Near-Tragedies in Civillian Police Work

Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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144 Responses

  1. MikeSchilling says:

    The only reason it’s genuinely being investigated is because it became a spectacle.  That’s what disgusts me.Report

    • BSK in reply to MikeSchilling says:

      Indeed.  This was mentioned at the march I attended yesterday.  One younger (in his 20’s) guy got up and lit into the situation in a really fascinating way.  While calling for justice for Trayvon and outrage at his death, he also challenged the black community (of which he was a member) to share the outrage when other kids are killed, especially at the hands of other blacks.  Right or wrong, outrage tends to get a response.  If people channel all their outrage into Trayvon and no one else, Trayvon MAY get justice while dozens of other kids lie dead in the street.Report

  2. Stillwater says:

    I dunno about any of this, really. In the first situation, the guy had broken into the car to steal some stuff. If, after you subdue him, you continued to beat the shit out of him – even if it’s because you’re fuled by adrenaline and cheap beer! – you’ve gone way beyond the boundaries of a ‘reasonable response’ and ought to be charged with assault.

    In the other case, since your only rationale for taking a gun onto the porch was ‘suspicious activity’, then, again, if you shot him (or the guy sneaking thru his girlfriend’s window), you ought to be charged with manslaughter. You need alot more than subjectively determined reasonable suspicion to pull the trigger on someone. And that seems to be what you’re arguing here.

    Also, wrt your scnario where the guy tries to climb thru his girlfriend’s window, why is your first impulse to shoot him? Why not just walk up to him and ask him what the hell he’s doing? Or chase him off? Why shoot him first and ask questions later?Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Stillwater says:

      Here’s how I read the situation:

      1) three people tackling one unarmed man? Dude! That’s excessive. Or it would be if he was paralyzed for life — which the extent of the pile-on made a more than 1% chance (from my admittedly low knowledge of first aid/sports injuries). Granted, they didn’t know he didn’t have a knife — or a gun. But it’s a civilian arrest. We are not talking the little old black lady from Jackson City who tackles the guy who stole her purse, and gets it back. We’re talking four guys chasing one here.

      2) Written as if I’m Mike (sorry, but I kinda want to think this through too): I want to question the dude — maybe, as a latter resort, scare him off. BUT, I’ve got a gun in my hand, and the thoughts of “what if he does too” is also high. Maybe I say something, and he sticks his hand in his jacket to get his id. Maybe I’m a little more jumpy than usual…

      It’s very easy to see where situations can spiral out of hand.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kimmi says:

        Kimmi – you are exactly right. That was my intent, to show how quickly a decision can go bad.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Kimmi says:

        I don’t argue people shouldn’t keep guns for self-protection.  But the maybes involved in number 2  there (including the implicit maybe given in Mike’s hypo where maybe you go with a loaded weapon to investigate/confront a teenager doing something you yourself did in your own youth) to me are all good reasons not to, or at least to have a disposition where you only go to them in circumstances of certain threat, which, and this is the point, essentially makes actually having the gun in your hand when the threat presents itself impossible.

        Everyone holding a weapon is both and at the same time both protecting himself and also at most a sharp change in attitude away from being a threat to others from which they will have to seek means of protection.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Michael Drew says:


          There’s a reason guns SUCK at defense. I can tell you five different weapons that both immobilize targets, rendering them harmless, without having much of a chance at killing them. Some of them are even area affects, and most of them don’t require line of sight.

          Guns are for clear and present threats. They work excellent for ambushes, and reasonable well as a deterrent for your average rabble rouser (you stay OFF my porch)Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Kimmi says:


            Nature has equipped us with not one, but two objects to use in most of these situations.  Our feet. These remarkable implements allow us to put distance between ourselves and trouble. They have worked for many centuries.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to BlaiseP says:

              I honestly couldn’t tell what Kimmi was saying there with respect to whether she thinks it’s a good idea to keep guns in the house for protection.  Or, just to keep guns in the house.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Michael Drew says:

                The benefit to keeping them in the house is that they’re less likely to be stolen by geocachers…

                The con is that they pose a danger (particularly with kids around).

                I don’t think that most people have any clue about defense — and of those who do, few are willing to make the sacrifices needed to make a gun make sense as a defense.

                If you have a gun in your house, it should be at “reasonably ready” (aka you can get to it and brandish it before the threat reaches your house). This is not locked up, and it’s not buried under things in the back of a closet. If you keep your gun like that, you LOSE. (by the time someone is in your house, you are just as likely to be cut off from where you keep your gun…)

                Next, you ought to have clear line of sight on any approaching targets. If it takes you five minutes to get your gun, that’s an awful lot of lawn you gotta mow. And you gotta have a long driveway too.

                Guns work better than nothing, when nothing’s the alternative. When it’s not, just call the damn police.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Kimmi says:

                What about Scott’s testimony – that police see themselves as pretty much there just to mop up afterwards?Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Well, it depends on the crime. An assassination? Nearly every single time, it’s “clean up after.” Domestic violence — that’s a classic “in the middle of the problem” case. Cops show up at a sporting event, and case everyone in the joint for illegal guns? That’s “preventative” — unless a cop gets shot.

