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12 Shocking Examples of Police Brutality...Just This Month

Decades of the drug war have warped the priorities of many police departments. The results can be tragic.
 
 
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American law enforcement has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past few decades. The war on drugs, the world's most effective way to fill prisons with minorities while doing nothing to curtail drug use, has warped the priorities and practices of police departments around the country. As Kristen Gwynne has reported on AlterNet, federal funding incentivizes police to go after low-level drug use while neglecting more serious crimes like rape. In city after city, the crackdown on drug crime has expanded police power and pointed it straight at minorities and the poor. It's the reason we're number one when it comes to rates of incarceration. With 5 percent of the population, America has a quarter of the world's prisoners, according to the New York Times. 

Meanwhile, the decade-long war on terror has stocked local police departments with weapons from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan—do local police really need drones and tanks? (Journalist Radley Balko has extensively documented the militarization of police by way of the wars on drugs and terror.) The shift toward more aggressive, violent policing has had tragic results on the ground. AlterNet has assembled an incomplete list of brutal and unnecessary police actions, from this month alone. 
 
 
Cell phone footage taken by his mother shows a teen boy being thrown to the ground and pinned by police. His crime? Giving officers a funny look while armed with a puppy. As Steven Hsieh wrote on AlterNet:

Fourteen-year-old Tremaine McMillan says he was feeding his puppy and playing on the beach with some friends when cops riding ATVs approached him and asked what he was doing. The "peacekeeping" officers say they saw McMillan roughhousing with another teenager, told him it was “unacceptable behavior,” and asked where his mother was. When McMillan walked away, they chased him on ATVs, jumped out, pinned him to the ground and arrested him. According to police reports, McMillan “attempted to pull his arm away, stating, 'Man, don't touch me like I did something.'" 

[...]
 
Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta justified the use of force, saying McMillan was exhibiting threatening “body language,” which includes “clenched fists.” McMillan adamantly denies this charge because, well, he was holding a puppy.
 
Why wait for a crime to occur when you can just instigate one? As Kristen Gwynne reported:

In a video segment on ABC News, they say they were "thrilled" when their son—who has Asperger's and other disabilities and struggled to make friends—appeared to have instantly made a friend named Daniel.

“He suddenly had this friend who was texting him around the clock,” Doug Snodgrass told ABC News. His son had just recently enrolled at Chaparral High School.

"Daniel," however, was an undercover cop with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department who " hounded" the teenager to sell him his prescription medication. When he refused, the undercover cop gave him $20 to buy him weed, and he complied, not realizing the guy he wanted to befriend wanted him behind bars.

In December, the unnamed senior was arrested along with 21 other students from three schools, all charged with crimes related to the two officers' undercover drug operation at two public schools in Temecula, California (Chaparral and Temecula Valley High School). This March, Judge Marian H. Tully ruled that Temecula Valley Unified School District could not expel the student, and had in fact failed to provide him with proper services.

 
After beating a father of four to death, police allegedly tried to cover up video evidence. Natasha Lennardreported:

Following the death of father of four, David Sal Silva last week, his family’s attorneys are calling for police to release bystander video evidence that reportedly shows California Highway Patrol officers brutally beating the 33-year-old. A video from a surveillance camera (which does not show the scene closeup) has been released and shows the man repeatedly struck with a baton. Local press have also reported on details from a 911 call made, in which witness Sulina Quair, 34, said “There is a man laying on the floor and your police officers beat the (expletive) out of him and killed him. I have it all on video camera. We videotaped the whole thing.” Officers say they were responding to a call about an intoxicated man and that Silva had fought them.

Attorneys representing the Silva family expressed concern that police may tamper with video evidence and demanded that they be given access to any recordings of the lethal incident. Details emerged, the Bakersfield Californian reported, that officers confiscated the phones of bystanders who had captured the event as it unfolded. Police reportedly arrived at Quair’s home to take his phone.

 
Why let all that coke go to waste? Courthouse News reports:

South Texas lawmen ransacked an elderly couple's home looking for drugs, and finding none, forced the husband to set up a cocaine dealer and took a kilo for themselves, the couple claim in court.

Jose and Maria Perez sued Hidalgo County, Sheriff Guadalupe "Lupe" Trevino and the City of Mission in Federal court.

