Blame it on the black guys, dead or alive - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Blame it on the black guys, dead or alive

Last year former Navy Seal, Chris Heben, a frequent guest on CNN and Fox News, told Ohio police that after exiting a store he had a verbal altercation with a carload of black guys in a sports car.

He said he was shot in the stomach by one of the men who shouted at him, “You got a big mouth white boy.  You need to learn some f*****g respect.”

After conducting an investigation police stated that Heben’s account of the shooting was not true and he was later charged with falsification and obstruction of police business.

Chris Heben, former Navy Seal has made a career appearing on news shows. (Screenshot)

Chris Heben, former Navy Seal has made a career appearing on news shows. (Screenshot)

I wonder how many black guys in sports cars were stopped by the police after the broadcast went out because of Heben’s lies.  Only Heben knows what his motivation was for fabricating his story, or why he blamed it on black guys.  Did he think that stating to the police that they were black would somehow legitimatize his phony complaint?

Placing the blame on black victims who have been killed by the police seems to be a growing trend with some in the national news media, as if that justifies the wrongful deaths at the hands of the police.  A few cases in point are Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray.  Some former police officers, who appear on national news shows, seem to have something in common, and that is to divert the focus off the question they were asked in the first place.

One retired NYPD Detective, on Fox the other day was asked about the Freddie Gray case and he responded that we should be concerned with all the black people who are killed at the hands of other blacks.  Yes, we should care about that.  But was does that have to do with Freddie Gray dying after injuries sustained while in police custody?  Nothing.  My question to him would have been that those deaths you are referring to were citizen-on citizen killings and as sad as they are, were not at the hands of sworn law enforcement officers.

Freddie Gray arrested April 21 and sustained a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody. He died a week after his arrest after surgery. (YouTube)

Freddie Gray who was arrested April 21 sustained a fatal spinal cord injury while in Baltimore police custody. He died a week after his arrest after surgery. (YouTube)

Statistics show that the majority of black deaths occur at the hands of other blacks, but there is more to that, something you never hear cited by these police experts.  A 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics report concluded that 93 percent of black homicide victims from 1980 to 2008 were killed by black offenders AND 84 percent of white victims were killed by white offenders.    I am no mathematician, but with figures like that, with whites being the majority in the United States, that would be a staggering amount of white people killed at the hands of other whites, not blacks.

I heard other cops say that Walter Scott should not have run from former police officer, Michael Slager, somehow placing the blame on Scott for his own death.  Running from the police does not justify cold-blooded, back shooting murder.

Walter Scott served in the Coast Guard. (Courtesy)

Walter Scott served in the Coast Guard. (Courtesy)

Now the Eric Garner case.  NYPD police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, should have been indicted for the wrongful death of Mr. Garner.  That is my personal opinion. The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused by compression to his neck and chest, in addition to the way he was positioned on the ground.  The medical examiner also stated that Garner’s asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease contributed to his death.  Pantaleo used an illegal choke-hold on Scott, a fact not disputed by the police commissioner.

Watching the death of Mr. Garner on that video was heart-wrenching.  Multiple times he stated, “I can’t breathe.”

When you have your arm around someone’s neck and they are telling you that they can’t breathe, you release your arm.  That is just common sense, end of story.  The on scene supervisor should have made that decision, since the officers ignored his cries.  The police say that he was selling loose cigarettes, a misdemeanor.  Since that is an extremely serious crime in NY, Mr. Garner received a death sentence!

Eric Garner told police he couldn't breathe but that didn't stop officers administering a choke hold. (YouTube)

Eric Garner told police he couldn’t breathe but that didn’t stop officers administering a choke hold. (YouTube)

After Mr. Garner’s death, Representative Peter King from New York told CNN, “If he had not had asthma, and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died from this.”  King also said that “police had no reason to know that he was in serious condition.”

“The fact is if you can’t breathe you can’t talk,” King said.

Well Mr. King, your comments were not only disgraceful but wrong.  Had Garner not been put into an illegal chokehold he would most likely be alive today.  If someone is telling you they can’t breathe, that is an indication of a serious condition.

And yes, Mr. King, you can talk and still be having trouble breathing. A disturbing fact in law enforcement is that cops who abuse their authority usually remain on the job.  The list of police officers who have committed brutality and other abuses while in the performance of their duties and have remained on the job is extensive.  What these officers are is a ticking time bomb ready to go off on another citizen.  Others leave their department with a questionable record and often times get hired by another police agency.

NYPD police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, had twice been sued for violating a citizen’s constitutional rights.  In one lawsuit Pantaleo and other officers were accused of illegally pulling over a car, falsely claiming to have found crack cocaine and forcing the vehicles occupants to strip nude, squat and cough.  NYC settled the suit for $30,000.  The other suit, still pending, accuses Pantaleo of misstating facts about a marijuana arrest in a case where the charges were later dismissed.

And let us not forget that the officers’ first report on the confrontation with Eric Garner did not mention the chokehold!