                If you’re looking at a property crime, your nebby neighbor is about as good a preventative as the cops. She’ll show up and ask “who are you and why are you here” (and maybe give you a ring at work if they seem suspicious).

                I dunno how often cops catch burglars in the middle of the act (I’d say it’s fairly often, judging by my limited perusal of the “news of the weird” the local free paper carries) — but it’s a lot more often than muggings, which are comparatively quick and also out of sight.Report

  3. Kimmi says:

    Steps to avoid problems:

    1) Make enough noise, while being out of sight (or getting back out of sight as quick as possible), to let the fool know that he’s been seen — if he was a regular burglar, he’s skidoo — if he was just a street kid, he’d either skidoo or deescalate the situation.

    I do believe this guy was a bit more extreme than “someone did something stupid ages ago…” Calling the police about a black 7 year old???

    It says something good about you that you’re thinking about these things.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Kimmi says:

      I remember a case from a few years back at the Riss Lake development in Parkville, Mo., where a fellow climbing through a window was shot and killed by a police officer.
      Turns out the guy locked himself out of the house.
      Nothing happened, no action.Report

  4. Plinko says:

    Great post, Mike. The end kind of gets me, though. I agree with Mike Schilling above that the Martin case is only now getting the proper investigation because it flared up into a national conversation. Real justice will now only be harder to come by that it would have been if the police had done it right from the start, it’s true. I just can’t blame the people that are marching or yelling about it on TV or the Internet for that.

    Generally, I don’t like the Hate Crimes modifier because I don’t believe we need further criminalize things that are already felonies. If the prejudicial statements mean anything, they strengthen a criminal case against Zimmerman for murder or manslaughter, not the need for another charge on top of that.
    On the other hand, to the extent that it allows the Justice Dept. to investigate and prosecute a case like this because institutional prejudice in a local jurisdiction contributes to a lackluster effort, I can agree that this case appears to be worthy, but again, as the investigation into a man who shot a kid. I am not sure the extent that the legislation authorizes on those kind of merit, so take it with a large grain of salt.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    The dynamic that bugs me the most about the case at this moment in time is that the facts of the case that are not in dispute (the information in the 911 call, for example) seem to demonstrate that if *ANYBODY* in the situation had the right to appeal to the stand-your-ground law it was Trayvon.Report

  6. BSK says:

    “I probably would have told my wife to call the police and then went over to investigate. I would have been nervous and scared, having never confronted someone in this scenario alone.”

    Perhaps that last setence is a good reason to not make this the first time you are confronting the individual.

    As I thought more about the Trayvon Martin case, and I actually participated in a silent march yesterday (my first time doing such a thing) which gave me an amazing opportunity to think on it, I thought about how Zimmerman’s actions would have been just as troublesome to me even if Trayvon had been up to non-violent no good.  If he had a dime bag in his pocket or a stolen car stereo under his shirt or was casing houses, would any of that make it acceptable that he is now dead?  The Martin situation came on the heals of a police shooting of a black teen in NY.  There was some local play to the story here (not sure if it went national), with many people saying, “Well, he DID have weed on him and he DID run.”  Is any non-violent crime worth killing someone over?

    I understand that situations can quickly escalate and get out of control.  In the first situation, my hunch is that neither Mike nor any of the guys with him ran out the door thinking, “Let’s kill that guy!”  Had the situation escalated and they beat him to death, I could imagine several scenarios where they never intended the ultimate outcome.

    With this in mind, we should do our best to avoid creating situations that can get out of hand.  Because an out of hand situation can just as easily go the other direction.  Maybe the car thief was armed and turns to fire upon his chasers.  Maybe the guy in the car is packing a bigger gun and has a faster draw.

    Criminals should be brought to justice.  If necessary, violence can be justified in bringing them to justice.  But other means must be explored first.  No one should die over a stereo or a dime bag.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to BSK says:

      thing is? that situation, four guys on one? That’s already escalated enough to kill the dude. May not be “odds are he’s dead” but… it’s pretty bad.

      I agree, exploring other ways is a better idea. Keep yourself safe, folks.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Kimmi says:

        That’s the situation of too many monkeys humping a walnut.
        If the guy was standing, then maybe the four could pummel him in concert.
        Prone, there’s a point where they’re only getting in each others’ way.
        The risk to life is from suffocation from weight being exerted on his prone frame.
        As long as they’re not kicking him in the head or something.Report

    • greginak in reply to BSK says:

      Yes. Leaving aside any debate about gun laws, i think many advocates of Stand Your Ground laws and who are strongly pro-gun, often are poor presenters of their views. I know i’ve heard, in person, many people, well always men actually, loudly proclaim how they  can and will shoot dead any criminal. There is never a discussion of fear, adrenaline, how to know whether someone is actually a criminal, whether that crime is worth killing for and whether just staying safe and avoiding potentially deadly confrontations is a better solution. Regardless of whatever gun laws we have these factors are very personally relevant to any situation but aren’t part of a discussion.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to greginak says:

        those people are foolz who have never been in a firefight. If you’re in a place with police — get the fuck out of there and Let Them Handle It. Guns are for people who don’t have police — or neighbors for that matter.Report

      • BSK in reply to greginak says:

        I remember reading a story after the Giffords shooting about how one registered and carrying gun owner on the scene responded.  While his first inkling was to draw and fire, he knew this to be wrong.  He was unsure of who was firing, unsure of who else might be working with the individual firing, and knew that when the cops arrived (or if anyone else with a gun draw), they wouldn’t necessarily have or take the time to differentiate between the attacker and those trying to thwart him.  He kept his gun holstered and worked with others to subdue the guy, I believe (this last point I am least confident about).

