Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Globe Special: Grieving For the Reeves'

"His parents said he just needed to sleep. A SWAT team came instead" by Jenna Russell Globe Staff  July 16, 2017

The front page tells me "In Hingham, a welfare check on a disconsolate young man with a gun turned into something utterly unimaginable," except it was perfectly foreseeable. The increasing militarization of police was noted long before this occurred.

HINGHAM — As police cars rolled into his pristine suburban neighborhood last Saturday night, past the sprawling Colonials and manicured lawns, and as dozens of officers from across the region surrounded his home, Russell Reeves begged them again and again to back off.

In a bedroom upstairs his son Austin, 26, was distraught over a breakup. He had told his family he needed time alone. With him was his dog and his 9 mm handgun. If you pressure him, if he feels cornered, Reeves said he told the police, this will end with Austin killing himself.

The police listened and nodded and took notes in their notebooks, according to Reeves. And yet, more officers kept coming. Some wore camouflage and carried rifles. They set up bright lights to shine onto the house and drove a military-style vehicle into the backyard. Eventually, they broke seven upstairs windows so a mounted camera could look inside for Austin.

“Please,” the frightened father says he asked them, “why can’t you just let him go to sleep?”

The standoff in the quiet cul-de-sac went on for hours. By early Sunday morning, it was over.

Left behind, with countless questions, Austin’s parents tried to understand how a simple police check on their son’s well-being had become an all-night siege.

One question, they knew, would haunt them forever: If their pleas had been heard, if police had tempered their response, would Austin still be alive?

‘Don’t back me into a corner’

Austin Reeves gave no sign earlier that evening of any troubles weighing on him, but before he got home, Austin spoke by phone with his former girlfriend. He became alarmingly upset, according to his parents, and mentioned a gun. Concerned about his state of mind, the woman called police at 9:19 p.m., asking them to check on his welfare.

It really hurts to see this happen over some relationship. The societal managers channel youth into relationships, and thus they can never meet the ideal and stand the strain.

Minutes later, a Hingham police officer called Russell Reeves at home to ask if Austin had a gun with him. Reeves checked his own guns and found them locked up as always. Before he had a chance to look for the handgun his son owned, Austin walked into the house.

The young man became visibly upset when his father told him the police had called. “You’re not in trouble,” his father recalls saying. “Please sit down and we’ll talk about it.” Austin refused. As he headed upstairs, he angrily issued a warning.

“Don’t back me into a corner,” his father remembers Austin saying. “Because I’ll make it go away in four seconds.”

To Russell Reeves, the meaning was clear — Austin would hurt himself if he wasn’t left in peace. Stunned and afraid, Reeves dialed the Hingham police just after 10 p.m. to ask for help.

In the hall upstairs, Austin’s mother spoke to him through his locked bedroom door. “Whatever’s happening,” Kate Harrison says she called to her son, “I love you, and we can work it out.”

Austin told her he needed to be alone.

By the time she got downstairs, two police officers were outside the house.

A turning point

Harrison felt certain the police would help her son. The great-granddaughter of a small-town police chief in New York, she said she has always felt safe around police. As upsetting as it was to know her son was hurting, there seemed no reason not to think that things would be OK. Austin had no history of mental illness. She thought of him as her cowboy — a young man of very few words, but in his low-key way, endlessly, wickedly funny.

His parents knew his former girlfriend and were fond of her. They knew he had cared about her deeply. When he’d moved out of her house and back home in June, after the breakup, he had wept inconsolably, his mother said. But he never seemed to sink into depression. He was himself, sociable and driven, out the door by 7 each morning to his job with a landscaping and gardening crew.

He had grown up here, in this house in Hingham, a rough-and-tumble, redheaded boy in a cowboy hat. He’d spent time away from home, too, to attend a military prep school in Virginia, and then a year of engineering school in Florida. He had played lacrosse and hockey; MVP awards were stacked in a drawer in his bedroom. He had once wanted to be a Marine, until his mother talked him out of it. He tried a job as a day trader, but found it wasn’t for him. He had learned to fly a plane and dreamed of being a pilot.

Why would she do that?

A Latin phrase — carpe diem, seize the day — was tattooed in artful letters on his chest. His dog, Faith, a pit bull mix his sister had rescued as a puppy, followed him everywhere he went.

Faith was upstairs with him now, his parents told police, at his side as he holed up in his bedroom.

His mother’s confidence in the police held steady as they interviewed her and her husband, and even as the officers removed them from their home to a neighbor’s nearby yard. Austin’s parents say the police contacted their son’s ex-girlfriend around 11 p.m., and she told them she had spoken with Austin again.

Police told Austin’s father that his son had made a threat in that conversation, according to Reeves: that anyone who comes upstairs to get him would get hurt. That threat seemed enough to change the way police viewed the situation and its potential dangers, and it may have been the turning point in their response. After that, Reeves said, officers mentioned a SWAT team.

“You can’t do that,” he says he told them. “Where is the imminent threat?”

As more officers began arriving, police told Reeves and Harrison they had to leave the street. His mother felt discomfort to her core: Austin was here, and he needed her. The parents asked to stay, but police said no; this was protocol they had to follow. They led the couple — Harrison still in her bathrobe — on a roundabout exit route through surrounding yards. At one point, Reeves says, he started to run back, but an officer physically restrained him.

I'll bet they were starting to regret making the call, and that is the lesson here. Do not call police for help.

As they reached the corner, Harrison turned to look back at her home. Distant enough now to see the entire scene, she realized for the first time the full scale of what was happening: the street thick with police vehicles, teeming with armed officers in SWAT gear.

She fell to her knees on her neighbor’s lawn in horror. “Oh my God, oh my God,” she cried. “What are you doing? Is this really necessary?”

A regional response

Austin’s parents said they chose to speak publicly about that night in hopes of changing how police respond to similar distress calls. Hingham Police Chief Glenn Olsson declined to comment on what happened at the Reeves home, citing an ongoing investigation to confirm the cause of death, routine in such cases, by the office of the Plymouth district attorney.

It is impossible to know, without a full accounting by police, exactly what steps they took that night to try and help Austin.

And what we do get is usually a lie (for the public's own good, of course, and the departments public relations image)!

What is certain is that Hingham police called for backup from a regional SWAT team, and other related specialty forces, operated by the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council, or Metro LEC, a consortium of 48 law enforcement agencies around Boston that provide mutual support.

Once the regional response was under way, dozens of officers rushed to the Reeves home. The couple reported seeing vehicles from Braintree, Bridgewater, Attleboro, and Randolph, among others.

Glad there are no crimes in those cities, 'eh?

The regional SWAT team boasts trained negotiators and military-style equipment including a bulletproof BearCat armored truck. The SWAT team responded to 23 calls regionwide in 2016, according to Metro LEC’s annual report, including nine assists with barricaded suspects — three of whom had known mental health concerns. Like other SWAT forces, its use has been scrutinized by critics who say police have become overly reliant on heavy-handed military tactics.

Scrutinized by critics, and yet the weaponry keeps flowing and the forces are built up.

The sad thing is, we are not going back, not in the age of the total surveillance police state and the endless lies of terror, staged and scripted shootings, false flag fictions, and all the rest. The limited republic of which our founding fathers so eloquently wrote has been lost. We couldn't keep the Constitutional Republic, Ben.

Canton Police Chief Ken Berkowitz, president of the regional law enforcement council, declined to comment on the events in Hingham. But he said the goal of such operations is always to get the barricaded person out alive, a complex task that relies on a team of 10 highly trained crisis negotiators to try and establish dialogue, “to help the person understand that they aren’t out of options.” A separate investigative team supports negotiations by compiling information on the subject that might help build trust and establish a rapport. A mental health clinician serves as a consultant but does not respond with the crisis team on calls.

Other types of personnel do rush to the scene, including paramedics, K9 officers with dogs, and the Metro SWAT team with its heavy gear. Their rifles, helmets, vests, and armored trucks help protect the police and the public in the event that a subject with a gun starts shooting, Berkowitz said, and they also make officers less likely to use force.

