Survived Car Crash. Killed By Cop. (UPDATED)

We know who killed Jon Ferrell, but the legal system seems to be confused.

In the aftermath of the mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict in the case of Randall Kerrick, the former Charlotte-Meckenberg police officer who shot and killed 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell in September 2013, you will inevitably hear law enforcement experts providing explanations about why the jury did not vote to convict Kerrick and possibly send him to prison for 11 years.  Many of these experts will be current and former police officers. This is what you need to know about these “experts.”

Everyone has an opinion. Some even have informed opinions. But sometimes what seems to be an informed opinion it is only impersonating one. What you’re actually hearing is a highly biased opinion designed only to defend bad policing by bad cops.

The excuses are the usual ones. The apologists say Kerrick deserved to lose his job. Kerrick should never be a cop again. But it’s not Kerrick himself, but the police department which hired him that should be punished for his bad policing. Kerrick should go free for his bad policing but it is the taxpayers who should be on the hook for Kerrick’s bad policing. Kerrick shouldn’t be punished for pumping 10 bullets into Jonathan Ferrell, even though the two other officers, both more experienced than Kerrick didn’t fire their guns at all.

While for some it may be plausibly asserted the past experience of someone in the same profession has to make them the go-to experts on how ALL police departments work and how ALL police officers respond to situations as an uncooperative suspect, that is a baseless assertion of authority that defies logic, reality and common sense. Nobody is an expert on everything facet and every situation others in that profession may meet.

The opinion which should carry the most weight isn’t of somebody who doesn’t know Kerrick, doesn’t know what sort of cop he was, doesn’t know how the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department trains its officers, and doesn’t know what their policies and rules are. The opinion which matters most is someone who does.

Randall “Wes” Kerrick used excessive force when the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell two years ago, a training expert testified Tuesday.


CMPD Capt. Mike Campagna told jurors that given the circumstances – from what Kerrick knew from dispatchers to how events quickly happened – the 29-year-old officer violated police policies by opening fire on Ferrell as the former college football player ran toward him on a Sept. 14, 2013.

jonathan-ferrell car 2

All that’s left of Ferrell’s car. He survived the crash but not the police.

Ferrell, who was unarmed, was hit by 10 gunshots. Most came when Ferrell and Kerrick were a few feet apart or on top of each other.

Campagna said Kerrick was justified in pulling his gun but not in using it. Instead, Kerrick should have holstered his Smith & Wesson 40-caliber pistol and used other options to restrain Ferrell – from firing his Taser, to using his baton or pepper spray, to even kicking or punching the approaching man.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers are taught to respond to a threat with only the force needed to subdue a subject, Campagna testified.

What was the highest response Kerrick should have used, prosecutor Teresa Postell asked?

“Non-deadly force,” Campagna said.

“Was shooting Jonathan consistent with CMPD policy and training?” Postell asked.

“No, it was not,” Campagna said.

Some of these experts will express how concerned they are about bad cops and how they must be weeded out.    Do not believe them.  If their lips are moving, they’re lying.

Anybody who continually manufactures excuses for bad policing and then turns around to make noises about “reforming” the police to get rid of the bad apples in the bunch does not sincerely mean it. Reform is what they say. What they do is repeatedly shrug off every incident of inept, incompetent and illegal policing as isolated events which cop-haters will exaggerate only to tear down the police. How many isolated cases does it take before it is obvious there’s nothing isolated about police violence against people of color?

Kerrick didn’t get desk duty or a suspension for shooting Jonathan Ferrell. He got fired and arrested for murder.   There were troubling signs Kerrick might not be found guilty when a grand jury failed to indict him and it took a second to do so.

How might things play out differently if Timothy Loehmann is indicted and tried for killing Tamir Rice or when Michael Slager is indicted and tried for killing Walter Scott or when the cops in Baltimore are tried for killing Freddie Gray?

