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War on Cops: It Takes a Village to Kill a Cop

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Last spring was a bloody time for police officers. Chicago buried three officers in fast succession.  Tampa/St. Pete, where I live, saw two officers gunned down and two more wounded (seven more police in Florida, three in Tampa/St. Pete alone, have been shot to death since then).  Nationwide, by the end of the year, 59 cops had been murdered in shootings.  The previous year, 2009, ended on a bloody note, too.  On November 29, in Lakewood, Washington, Maurice Clemmons gunned down four officers as they sat eating breakfast in a restaurant.

Maurice Clemmons

Despite a lifelong history of extreme violence and mental instability, Clemmons’ primary experience of the justice system was “catch and release,” that is, the police caught him, and everybody else let him go.  So when he went really off the deep end, is it any wonder that he picked cops — and not judges, or lawyers, or parole board members, or politicians — for his targets?  Then-Arkansas-Governor Mike Huckabee pardoned Clemmons in 1999 despite a disturbing and precocious record of violence on the streets and while in custody.

Mike Huckabee

Huckabee grandstanded about his Christian motives for releasing Clemmons and other predators, as Clemmons immediately began committing crimes again: aggravated robbery, theft, parole violation.  But Arkansas justice officials continued their pattern of leniency: he managed to get out of one ten-year sentence in only two years, and his parole violations were simply ignored.  A free man, Clemmons moved to Washington in 2004.

In 2009, he assaulted neighbors, passing cars, a police officer and jail employees.  Yet in the amnesiatic calculus of sentencing, he was only charged with a fraction of these assaults and was released on bail.  That week, he sexually assaulted two young nieces and held them captive.  Arrested again, he was evaluated by psychologists who said that he was dangerous, but another judge granted him bail.

Unsurprisingly, Clemmons also ignored the terms of that bail: he had been taught by “the system” that breaking the law after an arrest is frequently overlooked.  Arkansas authorities notified Washington state and said they didn’t care that he had violated parole in their state, so he was not extradited.  He purchased guns and showed them to several relatives and friends, telling them that he was going to kill policemen and schoolchildren.  He did this at a Thanksgiving dinner at which he was apparently welcomed despite the sexual assault of his child relatives.  He talked there about his plans to cut off his GPS monitor in order to lure police to his house to kill them.  Nobody called the police to warn them.  He cut the GPS monitor off his ankle, and nothing happened to him.  He even told people that he had tried to drive to a police station to start shooting people but had experienced car problems.  Nobody dialed 911.

The story of Maurice Clemmons is like a fable where people drift slowly towards a crisis, seemingly without the means to veer away.  Yet this is not true: anyone might have alerted police that Clemmons had purchased a weapon and was planning to use it to kill innocent police officers and schoolchildren.  On the other hand, what if someone did dial 911?  The police know that the Maurice Clemmons of the world are protected by many rules and just as many exceptions to rules.  What if they picked him up, and the incident turned into an ambush where others were hurt?  They would be blamed for framing an “innocent” man, a man who had “done nothing more than complain about police brutality in the past,” as the story would doubtlessly be told.  The child-rapes, threats, previous assaults on authorities, and Clemmons’ criminal past would all be erased in favor of an image of a persecuted minority man.  This is precisely the way the shameless Christian Science Monitor spun the story of another cop-killer in Georgia this week.   Thus are the flames of anti-police hatred fanned.

A fellow Arkansas felon who was also in violation of parole drove Clemmons to the town of Lakewood.  When the men saw a police car, Clemmons got out, walked into the restaurant where four officers were sharing breakfast, and shot them dead: Mark Renninger, 39; Ronald Owens, 37; Tina Griswold, 40; and Greg Richards, 42.  Clemmons’ friend drove him away, and other people, including his sister, helped him escape town. Someone phoned in a false tip to police, which delayed his capture and endangered innocent people.  Clemmons was finally caught two days later, when his car broke down.  Armed with a dead officer’s gun, he charged another police officer, who shot him.

It takes a village to kill four policemen. Mike Huckabee, judges and parole board members in two states, Clemmons’ relatives and friends, his wife, his aunt, and his sister: they all contributed to the murders.  High-ranking court officials in two states made decisions that released Clemmons back into society no matter what he did and no matter what he said he would do next.  Psychologists said he was dangerous; he held two little girls captive, one for days, and sexually assaulted them, and still there were no immediate consequences, and he was welcomed by family and friends.  Only police tried to remove him from the streets, and only police died.

This is the real war on cops: it involves hatred, and negligence by many authorities who aren’t policemen.  All through 2010, when one officer after another was gunned down in Chicago, and Memphis, and Tampa, and Los Angeles, Barack Obama said nothing.  Eric Holder, “the nation’s top cop,” remained silent.