“The reason police shoot someone is that they fear getting shot,” Berkowitz said. “If they’re wearing armor, or they’re in an armored truck, they feel more secure, and they’re less likely to shoot.”

That's a crock of shit based on what we have seen across this country.

And when it comes to the CITIZEN being armed? 

The response by authority is the exact opposite

This is all the result of the further bulking up of the thin blue line that is protecting the elite cla$$. That's their function now, not to serve and protect. Of course, in this instant they failed. A rich, well-to-do white kid died (at least they didn't rob him first).

Police are often criticized for rushing into crisis situations, forcing confrontations instead of taking time. The responders in Hingham spent 10 hours on the scene. “You rush in and more people get hurt,” Berkowitz said. “Everything shows that the longer it goes on, the more chance there is of resolving it.”

But if contact cannot be established, and a weapon is readily at hand, a suicidal impulse sometimes takes over, he said. It can happen before the extra forces even get there.

Yeah, nothing they could do here. Can't leave the scene and call back the response.

Russell Reeves, long an outspoken critic of Hingham town government, believes it was the actions of police, their intimidating show of force, that triggered that self-destructive impulse.

Long an outspoken critic of government, huh?

“It was totally preventable,” he said, weeping as he stood outside his house looking up at Austin’s window on Tuesday. “He wasn’t a criminal. He didn’t have a hostage. This was a kid distressed about a girlfriend, and they turned it into a life-and-death situation.”

He wonders, with all of the police around the house, why no one heard the shot that would have told them it was over — and would have gotten paramedics upstairs to try to save his son.


‘The incident . . . has been resolved’

Escorted by police through their neighborhood near midnight, Austin’s parents were corralled in a repurposed ambulance, parked out of sight of their home, where they were held for hours as the standoff continued. At 1:55 a.m., his mother sent Austin a text: “You are not going to jail. We just need to make sure you’re OK.”

Four minutes later, police left a similar message on the family’s home answering machine, suggesting that they too had failed to reach him on his cellphone: “This is John again. It’s important you pick up the phone. You’re not in trouble, we’ve just got to work through a couple of things.”

At some point, his parents tried to rest, awkwardly reclining on the benches in the van. Kate Harrison was cold and too upset to sleep; she huddled under a blanket and waited for morning.

Around 6:30 a.m., police drove the couple to Dunkin’ Donuts and bought Reeves a cup of coffee. At the same time, some nine hours after the episode began, a reverse 911 call from Hingham police reached neighbors’ homes, warning of a situation involving “a distressed person” and asking them to stay indoors.

Police drove Austin’s parents back to the neighborhood soon after, where Harrison spotted Austin’s dog, Faith, on the sidewalk. Her heart leapt with hope: Maybe her son and his dog had fled the house. She and Reeves tried to imagine where Austin had run to, and how soon he might be in touch.

Then the van door opened. The Hingham police chief stepped in. They had found Austin; he had shot himself, he told them. As Austin’s mother screamed, the chief offered to call friends or clergy. The couple asked instead to have their son’s dog, his loyal friend, with them.

(Blog editor pauses at the sheer incomprehensible horror)

No, the chief said, according to the couple — we can’t bring a dog in here; it’s against protocol.

So much for the sensitivity training and police discretion.

At 7:19 a.m., police released a final reverse 911 message to neighbors. “Thank you for your cooperation,” a woman’s voice said. “The incident on Edgar Walker Court has been resolved.”


How do you go back to living in that house?


"Hingham Suicide Tragedy: Caused by Massive Police Overreaction?


I’m going to comment on something tonight, but what occurred surrounding the events that I’m going to speak to in this post are so outrageous, so lacking in any common sense on any level, so thoroughly disproportionate to rational and reasoned thinking, and so tragic, that I wasn’t immediately sure if I should post it here in my Injury Law blog, or my Criminal Law blog.  The events in this incident strain belief, and the non-answers surrounding it issued so far by the Police Department involved, further strain credulity.

Full disclosure, before proceeding further:  I am basing my understanding of the events described below, on published reporting from The Boston Globe,  MSN and other media sources. (click on link for Boston Globe story published July 17 2017.) I have not yet had the opportunity to fact-check every description of this incident that follows.  However, based on the media accounts that I have reviewed, these reports are consistent with each other, and thus as of this date I have no reason to doubt their fundamental accuracy.  If, after publishing this post I learn of any errors within it, I will issue an appropriate correction in this blog promptly.

A young man killed himself Saturday night, July 8, in the wealthy town of Hingham. His name was Austin Reeves.  He was 26 years old, and universally liked by all who knew him – employers, friends, schoolmates, and more.  Said one of his employers of him, “He was charming and funny and outgoing. He could talk to anyone, and everyone always enjoyed him.”   Austin had no history of either mental illness or violence of any kind. After finishing working for his employer at a 75th birthday party reception earlier that day and evening, Austin had a phone conversation with a former girlfriend, with whom his relationship had failed a month earlier.  Something was said  in that conversation that apparently hurt him a great deal.  During the conversation, Austin mentioned that he owned a gun.  Note:  No information to date indicates that Austin made any specific threat in that conversation.  However this former girlfriend became worried about him, and phoned the Hingham Police Department at approximately 9:19 PM, asking them to simply conduct a wellness check on Austin at his home – that is all.  The Hingham Police then called the Reeves household, where they spoke to Austin’s father, Russell Reeves, and asked Russell if Austin had a gun in his possession.

Before Mr. Reeves had the chance to answer that question, Austin came into the house.  When his father told him that the police had called asking about him, Austin became visibly upset.  As his father pleaded with him to talk about what was upsetting him, Austin went to his bedroom and asked to be left alone, reportedly saying “Don’t back me into a corner, because I’ll make it go away in four seconds.”  At that point, Russell Reeves called the Hingham Police back, at about 10:00 PM, reporting Austin’s comment to him.  Talking through her son’s bedroom door, Austin’s mother Kate Harrison asked if they could talk; Austin said only that he just needed to be left alone with his dog, Faith.

The next thing Austin’s parents knew, two Hingham police officers were outside the family’s house, whereupon the officers removed them – reportedly against their will – from their home to a neighbor’s yard. The police then reportedly re-contacted Austin’s ex-girlfriend around 11 p.m., and she reportedly told police that she had since talked with Austin by phone again, and in that second conversation with Austin he allegedly said that he wanted to be left alone, and something rather vague to the effect that anyone who came to get him would “hurt.”  Note:  Not “Be hurt, but “hurt.” From someone mourning the loss of a relationship, that could mean a variety of things – including that whoever came would realize how much Austin was truly hurting himself, or possibly that he would say things to hurt them.  Again, this was a young person whose heart was broken over a relationship – people of all ages, never mind younger people, say a lot of things when they’re so distressed and hurting.  Context is everything.   Objective readers of this blog should each ask themselves:  Have you never, in anger or frustration, said to someone else, “I’ll kill you”?   Have you never, frustrated with your own self, perhaps said in a moment of despair, “I could kill myself”?  Again, context is everything.

None of this mattered to Hingham police, and that’s when everything went off the cliff.  Officers told Austin’s parents they were calling in a SWAT team.  Yes, you read that correctly:  A SWAT team – for a lovesick young man with no history of violence or mental illness, who made no specific threats against anyone (even himself) and only wanted to be left alone in his bedroom with is dog.  Russell Reeves protested to the officers, “You can’t do that – “where is the imminent threat?”

Suddenly, more officers started pouring in, like the neighborhood had sprung a law enforcement leak, and police told Austin’s parents that they not only had to leave their own house, but they had to leave the street. His mother protested again   — Austin was here, she pleaded, and he needed his mother.  It didn’t matter, police said; this was “protocol.”  They reportedly marched the parents — Austin’s mother still in her bathrobe — away from their home, via surrounding yards. At one point, Austin’s father said he started to run back toward their house, but an officer physically restrained him.