It won’t play out any differently. Cops and their lawyers know they if they say the Five Magic Words it will be their guaranteed Get Out of Jail Free Card: “I feared for my life” and some sap on a jury or a limp-dick judge or a prosecutor afraid of pissing off the police will swallow this line whole and without question. We saw it with Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Sean Bell and Oscar Grant and Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond and on and on into infinity and beyond.
Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis because he feared for his life. Theodore Wafer killed Renisha McBride because he feared for his life. George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin because he feared for his life. The Fear is the same but civilians, unlike cops, are less likely to have that reasonable doubt granted to them. Zimmerman was an exception and everything he’s been involved in since escaping punishment for Martin’s murder has brought clearly into focus between the two which one was the “thug.”

Cops get that benefit of the doubt. The Fear they claim led them to kill an unarmed man, woman or child is not measurable, but the cop apologists will tell you its real and its significant. In Kerrick’s case, he wasn’t facing Jonathan Ferrell alone. There were two other officers with him and neither one of them fired a shot. Does that mean they were the cowards here and Kerrick, the former animal control officer, was the real courageous one?

If a cop is so afraid for his life the default setting is to kill whomever is making them afraid, why the fuck are they a cop in the first place?

Calling Kerrick a coward is a completely proper term. He panicked and overreacted. He violated his training. He acted recklessly. He used lethal force in a situation where in the judgment of two other police officers it wasn’t necessary to stop Ferrell.

Those are the actions of a coward. A gutless, worthless, murderous COWARD who never should have been a cop. Kerrick should still be taking on angry Chihuahuas and poodles, not blowing away disoriented, injured Black men who had crawled from the wreckage of his totaled vehicle.

Make no mistake of it. What Kerrick did when he squeezed that trigger and pumped bullet after bullet after bullet after bullet into Ferrell until he had no more bullets to pump wasn’t about Kerrick being afraid for his life. It was about Kerrick wanting nothing more than to kill Ferrell and take away his life.

Contrary to the cop show hype crime does pay and criminals do get away with murder.  Especially when the criminal is a cop.

The dog catcher turned killer cop testifies in court.

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…And Justice For All?

cop car on fire

These are my last words for the foreseeable future on the series of shooting by the police of Black men and it’s not because I don’t have more to say.   Actually it’s more that this is a topic that first fills me with blind, irrational anger, followed by nauseated disgust and finally fatalistic pessimism.    It’s unhealthy to allow any one subject become so pervasive it becomes all-encompassing, so I have to let this go and move on.

This is going to be long, but I hope it makes sense.

There’s a degree of certain cognitive dissonance associated with the killings of Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, John Crawford II among the other recent examples of cop-vs-civilian citizens.

Only the most angry of anarchists could boldly state there is no need for the police. Time and again it has been demonstrated the police are the only organization between order and chaos. Whether it’s some thoughtless neighbors blasting their music too loud in the wee hours or an old woman who’s fallen down and can’t get up or a child doesn’t arrive home after school or some guy has just rear-ended your brand new Chevy, there needs to be the person who comes along and makes a crazy world sane again for a while.

Most of us were brought up to respect police as figures of authority worthy of respect equal to that of doctors, lawyers, clergy and politicians. They were the Good Guys protecting us all from the Bad Guys.

Of course, the reality is never that black and white and the cracks in the facade become even more acute when the reality is Black and White.

Akai Gurley: Protected and Served to Death.

Akai Gurley: Protected and Served to Death.

I don’t know if Akai Gurley was a good man who didn’t deserve to die in a darkened staircase or a bad man who would have likely met with a bad end sooner or later. But what I do know is when something happens and keeps happening and it’s always reasoned away and waved off as merely “an accident” that isn’t an explanation as much as it is denial.

It didn’t surprise me when Darren Wilson walked. Mike Brown was viewed as a threat. It didn’t surprise me when Daniel Pantaleo walked. Eric Garner was a physically unhealthy man who refused to be taken into custody without resisting. It didn’t surprise me when the cops who blew away John Crawford II in a Wal-Mart walked because he had no business walking around with a realistic looking BB gun.