        The gist of the story was that truly responsible gun owners are not likely to draw their weapons, because they are aware of how that can make a situation more dangerous instead of less.

        I don’t think that this case should be a referendum on gun control.  However, it likely will be.  Responsible gun-owners would be wise to denounce this guy.  Genuine community watch members would be wise to denounce this guy.

        George Zimmerman was neither of those.Report

    • Will H. in reply to BSK says:

      Better to stop a burglar on his way out of the house with his hands full than to stop him empty-handed going in.Report

    • LauraNo in reply to BSK says:

      I agree. Who made these men into pseudo police? Even Mr. Dwyer’s second example leaves me wondering, what makes him think it is any of his business? If you think something is suspicious, you call the police. Who are trained and screened (presumably) for mental illnesses and prepared to deal with that kind of situation. Just-any-old someone with a gun is not trained and I have no confidence in their suitability to make snap decisions. Life and death snap decisions. And when did property crime become a capital one?Report

      • Citizen in reply to LauraNo says:

        There is probably some territory issues, and failures to communicate in many of these. What makes men pseudo police? hell thats easy, lack of police.  Police have been basically stripped back to data collectors after an issue has passed. Why would a community need a neighborhood watch if its needs were being met? I know foot patrol cops exist, but I’ve never seen or met one.


        • Kimmi in reply to Citizen says:

          I have. they do a beat in the city. I know the police beats reasonably well in the city, cause I walk it.Report

          • Citizen in reply to Kimmi says:

            Good to know they still exist. The nearest post here (if manned) is about 20 mins if they care to drive at high speeds around all the curves. Typically these fellas are trained on pistols, can’t hit a damn thing out at 100 yards. At least my neighbors are dialed in to at least 300 yards, and a few beyond 800 (as all good peasants should).Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Citizen says:

              I bet the cops in YOUR city don’t do drag races down the main drag in the middle of the night. Ah, campus cops!

              I mentioned in a different thread how some shmoo decided to shoot up the hospital where I used to work. Two (or three) different campus’ worth of cops, plus the city cops (multiple precincts), plus the sheriff, plus other town’s cops. Madness!

              And to top it all off, the OTHER hospital’s doctors were running in to help with the injured…Report

      • Scott in reply to LauraNo says:


        I have a friend who was a cop and he told me one day that cops are there mainly to clean up afterwards.  Odds are the perps will be long gone by the time the cops get there.Report

    • Scott in reply to BSK says:


      “With this in mind, we should do our best to avoid creating situations that can get out of hand.  Because an out of hand situation can just as easily go the other direction.  Maybe the car thief was armed and turns to fire upon his chasers.  Maybe the guy in the car is packing a bigger gun and has a faster draw.”

      So you just let criminals get away for fear of things getting out of hand, really? I guess criminal behavior is now the norm and folks standing up to them is creating situations that can get out of hand?  The criminal is at fault here not the citizen that stands up to them.

      “If necessary, violence can be justified in bringing them to justice.  But other means must be explored first.  No one should die over a stereo or a dime bag.”

      Other means like asking them return the stolen goods or throwing them a pizza party to help their self esteem? Are you really that naive?  Regardless of the outcome of this case, I’ll be crime falls in that neighborhood.Report

  7. Liberty60 says:

    I thought of this issue this weekend;

    Saturday night our dog jumped up off the bed and ran outside barking furiously.

    We have half a dozen semi-feral cats and the occasional possum that live in our neighborhood so I assumed that was the trouble. Called the dog in, went back to sleep.

    Woke up the next morning to find our house had been TP’d; friends of our 16 year old daughter had thrown rolls over the roof, into the trees, the whole bit.

    So of course I wondered; suppose I had gone out front instead of out back, and witnessed shadowy figures running around the sideyards? Suppose I had a gun?

    Would this be a funny anecdote or a tragedy?

    I have a rifle, and fully support gun rights. But like Mike, I also have grown cautious over the years, and know how easily fear and internal bias can fuel stupid panicky decisions.

    Its things like this that make me roll my eyes at the “home defense” reasoning of stuff like the Stand Your Ground law.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Liberty60 says:

      Most people would do well to ask — “What if I fired up into the air?” If done from a reasonably well concealed place, it seems like an effective deterrent — particularly coupled with some angry shouting.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kimmi says:

        I think if you’re going for loud noise, a few well-place M80s should do the trick.Report

        • Will H. in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          A hand clap works just as well.
          I’ve done that to break up a fight between the neighborhood cats, and wondered if the police were going to come thinking I’d fired off a few rounds.Report

      • BSK in reply to Kimmi says:

        Or you go out and say, “What the F are you doing?”

