He doesn’t know where that came from!


This undated photo provided by the Bloomington Police Department shows 19-year-old Triceten D. Bickford, an Indiana University student who faces multiple felony charges including intimidation, strangulation and battery in the Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, attack on a Muslim woman in a cafe in Bloomington, Ind. (Bloomington Police Department via AP)

This undated photo provided by the Bloomington Police Department shows 19-year-old Triceten D. Bickford, an Indiana University student who faces multiple felony charges including intimidation, strangulation and battery in the Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, attack on a Muslim woman in a cafe in Bloomington, Ind. (Bloomington Police Department via AP)

Good thing he didn’t have a gun but alcohol and the absence of his medication more than made up for his assault on a woman who was where she was supposed to be minding her own business who was also a Muslim.  The attacker is also a white supremacist who hates police….the perfect profile of today’s American terrorist.  He’s got all these things going on…he’s an alcoholic, taking medication for anxiety and a white supremacist…..how did he escape the attention of police?  What’s really depressing is the woman he assaulted has been an American citizen longer than he has been alive.  Perhaps she should have been the one beating the crap out of him!

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Kalief Browder-In Memoriam


Kalief Browder-1993-2015

Kalief Browder-1993-2015

“The Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy . . . trial . . . .”[1] The Clause protects the defendant from delay between the presentation of the indictment or similar charging instrument and the beginning of trial.”  That didn’t happen for Kalief Browder who tragically ended his life this past Saturday because he languished in a New York City jail for three years. He’s one whose story was published; there may be more like him but because his life ended prematurely and due to his captivity and torture for a petty charge which he said he did not commit, here in its entirety is the story that brought his case to national attention. Fix this America!

Before the Law

A boy was accused of taking a backpack. The courts took the next three years of his life.

BY

In the early hours of Saturday, May 15, 2010, ten days before his seventeenth birthday, Kalief Browder and a friend were returning home from a party in the Belmont section of the Bronx. They walked along Arthur Avenue, the main street of Little Italy, past bakeries and cafés with their metal shutters pulled down for the night. As they passed East 186th Street, Browder saw a police car driving toward them. More squad cars arrived, and soon Browder and his friend found themselves squinting in the glare of a police spotlight. An officer said that a man had just reported that they had robbed him. “I didn’t rob anybody,” Browder replied. “You can check my pockets.”

The officers searched him and his friend but found nothing. As Browder recalls, one of the officers walked back to his car, where the alleged victim was, and returned with a new story: the man said that they had robbed him not that night but two weeks earlier. The police handcuffed the teens and pressed them into the back of a squad car. “What am I being charged for?” Browder asked. “I didn’t do anything!” He remembers an officer telling them, “We’re just going to take you to the precinct. Most likely you can go home.” Browder whispered to his friend, “Are you sure you didn’t do anything?” His friend insisted that he hadn’t.
At the Forty-eighth Precinct, the pair were fingerprinted and locked in a holding cell. A few hours later, when an officer opened the door, Browder jumped up: “I can leave now?” Instead, the teens were taken to Central Booking at the Bronx County Criminal Court.

Browder had already had a few run-ins with the police, including an incident eight months earlier, when an officer reported seeing him take a delivery truck for a joyride and crash into a parked car. Browder was charged with grand larceny. He told me that his friends drove the truck and that he had only watched, but he figured that he had no defense, and so he pleaded guilty. The judge gave him probation and “youthful offender” status, which insured that he wouldn’t have a criminal record.

Late on Saturday, seventeen hours after the police picked Browder up, an officer and a prosecutor interrogated him, and he again maintained his innocence. The next day, he was led into a courtroom, where he learned that he had been charged with robbery, grand larceny, and assault. The judge released his friend, permitting him to remain free while the case moved through the courts. But, because Browder was still on probation, the judge ordered him to be held and set bail at three thousand dollars. The amount was out of reach for his family, and soon Browder found himself aboard a Department of Correction bus. He fought back panic, he told me later. Staring through the grating on the bus window, he watched the Bronx disappear. Soon, there was water on either side as the bus made its way across a long, narrow bridge to Rikers Island.

Of the eight million people living in New York City, some eleven thousand are confined in the city’s jails on any given day, most of them on Rikers, a four-hundred-acre island in the East River, between Queens and the Bronx. New Yorkers who have never visited often think of Rikers as a single, terrifying building, but the island has ten jails—eight for men, one for women, and one so decrepit that it hasn’t housed anyone since 2000.

Male adolescents are confined in the Robert N. Davoren Center—known as R.N.D.C. When Browder arrived, the jail held some six hundred boys, aged sixteen to eighteen. Conditions there are notoriously grim. In August of this year, a report by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York described R.N.D.C. as a place with a “deep-seated culture of violence,” where attacks by officers and among inmates are rampant. The report featured a list of inmate injuries: “broken jaws, broken orbital bones, broken noses, long bone fractures, and lacerations requiring stitches.”

Browder’s family could not afford to hire an attorney, so the judge appointed a lawyer named Brendan O’Meara to represent him. Browder told O’Meara that he was innocent and assumed that his case would conclude quickly. Even the assistant district attorney handling the prosecution later acknowledged in court papers that it was a “relatively straightforward case.” There weren’t hours of wiretaps or piles of complicated evidence to sift through; there was just the memory of one alleged victim. But Browder had entered the legal system through the Bronx criminal courts, which are chronically overwhelmed. Last year, the Times, in an extended exposé, described them as “crippled” and among the most backlogged in the country. One reason is budgetary. There are not nearly enough judges and court staff to handle the workload; in 2010, Browder’s case was one of five thousand six hundred and ninety-five felonies that the Bronx District Attorney’s office prosecuted. The problem is compounded by defense attorneys who drag out cases to improve their odds of winning, judges who permit endless adjournments, prosecutors who are perpetually unprepared. Although the Sixth Amendment guarantees “the right to a speedy and public trial,” in the Bronx the concept of speedy justice barely exists.
For as long as Browder could remember, he had lived in the same place, a two-story brick house near the Bronx Zoo. He was the youngest of seven siblings; except for the oldest two, all the children were adopted, and the mother fostered other children as well. “Kalief was the last brought into the family,” an older brother told me. “By the time it came to Kalief, my mom had already raised—in foster care or adoption—a total of thirty-four kids.” Kalief was the smallest, he recalled, “so my mom called him Peanut.”

As a child, Browder loved Pokemon, the W.W.E., free Wednesdays at the Bronx Zoo, and mimicking his brother’s workout routine. “At six years old, he had an eight-pack,” his brother said. When Browder was ten, their father, who worked as a subway cleaner, moved out, though he continued to help support the family.

For high school, Browder went to the small, progressive New Day Academy. A former staff member remembered him as a “fun guy,” the type of kid others wanted to be around. Occasionally, he would grab a hall pass, sneak into a friend’s classroom, and stay until the teacher caught on. He told me that his report cards were full of C’s, but the staff member I spoke to said, “I thought he was very smart.”

Inside R.N.D.C., Browder soon realized that he was not going to make many friends. He was assigned to a dorm where about fifty teen-age boys slept in an open room, each with a plastic bucket to store his possessions in. “Their conversations bored me,” he told me. As far as he could tell, the other inmates were interested only in “crimes they committed and girls that they did.” When Browder asked a guard how inmates were supposed to get their clothes cleaned, he was told that they had to wash them themselves. He thought this was a joke until he noticed other inmates scrubbing their clothes by hand, using their bucket and jailhouse soap. After he did the same and hung his wet clothes on the rail of his bed, he wound up with brown rust stains on his white T-shirt, his socks, and his boxers. That day, he told himself, “I don’t know how I’m going to live in this place.”

Browder’s mother visited every weekend. In the visiting room, he would hand her his dirty clothes and get a stack of freshly laundered clothes in return. She also put money in a jail commissary account for him, so he could buy snacks. He knew that such privileges made him a target for his fellow-prisoners, who would take any opportunity to empty someone else’s bucket of snacks and clothes, so he slept with his head off the side of his bed, atop his bucket. To survive inside R.N.D.C., he decided that the best strategy was to keep to himself and to work out. Before Rikers, he told me, “every here and there I did a couple pullups or pushups. When I went in there, that’s when I decided I wanted to get big.”

The dayroom was ruled over by a gang leader and his friends, who controlled inmates’ access to the prison phones and dictated who could sit on a bench to watch TV and who had to sit on the floor. “A lot of times, I’d say, ‘I’m not sitting on the floor,’ ” Browder said. “And then they’ll come with five or six dudes. They’d swing on me. I’d have to fight back.” There was no escape, no protection, and a suspicion that some of the guards had an agreement with the gang members.

Browder told me that, one night soon after he arrived, a group of guards lined him and several other inmates up against a wall, trying to figure out who had been responsible for an earlier fight. “They’re talking to us about why did we jump these guys,” he said. “And as they’re talking they’re punching us one by one.” Browder said that he had nothing to do with the fight, but still the officers beat him; the other inmates endured much worse. “Their noses were leaking, their faces were bloody, their eyes were swollen,” he said. Afterward, the officers gave the teens a choice: go to the medical clinic or go back to bed. But they made it clear that, if the inmates went to the clinic and told the medical staff what had happened, they would write up charges against them, and get them sent to solitary confinement. “I just told them I’ll act like nothing happened,” Browder said. “So they didn’t send us to the clinic; they didn’t write anything up; they just sent us back.” The Department of Correction refused to respond to these allegations, or to answer any questions about Browder’s stay on Rikers. But the recent U.S. Attorney’s report about R.N.D.C. recounts many instances in which officers pressured inmates not to report beatings—to “hold it down,” in Rikers parlance.
On the morning of July 28, 2010, Browder was awakened at around half past four. He was handcuffed to another inmate and herded onto a bus with a group of other prisoners. At the Bronx County Hall of Justice, they spent the day in a basement holding pen, each waiting for his chance to see a judge. When Browder’s turn came, an officer led him into a courtroom and he caught a glimpse of his mother in the spectator area. Seventy-four days had passed since his arrest. Already he had missed his seventeenth birthday, the end of his sophomore year, and half the summer.