Neither did Tamir Rice so it won’t surprise me if Officer Timothy Loehmann walks despite being judged unfit for duty by a small town police force but apparently OK for the Cleveland cop shop.

That same dysfunctional Cleveland cop shop following a U.S. Justice Department investigation into acts of excessive force recently agreed to a consent decree which will doubtlessly lead to possibly hundreds of officers fired and forced into retirement. Getting bad cops off the street is a help to good cops, but you’ll rarely hear them say it out loud.

I have communicated with several ex-cops and those who aspired to be cops and they comment regularly on  a discussion board I patronize on several officer related shooting threads as well as high-profile non-police involved deaths such as the Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride cases. They offer insights and perspectives on police procedure, protocol and perspectives civilians are on the outside of peering in. They offer a valuable contribution in the ongoing process of building bridges and not walls between the police and the community.

However, when it comes to matters of police misconduct, corruption and brutality, their default setting seems to be to close ranks with their brethren in blue and fall back to the now familiar stance of “us vs them” and if you aren’t one of us, you must be one of them.

Frank Serpico was one of “us” until he broke the cop code of silence and testified about corruption in the NYPD. Hollywood made Serpico the flawed hero in a movie starring Al Pacino, but the NYPD still regards him as a snitch, a rat, and a villain.

Want to see a hero cop? Frank Serpico qualifies.

Serpico says police brutality now is as bad as police corruption was back in his day and for many of the same reasons: a permissive culture that looks the other way, closes ranks, protects bad cops and persecutes good cops trying to do their jobs the right way.

And today the Blue Wall of Silence endures in towns and cities across America. Whistleblowers in police departments — or as I like to call them, “lamp lighters,” after Paul Revere — are still turned into permanent pariahs. The complaint I continue to hear is that when they try to bring injustice to light they are told by government officials: “We can’t afford a scandal; it would undermine public confidence in our police.” That confidence, I dare say, is already seriously undermined.

Things might have improved in some areas. The days when I served and you could get away with anything, when cops were better at accounting than at law enforcement — keeping meticulous records of the people they were shaking down, stealing drugs and money from dealers on a regular basis — all that no longer exists as systematically as it once did, though it certainly does in some places. Times have changed. It’s harder to be a venal cop these days.

But an even more serious problem — police violence — has probably grown worse, and it’s out of control for the same reason that graft once was: a lack of accountability.
I tried to be an honest cop in a force full of bribe-takers. But as I found out the hard way, police departments are useless at investigating themselves—and that’s exactly the problem facing ordinary people across the country —including perhaps, Ferguson, Missouri, which has been a lightning rod for discontent even though the circumstances under which an African-American youth, Michael Brown, was shot remain unclear.

Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets—this sense of invulnerability? The famous old saying still applies: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (And we still don’t know how many of these incidents occur each year; even though Congress enacted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act 20 years ago, requiring the Justice Department to produce an annual report on “the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers,” the reports were never issued.)

It wasn’t any surprise to me that, after Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, officers instinctively lined up behind Darren Wilson, the cop who allegedly killed Brown. Officer Wilson may well have had cause to fire if Brown was attacking him, as some reports suggest, but it is also possible we will never know the full truth—whether, for example, it was really necessary for Wilson to shoot Brown at least six times, killing rather than just wounding him. As they always do, the police unions closed ranks also behind the officer in question. And the district attorney (who is often totally in bed with the police and needs their votes) and city power structure can almost always be counted on to stand behind the unions.

In some ways, matters have gotten even worse. The gulf between the police and the communities they serve has grown wider. Mind you, I don’t want to say that police shouldn’t protect themselves and have access to the best equipment. Police officers have the right to defend themselves with maximum force, in cases where, say, they are taking on a barricaded felon armed with an assault weapon. But when you are dealing every day with civilians walking the streets, and you bring in armored vehicles and automatic weapons, it’s all out of proportion. It makes you feel like you’re dealing with some kind of subversive enemy. The automatic weapons and bulletproof vest may protect the officer, but they also insulate him from the very society he’s sworn to protect. All that firepower and armor puts an even greater wall between the police and society, and solidifies that “us-versus-them” feeling.

Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

At 77, Frank Serpico is an old man and old men are susceptible to being scoffed at as behind the times and out of the loop. Even the film was made over four decades ago. Yet, Serpico says he loved being a cop. He just wishes he could have been allowed to be the honest cop he wanted to be and not the threat he became because he refused to be a dishonest one.

I honestly do not believe most cops are racist, but in all honesty, there are racists who are cops.  Their default setting is to side with the cops because they were cops that is no less understandable than mine is to side with a Brown, Garner, Gurley, Rice, Martin, Ferrell, Grant, Bell or Diallo because I look like them.

I’ve said before nobody needs the protection of the police more than the Black community. If Black people are disproportionately killed by the police, and more specifically, by White police officers that is in no small part due to the disproportionate numbers of Blacks committing crimes and incarcerated for those crimes. But that’s a much more complicated problem than finger-pointing idiots like Rudy Giuliani or Charles Barkley can resolve with their simplistic solutions.

Serpico doesn’t have all the answers to society’s ills either, but he does have some suggestions deserving of being included in any discussion of the bloody schism between cops and communities of color.

1. Strengthen the selection process and psychological screening process for police recruits. Police departments are simply a microcosm of the greater society. If your screening standards encourage corrupt and forceful tendencies, you will end up with a larger concentration of these types of individuals;
2. Provide ongoing, examples-based training and simulations. Not only telling but showing police officers how they are expected to behave and react is critical;
3. Require community involvement from police officers so they know the districts and the individuals they are policing. This will encourage empathy and understanding;
4. Enforce the laws against everyone, including police officers. When police officers do wrong, use those individuals as examples of what not to do – so that others know that this behavior will not be tolerated. And tell the police unions and detective endowment associations they need to keep their noses out of the justice system;
5. Support the good guys. Honest cops who tell the truth and behave in exemplary fashion should be honored, promoted and held up as strong positive examples of what it means to be a cop;
6. Last but not least, police cannot police themselves. Develop permanent, independent boards to review incidents of police corruption and brutality—and then fund them well and support them publicly. Only this can change a culture that has existed since the beginnings of the modern police department.

If Number One of Serpico’s reforms had been in place in Cleveland, Timothy Loehmann might have remained a washed-out small-town cop and never moved on to become a big-city cop and Tamir Rice might still be alive instead of shot down in less than three seconds when Loehmann encountered him.

police-brutality

If Number Two of Serpico’s reforms had been in place in New York, Peter Liang might have been paired off with a more experienced veteran officer instead of another rookie like himself.

If Number Six of Serpico’s reforms had been in place in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, the grand jury decisions not to indict Pantaleno and Wilson might be less subject to suspicions of prosecutors manipulating the results.

There will never be a solution to the problem of police brutality and community hostility until all sides involved own up to their own vested interests, sacred cows and protected turf. Any meaningful progress means giving up, compromising, hammering out and forging a new deal between polarized enemies.

I don’t want to view the police as an occupying force. I need them to tell my noisy neighbors to turn that racket down as much as anyone else does. At the current state of things, I’m far less concerned about ISIS or Ebola taking me out than I am Officer Friendly doing me in because he didn’t like a gesture I made during a traffic stop.

Don’t tell me being a cop is a tough, thankless gig. Who doesn’t know that? Any cop who was expecting applause should have never cut their hair, formed a rock band and learned how to play Van Halen’s “Eruption.” Most cops never pull their guns to shoot anybody. When they do most times they’re justified and every time they have to kill someone they don’t have to be probed like a visit to the proctologist.

That doesn’t give cops a license to kill and a badge does not bestow extra rights the rest of us don’t get.