        Yes, a situation COULD escalate.  But how often do they?  Most criminals are petty criminals… they engage in crimes of opportunity.  A guy broke into my mom’s car one day in our driveway.  She had gone out to put something in the car and then went back into the house, neglecting to lock the doors again.  When she went back out, all 4’11” of her, she saw a figure in the backseat, screamed, and the guy ran like the wind.  Many other criminals, who might resort to some form of violence, immediately turn into little punks when challenged.  They look for low-hanging fruit.  As I witnessed once, they’ll kick a woman in the face who isn’t looking to grab her iPod, but will run and hide when two grown men challenge them.  They don’t want a fight.  They want an easy mark.

        Yes, there do exist murderers and home invaders and people who want to and will do serious harm to you.  But they are the exception.  Unfortunately, we think every teenage punk pulling a stupid prank is one step away from murdering our whole family and needs to be engaged as such.

        We are letting the fear win.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to BSK says:

          It takes a guy with serious balls to want to go up against an armed target. or even an actively resisting target. Those people tend to have better things to do than murdering someone in their sleep.Report

      • FridayNext in reply to Kimmi says:

        Except that bullet has to come down somewhere. If it kills someone or causes property damage you would, and should, be held responsible.

        Which brings up an interesting point. Are bystanders covered by stand-your-ground laws? For the sake of argument lets say there is no question the person in the second story above was a threat to the community and did attack someone, possibly Mike, and he fires two shots. One hits the perp, but one hits someone on the other side.

        Would Mike be covered for self-defense? I have read the law and I am not sure.Report

        • BSK in reply to FridayNext says:

          Mythbusters found that a bullet in free fall won’t do much, if any, harm to a person.  However, if the angle of the gun is not steep enough and the bullet maintains horizontal trajectory, it very well could do severe damage.Report

          • FridayNext in reply to BSK says:

            I love me some Mythbusters, but their “data” is rarely conclusive, though entertaining. Though terminal velocity of a bullet is far lower than muzzle velocity, it’s enough to hurt or kill depending on where they land on your body. That doesn’t even cover property damage or an example of a warning shot over their heads or just a bystander unlucky enough to be around a person who needs to defend themselves.Report

          • Will H. in reply to BSK says:

            That’s interesting.
            I remember a case in Kansas City where a fellow died standing around outside on New Year’s and a bullet came down out of the sky and hit him in the head.Report

            • karl in reply to Will H. says:

              Happened here in Phoenix about a dozen years ago — a little girl was killed that way.  Now we have one of the eponymous laws Radley Balko’s always railing against (Shannon’s Law, in this case) as a result.Report

      • Citizen in reply to Kimmi says:

        Yeah most of us DIYers out here well at least fire a warning shot before drawing blood. I think Zimmerman was trying to detain him and things went really badly from there.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kimmi says:

        In most places, a warning shot is illegal (discharging a firearm in public).  If you feel threatened enough to fire a gun, you should be aiming with deadly intent, otherwise keep the bullets in the gun.

        The sound of a semi-auto getting the slide racked, or a pump action shotgun, is certain to get folks attention if that is what you want to do.Report

        • Citizen in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          The warning shot is not a fear thing, its more of a polite gesture. Anyone who has studied proximity and death understands range. Beyond 40-50 yards a pump or auto slide will be difficult to hear.  The signature of a rifle will ring very clear. There is always a power pole to sink a round nearby. There are problems with shooting in the air or nearby in the ground. The signature on most guns will be loudest when pointed somewhere near the perp. The bullet itself will carry alot of noise as it rips through the air.

           A warning shot and voiced “freeze” will usually result in a perp with a tough decision, stay or run. Typically the hands go up and everything is calm until the neighbor clears the suspect or the police are called on scene.

           When a neighbor asks me to watch over their place I usually attempt to be polite. You wouldn’t believe how many relation appear when the owner is out of town.

          Now when there is a small train of people with ad hock backpacks walking towards your house, and the lead fella is carrying an AK, and has one slung on his back, its time to be less polite.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Citizen says:

            where do you live that people show up carrying AK’s?Report

            • Citizen in reply to Kimmi says:

              About 70 miles northeast of Nuevo Laredo. Recently we have seen 3 incidents. This has been going on in Arizona for awhile but is new to this area. With search and seizures on the roads limiting the supply and Arizona more patrolled, I think they are getting more desperate. It must be at least a 5 day pack through some really nasty brush. In the brush they are fairly well hidden, but the brush opens up into farm land in these parts, and they really become exposed. I would guess thats why they haven’t used this route before.

              They must have established a connection around here somewhere. Still a risky business carrying an AK in this neighborhood, we haven’t seen any Mac 10s yet (which would be just silly out here). Its been somewhat helpful the lead having the AK, and the back packs being full and heavy, a completely different look than the loosely grouped -carry light- border jumpers.Report

  8. Taylor says:

    Shorter OP: Who amongst us hasn’t nearly shot a nigger?Report

  9. wardsmith says:

    Now there’s this leaked news.

    The family and supporters of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin found themselves on the defensive Monday following revelations he had been suspended for marijuana before he was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Police also confirmed a report that the watchman claimed Martin was the aggressor, punching him in the nose and smacking his head on a sidewalk.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to wardsmith says:

      If the boy was the aggressor and there was a witness it certainly does change the story, and will make things look look sunnier for Zimmerman; but how is the marijuana thing relevant?Report

      • Scott in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        Is shows that TM wasn’t the little angel everyone is making him out to be. Like this propaganda piece in the NYT.