A grand jury had voted to indict Browder. The criminal complaint alleged that he and his friend had robbed a Mexican immigrant named Roberto Bautista—pursuing him, pushing him against a fence, and taking his backpack. Bautista told the police that his backpack contained a credit card, a debit card, a digital camera, an iPod Touch, and seven hundred dollars. Browder was also accused of punching Bautista in the face.

A clerk read out the charges—“Robbery in the second degree and other crimes”—and asked Browder, “How do you plead, sir, guilty or not guilty?”

“Not guilty,” Browder said.

An officer escorted him out of the courtroom and back downstairs to return to Rikers. It no longer mattered whether his mother could find the money to bail him out. The Department of Probation had filed a “violation of probation” against him—standard procedure when someone on probation is indicted on a new violent felony—and the judge had remanded him without bail.

Browder repeatedly told O’Meara, his court-appointed lawyer, that he would never plead guilty and that he wanted to go to trial. O’Meara assumed that his courtroom defense would be “Listen, they got the wrong kid.” After all, the accusation had been made a week or two after the alleged robbery, and the victim had later changed his mind about when it occurred. (The original police report said “on or about May 2,” but Bautista later told a detective that it happened on May 8th.)

With each day he spent in jail, Browder imagined that he was getting closer to trial. Many states have so-called speedy-trial laws, which require trials to start within a certain time frame. New York State’s version is slightly different, and is known as the “ready rule.” This rule stipulates that all felony cases (except homicides) must be ready for trial within six months of arraignment, or else the charges can be dismissed. In practice, however, this time limit is subject to technicalities. The clock stops for many reasons—for example, when defense attorneys submit motions before trial—so that the amount of time that is officially held to have elapsed can be wildly different from the amount of time that really has. In 2011, seventy-four per cent of felony cases in the Bronx were older than six months.

In order for a trial to start, both the defense attorney and the prosecutor have to declare that they are ready; the court clerk then searches for a trial judge who is free and transfers the case, and jury selection can begin. Not long after Browder was indicted, an assistant district attorney sent the court a “Notice of Readiness,” stating that “the People are ready for trial.” The case was put on the calendar for possible trial on December 10th, but it did not start that day. On January 28, 2011, Browder’s two-hundred-and-fifty-eighth day in jail, he was brought back to the courthouse once again. This time, the prosecutor said, “The People are not ready. We are requesting one week.” The next court date set by the judge—March 9th—was not one week away but six. As it happened, Browder didn’t go to trial anytime that year. An index card in the court file explains:

June 23, 2011: People not ready, request 1 week.
August 24, 2011: People not ready, request 1 day.
November 4, 2011: People not ready, prosecutor on trial, request 2 weeks.
December 2, 2011: Prosecutor on trial, request January 3rd.
The Bronx courts are so clogged that when a lawyer asks for a one-week adjournment the next court date usually doesn’t happen for six weeks or more. As long as a prosecutor has filed a Notice of Readiness, however, delays caused by court congestion don’t count toward the number of days that are officially held to have elapsed. Every time a prosecutor stood before a judge in Browder’s case, requested a one-week adjournment, and got six weeks instead, this counted as only one week against the six-month deadline. Meanwhile, Browder remained on Rikers, where six weeks still felt like six weeks—and often much longer.

Like many defendants with court-appointed lawyers, Browder thought his attorney was not doing enough to help him. O’Meara, who works mostly in the Bronx and in Westchester County, never made the trip out to Rikers to see him, since a visit there can devour at least half a day. To avoid this trek, some lawyers set up video conferences at the Bronx courthouse with their clients who are in jail. O’Meara says he’s “pretty sure” he did this with Browder, but Browder says he never did. Court papers suggest a lawyer in a hurry: in the fall of 2010, O’Meara filed a notice with the court in which he mistakenly wrote that he would soon be making a motion on Browder’s case in “Westchester County Court,” instead of in the Bronx.

New York City pays lawyers like O’Meara (known locally as “18-B attorneys”) seventy-five dollars an hour for a felony case, sixty dollars for a misdemeanor. O’Meara handles all types of cases, from misdemeanors to homicides. When I met him, earlier this year, he was eating a hamburger and drinking coffee at a diner in Brooklyn after an appearance at a courthouse there. He was about to take the subway back to the Bronx, and his briefcase was bulging with papers. He told me that Browder, compared with some of his other clients, “was quiet, respectful—he wasn’t rude.” He also noted that, as the months passed, his client looked “tougher and bigger.”

Most of the time, however, Browder had no direct contact with O’Meara; the few times he tried to phone him, he couldn’t get through, so he was dependent on his mother to talk to O’Meara on his behalf. Every time Browder got the chance, he asked O’Meara the same question: “Can you get me out?” O’Meara says that he made multiple bail applications on his client’s behalf, but was unsuccessful because of the violation of probation. Meanwhile, other inmates advised Browder to tell his lawyer to file a speedy-trial motion—a motion to dismiss the case, because it hadn’t been brought to trial within six months. But, with so many one-week requests that had turned into six-week delays, Browder had yet to reach the six-month mark.

For a defendant who is in jail, the more a case drags on the greater the pressure to give up and plead guilty. By early 2012, prosecutors had offered Browder a deal—three and a half years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. He refused. “I want to go to trial,” he told O’Meara, even though he knew that if he lost he could get up to fifteen years in state prison. Stories circulate on Rikers about inmates who plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit just to put an end to their ordeal, but Browder was determined to get his day in court. He had no idea how rare trials actually are. In 2011, in the Bronx, only a hundred and sixty-five felony cases went to trial; in three thousand nine hundred and ninety-one cases, the defendant pleaded guilty.

Not long after arriving on Rikers, Browder made his first trip to solitary confinement. It lasted about two weeks, he recalls, and followed a scuffle with another inmate. “He was throwing shoes at people—I told him to stop,” Browder said. “I actually took his sneaker and I threw it, and he got mad. He swung on me, and we started fighting.” Browder was placed in shackles and transferred by bus to the Central Punitive Segregation Unit, which everyone on Rikers calls the Bing. Housed in one of the island’s newer jails, the Bing has four hundred cells, each about twelve feet by seven.
In recent years, the use of solitary confinement has spread in New York’s jails. Between 2007 and mid-2013, the total number of solitary-confinement beds on Rikers increased by more than sixty per cent, and a report last fall found that nearly twenty-seven per cent of the adolescent inmates were in solitary. “I think the department became severely addicted to solitary confinement,” Daniel Selling, who served as the executive director of mental health for New York City’s jails, told me in April; he had quit his job two weeks earlier. “It’s a way to control an environment that feels out of control—lock people in their cell,” he said. “Adolescents can’t handle it. Nobody could handle that.” (In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed a new jails commissioner, Joseph Ponte, who promised to “end the culture of excessive solitary confinement.”)

For Browder, this was the first of several trips to the Bing. As he soon discovered, a prisoner there doesn’t leave his cell except to go to rec, the shower, the visit room, the medical clinic, or court; whenever he does leave, he is handcuffed and strip-searched. To pass the time, Browder read magazines—XXL, Sports Illustrated, Hip Hop Weekly—and street novels handed on by other inmates; one was Sister Souljah’s “Midnight.” He’d always preferred video games, but he told me, “I feel like I broke myself into books through street novels.” He moved on to more demanding reading and said that his favorite book was Craig Unger’s “House of Bush, House of Saud.”

Summer is the worst time of year to be stuck in the Bing, since the cells lack air-conditioning. In the hope of feeling a breeze, Browder would sleep with the window open, only to be awakened at 5 A.M., when the cell filled with the roar of planes taking off from LaGuardia, one of whose runways is less than three hundred feet from Rikers. He would spend all day smelling his own sweat and counting the hours until his next shower. He thought about the places he would have been visiting if he were not spending the summer in jail: Mapes Pool, Coney Island, Six Flags. One day, when he called home to talk to his mother—he was allowed one six-minute call a day while in solitary—he could make out the familiar jingle of an ice-cream truck in the background.

There hadn’t been much to do at R.N.D.C., but at least there was school—classrooms where the inmates were supposed to be taken every day, to study for a G.E.D. or a high-school diploma. The Bing had only “cell study”: a correction officer slid work sheets under the door in the morning, collected them a few days later, and, eventually, returned them with a teacher’s marks. Some inmates never bothered to fill in the work sheets, but Browder told himself, “I’m already in jail—I might as well keep trying to do something.” There were times, however, when nobody came by to collect the work sheets on the day he’d been told they were due. If Browder saw a captain walk by through the small window in his door, he would shout, “Where is the school correction officer to pick up the work?”

