OPINION COLUMNS

We’ve had a messed-up week

By Jake Harris | Published Saturday, December 6, 2014
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I’ve been having some weird dreams lately. Here’s one I had last night.

Me: (Walking along, minding my own business, when out of nowhere, a spaceship appears from the sky and lands in front of me. An alien steps out.)

Jake Harris

Jake Harris

Extraterrestrial: Greetings. I come from another planet, and my race is looking for another place to sustain life. We have chosen America, but we want to make sure of our decision first.

Me: … OK … And what does this have to do with me?

ET: You work for a newspaper, right? I want to hear the biggest news story in your country this week.

Me: Uh … ok … ah … well, a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict an NYPD cop this week for killing a man named Eric Garner. That’s pretty big news.

ET: Wait, grand jury … cop … wasn’t that in Missouri?

Me: Nah, that was Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. That happened last month. This decision happened Wednesday.

ET: Hmph. Well then. What did this Garner guy do?

Me: Witnesses say he broke up a fight and shortly after that, once the police found out who he was, they tried to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes.

ET: Untaxed?

Me: Yeah, he was selling cigarettes that weren’t licensed by the government, and he had a record of marijuana possession and assault. Some conservative political leaders are blaming government intrusion on the free market for his death – that if there were no taxes, he wouldn’t have been selling the cigarettes in the first place. Anyway, he’d been arrested about 30 times before for various offenses, like I said earlier.

ET: Well, if they had proof, it sounds like he should have been arrested. So, he was peddling cigarettes that day?

Me: Maybe he was. I don’t know. He kept telling the officers he was tired of being harassed and that he wasn’t selling cigarettes that day. He was pretty out of breath from breaking up the fight, too. He was a big guy, about 6 foot, 300 lbs.

ET: Wait, how do you know all this? You’re not from New York.

Me: The Internet. Someone filmed the whole incident and put it online. Anyone can watch it.

ET: Oh. So how did he die?

Me: After Garner said he was tired of being harassed, the arresting officer, Daniel Pantaleo, moved to arrest him and put Garner in a choke hold – a maneuver that’s been banned by the NYPD for 20 years – and wrestled him to the ground. Garner kept saying, ‘I can’t breathe; I can’t breathe.’ The choke hold killed him, and he was pronounced dead an hour later.

ET: … And all this … it’s on video?

Me: Every second. Its harrowing to watch.

ET: Seems like a pretty cut-and-dried case to me. I have no knowledge of the intricacies of your legal system, but it sounds like Pantaleo should get a trial of some kind.

Me: You would think so, right? Not so fast. We have grand juries in America, where a group of people decide whether there’s enough evidence to bring a case to trial. If they think there is, then there’s an indictment. America’s one of the few countries that still uses them.

ET: And they didn’t indict this man? Even though Garner’s death is on video?

Me: Bingo. The explanation from some pundits is that Pantaleo applied a submission hold, which is different from a choke hold. Another argument is that if Garner had enough breath to cry out, ‘I can’t breathe,’ then, paradoxically, he COULD breathe. And there aren’t exactly any strict guidelines on what excessive force is. So it’s all a bit murky on the technical side.

ET: I think I understand. For the sake of argument, does the general public know what Pantaleo would have been charged with?

Me: No, and there’s no way of knowing, because that information isn’t allowed to be publicly viewed.

ET: I have a question. We’ve been watching your country for a few months. It seems like this sort of thing has been happening a lot lately. Why is that?

Me: Well, Twitter and YouTube have been able to point these things out more often, but they’ve been going on for a long time. The technology just allows us to catch it now. It’s terrible. In addition to Eric Garner, a Cleveland cop shot Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy holding a pellet gun in a park. The cop thought it was real and just rolled up to him and opened fire. And get this: The cop who shot him had previously been deemed unfit to use a gun. Yet he was still on the force.

ET: That’s sickening. What’s been the country’s response to Eric Garner?

Me: It was pretty interesting. Garner was black, and Pantaleo is white, so it stirred up a lot of discontent that black Americans have felt toward law enforcement. We don’t really have a great track record with all that. Nobody wants to talk about how that tiny little detail matters, but it does. The interesting thing is that across party lines and race, almost everyone agrees that the grand jury made the wrong decision. There were protests all over the country after it was announced.

ET: What happened to the police officer?

Me: Oh, he got relegated to desk duty shortly after the incident. If history repeats itself, like with the Michael Brown shooting, he’ll probably resign in a few days. And similar to the Tamir Rice shooting, he had previous issues on the job. As of right now, he’s been sued three times for previously violating the civil rights of his suspects.

ET: But he won’t go to jail?

Me: Probably not, unless there’s an investigation from the attorney general. Eric Holder has promised one, but it’s going to be hard to prove that there were any violations.

ET: That’s absolutely unbelievable. It must make you feel bad for the police officers that do their job correctly, the ones that serve and protect the people.

Me: It does. Those men and women are the ones we should think of when we think of “police officer.” Not this. So, you still want to live here?

ET: Absolutely not. You people are crazy.

(ET hobbles back to his spaceship and flies home; I wake up and tell myself to stop falling asleep as I watch TV.)

Jake Harris is a reporter for the Messenger.

One Response to “We’ve had a messed-up week”

  1. Rusty White says:

    Jake,

    Interesting, sadly you have touched on “several” troubling event as of late. The only one to get arrested in the choking death, was the witness that recorded it, GO FIGURE???

    The 12 year olds situation was even more disgusting, the person who called 911 stated he didn’t believe the gun was real! Yet the video shows the officer jumping out and opening fire WITHOUT any provocation!

    The Brown killing is a mess on all sides, there is little doubt he needed a “therapy” lesson. But killing him with so many shots and the last one to the head, is disgusting at best! Sadly many are attacking the parenting or the lack there of, and harp on the FACT of the numbers of single parent house holds in these poor communities.

    Truth is, “IF” we all didn’t blindly support and condone this known failure “the war on drugs”! While giving people who have NO “violence or victims” in their “supposed” crimes “life time” criminal records! Just maybe there would be two parents in these homes, maybe people would not be “forced” in to becoming second class citizens having only the “dark side” as a means to fulfill their family needs!

    Kind of strange people support the policies that force families and children to live and survive in a “dog eat dog” environment. Then can’t understand when “some” act like animals, REALLY???

    The most disgusting fact you touched upon, is the manipulated Grand Jury system in play today. Bad cops and lack of justice can “only” exist when a Judge and a DA can manipulate a “hand picked” body of blind supporters “behind closed doors”,in to escaping liability and accountability, FACT!!!

    Lucky for you it was just a dream, sadly for many families right here in Wise County and across this nation! It has become to common and a “never ending” and “needless and unwarranted”, nightmare! How many families will suffer this Christmas because of a “minorities” self serving beliefs and agendas????

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