Category Police

The Criminal Revolving Door Keeps Turning

The original post on this issue is over two years old – and it’s still getting attention and comments. Here’s the latest comment from someone who wished to remain anonymous (although I do have the IP):

“excuse me but isnt the deceased man just the same like the so called murders you r talking about.hes been in prison to.i read he is a user to.so dont judge nobody.i dont think your family is so called perfect.thank you.”

Oh, I’m so glad you commented, honey. I’m about to light into you, but before I do, allow me to regale everyone with the short-version story.

Rene Enrique Durgin and his girlfriend, Patricia Denise Mayhorn, committed an armed robbery at a car wash in Glendale, Arizona – then led police on a chase through town. They ended up crossing over into Phoenix. After Glendale police called off the chase and let them go, the pair invaded a home near 35th Ave and Dunlap where they happened upon a couple in their mid-50’s. Durgin (it is believed to have been Durgin) shot both of the residents, killing the male. The female survived, albeit barely. Police arrived to find the 9mm handgun in pieces scattered throughout the home and Durgin admitting to having fired a weapon quite recently, though not willing to admit to the killing.

I quickly wrote a piece about it. Normally the first person to stand up for the police – particularly Glendale, as a close trusted friend was the first Glendale officer to be shot to death in the line of duty – I asked why they called the chase off during a time when few were on the road and they had suspects in a violent crime who would likely go on to commit another crime.

I also asked why these two had been allowed to move in and out of the justice system so many times. Both Durgin and Mayhorn had done time before and their crimes had continued to escalate, yet judges with soft spines kept giving them slaps on the wrist and admonishments to clean up their acts. Then we ended up with this mess. Now we have a friend of Durgin and/or Mayhorn posting to this blog some of the most ridiculous tripe I have ever read in my life.

You see, hon, regulars on this blog know that I’ve been a corrections officer. I know that argument by heart. If I had a dime for every inmate who tried to put the blame for something on me because MY family isn’t perfect and his victim somehow deserved what he’d done, I wouldn’t be working in EMS today. I’d be independently wealthy. I am going to tell you all of the things I used to tell them.

Don’t give me that “I don’t think your family is perfect, either” bullshit. We’re not talking about me and mine, we are talking about YOU. What YOU did. The choices YOU made. I’m not the one in prison – YOU ARE. That’s not because I was better at hiding anything; I have obeyed the law my whole life and respected other people and their rights regardless of what wrongs they have committed. I had very little as a kid, but my family never took anything that wasn’t ours nor did we expect anyone else to pay our way. We always made the best with what we had and that ethic has paid off. You’re right, we’re not perfect – but we have done right by everyone around us. That is the only thing anyone has ever asked of YOU, and YOU have failed that task. Because YOU have stolen, robbed, assaulted, used illegal drugs, and killed people, YOU are paying the penalty and YOU are the one we’re talking about.

I do not care what the victims’ crimes may have been. It’s interesting that you mention them, because the victims’ names have not been released publicly and I haven’t even been able to get their full names from the prosecutors. Whatever their past crimes may have been, they did not deserve to be taken prisoner in their own home and murdered. You do not get to excuse yourself by pointing out that the victim may have wronged someone else. What the hell do you think the judge is going to say if you stand up in court and say, “but, Your Honor, he was a dealer! We got our meth from him! What I did wasn’t so wrong!” If I were that judge (or if the judge were Roland Steinle, and I desperately wish he were the one trying this case), I would ask, “who are we trying today? Oh, that’s right – YOU!” You know as well as I do that no judge or jury would accept such an asinine response from a defendant. Why in the hell would you dare try to use that line on me?

Do you think I’m that stupid? That childish? Do you really think that I’m going to hang my head now and go, “I’m sorry, I didn’t think of it that way…”? Should I slink away and act like my feelings are hurt? Every single time an inmate would attack another inmate or an inmate’s visitor they would always later say, “but they did…” I would always cut them off with, “I’m sorry, but how are you better than they are? Let’s recount the reasons YOU are here, shall we?” At that point, without fail, every one of them would say, “oh, and you’re miss perfect? How many relatives you got in here?”

With pride, I would say, “not a single one. They’re all out defending this country and your right to due process. You might wanna invoke your right to shut the hell up before that mouth gets you into more trouble than you’re already in.”