Near the end of 2010, Browder returned to the Bing; he was there for about ten months, through the summer of 2011. He recalls that he got sent there initially after another fight. (Once an inmate is in solitary, further minor infractions can extend his stay.) When Browder first went to Rikers, his brother had advised him to get himself sent to solitary whenever he felt at risk from other inmates. “I told him, ‘When you get into a house and you don’t feel safe, do whatever you have to to get out,’ ” the brother said. “ ‘It’s better than coming home with a slice on your face.’ ”

Even in solitary, however, violence was a threat. Verbal spats with officers could escalate. At one point, Browder said, “I had words with a correction officer, and he told me he wanted to fight. That was his way of handling it.” He’d already seen the officer challenge other inmates to fights in the shower, where there are no surveillance cameras. “So I agreed to it; I said, ‘I’ll fight you.’ ” The next day, the officer came to escort him to the shower, but before they even got there, he said, the officer knocked him down: “He put his forearm on my face, and my face was on the floor, and he just started punching me in the leg.” Browder isn’t the first inmate to make such an allegation; the U.S. Attorney’s report described similar incidents.
Browder’s brother reconsidered his advice when he saw him in the Bing visiting area. For one thing, he says, Browder was losing weight. “Several times when I visited him, he said, ‘They’re not feeding me,’ ” the brother told me. “He definitely looked really skinny.” In solitary, food arrived through a slot in the cell door three times a day. For a growing teen-ager, the portions were never big enough, and in solitary Browder couldn’t supplement the rations with snacks bought at the commissary. He took to begging the officers for leftovers: “Can I get that bread?” Sometimes they would slip him an extra slice or two; often, they refused.

Browder’s brother also noticed a growing tendency toward despair. When Browder talked about his case, he was “strong, adamant: ‘No, they can’t do this to me!’ ” But, when the conversation turned to life in jail, “it’s a totally different personality, which is depressed. He’s, like, ‘I don’t know how long I can take this.’ ”

Browder got out of the Bing in the fall of 2011, but by the end of the year he was back—after yet another fight, he says. On the night of February 8, 2012—his six-hundred-and-thirty-fourth day on Rikers—he said to himself, “I can’t take it anymore. I give up.” That night, he tore his bedsheet into strips, tied them together to make a noose, attached it to the light fixture, and tried to hang himself. He was taken to the clinic, then returned to solitary. Browder told me that his sheets, magazines, and clothes were removed—everything except his white plastic bucket.

On February 17th, he was shuttled to the courthouse once again, but this time he was not brought up from the court pen in time to hear his case called. (“I’ll waive his appearance for today’s purposes,” his lawyer told the judge.) For more than a year, he had heard various excuses about why his trial had to be delayed, among them that the prosecutor assigned to the case was on trial elsewhere, was on jury duty, or, as he once told the judge, had “conflicts in my schedule.” If Browder had been in the courtroom on this day, he would have heard a prosecutor offer a new excuse: “Your Honor, the assigned assistant is currently on vacation.” The prosecutor asked for a five-day adjournment; Browder’s lawyer requested March 16th, and the judge scheduled the next court date for then.

The following night, in his solitary cell on Rikers, Browder shattered his plastic bucket by stomping on it, then picked up a piece, sharpened it, and began sawing his wrist. He was stopped after an officer saw him through the cell window and intervened.

Browder was still on Rikers Island in June of 2012, when his high-school classmates collected their diplomas, and in September, when some of them enrolled in college. In the fall, prosecutors offered him a new deal: if he pleaded guilty, he’d get two and a half years in prison, which meant that, with time served, he could go home soon. “Ninety-nine out of a hundred would take the offer that gets you out of jail,” O’Meara told me. “He just said, ‘Nah, I’m not taking it.’ He didn’t flinch. Never talked about it. He was not taking a plea.”

Meanwhile, Browder kept travelling from Rikers to the Bronx courthouse and back again, shuttling between two of New York City’s most dysfunctional bureaucracies, each system exacerbating the flaws of the other. With every trip Browder made to the courthouse, another line was added to a growing stack of index cards kept in the court file:

June 29, 2012: People not ready, request one week.
September 28, 2012: People not ready, request two weeks.
November 2, 2012: People not ready, request one week.
December 14, 2012: People not ready, request one week.
By the end of 2012, Browder had been in jail for nine hundred and sixty-one days and had stood before eight different judges. He always maintained his composure, never berating his attorney or yelling protests in court. O’Meara was impressed by his control. “I can’t imagine most people sitting in there for three years and not becoming very upset with their attorney,” he says. “He just never complained to me.” Privately, though, Browder was angry. About the prosecutors, he would tell himself, “These guys are just playing with my case.”

On March 13, 2013, Browder appeared before a new judge, Patricia M. DiMango, who had been transferred from Brooklyn as part of a larger effort to tackle the Bronx’s backlog. She was known for her no-nonsense style when dealing with defendants; at the Brooklyn courthouse, she was referred to as Judge Judy. (As it happens, this year she became a judge on “Hot Bench,” a new courtroom TV show created by Judge Judy.) In the Bronx, DiMango’s job was to review cases and clear them: by getting weak cases dismissed, extracting guilty pleas from defendants, or referring cases to trial in another courtroom. At the start of 2013, there were nine hundred and fifty-two felony cases in the Bronx, including Browder’s, that were more than two years old. In the next twelve months, DiMango disposed of a thousand cases, some as old as five years.
Judge DiMango explained to Browder, “If you go to trial and lose, you could get up to fifteen.” Then she offered him an even more tempting deal: plead guilty to two misdemeanors—the equivalent of sixteen months in jail—and go home now, on the time already served. “If you want that, I will do that today,” DiMango said. “I could sentence you today. . . . It’s up to you.”

“I’m all right,” Browder said. “I did not do it. I’m all right.”

“You are all right?” DiMango said.

“Yes,” he said. “I want to go to trial.”

Back at Rikers, other prisoners were stunned. “You’re bugging,” they told him. “You’re stupid. If that was me, I would’ve said I did it and went home.” Browder knew that it was a gamble; even though he was innocent, he could lose at trial. “I used to go to my cell and lie down and think, like, Maybe I am crazy; maybe I am going too far,” he recalled. “But I just did what I thought was right.”

On May 29th, the thirty-first court date on Browder’s case, there was another development. DiMango peered down from the bench. “The District Attorney is really in a position right now where they cannot proceed,” she said. “It is their intention to dismiss the case.” She explained that this could not officially happen until the next court date, which ended up being a week later. “I will release you today, but you have to come back here on time without any new cases,” she said. “Do you think you can do that, Mr. Browder?”

“Yes,” he said.

Browder could not believe what was happening. His battle to prove his innocence had ended. No trial, no jury, no verdict. An assistant district attorney filed a memo with the court explaining that Bautista, the man who had accused Browder, had gone back to Mexico. The District Attorney’s office had reached his brother in the Bronx and tried to arrange for him to return and testify, but then the office lost contact with the brother, too. “Without the Complainant, we are unable to meet our burden of proof at trial,” the prosecutor wrote.

Browder had to spend one more night on Rikers. By now, he had missed his junior year of high school, his senior year, graduation, the prom. He was no longer a teen-ager; four days earlier, he had turned twenty.

He didn’t know what time he would be released, so he told his mother not to bother picking him up. The next afternoon, he walked out of jail, a single thought in his mind: “I’m going home!” He took the bus to Queens Plaza, then two subways to the Bronx, and his euphoria began to dissipate. Being around so many people felt strange. Except for a few weeks, he had been in solitary confinement for the previous seventeen months.

After leaving Rikers, Browder moved back home, where his mother and two of his brothers were living. Everybody could see that he had changed. Most of the clothes in his bedroom no longer fit; he had grown an inch or two while he was away and had become brawnier. Many of his former pastimes—playing video games, watching movies, shooting hoops in the park—no longer engaged him. He preferred to spend time by himself, alone in his bedroom, with the door closed. Sometimes he found himself pacing, as he had done in solitary. When he saw old friends, he was reminded of their accomplishments and what he had not achieved: no high-school diploma, no job, no money, no apartment of his own.

Before he went to jail, he used to like sitting on his front steps with his friends, and when a group of attractive girls walked by he’d call out, “Hi. What are you doing? Where’s the party at? Can I go with you?” Now, if he managed to get a girl’s number, the first real conversation would always go the same way: she would ask him if he was in school or working, and he would feel his anxiety rise. Once he revealed that he was still living at home, without a job or a diploma, “they look at me like I ain’t worth nothing. Like I ain’t shit. It hurts to have people look at you like that.” He could explain that he’d been wrongfully arrested, but the truth felt too complicated, too raw and personal. “If I tell them the story, then I gotta hear a hundred questions,” he said. “It gets emotional for me. And those emotions I don’t feel comfortable with.”
Not long after Browder returned home, one of his relatives called an attorney named Paul V. Prestia and told him that Browder had spent three years on Rikers only to have his case dismissed. “Send him down,” Prestia said. A former prosecutor in Brooklyn, Prestia now has his own firm. On his office wall hangs a 2011 Post story about a Haitian chef from the Bronx who was mistakenly arrested for rape and spent eight days on Rikers; Prestia got the case dismissed.

When Prestia first heard Browder’s story, he thought there must be a catch; even by the sorry standards of justice in the Bronx, the case was extreme. “It’s something that could’ve been tried in a court in a matter of days,” he told me. “I don’t know how each and every prosecutor who looked at this case continued to let this happen. It’s like Kalief Browder didn’t even exist.” Earlier this year, Prestia filed a suit on Browder’s behalf against the city, the N.Y.P.D., the Bronx District Attorney, and the Department of Correction.

