Monday, October 3, 2016

Cops Who Shouldn't Be On The Street

While I'm all but certain that Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez (executioners of James Boyd in Albuquerque in March of 2014) will be acquitted of murder, it's unlikely either one will go back to policing. The behavior of Albuquerque police has changed for the better since that killing, and neither one of them would be given the kinds of assignments they had on chilly hillside in March. For one thing, crisis intervention would be allowed to continue without the necessity of cover (as those engaged in negotiations would be a safe distance away from their subject), SWAT or other heavily armed response teams would not be visible, perhaps not even on site, and threats of bodily harm, expressed or implied, would not be made to Mr. Boyd.

Meanwhile, we have seen situations all over the country in which black men in crisis have been gunned down by trigger happy police who seem eager to bag them a trophy. It's insane. In some of these cases, the cops are clearly crazier than the men they kill.

One of those incidents happened in Sacramento in July when two crazed cops shot and killed Joseph Mann on Del Paso Boulevard in front of witnesses and cameras. As I reported previously, the Sacramento Police Department issued a narrative filled with lies and fabrications on the day of the killing, and it has only been through persistent pressure by Mann's family and the Sacramento Bee that something closer to the truth has come out. SPD was determined to withhold video of the incident, for example, in order to "protect" the "investigation," but as long as video was unavailable to the public, the SPD was free to spin the incident narrative to their advantage.

Their (false) story was that an erratic, disobedient Negro armed with a gun and a knife was reported by residents of North Sacramento who were scared. SPD said that this crazy Negro refused orders to drop his weapons and charged officers with his knife. One officer was injured in pursuit of him. This officer had to be hospitalized. Mann was pursued on foot by two other officers and was shot and killed when he lunged at them with his knife.

Almost none of this story was true.

A citizen video, taken by a witness, was released by Mann's family's attorney in August. It did not show the shooting itself, and some of it was shaky and difficult to decipher because it was taken at a distance, but it strongly indicated that the SPD narrative was false. Throughout this video, Mann attempts to get away from cops, he does not lunge at them or charge them. He does not obey them nor does he threaten anyone. Police issue "commands" via loudspeaker. A number of police vehicles arrive on the scene and they attempt to corral Mr. Mann as he attempts to elude them. They do not get out of their vehicles, nor do they pursue him on foot until just before he is killed. Officers on foot are seen to come from somewhere unknown, rushing up to Mann, and shots are heard. The camera pans away as the witness appears to duck; the next visual is the body of Mann lying on the sidewalk quite a distance from the witness and police rushing up to the victim.

It's not entirely clear from this video what happened, but it is clear enough that the police were not entirely truthful in their account of the incident.

The family demanded to see dashcam and any other video in police possession, but SPD adamantly refused and continued to stick with their largely false narrative of events.

Then the Sacramento Bee obtained and released surveillance footage that much more clearly showed the shooting itself. (This footage was released before the family saw it, and they were somewhat annoyed.)  This video footage showed Mann running down a sidewalk on Del Paso Boulevard, stopping as police cars come ever closer, then trying to get away again, stopping again as two officers on foot approach. Mann raises his arm but does not "lunge" at officers -- who are approximately 30 feet away -- as they open fire. Mann falls to the sidewalk, and officers approach his body, one apparently kicking him.

Shortly after release of this video, SPD released three dashcam videos which showed different parts of the incident from different viewpoints. None of the dashcam videos clearly showed the shooting itself, but taken together, they showed a fairly comprehensive overview of the situation and the scene. They demonstrated the falsity of the police narrative and when combined with surveillance video and witness video, they confirmed that the police had simply lied about what happened, and in a perverse twist, they continued to lie, citing one dashcam video in particular as evidence that Mann "charged at" officers.

In fact, it showed the opposite of what police claimed it did. On initial release, there was no sound with this video, so the conversation between the officers in the car was not heard. Nevertheless, it appeared the car was rushing to the scene traveling west on Del Paso Blvd at high speed. When it arrives near Mr. Mann, the police narrative was that Mann "charged" the car, but it looks like the car is actually 'charging' him, and he's trying to avoid getting hit. As he passes by the car, the driver turns the car around and continues pursuit on Del Paso Blvd, stopping when it reaches the median. Mann crosses the street, and shortly two officers appear on foot following him. Within seconds, shots ring out (so there was sound after all!) and other officers rush up to the obscured scene.

Two days ago, the Sacramento Bee re-released this dashcam video with officer conversation in the car -- which had been muted in the original release by SPD. This conversation clearly indicates that these officers rushing to the scene intended to hit Mr. Mann with the car, and when they were unsuccessful, they were the ones who rushed up to him as he stopped on that sidewalk and they were the ones who shot him dead from almost thirty feet away.

Here's the story as it appears in Newsweek.

Here's the original story as it appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

And here's the video with sound:

This is actually quite shocking because it demonstrates intent. These officers are intent on gravely injuring Mr. Mann by striking him with their vehicle at high speed, and when they are unsuccessful, they exit the vehicle and rush to within thirty feet of him and shoot him dead. This is obviously intentional homicide, voluntary manslaughter at the least, murder 1, more likely.

There can be no "fearing for my life and the safety of others" defense, though I'm sure it will continue to be offered. There was no threat to these officers at all; they were the ones threatening great bodily harm, not Mr. Mann. In fact they attempted twice to run over Mr. Mann, and when they were unsuccessful, they ran from their car and shot him. They shot him from a distance where they were not objectively in any danger from Mr. Mann who, in any case, did not threaten them. Nor were any other officers in any objective danger from Mr. Mann at that time, as they were all still in their vehicles.

There were a few people on the street, and some observers have tried to make the case that Mr. Mann was a danger to them. That argument is weak due to the fact that Mr. Mann is never seen threatening anyone on the street, and further, the initial calls to 911, while falsely claiming Mr. Mann has a knife and a gun, do not in any way indicate that Mr. Mann is threatening people. They say he is throwing his knife in the air and catching it, and claim falsely that he is taking out his gun and putting it back in his waistband. That is all.

At no time in any of the videos is Mr. Mann able to be an objective threat to officers in their vehicles, nor is he seen to charge or lunge at officers with his knife (the only weapon he actually has.) At no time is Mr. Mann seen to threaten bystanders or pedestrians. The only things Mr. Mann is seen to do is try to elude police (not very well as he stays on sidewalks and streets) and he appears to tell them to go away/leave him alone. At one point he throws what was later said to be a mug or a thermos at a pursuing police car. That is literally all he is seen to do that might be interpreted as a "threat" to anyone.

Until the two cops who kill him arrive, the other officers are safe in their vehicles and are relatively patiently trying to corral Mr. Mann with their vehicles in an effort to contain him prior to disarming him. He is able to get away, but not very effectively. He never actually threatens police or bystanders.

Police officers in their vehicles have him almost contained when the other officers on foot rush up and kill him.

Under the circumstances -- and given all the other police killings of black men recently -- these officers should be held to account; they should be arrested and charged with murder an the lesser included voluntary manslaughter, and they should be put on trial.

I don't know whether they would be convicted, but the death of Joseph Mann should not be allowed to fade into the background noise of police killings. This one, perhaps more than the others (except for the execution of Terence Crutcher in Oklahoma), should be seen for what it was, an intentional and egregious killing, a murder in a word, of a man in crisis, without so much as a moment's hesitation.

Let's see what happens...

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