"There is no crueler tyranny than that which is exercised under cover of law..."
-U.S. v. Jannotti (3rd Cir. 1982)
I received a number of angry e-mails regarding my last article, "Death of a Caveman" (in which I suggested that police may have unjustly shot and killed an Ocean Beach homeless man). Such as this letter from Anna B. in Kensington: "How dare you criticize the San Diego Police Dept., after they repeatedly put their lives on the line for you and your family."
Your point is not lost on me, Anna. But I have two words for you: "Demetrius fucking DuBose."
Remember? Demetrius was a former football player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who was staying with a friend in Mission Beach.
On July 24, 1999, police received a non-emergency phone complaint from a man named Charles who said he discovered someone [DuBose] in his house, but that person had left without an altercation. Charles was still on his cordless phone talking to police when DuBose returned to apologize.
Apparently, DuBose wanted to watch the sunset and had accidentally stumbled into the wrong apartment. It's easy to believe. It was a typical summer Saturday. Everyone was partying, playing volleyball, flirting. Hell yeah, man, it's Mission Beach in July! Then he got tired and wanted to crash out and watch the sunset. But being from out of town, somewhat twisted after a day of partying and unfamiliar with the area, he entered the wrong house.
Anyway, Charles was still on the phone with police when Demetrius-accompanied by his host Randy-returned to explain and apologize, and that should have been the end of it. "I told the police we had everything under control," Charles said in his court-filed affidavit.
But the police came anyway. Officers Timothy Keaton and Robert Wills arrived and separated the group. Robert Wills questioned DuBose. Then he wanted to handcuff him as a matter of routine. Demetrius objected. One fuckup led to another, and suddenly, Demetrius DuBose is dead from 12 gunshots, almost half of which were in his back. Citizens were outraged. Wills and DuBose were accused of using excessive force; then the whitewash began. Observe:
1. Captain Newman told the press that officers arrived at the scene to find a "felony in progress," and when they arrived, "Multiple suspects fled the scene."
First of all, there was only one suspect. Demetrius. There was no burglary. Nobody was running anywhere. But see, "multiple suspects fleeing" sounds much worse than "one suspect apologizing," so Newman went with it.
2. Chief David Bejarano also reported in press statements that officers believed Demetrius was, "possibly involved in a felony crime."
Even Officer Keating didn't believe that and said so in sworn statements. But Bejarano ignored Keating's statements because "possibly involved in a felony crime" sounds far more terrifying, than "drunk guy watching sunset," so Bejarano went with it.
3. District Attorney Paul Pfingst said this in a PBS interview: "If you... break into a bedroom of a young woman at night, without explanation, and if the owner of the home calls police... and the owner points out you as being the person who broke into the home-you will be cuffed."
More insulting, cheap-ass, sinister cowshit!
First off, it was not night, it was before sunset. Second, there was an explanation-a perfectly reasonable one. Third, what "young woman"? Four, DuBose did not "break", he accidentally stumbled and into an open house. The whole statement was quite diabolical. Pfingst inserted the words "night," "young woman" and "break into" to paint a phony picture of a night prowler stalking a helpless damsel-so Pfingst ran with it.
I sent the above to Ben Pavone, of Watkins and Pavone, the law firm representing the DuBose family in their ongoing civil suit against the city and the two officers. (As of this writing, the jury is deliberating). This is what Pavone wrote back:
"The most offensive thing that happened is... for four years the city of San Diego [asserted] that DuBose had charged at them with a pair of nunchaku. City Attorney Frank Devaney told the jury that, "Like the linebacker he was,' DuBose charged at the officers [who] fired to protect themselves. Well, after [producing] 10 unbiased witnesses who said that no "charge' ever occurred, Devaney finally caved and said, "Well, I'm not sure a charge really happened.'"
I wish authorities would have just come right out and said, "Yo people, Demetrius DuBose was one big-ass black man and we were scared shitty." That I could respect. Because, really, have you ever tried to handcuff a big-ass black man? It's nerve-racking. They've got hands the size of trucks and could squeeze off your trachea with just one finger. And the fact that it's wrong to be afraid doesn't make it any less scary.
That's what 99 percent of these unjustified shootings come down to. Fear. Not evil. Everyone is frightened. Police wanted to cuff the Big Black Man because they were afraid of him, and Big Black Men learned a long time ago to fear being cuffed.
The cover up offends me more than the crime.
It's perfectly reasonable for cops to be afraid. For every Demetrius DuBose, there is a Jerry Hartless, the San Diego cop murdered in 1988 by suspected drug dealers. The thing is, when some random bastard murders a cop-as entirely wack as that is-it is still just the actions of a single random bastard. But when a cop kills an innocent man, he is acting on my behalf; which means the blood of the innocents are on my hands; which means it is my obligation to revolt. That's the answer to your question Anna B.: "How dare I criticize those who swore to protect us?" I have four words for you: How. Dare. I. Fucking. Not?
Overheard on police scanner Feb. 13, 2003:
"Dispatch, this is Unit 66886 requesting backup""""we have a BABM who is DSB. Repeating... a Big Ass Black Man is Doing Something Bad!"
--"Roger that, unit 66886. Exactly what Bad is the BABM Doing?"
--"He's brandishing a tire iron."
--"Roger that-all units advised."
--"Yeah, dispatch, he, um, he seems to be removing lug nuts. Looks like a flat tire. Must be a carjacking gone bad. Requesting plate check..."
--"OK, unit 66886, vehicle is registered to one, Mr. Big Black. It's his car, officer."
--"OK, dispatch. Uh oh. We have some WCT in the area. Repeat, White Chicks in Thongs are agitating the BABM. Better use the pepper spray...."