Take the hint.

Police State

I will never forget the first time I had to deal with a mentally ill homeless man. I was working part-time security during the Southern Baptist Convention’s major annual get-together at the Phoenix Civic Center when a homeless man well-known to be a mentally ill veteran started having one of his flashback episodes. All of the guards in the area converged on him at the same time I was ordered down to street level to try and handle the situation and call police if necessary. He was scaring people coming out of the civic center for lunch, and he either had to move someplace else or be arrested.

Other guards started yelling at him to move. Naturally, he started screaming at them. I stepped forward and talked to him like a human being. He suddenly calmed down and quit repeating “I ain’t goin’ back to the VA” like a mantra. I said, “there’s an awful lot of people walking by, they don’t understand what’s going on. They’re scared. We just need you to calm down a little bit and move off the main thoroughfare so you don’t get hurt, okay?” He didn’t smile at me, but he said, “these guys can all kiss my ass. For you, I’ll go. You’re alright.” Without another word, he moved along. From then on if he appeared while I was on duty I was always the one they called on (and believe me, the other guards were not happy about that).

I can’t remember how many mentally ill homeless people I’ve seen since then. At crime scenes, fire scenes and other major incidents, I’ve dealt with a lot of people who are either on drugs or mentally ill and being put up by the state. Most of them were not nearly as ready to talk as my first experience was. I’ve dealt with mentally ill people who believed they were werewolves (and tried to attack me), believed they had satellites tracking them and I was part of some government conspiracy to kill them, even had one who believed I was his long-lost sister and the guys on my crew were trying to keep us apart. I’ve seen cops I know try to take them down and handcuff them and get punched, kicked, slapped, and bitten. At no time, however, have I ever seen any of the cops I’ve worked with get overly aggressive or threaten these people. Not once.

I’ve just seen the footage of the beginning of a confrontation between a homeless man in Fullerton, CA named Kelly Thomas and Fullerton Police. According to police reports, someone in the area had been vandalizing cars. Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos started talking to Kelly, and Kelly sat down. Ramos suddenly started getting aggressive, ordering Kelly to put his legs out straight and his hands on his knees. Kelly became a little passive-aggressive, telling Ramos he didn’t know how to do that; Ramos replied, “well, you’ll learn how to do it real quick!” Within seconds that turned into Ramos saying, “you see my fists? They’re getting ready to f–k you up!”

I didn’t see Kelly get angry at Ramos. Normally, I’d very carefully react to something like this because video of officers getting rough with a suspect almost always misses the lead-up to the incident, and most often we find later that the officers had no other choice because the suspect was fighting like hell. In this case, however, the start of the incident can be clearly seen as officer Ramos is, at first, talking calmly to Kelly. Between security cameras and the audio captured by an officer’s lapel mic, I can tell that this incident could have been avoided if officer Ramos hadn’t started getting sarcastic and wasn’t issuing threats. One friend who wears the badge (but does not work in Fullerton) says that he saw that, too, and he wondered the same thing – what was the purpose of threatening a guy who was sitting down, even if he was being a smartass?

It looks and sounds as if officer Ramos was simply convinced of his superiority and willing to use force no matter what. Even the cops I know will admit they know at least one guy like that – the guy who acts like a real-life Tackleberry and is always looking for a reason to use force. Those guys are few and far between, but they do exist. Ramos strikes me as that kind of cop.

I won’t post the photo of Kelly’s face that has begun to circulate. There is one picture of what he looked like after he received his initial medical treatment, and he is completely unrecognizable. I’ve seen some bad beatings but this one was worse than any I have ever seen, and it came from six police officers. The first two, Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cincinelli, started the whole thing. It appears to me that once the beating got into full swing – Cpl. Cincinelli Tased him five times and then started beating him with the handle of his Taser – Kelly simply didn’t know what to do. He appeared to be genuinely afraid that he was being beaten. I’ve seen people engaged in fights with cops screaming for help while still actively fighting with officers, but that’s not what I see in the video of Kelly Thomas.

I have noticed something, though: incidents like this almost always, nearly without fail, occur in liberal states where civilian ownership of guns is heavily restricted and the police are given free reign to do almost anything they want. Namely New York and California.