Robert T. Johnson, the Bronx District Attorney, will not answer questions about Browder’s case, because, once the charges were dismissed, the court records were sealed. But recently when I asked him a general question about cases that drag on and on, he was quick to deflect blame. “These long delays—two, three years—they’re horrendous, but the D.A. is not really accountable for that kind of delay,” he said. His explanation was that either the case did not actually exceed the six-month speedy-trial deadline or the defense attorney failed to bring a speedy-trial motion.

Prestia, in his lawsuit, alleges “malicious prosecution,” charging that Johnson’s prosecutors were “representing to the court that they would be ‘ready’ for trial, when in fact, they never were.” Prestia said, “The million-dollar question is: When did they really know they didn’t have a witness? Did they really not know until 2013?” He suspects that, as he wrote in his complaint, they were “seeking long, undue adjournments of these cases to procure a guilty plea from plaintiff.” The city has denied all allegations of wrongdoing, and Johnson, when I asked about these accusations, said, “Certainly if there is something uncovered that we did wrong, I will deal with that here. But I don’t expect that to be the case.”

Prestia has represented many clients who were wrongfully arrested, but Browder’s story troubles him most deeply. “Kalief was deprived of his right to a fair and speedy trial, his education, and, I would even argue, his entire adolescence,” he says. “If you took a sixteen-year-old kid and locked him in a room for twenty-three hours, your son or daughter, you’d be arrested for endangering the welfare of a child.” Browder doesn’t know exactly how many days he was in solitary—and Rikers officials, citing pending litigation, won’t divulge any details about his stay—but he remembers that it was “about seven hundred, eight hundred.”

One day last November, six months after his release, Browder retreated to his bedroom with a steak knife, intending to slit his wrists. A friend happened to stop by, saw the knife, and grabbed it. When he left the house to find Browder’s mother, Browder tried to hang himself from a bannister. An ambulance rushed him to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he was admitted to the psychiatric ward. In his medical record, a social worker describes the suicide attempt as “serious.”

One afternoon this past spring, I sat with Browder in a quiet restaurant in lower Manhattan. He is five feet seven, with a high forehead, tired eyes, and a few wisps of hair above his upper lip. “Being home is way better than being in jail,” he told me. “But in my mind right now I feel like I’m still in jail, because I’m still feeling the side effects from what happened in there.”

When I first asked if I could interview him, he was reluctant, but eventually he agreed, and we met many times. We always met in downtown Manhattan, near Prestia’s office. He didn’t want to meet in the Bronx, and seemed to feel more comfortable speaking where nobody knew him. He almost always wore the same uniform: a hoodie with the hood pulled down; a pair of earbuds, one stuck in an ear and the other swinging free; rosary beads dangling from his neck—not because he is Catholic (his family are Jehovah’s Witnesses) but “for fashion,” he said. When I asked him about Rikers, he surprised me with his willingness to speak. At times, he seemed almost unable to stop, as if he had long been craving the chance to tell somebody about what he endured. Other times, though, the act of remembering seemed almost physically painful: he would fall silent, drop his gaze, and shake his head.

Ever since Browder left Rikers, he has tried to stay busy. He sat through G.E.D. prep classes, signed up for a computer course, searched for a job, and attended weekly counselling sessions. This past March, he learned that he had passed the G.E.D. on the first try. “I gained some of my pride back,” he told me. He landed a job as a security guard—not his dream position, but it would serve while he looked for something better. By coincidence, one of the places he was sent was St. Barnabas. On his second day there, he overheard some employees talking about him; somebody seemed to have figured out that he had been in the psychiatric ward. Soon afterward, with a vague explanation, he was fired.

Prestia helped him find a part-time job, working for a friend who runs a jewelry business in the same building as Prestia’s office, near Wall Street. On May 29th—four days after his twenty-first birthday, and a year to the day after DiMango told him that he would be set free—Browder stood on a sidewalk in front of a Chase bank, handing out flyers advertising the jewelry business. He told me that he liked Wall Street—being surrounded by people with briefcases and suits, everyone walking with a sense of purpose. “When I see professional people, I see myself,” he said. “I say, ‘I want to be like them.’ ”

Exactly how he would manage this he was not sure. Most days, the progress he had made since coming home did not feel like progress to him. “It’s been a year now, and I got a part-time job, and I got my G.E.D.,” he said. “But, when you think about it, that’s nothing. People tell me because I have this case against the city I’m all right. But I’m not all right. I’m messed up. I know that I might see some money from this case, but that’s not going to help me mentally. I’m mentally scarred right now. That’s how I feel. Because there are certain things that changed about me and they might not go back.”

This month, Browder started classes at Bronx Community College. But, even now, he thinks about Rikers every day. He says that his flashbacks to that time are becoming more frequent. Almost anything can trigger them. It might be the sight of a police cruiser or something more innocuous. When his mother cooks rice and chili, he says, he can’t help remembering the rice and chili he was fed on Rikers, and suddenly, in his mind, he is back in the Bing, recalling how hungry he was all the time, especially at night, when he’d have to wait twelve hours for his next meal.

Even with his friends, things aren’t the same. “I’m trying to break out of my shell, but I guess there is no shell. I guess this is just how I am—I’m just quiet and distant,” he says. “I don’t like being this way, but it’s just natural to me now.” Every night before he goes to sleep, he checks that every window in the house is locked. When he rides the subway, he often feels terrified. “I might be attacked; I might be robbed,” he says. “Because, believe me, in jail you know there’s all type of criminal stuff that goes on.” No matter how hard he tries, he cannot forget what he saw: inmates stealing from each other, officers attacking teens, blood on the dayroom floor. “Before I went to jail, I didn’t know about a lot of stuff, and, now that I’m aware, I’m paranoid,” he says. “I feel like I was robbed of my happiness.”

He was robbed. May he rest in peace.

 

Gun ownership, police and white privilege in a post racial America


Hypocrisy in power is an amazing thing; not everyone can see it.  Police and armed citizens are a good start and a toxic mix.  As shown here constantly police who confront armed white citizens usually take a more professional and more restrained approach than they do when confronted with citizens of color, armed or not.  This is a decent collage of experiences that have occurred lately in America

Police Actually Do Show Restraint—When They’re Facing Armed White Guys

What is going on in the minds of some cops that frequently prompts empathy for armed white men but unleashes lethal fury on unarmed African-American men?

As a ceaseless flat line of tragedies snuffs out the lives of young brothers, one peculiar parallel trend emerges: For every unarmed black man who dies at the hands of white police officers, it seems as if there’s one armed white man who survives such an encounter.

In a way, that flies in the face of a popular national narrative that police officers are having some trouble restraining their trigger-happy selves. The excessive use of force by police is at the core of that discussion: Recently, for example, the Justice Department applauded the Seattle Police Department’s implementation of mandatory “de-escalation training” program for new officers. The force used “must be both reasonable and necessary,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta in a statement last week. “[T]his training will provide valuable guidance to officers when they make split-second decisions about when and how to use force.”

The problem, however, is that we assume that cops have a restraint problem. But judging from a growing number of confrontations between police and armed white guys, it’s reasonable to conclude the killings of African-American men and women may have another cause. And in the rush to a future full of body cameras, training, diversity hiring and other essential tools for modern law enforcement, we should probably find out what it takes to change that.

Michael Wilcox, 27, prone on the ground, unharmed

Michael Wilcox, 27, prone on the ground, unharmed

Going viral recently is a body-cam-captured video of rookie New Richmond, Ohio, cop Jesse Kidder talking down a young, armed and white 27-year old Michael Wilcox, who is accused of killing his fiancee and best friend hours before. Wilcox challenged Kidder to “shoot me!”

Kidder did not. He reasoned Wilcox into a peaceful arrest, earning himself all sorts of national props for showing “great restraint and maturity.” And who knows? Maybe policing in the post-Ferguson world made Kidder rethink the situation.

And maybe it didn’t. Instead, Wilcox ended up joining the pantheon of armed and dangerous white dudes who stayed alive even after police have identified them as homicidal suspects on killing rampages. One unfortunate week might find us gripped in national outrage over the untimely and unjustified deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore or Eric Harris in Tulsa; but, highlighted less are numerous confrontations between cops and rather dangerous white guys with guns who have already massacred people or are about to commit domestic terrorism.

This raises deeply disturbing but necessary questions that hint at a need for more than just a “de-escalation” program. What exactly is going on in the minds of some cops that frequently prompts empathy for armed white men but unleashes lethal fury on unarmed black men?    

Eric Fein, Fugitive survivalist and accused cop killer Eric Frein was finally captured last night in the Pocono Mountains after 48 days evading law enforcement

Take Eric Fein, for example, a white 31-year old sitting comfortably in jail on charges of killing one Pennsylvania state trooper in September and wounding another before forcing state police into a 48-day manhunt. Or still-alive 41-year old Ryan Giroux, a white supremacist who is accused of killing one person and injuring five in March during a shooting rampage in Mesa, Ariz. Cops finally caught up with him and took him into custody after Tasing him. And let’s not even get started on the jaw-dropping actions of Adam Kokesh, a gun-rights activist who not only loaded a shotgun across the street from White House grounds, but also videotaped and posted the whole thing online.

