Equal Standards

I’m usually the first one to stand up for the cops. I can’t say how many times I’ve seen good cops get maligned on the news for wrongs they never committed. I’ve even seen cops I knew not to be in the wrong accused of racism, brutality, and a slew of other charges and a sliver of video footage provided as proof – only to be later proven wrong by witnesses, both officer and civilian alike, because the footage failed to capture the aggressive actions of the accused leading up to what was captured on video. Having lost two friends and two professional acquaintances to line-of-duty shootings, it irritates me when the public is so ready to lash out at the police over something when they don’t have the full story. I’ve even seen people lie about what they witnessed to malign good cops. What happens when the officer is proved innocent? Nothing. The media loses interest and the public almost never hears the truth. I don’t want to be a cop because I’d never be able to keep myself from blogging the injustices I see. Even as an EMT, it’s hard not to. A lot goes on once I leave a scene, though, so there’s a lot that I gladly miss.

Every once in a while, though, we do get verifiable evidence that a cop really is a jackass and doesn’t deserve to wear a badge. The League City Police Department has targeted a friend of mine for a crime she documented that she couldn’t possibly have committed and most other Houston-area police departments consider them a running joke. In Canton, Ohio, however, an officer has done his level best to prove the myth that all cops are thugs in dire need of a serious attitude adjustment.

On June 8, Canton police officer Daniel Harless and his partner, Mark Diels, pulled up behind a stopped vehicle that a passenger was exiting. One other passenger and the driver were still inside. As soon as the officers exited the vehicle, Harless started yelling at the passengers. Diels never did anything to calm his partner, who, over the course of half an hour, became so enraged he was screaming threats to execute the driver for being stupid. It has to be seen to be believed. CAUTION: the video is long, but worth the watch, and it is peppered with profanities, all coming from the officer. It is not safe for viewing at work or with the kids around.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kassP7zI0qc&feature=player_embedded]

According to Ohio CCW law, a licensee is required to “promptly notify” officers that he has a weapon and then not touch the weapon. In this case, officers make a mistake that even a piss-ant former CO like me could spot: they start searching with the driver still inside, unsecured. If I were turning down a cell, there is no way I would do it with the occupants still inside and no backup nearby to cover me if the occupant standing outside decided to go after me. Were I a cop, first I’d never search a vehicle without a warrant or the driver’s permission – and then, I would only do it with the driver secured outside the vehicle with my backup watching him intently.

Maybe it was the outrageous stupidity of their error in judgment that caused Harless to go over the edge. Whatever it was, the driver is told by the officer searching the vehicle to “shut up”, so he complies. As he is being taken out of the vehicle, he has his CCW card in his hand and tries TWICE to tell Harless that he’s licensed and armed. Harless repeatedly interrupts him.

Then, when he finally does clue in, he snaps.

While I’m the first to stand up for officers wrongly maligned, I cannot allow an injustice like this to go uncalled. Officer Harless is the poster child for the way an officer should never behave when dealing with the public. I get the feeling this dashcam footage will end up being shown in police academies in the future, and well it should.

I’ve learned in my life that when a person loses control and has an extended angry outburst that they simply refuse to let go of, they have serious issues. I promise that this is not the first time that this officer lost his cool and he probably learned over time that this kind of behavior was acceptable. Your authority alone should be quite enough to speak volumes; the gun you carry is plain for all to see. If you need to yell at a person multiple times about what you could or should have done with it, you shouldn’t be allowed to carry it. As a civilian and a CCW holder, if I were to threaten anybody with deadly force without just cause, I’d not only go to jail, I would immediately be stripped of my right to own a firearm and it would be a cold day in hell before I got it back.

I asked one of my police friends what she thought of it and she was, at first, speechless. I asked her to watch the video and then call me. When she finally did find her voice, she said, “I kept waiting for that cop to go postal and beat the crap out of that poor guy.” She said that she’s gotten angry with people from time to time, but in nearly a decade on the force, she knew that self-control is paramount – and this guy displays no self-control at all. Lack of control will get an officer in big trouble far more quickly than a naive gun owner.

I didn’t even have to become a cop to learn that lesson. I hope the City of Canton strips Harless of his badge. It is extremely rare that I say this, but he doesn’t deserve the honor and shouldn’t be allowed to continue sullying the names of the good cops out there who know how to conduct themselves properly.

We Will Kill You Back

My home state is set to execute Humberto Leal Garcia, Jr. today by lethal injection for the rape and murder of 16-year-old Adria Saucedo. Looking at the facts of the case and the evidence, it really is open and shut; forensic evidence along with witness testimony was absolutely damning. This morning, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision against a stay of execution. The case, however, won’t die – any more than other cases involving foreign nationals, particularly Mexicans sentenced to death in Texas. Jose Medellin was executed in 2008 despite the argument that he was never given access to the Mexican Consulate.

The argument went that Medellin, who had been brought to the United States as a small child, had never been notified of his right to notify the Mexican Consulate and seek their counsel during his trial on the same thing – double rape and murder, a crime that he committed with friends as part of a gang initiation. Evidence in that case was outrageous and could not be denied; a nylon belt belonging to one of the gang members was found broken on the body of one of the victims, the rest of the belt in possession of its owner; a ring bearing a large “E” had been stolen by another gang member and given to his girlfriend; blood was found all over the shirt of another gang member; yet another was videotaped smiling at the scene of the crime. Along with this, witnesses and gang members who testified pretty well sealed the fate of Medellin and four of his friends – they received the death penalty. Later, after SCOTUS ruled that those who committed heinous crimes while under the age of 18 could not be put to death, two of the killers had their sentences commuted to life in prison. Medellin’s trial did not end until 1997, four years after the murders, yet his lawyers had failed to mention to anyone that he’d been denied his right to speak to the Mexican consulate – even though until then he believed he was born in the US and had no idea that he was actually an illegal from Mexico.

One year after the crime that shook Oak Forest, Humberto Leal was at a party with 16-year-old Adria Saucedo. Witnesses said that Saucedo was intoxicated and high on cocaine while several men at the party supposedly raped her. She was later put in Leal’s vehicle, and multiple witnesses said she left with him; a short time later, Leal’s brother showed up in absolute hysterics, screaming that Humberto had returned home covered in blood, saying he’d killed a girl. Partygoers immediately began searching for the girl and found her dying of severe head trauma, the 40-pound asphalt rock used to beat her to death in the dirt beside her, a stick with a screw still in it protruding from her vagina.