I hope that Ramos gets the book thrown at him. I didn’t see Cincinelli in the first portion of the video and don’t know if he realized how the whole thing started, but at no time is an officer trained to use the handle of his Taser to beat a suspect. The overwhelming majority of police officers are good people with big hearts and a desire to do something good in their community. Three good cops I know have been killed in the line of duty; one was a close friend long before he became a cop. All three died doing the right thing. I would strongly caution against blaming all cops for this horrific incident.

I hope more than anything that the Thomas family sees justice done and Manuel Ramos is never allowed to hold a position of authority ever again.

Paul Babeu: I’m Gay

I try not to write about an issue immediately when it’s an emotional one. I’ve done it before and said things that I still regret.

Just a day and a half ago, though, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu – an outspoken conservative and champion of immigration enforcement – came out as gay. He was forced to. This week, a “newspaper” known to Arizonans as a sensationalist rag called the Phoenix New Times printed a front-page story about a man known only as Jose who told a sordid tale of a scorned gay lover and the object of his affection, who apparently cheated. That lover was Paul Babeu. Pictures of the two together as well as text messages and screen shots of Babeu’s profile on a gay dating website – along with photos sent privately, not meant to ever be published – were added as proof that at least some of the allegations were true.

The problem is that one allegation reeks to high heaven – the most potentially damning of all, that Babeu personally threatened his ex with deportation if he ever said anything to the public about their relationship. It has been repeated so many times at this point that the media can’t even report it correctly.

The short version goes something like this: in 2006, Babeu and Jose met through online dating profiles. Jose wasn’t just a boyfriend – he also became an active volunteer for Babeu’s campaign, creating and maintaining the main website as well as accounts on Twitter and Facebook. At some point in 2010, Jose began to suspect that Babeu was cheating on him and set up a fake profile on a gay dating website to lure Babeu into telling the truth. Babeu sent photos of himself to a phantom named “Matt” – Jose incognito – photos of himself in his underwear and apparently of his erect genetalia. The photos were supposed to be private communication; they weren’t sent through major social media, they were sent through personal cell phones. Eventually Jose showed up at what was supposed to be the dinner liaison with Matt and Babeu realized he was caught.

Things only went downhill from there. Before all of that, Jose practically stalked Babeu. The very text messages meant to prove Jose’s story show that he showed up at Babeu’s house on multiple occasions and told Babeu he wouldn’t leave until he got home. Jose admitted to posting damaging comments on news stories about the Sheriff, even at one point saying point-blank that Babeu was gay and maintained a profile on a gay dating website. After the breakup, Jose was caught breaking into and posting on the Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as setting up another website – paulbabeu.co, now defunct – to humiliate him.

Here’s where the story gets a little fuzzy.

Jose says that Babeu’s lawyer, Chris DeRose, demanded that he sign a non-disclosure statement and immediately hand over control of Babeu’s profiles on social networking sites as well as shut down the fake site and never breathe a word about the relationship in public again. That is at least partially true as evidenced by Babeu’s own release of the document. What cannot be proven is the accusation that DeRose, not Babeu himself, tried to tell Jose that his visa was expired and further disclosure could result in deportation.

In the PNT story, the writer says that Jose’s lawyer “confirmed” the story as legitimate. What I can’t understand is how that lawyer can possibly confirm the account since she wasn’t present for the conversation where the accusations allegedly took place. Jose didn’t retain his attorney until after the supposed threat was made. The attorney cannot confirm anything as far as I can tell, and no documentation proving the allegation has been provided.

The original article is outrageously one-sided. Plenty of known anti-Babeu and anti-enforcement figures are quoted, but not a single Babeu supporter is represented. All the writer says is that Babeu refused to comment. The writer also says that Jose decided to approach PNT to get his story of fear and intimidation out to the public…why PNT? Why not state or federal authorities? If there’s proof, such a threat would sound the death knell of Babeu’s time in politics because it could be criminal. Babeu, for his part, says that he had every confidence that Jose was here legally and never questioned his status and he brings up a very valid point: a Sheriff has no authority to deport anybody.

There’s another twist to the story: Monica Alonzo, the writer, has a long history of supporting pro-immigrant and other very liberal issues. She’s not exactly an unbiased source.

