Saturday, March 25, 2017

Shot in the Dark

Let's just say it's not unreasonable to be just cynical enough to sincerely believe that at least part of this verdict and sentence is based on a white cop shooting a black child in Loozy-anna. As with most police shootings, though, race is more of a distraction than a useful observable component of an avoidable situation.

Officer Stafford and his partner fired a total of eighteen shots into the SUV in question; Stafford fired fourteen of those himself. The mitigating factor is that all of those shots, captured on video, were fired after the SUV had given up trying to flee, and the driver (father of the child) held both hands out the window, indicating surrender.

Based on the evidence and testimony, it sounds like the correct decision was made, but again, it's not difficult to believe that it wouldn't have even gotten this far if the cops had been white, and especially if the victim(s) had been black.

Forget all that for the moment. Compare and contrast the above case with this recent decision regarding another police shooting. If this doesn't infuriate and concern you, you aren't paying attention:
Andrew Scott and his girlfriend were playing video games in their Florida apartment late at night when they heard a loud banging at the front door. Scott, who was understandably disturbed, retrieved the handgun that he lawfully owned, then opened the door with the gun pointed safely down. Outside, he saw a shadowy figure holding a pistol. He began to retreat inside and close the door when the figure fired six shots without warning, three of which hit Scott, killing him. Scott hadn’t fired a single bullet or even lifted his firearm.

The figure outside was Deputy Richard Sylvester. He failed to identify himself as a law enforcement officer at any point. He had no warrant and no reason to suspect that Scott or his girlfriend had committed a crime. He did not attempt to engage with Scott at all after he opened the door; he simply shot him dead. And on Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held that Scott’s parents and girlfriend cannot sue Sylvester because the officer’s conduct was not “clearly” illegal.
This is more than simply "bad" or "sad" or "wrong." This decision is monstrous, and extraordinarily dangerous. The practical ramifications of this ruling make it almost literally impossible for a person to defend themselves in their own home.

A few more details about the case in question, since the Slate article focuses on the legal consequences:
  • It wasn't just "late at night," it was 1:30 AM.
  • Scott was completely innocent; the Lake County police had fucked up and gone to the wrong apartment, pursuing a suspect who had fled on a motorcycle.
  • At no point did Richard Sylvester identify himself as law enforcement; in fact, it was the policy of the Lake County Sheriff's Department to not identify themselves, which seems bizarre, stupid, reckless, unnecessarily dangerous for cops and civilians alike. But, y'know, Florida.
So, to recap:  Andrew Scott is sitting at home, minding his own business, when someone starts banging on his door at one-thirty in the morning, without identifying themselves. Scott legally keeps a gun for self-defense, and reasonably assumes that something is wrong. He opens the door -- his door, to his domicile -- and sees some asshole lurking in the shadows, still not identifying himself as A FUCKING COP. Scott goes to close the door, still only holding his gun at his side, not having lifted it or pointed it at anyone, and is blown away in a hail of bullets.

Richard Sylvester and the Lake County Sheriff's Department, through poor policy and sheer incompetence, murdered Andrew Scott, pure and simple. The citizens of Lake County are less safe by having these uniformed mutants on the street. Sylvester should not be in the law enforcement profession, based on lack of qualification, and if he had any sense of honor, he would end himself for what he did to an innocent man in his own fucking house. I hope it haunts him to his final breath, never giving him a moment of peace.

That and five bucks will get you a cup of coffee, but it won't bring any justice for the murder of Andrew Scott, or the ongoing evisceration of our most basic rights to be safe in our homes -- not only from criminals, but from idiot fuck-up cops who think they have more rights than the people they're supposed to be protecting and serving. Maybe they do have more rights; if that's the case, then simply say so out loud, and we can all have that collective discussion.

But at the very least, maybe someone from the "justice" system or the sheriff's department should explain to the kids in the cheap seats what exactly Andrew Scott should have done, when a stranger beats the shit out his door in the middle of the night and refuses to identify themselves. Seriously, what the hell are you supposed to do in such circumstances? Scott literally would have been better off by shooting Sylvester right away, and trying his luck by claiming that he saw a gun and Sylvester didn't identify himself. He'd still probably have been murdered, though.

Maybe Scott should have kept a video camera handy to record the proceedings, but even then he probably would have faced prison time and had to defend himself over that. They have rigged the system in their favor, everywhere you turn. The rule is maximum accountability for the peons, no accountability at all if you carry a badge. Or not; it's surprising some criminal or gang hasn't made some sort of enterprise out of shaking down unsuspecting mooks under feigned authority.

Again, this guy was at home, minding his own business, when these inept cops showed up and gunned him down for no goddamned reason at all. It's bad enough that they did it in the first place; it should be completely unacceptable that they get away with it.

This is precisely how police states come into existence, when citizens stop questioning the insane, awful events occurring right in front of their noses, under the color of authority. They try to tell themselves that the person who got shot had it coming for whatever reason, even as they quietly keep the truth to themselves, thankful only that it wasn't their turn.


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