It is not playing the Race Card to wonder why there are so many encounters between unarmed Black men and armed White cops end up fatal for the Black men. If the shoe were on the other foot and White cops were being mowed down by Black assailants would there any puzzlement of what the hell is going on?

The agitation of a New Black Panthers plotting acts of murder and revenge against persons and property deserves condemnation by any responsible citizen, but so does Patrick Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association when he calls Pantaleo “a model police officer.”

The demagoguery has to end. The distrust has to end. The polarization and politicking has to end. I want to say it can end if all sides resolve to find a way to come together and force it to end. Yet while I try to be hopeful because it doesn’t make much sense to be anything else or you might as well not get up out of bed, I can’t say I’m optimistic.

Reconciliation is possible but not if our differences remain irreconcilable. We can wait for the next Akai Gurley or Eric Garner or Mike Brown or Tamir Rice to come along and do this now familiar dance over again; five steps back and no steps forward, but if police reform is impossible a  revolution against the police is inevitable.

The odds are excellent we won’t have to wait too long to find out.

oscar wilde

Dead Black bodies are a growth business (and business is good).

michael brown_autopsy_

And we’re back.

I needed some time off and I took off. No mystery to it. I’ve written about dead Black bodies that only came to my attention when they ceased being live Black bodies. I could have lived a happy life blissfully ignorant of Trayvon Martin, Jonathan Ferrell, Justin Davis, Renisha McBride, Hadiya Pendleton, Antonio Smith or Michael Brown’s existence. Now they are part of mine. Despite never knowing them or meeting a part of them lives on in me and their restless spirits travel with me even as I wait for the next name to be added to theirs.

I could write every day for every last day of my life on dead Black bodies bleeding out in the street and never run out of material and I’m tired of it. It makes me angry and then it makes me depressed and then it makes me want to lie in bed all day long with the curtains drawn until its night again. How many words have I written over the past 22 years about dead Black kids where only the names and locations change but the details stay all too similar? I don’t know the exact number, but I know it’s been far too many.

Michael Brown and Antonio Smith were the last dead Black bodies that pushed me to and then over the edge. Ishmael Reed once declared “writin’ is fightin’ “, but these were the murders that made me drop my gloves. It’s not that I’m never gonna stop writing or fighting. How can I when I know I’m not going to throw a brick through anybody’s window or burn down anyone’s store or spit in the eye of any cop no matter how much I might want to.

You don’t have to smell the putrid funk of dead bodies to be sickened by it. I’m tired of writing worthless words which do nothing but make one man feel a bit better about the things he can’t stop or change.   Words are the only bullets in a writer’s gun, but depending on what the subject we’re drawn to and compelled to talk about we can fire for a while before we start shooting blanks. Dead Black boys provides a lot of ammo and Lord, do I wish I could put this gun down and never pick it up again.

Got no justice.  Can't rest in peace.

Got no justice. Can’t rest in peace.

Yet I know I will.   I always do.  In six weeks or six days or six hours there will be another Mike Brown and another and another after that.  Dead Black bodies is a growth industry.  I’m never going to run out.   No matter what else draws me away the certainty of cold hard steel tearing through warm soft flesh will draw me back to this subject time and again.

It will make me angry and it will make me mad and it will make me so depressed I’ll want to lie all day in a dark room with the curtains drawn and I’ll be thankful for only one thing: that’s it’s not my son or daughter.

I’ll pray it’s never my son lying face down in the street or my daughter staring up at the stars with dead eyes wide open that see nothing. I’ll pray for that even as curse living in a sick, sick, SICK world where any parent anywhere should ever have to pray “Lord, don’t let it be mine, let it be someone else”

Maybe tomorrow nobody will die.  Maybe nowhere in the world no trembling hostage will have some sadistic bastard cut his head off.   Maybe a Black teenager won’t get blown away with his hands raised hoping to save his life from a White cop determined to take it.   Maybe no woman will be raped or beaten or strangled.   Maybe there won’t be any war anywhere because maybe both sides decide to take a day off.

Maybe.   And maybe I’ll just wake up and wait for the next batch of bad news to come looking for me.