At another point in this forced removal from their own property, Austin’s mother Kate Harrison turned to look back at their home, and gazed upon the full enormity of what was happening: The street was mobbed with police cruisers, overflowing with armed police in military SWAT gear.  She fell to her knees and cried out in horror, “Oh my God, oh my God.  What are you doing? Is this really necessary?”

I hope that readers are sitting down for this next set of reported facts, because if not you might find yourself on the floor in shock:  What Austin’s mother saw in full was a police response befitting an organized military defense from an armed invasion force: A regional SWAT team, comprised of rifle-wielding “special forces,” operated by the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council, or Metro LEC, which is a consortium of 48 police departments and law enforcement agencies surrounding Boston that provide mutual assistance in tactical SWAT and terror operations.  Notably, the Metro LEC has previously been criticized for using unnecessary force – even military-style combat force – as have been several municipal police departments. That is not hard to see.  Once the full force of this regional response was ordered, dozens of officers descended on the Reeves home. Witnesses reported seeing police vehicles from Braintree, Bridgewater, Attleboro, and Randolph, as well as other police departments.

For background, just what does this “Regional SWAT Team” consist of?
  • Military-style equipment including a bulletproof BearCat armored truck.
  • Battlefield gear, including assault weapons, grenade launchers, high-powered rifles
  • Body Armour, bullet-proof helmets and bullet-proof vests
  • Sharpshooters, “Flash-Bang” disorientation explosives, and tear-gas
  • Remote-controlled robots and bomb-defusing equipment
  • Turret guns atop armored personnel carrier-type vehicles
What does this SWAT team not have?  A mental health professional.  Supposedly, one serves as a “consultant” to this organization, on the side, but does not respond on calls with the crisis team.  Brilliant, isn’t that?

Importantly, not a single shot had been fired and no credible specific threat had been made against anyone – not at this point in the incident – and not at any point.  And yet even more officers came, some wearing jungle camouflage and carrying automatic rifles. They aimed powerful bright lights to flood Austin’s bedroom window on the side of the house.  They drove a military-style assault vehicle into the backyard.  They broke seven upstairs windows and remotely inserted robotic cameras to peer inside the house.

A terrified Russell Reeves begged police, “Please – why can’t you just let him go to sleep?”  His pleas went unheeded.  He an Austin’s mother assured police, repeatedly, that this assault on the house was going to terrify Austin, and could have disastrous consequences.  And repeatedly, police would not listen.  Escalating these histrionics even more, at approximately 6:30 a.m., almost nine hours after the episode began, Hingham police sent a reverse 911 robo-call to homes in the neighborhood warning of a situation involving “a distressed person” and asking them to stay indoors – as though terrorists were running through the streets of Hingham.  At about the same time, the door to a van that Austin’s parents had been taken to and where they had been waiting out this siege since about midnight, opened.  It was the Hingham Police Department’s chief.  He told them their son Austin had shot and killed himself.  Austin’s mother screamed, and the chief reportedly offered to call some friends or a clergy member.  Instead, the couple asked merely to have their son’s dog, his loyal friend Faith, brought out to them.

Once again, “No” came the answer, according to the parents — it’s “against protocol. “ No dogs in here.

Can any sane person actually believe all this insanity?  This couple’s son is dead – after 10 hours of a literal military siege against their grieving son who was alone in his bedroom with his dog, threatening no one, and all this is what resulted?  As I write this post, I’m shocked beyond words – and in my days as a Massachusetts plaintiffs’ attorney I’ve seen a lot of police negligence and liability cases.

At 7:19 a.m., police released a final reverse 911 robo-call to neighbors, following the one they had sent out earlier. “Thank you for your cooperation,” a woman’s voice neutrally said. “The incident on Edgar Walker Court has been resolved.”  “Has been “resolved.””?  Can anyone believe these people?  A young man is dead – quite arguably terrified to death by a military-style siege against him and his parents – and the Town of Hingham characterizes this completely needless death as “resolved”?  Words beggar the imagination for adequate description of this organizational insanity and callous insensitivity.

And with that call, the massive number of police vehicles that had descended on the Reeves property overnight departed all at once, to quote the Boston Globe story linked in this post, “like a flock of birds startled into flight.”  I’ll bet they did; and in double-time.

Standing there, sinking into grief that has to be indescribable, were Austin’s parents – numb with disbelief at what had transpired over the previous ten hours:  A literal military siege of their house, the lawn marked by tank tracks from a battlefield military assault vehicle, police cruisers from almost half a dozen communities, dozens of officers with high-powered weapons, broken glass from where police had smashed into seven windows of their home, and the body of their dead son.

It strains credulity to comprehend the supposed “need” for this this massive, histrionic, unbelievable overkill of a police response.  In response to someone who had suffered a lost relationship, who just wanted to be left alone in his bedroom with his dog, and had never exhibited the slightest violence or mental illness and who made no specific credible threats against anyone?  Based on a vague, third-hand report that if someone came in his room they’d hurt just as much as he was?  It’s beyond rational understanding.

What this young man needed was a friend or psychological professional to talk to – obviously.  Had police any common sense at all, they would have called up to his bedroom window, assured him that they weren’t there to arrest him at all, that they just wanted to offer to talk with him about his breakup and his ex-girlfriend’s concern for him – that’s all.  For purposes of “identifying” with Austin, the police here could have had a young, plainclothes male or female officer standing outside Austin’s window and calling up to him – clearly unarmed and very empathetic in his or her approach. (And common sense dictates that in all likelihood, once Austin heard that his ex-girlfriend was concerned about him, that news very likely would have at least brought him to talk from his window.)  But an approach like that doesn’t provide much of an excuse to act like soldiers in battle, does it?  And it doesn’t really mimic the drama so attractive in cop shows, does it?

What any person equipped with common sense and empathy would have known, is that what this grieving young man – a person with no history of violence toward himself or others, nor any history of mental illness – really needed was an outreaching hand and empathy – not a terrifying military assault.  Did these action-happy police stop for even a moment to consider how a member of their family might react if dozens of combat-equipped cops assaulted his house, flooded his room with bright klieg lights, and broke into seven windows in the house?  What did these people think that such an all-out military assault on his very home was going to do to him, psychologically?  Quite clearly, it terrified him to the point of despair. No, I’m not a psychologist.  But does any honest observer of this catastrophe really believe that such a professional pedigree is necessary here?  This person had cried and grieved before over the loss of this relationship. Mourning the loss of an important relationship is a process, not an event. And in all likelihood, he would have cried that night and come out of his room the next morning, his parents awaiting him eagerly.

Now, he is dead.  Very arguably terrified at the sight of dozens of battlefield-dressed cops outside his home carrying high-powered rifles, over a dozen cruisers, a veritable tank in his backyard, police breaking into seven windows in the house, and desparate thoughts of what was going to happen to him in response to this siege.  And while neither the Hingham Police Chief nor any other police officials involved with this tragic, horrific incident has issued any official comment about this matter, Austin’s father feels he knows why Austin is dead.

Russell Reeves has stated to the Boston Globe that believes his son’s death was the result of the incredibly overwhelming and irresponsible actions of the Hingham Police Department and other police departments involved.  He has stated that he believes the intimidating, over-powering, frightening show of military-style force, triggered a terrified Austin to panic and become self-destructive.  In considerable pain already, he very likely saw his future as being arrested, and sentenced to jail.  I highly doubt that he surmised that several dozen battlefield-equipped police officials were just going to walk away if he came downstairs.

“It was totally preventable,” Russell Reeves said, crying as he stood outside his house and looked up at Austin’s window last week. “He wasn’t a criminal. He didn’t have a hostage. This was a kid distressed about a girlfriend, and they turned it into a life-and-death situation.”

Again, while I was not there, that sounds very much like what took place here.

I want to speak now to what will be certain criticism of my observations that will follow this post by members of law enforcement and/or their friends and families:  No, I was not there.  I did not witness these events; as I stated at the top of this post, I am basing my discussion of these events, on published reporting from The Boston Globe and other media sources.  I was not part of any decision-making process.  No, I have never been a police officer.  Thus, a person who wanted to defend the actions of police in this matter could tell me that I’m not in a position to criticize or second-guess the Hingham police department’s actions here.