I knew for a long time that Babeu was probably gay. My gaydar is famous among my friends; I knew, even though I never would have said so, that he was likely gay from the beginning. I am happy that he has come out but the method used to bring it about wasn’t mere coercion. It was brute force that dragged him out and I don’t think it was anyone’s business. Am I disappointed that he cheated on his boyfriend? Sure. I’ve also been disappointed to hear of friends and relatives who have done far worse (including one who slept with a married man and felt no remorse). Babeu isn’t married and trying to carry on a fallacy of a relationship to hide his orientation. He simply chose not to be open about it. As much as I would like the gay conservatives serving silently in politics and public safety would come out, I also believe it is their right to keep it quiet.

I don’t believe that Babeu threatened his ex with deportation. I’m definitely not willing to condemn the man over private photos sent over private lines of communication that never should have been released. I find it reprehensible that Jose would find a way to try to ruin Babeu. After reading everything I could find, I’m close to certain that this is character assassination carried out by a jilted ex-lover who couldn’t get over it. I’ve been hurt, too, and I cannot imagine doing that to another person out of spite.

UPDATE: it’s important that I let the readers know that I do not personally know Paul Babeu and did not solicit a comment from his office; this is purely an opinion piece. That said, while I applaud the Sheriff for telling the truth, I do not expect him to become an activist for gay conservatives. Whether or not he does is up to him, and all of us here at gayconservative.org will support whatever decision he makes. I only hope he will continue doing the exemplary job he has always done.

Mom Would Never Lie

The press in Phoenix must have Essie Strong’s cell phone on speed dial.

I follow the news closely. Last week I read a story about a home invasion that ended when one of the men living in the home struggled with the invader and cracked his skull open with a clothes iron. I didn’t think much of it until today. The intruder was 20-year-old Moses Taylor. He died in the hospital of his injuries. His family held a car wash this morning to raise money for his funeral. His mother, Essie Strong, had her own version of events.

She claims that he wasn’t breaking into the home. He had supposedly been robbed and was running for help. He wouldn’t break into anyone’s home, she says. There was no reason to hit him and kill him. Unfortunately there’s more to this family’s story. A LOT more.

Back in June 2008, a news story broke about an officer-involved shooting near I-17 and Dunlap in Phoenix. Police were called by several people in an apartment complex who saw a young man chasing a pregnant woman; they feared for her safety. When police arrived and knocked on the door of the apartment the suspects had disappeared into, they were met by a thug wielding a gun. One veteran officer opened fire and hit the suspect. It turned out later that the thug was using a BB gun. Guess who it was?

Then-16-year-old Moses Taylor.

His mother, Essie, immediately went on the news and pitched a crying fit. It just wasn’t fair, you see – he only had a BB gun. There was no reason to shoot him over that. I wasn’t writing for this blog at the time, but when she claimed that it was “obviously” a BB gun and couldn’t possibly be dangerous, I posted photos like these and asked readers to tell me which one was the real thing:

Not one person, even my cop friends, could tell. Because of how serious airsoft war games have become (even my martial arts school does combat training with airsoft guns), it’s easy to buy a BB gun that looks like the real thing. Those officers couldn’t have known, and they can’t afford to wait to find out. They’re not going to ask, “excuse me, but is that a REAL gun you’re pointing at me?” They were perfectly justified in shooting Taylor. When it was proven that the officers did exactly what they were supposed to do, the press rapidly lost interest.

In October of 2008, Essie was back in the news when her 15-year-old daughter sparked a confrontation with a bus driver who ended up following her into a convenience store, punched and kicked her, then threw a large bottle of Powerade at her. The press didn’t even mention Moses Taylor’s incident at the time, but Essie (surprise!) never questioned her daughter’s behavior. I said then that the bus driver was absolutely wrong for his behavior – something about a grown man chasing down a teenage girl just sounds wrong on the surface, let alone what he ended up actually doing – but I questioned whether Essie’s daughter really only tossed up her hands and yelled, “you almost hit us!”

Essie never questions her own children, so it should come as no surprise that when Moses Taylor was killed during a home invasion she stepped into the spotlight yet again to claim he didn’t do anything wrong. As if she were there with Moses, she had the nerve to claim that he’d been beaten and robbed and was “banging on the door to get help.”

I call bullshit.

