They gathered in Dallas to call for violence if they don't get their way

"Patriots" spent Memorial Day talking about the next act of violence they'll commit if they don't win future elections — and to hand their money to far-right grifters. I snuck in to join them.

Author’s note: I’m taking a break this week from my weekly roundup of police shootings because I somewhat unexpectedly spent all of Memorial Day weekend at a QAnon conference in Dallas. My dispatch is below. To all those who subscribed to this newsletter after seeing my video of Mike Flynn calling for a coup, hello and welcome. The latest project at Where Do We Go From Here is on police shootings, but you view past coverage on corruption in Congress, false claims that led to the forever wars, immigration and the lives of undocumented migrants and Facebook’s radicalization engine. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Now, strap in.

***

The flags are at half staff for the latest mass shooting outside a hotel in Dallas and hundreds of normal, respectable-looking white people are in their finest dress to have drinks with two far-right celebrities who over the next three days will tell them the lies that they all believe as they plan the next insurrection, coup, civil war, revolution or something worse.

This is the “For God and Country Patriot Roundup,” and the faithful have come from all across the America to practice their new religion: a twisted combination of QAnon, fervent belief in widespread election fraud, the contradictory beliefs that COVID is both a hoax and something foisted on us by the Chinese as an act of war, disbelief in masks and the vaccine, and the deeply-held conviction that these “Patriots” are in a Biblical struggle for the future of the country and the world.

Only the truth can hold them back. 

For three days they gathered in the dim ballroom of a downtown honky tonk and did what they were told. “Who’s a patriot?” the main organizer, a plaid blazer of a man known as “QAnon John,” would ask them. “I’m a patriot!” came the inevitable reply. “I want you all to clap like this,” a man said and they did, all clapping along for the Star Spangled Banner. They sang along with the man, a Black comic who had just made a dick joke about Michelle Obama, with most of them forgetting to remove their hats. They listened as a disgraced general compared getting kicked off of Twitter and Facebook to American soldiers who have died in combat. Five thousand men died on Omaha Beach alone when we stormed Normandy, Mike Flynn reminded them, so surely these patriots could sacrifice their precious feeds by sharing a meme or a story that is not true. They reveled in their time with each other, the loneliness that pervades their lives — largely caused by this belief system that alienates themselves from friends, family and society at large — washing away in a sea of red MAGA hats and t-shirts with QAnon slogans and references. Where we go one, we go all, they reminded themselves, not understanding that the only place left for them to go is into each other’s arms. But the insular nature of this movement, religion, cult, or whatever you want to call it should not serve as reason to dismiss these people. It’s unclear how many of them there are across the country, but on Memorial Day weekend as many as 1,500 of them chose to pay between $500 and $1,000 to spend the first three-day weekend since the pandemic lockdowns ended with each other. That is no insignificant number. 

What remains to be seen is what these people will do next, and there is plenty of evidence that it will be violent. In fact, one of their heroes encouraged so to raucous applause. “I’m just a simple Marine,” one man in a question-and-answer session with Mike Flynn began. “I wanna know why what happened in Myanmar” — pronounced “Minimar,” of course — “can’t happen here.”

“No reason,” Flynn said. “It should happen here.” (Flynn has now equivocated and said he meant “of course” what happened in Myanmar “should never happen” here. This was neither the spirit of his response nor the literal words he said.)

The crowd heard what I and everyone who has seen the video heard, and cheered wildly. In America in 2021, “Patriots” who gather “For God and Country” cheer for a military coup that has claimed more than 700 lives and resulted in the detainment of 3,000 people who voted for the wrong person. 

***

It’s the first night of the convention and David Brooks is on my television bemoaning that there couldn’t be a bi-partisan decision to investigate the attempted insurrection on January 6. Seven floors below me, some of the insurrectionists are gathered to lay their plans for the next conflict, which will come as soon as they don’t get their way in the 2022 midterms and when Trump isn’t installed as dictator in 2024. 

The talk of war is over. The planning has begun.

What is happening here is not an aberration. The attempted insurrection on January 6 was not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing campaign, being led by people like Flynn, former Trump lawyers L. Lin Wood and Sydney Powell, and a battalion of QAnon and far-right influencers conducting information warfare alongside an army of as many as 100 million Americans — “digital soldiers,” as Flynn calls them. 

And in this information war, these soldiers need to establish beachheads. This can be achieved by infecting their feeds with the misinformation they constantly consume. 

“Nobody has an excuse anymore,” Flynn told the crowd. “People that tell me, ‘Well, I don’t do that internet thing’ or ‘I don’t do social media’ — you don’t have an excuse anymore. That means that you’re sitting on the couch somewhere doing nothing for this country.”

“You are the news,” followed Jason Sullivan, Roger Stone’s former media strategist and the self-billed “Wizard of Twitter,” who is no longer on Twitter, and who made a noose gesture in reference to Hillary Clinton in his speech the previous day. “And we’re going to own that, and we’re going to claim that, and we’re going to radiate it at a level that they’ve never, ever expected before.”

But as with all things in the far-right griftosphere, there was another play being made at this Patriot Roundup that the Patriots weren’t really in on until now. Flynn gave the introduction.

“Jason was just taking me through this amazing capability in the back, showing me the various trending going on right now against Donald Trump,” he said, describing something that could be as simple as opening up trending topics on Facebook and Twitter or as complex as setting up trending topic columns on Tweetdeck — neither of which display any real technological wizardry. 

