Three terrible stories from the week in protecting and serving
posted at 10:01 pm on February 19, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham
Good for Brandy Berning, a single mom pulled over for driving in an HOV lane, for recording this incident and for sticking up for herself. After the officer got in her car, tried to steal her phone, assaulted her, arrested her, and put her in jail for a night, all charges were dropped.
In the next story, a young man in San Francisco called 911 for two people he came across in the wake of a bike accident. He was told by the dispatcher to await police and ambulance, and when he did, he ended up arrested, in jail, and in a solitary padded cell with no clue as to when he’d be released. He and his friend were also told they couldn’t take pictures or record. It starts bad and gets worse.
Sgt. Espinoza, short, stout, grey and assertive, asked Ben and me whether we had witnessed the accident. We said that we hadn’t, but arrived shortly thereafter. I was standing 15 feet from the scene beside Officer Kaur, a stocky female of South Asian complexion. She turned to me and abruptly said that I was not needed as a witness and should leave immediately. I told her we were headed home, just across the way, when my friend and I encountered the accident; and that I’d recently broken my elbow in a similar bike accident here and deeply cared about the outcome.
The firemen were examining Rebecca and Josh. Ben was still supporting Rebecca’s back when Sgt. Espinoza and Officer Gabriel grabbed him from behind without warning, putting him in an arm lock and jerked him backwards over the pavement. They told him sternly that he had to leave now that trained medical professionals had arrived, implying that he was interfering and justifying their violent actions. The officers dragged him across the sidewalk, propping him against the building. Rebecca was still holding Ben’s cellphone when she lost his support. “Where are they taking him?” she asked perplexedly.
It all happened within 5 minutes of the police’s arrival. The sirens and emergency vehicles, the sudden arrival of over half a dozen uniformed personnel, two of whom had grabbed my friend, transformed an intimate street scene into something chaotic. Officer Kaur shouted at me to cross the street. It was very sudden and I was, admittedly, in shock. I stammered that I intended to head home, but that my friend was over there. I pointed at Ben against the wall, and said I’d like to take him home with me.
Without warning, I was shoved from behind by Officer Gerrans and then collectively tackled by Officers Gerrans, Kaur and Andreotti. As they took me to the ground, one of the officers kneed me in the right temple. On the pavement, I begged them to watch out for my recently broken right elbow. Knees on my back and neck pinned me to the ground. I was cuffed and left face down.
I was not told that I was under arrest, what the charges were, nor read my rights. I rolled over onto my back so that I could see the arresting officers and ask them their intentions.
Officer Kaur pulled me up so that I was in a sitting position, and then stepped onto my handcuffed hands, grinding them into the pavement. I was so suddenly transported to a distant reality, that I was still coming to terms with its operating principles. “Is this protocol?” I inquired and instinctively wriggled my hands from under her boots. Officer Kaur had full control of me physically. Again, she stomped her boots on my hands, demanded that I “keep [my] hands on the ground,” pushed me back face down, and walked away.
Read the whole thing if you have time. It has a lot of liberal-mugged-by-reality vibe to it, but the reality is just the force of the state, with which so much of San Francisco is normally so enamored when it’s super-excited to use said force to exact the “good” they want to see in society. There’s a sad part where the victim of this ordeal briefly seems to castigates himself for his white upper-middle-class privilege, wondering if he should even complain about his treatment when others have received much worse. He overcomes this insecurity to tell the tale, and good for him. Because, no, the police are not supposed to be allowed to detain you in solitary confinement for days at a time just because you grew up in a spacious suburban ranch house. And, someone who grew up in a ranch house telling his story might help others who did not reside in the suburbs.
Both of these stories ended with the detained getting out of jail and going on to live their lives (and, one hopes, get some kind of apology or disciplinary action out of the police).
Not this one. Christopher Roupe, a 17-year-old ROTC member in Georgia, was shot and killed by an officer trying to find his father, who had violated probation. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it is clear Roupe should not have been killed:
EUHARLEE, Ga. – An attorney representing the family of a 17-year-old Georgia boy who was shot and killed by a police officer says the boy was holding a video game controller when he was shot after opening his door.
Christopher Roupe was fatally shot in the chest Friday, Feb. 14 when Euharlee officers showed up at the door of his mobile home to serve a probation violation warrant for the boy’s father, WSB-TV reports. A female officer reportedly told the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that Roupe pointed a gun at her after he opened the door.
But the family’s attorney, Cole Law, said the boy was holding a Nintendo Wii video game controller, and was about to watch a movie.
“The eyewitnesses on the scene clearly state that he had a Wii controller in his hand. He heard a knock at the door. He asked who it was, there was no response so he opened the door and upon opening the door he was immediately shot in the chest,” Law told WSB.
Neighbor Ken Yates said that he saw the female officer immediately after Roupe was killed and described her as being visibly distraught.
“This is tragic,” Yates told the station. “She came out of this house. She put her head in her hands and she was sobbing. Supposedly, he opened the door with a BB gun and in my opinion I think he was playing a game with his neighborhood buddies.”
Terrible. Be careful out there, folks. Even when there’s no ill intent or misuse of power, mistakes by police happen too often and are too often deadly.