What facts the press hasn’t gotten wrong are pretty clear. There was no banging on the door. Taylor entered the home through a window and left his pants behind as he crawled in. One of the men living there heard the window break and went to confront the intruder; that’s when the fight broke out and the tenant grabbed a clothes iron and hit Taylor in the head with it. Everyone got out and police arrived to find Taylor in critical condition in the home. Witnesses in the area knew Taylor and they all said he’d been drinking and using drugs earlier that night. I’d have to ask, how would Essie know that her son had been robbed? Did he hit the pause button on the scene so he could call his mother and tell her what happened right before he desperately broke the window of someone else’s home and wiggled through a hole in the screen, leaving his pants behind?

Here’s the most ironic part of all of this nonsense: the picture they’re carrying of Moses smiling brightly is his prison ID photo. In less than four years he managed to rack up four disciplinary infractions, every single one of them a major incident, the very first one being a sexual assault on another inmate. The crime that sent him to prison wasn’t the shooting in June, either. It was a violent armed robbery that the press never breathed a word about three months later.

Yeah, he was just running to find help. Mom would never lie, would she? Of course not…especially not after she learned her lesson during her own hard time for selling narcotics the year before Moses was born.

Becoming the Persecutors

The summer after my senior year in high school was my first summer in Phoenix. That summer, my church held an anti-gay workshop over a weekend led by Exodus International – the anti-gay ministry arm of Focus on the Family. During that workshop, gay rights activists held a protest on the sidewalk in front of my church. At the time, I was still in denial. I honestly believed I was straight. My friends and I all talked about how wrong this group was and how much we hoped they’d come in and listen, but we all agreed that as long as they were on public property they had a right to protest.

Most churches would agree with that. In fact, nearly all would in the same vain hope – that the protesters would hear what they’re teaching and have that come-to-Jesus moment that everyone in the church tries to drag everyone into. Turn the tables, though, and it’s a different story – gay leftists in this country cannot stand it when bible-thumping holy-rollers come into their territory and preach. They do it in significantly lower numbers, too, but none of that matters. In Philadelphia a few years ago, I had contact with one Christian activist group known as “Repent America” – borderline extremist, but at least their leader had a civil conversation with me, proving that he’s not a hatemonger – that was protesting outside the big gay pride festival. They were set upon by a literal mob and were told by police that they, not the real instigators, had to leave.

There was no conversation. All there was was anger, yelling, screaming, open hatred – all from a group that is supposed to be more tolerant than others.

I’ve seen the same thing in gay neighborhoods, including my hometown of Houston (Montrose) and my mother’s hometown, San Diego (Hillcrest). I’ve seen it outside Phoenix gay pride. The two biggest reasons that I stay away from gay pride festivals now are 1) the shock-factor attendees who like to prance around in their underwear or even topless (sorry, but seeing a transgendered woman walking around in a Utilikilt, topless, with electrical tape over “her” nipples just about scarred me for life), and 2) the vehemently anti-Christian attendees who threaten violence against the Christians standing outside to preach and hand out tracts.

I have said before that hypocrisy is an irritation that I do not suffer gladly. I have been a hypocrite before, and I was a complete idiot. I have also said before that I have no patience for gay leftists who claim the mantle of tolerant self-righteousness and yet cannot tolerate others. About one month ago, in Montrose – the gay neighborhood of Houston – two area preachers well-known for holding signs, preaching and blowing on a shofar (a ceremonial Jewish musical instrument made out of a ram’s horn) were accosted by police, manhandled, arrested and had their signs and shofar confiscated. This was after a previous encounter with police that was far less confrontational. I’m usually the first to stand up for the police, and the young officers who spoke with them the first time were very cordial, but the officers who came later were remarkably unprofessional.

This was AFTER a number of residents in the area complained that they shouldn’t be there because they weren’t wanted.

David Stokes and David Allen have been doing this for around two years and all of a sudden it has become an issue. Now, I can understand complaints about the shofar; that thing can be awfully loud and Houston does have noise ordinances as far as I know. First Amendment freedoms, however, cannot be infringed upon unless their words become threats, and they never have. I have relatives that live in Montrose and they don’t care for these two preachers. I heartily disagree with their message AND their method, but agree or disagree, I would still fight to my last breath for their right to stand on the corner of Westheimer and Montrose and speak their message. Defending their rights is no different than defending my own, and if I dared take their rights away, it would be the same as giving mine up.