        • greginak in reply to Scott says:

          Wow its almost like a further investigation leads to more information. Shame there wasn’t some sort of local governmental body with the power to do some sort of investigation when this happened. We still don’t, and likely never will, know what started their final, fatal conflict.Report

          • wardsmith in reply to greginak says:

            Shame there wasn’t some sort of local governmental body with the power to do some sort of investigation when this happened

            So is your contention the police department did no investigation whatsoever? Or are you upset their investigation did not come to the conclusion you desired? Wonder if young Martin thought he could take a gun away from the fat out of shape guy trudging through the neighborhood? The Left already assumes Martin was only a drug user, while the Right has already assumed Marin was a dealer who flushed the stash down the toilet when he found out they were looking into him. Was Martin an angel? Are the police angels? Are you an angel?

            Zimmerman is in hiding, they already have multiple death threats against him (the new black panthers have put up a bounty). Too bad for him if he has to shoot someone else “standing his ground”. Maybe he’ll kill himself, that ought to solve everything. Fortunately the police didn’t shoot anyone’s dog this time. Fortunately on the Nightly News tonight I got to see the Reverend Jessie Jackson, yet again.


            • greginak in reply to wardsmith says:

              Classy pic Ward. You are clearly interested in a good debate.

              As i remember the story, the cops took Z’s word for what happened and left it at that. Someone correct me if i’m wrong. All the stuff thats coming out now was not gathered by the local cops. Am i wrong? Throwing up all these strawmen about what people are thinking is useless.Report

              • Scott in reply to greginak says:


                You are talking about the guy that admitted spiting in white folks’ food b/c it made him feel better.



              • wardsmith in reply to greginak says:

                Greg there is no such thing as a police force that “does nothing” when a shooting occurs, unless there is no such police force. If a shooting happens in a small town with no resources the police come from elsewhere to investigate. In this case it is certain that they knew in minutes everything that was in Martin’s records, this is why police departments have computers. If you read my previous link, you’ll note the complaint was that the information was “leaked” BY the police dept. After all, the meme being crafted here was that Martin was an innocent school boy (not in school because he was currently suspended but who’s paying attention to facts anymore?) shot by a cruel menacing white cracker who was hunting “coons” without a license. even the 9-11 call has everyone claiming he said “fucking coons” but to my hearing he said either “fucking punks” or “fucking truants”. Of course you’ll just claim I have racist ears.

                As for classy pics of Jessie Jackson? There are none. He’s a lowlife profiteering from a tragedy, for the uncountable time.Report

              • greginak in reply to wardsmith says:

                Bringing JJ into this is just your way of honing your grievances. He has nothing to do with this.

                Cops do nothign all the time. Once when i was a teen and few of my frineds were hadnign out in a park drinking. A county cop came by. He said we were acting like “n*******s from east orange”. He didn’t check our ID’s, didn’t do a breathlyser on the driver or see how many bottles we had allready chucked into the woods. He chased us away, which actualy i guess does count as something.

                Aside from all the hyperbole you are tossing out i’m not sure there is anything left to what you are saying. The cops took Z’s statement as truth and let him go. They didn’t investigate any further.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to wardsmith says:

                “Greg there is no such thing as a police force that “does nothing” when a shooting occurs, unless there is no such police force.”

                How about a police force that merely doesn’t follow department policy? Does it matter if we can find evidence of this police force having racial problems in the past? Should such be taken as evidence of a pattern or should we not look at history of the police department because, hey, we should narrow our focus on the case at hand?

                “not in school because he was currently suspended but who’s paying attention to facts anymore”

                Oh, I guess we can get into more info than just the case at hand. Given that he was shot at night (around 7:30PM), I don’t think the suspension has a whole lot to do with the facts of the shooting. What was he suspended for, if we want to see the suspension as a big deal? NPR said that it was for marijuana residue on his backpack. Not stabbing someone. Not sexual assault.


                His “fucking punks” or “fucking truants” indicates that Zimmerman (a man with a history of violence) was, in fact, looking for trouble. (And, seriously, if he said “truants”, I’d like to point out, once again, it was between 7 and 7:30 PM.)

                We’ve got a man with a history of violence shooting a minor who was unarmed despite being told by the police to not follow the kid. Let’s say that again: Zimmerman was following the kid as he walked home.

                (These are the facts that are *NOT* in dispute, mind.)Report

              • Wardsmith in reply to Jaybird says:

                Somehow I made it through my entire school Career, without getting suspended once let alone 3 times. That said Zimmerman will probably burn in hell for what he’s done here. Those “facts” aren’t in dispute, I stood in the face of a perpetuating meme that says the boy was a saint and BSK wants to quit in disgust much like I did two weeks ago. Like war the first casualty here was the truth. As for crimes against humanity this doesn’t even beat four “justified” killings in my nearest town in the past year alone. Of course none involved blacks so no JJ to come get his picture taken.Report

              • No one’s an angel.  That doesn’t mean non-angels can’t be victims.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Wardsmith says:

                yeah, a friend of mine was beating on a boy what wasn’t fighting back. Guess who got in school suspension? Yeah, the boy who wasn’t fighting back.

