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Scott, Brown And Gray.

BCPD-Abstract-Colors-ROHEight months after the shooting death Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, the parents of Brown have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Ferguson claiming Brown would be alive if not for the City “foster(ing) a culture of pervasive hostility toward African-Americans that eventually led to the 18-year-old’s death.” (A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.)

The lawsuit is one of those that seeks to shift blame on everyone else. It was the City of Ferguson who forced Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson to commit a strong armed robbery. It was others who demanded that Brown and Johnson walk in the middle of the street. It was others who told Brown to attack Officer Darren Wilson and then later force Wilson to defend himself.

It was that “pervasive hostility” that allowed the grand jury to not indict Wilson. It was that hatred of African Americans that led to the Department of Justice clearing Wilson in the shooting.

Civil trials are funny things where juries can and will ignore facts, but one would hope that if the parents of Michael Brown win one cent, the shop owners and home owners of the City of Ferguson go after any award because of comments made by Brown’s stepfather to “burn this bitch down” to a crowd of rabid protesters looking for any spark to ignite the rage that took over Ferguson.

The death of Brown was not the only death that caught the attention of the American people.

Earlier this month, 50 year old Walter Scott was shot in the back by South Carolina Officer Michael T. Slager as Scott was running away. videos of the events leading up to the shooting, the shooting and following the shooting dramatically contradict Slagers’ statements in the shooting. Slager was fired from the police force and is now facing murder charges.

What is still up in the air is “why did Scott run?”

There is speculation that Scott ran because he was behind on child support payments and would have been arrested and sent to jail for non-payment. How jailing someone for non-payment is going to make a person pay or somehow allows a person who is short on money to make payments is something we cannot figure out. No matter what, we should ponder the idea that Scott’s fear of going to prison over a debt led to an altercation with Officer Slager and ultimately Scott’s death.

Someone is going to have to tell us how killing a fleeing 50 year old and making his kids orphans is a good outcome when the offense is non-payment. One thing is for certain: Scott is not going to make any more child support payments now.

Our friend Walter Olsen (of the CATO Institute and Overlawyered.com) and others from the CATO Institute discuss the rational and effectiveness of jailing parent who cannot afford child support below.

Which brings us to the death of 25 year old Freddie Gray of Baltimore, MD.

Gray was pursued by police and wrestled to the ground by Baltimore Police officers. The videos below show the end of the arrest.

When Gray is taken away and placed into a paddy wagon, you can hear him complaining about being hurt. Inside the paddy wagon, police admit that Gray was not put in a seatbelt. The paddy wagon is dispatched to pick up another prisoner. During the entire trip Gray is complaining and asking for medical attention.

After at least 30 minutes, the police eventually transport Gray to the Western District Police Station. The paramedics are called to the precinct saying there was a “unconscious male” in “medical distress.” Gray is taken to the hospital where he is diagnosed with a spine that is “80% severed.”

A few days later, Gray dies.

What is truly amazing about this is the reason Gray was targeted by the police for arrest. While Gray had an arrest record and could not be considered an angel, when Gray saw the police coming down the street, he turned and ran.

That was the probable cause for the stop – he ran when he saw the police.

After the police chased and caught him, they found Gray was carrying what they are calling a “switchblade knife.”

Was Gray stopped for “running while black?” The question that people want answered is “did the police stop Gray for a valid reason?” According to some lawyers and the Supreme Court, the answer is an emphatic “no.”

The mayor as recently as a few days ago said one of her frustrations with trying to piece this together is that we can’t seem to establish probable cause,” her spokesman Kevin Harris said. “All we have from the police documents so far is that he made eye contact or he had a knife. From her years serving as a public defender, having a knife is not necessarily probable cause to chase or arrest someone. The information we have so far is clearly insufficient as well in establishing why he was pursued in the first place.”

David Gray, a University of Maryland law professor who teaches criminal law and criminal procedure, said the Supreme Court has ruled that running away from police, by itself, is not justification for an arrest. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist wrote that refusing to cooperate with police “does not furnish the minimal level of objective justification needed for detention and seizure,” the professor pointed out.

So without probable cause to stop and search him, Gray was on the ground struggling with police and arrested for having a switchblade knife. To make matters worse for the police, the charging document for the incident says Gray was “arrested without force or violence,” a statement which is contrary to the videos.

On Saturday night, Baltimore exploded. What started out as a peaceful protest against the actions of the police in this case turned violent.

Don’t they always?

The “peace” did not last long.

Police cruisers were attacked and destroyed. Stores were smashed. Glass filled the streets of downtown. Fans attending the Orioles – Boston game at Camden Yards were told not to leave the stadium as the police were concerned for their safety.

The news stations followed the action breathlessly, including running video of the police long after the crowds had disbursed. The actions of the media led to the anxiety citizens were feeling.

Police seemed not to escalate the situation with more violence which was good, but they did manage to attack several members of the press, which is not so good.

In an email sent to officers on Sunday, Police Commissioner Batts called the police response to the protests as “scary good.”

If only the six officers who were involved in the arrest, detention, transportation and death of Gray had been “scary good,” we might not be having this discussion.

Instead, the City of Baltimore is torn apart by the actions of the police and those who oppose them. Residents who want to live in peace are now scared to walk out the door not only because of the actions of the protestors, but because of the actions of the police as well.

There will always be those who seek to ignite controversy and paint groups with broad brushes to make them look bad. We can’t tell you how many emails we get talking about how horrible cops are. We can’t tell you how many times we see comments like “if only the n****r crook had obeyed the cop, none of the would have happened.”

Yeah, those comments are real helpful.

In all fairness, there has to be a real discussion and action on some of these cases and their underlying causes. Why did a 50 year old man die over child support? Why did a 25 year old man die because he looked at the police and ran?

In both the Scott and Gray deaths, why did the police lie?

There are so many questions to be answered. Instead of seeking answers and ways to correct problems, we will see public officials rush to throw others under the bus. We will see the police say “not our fault.” We will see looters and other criminals justify their actions of destroying property in the name of “social justice.” (Because trashing a 7-11 shows how committed people are to a cause.)

There was and still is an uneasy calm in the City of Baltimore.

It is now up to leaders to build on that calm with real, substantive changes and actions or else we will see more unnecessary deaths and destruction across the land.



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