Wrong.  Why?  Because this situation demonstrated such a patent and obvious overreaction, such stunning overkill, such histrionics and hyper-dramatization, such horribly poor judgment and lack of discretion, that I wouldn’t need to be a police professional to reach this conclusion.  I don’t believe anyone would need to be, to reach such a conclusion.  As an example, if I learned that police officers chased a suspected thief while driving at speeds as high as 80 MPH through densely-settled neighborhood streets, I wouldn’t need to be a law enforcement expert to know that this kind of action would be blatant overreaction and disproportionate response; an example of shockingly poor judgment, and very indicative of police negligence. Nor would I need to have been at the scene to form such an opinion.

The police response to this matter is just as analogous to the above example.   If – and I emphasize “if” – the events that actually transpired in this tragedy are the same as those reported in the Boston Globe and other media, I believe that the actions that police authorities took here could accurately be described as not merely “an error,” but shockingly poor judgment, a disproportionately excessive use of police force, and stunning overkill to this incident.

If the events of this story are true (and again, I emphasize “if”,) this catastrophic tragedy strikes me as one of the most egregious examples of disproportionate police response, excessive use of force and lack of discretion that I have ever seen as a Boston negligence attorney. Again, if true, the actions of police as publicly reported in this incident may very well constitute negligence, but possibly gross negligence.

I know a lot of police officers.  The vast majority of them are fine, decent people.  But there is a culture within police departments and law enforcement communities everywhere, and it’s a culture of denial:  Denial that they did anything wrong in a given situation, silence and offical-speak that follow such incidents, and a collective group-think that (effectively) translates to “Criticize us and you’ll be sorry.”  It’s known as the Blue Wall of Silence, and it has to stop.  If the published reports of the police actions surrounding this incident are true, then both the Hingham Police Department, the Metro LEC, and any other police departments or agencies that were involved in these actions should step up and account for them – promptly.  Acknowledging that terrible mistakes were made here and preventing such mistakes in the future isn’t achieved through denial and hunkered-down institutional defensiveness.

I don’t believe that any honest, objective person can truthfully say that the actions of police personnel involved in this tragedy were necessary, proportional or appropriate.   This was a massive overkill of a response to a report of a young person:
  • Who was distressed over a recent breakup and merely wanted to be left alone in his room with his dog
  • With no history of violence of any kind or mental illness of any kind
  • Who had, according to a third-person report, supposedly made some vague threat of some kind, about no one in particular.
  • No hostage situation at all was involved
  • Not a single shot had been fired – nor even any weapon brandished
  • No member of the public or family members were threatened
And in response to merely the above facts, the Hingham Police Department called in a massive deployment of battlefield weapons, military response tactics, armored assault vehicles, dozens of armed police with assault rifles, explosives, camouflaged special forces, and a literal 10-hour siege, including literally dragging the young man’s parents out of their home, off their property, while refusing to hear multiple pleas to simply let their son alone, to sleep off some of his grief and distress.  This young man’s’ parents pleaded repeatedly with police to stop this insanity – again and again assuring them that their actions would terrify Austin and send him into despair.  And just as repeatedly, police refused to listen – effectively asserting that they knew their son’s likely reaction, better than his own parents:  The one word his mother and father were repeatedly told by police?  “Protocol.”  Have you heard of the expression, “The internet of everything”?  This one word excuse that these parents were repeatedly given by police strikes me as “The expression of nothing”, because that’s what it is:  A rote, robotic, unthinking, unreasoned response – devoid of discretion or deference to teh two people who knew this young man better than anyone:  His own parents.

This needless catastrophe has all the markings of something very much the opposite of what was plainly called for:  A sympathetic ear.  A calming, reassuring presence.  A shoulder to cry on.  If what has been publicly reported is true, this was an unconscionable abuse of discretion and wildly excessive use of police force.  To use a metaphor, it was overkill, alright – as though it were fueled by gallons of Red Bull caffeine drinks, laced with speed.

I deeply feel for, and will pray for, this grieving family – forever scarred and forever damaged by what took place at their home the evening of July 8 2017. I’ve read that Austin Reeves’ parents want to use this tragedy to change the way Massachusetts police departments, and police departments outside of this state, respond to similar incidents.  I applaud them wholeheartedly for this.  And when they are emotionally able to, I hope this mortally wounded couple will consider speaking with a law firm that specializes in cases of Massachusetts police negligence.  Because if there ever were a case that cries out for close examination of civil liability for police negligence and violation of civil rights by police, it is this.

This entire story – the massive, terrorist-level response by dozens of rifle-wielding police, the deployment of battlefield weapons, armored vehicles and literally dozens of officers and “special forces,” the complete deafness of police to the pleas of this boy’s parents, the callousness with which it was all handled – even down to refusing to bring the boy’s dog to the parents after they were informed Austin was dead (“protocol,”)  all begs for a rational answer.  There may – and I emphasize “may”  – be one.  It seems that the Hingham Police Department and the Reeves family have quite a tense history.

According to a 2011 Patriot Ledger story, Hingham Police accused Russell Reeves in 2006 with setting up a fictitious Yahoo account under the name of a person who was at that time a Hingham selectman, for the alleged purpose of sending out emails criticizing the Community Preservation Act.  Police issued a subpoena at the time to determine who created that Yahoo account, and reportedly traced it back to the Reeves home.  Russell was charged with identity fraud and knowingly making false statements, but those charges were later dismissed.

Four years later, in 2010, Reeves filed federal suit against the police department, claiming that he, his wife, and his son were the targets of continual harassment by police since that 2006 conflict.  In 2011, the federal suit was dismissed, and a state suit in Plymouth Superior Court was also later dropped.

What connection, if any, that this history bears to the events involving the Hingham Police Department’s response to the events at the Reeves’ home on July 8 & 9 2017, is unclear to me.  To the contrary,  and to be very clear, I’m not suggesting that there is any connection, at all.  But many people may raise an eyebrow over this history.

The tragedy that resulted in this situation, is beyond words.  Governor Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety & Security should undertake an immediate and deep-probing inquest into this mindless, and apparently needless, catastrophe.


Also seeFramingham man charged in police standoff served five years for illegal guns

I guess he got lucky.


Meanwhile, compare the official reaction and amount of pre$$ coverage this got:

"Minneapolis police kill Australian woman seeking help" Associated Press  July 17, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — Details about what led a Minneapolis police officer to fatally shoot an Australian woman remained unclear Monday, with authorities saying only that officers were responding to a 911 call about a possible assault when the woman was shot.

Minneapolis authorities have not released the woman’s name. The Star Tribune identified her as Justine Damond, 40, from Sydney, Australia. The newspaper reported that she was engaged to be married and had already taken her fiance’s last name. Her maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said two Minneapolis officers responded to the call late Saturday. At some point, an officer fired a weapon.

The Star Tribune, citing three people with knowledge of the shooting it did not name, said Damond had been the one to call 911 about a possible assault in the alley behind her house.

The three people said two officers pulled into the alley in a single squad car. Damond, wearing pajamas, stood at the driver’s side door and talked to the driver. The newspaper’s sources said the officer in the passenger seat shot Damond through the driver’s side door.

Police referred questions to the BCA. A spokeswoman for the agency did not return messages seeking to confirm that account.

Neighbor Joan Hargrave called the killing ‘‘an execution.’’ She said there was no reason for a well-trained officer to see Damond as a threat.

‘‘This is a tragedy — that someone who’s asking for help would call the police and get shot by the police,’’ Hargrave said.

It happens more often than you would think in AmeriKa.


"Family demands answers after Minneapolis police shoot, kill woman who called 911" by Mark Berman Washington Post  July 18, 2017

Why should they get any when American families do not?

Relatives of an Australian woman fatally shot by Minneapolis police officers over the weekend sharply questioned the lack of information about the shooting, which has again fueled distrust of law enforcement among the city’s residents amid uncertainty about what happened. 

I don't because it happens all the time in our transparent democracy, and what information is put out by authority is either a lie or distortion. Seen it too many times for far too long.