                (in all seriousness, they WERE friends, and she thought she had some damn good reason for beating on him. I like to think the vice-principal took the entire situation into account.)Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Wardsmith says:

                I was in college before I tasted my first beer.

                There were friends I had, however, who had gotten drunk despite being in 11th or 12th grade at the time.

                Good kids, for the most part. I’m glad they weren’t shot. If they were shot walking home from the 7-11, I would hope that the fact that they got drunk in 11th grade wasn’t considered a particularly relevant point.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Wardsmith says:

                I was in college before I tasted my first beer.

                I was three–my father used to let me have a sip when I brought him one. I can’t decide whether that was really bad parenting or really good parenting, since to this day I don’t like alcohol and have never actually had enough to get drunk.Report

              • Chris in reply to greginak says:

                Look greg, we all know who the real victims of racism are: white men. Don’t blame Ward, he’s the victim here.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to wardsmith says:

              It seems to me that if Zimmerman talking on the phone to the cops about a black youth “walking around” and “looking suspicious” and then using a racial slur before shooting the black youth in question and the cops going on to not, say, follow police procedure isn’t an opportune time to discuss whether race had something to do with it, when *WOULD* it be appropriate?Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Scott says:

          Scott – If there are people out there that are arguing “He was a little angel!”/””He was no angel!” they are having the wrong argument.

          Either a nut job shot a teen, or a guy was attacked and defended himself.  That the kid once had a joint, cheated on he ex-girlfriend, or didn’t pay for cable, or even committed the most heinous crime of wearing a hoody – or never committed a crime and easy and volunteered to feed the homeless on the weekends – is not relevant to anything other than an us vs. them tribal pissing match.Report

        • sonmi451 in reply to Scott says:

          So he’s only deserving of not being shot if he is an angel? Otherwise, open season, right?Report

    • Plinko in reply to wardsmith says:

      Police also confirmed a report that the watchman claimed Martin was the aggressor, punching him in the nose and smacking his head on a sidewalk.

      I don’t see how any of this is contrary to the version of events we knew prior to the story.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to wardsmith says:

      Now it’s 3 suspensions.  By the time the facts actually come out, well, it’s already too late.

      Show of hands:  How many have seen the “white Hispanic’s” photo?  Or saw it before they wrote about this?

      Check me on this:  a lengthy WaPo story “Who is George Zimmerman” that didn’t carry a picture?  What’s up w/that?

      Three days ago, while the outrage was gathering.  Here’s your white Hispanic, BTW.

      Not how most people pictured a “George Zimmerman,” I betcha.  A genuine cracker would have been trailing this guy.Report

      • Scott in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


        The only thing that matters is a poor angelic black teen was murdered by a white guy.  Heck there is money to be made off of his death.

        Apparently Tray’s mom wants to trademark her sons name.

        Or this fashion item for the well dressed hustler

        • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Scott says:

          Yah, Scott, I’m trying not to descend into cynicism about this.  I didn’t even go there, the mother trademarking this tragedy.  I was hoping that we here @ LoOG could simply aim for keeping our heads above water.  I think there’s already been a lot written here already @ LoOG that will not be borne out by the facts [as they emerge].

          I do not expect retractions, but there has been much written that won’t hold when the fog of culture war clears.

          I’m disappointed at President Obama, who did not diffuse this situation.  There are now T-shirts and signs quoting him, perpetuating and not healing the strife.


          The most beautiful thing would have been if somebody, anybody, of real influence in Sanford, Florida—or in Black America—had asked Al Sharpton to stay home.  That would have been the “educable moment” in all this.  We are often told—and I want to believe it—that Al and Jesse don’t represent Black America.

          And I understand Barack Obama saying the kid looked like his son, if he had one.  He did.  But for President Obama to say that, as president of all of us, that was a dereliction of his duty.

          George Zimmerman, the “white Hispanic,” is America’s son every bit as much.


          My original thought, based on the early info, was that “tragedy” was the wrong term for this, and most opinionators used it as a cop-out term.  But the more the facts trickle out, the more it fits.  In a tragedy, everybody’s wrong, everybody’s right.  That’s what makes tragedy.


          • Jaybird in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            What’s the complaint here, Tom? That a black minor was shot by a Hispanic guy who was stalking him and everybody’s blowing this out of proportion?

            What’s the right amount of proportion?Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

              Excuse me Jaybird but it’s white Hispanic, emphasis on the white, because the only people who conduct racially-motivated crimes against blacks are white people.Report

              • RTod in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Is this an argument that is being made by people?  Or is this just the argument you are really hoping to have?Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to RTod says:

                Brother Jaybird, does it sound like I’m complaining?  Sorry.  I’m clarifying.

                I lived in Florida meself for nigh on 10 years.  Half of it was cosmopolitan, the other half I played bass in a country band.  Thinking on it, my life was at risk either way.  Remember the chickenwire in front of the Blues Brothers Band?  That was a true story.



