The face of terror, or the victim of terror? It has been 20 years since the siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, a clash that saw the violent deaths of three people and a dog. Randy and Vicki Weaver, a Midwestern couple, had moved to the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, where they planned to live as self-sufficiently as possible. Then the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms entrapped Randy on a minor weapons violation and offered him a deal: The charge would be dismissed if he became an informant in white separatist circles. Weaver decided he’d rather skip his trial and move his family to a cabin in the wilderness. When federal agents arrived on the scene, they shot the family dog. The Weavers’ son Sam, not realizing what was going on, fired a shot in response and then fled, at which point an agent shot him in the back. Kevin Harris, a visiting friend, fired from the Weavers’ cabin, killing one of the attacking cops. The FBI’s snipers went on to wound both Randy and Harris, and one of the agents killed Vicki, firing a bullet into her head while she held the couple’s 10-month-old daughter.
It has been 20 years since the clash at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, an assault that led to the violent deaths of three human beings and a dog. Randy and Vicki Weaver, a Midwestern couple, had moved to the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, where they planned to live as self-sufficiently as possible. Then the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms entrapped Randy on a minor weapons violation and offered him a deal: The charge would be dismissed if he became an informant in white separatist circles. Instead Weaver skipped (or just missed) his trial (*) and moved his family to a cabin in the wilderness.
When federal agents arrived on the scene, they shot the family dog. The Weavers’ son Sam, not realizing what was going on, fired a shot in response and then fled, at which point an agent shot him in the back. Kevin Harris, a visiting friend, fired from the Weavers’ cabin, killing one of the attacking cops. The FBI’s snipers went on to wound both Randy and Harris, and one of the sharpshooters killed Vicki, firing a bullet into her head while she held the couple’s 10-month-old daughter.
An 11-day standoff ensued. After Weaver surrendered, he and Harris were found innocent of murder. An internal report subsequently concluded that the FBI had violated the Weavers’ constitutional rights. Some figures within the agency suspected that they were in the wrong well before then, though — a few days into the siege, Danny Coulson of the FBI wrote this in a memo:
Something to Consider
1. Charge against Weaver is Bull Shit.
2. No one saw Weaver do any shooting.
3. Vicki has no charges against her.
4. Weaver’s defense. He ran down the hill to see what dog was barking at. Some guys in camys [camouflage] shot his dog. Started shooting at him. Killed his son. Harris did the shooting [of the FBI agent]. He [Randy Weaver] is in pretty strong legal position.
Not a bad summary.
It isn’t hard to find examples of marginal groups whose paranoia about the government drove them to violence. The tale of the Weavers shows how the government’s paranoia about marginal groups can drive it to violence, too. The feds looked at a family with fringy views and perceived a threat, and as a result a woman, a boy, a dog, and one of the government’s own agents were killed. It wouldn’t be the last time something like that happened. A year later in Waco, the Branch Davidians‘ paranoia would be no match for the paranoia of the Davidians’ enemies.
I wish I could report that the authorities’ fear has faded in the decades since Ruby Ridge and Waco. Instead it has been institutionalized in the fusion centers that litter the country, where everybody from Ron Paul fans to anti-fracking activists have been tarred as potential terrorists. Meanwhile, the country’s police forces have been steadily more militarized. What a sad and terrifying combination.
Elsewhere in Reason: “The Paranoid Center.”
(* I originally wrote that he simply skipped the trial, but a commenter reminds me that Weaver had been sent the wrong date. That said, Alan Bock‘s book on the standoff—which is in no sense sympathetic to the government—points out that there’s a good chance Weaver wouldn’t have shown up either way: “Randy later told friends that he was convinced he would be railroaded, that government witnesses would lie under oath, and that he would be convicted whether guilty or not.” But even if Bock is right, the fact that Weaver wasn’t told the right day for the court date he missed just underlines how over-the-top the government’s reaction was.)
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August 22, 2012
Apparently Albuquerque, NM police believe smoking marijuana is a crime that endangers their lives or the lives of others.
This was made clear by footage shot from the lapel camera of one Officer Connor Rice who claimed “hot pursuit” before unlawfully barging into someone’s apartment and subsequently tasering an occupant.
The incident happened on May 31 and has led to a criminal summons being issued to Officer Rice.
The footage was released last Thursday in response to a public records request from reporters and a lawsuit filed by local TV station KRQE.
The damning video begins with bike cop Connor Rice conducting a search in which a suspect admits to having marijuana in his pocket and in his backpack.
Officer Rice and another officer prepare to handcuff the suspect after lecturing them when the accused flees on foot leading officers on a foot and bike chase through a neighborhood.
Officer Rice next comes upon two average-looking citizens walking a dog with knowledge of the incident and proceeds to frisk them.
After leading officers to their apartment, which held the man police were looking for, police kick down the apartment door and officer Rice uses a stun gun on the first person he sees. That person is heard yelling in pain at the 24 minute mark in the video.