So what exactly is this proprietary technology that is going to turn the tide of this information war in favor of the patriots?

“Part of the narrative that we saw when Jason was explaining this to us backstage, when he was showing us his software, is the algorithm of the people the other side has that are making waves, that are driving numbers up for the enemy,” said far-right radio host Doug Billings in a sentence that I am still trying to understand. 

Apparently they were talking about left-wing figures trending on social media. That day, it happened to be Adam Schiff and Rob Reiner. The point of this discussion was to get patriots to get their own side’s figures to trend in the “digital battlefield” (maybe?).

“I mean, who’s the other guy that’s, like, dating the Chinese spy?” Flynn asked of Eric Swalwell, who was the target of a Chinese intelligence operation that he reported to the FBI regarding a woman he has not seen since 2014. “Now he’s not trending today, but why don’t we make him trend? Swalwell. Get somebody trending on him.”

It’s unclear how Sullivan’s technology could “get somebody trending on” someone else, or whether the whole point of this is to get conservative or liberal figures trending (absolutely no fucking clue) but what is clear is that we are dealing with a type of grifter whose immaturity and lack of knowledge about pretty much anything knows no depths.

“Think we could have some fun with his last name?” Sullivan asked of Swalwell as the crowd laughed.

“Swallow well, thank you,” Billings replied, grinning.

The idiots in the back of the school bus now lead a digital army of wine moms and landscape company owners who criss-cross the country on Harley Davidsons to absorb insanity and salivate about committing political violence. Every time the Republican party capitulates to Trump, it is capitulating to its unhinged wing.

***

The actual point of all this isn’t actually to win the digital war, which will obviously not happen as long as its soldiers are being constantly slaughtered in the form of getting kicked off Twitter for talking about QAnon. The whole point is for Sullivan and Flynn to get your phone number — then your money.

“I can’t give everyone access to the tools — we can’t afford to have them leak to the opposition — but I have labored over this a very long time and we’re going to figure out a way and I think I’ve figured that out now... How do we disseminate information to our digital soldiers all across the United States, simultaneously, when it matters?” Sullivan told the crowd after they gleefully chanted “Get him out” as Daily Beast reporter Will Sommer was being removed. “What we’re going to be able to do is, we’re gonna tell you, ‘Look Adam Schiff is, Shifty Schiff is doing this, and this is what (Flynn) thinks we oughta do about it, and guess what? You’re all gonna get a text message.”

That way, the patriots can have the latest intel for their information war, Sullivan said. That way, Sullivan and Flynn can also pitch them on their latest grift, like paying $17.76 a month for MAGAiNFO.tv, which live-streamed the conference and appears to be just a collection of links to right wing broadcast programming. 

With much of the weekend feeling like church, giving up alms to the men on the stage probably felt natural for those in the pews. What become clear to me is that QAnon should be considered a religion at this point. I cannot tell you how many times I heard speakers reference that everyone had gathered at Eddie Deen’s Ranch in Dallas, Texas on this Memorial Day Weekend “because of what? Because of God,” and then they’d point to the word God as the crowd cheered. 

There are many things people do for God. Good things and evil things, but never really mediocre things. The problem with the people in Dallas is that they don’t really ever talk about the good things they are going to do for God, or that God is telling some of them to do. They really only ever talk about the bad things: cracking down on people’s rights, creating a less democratic and more fascistic society, committing violence if they don’t get their way in an election. Political and religious violence committed by zealots who want to silence and oppress all other thoughts and ideals. Basically, the exact same thing they accuse dark and nefarious global forces to be doing to them.

There were other, non-religious themes of the weekend. There’s the terrifying combination of disorganized, incurious and frankly not-very-smart people itching for violence while being extremely well-armed. There’s the contradiction of being afraid to walk 10 minutes from the hotel to the event space because they fear they’ll encounter homeless person — one man gave me the advice of hiding my conference pass inside my shirt to avoid being mugged — but running directly into pepper spray on January 6. There is also revolution. Most of the attendees actually envision themselves as freedom-fighting patriots in a battle for the soul of the country, and they’re willing to fight and die for the cause. “We’re too nice,” Flynn told the crowd at one point. “We have to get tough.”

He reminded the crowd that the revolutionaries who defeated the strongest, largest and best army in the world when this country was founded did so not because they had more men, or better equipment, or even better strategy. They won because they believed in the their cause and the British soldiers didn’t believe in their’s. The Patriots in Dallas all believe in God and country, they repeatedly exclaimed. It’s everyone else who doesn’t. 

***

All the photos on this post are mine. The first is from the night I arrived back from Dallas, taken at the American legion in Savannah. All others are from the QAnon convention itself. Barring any other last-minute, cross-country trips to cover the far-right or other chaos, I’ll return next week with an extended police shooting round up.

"They worked us to the bone then turned around and told us we sucked." Week 21 police killings

A longtime Chicago cop explains how last year's protest and scrutiny of police affected crime in the city.

As an uprising grew this time a year ago following the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, unrest took hold in many American cities. The protests and marches and fires and riots drew immediate comparison to the summer of 1968, the last time cities nationwide burned in rage. The comparison was apt — 2020 will be looked upon as pivotal a year as 1968, perhaps even more so considering the global implications of the coronavirus pandemic. But there is something else that ties the two years together: a sharp increase in violent crime. The last biggest uptick in murders came in 1968, when killings jumped 12.7 percent from the year before. In 2020, murders were up 21 percent, an obviously historic number. In America’s large cities, murder climbed nearly 40 percent above 2019 numbers.