It may be disturbing, but their silence shouldn’t be surprising.  Both men have credentials that place them, politically, in opposition to police.  Throughout Holder’s career, he has taken extreme positions against police safety, representing terrorists and even securing the release of murderers who targeted cops.  It was incongruous for Holder to remain silent as men and women under his command experienced rising levels of violence.  But it would have also been incongruous had he chosen to speak out, given his previous alliances with anti-cop social movements.

Was it incongruous for Obama to insist on staging a televised “beer summit,” allegedly designed to ease tensions between blacks and police, without once acknowledging the rising death toll of police officers of all races?  Between the time when Harvard Professor Henry Gates was arrested and briefly detained, and Obama’s famous “beer summit” with Gates and the publicly chastened officer, six cops were killed or succumbed to wounds received in the line of duty.  Six cops dead in a little more than a week, and in the Rose Garden, not one word was said about the public’s responsibility towards cops, or the sacrifices these cops made to keep people safe.

Thus Henry Gates’ temporary discomfort at the hands of an officer who was actually just trying to protect Professor Gates’ property was deemed more important that the murders of six cops, so much more important that the dead police were not even part of the conversation.  This is a calculus, too.

Deputy Sheriff Robbie Chase Whitebird, Seminole County, OK; Deputy Sheriff Marvin Gene Williams, Seminole County, OK; Sgt. David Joseph Kinterknecht, Montrose, CO; Border Patrol Agent Robert Wimer Rosas, Jr.; Sgt. Steven Edward May, Modesto, CA; Detective Marc Anthony DiNardo, Jersey City, NJ.  Oklahoma, New Jersey, California, Colorado, Texas.  Six cops who died while the President and the Attorney General grandstanded against the police.

The “Beer Summit”

A year later, Obama and Holder still had nothing to say when violence against police took a terrible toll in their hometown, Chicago.  Thomas E. Wortham IV, a young Chicago officer who had ironically just returned from the memorial for murdered police officers in D.C., was gunned down in front of his father, a retired police officer.  Two other Chicago cops were soon dead, to resounding silence from the White House and the Justice Department.  Imagine how powerful it would have been if Obama had travelled to Chicago and talked about those deaths.  He did return to Chicago for a vacation at that time.  But he said nothing in public about the loss of policemen’s lives.

Police Officer Thomas E. Wortham IV, Police Officer Thor Odin Soderberg, Police Officer Michael Ray Bailey Sr., all Chicago PD.

According to the Officer Down website, since 2009 there have been 128 officers killed by gunfire, nine fatal assaults, and 21 vehicle assaults — 159 officers murdered in 27 months.  This represents a steep rise which continues to grow steeper this year.  Last week, Eric Holder finally acknowledged the war on cops.  But he wasn’t exactly passionate about it, the way he is with pro-offender issues, like “prisoner re-entry.”

He did announce one promising initiative:

Ask local prosecutors to identify the “worst of the worst” – offenders with criminal histories who cycle in and out of local jails and state prisons – and discuss whether any of these repeat offenders may be prosecuted under federal law for offenses that make the offender eligible for a stiffer sentence.

Considering the careers of men like Maurice Clemmons, that makes sense.  But it is also in direct conflict with scores of programs and research studies Holder has been sponsoring that single-mindedly promote “alternatives to incarceration,” the types of programs that enabled Clemmons to be out on the streets in the first place and fed his paranoid, obsessive hatred.  Such studies — academic activism, really — always manage to prove what the researchers were seeking: that incarceration “doesn’t work,” or is “unfair” merely because there are higher percentages of blacks than whites in prison.  These claims become powerful instruments in the political movements to roll back effective sentencing in the states, including sentencing for prolific recidivists like Clemmons, who directly benefitted from efforts to reduce sentences for people convicted of crimes at a young age (one of Holder’s most passionate causes).

So why use federal law to target recidivists while you’re also quietly undercutting laws in the states that target recidivists?

Philosophically and politically, Obama and Holder side with those who oppose the best measures that tackle offenders who pose the biggest risks to police: amoral adolescents with guns and repeat offenders who ought to be serving long sentences.  More importantly, through relentless talk about perceived racial injustices, Eric Holder has fed the paranoid anger of those who believe that law enforcement is illegitimate — this is, after all, the man who put his own career on the line to free FALN terrorists who targeted police and innocent civilians.

That, he certainly believed in.