Family members say Justine Damond, 40, called 911 on Saturday night to report a potential sexual assault near her home in an upscale Minneapolis neighborhood. Officials say two Minneapolis police officers responded to the call just before 11:30 p.m. What happened in Damond’s final moments were unclear, but about 20 minutes after the 911 call, she was dead after one of the officers fired into her abdomen.

That's where pedophiles seem to concentrate, based upon all the sex abuse scandals at elite schools.

State investigators have been probing the shooting, but they have released scant details publicly, saying only that it was not captured on video. Damond’s relatives, meanwhile, have pleaded for any information about what happened before she was shot and killed.

‘‘Our hearts are broken and we are utterly devastated by the loss of Justine,’’ Don Damond, her fiance, said Monday at a news briefing. ‘‘Sadly, her family and I have been provided with almost no additional information from law enforcement regarding what happened after police arrived. We’ve lost the dearest of people and we’re desperate for information.’’

Welcome to AmeriKa!!

Damond said that understanding her last moments ‘‘would be a small comfort as we grieve this tragedy.’’

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the state agency investigating the shooting, said Monday that it would provide more details about what happened after the two officers involved have been interviewed. Both officers were placed on standard administrative leave.

Officials have not publicly confirmed the names of the officers who responded Saturday night. Multiple media reports have identified a Somali-American police officer as the one who fired the fatal shot, prompting fear in the Twin Cities’ Somali community about a possible backlash.

The Minneapolis Police Department has declined to identify the officer involved, saying the name would be released by the BCA. The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, a police union, declined to comment, saying only that it had provided the officer an attorney.

Janeé Harteau, the Minneapolis police chief, called the shooting ‘‘a tragic death’’ and said she was also feeling the same uncertainty reverberating through the community.

‘‘I also want to assure you that I understand why so many people have so many questions at this point,’’ Harteau said in a statement Monday. ‘‘I have many of the same questions and that is why we immediately asked for an external and independent investigation into the officer-involved shooting death.’’

When have they bent over backwards so much for a black citizen that has been murdered?

The shooting has prompted far more questions than answers. Damond’s fiance said she was calling in ‘‘what she believed was an active sexual assault occurring nearby.’’ Investigators say the officers had not turned on their body cameras at the time of the shooting, though they have not said why.

Adding to the uncertainty: The Minneapolis Star Tribune, citing three unnamed sources, reported that Damond was fatally struck while speaking to the squad car’s driver at their door.

That's the "official" story -- which is, you know, the only one that can be believed in politically-correct AmeriKa.

The shooting has also renewed a sense of unease some residents feel toward police officers. Lois and John Rafferty said they’d be reluctant to call the police for help and wouldn’t go outside to talk to them if they did call, noting that the shooting made no sense to them. 

If only Hingham had heeded that.

‘‘How many people have to get shot?’’ John Rafferty said. ‘‘You can walk your dog at midnight around here. Minneapolis is not Syria.’’

Damond is one of at least 543 people fatally shot by police in the United States this year, according to a Washington Post database tracking such deaths. She is the 23rd woman listed in the database this year.

This shooting is the third in recent years to draw intense national attention to the Twin Cities. Last year, a suburban police officer shot and killed Philando Castile, a local school worker, during a traffic stop that was partially streamed on Facebook. That footage went viral, sparking protests that lasted for weeks. The officer in that case, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted by a jury last month and then left his department. Dash-cam video in that case showed Yanez firing numerous times into Castile’s car but did not show what was happening inside the vehicle. Yanez has said he believed Castile was going for a weapon, an account Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat, disputed. 

Nearly started WWIII.

In 2015, two Minneapolis police officers encountered and fatally shot Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old. His death also set off intense demonstrations outside a Minneapolis police station. The county prosecutor said the officers would not face charges because they believed Clark was going for their gun, while the Justice Department said they would not face federal civil rights charges because an investigation did not prove they intended to violate Clark’s civil rights.

That's no time to panic.


I'm wondering what the Australians will do when the officer is acquitted -- if he is even charged, that is. 

Just an oops is all, right?

"Officer: Partner fired fatal shot moments after loud sound" Associated Press  July 19, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — The partner of a Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed an Australian woman who had called 911 told investigators he was startled by a loud sound near their squad car seconds before his partner fired his weapon.

Officer Matthew Harrity’s account, as given by state investigators, is the first to emerge of the moments leading up to the death of Justine Damond, a 40-year-old meditation teacher and life coach who was due to be married in August.

It’s also the only one, since Officer Mohamed Noor — who fired the shot that killed Damond — has so far refused to be interviewed.

Damond’s death late Saturday night in an alley behind her southwest Minneapolis home sparked anger and a demand for answers both in the city and in her home country.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Damond approached the driver’s side window of the squad car immediately after Harrity said he had been startled by the sound.

Noor, in the passenger seat, shot Damond through the open driver’s side window, the bureau said.

So heard the sound and went to pull his gun before getting out of the vehicle, bumped his arm, and, well, you know the rest.

Harrity and Noor are on paid administrative leave.

The officers did not turn on their body cameras until after the shooting, and the squad car camera was also not activated.


"Australian woman was shot after cops heard loud sound, officials said" by Amy Forliti Associated Press  July 19, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — An Australian woman who called 911 to report a possible assault was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer after the officer’s partner was startled by a loud sound near their squad car, the partner told investigators Tuesday.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Justine Damond, 40, approached the driver’s side window of the squad car immediately after the driver had been startled by the sound. The officer in the passenger seat, Mohamed Noor, fired his weapon, hitting Damond through the open driver’s side window, the BCA said.

The BCA said its information was based on an interview with the officer driving the car, Officer Matthew Harrity. Harrity was interviewed Tuesday, but Noor declined to be interviewed. The BCA said his attorney did not indicate when, or if, Noor would talk to investigators, and under the law an interview can’t be compelled.

Like we are going to believe the police accounts of the incident.

Messages left with Noor’s attorney were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Harrity and Noor are on paid administrative leave. Harrity has been with the Minneapolis police department for one year, and Noor has been with the department for nearly two.

The information released Tuesday is the first narrative by the BCA since Saturday night’s shooting. According to the BCA, Harrity told investigators that he and Noor responded to a 911 call from Damond about a possible assault near her home at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

Doesn't mean it's true; it's a narrative!

Harrity was driving the squad car as the officers went through an alley to look for a suspect. The squad lights were off.

Harrity told agents he was startled by a loud sound near the cruiser, and immediately afterward, Damond approached the driver’s side window. Harrity told agents that Noor fired his weapon through the open driver’s side window.

No weapon was found at the scene. The officers did not turn on their body cameras until after the shooting, and the squad car camera was also not activated.

How convenient, especially since they are in the alley investigating. 

Just forgot!

Harrity told investigators that after the shooting, the officers got out of their vehicle and gave Damond immediate medical attention.

Then they are heroes!

Harrity said that he and Noor saw a man, estimated to be between 18 and 25, bicycling in the area before the shooting. That man stopped and watched as officers attended to Damond. BCA agents are asking that man, and any other potential witnesses, to come forward.

The BCA said that unless more people come forward, there are no additional interviews scheduled.

David Klinger, a criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said police officers can’t be compelled to testify in an outside investigation.

‘‘Police officers are citizens ... they have the same Fifth Amendment right as anyone. They don’t have to give a statement,’’ Klinger said. ‘‘His lawyer might be saying, you’re not going to talk until I feel you’re rested and not under stress.’’

I'm not looking to take those away from him; however, authority seems to be the only ones getting that privilege these days.

In a news conference after the BCA’s update, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said she wished Noor would speak to investigators.

‘‘It’s frustrating to have some of the picture but not all of it,’’ she said. ‘‘We cannot compel Officer Noor to make a statement. I wish we could. I wish that he would make a statement.’’

Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo said the department is reviewing its policy on body cameras and was doing so before Damond’s death. Arradondo said the department is just eight months into a department-wide rollout, and the review includes focusing on how often officers activate them. He said the department wants to increase that frequency.