Five sheriff's officers, including members of the unit mentioned in the Perezes' lawsuit, pleaded guilty this week to drug charges.

"In July 2012, Jose G. Perez and his wife, Maria Guadalupe Perez ... were sitting in their home when six armed men burst into their home demanding drugs," the complaint states. "These invaders were agents and officers of the Panama Unit of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department and officers of the Mission Police Department. These intruders proceeded to ransack the furniture and broke open cabinets searching for their illegal prize.

"When the intruders found nothing in the home of plaintiffs, they forced the elderly couple into an unmarked SUV, and told Jose G. Perez to 'call someone that sells drugs or else.'

 
Police often rely on their tasers to diffuse dangerous situations. Then there are times tasers turn a non-dangerous situation into a deadly one. 

On May 16th, Forth Worth police entered the home of Jarmaine Darden in search of cocaine. The raid, which does not appear to have uncovered any cocaine, ended with the 34-year-old father dead after he was tased multiple times by police. 

Family members told CBS 11 that the 350-pound man, who'd been asleep on the couch when police came in, couldn't drop to the ground on his stomach as officers commanded because he suffered from asthma. 

“They physically pulled him off the couch because, like I said, he was asleep. They pulled him off the couch and they tried to put him on his stomach. He can’t breathe on his stomach. He don’t even lie on the bed on his stomach,” said Donna Randle, the mother of victim Jarmaine Darden, 34.

 
A hearing-impaired Washington woman failed to follow police orders, because she couldn't hear them. So police grabbed her and started punching her in the face, as she tried calling 911 for help:

In a recording of the 911 call, Graham can be heard saying: “You attacked me before you said anything! There is no point whatsoever for you to touch me like that, especially with my condition, so how dare you even touch me?” The officer is heard saying that she is under arrest.

Another responding officer punched Graham in the face a few times, while telling Graham not to resist arrest. When a police officer put weight on Graham’s hip—where she was injured—she reacted by trying to flip over. Federal Way police said she assaulted an officer during that struggle, reports KIRO 7.

A photo published by KIRO 7 shows Graham with black and blue marks over her eye and face.

 
Conflicting accounts about whether or not the victim had a gun abound. As Think Progress reported:

Protesters rallied in St. Louis, MO on Wednesday over the death of 25-year-old Cary Ball Jr., who was shot 25 times by police officers last month. Police say Ball refused to pull over for a traffic stop, eventually crashed into a parked car, and started running. According to police, Ball pointed a semi-automatic handgun at the officers, prompting them to open fire.

Several witnesses who spoke to the family, however, say Ball threw his gun on the ground and was walking toward police with his hands up to surrender when he was shot. Some unverified reports say 7 of the 25 shots hit him in the back. Police say there was no surveillance video in the area to verify exactly what happened.

Ball was an honor student with a 3.86 GPA, majoring in human services at Forest Park Community College, where he had been celebrated as an “emerging scholar.” According to family and friends, Ball was working to reform his life after being convicted of armed robbery when he was 17. His older brother, Carlos Ball, said Cary probably ran from the police because, as an ex-convict, it was illegal for him to possess a gun.

 
Who are the real criminals?

You may have heard about the protests at the DOJ by foreclosed upon homeowners demanding that Eric Holder prosecute some bankers for their criminal activity. If you haven't, you can read all about it here.

Unfortunately, I received reports last night that citizens exercising their right to peacefully protest were being casually tasered by the authorities. 

This came from my friend Jason Rosenbaum, who was there:

At the start of the action, when the protesters and homeowners arrived at the south entrance of the DOJ, we were greeted by half a dozen police in tactical gear or uniforms and a metal barrier cutting off access to a small courtyard in front of the large DOJ doors. The group of protesters rallied at the barrier and the planters next to it that made up the square and homeowners slowly climbed over the barriers in an attempt to gain an audience at the DOJ and register their complaints. At that point, the police were keeping people from climbing over, but eventually the police retreated and a few homeowners and protesters made it over and sat down to occupy that space. More joined them. After about 10 minutes, as more climbed over the barrier and the crowd occupied more space, the police retreated up the few steps leading to the door, and eventually ceded the square entirely by going inside the DOJ, leaving the protesters and homeowners alone in the square. The protesters took down the barriers at that point and everyone occupied the square, complete with signs, chants, couches, tents, and the like. (There's video/photos of this on my Twitter feed, @j_ro.)