In Chicago there was a 50 percent jump last year, resulting in at least 744 homicides, up from 506 in 2019. Right-wing pundits and politicians have blamed last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests as being the primary culprit for the rise in killings and violent crime. The thinking is that police, distracted and overworked from covering weeks and months of protests, weren’t able to do their jobs preventing crime. This is a dubious theory, considering violent crimes like murders are committed in the moment and not necessarily telegraphed to law enforcement. But, fewer cops on blocks in some neighborhoods might cause criminals to be more brazen, so there is some truth to the theory. 

As with all issues with crime, though, the answers to last year’s spike are as complex as the events themselves. To try to get an understanding of it, I checked in with a longtime cop in Chicago who works homicide and other violent crime investigations to see if he had any answers to share. What follows is a condensed version of our conversation.

JG: What happened last year that violent crime went through the roof?

Mike,* a 15-year veteran of the force making dinner for his wife and kids on a Wednesday night: “Let me preface this by saying that one, my perspective is jaded and two, I live in this insane Chicago bubble where some people think it’s preferable that I get shot by a murderer or a sex offender instead of me shooting him to defend myself. I’m sitting here watching all these lefty politicians find out that they’re not left enough for the left anymore when it comes to defund the police and things like that. Black Lives Matter has its lunatic fringe, just like the NRA, where most people just want to own a handgun but then you’ve got the guys who think they should be able to have anti-aircraft missiles.

JG: The right-wing theory/talking point is that cops were distracted by the protests and criminals took advantage, but it can’t be that simple, right?

Mike: “Well, they worked us to the bone for three-and-a-half months [during the protests] and then turned around and told us we sucked. It’s hard for us to suppress violent crime and property crime when we’re pulled off our shifts and put on a bus all day waiting to respond to a protest. I remember that first night of the big protests, I’m sitting here and cops are getting beat up and getting in fistfights all over the place, there’s 10-1 calls [officer in distress] going off everywhere, and I’m just wondering when the mayor is going to call us in. She never did. I think it’s minor that cops were distracted when considering the violent crime rise and more that they were exhausted, pissed off, tired of being vilified and didn’t want to take the chance of being proactive on violent crime and end up getting harassed on a block. Were there some cops who said, ‘I’m done, fuck it,’? Yes. We’re there orders from on high to stand back and don’t engage? Yes.”

JG: Ok so there’s some truth to that theory then, but what about the other factors, the stress of the pandemic, joblessness, all that?

Mike: “That’s part of it, but the bigger thing is that we can’t really do our jobs. There’s no traffic chases! Why wouldn’t you run from the cops if you know they can’t chase you? Fifteen years ago my partner and I caught a guy and he literally tried to ram his car back into my partner. I broke protocol and chased him down and caught him and he said, ‘I thought you guys’d stop chasing me when I committed those two other crimes.’ He knew we were supposed to pull off. And that was 2015, we can’t even do anything close to that now.”

JG: So people are maybe emboldened, and maybe got more emboldened with the protests and the lack of cops on the streets because they were handling protests?

Mike: “There’s a lack of prosecution. If you’re a 13- or 14-year-old jacking cars and you don’t get punished, you graduate to violent crime. I’ve been working these carjackings [there’s been a massive spike in carjackings in Chicago in the last few months] — all that happens is you get a bracelet and if you violate that you just get another bracelet. There’s no will to prosecute. You’ve doubled down on excuse culture where nothing is anybody’s fault.”

JG: A lack of prosecution is one thing but it’s up to you guys to build the case. What are you doing proactively to stop or prevent violent crime and arrest offenders? Violent crime is committed in the moment, so it’s not like you guys can know when a guy is gonna shoot somebody and they’re not calling the cops to tell them they’re about to do it.

Mike: “Well our gang database is about to be fucked. We’re really only going to be allowed to have metadata in it — no individuals. An individual would have to admit on video or audio that they’re in a gang or else we can’t add them to keep an eye on them and know who the players are. It’s absurd.”

JG: Alright but is it just about more cops on the streets equals less crime? It can’t be that simple. Also, police departments always have it both ways: when crime goes up they say, We need more money to tamp down on this crimewave, and then when crime goes down they say, We need at least the same amount of money to keep crime where it is. It’s the only job in the world where you get more money for doing a shittier job at the one thing you’re supposed to do. Why should we just always be giving cops more and more money every year and seeing the same or worse results? I think that’s near the heart of defund the police.

Mike: “I think if we got everything we wanted we wouldn’t see the spikes that we saw, but there’s a pre-supposition that police are the sole arbiter of the criminal justice system.”

JG: Right, you need prosecutions to follow through and people to be locked up or else your work doesn’t mean anything, but what about the money? Why should you guys always get more if you’re not doing as good of a job?

Mike: “Everybody else raises their rates every year to account for cost of living so why shouldn’t cops? I’ve been working without a union contract for three years which means I haven’t had a cost-of-living raise in three years, how is that fair? And does crime ever get better if we freeze budgets?

JG: Well, I think that’s part of the working theory of defund the police: the system really isn’t working great now so why don’t we try something different and allocate resources in other directions.

Mike: “The conditions that cause crime are complex and the solutions are also complex, and I do think there’s plenty of room to talk about getting resources into neighborhoods to help out those vulnerable to getting involved in crime, but you can’t stop crime without the police. Plus, all this theory is just that. It’s a bet that taking money away from police and giving it to community programs is going to eventually result in less crime. But what do we do about this Saturday night? What do we do about this summer? I don’t know how to tell somebody your loved one’s murder doesn’t matter this year because we’re trying to do long-term shit that could eventually result in less crime.”