At first, when questioned, Leal claimed that he was taking her home when she got upset and jumped out of the car. When told that his brother had also given a statement about what he’d really said, Leal corrected himself: he said she jumped out but he had followed her and pushed her down, then when he saw blood coming from her nose and mouth he ran away. Police searched his home and found Adria’s blood-spattered blouse in his room. Luminol testing showed that blood had been present on the passenger-side seat and door, but a serious attempt to clean it up had been made and there wasn’t enough left to test. Bite marks on Adria’s face and neck matched Leal’s teeth. With more than enough evidence to convict, the prosecution easily won a conviction.

There are many, however, who are screaming that he should have been given access to the Mexican Consulate.

Why? He was brought here to the US when he was not quite two years old. I’d be willing to bet he didn’t know he wasn’t a US citizen, either, and it didn’t come up until much later. The argument being made by President Obama and several others is that Texas’ refusal to stop his execution and give him a new hearing about consular access will put Americans abroad in danger of being deprived of the same right.

How is that? How often are Americans given access to our consulate in Mexico when they’re arrested for petty offenses? There are a number of stories of Americans being arrested by crooked cops and being treated horribly in squalid jail cells, their possessions stolen and sold, while families fight tooth and nail to get them the things they need, much less get them home. Talk to Dawn Marie Wilson, stopped by Mexican police with her husband on their boat just off Mexican shores. During a search of the vessel, police confiscated a prescription – written by an American doctor and filled at a Mexican pharmacy, they accused her of possession of an illegal prescription. Without access to the US consulate she was sentenced to five years in Mexican prison, where she says drugs and prostitution were rampant and there was no sanitation, running water or adequate food. She was freed in 2004 after a year and a half – and Mexican police stole her credit card, charging $4200 on it.

Ask Tillie Blount, whose son James was arrested for possession of Thorazine despite there being no history at all of drug or alcohol use. James was tossed in a dank cell with 60 other inmates and appeared to US consular officials to be disturbed when they saw him. He was beaten to death by five inmates and a guard while he paced and talked to himself in 2000.

Ask attorney Dick Atkins, who reports that thousands of Americans go to foreign jails in Mexico every year, often languishing for months without being charged – some for years without charges or trial. In Mexico, those involved in traffic accidents often go to jail if they don’t first go to the hospital, regardless of who caused it, until the investigation is complete – and he described one case where an American was rear-ended by a Mexican (yes, the Mexican caused it) and was taken to jail. In other countries, he says that food and medical care are hardly adequate (India, Mexico), it can be nearly impossible to find a person incarcerated (China, and torture is rampant (Saudi Arabia). In most other countries, pretrial detention can last for years, often without bail.

I’m sorry, but I’m having an awfully hard time feeling sorry for the animal who tortured, raped and murdered a teenage girl and left enough forensic evidence to convince Hellen Keller of his guilt. He didn’t have access to the Mexican consulate? Aw, poor baby. My heart bleeds peanut butter for him. His life in US jails and prisons has been a vacation compared to what he would have gotten in Mexico, death penalty included. At least his death will be peaceful.

I don’t believe for one second that Americans will be in any more danger overseas than they already are with things being the way they are. When was the last time you heard of a US attorney demanding $70,000, a new house and a new car from the family of a suspect incarcerated for trying to pass counterfeit money to buy prescription medication? Aside from all of that, America is a sovereign nation, one not required to obey international law. John Kerry can kiss my ass with his global litmus test…if we spend all of our time trying to make everyone else in the world happy, we’ll never get anything done. Our laws are ours, and nobody else gets a say.

Don’t whine about how bad America is. We’re a shining light in this world. If you ask me, the bad guys have it way too easy in prison. Believe me. I saw it with my own two eyes. As for Humberto Leal, he and his family wanted to live here – they get to abide by our law. Put him to death and send everyone a message that if you kill someone here, in the words of Ron White, “we will kill you back!”

Smoke and Mirrors

As an emergency worker and occasional victim advocate (not to mention a constant student of criminal justice around the world), I have no respect for criminals. I used to work in prisons; if I had a buck for every inmate who ever told me they were innocent, I wouldn’t be working for a living today. Of all of the crimes committed in this world, I believe crimes against children are among the absolute worst. I believe there is a special circle in hell reserved for child abusers and molesters. I’ve been on calls that I cannot describe in any forum and had to face people who amount to little more than human debris – it is often all I can do to keep my cool. Sometimes I’ve had to simply walk out of a home or police office to avoid doing something monumentally stupid. I have to remind myself how much more wrong it would be to lock myself out of my profession by sinking to the bad guy’s level and the innocent people who may go without help if I and those I work with weren’t there anymore.

That said, I got into a discussion (if you could call it that) with a group of vicious, vile people who call themselves conservatives about certain gay issues. This was a very small group of people, and to the credit of the large number of others in this discussion, many were admonishing this small handful for their outrageous statements. I don’t often engage in online forums (mostly because I have better things to do with my time), but this time, I felt it necessary. As soon as things like hate crimes and hate speech legislation, gay marriage and indoctrination came up, I voiced an agreement on certain things. Even that wasn’t enough; one of these idiots came back with, “whether you agree with us or not, is irrelevant. Homos are child molesters and I don’t want you near my children.” Another called me “a manized woman” (it’s no wonder some liberals have so much material on conservatives with this kind of brilliance in our midst – not to say libs don’t give us plenty of material, but we have to admit, it’s embarrassing when these morons open their mouths).

They also said that I couldn’t possibly be a gay conservative, because the conservative movement, according to them, is a purely Christian movement and you cannot be a gay Christian to them, either. Clear as mud? Great!

I take particular offense to hearing these people accuse all homosexuals of being child molesters. There isn’t a soul writing for this blog or any other gay conservative blog (see www.gaypatriot.org as well) who wouldn’t love to strangle the life out of every same-sex oriented child molester in America for smearing us all in such a fashion. It is completely unfair to malign an entire community with such baseless hysteria; it’s the same thing we get pissed at liberals for. When the Nazis wanted to run off or exterminate the Jews, they characterized them as thieving rats that carry diseases and leech off of civilized society. We get mad at liberals for persecuting us but I have (so far) tried to tread carefully on the grounds of conservative misdeeds, with the exception of high-ranking politicians who claim conservatism but are actually more collectivist than anything else.