That was phase one -- for the next phase, the protest split into three groups, with one staying at the south entrance and the two others to take entrances on the north and west sides of the building. I went with the group going to the west, and we were met again by police presence at the west entrance. We pushed on through to the north entrance around the block, and again were met by police. After sitting down there for a bit and taking the intersection down the block, we were notified that our brethren needed our help back at the south entrance and we marched over.

When I got there with the crowd in my group, the police had about a dozen homeowners in plastic cuffs on the south steps and had set up a police line around the original square in front of the door. The people in my group rushed through the line to sit down with their fellow protesters and homeowners being arrested, and it was at this point that at least one officer took out his taser gun, pulled the trigger, and started using it to push back those in the crowd coming to the support of those being arrested. That's what you see in my video. As Matt noted, it was over very quickly, with protesters looking to peacefully support those who were being arrested being tased and pushed back, and those being arrested led into a police van and driven away for processing.

At this point, as the arrests were being loaded into the van, another group of about a dozen sat down inside the police barrier and as far as I know they're still there (I had to leave about an hour after the initial arrests). So there may be more arrests to come shortly.

 
As if America's streets have been not militarized enough, aggressive police have now entered the schools: 
Ashlynn Avery, who has diabetes, asthma and sleep apnea, was suspended for cutting class, and had to sit in the in-school suspension room. While she was reading “Huckleberry Finn,” she dozed off. First, the in-school suspension supervisor walked over to her cubicle and struck it, which caused the cubicle to hit Avery’s head, according to the lawsuit. She woke up, but soon fell back asleep. The supervisor, Joshua Whited, then took the book from her and slammed it down, which caused the book to hit the student in the chest.

Avery was then told to leave the room, according to the complaint, and police officer Christopher Bryant followed her. Bryant slapped her backpack, and then “proceeded to shove Ashlynn face first into a file cabinet and handcuff her,” the complaint states. While in the car, Avery vomited. She was taken to a hospital and had to wear a cast as a result of her injuries.

 
Bad things happen when you record the police:

The Philadelphia Daily News reports that Angelique Gerald-Porter was near her home watching a violent arrest that her friend, Salimah Milton, was videotaping. After Gerald-Porter got off her steps, a police officer told her to get back. According to the lawsuit, she complied, but the officer, Ian Nance, told her to walk to the end of the block. Gerald-Porter refused since she lived steps away.

Then Nance said: “This is our property right now," and took Gerald-Porter to the ground. In the ensuing altercation, Nance allegedly punched her in the stomach, and dragged her down her steps by her hair. Her two-year-old son was pinned beneath her and was kicked, according to the lawsuit. Gerald-Porter “was bloodied, her clothes torn and she was nearly naked in the street, the suit says. Gerald-Porter and her son were both treated for injuries at Lankenau Hospital,” the Daily News reports.

 
Courthouse News reports:
A California sheriff's deputy needlessly Tasered and then shot a man to death after his father called 911 seeking help for his son's depression, the family claims in court. Parents and two brothers of the late George I. Ramirez sued Stanislaus County, its sheriff's department, Sheriff Adam Christianson, and Deputy Art Parra Jr. in Federal Court.
 
George Ramirez, the father, says he called 911 on April 16, 2012, seeking help for his son. Ramirez says in the complaint that he told the 911 operator that his son was depressed, but never said that the family was in danger or that a crime was in progress.
 
Deputy Parra responded, finding the father changing a headlight and the mother indoors doing housework. The family says Parra asked about the son's whereabouts, but did not ask for details regarding his condition or why the family called 911.
 
Parra found Ramirez on the couch watching television, unaware that his family had called 911. Parra confirmed his identity and placed him under arrest by ordering him to stand up and turn around, according to the complaint. "In the process of standing up and complying with orders, Ramirez asked Parra why he was under arrest and if he could see his credentials," the complaint states. 
 
Once again, film at your own risk: 

Baltimore police beat up a woman and smashed her camera for filming them beating up a man, telling her: "You want to film something, bitch? Film this!" the woman claims in court.

Makia Smith sued the Baltimore Police Department, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and police Officers Nathan Church, William Pilkerton, Jr., Nathan Ulmer and Kenneth Campbell in Federal Court.

 

 
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