JG: Yeah that’s one thing, but what are you doing about this Saturday night, this summer? If cops are the best way to stop violent crime why are the rates so high?

Mike: “How do I get active witnesses when elected officials are saying cops are the problem, and if I go talk to the cops somebody on the street is gonna fuck me up anyway? I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about guy dying in the street telling cops, ‘I ain’t telling you shit.’ I wish I had a clean answer that all we had to was X. There’s some cops who are assholes, sure. But this constant vilification of law enforcement does no good.”

JG: I understand that there would be a drag between institution of defund the police in some form and seeing positive results, but the argument is that something has to change because the status quo isn’t working.”

Mike: “Defunding the police won’t work because all of the necessary support systems won’t be there. You wanna defund the police and put the money elsewhere? Be my guest. But I don’t see it working because the change it may make, I don’t see anyone willing to wait that long for that to happen. Also, how wedded are the people who live in these communities to the idea of defund the police? People there say they want more cops.”

Here are nationwide police killings between Tuesdays on the 20th and 21st weeks of 2021:

Tuesday

  • Police in Jackson County, Ore. shot and killed someone following a domestic call and car chase. No mention of BWC footage and as of this writing the decedent’s identity has not been reported.

Wednesday

  • Michigan State Trooper shot and killed a man following a stolen vehicle call and a car chase. No mention of BWC footage and as of this writing the man’s name has not been reported.

Thursday

  • Police in Washington County, Va. shot and killed Brandon S. Odell after he allegedly pulled a gun from under a mattress during a search of his motel room. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Pittsburg, Calif. shot and killed a man allegedly holding a gun and banging on his ex-girlfriend’s apartment door. He allegedly walked away from officers while holding the gun, then turned toward them. No mention of BWC footage but a neighbor’s camera caught the shooting. The neighbor told reporters it took 45 minutes for paramedics to treat the man. As of this writing his name has not been reported.

Friday

  • Police in East Feliciana Parish, La. shot and killed someone who allegedly refused to drop a weapon following a domestic disturbance call. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Houston shot and killed a man who allegedly fired on officers and said “just shoot me.” No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Albany, Ga. shot and killed Kortnee Lashon Warren after he allegedly fired on officers when walking up to a crime scene. No mention of BWC footage.

Saturday

  • Police in Adel, Ga. shot and killed Steve Newsome during a traffic stop early Saturday morning. An officer was also shot several times, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Davidson County, N.C. shot and killed Adam Hartley after he allegedly fired on them in the backyard of a home. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Troy, Ill. shot and may have killed Kody C. Waters, who was allegedly suicidal and firing a gun into the air in a gas station parking lot. The local NBC affiliate reports it is unknown whether Waters died from shots by police or his own gun. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Newaygo County, Mich. shot and killed Johnny Owen King, whose family said was holding a BB gun but not pointing it at police when he was shot.

Sunday

  • Illinois State Police shot and killed a motorcyclist on a rural highway outside St. Louis. It’s unclear exactly what happened — police said the motorcyclist was driving erratically but there wasn’t an active chase at the time of the shooting. An officer took a through-and-through to the calf. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Athens, Ga. shot and killed Juan Joseph Daniele Castellano after he allegedly hijacked a car at gunpoint. When officers responded Castellano allegedly emerged from the vehicle with a long gun and refused to drop it. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in College Station, Texas shot and killed Roderick Devonne Merchant Jr. after he allegedly fired on officers with a rifle while advancing toward them. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Parkesburg, W. Va. shot and killed Rufus Ramsey III after he allegedly charged an officer with a meat cleaver. Ramsey also had allegedly just stabbed a woman. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Kings County, Ca. shot and killed someone who allegedly fired on officers after a 10-hour standoff. No mention of BWC footage and as of this writing the decedent’s identity has not been reported.

Monday

  • Police in Villa Park, Ill. shot and killed a transgender man who was waving a pellet gun at officers and who had allegedly mentioned “death by cop.” Haven Bailey was 25, and was struggling with mental illness and alcoholism, his family said. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Nogales, Ariz. shot and killed the driver of an 18-wheeler who was trying to flee from a Walmart parking lot. In a bizarre situation, a bystander was in front of the vehicle taking video when several officers opened up, firing dozens of shots into the cab. No mention of BWC footage and as of this writing the decedent’s name has not been reported. 

  • Police in Washington D.C. shot and killed a man armed with a rifle who had allegedly been holding a woman against her will. No mention of BWC footage.

Today

  • Police in Lenexa, Kan. shot and killed someone inside a motel room Tuesday morning. Officers were called there for a couple arguing loudly, entered the room, and killed the person. No mention of BWC footage.

In other news:

  • A marquee Supreme Court decision will allow a Texas man who was held in a feces-covered cell for days to sue his jailers. The decision could have far-reaching consequences on the issue of qualified immunity, which shields law enforcement personnel from being sued personally for unconstitutional, illegal, cruel or unnecessarily violent action. However, the Court in one case has already gone back to old ways of shielding officers from being sued under qualified immunity in an appeal brought by the mother of an Ohio man shot and killed by police at close range.

