Along with the flare-up, I’ve been hovering between hysterical laughter and deep-rooted nausea at the sheer, overwhelming number of amounts of BS that have been being propagated by the “orthodox” wing of the ReThugnican Party (in the form of Willard “Mitt” Romney, the world’s BEST lubricated Etch-a-Sketch weathervane”), the Religious Reichians© (in the form of Rick “Man on Dog, and oh, incidentally, I HATE women” Santorum), the sheer lunacy of the Tea Party “patriots” (in the form of Newt “GRINCH” Gingrich) and the absolute and complete stupidities that are being thrown out by the Libertarian Party (in the form of Dr. Ron “I don’t like ANYBODY that isn’t rich, white and male” Paul). None of them are – IN MY HUMBLE OPINION – qualified to be appointed city dog-catcher, much less be elected to be POTUS, but that’s a thought for another column.
One week ago, I, like just about everyone else who first heard the story, was sickened, horrified and savagely saddened by the story of the murder (yes, let’s call it what it is) of a 17 year old child by a self-appointed neighborhood watch person. Any story of this kind is horrifying, and when it’s the sort of story that this one has turned out to be, sickening. One 220+ lb. 28 year old man with a gun, against one 140 lb. 17 year old child with a box of candy and a can of tea. The 28 year old man in essence stalked the 17 year old, confronted him, had some sort of scuffle with him, and shot him dead. The child’s crime? Walking while black, after dark in a gated community.
What’s worse, and there is worse to come, in this sickening story is that the police listened to the 28 year old man’s tale of what he perceived as an immanent threat to his life as the excuse as to why he was stalking this kid. At the time, he was talking to the 911 dispatcher, who clearly told him at least twice NOT to either follow or confront the child. The worst part of this story is that the police didn’t even bother to try and find out who the child was, and only bothered to talk to the child’s parents AFTER the father filed a missing persons report. The child had been missing for three days at that point. THREE DAYS. I cannot imagine what his parents went through in those long, fearful three days. And then to be casually told by the police AFTER the missing persons report had been filed that their son was dead, had been dead for three days, and had been lying on a steel table in the morgue because none of them cared enough to even pick up the child’s phone and call the last number dialed to find out WHO the child was, argues a degree of both contempt and indifference that absolutely boggles the imagination.
Today, the police chief on whose watch this crime occurred temporarily stepped aside. The Justice Department is now involved, both because of the parents’ pleas and the pleas of the mayor and the city manager of Sanford, Florida. The national news media, starting with the Reverend Al Sharpton and going forward through all of the rest of the reporters, is involved. This is a very good thing. Too often, this sort of injustice gets overlooked, swept under the rug, ignored, what have you. Mostly this is because there is so much nastiness going on in the world nowadays that the policing agencies are completely overwhelmed with all sorts of crime, and they can only work on the worst cases. This, however, is a case that should never have been overlooked or relegated to the status that it was relegated to.
A self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, in complete defiance of neighborhood watch programs guidelines, was out “patrolling” while armed. NO neighborhood watch program allows its members to be armed, since a neighborhood watch program is chartered to be just that: a WATCH program. Yes, I’ve been involved with several neighborhood watch programs, and this is the one stricture that is an unbreakable part of the charter. You DO NOT go out armed. PERIOD. You are there to observe and report only. You are not a police officer. You do not have powers of detainment or arrest. You do not follow the code of criminal procedures or the penal code. You OBSERVE and REPORT suspicious behaviours to the proper policing agency, even if that means calling the dispatcher 50 times a month. Even more cogently, you DO NOT regard yourself as or act as if you are either the Lone Ranger or SuperCop, because you are neither.
Apparently, the neighborhood that the self-appointed vigilante was patrolling was prepared to turn a blind eye to this person’s shenanigans because he was useful. And so, he was allowed to go on about his self-appointed duties without check until he finally managed to do the one thing that he really wanted to do. He confronted a teen-aged boy, and he murdered him. There’s a Florida law that covers that, and here are the key provisions: The Florida law is a self-defense, self-protection law with four key components (http://www.cfif.org/htdocs/freedomline/current/in_our_opinion/florida-self-defense-law.htm.):
1) It establishes that law-abiding residents and visitors may legally presume the threat of bodily harm or death from anyone who breaks into a residence or occupied vehicle and may use defensive force, including deadly force, against the intruder.
2) In any other place where a person “has a right to be,” that person has “no duty to retreat” if attacked and may “meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
3) In either case, a person using any force permitted by the law is immune from criminal prosecution or civil action and cannot be arrested unless a law enforcement agency determines there is probable cause that the force used was unlawful.
4) If a civil action is brought and the court finds the defendant to be immune based on the parameters of the law, the defendant will be awarded all costs of defense.
This is the law that the self-appointed neighborhood watch person is hiding behind. I pity George Zimmerman, the self-appointed guardian of the peoples’ safety, with my whole heart. He committed an act of murder, no matter what circumstances he thought he was in. He killed, in cold blood, a 17 year old black teen-ager whose only sin was walking while black. The Sanford police basically took his word for what happened. He wasn’t drug-tested, he wasn’t arrested, he wasn’t charged – and he’s probably going to get away with the murder. Except, of course, he’s going to have to live with the consequences of his deed. I can’t think of a worse prison to be confined to – or a more fitting punishment. He’s going to have to live with the consequences of killing, in cold blood, a child whose only sin was that he was a teen-ager who objected to being followed and harassed because he was black.
Trayvan Martin and all of the Trayvan Martins of this world deserve better than that. His parents are going to have to live the rest of their lives without their child. Worse, they will also have to live with the knowledge that the police of their community cared so little for the death of just one more black male child that they didn’t even bother to check his cell phone and call the last number dialed to identify him. Instead, they left his body on a steel table in a morgue and didn’t even bother to follow up until his father filed a missing persons report.
Somehow, the police chief saying “I’m sorry” just doesn't make it right.