Holder has a great deal more work to do before he proves that he is no longer accommodating the village that sees nothing wrong, and a great deal to recommend, in killing cops.  I don’t think the nation’s so-called “top cop” is really all that interested in protecting policemen’s lives.  Somebody has to say it.

Annals of Social Justice: Anarchists Protest Police, Unkindness, Dudes Who Want to Start Protests on Time

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From a very funny Eric Lacitis of the Seattle Times, deadpan news coverage:

PROTEST AGAINST POLICE GETS PUSHY

An anti-police protest that started in downtown Seattle and went to Capitol Hill featured about 60 to 70 self-described anarchists, most looking to be in their 20s, and about 30 police officers on bicycles with an additional five on horse patrol. . . The demonstrators, many dressed anarchist style in black jeans and black hoodies with black bandannas covering their faces, shouted slogans such as, “Cops, pigs, murderers!” and kicked over a garbage can or two.

“Anarchist style.”  Because you don’t want to dress like just anyone if you’re a free spirit.

[A] young woman, who had a metal pin through the bridge of her nose, was handing out little cardboard cards that read, handwritten in pink, “I am an anarchist & I care about you!” The card included a peace sign.  ”A lot of people see anarchists as angry and aggressive people,” she said. “That’s definitely not true. We’re not about violence.”

Unless you’re a garbage can.  It’s also really hard to drink soda through a bandanna:

She was with a young man who was complaining that wearing a bandanna covering his face interfered with drinking his Mountain Dew.

Unlike most of the protestors, the reporter showed up on time, a seemingly unchallenging six in the evening:

The protest didn’t start out promisingly.  It had a scheduled start time of 6 p.m. at Westlake Park, but by then only half a dozen people had shown up. . . By 6:30 p.m. the group of anarchists and supporters had grown to 70.  Herded by the police, they went around the block. As happens in demonstrations, a couple of individuals who seem to relish attention did a lot of shouting.

Ha.

The anarchists stood by the edge of Cal Anderson Park that’s near the precinct station, waving black flags and signs with messages like, “What we want begins with a no.”  They shouted slogans such as, “There ain’t no power like the power of the people, because the power of the people don’t stop.”  There was some more shouting, the cops stood impassively blocking the protesters from going into the street, and then eventually the anarchists straggled off.

Don’t miss the video.  The cops have much cooler, all-black outfits than the protestors.  Is it just me, but if the power of the people doesn’t stop, how does it also begin with a no?

Jordan Gibson, Jose Reyes, Wilson Gomez, Leonard Scroggins: “I didn’t want to be one of those cases where you find my remains three years from now.”

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You wouldn’t know it from the way many in the media cover crime, but recidivists with extremely violent records are still routinely cut loose from prison early, or allowed to stay free while awaiting trial.

Or allowed to attend high school with nobody knowing they’re sex offenders.

But wait, isn’t America supposed to be a police state, where people sometimes shockingly serve full sentences for their crimes?  Not in these cases:

Jordan Anthony Gibson, Atlanta, Georgia:

Gibson is currently a suspect in multiple rapes.  But even though he was caught in 2009 with items belonging to the rape victims, it took police a year to get back DNA results from the State Crime Lab positively tying him to two of the sex crimes.  This story says a lot about the state’s priorities, letting a suspected serial rapist’s DNA collect dust on a shelf for 13 months while some judge actually let the suspect walk free.  It also says a lot about the way the defense bar has convinced the judiciary to raise the bar way too high on evidence in criminal convictions: why isn’t being in possession of rape victims’ property enough to try someone for rape?  Why couldn’t he have been tried, or at least actually held under real supervision, on burglary or robbery charges until the DNA came back?  Don’t we have enough laws on the books to keep people like this off the streets for their other crimes.  of course, that would involve the courts actually displaying a commitment to treating crime like crime.

Part of the problem is the perception that crimes like burglary and robbery are now deemed too minor to even address.  And we know who to thank for that.  yet, somehow, the Atlanta Journal Constitution wants you to believe that we are far too harsh on criminals.  And so, you have a man now known to be a serial rapist, who could have been prosecuted for robbery and kept behind bars as the rape investigation continued, instead set free for a year as the crime lab didn’t bother to prioritize its work in a timely way.  Money problems?  Well, then, they should be using a case like this one to yell from the rooftops that they need more funds.  They don’t make waves like that, though.