When the comment about child molesters was made, I pointed out that statistics actually show a 20-to-1 disparity between hetero- and homosexual child molesters. The commenter refused to buy it, and told me to either prove it or take my statement back (like some people are, he was very confrontational about it). What did I do? I dug into my resources and found 25 opposite-sex child molesters, both male and female, in the past two years who have been caught. I only found two same-sex molesters. I didn’t just offer vagueness, I gave the offender’s names. What’s more, those are only crimes I’ve followed right here in Arizona. In other parts of the country, the disparity can be even more pronounced.

Not only did the original challenger not respond, I got a handful of nasty-grams from a moderator who told me to stop the arguing.

Why do these honest-to-Bush idiots cling to their fearmongering belief that all gay people are sicko child molesters? Some like to point out serial killers such as Dean Corll, John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer, but while these three were absolutely deplorable, they are also widely acknowledged as anomalies – three killers in a pool of a couple hundred million is hardly a trend. Mark Foley was a perv who should have been ousted long before he was. One gay man in California was discovered by authorities a couple of years ago trying to pimp his adopted eight-year-old son out to other men. And who could forget king sicko Harry Hay, the founder of NAMBLA (whom Obama administration member Kevin Jennings has listed as one of his heroes)? While all of these wastes of skin are absolute pervs and they completely skeev me out, they are hardly representative of the gay community or gay people at large. In fact, the vast overwhelming majority of them – liberal and conservative alike – have openly rebuked them, yet we are still aligned with them by those who cling to the long-since debunked myth that all gay people are child molesters.

If conservatives wish to be taken a little more seriously and genuinely have a solid position of defense against liberals who label us all as hatemongers, we need to stop using the same tactics that they use – assigning frightening labels to those we dislike for whatever reason we choose. Stop using smoke and mirrors to get your way and start studying. Make sure you really are informed about something before publicly spouting off about it. Don’t simply take what your religious leader of choice spouts as pure gospel.

(I’m going to start posting songs along with some of my missives…I think this one fits.)
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N3N1MlvVc4]

The Race Card: Nothing Ever Changes

I still remember the 1988 presidential election. I remember how popular George H.W. Bush was in the town my family lived in. I remember watching the news and hearing my parents talk about how despicable Michael Dukakis was for his stance on criminals. Recently, I decided to revisit one of the stories that came out of that race: Willie Horton.

Horton was never (and still isn’t) your everyday crook. He was cold, calculating, and enjoyed torturing his victims. On October 26, 1974, he and two friends decided to rob a Mobil gas station. The 17-year-old attendant, Joseph Fournier, didn’t argue or fight back; he immediately complied, handing over all of the money in the cash register, a total of $276.37. Horton’s accomplices were ready to go…Horton wasn’t, though. He pulled out a blade and stabbed Fournier nineteen times then stuffed his still-breathing body into a trash can. Fournier died in that trash can. The evidence was so overwhelming that Horton was sentenced to live in prison without the possibility of parole.

Massachusetts already observed a prison inmate furlough program at the time of Horton’s conviction, although for years inmates convicted of murder were not allowed to participate. That all changed twjo years later when governor Michael Dukakis vetoed a constitutional ban on furloughing first-degree murderers. He immediately began allowing violent offenders to be released on unguarded 48-hour furloughs. His reasoning was that the furlough program was important for rehabilitation.

Horton comes back into the picture in 1986 when he went on his tenth furlough and never returned (in all, at the time, 80 violent offenders were listed as having escaped from custody in Massachusetts – in fact, only four had really escaped, while all the rest had just not come back from furloughs or walked out of minimum-security pre-release homes). On April 3, 1987, Horton broke into a home in Oxon Hill, Maryland – but he left the home undisturbed, not taking anything. Cliff Barnes, who lived in the home, returned after work and never noticed that anyone else had been there. While he undressed in his room, he heard footsteps but believed it was his fiancee Angela. Blindsiding him, Horton attacked him with a pantyhose over his head; he savagely beat and pistol-whipped Barnes, then bound and blindfolded him, dragged him to the basement, and proceeded to torture and terrorize him. He slowly sliced Barnes’ torso open (a total of 22 times over a period of several hours) and threatened to strangle or hang him just to watch him die.

When Angela really did get home, Barnes listened helplessly and struggled against his bonds while Horton brutalized and raped Angela. Horton waited a couple of hours before attacking and raping her a second time. It was during this attack that Barnes managed to escape and run for help. When Horton realized that Barnes was gone, he stole their car and took off, leaving Angela alive in the house. Horton fled police in a high-speed pursuit before he was recaptured. The ordeal had lasted twelve hours. After Massachusetts petitioned to have their inmate returned from Maryland, judge Vincent J. Femia refused to return him, saying, “I’m not prepared to take the chance that Mr. Horton might again be furloughed or otherwise released. This man should never draw a breath of free air again.” Horton remains in a maximum-security facility in Maryland to this day, and in that state he is ineligible to so much as defecate without permission. He certainly won’t be furloughed anytime soon.

What was Dukakis’ reaction? He vehemently defended his decisions and the program that had unleashed Horton on the public. He has never apologized to the Barnes’s and, in fact, refused to meet with them after the fact despite their request to speak with him about their ordeal. He actually blew them off very publicly, openly saying he didn’t see the point in meeting with them. He brazenly refused to reverse the furlough policy. It wasn’t until the outraged public let him know in no uncertain terms that they were very angry over the results of the furlough program that he begrudgingly signed a popular bill into law that ended the release of violent offenders on furlough. By the time he gritted his teeth to approve the legislation, he had commuted the sentences of 28 first-degree murderers who had been sentenced to life without parole.