The city also said it planned to release a transcript of Damond’s 911 call after it is shared with family members. Officials had initially declined to make it public.

Look at them falling all over themselves in regards to the death of a foreigner or dual national.

The BCA said forensic testing is being completed and evidence is still being examined. When the investigation is done, the BCA will present all its findings to prosecutors for possible charges.

Like we will believe what they come up with.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gave an interview Wednesday to Australia’s ‘‘Today’’ show, shortly before the release of details from the BCA’s preliminary investigation, and joined the chorus demanding answers.

‘‘How can a woman out in the street in her pajamas seeking assistance from police be shot like that? It is a shocking killing,’’ Turnbull said.

Records from the city’s Office of Police Conduct Review show Noor has had three complaints against him. Two are pending, and the third was dismissed without discipline. Under state law, details of open cases and cases that result in no discipline are not released.

Noor was also sued earlier this year after a May 25 incident in which he and other officers took a woman to the hospital for an apparent mental health crisis. The lawsuit claims Noor and other officers violated the woman’s rights when they entered her home without permission and Noor grabbed her wrist and upper arm. The lawsuit, which is pending, said Noor relaxed his grip when the woman said she had a previous shoulder injury.

Damond, who was planning to be married next month, was a meditation teacher and life coach. Her maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk, and though she was not yet married, she had already been using her fiance’s last name.


"Family wants changes after woman shot by Minn. police" by Amy Forliti and Steve Karnowski Associated Press  July 20, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — The family of an Australian woman shot dead by a Minneapolis police officer wants changes in police protocols, including a look at how often officers are required to turn on their body cameras, a family attorney told local media.

They haven't for citizens of this country, why would they for you?

Other police shootings around the U.S. — particularly the killings of black men by police officers — led to calls for changes that included everything from bias training for officers to upgraded technology. Sometimes those changes have been initiated by departments themselves; sometimes they have been ordered by the federal government or through a lawsuit.

In the most recent Minneapolis case, Officer Mohamed Noor shot Justine Damond, a white 40-year-old life coach, once through the window of his police vehicle after she approached the car, minutes after she called 911 to report a possible rape. Noor’s partner told state investigators he had been startled by a loud noise right before the shooting. Noor, who is Somali-American, has declined to be interviewed.

An attorney for Damond’s family, Robert Bennett, told Minneapolis television station WCCO that the family is in disbelief. He said the Australian woman was no threat, and any notion that the officers feared an ambush is ‘‘ludicrous.’’

Authorities said neither officer had turned on his body camera. Bennett, who helped the family of black motorist Philando Castile reach a nearly $3 million settlement after he was killed by a suburban police officer last summer, said the Minneapolis department’s body camera policy, and how often the cameras are turned on, are among issues the family wants examined.

Minneapolis police have said they already were reviewing their body camera policy before Damond’s death. Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo said police will soon release changes to body camera requirements, without elaborating. Arradondo also said supervisors would work with patrol officers to ensure the cameras are activated more frequently.


Joseph Schafer, a criminology and criminal justice professor at Southern Illinois University, said calls for changes are common after critical events such as police shootings.

‘‘The challenge can be that a single incident, while horribly tragic and unfortunate ... doesn’t necessarily establish there is a systemic problem that needs to be fixed,’’ Schafer said, adding that changes may not always prevent future mistakes.

Yeah, so don't get your hopes up.

He said other shootings have prompted changes in many areas, including communication between dispatch and officers, training on use of force or other tactics, and in the equipment officers are given.

And yet they still keep happening.

Cara Rabe-Hemp, criminal justice professor at Illinois State University, said changes in Minneapolis could include updating the types of calls in which officers are required to turn on cameras or changing how citizens participate in the civilian review process. 

Little too late for Ms. Damond, huh?

Minnesota created a $12 million police training fund after the shootings of Castile and another black man, Jamar Clark. The Legislature also approved $35 million in programs meant to reduce long-standing economic disparities between black and white residents, which Black Lives Matter and other organizations targeted as a root problem behind tension with police.

In Castile’s case, Minnesota’s governor and family members called for a federal investigation, and residents called for changes during city meetings. In the end, there was no federal civil rights investigation into Officer Jeronimo Yanez, but the city of St. Anthony requested a voluntary review by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. That review is looking at traffic stops, recruitment practices and how the department works with the community.

In Cleveland, the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice helped spur a Justice Department investigation and consent decree that led to a revised use-of-force policy. The black youth was playing outside with a replica gun that shoots nonlethal plastic pellets when a white officer shot him in 2014.

Related: More Dead in Ohio 

The cop survived two or three hung juries, though!

The revised policy requires officers to try de-escalation techniques, such as taking cover, to avoid using force.

Sounds hollow.

The department’s previous policy allowed officers to use force, including firearms, if they determined it was ‘‘objectively reasonable,’’ meaning it’s something an average officer would do. The new policy says force must be necessary and ‘‘proportional’’ to the threat. It also requires officers to give first aid, something Tamir didn’t get until other responders arrived about four minutes later.

They should have been acting that way forever, and yet it is being portrayed as if -- after all the blood and carnage -- it's a good thing to be returning to the way policing should have been done in the first place!!!!

In Milwaukee, the Justice Department’s COPS program in 2015 laid out the broad strokes of a plan for the police force as part of a voluntary review that’s still underway. That followed the death of Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man who had been sleeping in a downtown park when an officer shot him 14 times in 2014. The review is looking at police use of force, racial disparities, community engagement and mass demonstrations.

That's what, the Upper Midwest?

The COPS program also has agreed to review the policies of North Charleston, South Carolina, after the 2015 fatal shooting of Walter Scott. The review will examine how the department could improve its relationship with residents and its policing strategies.

Your Southern Swing.


Here, suck on this for a while.

"Family of woman killed by police hires attorney in similar Minn. case" by Amy Forliti and Steve Karnowski Associated Press  July 20, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — The family of an Australian woman shot to death by a Minneapolis police officer has hired an attorney who represented the family of black motorist Philando Castile, who was also slain by a Minnesota police officer.

Minneapolis attorney Bob Bennett confirmed Thursday that he was representing the family of Justine Damond, who died Saturday night shortly after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home.

Officer Mohamed Noor shot Damond, a 40-year-old life coach, once through the window of his police vehicle after she approached the car. Noor’s partner told state investigators that he had been startled by a loud noise right before the shooting. Noor has declined to be interviewed.

Bennett, who helped Castile’s family reach a nearly $3 million settlement with the suburb of St. Anthony, was in a deposition Thursday and not immediately available for an interview.

He told a Minneapolis television station that Damond’s family in Australia is in disbelief.

‘‘She obviously was not armed, she was not a threat to anyone, nor could she have reasonably been perceived to be,’’ he told WCCO-TV. Bennett strongly disputed the suggestion from an attorney for Noor’s partner that the two officers might reasonably have feared an ambush.

‘‘I think that is ludicrous, that is disinformation,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘It doesn’t have any basis in fact.’’

That is what we get from authority.

Meanwhile, a ‘‘march for healing’’ was planned for Thursday evening for Damond. Organizers invited community members to gather at her southwest Minneapolis home for a candlelit walk about a half-mile to a lakefront park.


Noor, who has been with the department almost two years, cannot be forced to talk to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He will have to give a statement as part of his department’s internal investigation.

According to the state bureau, Noor’s partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, told investigators he was driving in the alley with all of the vehicle’s lights off when he was startled by a loud noise, which authorities did not describe. Harrity said Damond appeared at the driver’s side window ‘‘immediately afterward’’ and Noor fired, striking her in the abdomen. She died at the scene.

The Minneapolis Police Department’s internal affairs unit can compel Noor to give a statement as part of its investigation, and fire him if he refuses, but that statement cannot be used against him in any criminal investigation, Friedberg said.

Assistant Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said an internal use-of-force investigation has been opened, which is standard whenever an officer discharges a weapon. The police chief has asked that the review be expedited, but much of the information needed is in the hands of state investigators.