  • The Associated Press last week obtained body cam footage showing the grisly police killing of Ronnie Greene. Louisiana State Troopers tasered Greene multiple times, dragged him while shackled on his stomach, punched him repeatedly in the face and left him lying face down in the dirt. He later died. The AP’s scoop comes after it obtained audio in which an officer involved in Green’s killing bragged that he “beat the ever-living fuck out of him.”

  • The officers in Colorado who beat a 73-year-old woman with dementia, dislocating her shoulder, then left her weeping and asking for help in a jail cell as they watched and rewatched footage of the beating, now face charges. The officer who carried out the beating faces excessive force charges, and his partner is charged with failing to intervene —a concept that is now in discussion nationwide in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, in which multiple officers did nothing as Derek Chauvin killed Floyd.

  • Texas now joins Georgia in introducing legislation that would prevent and punish cities that reduce police budgets. The push is part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s red meat offering to conservatives in the state, which also includes the country’s most expansive gun law, now on Abbott’s desk, that will allow anyone to openly carry handguns without any licensure process. 

  • ProPublica has a good look at how seldom officers are held accountable for questionable use of deadly force, focusing on the case of Kawask Trawick in New York two years ago. The NYPD finally completed its internal investigation of Trawick’s killing and cleared the officers involved.

All the photos from this post are mine from 2015-16 in Chicago. The first is of a memorial for fallen cops somewhere on the West Side, taken during a march during the Laquan McDonald protests. The second, location unknown. 

I've done nothing wrong. I'm looking at the clouds. - Week 20 police killings

The officers who killed Andrew Brown last month won't be charged — and the video won't be released.

The Pasquotank County District Attorney has decided not to charge the officers who killed Andrew Brown Jr. last month. In doing so, he strangely side-stepped a state law that says only a judge can decide to make footage publicly available, and showed some of the footage during a press conference earlier today. The issue was not lost on one reporter, nor was the fact that Brown was driving away from the officers as they fired into the back of his car. The defiant prosecutor, Andrew Womble, defended the officers’ actions, saying they were forced to “extinguish a threat.” Whether Brown was actually a threat will be up to debate now because the public doesn’t have access to all the footage. Unfortunately, it will take some time for a truly independent analysis of that footage because Womble was only displaying the video today, not releasing it. Wrap your heads around that. 

This one ain’t over, not by a longshot.

Here are nationwide police killings between Tuesdays for the 19th and 20th weeks of 2021:

Friday

  • Police in Rochester, NY shot and killed Mark Gaskill Friday morning. Gaskill was suspected of having a gun following a shots fired call and a subsequent traffic stop. BWC footage released follows the general trend of police releasing footage when a shooting or killing is obviously justified — which this one was — but denying or delaying release of evidence when situations are far more questionable. 

  • Police in Pennington County, N.D. shot and killed a man who allegedly pointed a long gun at them. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Denver shot and killed Cedric Vick after he allegedly shot at a woman and her toddler, carjacked her vehicle and fired at police at the end of a car chase. BWC footage exists.

  • Police in Augusta County, VA shot and killed Jeffrey J. Bruce after he allegedly charged at officers while holding a knife. No mention of BWC footage.

Sunday

  • Police in Birmingham, Ala. killed Brian Timothy Dunne after he allegedly shot two citizens, killing one, and then fired on officers when they attempted to arrest him at his home for the shootings. Four officers were apparently shot or grazed. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Omaha, NE shot and killed Deven Telford after he allegedly fired at officers responding to an assault in progress. BWC and dashcam footage exist, but police said some of the footage may not capture the shooting.

  • Police in Baltimore shot and killed a man who was holding a family member hostage with a knife. BWC footage exists and is expected to be released.

Monday

  • Police in Chamblee, GA killed a man after responding to a 911 call of a kidnapping, a car chase and a foot chase. Chamblee police fired tasers but apparently had no effect. At some point, police fired their guns and killed the man. A handgun was located at the scene nearby, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Monterey Park, CA shot and killed a man at a gas station Monday afternoon. Local media had not obtained information about what led to the shooting as of this writing and neither story mentioned BWC footage. 

  • Police in Dickinson, N.D. shot and killed a man after he allegedly pointed a gun at police during a domestic disturbance call. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Waldorf, MD shot and killed a man who had allegedly shot two officers in a barricade situation. The officers were not wearing body cameras.

  • Police in Peoria, Ariz. shot and killed a man who allegedly fired at an officer. No mention of BWC footage.

In other news:

  • The Oklahoma City Police Department released BWC footage of  the killing Daniel Hobbs, and cell phone video has emerged showing the fatal shooting. The footage shows the officer, Daniel Lopez, approach Hobbs, who is staring at the sky and says he was “trying to get the sky to come down.” After a brief conversation in which the officer interrogates Hobbs about his mental health status and what medications he’s on, Lopez moves in to check Hobbs for weapons. When Hobbs insists that all he has is a wallet, Lopez grabs his arms and tries to cuff him. “You’re trying to handcuff me when I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m looking at the clouds.” The two go to the ground and begin to struggle. Police claim that the footage proves witness accounts that Hobbs was going for Lopez’s taser, but the footage doesn’t make that entirely clear. (Also, recall that Rayshard Brooks had former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe’s taser when Rolfe shot and killed Brooks — and Rolfe was later charged.) The cell phone video shows the two rolling around on the ground when Lopez fires several shots down into Hobbs at point-blank range. Whatever happened on the ground — and that remains a matter of great debate — this killing shows exactly why mental health professionals should be called in certain situations. This was one such situation. Hobbs is clearly out of it but is also politely talking before Lopez moves in. Police claim the off button on Lopez’s body camera was pushed during the struggle, so the shooting itself isn’t shown.

