The police sure are generating some terrifying news stories these days, are they not? I covered this phenomenon once already back in November, but the recent shooting of a Tosh.0 production assistant in Los Angeles compelled me to look into it again, and sure enough, shit is still crazy. Police officers and their increasingly criminal antics are the topic of discussion in this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
Coincidentally, that's also the topic of this very column. Here are five recent trends that make it hard to trust the police.
5They Still Lack Discretion When Shooting
If there's any upside to the fact that the police are still shooting first and gathering basic information about the situation at hand much later, it's that they're using fewer bullets these days. You at least stand a puncher's chance of surviving if you're up against only a bullet or two, as opposed to 40 or 50.
Unfortunately, those odds didn't fall in favor of the two most recent additions to the ever-expanding database of questionable cop killings.
The last place I can put a picture with a funny caption for at least the next couple paragraphs without seeming like a total jerk.
In the case of John Winkler, the Tosh.0 production assistant mentioned earlier, he was hit with one shot. Sadly, that's all it takes sometimes. When police finally entered the residence they'd been called to investigate, they found the suspect who prompted the call in the first place choking another victim. He'd previously attacked Winkler, who was already bleeding profusely (and noticeably) when police shot him.
A similarly depressing story happened in Charlotte, North Carolina, recently. Jonathan Ferrell, a 24-year-old former Florida A&M University football player, survived what Charlotte Police Chief Rodney Monroe would later describe as a "severe" car accident.
The wreckage was so bad that Ferrell had to climb through the back window to escape. Any survivor's relief he experienced was short-lived, though. Upon freeing himself from the crash, Ferrell made his way to the nearest house and began "banging on the door viciously," according to the woman who answered. She at first thought it was her husband coming home late from work. It was 2:30 a.m.
Toby Burrows/Photodisc/Getty Images
The husband probably answered more questions than the police that day.
Upon realizing that wasn't the case, the woman immediately slammed the door. Afraid she was being robbed, she called 911. When police arrived, they surrounded Ferrell. Police claim that at this point Farrell charged at them, and, you know, maybe he did. A person fresh off of extracting himself from a potentially deadly car crash can be forgiven if he's a little loopy or whatever.
Don't these wacky pictures make it seem like these aren't the saddest stories ever?!?!?
We'll never know what he was thinking, though, because almost as soon as he charged, he was shot and killed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall Kerrick. Authorities have since confirmed that, to their knowledge, Ferrell was not attempting to burglarize the house he went to for help and no threats were ever exchanged between anyone at the scene.
The shooting was initially determined to be lawful, but that decision was later overturned. Kerrick was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter. That certainly sounds like a positive development, but I have a feeling justice seekers probably shouldn't get too excited just yet. We'll talk about that a lot more at the end of this article. In the meantime, let's talk about a different kind of law enforcement overkill.
4They're Using SWAT Tactics for Everything Now
What kind of scene would you picture if someone told you a SWAT team was used to break up a gambling ring? It would have to be some sort of high-level operation that included the use of several weapons to fend off potential robbers, right? Maybe a dog-fighting stadium of some sort? No matter what form your ideal law enforcement intervention takes, it's likely that no part of it involves teams of heavily armed (and armored) cops raiding your weekly poker game.
Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images
The only crime here is that fucking visor.
So imagine the surprise and eventual horror 72-year-old Aaron Awtry of Baltimore County, Maryland, must have felt when a SWAT team started breaking down his door to do that very thing. Actually, the part where the police showed up wasn't unusual at all. His home had been "raided" several times because of illegal gambling. The difference is that, in those previous public safety missions, the police just knocked on Awtry's door, waited for an answer, and gave everyone $100 tickets.
Given the extreme change in tactics, Awtry should be forgiven for mistakenly believing that, instead of "peace officers" looking to collect ticket money, he had a band of criminals at his door. After all, in addition to being raided by police several times previously, Awtry had also been robbed several times previously.
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty
"Police! Open up!"
So, doing what a person defending their goods from crooks is often inclined to do in that situation, Awtry grabbed a gun and started shooting. The police shot back. When a shot hit Awtry and knocked him back into the kitchen, where his fellow gamblers were assembled, they reported hearing him ask, "Why didn't you tell me it was the cops?" as he fell. Good news, though! Aaron Awtry survived his injuries! Also, bad news! Promptly upon recovering, Aaron Awtry was charged with attempted murder.
Still, alive is alive, and not everyone who's found themselves on the business end of an unnecessarily intense gambling arrest has been so lucky. Take the unspeakably unnerving case of 38-year-old optometrist Sal Culosi. A Fairfax County, Virginia, detective named David Baucum overheard Culosi placing a small bet on a Washington Redskins game with a few friends at a local bar. Sensing an opportunity to be a massive asshole, David Baucum swung into action.
Baucum connived his way into being friends with Culosi for the sole purpose of talking him into raising the stakes on his bets, which he did, to the tune of more than $2,000 in a single day at one point. Unfortunately, that's the threshold a gambler has to reach to fall afoul of the law.
The final meeting between cop and prey was arranged under the guise of Baucum collecting winnings from Culosi. When the unsuspecting "criminal" came outside, a waiting SWAT team pounced. For some reason, during the chaos, Detective Deval Bullock started shooting. A single bullet pierced Culosi's heart. His last words were for the friend who set him up: "Dude, what are you doing?"
"Just doing my job, sir."
Leave it to Florida to make their inappropriate use of SWAT tactics the weirdest of all. Orange County sheriff's deputies went into "citywide raid" mode on, you guessed it ... black- and Hispanic-owned barbershops? The raids were supposed to lead to drug arrests. The results? Of the 37 arrests, a full 34 of them were issued for "barbering without a license."
So, I take it back. I guess that last example isn't so bad after all.