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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Another jay walking tragedy

by digby

Well, no actually. In fact, this story is about an armed, belligerent jay-walker cursing police and daring them to shoot him. And guess what? They didn't. In fact, they were patient and respectful and used psychology to talk him down.

Of course, he was a middle aged white man. And an open carry advocate.

DPS Sgt. Sean Gordon is the first officer to arrive. From the dash cam footage from his patrol car, his vehicle can be seen pulling into the Cork Street Laundry at 4:09 p.m. as Houseman walks east on the sidewalk along Cork Street. Houseman crosses the street diagonally toward the Auto Zone parking lot, and Gordon engages him in conversation.

Gordon: Hey partner, how you doing? Can you set that down real quick and talk to me?

Houseman: I'm not setting it down.

Gordon: Well you can't cross the street like that.

Houseman: Am I being detained?

Gordon: Yes, you are being detained right now. You crossed the street illegally. Place the weapon down on the ground please.

Houseman: I will not.

Gordon radios that it appears the man will not drop his rifle.

Gordon: "Look, you crossed the street illegally; I just want to talk to you. I just want to talk to you. You're walking around here scaring people, man.

A second Public Safety vehicle arrives just after 4:11 p.m. About a minute later, Gordon asks Houseman for his name. Houseman says he is "Joe Schmoe."

"Based on training and experience I know that this is a euphemism used as an alias and knew it was not correct," Gordon would later write in his report.

Houseman: I am free to go?

Gordon: "No, you're not free to go. Right now you're committing a crime of resisting and obstructing (for failing to identify himself after being stopped for jaywalking). Now you've stepped up to a misdemeanor crime.

Houseman: Why don't you (expletive) shoot me?

Gordon: I don't want to shoot you; I'm not here to do that.

As the interaction continues, Houseman talks of a coming revolution, and calls police officers "gang members" with a "history of violence." While the audio is scattered -- Houseman was across the street from Gordon and it was a somewhat windy day -- Houseman can also be seen grabbing his genitals and making lewd gestures toward Gordon.

Kalamazoo Public Safety Lt. Stacey Geik said officers were called to Cork Street Coin Laundry, 823 E. Cork St., at 4:05 p.m. on a report of a man who appeared to be intoxicated openly carrying a rifle outside of the laundromat and across the street at an Auto Zone. The man was found to be exercising his Second Amendment Right to openly carry a gun, but his refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test and his hostile behavior led to his weapon being taken away for the time being, Geik said.

By 4:22 p.m., 12 officers are on scene and Gordon turns over negotiations to Sgt. Andres Wells, a trained SWAT negotiator. Cork Street has been shut down in both directions and most officers have taken up defensive positions behind their vehicles, their weapons drawn.

KDPS Lt. Stacey Geik takes over as commanding officer and directs officer Jon Schipper to be the "use of force applier ... if need be." Houseman still refuses to provide his name or identification to officers and can be heard directing numerous expletives toward them.

Houseman has his gun in the "parade-arms" position throughout the encounter, though he can be seen switching it from hand to hand, Giek later noted in his report. Houseman can be seen fumbling with the gun while reaching for chewing tobacco from a tin in his pocket.

Geik tells a dispatcher Houseman is "highly agitated" and "does not like police."

"He is exercising his open carry rights, however, he has certainly overextended them at this point," Geik says.

The lieutenant asks officer Peter Hoyt if this is the same open-carry advocate he has dealt with before. Hoyt says it is.

About two minutes later, Houseman agrees to sit on the ground and place his gun down. He allows Geik to approach him and take the carbine rifle, which Geik discovers to be empty of ammunition.

Geik speaks briefly with Houseman then crosses the street, with Houseman's rifle in hand, toward the other officers. Houseman follows, asking to have his rifle back.
Oh, and what do you suppose happened to this fine fellow? Was he tasered or wrestled to the ground in a choke hold once they disarmed him? Did they handcuff him and and arrest him and throw him in the back of the police car? These are all the common responses to confrontations like this one where cops routinely get a little street justice for wasting their time and showing them disrespect. None of those things happened.

He was armed and he was drunk and he hates police so I'd say the danger level for an accident was about as high as it gets. He's talking about revolution. He told the cops to shoot him. And yet, this is how the the altercation ended:
Geik tells Houseman he can have his gun back if he submits to a breathalyzer test. He declines. Geik says his hostile behavior and 911 calls suggest he may be intoxicated, and therefore may not be legally allowed to carry a firearm.

In Michigan, a person openly carrying a firearm can be charged with being in possession of a firearm while intoxicated if found to have a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more or if they appear to be visibly impaired. A person licensed to carry a concealed weapon can have a weapon confiscated and potentially lose their license if they have a BAC of .02 or higher.