  • A prosecutor in Hawaii continues to consider charges against officers who killed a South African man there on April 14 in a bizarre situation in which the man may have mistaken a home he entered for a temple.

  • The Dallas Morning News has an exposé on a Texas cop who kept getting hired by various departments despite a string of sexual assault allegations.

  • The Savannah Police Department continues to have a bad month with one of its officers from the special victims unit now accused of minor assault of a child. The incident follows the apparent in-custody suicide of William Zachary Harvey, for which there is inesplicably no video of despite him being in an interrogation room, and the subsequent sharing of a noose meme in a text thread among officers.

  • CNN reports that 15 police unions representing more than 250,000 law enforcement officers are pushing guidance that require cops witnessing wrongdoing to intervene — an act that is currently not always protected by unions. This is a step in the right direction, but a depressing one considering that one would think one’s morals would prompt them to intervene in the event of an obvious and heinous crime like the killing of George Floyd, instead of relying on union protection to do so. However, Lucy Steigerwald is right to point out that the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents some 350,000 cops nationwide, was not involved in planning the guidance.

There is footage but the law won't release it

Footage exists of the police killing of Andrew Brown Jr.m but even the police are prevented by law from releasing it.

This morning, we are presented with a rare and troubling situation: The district attorney in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, can clear the officers who killed Andrew Brown Jr. by shooting him in the back of the head without releasing video showing the killing because he is prevented from doing so under state law. 

That’s because North Carolina’s body camera law only allows for family and other representatives of those harmed by police to view such footage, unless a judge orders its release after media or other parties appeal. A judge in Pasquotank County has already denied such an appeal, saying it could affect a future trial. (It goes without saying, of course, that police and prosecutors routinely release evidence on alleged criminal suspects to the media ahead of those criminal trials.)

So, county lawmakers passed a resolution last night asking the state legislature to change North Carolina’s horrendous body camera law. That may happen in the event of widespread protest or unrest if the district attorney announces this morning that the officers won’t be charged. Brown’s killing has caused much distress in the community, due in no small part to the failure of the judge to release the footage. Brown’s family was allowed to see about 20 seconds worth of footage that showed officers firing on him, apparently from behind, as he had his hands on the steering wheel of his vehicle. Later, Brown’s family saw more footage of the killing in which they claim Brown was “ambushed” and essentially executed — one of the bullets entered the back of his head. Since then, nothing.

As it happens, an old contact has been in Elizabeth City dutifully covering the Brown case. Eugene Daniel and I go way back, all the way to Peoria where we’d run into each other at shootings, homicides, fires, traffic accidents, press conferences and government meetings, him for the local CBS affiliate and me for the Journal Star. He enjoyed a decade in the River City, where he worked with civic organizations and took seriously his position as anchor, serving as a role model for a Black community often overlooked in my hometown, before heading back to North Carolina, where he’s from. 

There could be no better person to catch us up to speed on the Brown case, so I called Eugene up this morning to do just that. 

JG: What is this presser even going to entail?

ED: The DA is going to be sharing about the results of the investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation. So that is what this is about, and that is all that we really know. We don’t know if this will be a conversation about any potential charges for the officers involved.

JG: Last night the county board passed a resolution asking the state legislature to address a very restrictive body camera law. What prompted that decision and will anything come of it?

ED: The county held an emergency meeting and in this emergency meeting, which was very short, less than 10 minutes, they read a resolution and immediately passed a resolution in which they declared — which has become a very critical part of the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. and the investigation thereafter — they declared that the law was in the way of transparency. Specifically they’re looking at the section that does not allow for the sheriff or the law enforcement agency in an individual case to have the ability to share that video. This law that was passed in 2016, and says that body cam or dashcam video are not considered public records, and that’s why a judge denied an appeal to have the footage released to the public.

JG: That’s interesting; I didn’t know the law was so new. It’s also interesting because that was at a time, after Ferguson, where states and local governments and law enforcement agencies around the country were re-examining their rules and laws in the interest of transparency. North Carolina seems to have gone the opposite way. 

ED: From conversations with attorneys and also, I interviewed the AG last week, apparently the idea behind the law was to have some sort of process in place so that they would be handled in the courts. When I’ve talked to several attorneys they’ve said they believe the heart of putting the bill together was in the right place, that they wanted some form of process and they figured going through the judicial system would be a good way to go about that. When you talk to certain attorneys, they think this is a good thing but when you talk to others, including the AG, they say it’s good intentions but handled the wrong way. Now there’s currently legislation being pushed by lawmakers in NC to change that. I’m confident that this case is bringing up the conversation even more. 

JG: What about this case is making them rethink it? What would have been different if this law was different and the footage had already been released?

ED: We have a case here where the sheriff has petitioned for the release of the footage and according to the law cannot do so without a judge’s orders. And the judge denied the request to release it from a group of media organizations.

JG: It seems hypocritical to say the least that you have a law that potentially shields evidence of criminal wrongdoing to be released to the public when you and I both know that police and prosecutors release that type of evidence all the time on criminal suspects.

