 3 - is a clear indication of these officers sneering at the death of Strickland.
The only reason the raffle was halted - changed to a Plasma TV - was because the public and the media learned of it.
Troubling too are the overwhelming paramilitary tactics waged on a teen who essentially stole a toy.
16 officers, including a 10-person SWAT team, surrounded the teen's home. And as I've said before, paramilitary tactics and weapons are far too common in every town in America. A study from the CATO Institute this summer noted that in the last 25 years, there has been a 1,300 percent increase in the number of such raids on American homes. Standards and training, however, are barely existent, according to Peter Kraska, criminal justice professor at Eastern Kentucky University and author of two other nationwide studies of SWAT teams deployment and tatics:
"There's absolutely no standards or national accreditation or anything a department has to do to establish a tactical team," Kraska said. "So many people have the misconception that because there's a SWAT team, its members are competent and highly trained ... and it's just not the case."
North Carolina, like most states, doesn't set statewide standards for tactical training, leaving that up to individual agencies, Kraska said."
A Grand Jury, which "mistakenly" marked the wrong box and found deputy Christopher Long guilty of second degree murder, and then the next day said, "whoops! we meant not guilty", has also revealed some highly questionable testimony --
As reported by the Greensboro News-Record, here's what was supposed to happen: Long was standing next to an officer at the door who had the battering ram, he would then go inside first and the other 15 officers would follow while a search was conducted. (And yeah, a battering ram? That may be the norm when raiding a home of suspected drug-dealers or in hostage situations, but for the theft of a toy??)
Long's statements to investigators was that when he heard the sound of the battering ram, he thought someone inside the apartment was shooting. Even though he was standing right beside the battering ram. He immediately shot through the door - blindly, not knowing who was on the other side.
Long did knock on the door -- it hasn't been reported if he identified himself as a policeman with a warrant to enter. (Thanks to the Supreme Court decision this year, none of that is even necessary anymore) Instead he fired multiple times through the closed door, one bullet travelling through Strickland's brain, another just missing his heart. Strickland's dog, Blaze, alarmed at the gunshots began to bark and came to the doorway and other officers gunned the dog down.
By this time, according to testimony, Long was in the yard, away from the apartment, freaking out, saying "Oh Jesus Oh Jesus".
The D.A.'s office is continuing a criminal investigation into the case and may attempt to bring other charges before a Grand Jury in January.
Here at this blog, I know I'm just being an armchair detective -- hell, it's a national pasttime, 21st century sport, with it's own celebrities, like Nancy Grace and the entire CourtTV channel or the handsome and sturdy stars of shows like "CSI" and "Law and Order."
But shooting blindly through a door - with no idea who, if anyone, was behind it, is a clear example to me of someone who believes any and all actions are justified.
An editorial in the Wilmington Journal points out some key concerns here:
"This whole sorry episode calls into question the safety of every citizen in this city, county and state, especially our children. Who will be the next officer who recklessly acts alone at the risk of all nearby? How appropriate is it to send in a small militia to a well-populated street when there’s no evidence of violence emanating from the address?
And if it wasn’t for the news media, the grand jurors claim they wouldn’t have known that the wrong box was checked on the indictment sheet. How do we know innocent people haven’t been erroneously indicted in the past? Grand jury proceedings are secret by law and no recording of them is made. So how do we hold the system accountable?
How do we know it works, or doesn’t work?"
More on the rise and the deadly mistakes in the use of paramilitary raids can be read here. Or maybe you're ok with the fact that in the early 1980s there were some 3,000 paramilitary raids per year and by the early 2000's, that number is 40,000 a year.
That's all - go watch your favorite team play a game on TV now.