Not surprisingly, just two short years later Dukakis was called upon during the presidential debates to defend his policies that freed bloodthirsty criminals in Massachusetts. I didn’t understand at the time, but I know now what my parents were so upset about: Republicans were being accused of racism after an independent ad was produced supporting Bush over Dukakis:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io9KMSSEZ0Y]

Later, the Bush campaign produced a “revolving door” ad that featured about 30 extras. Take a look at it, embedded in a clip from a documentary that attacked Lee Atwater and the rest of Republican America as racists:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTdUQ9SYhUw]

It is absolutely astonishing that Ishmael Reed can pick out the lone black man in that shot and point out that is appears he looks up at the camera menacingly and somehow deduce that the clip is overtly racist. No, it’s not just astonishing…it is insulting. What Reed (and Sam Donaldson, Dukakis, Turnipseed and Conason) is saying is that merely for bringing up the fact that Horton was a vicious rapist and killer, conservatives are all racists – all because Horton was black.

It is incomprehensible how so many people can actually come to this outrageous conclusion. All anybody cared about was the truth: that Dukakis was not interested in justice in the form of punishment, he was only interested in soothing his liberal guilt complex by being soft on criminals in the hopes that a little compassion would put them all back on the straight & narrow. He wasn’t just a little wrong, he was dead wrong.

Considering the outright lunacy of these claims (and all their faith in Saint Tookie and Brother Mumia), it’s a wonder they haven’t tried to claim Horton was innocent and call for his immediate exoneration and release.

This kind of race-baiting is exactly what is killing our ability as a society to move forward in the so-called “race discussion.” I don’t care if you’re white, black, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian or Martian – in this day and age, it is entirely up to you to make yourself. Continuing to cry racism over every little thing that is said by those you disagree with only guarantees that the hard feelings will never go away. Personally, I’ve never had an issue with race, and I don’t see why we’re still screaming at each other over minutiae that we left behind decades ago. Every time it comes up, it’s because some uppity liberal can’t get their head out of their own rectal cavity long enough to keep beating the whole of American society about the proverbial head and shoulders about how evil we are for being racists (usually because some hapless conservative has had the testicular fortitude to question liberal stupidity on the level with Dukakis’ insanity).

The more things change, the more they smell the same. It’ll be a cold day in hell, though, before I sit by and accept things the way they are.

Allen West Will Not Be Intimidated

News reports are coming out this week that Democrats are trying desperately to rally the troops (so to speak) to have the kind of turnout and reaction that Republicans saw during the health care town hall protests. They’re forgetting a few things…first of all, not everything that went on at those protests was very good. Both Democrats and Republicans behaved poorly. There were plenty of disruptions and more than a few fights. Many were arrested and some even ended up in the hospital.

Yesterday, however, newly-elected Rep. Allen West of Florida – a retired Marine Lt. Colonel – held a townhall. A handful of liberals called upon by their leaders did turn out, and they tried to heckle Rep. West and disrupt the meeting. They were soundly booed, and when they were asked by police to leave, the entire crowd cheered:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9h1XHlEPjo&feature=player_embedded]

The woman you see being arrested in the last half is Nicole Sandler, former Air America jockey and now a private radio-show host. She posted on her own blog. If you go to the YouTube page for the video linked above and read the comments, you see the same old, same old: profiteering is evil, he didn’t answer her question, Allen West is a thug, I don’t recall Republicans getting arrested during the health care town halls, all conservatives are Nazis and need to be run out of the country, blah, blah, blah.

Okay, liberals…let’s take another lesson in reality.

-There WERE quite a few arrests during the health care town hall meetings. Both Democrats and Republicans were arrested for assaults, destruction of property, refsuing to obey police orders, and a few other charges. Shouting matches turned into near-riot situations, including in St. Louis, where one man had his shirt ripped off and another was beaten unconscious by liberal protesters (six were arrested in those two incidents).

-Allen West is not responsible for directing law enforcement at a town hall event. He didn’t make any gestures, didn’t say anything, he didn’t argue – Nicole was removed by a police sergeant who had already removed one heckler. You can’t call him a thug unless he was personally responsible for a violent act. I’m sorry, but the only violence I saw was coming from Nicole herself.

-After the outrageous behavior that occurred during the health care town halls, police were on heightened alert to avoid the same embarrassment this time around. Anybody who was seen as a disruption would have been immediately asked to leave; part of that would have been at the direction of the owners of the property where the meeting was being held. There is nothing wrong with being asked to leave. At that point, she wasn’t being arrested.

-As the officer was escorting her from the building, she kept stopping to talk to people. That was when the officer gave her some quiet, gentle redirection. He wasn’t yelling, wasn’t saying much at all – he just put a hand on her back to let her know which direction she was supposed to be headed in. That was when she decided to escalate the situation by turning, screaming, cursing, wagging a finger in the officer’s face and making demands. You cannot do that to a police officer. By training, he sees that as aggression and will immediately arrest you.

-The officer still didn’t yell. He quietly said what was going to happen, told her what she was being arrested for, and ended up with people STILL disobeying his orders. Nicole was trying to do things she wasn’t allowed to do (give her belongings to another person, insinuating that the officer would erase footage on her camera), and her friends were refusing to back away – they kept trying to step in, kept asking why she was being arrested, and only barely complied when asked to back away.

-AT NO POINT DID ANY PERSON INFRINGE ON NICOLE SANDLER’S RIGHTS. She was not being told that she couldn’t speak her mind freely. She was simply being asked to do so elsewhere. If she’d wanted to stand on the corner outside the event and scream at people as they left, as long as she kept her distance and didn’t get into a fight, she would have been allowed to do it. She could have quietly left, written a letter to Rep. West, and if she didn’t get a response the way she wanted, she could have vented in any forum she wanted as long as her speech didn’t include death threats.

Nicole Sandler was not arrested for her political speech; she was asked to leave because of her behavior, and later arrested when she deliberately escalated that behavior. You cannot behave any which way you like and expect that it will be protected. When you attend a certain event, there will be a format and rules. Fail to obey them and you can be asked to leave. There’s nothing Unconstitutional about it. All of the claims of Nazism, thuggery and infringement of rights? I will again refer you to my post about Nazis being left-wing.

My favorite part of the whole thing? It was when Allen West quietly listened to her yell, gave her some wiggle room, and finally said, “I will not be intimidated.” I like Allen West. When is he gonna run for the Presidency?