ED: That’s where this law comes into play. There’s a lot of people in this community, for instance, that were not aware of this law until now. You also have to think about the moment. During the time in which the country is wrapping up the trial of Derek Chauvin, and at the same time you had, when the shooting took place, then you have Daunte Wright. And that particular police department released the video that day, so a lot of people are probably seeing that and thinking, Why can’t that happen in North Carolina? But again, this is the law in North Carolina. And the law allowed the family and the lawyers to, first, see about 20 seconds of footage, then for them to see around 19 minutes of what we know collectively is around two hours total.

JG: What was the reason the judge disallowed the other hour and a half?

ED: To answer your question, it’s very specifically stated in the law. It goes down by who can be shown video and what portions you can see. If you are a lawyer, you can see portions of the video where the person you’re representing is viewable. So the understanding (of reporters and the community) is, no, they have not seen the beginning portions of the officers walking up to the scene. All of which is to say, this is why it would be very beneficial for us to see this video.

JG: Wasn’t the initial narrative that he was driving at officers, which was then later contradicted when the autopsy showed he’d been shot from behind?

ED: There’s a witness, a neighbor, who says (Brown) was trying to drive away, and that’s when the officers began shooting. From what we understand, from attorneys and witnesses, is that he was backed into his driveway — someone I talked to said he always backed in — and when police got there they essentially cut him off in the driveway. The attorneys last week said the video that they saw shows the first shot is fired and then Brown backed away from a deputy. And to your point, the DA said the car made contact with deputies. But the family’s attorneys say he was backing away from deputies and one of them reached out and touched Brown’s car, and that Brown was not threatening them. But again, no one has seen the video to be able to discuss this. 

JG: What has been the reaction in the community?

ED: So, literally every since the shooting there have been some form of peaceful protest. People have marched most of the days, they’ve held rallies… Tgeir big rallying cry has been, release the tape, the full tape. Look up that law, and as someone who looks into cases like this, you’ll be like, Oh, wow. You have a scenario where the county sheriff has come out and spoken against this law, the county board has spoken out againstthe law, obviously the attorneys want the full tape, the community wants the full release, and the only thing in the way is this law. This is obviously a tragic situation in general but compounded upon that, it’s a perfect storm almost of putting this law to practice. For a lot of people, it’s the first time that they’ve had to encounter this law and watch it play out. 

JG: Any final thoughts?

ED: They always say as a reporter you should be balanced so, being able to be in a scenario like this where I can have compassion for the people but also have compassion for the law enforcement side as well, this is where I can shine the brightest. I’m tired because I’m not sleeping a lot but I’m not tired from the situation. A lot of times when you see images of a community angry over a police shooting, and not getting the result that they want immediately, you see these images across the country of people protesting and then it breaks out into something else. Man, this community has been overwhelmingly peaceful. Strategic, making things uncomfortable, for sure — they block traffic every day. To watch that, it’s been interesting because sometimes people expect it go one way, but they’re determined to make it peaceful.

Killed by the feds with no evidence - Week 19 police killings

Federal officers aren't required to wear body cameras and have killed at least 550 Americans in the last 20 years.

The family of Jimmy Atchison says the local district attorney has determined that protocol was not properly followed when an Atlanta police officer shot the 21-year-old in 2019 as he was exiting a closet with his hands up during a standoff. The case is an interesting one: Atlanta police officers were alongside a federal task force the day of Atchison’s killing, a common practice among local law enforcement helping out federal agencies. Atchison was a wanted armed suspect, prompting the FBI to create a task force to implement his arrest, another common but somewhat odd practice for agencies that one would think are entirely capable of taking dangerous suspects into custody without hand-holding from the feds. 

Following Atchison’s killing, the Atlanta police chief announced her agency would no longer ride along with federal agencies executing warrants or arresting suspects. Atlanta police are joined by at least five cities whose departments have opted out of participating with federal law enforcement in local raids. The decision came after Atchison’s killing, but his death is not even the most questionable police killing in the Atlanta area involving federal law enforcement. On August 5, 2016, several area agencies joined the U.S. Marshals to arrest Jamarion Robinson, a schizophrenic 26-year-old acting erratically who had fired at an officer a day or two before. The specifics of the altercation are difficult to get at but the result is easy to understand: officers fired an astounding 59 times at Robinson, resulting in 76 gunshot wounds, including six in one hand. The Fulton County District Attorney — the same prosecutor considering charges against the officers who killed Atchison — asked for records of Robinson’s killing from the Department of Justice but was refused, with the agency also allegedly shielding the officers responsible for Robinson’s killing from speaking to DA investigators. (After suing, the DOJ relented somewhat, and prior to Covid the DA planned to bring the case to a grand jury.) 

Atchison and Robinson join at least 549 others who have been killed by federal law enforcement agencies since 2000, my review of Fatal Encounters’ database of police killings and other in-custody deaths shows. Their deaths represent the under-reported issue of federal officers killing Americans while not wearing body cameras because the DOJ actually prohibits their use. That’s ironic (and maddening) considering the tens of millions of dollars the agency has doled out to local law enforcement since Mike Brown’s killing in Ferguson to equip those agencies with BWCs. Even more maddening: the DOJ in October 2020 announced they would allow local cops working on federal task forces like the ones responsible for Athchison’s and Robinson’s deaths to wear BWCs — while still prohibiting the federal officers themselves from wearing them. What you’re likely to get in these cases, then, is BWC footage from some local cop in the back of the line, far from the action of where a federal officer is firing at a suspect. That’s if there’s any footage at all: A federal task force in Portland blew away an Antifa activist during last summer’s unrest in what reads like an execution squad and there’s not apparently any footage of the maelstrom of gunfire that rocked a residential neighborhood.