Today the Harris County Attorney dropped all charges against the two preachers, citing a lack of evidence. The charges were displaying illegal signs and playing an illegal instrument. I’m not going to say that I hope they file a complaint against the police, because I can see arguments both ways, even though I disagree with the police in this case. I’m not going to say I welcome them back, because I do not agree with them. I AM going to say that the gay leftists and their supporters need to be as tolerant as they demand others be, or they become the persecutors they have long claimed Christians to be.

The Ugly Truth

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” -Benjamin Franklin

The truth to the OWS protests (Occupy Wall Street, for the unbaptized) is right in front of our faces and yet the MSM has so far refused to report it. They have said in as many words exactly what I’m about to say. It’s on their fliers. It’s in their chanting. It’s on their signs, painted on their bodies, and in their internet postings: they want to put an end to capitalism and usher in the next communist “utopia”.

You won’t hear Anderson Cooper telling this truth on his show. You won’t hear Rachel Maddow call these animals out when the leaders tell the hordes of protesters not to report rapes, robberies and assaults to the police. You won’t see Keith Olbermann calling rioters the worst people in the world, not even when they’re attacking little old ladies or sitting their kids in the middle of a busy street. You sure as hell won’t have Wolf Blitzer asking Democrats any loaded questions, like, “scenario: a group of twenty-somethings are upset about not being able to get jobs and they organize a protest. Eventually it gets out of hand, but you can understand their frustration. Do you send in the police to put a stop to it?”

Thus far, political leaders in New York, Washington, DC, Oakland and other major cities have refused to stop the Occupy protests. Tent cities have sprung up in public parks where camping was previously strictly banned and nothing has been done to clear them out. On several occasions, violence has broken out – particularly in Oakland, where molotov cocktails have been used and storefront windows shattered – and very few arrests have been made. In Washington, DC they even had crowds forming human chains to stop traffic and, when motorists hit them, they started using their children to make the motorists stop. Where were the police when all of this was going on? They were given orders to simply contain the protesters.

Call me crazy, but I seem to recall the law being very specific about parents who knowingly put their children in danger. Last I read, the law called that child endangerment and it was a felony. Yet not only do cops see this happening, but photos of it are being posted online and absolutely nothing is being done about it. The press has done their damndest to paint the protests as a justified action and now they’re ignoring stories of rampant crime in the tent cities, protest leaders refusing to cooperate with police, and parents putting their kids in harm’s way to make a perverted point. What is the point? Corporate greed is evil. Capitalism doesn’t work. War, poverty and racism are the result, so we should ditch our free country and institute communism.

Then, to top it all off, we’ve got the biggest capitalists in the world playing the role of supporters. Numerous celebrities have appeared at the protests (usually wearing hundreds of dollars in designer clothes and shoes) to support the protesters. Ben & Jerry themselves, the two men behind the famous ice cream brand, went out to scoop free ice cream for protesters. These people are absolutely clueless. Do they see reports of flag burning, window smashing, and other acts of outrageous mob violence? Do they care that protesters have attacked elderly people and children? If they even know, I doubt they would care. We’re talking about people who have, for a very long time, wanted to see socialism set up in America.

War is hell. Racism sucks. Poverty isn’t nice, either, and I’m not being sarcastic when I say these things. What I cannot grasp is how, exactly, these people think capitalism is to blame for these things. Human beings are to blame for it, and I don’t care how socialist you are, you will never rid society of these things. It isn’t possible. In order for such an ideal to be possible, you would have to genuinely believe that human beings are inherently good – that belief is upended, however, by the acknowledgement that there are bad people in the world.

Yet if you ask one of the pitiful creatures joining in on these displays of wanton lawlessness to explain themselves, they’ll talk themselves into a corner and then blame it on YOU. You’re putting too much spin on it. You’re making things up. You’re lying. You’re among the 1%. You’re part of the machine.

The protesters have screamed bloody murder about the few arrests and citations there have been. They claim that their freedom of speech and assembly is being threatened. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said something pretty specific about people who exercise their “rights” in such fashion: “the right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

Let’s hear from some of our Founding Fathers on the issue…

“Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.” -Benjamin Franklin

“A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.” -Thomas Jefferson

“To model our political system upon speculations of lasting tranquility is to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character.” -Alexander Hamilton

“It is a principle incorporated into the settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute.” -James Madison

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” -Thomas Paine

“Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” -George Washington

“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” -Benjamin Franklin

(In)justice

For decades now, Europeans have derided America as barbaric. We still use the death penalty. We still allow citizens to own guns. It’s an injustice, they say, and we’re inhuman for such principles. They talk about us as though we’re just children who will learn once we grow up.