 James Holmes' Class of 2006  Westview High School photo

James Holmes’ Class of 2006 Westview High School photo

Perhaps one of the more notorious armed white guys involved in mass murder is James Holmes of Aurora, Colo., who, even after allegedly slaughtering a dozen people and injuring 70 in a movie theater shooting in 2012, managed to survive the police response and is on trial.

In almost half of all active-shooter situations, police didn’t even kill the shooter. According to aSeptember 2013 FBI briefing on a study of 160 mass-casualty, “active shooter” incidents between 2000 and 2013, most ended once the perpetrator stopped shooting, either because he fled or took his own life.

Curiously, the FBI details every demographic, geographic and casualty-type of data in its compelling 47-page study, even telling us that only six of the shooters were female, but fails to disclose one critical shooter characteristic: race.

The Congressional Research Service, however, did some leg work for its own March 2013 paper“Public Mass Shootings in the United States.” Despite an annoying lack of data, that study did conclude that the “the gunmen generally acted alone, were usually white and male.” Of the 81 shooters in this report, 41 died by suicide and 10 at the hands of law enforcement.

Police restraint is employed frequently when officers run up against gun-carrying white dudes engaged in all forms of villainy. Yet, we’ve seen unarmed and ultimately innocent black men and black women find themselves either badly hurt or dead just for looking suspicious or being in the wrong place at a particular wrong time.

Most frightening is the issue of why. There’s never really a clear answer for that beyond our 400-year knowledge of state-sanctioned violence against African Americans. White officers, in particular, would never admit to any subconscious bias pegging black men as subhuman.

What recent studies do show is that public perceptions of black people do not help.  When white people aren’t generally associating black people with criminal activity, they are viewing people of a darker hue as otherworldly.  The Sentencing Project’s 2014 “Race and Punishment” study shows that most whites support criminal punishment for blacks and Latinos because they perceive people of color as most likely to commit crimes.

Meanwhile, the Religion News Service’s “2012American National Election Study” and Associated Press polling showed that most whites still harbor a view of blacks as less hardworking and less intelligent.

But an even more recent and troubling study, published in November 2014 in the journal Social, Psychological & Personality Science, appears to offer some insight. Researchers determined that white attitudes have shifted dramatically over generations, from once perceiving blacks as “three fifths of a human” to now being “superhuman.”

Respondents in surveys were more likely to link terms such as “ghost, paranormal, spirit, wizard, supernatural, magic, mystical” to pictures of black people than they were to ascribe those qualities to whites, who were linked to more “human words”  such as “person, individual, humanity, people, civilian, mankind, citizen.” The authors of the study worried that “[p]erhaps people assume that Blacks possess extra (i.e., superhuman) strength which enables them to endure violence more easily than other humans.”

Perhaps, for reasons still unknown, there are white police officers who think that brothers are faster than bullets and speeding trains.  Maybe—and we don’t know—an armed white guy receives more lenience because there’s a chance he could be exercising his rights as a “citizen.”  For now, all we have is instinct, polls and a growing list of sad stories.

We’re not getting better at dealing with our differences, we’re getting worse and it’s hurting us as a civilization, as a country.  The inability to deal with this problem could lead to the destruction of America in the ways we experienced during the days preceding the Civil War.  Do we really wanna’ go there America?

 

The flip side of police and citizens-this is how it’s done in the ‘hood


Well written, timely, prescient piece which appeared in the Baltimore Sun last year before Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of Baltimore’s police, the article below chronicles the difficulty Baltimore Police have put it’s citizens and government through as it persecutes its black citizens.  Well worth the time to read

The city has paid about $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming that police officers brazenly beat up alleged suspects. One hidden cost: The perception that officers are violent can poison the relationship between residents and police.

On a cold January afternoon, Jerriel Lyles parked his car in front of the P&J Carry Out on East Monument Street and darted inside to buy some food. After paying for a box of chicken, he noticed a big guy in jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap.

“What’s up?” the man said to Lyles. Others, also dressed in jeans and hoodies, blocked the door to the street — making Lyles fear that he would be robbed. Instead, the man identified himself a police officer, frisked Lyles and demanded he sit on the greasy floor. Lyles objected.

“The officer hit me so hard it felt like his radio was in his hand,” Lyles testified about the 2009 incident, after suing Detective David Greene. “The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”

The Baltimore detective offered a different version of events in court, saying that Lyles’ injuries might have resulted from poking himself in the face. He also couldn’t say why officers stopped Lyles, who was not charged with any crime.

But jurors didn’t buy the officer’s explanation. They ruled in Lyles’ favor, and the court ultimately ordered the city to pay him $200,000, the statutory limit in Maryland for most lawsuits against a municipality.

The beating Lyles received from Baltimore police officers — along with the resulting payout from city funds — is part of a disturbing pattern, a six-month investigation by The Baltimore Sun has found.

                                                                     

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.

Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims — if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him — a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

Such beatings, in which the victims are most often African-Americans, carry a hefty cost. They can poison relationships between police and the community, limiting cooperation in the fight against crime, the mayor and police officials say. They also divert money in the city budget — the $5.7 million in taxpayer funds paid out since January 2011 would cover the price of a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds. And that doesn’t count the $5.8 million spent by the city on legal fees to defend these claims brought against police.

“These officers taint the whole department when they create these kinds of issues for the city,” said City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young. “I’m tired of the lawsuits that cost the city millions of dollars by some of these police officers.”

City policies help to shield the scope and impact of beatings from the public, even though Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake acknowledges that police brutality was one of the main issues broached by residents in nine recent forums across Baltimore.

The city’s settlement agreements contain a clause that prohibits injured residents from making any public statement — or talking to the news media — about the incidents. And when settlements are placed on the agenda at public meetings involving the mayor and other top officials, the cases are described using excerpts from police reports, with allegations of brutality routinely omitted. State law also helps to shield the details, by barring city officials from discussing internal disciplinary actions against the officers — even when a court has found them at fault.

The Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, a local pastor who has railed against police brutality, was surprised to hear that the city has spent millions to settle police misconduct allegations.

“I am absolutely stunned,” said Bryant, who leads a Northwest Baltimore mega-church. “I had no idea it was this bad. I had no idea we had this volume in this city.”

Among the findings of The Sun’s investigation, which included a review of thousands of court records and interviews with victims, along with audio and video recordings of trials:

Since 2011, the city has been involved in 102 court judgments and settlements related to allegations of civil rights and constitutional violations such as assault, false arrest and false imprisonment, making payouts that ranged up to $500,000. (The statutory cap can be exceeded when there are multiple claims in a lawsuit, and if there is malice the cap may not apply.) In 43 of the lawsuits, taxpayers paid $30,000 or more. In such settlements, the city and the officers involved do not acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Many of the lawsuits stemmed from the now-disbanded Violent Crimes Impact Section, which used plainclothes officers to target high-crime areas. Officers frequently wrote in charging documents that they feared for their safety and that residents received the injuries when resisting arrest.

Department officials said some officers were exonerated in internal force investigations, even though jurors and the city awarded thousands of dollars to battered residents in those incidents.

For years, leaders in Baltimore’s Police Department, the nation’s eighth-largest, didn’t track or monitor the number of lawsuits filed against each officer. As a result, city officials were unaware that some officers were the target of as many as five lawsuits.

The Sun’s findings include only lawsuits that have been settled or decided in court; dozens of similar cases are still pending. The city has faced 317 lawsuits over police conduct since 2011 — and recently budgeted an additional $4.2 million for legal fees, judgments and lawsuits, a $2.5 million increase from fiscal 2014.

“This is not something I take lightly,” Rawlings-Blake said. “I’ve worked hard, very hard, to have a dialogue with the community about how do we build trust and send the message that law enforcement that acts outside of the law will not be tolerated.”

Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, who took over in late 2012, has publicly vowed to eliminate misconduct among the city’s 2,800 officers. Other police officials say the department has begun to track such allegations more closely to punish officers in the wrong.

LLOYD FOX
Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez leads the bureau tasked with keeping police officers accountable.

“I can’t speak to what was done before, but I can certainly tell you that’s what’s being done now, and we won’t deviate from that,” said Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez, who joined the agency in January 2013 to lead the new Professional Standards and Accountability Bureau.

Rodriguez, who once worked in Internal Affairs at the Los Angeles Police Department, said the mandate is to provide policing in a professional manner that doesn’t violate constitutional rights.

“We will not let officers get away with any wrongdoing,” Rodriguez said. “It will not be tolerated.”

The department would not allow The Sun to interview officers named in the lawsuits, saying that would violate department policy. Annual base salaries for the officers ranged from $61,000 and $67,000.

But Robert F. Cherry, president of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge, cautioned that some people file frivolous lawsuits against officers who work to keep the city safe.

“Our officers are not brutal,” he said. “The trial attorneys and criminal elements want to take advantage of the courts.”

Eighty-seven-year-old Venus Green heard the scream while rocking on her porch on Poplar Grove Street in West Baltimore’s Walbrook neighborhood.

“Grandma, call the ambulance. I been shot,” she thought she heard her grandson say on that morning in July 2007. As he lumbered closer, she spotted blood from a wound in his leg and called 911.

The retired teacher was used to helping others. Green had moved to Baltimore decades earlier from South Carolina after working at R.J. Reynolds and Westinghouse. Once here, she worked at Fort Meade and earned two degrees at Coppin State University.