I can’t imagine what the legal argument would be for prohibiting federal law enforcement from wearing body cams, but I hope the ACLU or other groups will soon pursue litigation to force this minor level of accountability for the scores of federal agencies responsible for those 550 killings in the last 21 years. 

Here are nationwide police killings between Tuesdays of the 18th and 19th weeks of 2021.

Thursday

  • A police officer in Casper, Wyoming shot and killed 42-year-old Thomas Joseph Roeber in what sounds like a bizarre interaction in which the officer was inside a vehicle Roeber was attempting to take into oncoming interstate traffic. No mention of BWC footage. 

Friday

  • Officers with two rural Tennessee police departments shot and killed Robbie Leigh Hodge, 52, after responding to a call of someone firing a gun inside a home. No mention of BWC footage. 

Saturday 

  • A police officer in Little Rock, Arkansas claims their gun went off while the officer had their hand inside the door of a vehicle in which the driver was trying to get away. The cop was dragged for a bit before the driver — still unnamed and in critical condition — crashed into a pole. I’m breaking my rule of only writing about confirmed killings in this instance because of the claim of accidental discharge of a firearm, which you rarely see. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Police in Clarksville, Tennessee shot and killed a man after he shot and injured his girlfriend inside their home. The man, Adonis Traughber, had apparently recently lost his job, was distraught, and had been drinking for several days before he confronted his girlfriend and shot her. When police arrived, the girlfriend claims she heard Traughber say, “I surrender, I surrender, I’m coming out.” 

  • A police officer in Oklahoma City shot and killed a distraught schizophrenic man outside his grandfather’s home Saturday night. Initially responding to a call that the man, Daniel Hobbs, was violating an order of protection, police later said no such order existed. It appears that Hobbs may have been unarmed when struggling on the ground with the officer because police said the officer “was trying to make” a determination of whether Hobbs was armed and “that’s when a struggle ensued.” Police have said they’ll release BWC footage but I’ve filed a request for all available footage under the Oklahoma Open Records Act anyway.

Sunday

  • Police in Greenville, South Carolina shot and killed Jeffery Mark Murray after he allegedly shot and killed a cyclist in a park Sunday morning. The cyclist named Murray on a 911 call before succumbing to his injuries. When police pulled Murray over he allegedly emerged with a gun and began shooting, with the officers returning fire. No mention of BWC footage.

Monday

  • Police in Lancaster, Texas shot and killed a man who was allegedly firing a gun inside an apartment with his mother and her grandchildren inside. Police announced themselves outside the apartment then entered after an un-released amount of time to find Kalon Horton, 29, allegedly armed with a gun. No mention of BWC footage.

  • Two officers in Concho County, Texas were killed by a gunman who apparently survived Monday night. Again breaking my rule about fatal shootings because of the rarity of two cops being killed in one incident. No mention of BWC footage.

  • One officer and a civilian were killed when the officer attempted to serve a search warrant Monday night in San Luis Obispo, California. Little information was available as of Tuesday morning and the story does not mention BWC footage.

In other news:

  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp just signed into law a bill prohibiting cities from cutting police budgets — despite the fact that not a single city in the entire state has proposed doing so. In an obvious ploy to garner support among a conservative base both angry at Kemp over unfounded election fraud allegations and also blindly supportive of law enforcement, the Republican-backed bill will probably never even be put into use and will surely be overturned once Stacey Abrams becomes governor. But that isn’t the point with these types of measures. The point is to signal to conservatives that you also believe police are being unfairly scrutinized for their actions despite widespread belief among all Americans that policing and our criminal justice system need deep reform. What’s so interesting about such a measure coming from an arch-conservative like Kemp, though, is because it’s the exact opposite of the small government, constantly-reducing-budgets ethos of the Republican party for the last 40 years. That mindset apparently doesn’t apply to law enforcement, who if Kemp and his fellow Georgia Republicans are to be believed, should never be reduced in size or have their budgets examined or cut. American policing really is one of the only jobs in which you can get the same amount of money or more for doing better, the same, or worse at your job, an issue I discuss with a longtime Chicago cop in an upcoming edition of Where Do We Go From Here.

  • Police in Lubbock, Texas finally released BWC footage of the November 26, 2020 shooting of Michael Pena. Pena is seen for two minutes calmly refusing to put his hands on the hood of a squad before backing up and pulling something out of his pocket. Then, the footage ends on one local outlet’s report. The story, which is written from the perspective of the police chief justifying the shooting, is typical of local news outlets. Nowhere in the story does it mention whether Pena actually had a weapon or what he was pulling out of his pocket. I’ve requested all available records from this case under the Texas Public Information Act.

  • A police union president in Miami has been arrested and charged with raping a woman following a union gala at the Trump National Jupiter Golf Club in April. The woman protested that the official, Lt. John Jenkins, was married and that his wife and children were also staying at the hotel.

  • Scumbag ex-St. Louis cop Dustin Boone, who bragged that he took down a black undercover cop working a 2017 protest over the police killing of Anthony Lamar Smith, by beating “him like Rodney King” now wants his racist texts withheld from his second trial. The Riverfront Times has the full rundown of the texts and they’re truly horrific and include bragging about firing a taser into a suspect’s head, then forcing him to say “I’m a pussy” as he was “puking and seizing.” Other cops on the thread thought that was pretty fucking funny, apparently. Boone brags about several other beatings in the texts, frequently using the N-word. 

Loading more posts…