Nor do Atlanta’s politically motivated “victim advocates” — many of them campus rape activists — who would rather berate all men for alleged sexist insensitivities than get their fingers dirty actually advocating for swift justice against a real rapist.  Oh, for the days when there were real feminists.  Here’s the serial rape story:

Police charged a man Friday for two of a string of rapes early last year along the Briarcliff Road corridor. DeKalb County Police investigators believe Jordon Anthony Gibson may be responsible for more sexual assaults, however.  Gibson, arrested Thursday, had been in police custody [that's an ankle monitor, not jail] for more than a year on related charges.  On April 11, 2009, Gibson, 19, was stopped for a traffic violation, and police found property from the rape victims inside his car, DeKalb County police spokesman Jason Gagnon said.  Police, at the time, charged him with several counts of robbery, but continued to consider him as a person of interest in the series of rapes, Gagnon said.  DNA samples were taken from Gibson at the time of his arrest, but they were returned only a few weeks ago, police said.  The GBI’s results showed Gibson to be a positive match in two of the rapes.

Umm, so why wasn’t he arrested weeks ago?  Why wasn’t he picked up the very same day that the DNA results were known?  What exactly does it take to remove a dangerous, DNA-identified rapist from the streets, especially when he’s facing a long prison sentence?  Why did the warrant take “weeks” after the DNA match?

“We had a strong feeling that he was our guy, just due to the fact that those sexual assaults discontinued the minute he was arrested,” Gagnon told the AJC. “However, we didn’t have the evidence.  After the robbery charges, Gibson was released on a $60,000 bond and given an ankle monitor.  “We wanted to keep up with him,” Gagnon said.  There were at least five more rape victims for whom Gibson’s DNA did not match.  “Sometimes DNA can possibly be tainted,” Gagnon said, in explaining why there were not more matches.  As far as waiting a year for DNA results, Gagnon said investigators were patient.  “We’re just glad it came,” he said.

Look, at some point, somebody in the system needs to stand up and say:

Waiting a year for DNA results in serial rapes with the main suspect out in the community is NOT acceptable.  Having a court system in which we can’t even push a robbery conviction to get a suspected rapist behind bars while we investigate his other crimes is NOT acceptable.  If the courts are so distracted and overwhelmed that they can’t process a case like this in less than 13 months; if the DA doesn’t feel it is a priority to get a guy like this off the streets ASAP, then we really don’t have justice.  We really don’t have courts; we really don’t have prosecutors who can say they’re representing the people.  We don’t have anybody bothering to prevent the next preventable rape.

I understand why a cop can’t say this.  What I don’t understand is why a judge won’t say it.  Somebody needs to be the person who has the courage to challenge this type of utter failure.

Somebody . . .  some politician, some DA, some well-paid victim activist, needs to speak up.

~~~

Because when nobody speaks up, this is what happens: Jose Reyes, Seattle, Washington

A convicted sex offender is accused of raping a special education student at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School. KING 5 [news] has learned some staff [k]new a sex offender was at the school, but parents and students did not.  Prosecutors say 18-year-old Jose Reyes convinced a 14-year-old freshman to go into a girls bathroom at Roosevelt to make out. But, he then forced himself on the student. Other students believe he was in some sort of relationship with the girl.  Few at Roosevelt knew about Reyes’ disturbing past:  In January of 2007, police say Reyes lured a 10-year-old-girl into a public library parking garage and asked her to take off her pants.  In April of 2007, he was charged with trying to lure an 11-year-old girl at a [G]reenwood park. And in May 2007, he tried the same thing with a five-year-old girl, asking her to sit on his lap in exchange for trading cards.

And those are the crimes he was caught committing.  Of course, if this were the New York Times reporting the story, they would probably describe Reyes as the victim of a vile Romeo and Juliet law and leave out the part about the five-year old.

When Reyes started school this year, certain teachers, staff and security were told that he is a Level 2 sex offender. State law dictates that no one else is required to be notified.  Many parents say that’s ridiculous. . . The Seattle School District says while Roosevelt was notified of Reyes’ sex offender status, the report did not give details about his past and that report never made it from police to the school district itself.

I wonder why Reyes was granted a Level 2 status, given that he was a recidivist who targeted extremely young victims.  Should his age matter, when he predated small children?  Were some of the charges dropped (like they are always dropped), and that is why he was free to rape a special ed. student?

Shouldn’t every sex crime be prosecuted?

~~~

And shouldn’t sex crime cases take less than, say, a decade to process?  Especially when the rapist spends that time walking free on the streets and then commits another sex assault?  Was this a DNA-delayed case?  Something else?  Wilson Gomez, Brandon Florida:

A Brandon man already facing rape charges from last year was arrested Saturday morning on similar charges, according to an arrest report.  Deputies arrested Wilson Gomez, 50, at his home at 202 Mason St., after, they say, he had sex with a woman who did not give her consent. He is charged with sexual battery, the report said.  Gomez was arrested in 2009 and charged with sexual battery using a deadly weapon or force causing injury in connection with a 2001 incident, jail records show. According to Hillsborough County court records, these charges are part of an ongoing case and he has not been convicted.  Gomez is held without bail at the Orient Road Jail.