The mother of two and grandmother of seven dedicated her career to teaching special-education students, but couldn’t sit still in her retirement years. She had two hobbies: going to church and raising foster kids. Dozens of children funneled through her home. They, like her own grandchildren, called her “Grandma Green.”

Paramedics and police responded to the emergency call, but the white officer became hostile.

“What happened? Who shot you?” Green recalled the officer saying to her grandson, according to an 11-page letter in which she detailed the incident for her lawyer. Excerpts from the letter were included in her lawsuit. “You’re lying. You know you were shot inside that house. We ain’t going to help you because you are lying.”

“Mister, he isn’t lying,” replied Green, who had no criminal record. “He came from down that way running, calling me to call the ambulance.”

The officer, who is not identified in the lawsuit, wanted to go into the basement, but Green demanded a warrant. Her grandson kept two dogs downstairs and she feared they would attack. The officer unhooked the lock, but Green latched it.

He shoved Green against the wall. She hit the wooden floor.

“Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up,” Green recalled the officer saying as he stood over her. “He pulled me up, pushed me in the dining room over the couch, put his knees in my back, twisted my arms and wrist and put handcuffs on my hands and threw me face down on the couch.”

After pulling Green to her feet, the officer told her she was under arrest. Green complained of pain.

“My neck and shoulder are hurting,” Green told him. “Please take these handcuffs off.”

An African-American officer then walked in the house, saw her sobbing and asked that the handcuffs be removed since Green wasn’t violent.

The cuffs came off, and Green didn’t face any charges. But a broken shoulder tormented her for months.

“I am here because of injuries received to my body by a police officer,” Green wrote on stationery stamped with “wish on a star” at the bottom of each page. “I am suffering with pain and at night I can hardly sleep since this incident occurred.”

In June 2010, she sued the officers; an April 2012 settlement required the city to pay her $95,000.

Green died six weeks later of natural causes

Many Baltimoreans who reached similar settlements declined to be interviewed about the alleged police misconduct — with good reason.

A clause in the city’s agreements prohibits any public statement about the incident that triggered the lawsuit. Limitations on “public statements shall include a prohibition in discussing any facts or allegations … with the news media” except to say the lawsuit has been settled, it states.

The penalty for talking? City lawyers could sue to get back as much as half or more of the settlement.

That amount is negotiated in each case, depending on the severity of the allegations, said David Ralph, deputy city solicitor. The amount of money involved is shielded from the public because the clause might never be triggered, he said, adding that in “99.9 percent of the cases it’s never an issue.”

Such “non-disparagement” clauses are common in legal settlements, he noted. “We don’t want to pay taxpayers’ money and then have people saying things that they couldn’t say in court. Some facts are hotly disputed.”

In such settlements, the city and the officers involved do not acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Starr Brown, an East Baltimore woman who reached a settlement agreement, wanted to talk about her arrest — an encounter with police that left the pregnant accountant face down, bleeding and bruised, on the sidewalk. (Her baby was unhurt.)

BALTIMORE POLICE
Starr Brown said officers slammed her to the ground on Sept. 18, 2009. She was pregnant.

But Brown, a Morgan State University graduate, said the clause prevented her from sharing details, so the events of Sept. 18, 2009, can only be reconstructed from court transcripts.

Returning home with her young daughter as the sun set, Brown was on the front steps of her brick house when she spotted two girls walking along North Luzerne Avenue.

Suddenly, a group of about 20 girls came from the other direction and attacked the two girls.

Brown, who went into her house to avoid the fighting, watched the beating through a window. Other neighbors called 911, but by the time officers Karen Crisafulli and Andrew Galletti arrived, the attackers had fled.

Brown, who was then 26, could hear the officers yelling at the victims and came outside to urge the officers to chase the girls who had fled. An argument started, and Galletti lunged at her, she later testified in court.

She grabbed the iron railing, but Galletti wrapped his arm around her neck. She said she screamed that she was pregnant, but Galletti responded, “[We] hear it all the time.”

“He comes and grabs my arms,” Brown, who had no criminal record, testified. “He’s like, ‘You’re getting arrested. You’re coming with me.’”

“They slammed me down on my face,” Brown added, her voice cracking. “The skin was gone on my face. …

“I was tossed like a rag doll. He had his knee on my back and neck. She had her knee on my back trying to put handcuffs on me.”

The officers arrested her for obstruction, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and assault. She fought the charges in District Court in March 2010.

The officers minimized the incident and Brown’s injuries, telling the judge that her screams drew a crowd and she refused to go back in her house. Crisafulli said Brown hit the ground after letting go of the railing.

“It was like a sling shot,” Crisafulli testified. “The resistance stopped. We all fell off the porch.”

Brown then kicked and flailed, Crisafulli added, noting that bystanders told the officers that Brown was pregnant. Crisafulli said Brown scratched her with fingernails; Galletti said Brown bit his arm and knuckle.

But the testimony of two witnesses confirmed Brown’s version of events.

“Mrs. Brown was standing up in her doorway,” said neighbor Ruby Lee. “They threw her to the ground, and [Galletti] put his knee in her back.”

The judge acquitted Brown of all criminal charges. She sued in April 2010 and settled the case in March 2011 for $125,000.

Scandals have plagued Baltimore’s Police Department in recent years. Sixteen officers were convicted in a kickback scheme with a towing company, and another was convicted of selling heroin from the Northwest District police station’s parking lot.

When Rawlings-Blake hired Batts in 2012, the mayor talked about Baltimore becoming “the safest big city in America.” Batts earned a reputation of building community engagement during his 30 years of leading departments on the West Coast.

ALGERINA PERNA
Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts has vowed to eliminate police misconduct.

But ridding the Baltimore agency of misconduct may not be easy. The agency’s strategic plan, released late last year, said discipline “has not always been a priority for the Baltimore Police Department,” and it has been common “for cases in this department to take as many as three years to resolve.” A more recent consultant’s report on the Internal Affairs Division said detectives lack training and often take shortcuts when investigating officers suspected of misconduct.

Many complaints have focused on the Violent Crimes Impact Section, which had more than 260 officers in 2012. City Council members and community activists said those officers used heavy-handed tactics and had no accountability.

In addition to the allegations of excessive force, officers in the unit were accused by prosecutors of lying on a search warrant and working to protect a drug dealer in order to make arrests. One received six months of home detention; the other went to prison for eight years for protecting the drug dealer.

Three other members were charged in 2010 with kidnapping two city teens and leaving one in a Howard County state park without shoes, socks or his cellphone. A jury acquitted two officers of assault, kidnapping and false imprisonment but convicted them of misconduct.

In September 2012, the unit sparked outrage when a detective threw Anthony Anderson, 46, to the ground during a drug arrest. Anderson’s spleen ruptured, and he died a short time later.

The state medical examiner’s office said the death was a homicide caused by blunt force trauma. But Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein declined to bring charges, ruling that the officers did not use excessive force and followed police guidelines. The family filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that three detectives kicked Anderson for several minutes; the case is ongoing.

Batts disbanded the Violent Crimes Impact Section in December 2012 in response to complaints and created the Special Enforcement Section to address spikes in serious crimes. The unit has about 130 officers.

The name change brought a new direction, Rodriguez said. New leaders have been appointed and officers are wearing uniforms that identify them as police.

“It’s not just a philosophical and name change,” he said. “What is acceptable has changed.”

Still, misconduct persists.

This year, other officers have been accused of killing a dog while off-duty in February and of an attempted homicide in April. An officer went to jail in April for 45 days for beating a drug suspect who had broken into his girlfriend’s home. Another officer was arrested in June and charged with slitting a Shar-Pei’s throat while on duty; he has pleaded not guilty.

The Violent Crimes Impact Section detectives who testified in Lyles’ lawsuit — which accused police of hitting him at the P&J Carry Out in East Baltimore — appeared confident on the witness stand as Domenic Iamele, Lyles’ attorney, pressed for answers on the injuries.

Detective Greene told jurors Lyles became hostile in the carryout and tried walking away. Lyles lifted his hands up as Greene tried to stop him, the officer said.

“Did Mr. Lyles touch his face?” Iamele asked.

“I don’t know if Mr. Lyles touched his face,” Greene replied, noting that he blinked and could have missed it. He suggested Lyles injured himself. “That’s the only thing that could’ve happened. I don’t know how he broke the bridge of his nose.”

“You didn’t punch him in the nose?”

“No sir.”

Sgt. Michael Guzman told jurors he didn’t recall being in the store or seeing anything suspicious.

Lyles then told jurors about another incident: Three weeks after his nose was broken, Lt. Christopher Nyberg and Detective Paul Southard stopped him near his apartment on Moravia Park Road.

The officers ordered Lyles to drop his pants and underwear. He did. They told him to squat and cough. He did — out of fear. Lyles testified that an officer then searched his genitals for drugs and rammed a gloved finger in his rectum.

He told jurors the incident wasn’t a “coincidence.” He believed the officers were retaliating because he had complained about his broken nose.

Jurors awarded Lyles $500,000 for the incident at the carryout, but the judge reduced it to $200,000 to comply with a state law that caps damages in suits against municipalities.

The city also paid Lyles $24,000 to settle a separate lawsuit related to the street search.

Today, Lyles, who served probation for credit card theft in 1999, is reluctant to talk about the civil trial.

“I’m afraid of the police,” he said. “I want to speak out, but it could be dangerous. These people are dangerous. Internal Affairs is not like they say they are. I complained. They said it was unsustained.”