In light of recent events all over Europe, I would beg to differ.

Just over a month ago, Dutch politician Geert Wilders was acquitted of hate speech allegations. Hate speech is a crime throughout most of Europe, and when he made the short film Fitna (Arabic for “struggle”) – showing the realities of Sunni Islam and the damage being done to Western democracy by the influx of Muslim extremists – he found himself the target of hatemongering Muslims and supporters who wanted him dead. In the past, anti-Muslim extremist Dutch politicians and artists had been targeted as well. Theo van Gogh, after making the eye-opening short film Submission (which is the literal translation of the word “Islam”), was threatened for weeks before being shot dead. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch politician who helped him make the film, is currently living here in the US to stay away from those who wanted her dead as well. Cartoonist Lars Vilks has had to booby-trap his home for years after being pursued by radical Muslims over his cartoon depicting Mohammed. Two years prior, right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated by a pro-Muslim leftist who only got 18 years for his crime.

That’s just in the Netherlands. It was European liberals who committed many of those crimes (with the exception of Mohammed Bouyeri, van Gogh’s killer, who was just a Muslim nutjob). I find it interesting that it is conservatives in “enlightened” Europe who commonly have to run for their lives. Most recently, in Norway, a wealthy young man set off a fertilizer bomb in Oslo in front of a major government building while he traveled to an island that housed a liberal youth camp. In Norway, guns are only legal if you have a permit from the government, and you have to apply to the government for each firearm you wish to purchase; Anders Behring Breivik had no criminal record and found little trouble in getting the Ruger Mini-14 and the Glock pistol he used on the island of Utoya. In Norway, if you apply for any weapon and list “self defense” as your reason for wanting it, you are all but guaranteed to be declined. After being disappointed during a trip to Prague to get guns (he wrote in his 1500-page missive later that he felt safer in Prague than he did in Oslo), he went through all the motions to legally obtain the guns he used to kill 77 and wound or maim 153. After the fact, there was a (very) short debate on what his punishment should be. However, according to Norwegian law, he is only supposed to get around 30 years before being freed while in the US he would have been put to death. If just a couple of people on Utoya had been armed, he could have been stopped, but now he will live a long, healthy life thanks to the injustice that is Norwegian law.

Now, in London, people are rioting. It began in the low-class neighborhood of Tottenham after 29-year-old Mark Duggan was shot and killed by police. What began as a peaceful demonstration organized by his friends and family turned into riots that are still going strong, driving professional football clubs (soccer to the unbaptized) to cancel major games planned in the city and PM David Cameron to call up more than 16,000 police to quell the violence. People angry that a “good man and father of four” was supposedly murdered by cops have turned London inside-out; the city hasn’t slept for three days, and rioting has given way to looting. Those supposedly angry for justice are now destroying their own neighborhoods much the way Los Angeles did back in 1992.

Facts are a pesky thing, though. Duggan was no saint. He was a documented gang member and was believed to have multiple guns, which are completely illegal in England. The government went from registering guns to banning them outright back in the mid-90’s. Duggan was about to be arrested for dealing crack and he was armed. There seems to be some question as to whether or not he fired, and whether he aimed at officers is unclear, but they saw the weapon and heard shots, so they fired. One officer’s life was spared when a bullet aimed at him struck his radio. It could take some time to know the exact details, but Duggan was not innocent by any stretch of the imagination.

This is from the group of nations that peers down their collective nose at us and grumble about how unjust we are?

European cultures may be much older than America, but at least we know the definition of the word “justice”. Our judicial system is far from perfect and grates on my nerves sometimes, but at least we don’t question whether or not a violent offender needs to be put away for the remainder of his Earthly existence. Nobody cried when Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy were put to death. Humberto Leal, while there were those who called his execution unfair, deserved the death penalty for torturing, raping and murdering a teenage girl.

We don’t tell you how to run your justice systems. Don’t tell us how to run ours.

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.

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!”

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?

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