It seems that when offenders know they’re going to jail, they often act out.  Why don’t judges see this?  Why do they keep letting dangerous predators go free to await trial?  Like, in the next case.

~~~

Leonard Earl Scroggins, San Diego, California:

Scroggins is a convicted recidivist sex offender (very) recently out on parole who was allowed to remain loose even after fondling a child a few days after getting out of prison.  Astonishingly, San Diego Deputy District Attorney Enrique Camarena feels that letting the two-time convict remain free after the sex offense against a child was a sign that the system is working, because Scroggins is now facing life in prison for removing his monitoring anklet and sexually assaulting four other females in a crime spree last week, including a 13-year old girl he stabbed and tried to kidnap at knife-point and another woman attacked with a knife.

That means the system is working?  Using women and children as prey because we’ve raised the bar so much on prosecuting anyone for anything that you practically have to kill a child to get put away?  That’s a solution?  What does the system look like when it’s  not working?

The prosecutor in the case says he is not frustrated with the system even though Scroggins has a history of breaking the law and violating parole.  “Unfortunately we have to get to this point where the guy commits serious acts on consecutive days, to multiple victims to get to this point where he is going to spend the rest of his life in prison. But that’s a big punishment and I think as a society we have to wait until the time is right,” says Camarena.

“Society” has to “wait until” what???  Look, even though he was in Napa Valley, this guy wasn’t selling no wine before its time: he was kidnapping women and children at knife-point after the proud state of California cut him loose early for two previous sex crimes and failed to hold him accountable for attacking a child.  I don’t know if D.A. Camarena is some wanna-be pol using his current office to climb the political ladder, or some wanna-be defense attorney using taxpayers and victims to train for his future job by working for the prosecutor’s office (a not uncommon scenario), or if he is actually a decent law-and-order guy driven insane by the impossibility of bringing charges against anyone for anything these days.  But it is appalling to say that any woman or child should be sacrificed to “serious acts on consecutive days, to multiple victims” to get a bloody prosecution rolling.

Jesus wept.

I don’t quite know how to express this because it should not need to be expressed, but the system wasn’t working when Scroggins walked out of prison early for two rapes.  It wasn’t working when he attacked a child and got away with it in March.  It wasn’t working when he wasn’t punished for violating his parole — by molesting a child — and remained free on an ankle monitor.   It’s not working if you need a high-tide body count before the D.A. feels he can proceed with prosecuting a dangerous recidivist predatory child sex offender.  And if the D.A. reacts to these circumstances by making excuses instead of shouting from the rooftops, something is very, very broken.

Here are Scroggins’ prior offenses.  Or, at least, the ones that someone bothered to prosecute:

Department of Corrections documents show convicted sex offender Leonard Scroggins in and out of prison. Back in the mid-90′s he was sentenced to ten years for rape in Napa County. He served four and a half, but violated his parole twice; finally being released in 2003.  A couple of months later, Scroggins went back to prison after pleading guilty to a terrorist threat involving kidnapping and rape. He again violated parole, and was just released from prison this past March.

That’s two violent sex crimes, three parole violations.  Then came the un-prosecuted child molestation (please drop the “fondling” bit), which apparently led to the ankle monitor but no prison time.  Then the rampage this week, which relieved the District Attorney of actually having to take a stand by trying Scroggins on one child charge before he committed more sex crimes.

Look, I’m sympathetic to the difficulty of getting charges to stick in this joke of a justice system.  But can’t the D.A. so much as express mild disgust that his hands are so tied?  Isn’t that his job?

Meanwhile, as politicians fuss over expensive-yet-futile measures like requiring sex offenders to provide their e-mail addresses and instant messaging names to police, or creating yet another freeway alert system to warn of offenders who are “misbehaving” (their term) or absconded, the one sane voice in the California crime cacophony is that of Scroggin’s 13-year old victim.  She harbors no illusions about the stakes of the game:

Scroggins [put] a knife to the throat of a 13-year-old girl and tr[ied] to drag her into his car.  “He kept repeating in a low voice, ‘Get in the car or I will cut you,”‘ said Guadalupe Perez, an eighth-grader at National City Middle School.  The girl said she screamed and reached for the knife, cutting her finger, then elbowed the man and ran.  “If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said.  “I didn’t want to be one of those cases where you find my remains three years from now.”

“I didn’t want to be one of those cases where you find my remains three years from now.”  Shame on the rest of us.