Police did not respond to questions Wednesday about the internal investigation. Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, has not responded to interview requests from The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, details that have emerged raised new questions about whether proper police procedures were followed.

KSTP-TV, citing a source it did not name, said the two officers thought they were being targeted for an ambush when they heard a pounding noise on the driver’s side. Noor had his gun on his lap, the station said.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension did not confirm the KSTP report. Harrity’s attorney, Fred Bruno, told the Star Tribune it was ‘‘certainly reasonable’’ for the officers to fear a possible ambush.

Several criminal law professors who spoke to the AP said it would be unusual if Noor had his gun out when officers were checking out a report of a potential assault. But they said he might have been in a heightened state of awareness in light of recent ambushes of police.

Transcripts of 911 calls that were made public Wednesday show Damond called dispatchers twice to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home.

Damond made her first call at 11:27 p.m., when she said she heard a possible sexual assault. She told the dispatcher she wasn’t sure but thought a woman was in distress. She called back eight minutes later when no officers had arrived and told the dispatcher she was worried they had the gone to the wrong address.

Arradondo told reporters that officers searched the area and found no suspects.


"Minneapolis police killing has family asking why" by John Eligon, Vivian Yee and Matt Furber New York Times  July 22, 2017

Now you know you have hit the big time.

MINNEAPOLIS — There was something bad going on in the alleyway behind the house, she told her fiancé on the phone, someone who sounded as if she was in distress, maybe a rape. It was past 11 p.m., and most people on Washburn Avenue were furled in their beds.

Except Justine Damond, alone at home with the noises, her anxiety creeping into the loud Las Vegas casino where her fiancé had answered the phone.

They had met five years ago, when they lived 9,000 miles apart, beginning a courtship at first halting and then headlong. Now the wedding dress was ordered, the suit bought, the invitations sent, the ceremony set for an August weekend in Hawaii. But on Saturday night, July 15, they were separated again.

Her fiancé, Don Damond, told her to call 911. They stayed on the phone until she said police had arrived. Stay put, he told her. Call me back, he told her.

“I have played this over in my head over and over,” Damond said Friday in his first interview since that night. “Why didn’t I stay on the phone with her?”

The events of the next few minutes will be anatomized and argued over and, maybe, at some point, contested in court. But this much is established: As the squad car she had summoned slid down the alley, Justine Damond went up to the police officers inside, one of whom, for reasons still unknown, fired his gun, hit her in the abdomen and killed her.

Even to Americans now used to dissecting police shootings, the circumstances were an odd jolt: a black Somali-American cop, firing at a white Australian woman among the garages and green compost bins of an unremarkable strip of Midwestern concrete.

Yeah, it wasn't some young African-American getting blown away. Nothing odd there. We are used to that.

In Australia, where Damond, 40, grew up, there was agony and disbelief, the prime minister voicing bafflement, the tabloids in full cry. In the United States, there were questions about the officer’s failure to turn on his body camera, about firearms procedures, and about the role race has played in how officials responded. On Friday, the Minneapolis police chief was forced to resign.

SeeMinneapolis police chief resigns after shooting by officer

And in interviews last week in Sydney and Minneapolis, Damond’s friends and her fiancé were trying to fill in the blanks of her final night.

Like with OJ, except..... it's a disease.

A week has passed. A cardboard sign at the end of the alleyway, propped amid the flowers laid there by friends and neighbors, asks the still-unanswered question: Why?

From Silence to ‘Yes’

She was the luminous Australian in the Fulton neighborhood of Minneapolis, leading meditation sessions, scattering her communications with rainbow emojis and greeting people with, “Hello, beautiful!”

One moment her friends remember her for is the time she rescued a flock of ducklings from a street drain, descending barefoot to scoop them up. It was only last month.

At one of the talks she occasionally gave at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, Damond, again barefoot, recounted the moment: “You’ve never lived until you’ve had eight ducklings fling themselves into your lap because they’ve realized you’re trying to help,” she said. “So beautiful!”

Born in pre-revolutionary Iran to an Australian mother and an American father who was teaching English in Tehran, Justine Ruszczyk grew up on Sydney’s North Shore with an affinity for horses, a three-legged dog named Brad and any animal she could rescue and nurse to health in her home. Her mother was a nurse midwife; her father owned a bookstore.

She studied to become a veterinarian, but disliked that so much of the job consisted of spaying animals, said Sara Baldwin, her godmother. Then, when she was 22, her mother died of cancer. In pain and confusion, she went to an ashram, emerging from a three-week silent retreat with a determination to practice a different kind of healing.

“There was a time when I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay on the planet,” she wrote on her blog in August 2014. “It took me 13 years to come to where I am now — living with a deeply connected understanding of what it means to be a spiritual being in this very physical experience, a clear and grounded understanding of how this reality around me comes into being — and to be honest it was a pretty long and painful journey at times.”

She found what she was looking for in the teachings of Dr. Joe Dispenza, a chiropractor with a wide following for his ideas about changing lives through the power of the human brain. At a meditation retreat in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2012, she met Don Damond, a casino manager from Minneapolis.

“Hey, I just met my future wife,” he told a friend when he returned. “The only problem is, she lives 9,000 miles away.”

They chatted on Facebook for months, but when Don Damond declared his feelings for her, Ruszczyk went silent for more than a year. She told friends that she did not reciprocate until, having drawn up a list of the traits she wanted in a partner, she realized Damond was a match.

They met in Maui, in Australia, in San Francisco, impatient with happiness. The day he planned to propose, standing in the Marin Headlands with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, it was cold, and she kept trying to put her hand in his coat pocket where he had the ring. He had to keep grabbing her hand to stop her from finding it before he was ready to pull it out himself.

Should have stopped right there.

She said yes.

Reluctantly leaving Australia, Ruszczyk, who through her father was an American citizen, moved to Minneapolis in 2015.

“She had her family there,” Damond said Friday. “All her friends, lifelong relationships, and she moved here for one person.”

Though she took his name, they put off marrying, partly because a wedding with families on two sides of the world would be hard to organize, partly because Justine Damond was so absorbed in a new project, creating training materials for Dispenza.

Someday, she told Baldwin, she hoped she and Don would return to Sydney.

It was not only the weather or her friends or family that drew her back.

“She didn’t like the guns” in the United States, Baldwin said. “She didn’t like the violence.”

Then take them away from the police!

‘We Think It’s Justine’

With Damond in Las Vegas for work, she had been sleeping on his side of the bed — the left, under a pair of dream catchers — when she heard a scream for help.

She walked over the white shag rug to the windows that overlook the backyard. She peeked past the massive oak tree. The noise was coming from near a neighbor’s garage on the right, she told Damond.

At 11:27, a call came in to 911.

“Hi, I’m, I can hear someone out back and I, I’m not sure if she’s having sex or being raped,” Justine Damond reported, according to a transcript released by the Minneapolis police.

“We’ve already got help on the way,” the operator promised.

Eight minutes later, officers had not arrived. Damond called back, wondering if they had gone to the wrong place. They were coming, the operator reassured her.

OMFG, they lied about the response! 

Yup, they are on their way before you even called! 

How far away were they?

Nearby, Officer Matthew Harrity, with a year on the force, and Officer Mohamed Noor, with 21 months, got the call.

Noor had been the first Somali cop in the immigrant-rich 5th Precinct, his hiring hailed by the mayor and Minneapolis’ Somali community. He was supposed to be a bridge, leaping over the chasm of ingrained suspicion between the community and the police.


Here, now, he was another officer, less than three hours from the end of a 10-hour shift.

They turned their Ford Explorer into the alleyway behind Damond’s house, driving south along a stretch of concrete and asphalt wide enough only for one car. Their lights were off. Under the street lamps, the detached garages on either side were pale in their vinyl sidings.

Why were they driving with the lights off?

As they reached the end of the alley, Harrity, who was driving, was startled by a loud noise near the squad car, he told investigators. Then Damond came up to his open window.

Noor fired.