              • Jaybird in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Fair enough. What’s the clarification here? That Zimmerman is only about half as German as he sounds?Report

              • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

                His head looks a bit squarish to me.Report

              • greginak in reply to DensityDuck says:

                This entire “white Hispanic” meme does not make a lick of sense, although i’m guessing its not really meant to. Where the heck is it coming from? Of course people of any minority groups can hate each other. Is there something surprising about that. Hispanic people are actually Caucasian, or as people like to say White. Is there anything more to this then just fueling grievances and the narrative of White’s being the real victims of racism.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

                Mr. Greg, “Hispanic people are actually Caucasian” was what I thought when I moved to California in 1981.  Ricky Ricardo, eh?  Imagine my surprise when our Mexican soundman said something about “white people” to me.  I had no idea.

                Ricardo Montalbán, not only a “white” Hispanic, but a purveyor of not only rich Corinthian Leather but American Detroit built-cars as well.

                Now there was a Hispanic, a man for all seasons!

                Gregniak,  from hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.  [But gently, mind you.  This is a league of gentlemen, afterall.]Report

              • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                sorry tom. the word Caucasian is old fashioned and not actually based on much science. trying to have a discussion about touchy subjects requires precision in word use. Race (words like caucasian) have a certain meaning although they lack bio backup. Hispanic is an ethnicity but still pretty vague give how many cultures fall under the rubric of Hispanic.  People mix up the terms race and ethnicity all the time. All that still doesn’t make any sense of the phrase “white Hispanic” in this context.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                All that still doesn’t make any sense of the phrase “white Hispanic” in this context.

                Greg, they’re mocking the fact that venues such as the NYT are pointing out that Zimmerman is a “White Hispanic”. These guys here aren’t going out of their way to point it out. They’re mocking the people who are.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to greginak says:

                Hispanic people can be of any race including black (e.g., Dominicans) and Asian (mostly via 19th- and early 20th-century Chinese and Japanese immigration to South America), but racially, most Hispanics are white, Amerindian, or some combination thereof..

                In the US Census, people are asked to self-identify both by race(s) and by whether they have Hispanic ancestry (i.e., ancestors of any race who immigrated from Spanish-speaking countries). This leads to classifications like non-Hispanic white, Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, etc.

                It’s not entirely clear to me why the media has settled on that term when it’s rarely used colloquially. I have a few cynical theories, but I’ll keep them to myself.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                You know what the bitch about “hate crimes” tends to be? “Murder should be murder, it doesn’t matter whether the guy who pulled the trigger was thinking about how much he hates (racial slurs) or whether he was thinking about going grocery shopping later for supplies for the big game!”

                Instead we’re talking about the complexion of the shooter.

                Yeah, that’ll help.

                It seems to me that if anybody had the right to shoot anybody, Trayvon had the right, under Florida Law, to Stand His Ground and shoot the creepy Hispanic who was stalking him as he was walking home from the local 7-11.

                Though I suspect that, in that circumstance, if we’d be talking about it at all, we’d be talking about yet another German (an upstanding citizen! A member of the neighborhood watch! (“yeah, but he’s got a history of violence” “How dare you smear the dead!!!”)) being shot by yet another Black Youth. (“He claims that he was being stalked.” “Wouldn’t you? Is there anything that isn’t self-serving that you’d say in this situation?” “The cops have a recording of Zimmerman stalking the guy and the cops telling him to not stalk the guy and Zimmerman saying that he’s going to confront the kid.” “That doesn’t mean that Zimmerman initiated hostilities!”)

                I’m going through the list of things that I’d be tempted to do if one of my loved ones was shot walking home from 7-11 under similar circumstances and my thoughts are on how restrained the community is acting… if it were me in their shoes, I wouldn’t leave it at pointing out that Zimmerman is a white guy.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                “How dare you smear the dead!!!”

                Like a week ago, when it was in such awful taste to mention what an asshole Breitbart was, because, after all, he had a family.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                If Breitbart had been murdered, we’d be able to discuss whether (or, more likely, how much) he smoked pot.Report

              • Scott in reply to Jaybird says:


                Maybe so but you wouldn’t have seen so much focus on the race of the shooter.Report

      • BSK in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Had anyone NOT seen a picture of Zimmerma by now? Google image search “Trayvon” and you get both. Almost every story I’ve seen that easn’t specifically about Trayvon had an image of Zimmerman. You are just making shit up now. Stop lying, Tom.Report

  10. Kolohe says:

    The thing is with all the commentary above, putting Zimmerman aside for second, (because from the current known facts, it’s almost entirely his fault), if there’s anyone else who failed Trayvon Martin, it’s the Sanford PD.  So it seems a bit odd to call for *increased* deference to the police.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Kolohe says:

      Correction: If anyone failed Martin, it was the State Attorney’s office.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Actually, that may not be entirely fair to the State Attorney’s office. It’s possible that they did the best they could under the circumstances. The “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for criminal convictions has its benefits, but one of the drawbacks is that it sometimes results in failure to get a conviction for people who are guilty. If you don’t have the evidence for a reasonable chance at a conviction, there’s not much point in pressing charges, and that may have been the case here.

        Still, the fact that the police wanted to press charges casts this in a very different light.Report

  11. BSK says:

    Hey everyone-

    Consider this my official departure from the LoOG. Some of the crap I’ve seen posted here from numerous sources has simply turned this into a place I don’t wish to be associated with. There are a ton of great folks I will miss but I have too much else going on to deal with the out and out nonsense that has cometo pass as discourse. Good luck, all.