 

The Murder of Renisha McBride

Why is this woman dead and her killer still free? WHY?

I haven’t been able to say anything about the killing of Renisha McBride for the same reason I haven’t been able to write my reaction to seeing 12 Years A Slave.

It’s too real and too much pain involved.   I needed a little time to compress and process.  Now that I have, here’s what I have to say.

Your name is Renisha McBride.  You are 19 years old and you live in Detroit.  You are in the suburb of Dearborn Heights and get in a car crash.  Your cell phone is dead.   You’re injured and bleeding.  You go looking for help and knock on the door of a house.   Someone opens the door armed with a loaded gun, shoots a woman in her face and then claims it “discharged by accident?”

I call “bullshit” on that.

A gun doesn’t aim itself and triggers don’t pull themselves. Human beings do that.

Scared, stupid, racist human beings who can kill an injured and unarmed woman and two weeks later the killer still hasn’t been arrested or even identified.

Smells like George Zimmerman chillin’ at the crib for nearly 45  days after blowing away Trayvon Martin all over again only this time it’s a remix with the bizarre circumstances of the Jonathan Ferrell shooting of a few months ago.  As if Black people needed yet another reminder of how cheaply their lives are regarded by the injustice system here comes a hard slap across the face.

Yes, it’s a different situation from the Ferrell shooting in that in this case if was a homeowner, not a cop, who blew Renisha McBride away.

Otherwise, what’s so different?

The overarching lesson here seems to be if you’re Black and you get in a car crash at night and your cell phone is out of juice and you need help, DON’T go knocking on the door of any nearby homes unless you want to get shot.

Just sit there in the wreckage of your vehicle and suffer. You’ll still be injured, but you might not end up dead.

mcbride funeral

All things considered, is  slowly freezing to death or dying slowly of internal injuries so much worse or any less than being shot in the face with a .12 gauge shotgun by some trigger-happy cretin?

I have no confidence the courts will dispense justice for the killer of Renisha McBride anymore than it did for Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant or Rodney King.

Each of these cases have more than one thing in common. They each have a White shooter (with the exception of Zimmerman) and a Black victim and all of them united by the supposed fear of the shooter of the victim.

Each of these cases shows how “laws” like Stand Your Ground have been designed to protect the killers, not the victims. There is a culture of death that already plagues the Black community as they die by violence perpetrated among themselves, but White fear of Black people has become legally sanctioned as reason enough to kill them with impunity.

The American system of jurisprudence is blind, but it is not color blind. If the race of the shooter and the victim were reversed there is no way a Black man would not be arrested for shooting a 19-year-old White female in the face as she sought help after an auto accident.

We don’t know why Mr. X shot McBride.  We know he is 54 years old and a White male.  His attorney says he feared McBride was trying to break into his home and he shot her accidentally which if you believe that, I have some nice property in the Everglades to sell you.

Where is the evidence Renisha attempted to break into the house of the man who shot her?

Self-defense only applies when someone needs to defend themselves (or at least it did before SYG laws turned the concept upside down). Renisha was injured, disoriented and unarmed. Where is the threat? Or is knocking on a door now grounds to shoot someone in the face?

Trayvon Martin.  Jonathan Ferrell.  Renisha McBride.  Scared shooters.  Dead Black people.

Trayvon Martin.  Black male.  Racially profiled.  Shot by vigilante.  Dead.

Jonathan Ferrell. Black male. Car crash. Seeks help. Shot by cop. Dead.

Renisha McBride. Black female. Car crash. Seeks help. Shot by homeowner. Dead.

Once is accident. Twice is coincidence. Third time is proof.

People whom are not protected by the law will soon have no respect for the law.  If that is the lesson America wants to teach its Black citizens, they should know they are building a hothouse where only discontent, rage and hate will grow.

When it reaches full bloom it won’t be pretty to behold.   That’s not a warning.  That’s a prophecy.

Demonstrators demand justice for Renisha McBride