Rodney Hill, who took over the Internal Affairs Division in May 2013, confirmed that Lyles’ complaint was not sustained — meaning investigators could not prove it was true. Police said Southard left the force in May 2012, but would not say whether it was related to Lyles’ case, noting that state law prohibits the disclosure of personnel matters. Police would not say whether the other officers were disciplined.

Civil rights abuses can tarnish a police department’s image in any city, experts say. Strained relationships make it difficult for officers to gain trust on the streets — from getting tips to solving crimes to winning taxpayer support to hire more officers.

“All of those things are put in jeopardy,” said David A. Harris, an expert at the University of Pittsburgh Law School on police misconduct and accountability. “People will tend to view [police] as illegitimate. This is a real problem for police departments.”

Good, solid policing requires mutual respect between officers and residents, he added.

Rawlings-Blake acknowledged the importance of that relationship in an interview about the costly settlements. “It is a sacred covenant that each officer makes with members of the community, and when it’s broken, it’s devastating for not just the victim, but it’s devastating for our ability to move forward as a city.”

She said the relationship between the community and police has improved since Batts was hired, noting that residents are providing more tips to Crime Stoppers and making fewer complaints about discourteous officers.

But more than a dozen bystanders who were named in court records or who testified in court declined to talk to The Sun about the arrests and altercations that they witnessed — saying, like Lyles, that they feared retaliation from police.

City Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said police leaders need to cleanse the force of bad officers.

“We have to expedite the process,” Scott said. “We have to fire them. We can’t afford to keep paying these settlements. These folks that are beating people have to go.”

The Sun’s findings come as the nation’s attention has been focused on a white officer’s shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. — an incident that triggered days of violent protests. The officer said he acted in self-defense, but many area residents saw the shooting as a symptom of racially biased policing.

The shooting triggered a nationwide debate on the use of force by police, and U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced an investigation of the town’s police department. Published reports noted that five current and one former member of the 53-officer agency faced pending federal lawsuits that claimed they used excessive force.

Such broad inquiries by the Department of Justice’s civil rights division examine whether officers have a history of discrimination or using force beyond standard guidelines. They typically lead to consent decrees and years of court monitoring. Twenty federal probes have started in the past six years, in cities that include Cleveland, New Orleans and Portland.

Attorney A. Dwight Pettit questions why the Department of Justice hasn’t opened an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department.

He has filed scores of lawsuits against officers, and his office gets dozens of calls each week from people alleging police abuse. He says he only takes the cases in which injuries are visible.

“It’s absolutely called for,” Pettit said, noting the long list of settlements and court judgments involving city police. “Baltimore City is so much out of control, the Police Department, in my opinion, warrants federal intervention and investigation.”

Five years after an incident that left her injured, Barbara Floyd still wonders what happened to the officer she said attacked her.

“I believe in justice,” Floyd said, recounting a confrontation with undercover officers who were making a drug sweep in her McElderry Park neighborhood. “That’s what I believe in. I don’t think people should be treated like animals — even guilty ones. But I was an innocent one.”

On a Tuesday afternoon in March 2009, Floyd spotted a crowd of officers and bystanders up the street, her lawsuit stated. She then heard a detective threaten to fire a stun gun at her 20-year-old grandson.

Floyd, who was 58 at the time and without a criminal record, climbed down the four steps of her gray brick rowhouse to usher her grandson away from the drug operation.

After being told to leave, she said she walked home and leaned on a tree. Someone suddenly wrapped an arm around her neck and threw her to the ground.

“I was struggling ’cause I didn’t know who it was,” Floyd recalled in an interview that mirrored her descriptions in court records. “He was trying to grab my arms. He put his knee on my neck. He put another leg in the small of my back. He was grinding my face to the pavement.”

Though she was face down on the sidewalk, she heard Detective Joseph Grossman, a member of the Violent Crimes Impact Section, scream at her to lie down.

Floyd, who is 4-foot-11 and 107 pounds, couldn’t breathe with Grossman on her back. A struggle ensued and Floyd tried standing, but Grossman kept her down while handcuffing her.

Her vision faded.

“After that I thought I was gonna die because I had tunnel vision,” she said in the interview, fighting back tears. “Everything had gotten dark, dark and black.”

When the altercation ended, Floyd had gashes on her forehead, face and knees. Paramedics treated her before she was taken to jail.

But because her blood pressure topped 200, jailers declined to admit her to the Central Booking and Intake Facility, according to court records. Medics rushed her to Mercy Hospital.

After she was released from the hospital, Grossman charged her with resisting arrest and obstruction.

In charging documents, he gave a different account of the incident, accusing Floyd of stepping between officers and her grandson. When officers ordered the grandson to leave, he refused. Floyd then “adopted a hostile and aggressive posture” and tried to pull him away, Grossman wrote. Officers then tried to arrest her, but she tried breaking away and fell face-first to the ground. When officers handcuffed Floyd, she scraped “her forehead on the sidewalk, causing a minor laceration.”

Floyd soon received a letter from Internal Affairs stating that Grossman and another officer were being investigated for misconduct.

Still, Floyd was ashamed to go outside after the melee.

“My face was a mess,” she recalled, her voice dropping as she stared at the street from a kitchen chair. “My hair was gone on that side. I was bruised up. Not only my face, my arms, my legs. My whole body was sore.”

She is still upset that officers ignored her questions that day. “All they do is tell you to shut the hell up.”

Floyd, who reached a $30,000 settlement in 2011, initially declined to discuss her case when The Sun contacted her in May. The next day, she changed her mind and agreed to an interview, even though she fears retaliation from police and city lawyers for speaking out, and has moved out of the city.

Hill, the Internal Affairs chief, said her complaint against Grossman was not sustained. Grossman left the force in July 2012, but officials declined to say why, noting the legal restrictions on releasing personnel records to the public. He joined the Baltimore County Police Department the same month; that agency would not make him available for comment.

Although the city’s settlements and judgments have totaled $5.7 million since 2011, a state law may have saved Baltimore taxpayers millions of dollars. The Local Government Tort Claims Act caps damages against local governments at $200,000 per claim.

Taxpayers in other cities aren’t as lucky. Cleveland and Dallas have paid between $500,000 and more than $1 million to settle individual police misconduct cases.

The Dallas Police Department has paid $6.6 million in 26 settlements and judgments since 2011; the Miami-Dade County department paid $1.8 million over that period in an unspecified number of cases. Both agencies are similar in size to Baltimore’s.

In addition to the settlements and jury awards, Baltimore has paid $5.8 million to outside law firms to defend those lawsuits and others since July 2010.

According to city policy, officials are bound to defend officers as long as they follow departmental guidelines when using force to make arrests. An agreement between the city and police union guarantees that taxpayers will pay court damages in such cases.

Although police officials declined to release individual personnel records, they did discuss the issue in broad terms, saying that from 2012 through July, the department received 3,048 misconduct complaints against officers. Of those, officials sustained 1,203 complaints — 39 percent — meaning investigators could prove the claims were true.

That led to 61 resignations and discipline for more than 850 officers, measures ranging from written reprimands to suspensions.

But in some cases that resulted in settlements or judgments, officers were not disciplined even after they were found liable in court.

Cherry, the union president, said it would be unfair to discipline officers if they were cleared in internal investigations. He stressed that nobody can predict how a jury will decide cases.

“The [officers] who get the most complaints are the ones who are doing their work,” he said. “These may be some of the best officers.”

Salahudeen Abdul-Aziz was awarded $170,000 in 2011 by a Baltimore jury as compensation for a beating by police in West Baltimore’s Upton area. But he remains haunted by the incident and fears the police.

The nightmare began on a warm day in September 2009 as he walked out of a corner store and headed toward Westwood Street, sipping on a cold soda and munching on potato chips.

Abdul-Aziz, then 24, was hurrying back to his aunt’s air-conditioned home. On the way, he joined up with a neighborhood acquaintance.

Officers Robert Stokes and Marvin Gross spotted them leave an alley in a well-known drug area, according to charging documents. As the officers neared, the man with Abdul-Aziz tossed a glass vial with white powder.

Abdul-Aziz was questioned, handcuffed and put in the back of a cruiser as officers quizzed the other man on the curb. As Abdul-Aziz wriggled his hands, trying to adjust his wristwatch, he was yanked out of the car.

The officers slammed him onto the ground and started punching him in the face, two witnesses testified at a 2011 civil trial over police misconduct allegations. One witness said the officers switched positions “probably six times” during the beating, as Gross “hit him five or six times with his fist.”

Abdul-Aziz was helpless. “I was unable to do anything. I was handcuffed,” he testified.

He described a broken nose and facial fracture, along with severe swelling and a hemorrhage in his right eye — injuries that took more than three weeks to heal.

“What was your state of mind that day?” his lawyer asked.

Abdul-Aziz replied, “I thought I was gonna die that day.”

Gross’ account of the incident was different. He said he saw Abdul-Aziz, hands cuffed behind his back, wiggle around in the cruiser. Gross thought Abdul-Aziz was hiding drugs, so he pulled him from the car and told him to open his hands. But Abdul-Aziz tried to head-butt Gross and run, the officer testified.

The officers said they feared for their safety and tackled Abdul-Aziz.

Abdul-Aziz tried getting up, but the officers ordered him to stop. Gross placed a forearm across Abdul-Aziz’s chest and Stokes pinned his legs to the ground, Gross said, adding: “He just refused to stay still.”