NYC Mayor Harasses AZ Over Gun Laws Despite Layoffs

On January 23, the Crossroads of the West gun show in Phoenix, Arizona became the target of an investigation. Neither Arizona authorities nor federal authorities carried it out. It wasn’t a journalist, either. Private investigators, hired by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg at a price tag just over six figures, entered the popular gun show with the intent of trying to buy guns and making it appear illegal. Hidden cameras caught the PI’s telling gun sellers point-blank that they couldn’t pass a background check. We don’t know if any sellers told the hired hands to take a hike, but we do know that at least two guns were sold to them.

All of this is going down in the face of the biggest layoffs in the city’s history.

600 NYC firefighters are about to get their walking papers and 21,000 teachers are slated for the same fate thanks to the city’s budget shortfalls, yet Bloomberg is paying top dollar for what amounts to little more than political posturing. Bloomberg already runs a city that bans handgun ownership, but he’s been pushing for more stringent gun laws in the state for some time. The Tucson shooting provided the backdrop he had hoped for and, like any good liberal refusing to let a good crisis go to waste, Bloomberg joined the rest of the harpies in doing the gun control rain dance. The stunt he pulled right here in my city was his swan song.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ORGlpb_HfE&feature=player_embedded]

Here’s the kicker: in Arizona, private sellers can be prosecuted for knowingly selling guns to those who cannot pass background checks. In this case, however, they can NEVER be prosecuted. Bloomberg didn’t notify Arizona officials that the investigation would be going down. So, because he has no jurisdiction, none of the illegal sellers will be held accountable. They can keep selling just as they did on January 23. The law is in place for a reason – breaking the law is supposed to result in penalties designed to deter people from selling guns illegally. Bloomberg wasn’t interested in bringing those sellers to justice. He wanted to accent his point, and in political terms, it is perfectly acceptable to ignore the law if it helps you win an argument.

I’m curious…how many teacher or firefighter jobs could have been spared by the money blown on this peacockery? Since we know that more layoffs will come because of governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget cuts, how many police jobs could have been spared the chopping block before those layoffs were even considered? How many officers need equipment that money could have purchased? How many bait cars could have been bought? How many investigations, rape kits, overtime hours could have been paid for with the money he flushed on this excursion?

What amazes me is that Bloomberg’s spokesman said, “The background check system failed in Arizona, it failed in Virginia and it fails in states around the country. If we don’t fix it now, the question is not whether another massacre will occur, but when.” In the video above, Bloomberg makes much of the fact that the gun purchased – a Glock 17 with two high-capacity clips – is the same weapon used in Tucson. The myth is busted, however. Most people have been led to believe by Bloomberg and most of the press that Jared Loughner, the Tucson shooter, was only stopped when he ran out of ammunition in one high-capacity clip. That is a patent lie. His weapon actually jammed precisely because of the clip he was using. All clips feed rounds into a gun chamber with a simple spring-loaded mechanism; the shorter the clip, the better the spring works. With a little practice and several smaller clips, Loughner could have held off every unarmed person for some time. The larger clip had a spring that was longer and had less loading power, resulting in a mis-chambered round and an opportunity for two unarmed people to wrestle him to the ground. The loading problem is an issue I have experienced when testing larger clips, so I have never bought one.

The background check system would not have stopped Loughner from getting a gun, even in New York. He had no criminal past and had not been determined legally mentally unfit. The only thing that would have stopped him before he killed five people would have been a law-abiding citizen carrying a gun and shooting him. In a day and age where people freak out at the sight of a person carrying a gun on their hip, though, why should anybody in a liberal bastion like Tucson actually have the balls to fight back and defend themselves?

God knows we don’t want to make anybody uncomfortable.

I Promise to Do Violence

As I pointed out in the column I wrote yesterday, Keith Olbermann took to the airwaves to launch into a long rant about yesterday’s shooting. He laid the blame on conservatives, even going so far as to name several he sees as being somehow responsible for the tragedy (including Bill O’Reilly, who actually supports gun control laws). Primarily, however, it was a rant on “stopping the violent speech” so to speak. He said, “we need to put the guns down. More importantly, we need to put the gun metaphors away and permanently – left, right, middle, politicians and citizens, sane and insane [that one made me laugh] – this morning, in Arizona, this age in which this country could accept the quote ‘targeting’ of political opponents, and putting bulls-eyes over their faces, and of the dangerous blurring between political rallies and gun shows has ended. This morning in Arizona, this time of the ever-escalating, borderline ecstatic invocation of violence – in fact or in fantasy – in our political discourse has closed. It is essential tonight not to demand revenge, but to demand justice, to insist not upon payback against those politicians and commentators who have so irresponsibly brought us to this time of domestic terrorism…but to work to change the minds of them and their supporters. Or, if those minds tonight are too closed, or if those minds tonight are unmoved, or if those minds tonight are too triumphant, to make sure by peaceful means that those politicians and commentators and supporters have no further place in our system of government…he fired today into our liberty, and our rights to live and to agree or disagree in safety and in freedom from fear that our support or opposition will cost us our lives or our health or our sense of safety…it is a simple pledge, it is to the point, and it is essential that every American politician, and commentator, and activist, and partisan, take it and take it now. I say it first and freely: ‘violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or anything in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence.’ ”

First of all, this isn’t a democracy…America is actually a republic. Second, I have a huge problem with every single person being held accountable for somehow encouraging violence, whether deliberately or inadvertently.

For some time now, violent criminals have attempted to explain their crimes away by blaming them on anything or anyone but themselves. Today we see criminals committing all manner of violent crimes blaming their parents, their childhood playmates, the bullies that picked on them, the teachers that didn’t pay attention and the system for their actions. Mommy and daddy didn’t care, I was laughed at, I didn’t have the same opportunities to succeed that everyone else had, nobody cared about me – so because of all of that, I’m not responsible for what I did. You can’t send me to prison or put me to death!

We have already drifted dangerously toward a society that gives a free pass to people who use such self-pitying excuses for violent behavior. Nobody takes responsibility for their actions anymore. Guess what? I was bullied. When I was a kid, I was bullied mercilessly. Long before I knew what “gay” and “lesbian” meant, kids at school were throwing food at me and calling me those things. Dyke. Queer. Faggot. Butch. Gross. I still take responsibility for the things I do and say. I’m not out there killing people and blaming it on how I was treated in high school. In like manner, I am not out there committing violent acts and blaming it on someone else’s words. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into the hate-speech rabbit hole, otherwise we’ll end up giving up every single one of our freedoms in the process.