Geik later notes in his report that Houseman was found to be a CCW license holder, but that didn't factor in to this encounter.

Geik offers to allow Houseman to walk home and retrieve his rifle the following day, or to drive him home and continue the discussion there. Houseman declines both offers.

Geik: But you're not stable mentally, which now takes you away from that rifle.

Houseman: I'm not stable mentally? How do you decide that?

Geik: You're damn right. How did this happen with open carry? What are you supposed to do when you contact law enforcement? Do you say, 'I hate you mother(expletive), (expletive) you? I hate you, there's a revolution coming.' Do you say that? Is that what you're taught?

Houseman: It was wrong of me.

Houseman agains asks for his gun back. Geik tells him he wants to make sure he isn't a risk to himself or others.

Geik: You saying (expletive), (expletive), (expletive) and yelling across the street with a rifle in your hands ...

Houseman: That's my First Amendment right.

Geik: No it's not. You can't swear.

Houseman: That's bull---. I can threaten you if I want to.

Geik: That's incorrect.

Houseman: I can threaten you. I can threaten you're family. I didn't threaten your family, I said I could.

Unidentified officer: You said a war was coming.

Houseman: I didn't say a war was coming.

Unidentified officer: You said a revolution is coming.

Houseman: Think about it. You know it is.

The conversation continues, with Geik asking Houseman why he wants to scare bystanders and if he thinks his behavior while openly carrying a firearm is what the National Rifle Association advocates for. Houseman again becomes upset over officers questioning his mental stability.

Houseman: He told me I was unmentally stable. I tell you what, I got a job, I got grandchildren, I got children, I got a job ...

Geik: Is this what you want to portray to your grandchildren?

Houseman: Damn right. I teach them.

The exchange continues.

Houseman: My grandson and I walked the same way last Sunday. He had his rifle on and I had mine.

Geik continues to tell Houseman he is free to go and can retrieve his rifle at KDPS headquarters the next day, unless he is willing to submit to a breathalyzer to prove he isn't intoxicated. Houseman again refuses.

Geik: If I was going to open carry, which I have done before, there is no way in heck I would have come to a laundromat full of people trying to dry their clothes with an Auto Zone, carwash and 10 cop cars.

Houseman: That don't mean (expletive). I'm trying to raise awareness.

Geik: You're trying to make a statement, and you got it and now you lost your gun.

Houseman: You guys aren't always right.

Geik: No, but in this one, we're 100 percent right.

Houseman again asks if he can leave with his gun.

Geik: As I stated 12 minutes ago, you're not detained. You were detained initially because the officer was trying to have a conversation with you, a legal, lawful, allowed, non-intruding Fourth Amendment conversation and when you start screaming obscenities and grabbing your genitals armed with a rifle, you crossed the line.

Houseman: I apologize. I have a bad attitude because we're losing our rights.

Geik: They might as well put up a billboard right now that says the Second Amendment is junk because of people like this.

Houseman: I apologize.

Geik: I accept your apology, I don't apologize on our end ...

Houseman: I need a sling, I know I need a sling, you're right. My grandson, we went last week, he had a rifle, he had a sling.

Houseman agrees to meet with Geik the following morning, before apologizing again, shaking hands with him and walking away.
I love the fact that the cop says he is an open-carry demonstrator himself and acts as the NRA's Miss Manners. You have to wonder if his identification with this man played a part in his patience and perseverance in bringing the altercation to a peaceful end. (It could also be that he's just a smart cop who saw this was a good way to defuse the situation.) He didn't even arrest him, simply took away his gun. Temporarily. Without violence. It cost them nothing but time -- 40 minutes to be exact --- to work this through. It can be done.

So, let's ask ourselves how that confrontation would have likely gone if Mr Houseman had been a drunk, belligerent, armed African American man, shall we? I'd like to think those police would have taken the same approach. And maybe these particular cops would have.  They seem quite sensible.  But from what we've heard the last few weeks, most police department's protocol is to treat civilians as if they are all potential members of a guerrilla army. Armed citizens who curse and threaten them (even with knives and screwdrivers, much less guns)  are dispatched with alacrity --- police look at situations like this as kill or be killed. Especially, though not exclusively, if they're black.

These police seemed to see this man as a citizen not an enemy and saw their job as trying to keep the peace and ensure public safety, not fight a war. It makes a big difference.

*And yes, obviously not all situations like this can be handled this way. Good cops have a lot of tools in their tool box besides sheer dominance and violence and they should be trained and enabled to use them all.