“What was Mr. Abdul-Aziz doing that was illegal?” Abdul-Aziz’s lawyer asked.

“He wasn’t doing anything,” Gross replied. “That’s why I conducted a field interview.”

Stokes told jurors he didn’t hit Abdul-Aziz. “I didn’t really do anything except hold his legs down,” Stokes said, adding he didn’t see Abdul-Aziz do anything illegal before the stop.

Abdul-Aziz was vindicated by the court system. After a two-day civil trial in February 2011, jurors awarded him damages. And a judge dismissed criminal charges of resisting arrest, assault, drug possession and disorderly conduct.

Still, Abdul-Aziz, who was found guilty of carrying a firearm in 2005, is upset that despite his complaint, police officials said the two officers were cleared by an internal investigation.

“If I fight on any other job or beat up anybody, I’m terminated,” Abdul-Aziz, 29, said recently in his Baltimore home.

“You beat up a citizen for no reason and had no real probable cause, and you still have your jobs. That’s crazy. These cops still have jobs.”

Police officials say a host of department reforms are underway to address misconduct.

For example, months after taking over, Batts created the Professional Standards and Accountability Bureau, which oversees training, policies and all internal issues, and pushed to eliminate a backlog of more than 130 disciplinary cases.

He moved to toughen trial boards, which hear disciplinary cases after complaints are investigated internally, by changing their makeup. They now consist of two command staff members and a lieutenant instead of a command staff member, a lieutenant and a person of the same rank as the accused. As a result, the rate at which officers are held responsible has jumped from 57 percent to 88 percent, officials say.

A computer system implemented five months ago tracks lawsuits filed against officers, Rodriguez said.

The information is combined with another tracking system in use since 2010. That system tracks matters such as injuries from arrests, citizen complaints and use-of-force reports. It is designed to enable police leaders to intervene with counseling, better supervision, training and, if appropriate, disciplinary action.

“We’re monitoring them where it was not done before,” Rodriguez said, adding that “bugs” are being worked out as the department studies the best national standards to measure officers. Other police agencies, including the Maryland State Police, already use the same system.

Still, the tracking system has shortcomings. For example, police officials acknowledge that it does not include lawsuits that concluded before the agency started tracking them this year.

Samuel Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, isn’t surprised that Baltimore lacked a system to track lawsuits. “It has a national reputation of not being a professional and effective department.”

Former Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who retired from the department in 2012, declined to be interviewed about the issue, but said through a spokesman that he had worked to eliminate misconduct and improve the agency’s relationship with residents.

“Commissioner Bealefeld was committed to making Baltimore a safer city while building a professional, community-focused and accountable police department,” said the spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi.

Asked about investigations into allegations of police brutality, Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein said his office has prosecuted 10 officers for assault and 10 others for less serious offenses since 2011. In some high-profile deaths, officers were not prosecuted because they had only seconds to make decisions, Bernstein said. That’s very different from cases where officers are more deliberate and assault handcuffed suspects, he added.

KIM HAIRSTON
Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein says his office has been tough on police misconduct.

He said that improved training and recruitment, a better discipline process, and greater transparency would enhance the Police Department’s trust with the community.

“It’s a real issue for us in Baltimore,” Bernstein said.

Young, the City Council president, says many African-American residents have an uneasy relationship with the police force.

“Every black male or every African-American in this city are not criminals and shouldn’t be treated as such,” Young said. “I was stopped myself a couple times, and I am the president of City Council.”

He wants officers trained to communicate better with residents. He’s heard too many complaints about them not allowing people to talk to defend themselves.

“They violate your civil rights and tell you you can’t talk,” Young said.

He added: “[Residents] fear the police more than they fear the drug dealers on the corner.”

 

 

Police, white gun owners and white privilege How it’s done in the ‘burbs


Amazing story of how an armed white citizen is dealt with by police and the lengths people like him, citizens, go through to show they have “privileges” that ordinary citizens don’t

opencarry640An open carry activist in Madison, Michigan, caused a high school to be placed on lockdown last week, and then began taunting police officers who were called by parents who saw the man marching in front of the school while carrying a loaded shotgun.

The incident occurred last Thursday morning when a man carrying a shotgun and video camera began walking in front of Lamphere High School. As you might expect, police officials said they “received about a million 911 calls” from concerned residents in the neighborhood. The high school was then placed on lockdown for nearly an hour, until police,

“…determined the man was exercising his right to open carry and was not a threat.”

So a man near a school with a shotgun isn’t a threat? Excuse me if I beg to differ, but I happen to be a parent! If a guy is brandishing a gun outside the school my daughter attends, he is most definitely a threat!

The story, however, merely begins with the open carry lugnut and his “right” to have a loaded gun outside a school. The man, who as yet is unidentified—he goes by the YouTube handle Nunya Beeswax—then copped an attitude when the police began to ask him a few questions. An officer is heard asking the man how long he planned to be out in front of the school, to which he replied:

“Oh, the funny thing about you’re asking me a question is, I’m not going to answer it […] Anything I say can be held against me in a court of law, right?”

At this point, the officer tells Mr. Beeswax he has no plans to arrest him, and this only makes him angrier:

“Are you going to shoot me? […] That badge on my chest gives him no more rights than I have. You work for me and the tax payers, right?”

No, the officer says, he merely wants to have a conversation with Beeswax. Beeswax then took his lunacy to the next level, saying:

“No, I’m trying to talk to you, tough guy […] We all know y’all are chompin’ at the bit to put something on me.”

The officers got back into their cars and left Beeswax alone with his shotgun, his camera, and the voices in his head telling him to cause a scene and make a total asshat of  himself.

Even other open carry advocates were offended by the actions of Beeswax. A pro-gun blog entitled “Bearing Arms”posted this message:

“Law enforcement officers were diverted, and school was disrupted, because this ‘gentleman’ insisted on open carrying past a high school, seemingly with the express intent of getting a rise out of authorities and making a public spectacle out of himself.”

I respect the right of Americans to legally possess guns for their personal protection. But the day you start doing so outside a school my child attends, I am going to call you on that action. As the old saying goes: Your rights end where my rights begin.

 

 

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Police and their abuse of power


I saw a title, referring to the story that appears below, that said ‘Never, Never Call the Cops For “Help” Unless You’re Willing to Risk Someone Being Shot and Killed’ and that’s what happened in this story. It is a travesty of justice that an American was arrested for being at his own home, as was the case for Henry Louis Gates but being shot and killed by police in your home because relatives wanted the police to perform a ‘welfare check’ is incomprehensible.

James Howard Allen

James Howard Allen

When James Howard Allen’s family members asked police to stop by his home for a welfare check on Saturday, they were hoping authorities could help ensure he was safe.

Instead, their request set in motion a series of unlikely events that resulted in the 74-year-old North Carolina man’s death.

Allen was killed by an officer’s bullet, the result of a confrontation that occurred when officers from the Gastonia Police Department entered his home and found Allen, an Army veteran, pointing a handgun at them.

Now, relatives want answers, and two official investigations are underway.

“I am so hurt that he had to die like this,” Allen’s sister, Mary Battle, told ABC affiliate WSOC. “Maybe the police were frightened. Maybe they were. I don’t know. But he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Gastonia Police DepartmentGastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said at a news conference that police were initially dispatched to the home around 10:20 p.m. on Saturday,according to the Charlotte Observer. When nobody answered the door, the officers left and were asked to perform a check of local hospitals in search of Allen.

At 11:30 p.m., after officers failed to locate him, police returned to Allen’s residence with local fire officials, according to the Observer.

“A decision was made to enter the house, concerned that he may be inside in need of emergency assistance,” said Helton, the police chief.

Gastonia Police Officer Josh Lefevers

Gastonia Police Officer Josh Lefevers

Before entering through the back door, Officer Josh Lefevers announced his presence, Helton said. Once inside, Lefevers encountered Allen, who was pointing a handgun at him.

“He was challenged to lower the gun down,” Helton said at a news conference. “The gun was pointed in the direction of the officers, and a shot was fired that fatally wounded him.”

Why did police feel the need to enter?

Authorities had been made aware that Allen recently underwent heart surgery, Helton said, according to the Gaston Gazette, and were “concerned that he may be inside in need of emergency assistance.”

Lefevers was placed on administrative leave while police conduct their own investigation, according to the Observer. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is conducting a separate investigation into the shooting.

Allen’s family members are demanding more information. His brother-in-law, Robert Battle, told WSOC that Allen “probably woke up, someone’s breaking in on me, so when you’re by yourself you try to protect yourself.

A friend, Otis Thompson, said he can understand why Allen a gun in his hand.

“You kicked the man’s door in,” he told the station. “He’s disoriented and he’s in his own house, privacy of his own home; my first reaction would be to grab a gun, too.”

I have more than a few questions swirling in my head, like why did the police enter from the back and not the front of the house, how many times did officer Lefevers identify himself to Allen upon entering the home…….waking someone up from their sleep in the middle of the night is disorienting for anyone, least of all someone living alone and recovering from major surgery; was the officer’s gun drawn when he encountered Mr. Allen, was he in uniform, plainclothes or wearing the military style police uniform we’ve all become so used to seeing police wearing; what duty did the officer have to retreat versus the legal occupant of the home? I could perhaps come up with a few more.  Bottom line, the welfare check involving the police had a predictable outcome. The welfare of Mr. Allen is he is deceased at the hands of the police.  Take note America and don’t call the police if you don’t want anyone killed.