I cannot, and refuse to, promise not to do violence. What happens if my country is attacked? What if I join the military to defend this country? I would need to be able to do violence in that case. What if someone threatens me or my family or my friends? Should I then stand by and watch helplessly while a thug strips them, rapes them, and takes everything they have? Should I beg for my life from someone who will enjoy hearing such pleas?

No, I should not – and I WILL NOT. What I will promise, as I have promised before, is that I will try my best not to need violence. I am not a violent person and I would not condone its use against anything that isn’t immediately putting my life or the life of another in peril.

However, should I see one of those I care for in harm’s way, I promise, I will do violence on their behalf. Should I see any innocent person being threatened by one of those animals who cannot accept responsibility, I promise I will fight until my last breath to protect them. If I am not armed and have only my bare hands, I will use them as the tools they are and beat that animal until they stop moving. If I am armed, I will aim with a steady hand and make every shot count. I pray I never need to, but should another Jared Lee Loughner ever dare to threaten innocent lives within arm’s reach of me, I promise to do violence until he stops – and I promise I will not fail.

There’s your pledge, Mr. Olbermann. Take it or leave it. I am an American, dammit, and I will not be a victim. Nor will I expect any innocent soul to make themselves such.

The Lesser Rights of Heroes

I have two other posts in the works – one is my continuation of my series on the lessons of Nazism, the other is a review of a new movie starring Sigourney Weaver – but tonight I wanted to bring to light the situation of a US Army Ranger who is about to spend another Christmas away from his family for no reason other than defending himself from a known terrorist.

Lt. Michael Behenna joined the US Army in 2006 after graduating college; he joined the Rangers and deployed to Iraq in 2007. On April 21, 2008, his convoy was hit by an IED and two of his men were killed. The incident weighed heavily on the young officer, yet he continued to lead his men as only a soldier can. On May 5, Army intelligence reported that they had identified the insurgent leader responsible for the IED that killed his men: Ali Mansour. Lt. Behenna’s platoon was sent to arrest Mansour at his home; they found more than they might have expected. He had an RPK machine gun (similar to the AK-47; larger and with a little more oomph), a large stash of ammunition, RPG’s, material to make IED’s and multiple illegal passports – including one from Iran.

Two weeks later, Army intelligence inexplicably decided they didn’t have enough evidence to keep Mansour and ordered Behenna’s unit to return the terrorist to his home. En route to Mansour’s residence, Behenna ordered the convoy to stop; he took Mansour out of the vehicle, away from the convoy, and over to a culvert and bridge where he threatened to kill Mansour if he didn’t confess to planning the IED that had killed his men. The interpreter, known as Harry, later testified that he didn’t believe Behenna would actually kill Mansour. At some point during the questioning, Behenna turned briefly to Harry and Mansour attacked. Behenna was forced to fire a controlled pair of shots in self-defense and Mansour was killed. Behenna’s NCO, Staff Sgt. Warner, decided to hide the evidence; he placed an incendiary grenade under Mansour’s head, pulled the pin, and walked away. Behenna panicked and failed to properly report the incident. That is the worst that can be said of his actions on May 16, 2008.

Three days later, Army intelligence issued a “kill or capture” order for Mansour. They didn’t know he was already dead. His naked and burned body was discovered still in the culvert and an investigation was launched, at which point Behenna told the truth about what had happened. In November he was shipped back to Fort Campbell for desk duty to await prosecution.

SSG Warner was offered a plea deal (although what kind of deal I haven’t been able to find) to testify against Lt. Behenna. Harry, the interpreter, also testified – he claimed that Lt. Behenna stripped Mansour naked, sat him down on a rock and executed him. The forensic evidence, however, proved he was lying. Both Iraqi and American forensic experts – including the prosecution’s own expert, Dr. Herbert MacDonnell – agreed that when Mansour was shot, he was standing, with his arms raised. He was shot while in an attack position.

What will blow you away is what happened next. Army prosecutors sent Dr. MacDonnell home without having him testify. Dr. MacDonnell told Lt. Behenna’s lawyers as he was leaving that he knew Lt. Behenna was innocent, but that because of his contract he couldn’t say why; they needed to ask the prosecutors. Before the case went to the panel (jury) for deliberation, defense attorneys specifically asked prosecutors if there was any exculpatory evidence that they needed to enter into the record.

Prosecutors at that point said NO. Then, after the verdict was reached, upon Dr. MacDonnell’s insistence, prosecutors finally turned the evidence over. This incident turned up a very damning piece of information: Army prosecutors had deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense. When Dr. MacDonnell told them that Lt. Behenna was telling the truth and that all of the forensic evidence pointed to that fact, prosecutors sent him home and refused to pass his findings on to defense attorneys. Such actions are a blatant violation of the rules of the court and have led to immediate nullification of several major convictions over the years. Lawyers have been suspended, even disbarred for this kind of infraction. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys are required by the Supreme Court verdict in Brady v. Maryland to hand over any evidence that is considered important to the guilt or innocence of the accused; such evidence is called exculpatory, or is known as “Brady material”.

In this case, a further horror was laid on Lt. Behenna and his family when the judge refused to grant a mistrial and order a new trial. Despite the open and willful flaunting of criminal law by prosecutors, the judge let the verdict stand and sentenced Lt. Behenna to 25 years at Fort Leavenworth Prison. Two different panels have since taken time off of his sentence, reducing it to 15 years.

Regardless of the reduction, the entire episode is an unspeakable injustice against an American hero who did nothing more than defend himself against a known terrorist who tried to attack him. Since the death of Ali Mansour, not one single justice has been afforded the Behenna family; not one person in the government has stopped to acknowledge the cruelty of the situation. Untold numbers of Americans, including elected Congressmen, have insisted that the original verdict be overturned and a new trial ordered. Despite everything that has happened, despite the evidence, despite the expert testimony and despite the outrage that Army prosecutors committed in the courtroom, yesterday the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, denied Lt. Behenna’s request for clemency. He refused to give this hero a single day of clemency.