One resident, probably familiar with the dog-killing that has become standard protocol for police, asks Rice if he can secure his dog, to which the officer replied, “Get down on the ground, no! Stay right there!” The resident continues to insist that his dog needs to be secured when police decide to taze the resident into submission.
While the officers were busy tazering the apartment occupants, the man they were looking for sneaks out the back and runs off.
After another bike pursuit, officer Rice and about two other officers find the suspect.
While being tackled to the ground, the suspect is heard saying, “I surrender,” to which officer Rice asks “You surrender?” Next a howling scream is heard as the victim is visibly forced into compliance by officers beating him and stomping on his head with their feet.
The ABQ Journal notes that officers also jumped on that man’s back.
According to the Journal, Rice’s tasering in the apartment led to his aggravated battery charge, which means he had intent to injure, and his subsequent strikes at the “surrendered” man were the basis for his battery charge.
The other officers involved, Shad Solis and Ronald Surran, have not been charged and, according to the police chief, remain on desk duty. Rice was not charged with illegal entry because he didn’t commit a felony inside the apartment.
Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz publicly denounced Rice’s invasion of the apartment, saying, “Obviously, that’s a violation…You do have to have a warrant to enter.” He also expressed his anger at the false reports filed by the three officers, stating, “I am very disappointed and angry in the differences between the reports and the videos.”
The Journal reports that the tasered dog owner was charged with harboring or aiding a felon, and the man who was chased and beaten was charged with possession of marijuana and conspiracy.
The Supreme Court has stated that “hot pursuit,” or “fresh pursuit,” can override the Fourth Amendment and gives police the authority to enter someone’s property in “the need to circumvent the destruction of evidence, and the need to prevent the loss of life or serious injury,” neither of which applied to this case.
Now, Rice faces 18 months for his conduct and the entire department faces a possible federal civil rights investigation for their overuse of force.
In the past we’ve seen Albuquerque police “protect citizens” from extreme threats such as a 13-year-old boy who burped, and more recently a 6-year-old girl who was handcuffed and charged with assault for throwing a tantrum. In June they jailed a mother for an overdue Twilight book.
The sad extent police go to in trying to control our lives is an epidemic. More frequently, we’re bogged down with infuriating police state news that feeds the public’s growing perceptions that police are not working in “our best interests.” People are becoming accustomed to recoiling in fear anytime a police car is seen.
Criminal thugs are drawn to law enforcement as a means to live out their fantasies of absolute domination. Under the guise of protecting the public, corrupt cops act irrationally and criminally, receiving little to no punishment for their heinous actions, and often get paid vacations while a corrupt network of internal investigations and judges work to get them off the hook.
The lapel cam’s footage is essentially the only reason officer Rice is being held accountable. This powerful police surveillance tool is a necessary aid to the problem of out-of-control cops and should be required of all officers at all times everywhere.
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August 22, 2012
A California woman was shot in her own backyard by the most unlikely of assailants, a cop.
36-year-old Jennifer Orey was in her backyard this past Sunday night when she bumped into a “person holding a flashlight.” The next thing she knew she was leveled to the ground after being shot at point blank range, asking a police officer, “Why did you shoot me?”
Police were allegedly searching for a masked man after receiving a 9-1-1 call about a prowler wearing a ski-mask. They went into Orey’s backyard where she bumped into one of them, “startling” the officer who shot her.
Conflicting stories have begun circulating regarding the circumstances behind the events that led to the shooting and the extent of Orey’s injuries.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Orey believed the noise was her ex-husband, however the Huffington Post says Orey had heard about the prowler and was trying to help police by looking around her house.
Huffington Post also reports police have begun damage control of the incident, downplaying the severity of Orey’s injuries.
this is a video
Lt. Larry Nesbit told news crews that police shot Orey in the arm and that she would be released Monday, however, she is still in the hospital, and pictures from her hospital room reveal she was definitely shot in the chest.
Orey’s father, Dennis Morgan, is upset at the investigation’s lack of consistency telling San Diego 10 News, “You know what, you guys need to get your story straight…She wasn’t shot in the arm she was shot in the chest.”
Morgan says Orey stated that when she asked the officer why he shot her he never replied, but the Union-Tribune states that the officer replied, “I’m sorry, you startled me.”
Officers say they didn’t know it was the homeowner. Orey’s father tells a different story: “She saw a flashlight and identified herself as the homeowner and he shot her.”
Orey’s father is infuriated that police displayed such disregard for the safety of innocent bystanders. “I told them I’m really pissed off…I’m pissed off as hell. A cop could have very easily killed my daughter,” he told News 10.
Moreover, Orey’s family is outraged at the treatment she received after her injury. Her brother James Morgan says she put her hand on the responsible officer after being shot, but that he batted her away. He says she was also forced to render her own first aid as officers waited for the ambulance to arrive.
More than likely, police are trying to downplay the incident in order to forgo a deeper investigation. Either the officer that shot her is highly respected, or these cops are just doing what they routinely do…sticking up for each other, the public be damned.
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