    • Tod Kelly in reply to BSK says:

      Hey B- wish you’d reconsider. If not good luck and best wishes, but would rather see you stay.Report

    • Chris in reply to BSK says:

      Dude, letting these people get to you is the wrong way to go. Better to ignore them than to leave.Report

    • Plinko in reply to BSK says:

      I’d prefer you stick with us, BSK. I can’t defend some of the things people have said, but if we don’t hear them, all we’re doing is having a circle jerk about how right we are all the time.


    • Mike Schilling in reply to BSK says:

      Having done the same and come back only recently, I have no standing to ask you to stay.  But I’ll miss you.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to BSK says:

      You’re one of the people who improve the site, BSK. I wish you’d hang around.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to BSK says:

      He’s leaving forever, at least until next week.Report

      • Scott in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Just like all the Hollywood stars that said they were leaving the US when Bush was re-elected. I wonder when people announce they are leaving in a big huff if real the purpose is just to get attention and have folks beg them to stay.Report

    • BSK in reply to BSK says:

      Thanks for the responses.  The main issue I have at this point is I feel people are taking positions and putting out words and images they wouldn’t dare if this were a different community.  If we had a sizable African-American presence, I doubt for a second Wardsmith would put up ish like that Jesse Jackson image.  I don’t think Tom would insist that this isn’t a tragedy because the kid was suspended from school a few times.  I get that the anonymity of the internet and the empowerment one feels behind their keyboard will always lead to big talkers, but I had also always felt that the LoOG was different.  If it were fly-by-nighters or newbies, I understand that comes with the territory.  But it is regulars and authors.  The moment people start acting in a manner different than if they were dealing with people in real life, dealing with people of all genders or races or sexual orientations or faiths or ethnicities or what-have-you, sincerity breaks down and the conversation becomes useless.

      I understand and appreciate what people have said here.  I will confess that my comment yesterday was a bit in haste and emotionally driven.  Sunday I attended a rally for Trayvon Martin, where the mother of a black teenager shot dead by police in my hometown when I was a child spoke about the pain of losing a child to senseless violence, where a guy my age stood up and challenged the black community to demand the same justice for black-on-black crime as white-on-black crime… and I come back to what I believe to be one of the smarter communities on the net and see people posting racist photo shopped images or insisting that if we knew what Zimmerman looked like, OF COURSE our reaction would be different, as if the outrage generated by this incident is solely a matter of political posturing, and has nothing to do with what actually happens in our communities.  Juxtaposing these two experiences and given the limited time I have in my life, I’d much rather be involved in situations like the former than the latter, regardless of what the facts bear out on this particular case.  One group spoke from their heart and dealt in reality; another has certain members interested in scoring points and making veiled attacks behind the anonymity of the internet.  One of those I’d like to associate with; the other… honestly, not so much anymore.  Maybe I’ll reconsider, but it will be hard to voluntarily engage with people who have no interest in participating in genuine discussion.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to BSK says:

        bounce on over to field negro, he’s always good for a refresher. we don’t got stormfront trolls here, at least.

        We do got Republicans trollin’ for da stupid, but…Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to BSK says:


        Hang around. Ignore the people that bother you. There’s a handful of commenters here that I’ve (mostly) been ignoring for years and no one seems the wiser. It’s like hiding comments from that one idiot acquaintence on Facebook instead of unfriending them. No one gets their feelings hurt and you keep your sanity.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to BSK says:

        BSK, I think I understand your feelings all too well. It’s been a big disappointment to me as well. I’ve slacked off paying as much attention to the site and minimized engaging in the debates for pretty much the same reasons. I find the apologetics, excuses, deflections, false-equivalences, etc. over the last few weeks to be a bit nauseating. I mean, upthread, TVD is still rolling out the ‘Rush made a bad joke’ argument as if the problem dissolves once the jokiness of it all is understood. (Question: do conservatives really believe that liberals don’t understand how the ‘joke’ might be funny to some people?  Do they really not understand that the supposed funniness of the joke doesn’t dissolve but rather re-confirms the criticisms of Rush’s behavior as reprehensible?)

        I don’t know if this represents a real and insurmountable difference in world views, or if it reduces to political posturing and defensiveness. But the failure of certain people to even concede the actual issues in play – or at least, the issues some people think are in play – and to then dismiss them without argument or evidence is pretty stunning. Maybe it’s all partisan, but I don’t think so. I’m inclined to think it reveals a real divide in how people look at the world, one which partisan politics exploits rather than creates.

        Nevertheless, I hope you don’t go away for good.Report

      • kenB in reply to BSK says:

        My opinion: take a break, see how you feel in a couple weeks, see whether your life is better or worse without the place.  The only redeeming value of a blog like this is to serve as a training tool for maintaining your equanimity when encountering opposing arguments, or even arguments that offend you.  If you’re getting riled up, you’re not helping yourself or the blog.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to BSK says:

      Please stay, BSK.  Take a break, by all means, but don’t go for good.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to BSK says:

      Add me to the list of people hoping that you re reconsider. We disagree often, but this is a much better place for your presence.Report

  12. Scott says:

    Spike Lee tries to tweet Zimm’s address so his followers can take their revenge but gives out wrong address. Do’oh!