Even worse, when the appeal hearing was held just a couple of weeks ago, Army prosecutors backed away from their original narrative – that Lt. Behenna had executed Mansour as he sat naked on a rock. Now they’re claiming that the instant Lt. Behenna pointed a loaded gun at Mansour, regardless of the reason, he forfeited his right to self-defense.

That is the most incredibly ludicrous argument against self-defense that I have ever heard in my life. It’s being made by the Army against an exemplary soldier. There can be no forgiveness for such deliberate injustices.

This Saturday, Lt. Behenna’s parents, brothers and girlfriend will visit him for Christmas. They and their supporters are doing all they can to help lift his spirits. Three different Oklahoma agencies have promised him a job when he is released and members of the Oklahoma government, all the way to the governor, have written letters to plead his case. It may be 15 months before a decision is made on the appeal. By that time, Lt. Michael Behenna will have spent his third Christmas in prison, wishing to be free, to hold his girlfriend, hug his mother, and celebrate with those he loves.

Visit www.defendmichael.com to find out how to help the Behenna family, write to Lt. Behenna, and see further news on the case. Write to your Representatives and Senators to plead for intervention and stop the injustice being repeatedly visited upon this family of civil servants.

(Keep your eyes peeled for that movie review…we’ll have a contest to give away a free copy!)

Where Are They Now?

I got a text message at an ungodly hour this morning. I wasn’t allowed to say anything until the news was released to the press; Phoenix police officer Sean Drenth, whom I knew and had talked guitars with while out on duty, was found alone, outside his police cruiser, shot to death. I have heard other things but I won’t elaborate. I think it would be unfair to keep rumors going and would prefer to show respect to his wife, Colleen, and his mother (not to mention the other officers who loved him and would have done anything for him).

In 2007, a very old friend was gunned down while on duty. Just a few months prior to his death Tony Holly and I had had a long discussion about why I wasn’t going where I wanted to go in life. He challenged me to get into regular EMS work. He dared me to pick one book I was writing – one of the many I had started and left unfinished two chapters in after realizing I needed to do more research – and buckle down and finish it. Since then I have lived up to one challenge. I’ve been in a regular EMT-B position for two years now and I’m getting ready to start paramedic school. I’ve picked one of the books I had begun and am planning to start doing research (in the form of police ridealongs, sessions with detectives and prosecutors, and poring over legal books).

In that time I have gotten to know a lot of police officers, Sgt. Drenth among them. Earlier this year, another officer I had been on a few calls with, Travis Murphy, was shot and killed. A DPS officer I had seen once on a call, Chris Marano, was hit and killed while trying to stop an intoxicated driver. Another officer I’d gone to church with before he graduated high school, George Cortez, was shot and killed as well. I have learned something in all of this that has been proven over and over again: if a police officer is accused – not convicted, merely accused – of any manner of wrongdoing, he’s guilty until proven innocent. Yet if a police officer dies, all of a sudden the media sings a completely different tune.

Where are all of the low-lifes who committed these crimes? I’ll start from the beginning.

Tony Holly responded to a request for backup during a “routine” traffic stop early in the morning on February 19, 2007. Officer Dave Goitia had pulled over a silver sedan with expired tags and three occupants, all of whom had warrants out for their arrest. Tony arrived and talked to the two passengers while officer Goitia arrested the driver. When he returned, the backseat occupant, Bryan Wayne Hulsey, pulled a .357 magnum revolver from the waistband of his pants and opened fire, killing Tony. Officer Goitia returned fire and hit Hulsey twice. Hulsey, a convicted felon prohibited from possessing a firearm, had only been out of prison for three short months that day and tried to run away but succumbed to his injuries and was arrested as he lay bleeding on the sidewalk just around the corner from where he’d murdered Tony. Hulsey is currently on his third set of defense attorneys and, after filing pro per twice, has managed to push his trial back four times. His trial is now set to begin on April 25, 2011, barring any further acrobatics. Tony’s girlfriend, family and fellow officers continue to hold their breath for justice to finally be done.

George Cortez was called to a check-cashing store in West Phoenix on the evening of July 27, 2007 (just six months after Tony died). Gang member and career criminal Edward James Rose had tried to pass a forged check. While George tried to put Rose in handcuffs, Rose’s girlfriend Norma Lisa Lopez distracted George just long enough for Rose to pull a handgun and shoot George. He likely died instantly. Rose and Lopez ran, at one point stopping to cut the handcuffs dangling from one wrist – which Rose gave to Lopez as a twisted gift. This past April, Lopez pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 22 years. On the first day of his trial, Rose suddenly had a change of heart and changed his plea. Today, thankfully, George’s widow Tiffany was spared a trial and pictures of evidence. Rose was sentenced to death by a jury.

On December 17, 2009, DPS officers spotted an SUV bearing stolen plates on the Northeast Loop 101. Attempts to pull the driver over failed. Officer Chris Marano was trying to lay down stop sticks when the driver, Georgia Lynn Baker, swerved to avoid the sticks. Chris jumped out of the way of the SUV and was hit by one of the pursuing DPS vehicles. I will not name the officer driving the vehicle here because he was one of Chris’s best friends and no matter what he does or what anyone says, he will never be the same. Baker later pulled off the freeway and tried to hide on the balcony of a condominium and had even unscrewed the light bulb to remain undetected. A police canine found her and bit her, then she was taken into custody. She had to be forced by court order to give fingerprints after refusing to do so. After one setback with her attorney, her trial is currently set to begin on December 13 of this year.

On January 28 of this year, Gilbert police Lt. Eric Shuhandler was in the middle of another “routine” traffic stop when the passenger suddenly opened fire, killing him. Eric had taken ID from both the driver and the passenger of a small pickup truck and had run the information before returning to the vehicle when he was shot. He keyed his radio several times as he lay dying; the ID’s and the driver’s insurance card were found on the sidewalk in a pool of his blood. Officers from Gilbert, Mesa, MCSO and DPS gave chase. After 50 miles, driver Damien Irizarry was forced to stop when the vehicle ran out of gas. He and his passenger, shooter Christopher Redondo, shot it out with officers before begging officers to stop shooting. It was later learned that Redondo had bragged he would kill any cop who tried to arrest him. On October 15, just a few days ago, Irizarry was sentenced to 107.5 years in prison. Redondo, whose lower leg was hit by so many bullets that it was nearly severed, had a warrant out for his arrest that night – is awaiting trial, set to begin June 27, 2011.

