Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Details in PS3 Shooting Continue to Emerge

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.


  1. You should be outraged. Time after time, we read about police using tactics that are completely unnecessary and dangerous. I left the police business long ago, because I saw a very disturbing trend of an us vs. them mentality taking hold. Police officers are SUPPOSED to risk their lives, so that you and I don't have to be endangered. Thats the gig. If you don't like it, learn to work on computers. And just wait, it's going to get worse, and right soon.

  2. Thanks for reading Mack -

    I sort of feel like The Dude in Big Lebowski yelling "This will not stand!" as he attempts to define his rights, but dammit, I still think citizens must demand MORE accountability from police and not accept Less as the sorry state of affairs.

  3. This is so upsetting, I just can't even stand it.

  4. Anonymous6:10 AM

    I like the way this article keeps commenting that Strickland only stole a "toy." Way to down play a felony. He strong armed a person and stole his property. He did not go into his local retailer and commit a larceny. He assaulted another person and took what did not belong to him. So sorry if I do not shed a tear for a violent criminal. Maybe you would want him to live next door to you and when he sees something that you have that and he wants he will just help himself to it. Then you can call the police and they can do their jobs and put themselves out there in harms way attempting to arrest a violent criminal. He then will get probation, a small fine and laugh off the whole incident with his friends.

    Thank god he took one in the brain. North Carolina became a little bit safer that day.

  5. "Thank god he took one in the brain. North Carolina became a little bit safer that day."

    Certainly eliminated any need for a Justice system, didn't it?

  6. Well said, Mr. Mack!!!!

    As for you, Anonymous, you posted...

    "He strong armed a person and stole his property. He did not go into his local retailer and commit a larceny. He assaulted another person and took what did not belong to him."

    What really terrifies me is that you are not more familiar with the United States Constitution. The Constitution says that we are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty before a jury of our peers in a court of law. This means that we are not to be assumed guilty just because a cop, another person, the media, etc. says that we did something. This is to protect all of us! Even you and your loved ones. You ought to be very protective of this right. If you had rather live in a country that executes people without ever giving them a chance to defend themselves, well, there are plenty of them.

  7. Hollie -

    I share your fears that so many are willing to abandon the justice system of America, as Anonymous does.

    Well said!

  8. Anonymous6:31 AM

    My concerns stem from people like you that support criminals and use our constitution as a fall back for a lame argument. I would go live in another country if I did not love this one so much. I love it enough to have gone and fought for it. Unlike most of society and probably you. So while I was fighting for our rights and constitution, this jackass was pushing some guy down and taking what he did not earn. Funny, maybe I should presume him innocent until he was shot with the PS3 controller in his hand. Ironic.

    Why don't you go exercise some more constitutional rights of yours and organize a protest of this mans homicide in the middle of a busy intersection.

    I am getting deployed again in a couple months to fight again for our constitution so more people like Strickland can take advantage of our flawed justice system where violent criminals can commit crimes and get probation and you can keep calling that justice.

  9. yes, Anon - as a solider deployed in battle, defending the rights of Americans is indeed a duty. Even the rights of Americans guilty of a crime.

    Gunning down an unarmed suspect in a robbery isn't justice - it's revenge.