Tamir Rice was just 12 years old when a police officer fatally shot him. (Courtesy)

Tamir Rice was just 12 years old when a police officer fatally shot him. (Courtesy)

Last year 12-year-old Tamir Rice, was shot and killed by Cleveland police officer, Timothy Loehmann.  Two years prior to that, Loehmann, had been a police officer with the Independence, Ohio police department and judged unfit for police duty.  An internal police memo indicated that Loehmann had emotional problems while handling a firearm.  Deputy Chief, Jim Polak wrote in the memo, “His handgun performance was dismal, and recommended he be “released from employment.”  Loehmann resigned in December 2012 and was later hired by the Cleveland Police Department.

The Department of Justice compiles statistics on law enforcement deaths; however there is no reliable information on the number of civilians who are killed by police officers each year.  Law enforcement agencies are allowed to self-report officer involved shootings.  Experts have said that on average there are around 400 “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement each year.  Others say that figure could be close to 1,000.

I am a proponent of body cameras and dash cameras.  I believe that they would at the very least show transparency by the police; however it would only bring to light a problem, not correct it.  In the Garner case, we had video, albeit from a citizen, but even with that video as evidence the officer was not indicted by a grand jury.

Two days before the Baltimore riots, protesters marched to demand justice for Freddie Gray. (Erik Hoffman)

Two days before the Baltimore riots, protesters marched to demand justice for Freddie Gray. (Erik Hoffman)

In a grand jury preceding the prosecutor can lead the grand jury in any direction he wants to.  And there lies the problem.  Since grand jury testimony is secret in most states, the public never gets the opportunity to hear the evidence that was presented.

In the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, State’s Attorney Mosby is being scrutinized for the amount of charges she filed against the six officers.  She made a decision to not go the grand jury route.  She will have to present her evidence at the hearings as to what led her to believe those officers were responsible for Mr. Gray’s death.  We still do not know all the facts.  That being said, had she gone to a grand jury, she probably would have been criticized for that to, as the public would not have known what testimony was presented.

Lt. Brian Rice the Baltimore City police lieutenant who spotted Freddie Gray making “eye contact” with him, after whom they reported that Gray ran off, has had his own problems over the years.  In April of 2012, amid a dispute with his ex-girlfriend over the custody of their child, Rice had been taken to a hospital for mental health concerns by sheriff’s deputies in Carroll County, Maryland, who – apparently feared he was unstable – confiscated his weapons and then notified the Baltimore City Police.

In January 2013 Rice had a restraining order filed against him for allegedly stalking and threatening his ex-girlfriend’s husband, “in a pattern of intimidation and violence.”  A judge granted the order after finding “reasonable grounds.”

The ex-husband wrote in the complaint that he feared he was “about to be killed by Brian Rice.”

The order was rescinded a week later because of a lack of proof needed to make the protective order final.

Earlier this year, Rice allegedly gave false information to the Westminster, Maryland Police Department in an attempt to get his ex-girlfriend’s husband arrested on a restraining order.  The Westminster Police also notified the Baltimore Police Department.

The latest discussion by the national news media is how police all across the country are reacting to the charging of the six Baltimore City police officers in Gray’s death.  A work slowdown if you will by not engaging in pro-active policing for fear that they will be under scrutiny should they have to use deadly force.   One former police officer used the term, “de-policing.”

The job of any police force is to protect the community to the fullest extent possible under the law, not to start thinking about doing the opposite.

Thanks to all the police officers who engaged in brutality and the unjustified use of force on civilians over the years, from this point forward any officer who uses force, justified or not, will now be under the microscope by the very people they swore an oath to protect.

An estimated one million law enforcement personnel in the United States. The majority do their work every day honorably.  No one can say how many bad cops there are in that estimate, but those bad cops are the worst enemy of law enforcement.  Because of the misdeeds they have done and continue to do, the good cops end up paying the price.

Department of Justice statistics indicate that in 2010 there were over 13 million arrests, 69 percent of persons arrested were white and 28 percent were black.  99 percent of all arrests are peaceful according to the DOJ.  Some black leaders and activists say that there is a war on black men by the police; however the statistics do not support that claim.

We should all come to realize that there is good people and evil people in all races.  All lives matter.  When injustice occurs in our society, we can accomplish more by working together than we can if we are apart.


About the author

Doug Poppa

Doug Poppa is a US Army Military Police Veteran, former law enforcement officer, criminal investigator and private sector security and investigations management professional with 40 years of experience. In 1986 Mr. Poppa was awarded “Criminal Investigator of the Year” by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia for his undercover work in narcotics enforcement. He was also re-assigned to the Northern Virginia Regional Narcotics Enforcement Task Force for 18 months. In 1991 and again in 1992 Mr. Poppa’s testimony under oath in court led to the discovery that exculpatory evidence was withheld from the defense by the prosecutor and sheriff’s office officials during the 1988 trial of a man accused of attempted murder of his wife that led to his conviction. As a result of his testimony the man was ordered released from prison, given a new trial in 1992 and found not guilty. Mr. Poppa became the subject of local and national news media attention as a result of his testimony which led to the demise of his 12-year police career. After losing his job, at the request of the FBI, Mr. Poppa infiltrated in an undercover capacity a group of men who were plotting the kidnapping of a Dupont Chemical fortune heir and his wife in 1992. His stories have been featured on Inside Edition, A Current Affair, and CBS News’ Street Stories with Ed Bradley. Contact the author.
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