On May 26 of this year, Phoenix officer Travis Murphy and his partner, Jillian Mahlmeister, were investigating a call about a suspicious person very early in the morning when shots rang out. A man had been seen trying to lay a tarp over a Ford Mustang with heavy front-end damage in the carport of an abandoned house after hitting a parked car in the neighborhood. Believing it had something to do with a call for shots fired outside a nearby bar, Travis and Jillian went to the house to investigate. They split up – one around one side of the house, one around the other. Multiple shots were fired and Travis was hit ten times in the legs and lower abdomen. With her partner bleeding profusely, Jillian and other officers decided they didn’t have time to wait for a rescue; they piled him in a cruiser and rushed him to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he died. He had two small children, one of them only two weeks old. After sealing off the neighborhood officers found Danny Ledezma Martinez hiding as naked as the day he was born in a shed nearby. He was also a convicted felon and not allowed to possess a firearm, yet he had a so-called “assault rifle” anyway. He has refused to take an IQ test. The current last day for trial is March 11, 2011, but I can almost guarantee that will change.

Sean Drenth had an easy smile and loved to play guitar (and talk about playing guitar). Every time something like this happens, I hope that it will be the last. Yet every time it happens I also realize that because this is the life I’ve been called to, I will continue to see the faces of those I respect in the news and watch their families agonize over their loss. Those who honestly believe that war is never the answer and we need to be more lenient on criminals need to look at animals like these and ask themselves a simple question: if human kind is intrinsically good, then why do tragedies like this persist?

Mob Rule

I probably shouldn’t write about this, but I’m going to anyway. I feel this incident has spun almost out of control and people need to get a grip and think before they react any further.

This week, Danny Rodriguez’s mother called police when Danny became angry and violent. Phoenix police officer Sergio Vergillo was the first to arrive on scene and called for backup; officer Richard Chrisman responded. Verifiable information is scarce at best, but this is what has been claimed: Rodriguez told officers they couldn’t come in without a warrant, Chrisman put his gun to Rodriguez’s head and said “I don’t need no warrant, motherf***er,” they went inside, and at some point Vergillo tazed Rodriguez, Chrisman deployed OC (pepper) spray, shot the dog, got into a physical struggle with Rodriguez, then shot him.

Naturally, not all of the information coming from the media is accurate. Most outlets aren’t even relying on the police report (they rarely, if ever, give a full accounting of events as they actually happened, usually relying on hyper-emotional witnesses or people who claim to have seen it because they just want to be on TV). Before you go any further, though, click here and watch the news video.

What’s the first thing you see?

I see a stream of Latino protesters, the leader carrying a pole with three flags on it. Is the American flag on top? Nope. It’s at the bottom, below the Mexican flag and one other that I can’t quite place (if anyone else can tell, by all means, share). The very first thing we see in this protest is a protester basically declaring that the United States is inferior to Latino nations. That’s hilarious, considering the fact that law and order in most Latino countries – to include Mexico – is a joke.

Then you see signs, some of them in Spanish, some in English, and small children carrying graphic signs declaring the police are murderers. Then, they talk to protester Manuel Martinez. His first words are, “let’s set aside the fact that he’s Latino.”

Really? You want us to set that aside? I don’t think you really do want it to be “set aside”, because a few things are quite evident: first of all, you’re only protesting with fellow Latinos. Second, you’re holding up signs in Spanish decrying “la policia” as murderers. Third, you are openly and brazenly disrespecting the US flag by flying it underneath the Mexican flag. You don’t want us to set aside the fact that he’s Latino. You want everyone to believe this was a racially-motivated crime so you have ammunition at your next SB 1070 rally.

They say that this incident is driving a bigger wedge between Latinos and law enforcement. Actually, the only one driving a wedge between Latinos and law enforcement are the Latinos crying racism over everything that happens. Where is the outrage over Latino gang members deliberately targeting black people in Los Angeles? When you’re willing to call out the racism in your own ranks, your outrage will be a little more believable.

Then we see Carlos Galindo, wearing a Vietnam Veteran cap, railing about how unfair it is that Chrisman is out on bail. “He is getting special treatment,” Galindo yells. “And the Latin community, we are not – I repeat, we are NOT – gonna let up until the officer is back in jail, among other prisoners!” This statement galls me. What he is suggesting is that because the Latino community is outraged about this incident, more charges should immediately be brought and Chrisman should be held behind bars without bail. Mr. Galindo, thank you for your service, but what you are suggesting is mob rule. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, sir, but here in the United States we don’t work that way. You can get pissed all you want, but our justice system has certain requirements that must be met. Until the investigation is complete and enough evidence is found, he’s not going to be re-arrested. He is not getting any special treatment. Any person not charged with murder because of an unknown amount of evidence or an ongoing investigation would be treated the same way. My friend, Tony Holly, was murdered in 2007; if his killer, Bryan Wayne Hulsey, had the $1 million available to post bail, he’d have been released, too.

Martinez then says, “this was a US citizen that was killed in cold blood by an officer who took an oath and wore a badge and walked in and killed someone.” Okay, so that precipitates a protest? Where the hell were you when Nick Erfle was murdered by an illegal alien gang member? Where was the outrage when Marc Atkinson was ambushed and murdered by Mexicans who had come here looking for work and turned to drug running when they couldn’t get jobs legally? You hardly lifted a finger when those two incidents happened. Being angry is perfectly normal. Calling for law enforcement to dump a person back in jail simply because you don’t like the circumstances is a little ridiculous. We don’t work the way Mexico does. Sorry.

The most incredible scene in the entire protest, I think, was the protester carrying a sign that said, “Eye for an Eye.”

Really?

If you want that, then why are you protesting against SB 1070 by calling it inhumane? If you are going to claim that an enforcement of federal law is somehow against human decency, then don’t you dare stand on American soil and demand an eye for an eye. That is an outrage we will not abide. The actions of our justice system are not dictated by mob rule. If they were, a lot of innocent people would have gone down for crimes they didn’t commit. We don’t know all of the facts in this case yet, too – so take a step back and breathe. Think before you react.