Past his partner, through the window, the bullet found Damond’s abdomen. The officers got out of the car, calling back to the dispatch center, as the operator’s computer recorded the first sign that lives were about to change on two continents: “ONE DOWN ... STARTING CPR.”

Yeah, it wasn't the responsibility of the fine immigrant example for a cop (which has nothing to do with this, really). The bullet found its own way to her abdomen. I wonder if it was a magic bullet.

In Las Vegas, Don Damond’s texts to his fiancée were going unanswered. Maybe she had just gone back to bed, Damond thought.

That would get me worrying! 

Didn't she say she would call back?

Around 12:45 a.m., the Minneapolis police called. There had been a shooting. A woman had died.

Damond figured it must have been the woman being raped.

Then he asked who the victim was.

“We can’t give a positive ID, but we think it’s Justine,” Damond said he was told. ]

OMG, they told him over the phone!!!!!!

He sat at a slot machine, hyperventilating. Had the rapist killed his fiancée? He was at the airport when the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the shooting, called to say that the person who had pulled the trigger was a police officer.

Damond got a seat on the 7 a.m. flight to Minneapolis. When he landed, a friend, a Delta Air Lines employee, was waiting. Hugging him, Damond heaved with sobs.

“There’s like a glitch in the matrix,” Damond recalled thinking. “I just know I’m going to wake up from this nightmare.”

Yeah, just a glitch. 

Outrage Down Under

On Monday afternoon in Sydney, news that a local woman had died overseas flowed into the offices of The Daily Telegraph, a tabloid that is part of the Rupert Murdoch news empire.

Little NYT elitism there? 

I was told by the Globe they are our only hope.

“It became very clear that it was the best story for us that day,” said the editor, Christopher Dore.

“You know, here’s this Aussie girl who goes over to find love,” he added. “And because of the complications of American policing and guns, she’s dead.”

The paper’s editors had a picture that they knew would pull heartstrings: Damond in a white blouse, smiling widely, her engagement ring sparkling on one hand.

At 6 p.m., a couple of hours to deadline, they began brainstorming headlines. They tried “Only in America,” but on the page, it looked off.

They settled on “AMERICAN NIGHTMARE.”

Dore insisted that the headline was not a judgment. “There’s no way in the world we’re going to lecture the United States about its Constitution or the right,” he said.

I don't understand. What does civilian rights to bear arms have to do with this?

But the headline captured many Australians’ dismay over what, to them, seemed a peculiarly American phenomenon. There are tight restrictions on firearm ownership in Australia, and though police officers there carry guns, fatal police shootings are relatively rare.

“It would have never happened here,” said Michael Timbs, a mourner who showed up at a sunrise vigil at the beach near Damond’s childhood home on Wednesday.

That morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appeared on television to ask, “How can a woman out in the street in her pajamas seeking assistance from police be shot like that?”

One Shot, Many Questions

A year after a police officer in a Twin Cities suburb fatally shot Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black driver whose dying moments were streamed by his girlfriend on Facebook, some of the same questions have pursued the shooting of Damond.

What led Noor to fire his weapon? The loud noise the other officer said he had heard? Fear of an ambush, as his partner’s lawyer has implied?

At this point, almost everything is conjecture. Neither officer had his body camera turned on, leaving investigators and the public blind, a fact that the Minneapolis mayor, Betsy Hodges, has called “unacceptable.”

That's the governing philosophy of the whole society.

Noor, whose record included three civilian complaints and a lawsuit over his treatment of a woman while performing a mental health checkup, has declined to speak with investigators.

Both officers have been placed on leave, and Friday, the mayor forced the police chief, Janeé Harteau, to resign. It was an abrupt end to a contentious career as chief, during which Harteau faced criticism over her handling of other police shootings, including the killing of a black man, Jamar Clark, that led to weeks of protests. Activists have also questioned why city officials moved so decisively in this case to condemn the shooting, compared with other police shootings in which the victims were black.

The reasons are quite clear. This incident makes the U.S. government look bad overseas. That's why law enforcement is bending over backwards with apologies and sympathies, as opposed to the aloofness the black families get. 

But as in other cases, prosecutors might find it difficult to make a case against Noor if he argues that he believed he was in danger. 

I can't wait to see the Australian reaction when this guy is exonerated or acquitted.

A 1989 Supreme Court decision, Graham v. Connor, held that officers’ actions had to be judged by whether force was reasonable given what the officer knew at the time.

“There is this huge misunderstanding in this country about the rules surrounding police officers’ use of deadly force,” said Jim Bueermann, a former Redlands, California, police chief who is now the president of the Police Foundation, a research group. “People just say, if a person was unarmed, why would an officer have shot him or her?”


In fast-moving situations, police protocol often leaves little room for error.

And yet they keep happening! Then investigations have to be done, policies changed, etc, etc!

Officers usually have a round chambered in their sidearms. And experts say they are generally taught to draw their weapons when they feel they or someone else are in imminent danger. Even for many traffic stops, officers will keep a hand on the weapon while it remains in the holster.

Bueermann said he believed many officers were quicker to pull their guns than they would have been a decade or two ago. “There is constant messaging to police officers about the dangers of their jobs,” he said. “There’s a really common adage in policing: It’s better to be tried by 12 than carried by six.”

They are going to kill you before you kill them, and can you imagine the chaos in society if we all felt that way?

He also questioned whether Noor might have accidentally discharged his weapon — a far more common occurrence than many people realize, he said.

That's what I said, so take your sorry and shaddup!

What made this shooting particularly bizarre, to veteran police officers, was that Noor fired at close range past his partner. Many officers would be furious or unnerved if a partner shot across them in any situation short of being attacked, said Vernon J. Geberth, a former New York City police commander and the author of “Practical Homicide Investigation,” a widely used textbook.

Maybe his partner was pissed. We don't know!

The officer’s partner might well be thinking, “You could’ve shot my head off,” Geberth said.

Personal Effects

Barefoot, on a beach in Kona, Hawaii, exchanging vows under a wooden arch trellised with Tibetan prayer flags onto which their guests would add prayers of their own: That was the plan. The wedding was set for Aug. 17.

Don Damond would wear a bright blue suit with an open-collar white shirt. Following tradition, he had never seen Justine Damond’s dress.

Now last-minute wedding tasks had given way to the business of death. There was a cremation to arrange, her clothes and engagement ring to pick up from investigators.

And Justine’s dress. On Friday, he said, he was planning to go to the bridal shop, where he would see it for the first time.



"State investigators said they have interviewed a witness who was near the alley where a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed an unarmed Australian woman. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Friday that the person was bicycling nearby just before the shooting and stopped and watched officers perform CPR on Justine Damond late on July 15. Police Chief Janee Harteau resigned Friday at the request of Mayor Betsy Hodges."

Gee, the folks in Hingham only got one day of coverage, and not even one Globe columnist chose to write about it.


"Mission Hill hardware store owner shot, killed" by Danny McDonald and Jake Johnson Globe Staff | Globe Correspondent  July 18, 2017

The well-known owner of a hardware store in Mission Hill was fatally shot at his shop Tuesday, and three men were arrested after a police chase through the neighborhood, Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said.

The victim, Andres Cruz, was 58 years old, a law enforcement official briefed on the case said. Neighbors described him as a “Norman Rockwell” figure in the neighborhood, who was often seen sweeping the sidewalk outside his store, AC Hardware, at 1562 Tremont St.

“You wouldn’t believe that anyone — because he’s known by everyone — would want to harm him or his family,” said Bruce Bickerstaff, who lives about two blocks from the crime scene.

Cruz’s store was recently honored as the “2017 Mission Hill Main Streets Business of the Year,” an award that was voted on by his peers in the community, said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. A banner proclaiming the award with Cruz’s picture hangs from a pole within a block of the shop.

I sure hope this doesn't hurt his campaign.

Evans said police believe the slaying was the result of a robbery at the store. He said investigators think there was a violent struggle inside the shop.

“Three cowards came to Mission Hill today and caused a lot of pain and suffering to this community,” Walsh told reporters outside the store. “This is wrong.”

The shooting happened shortly after 4 p.m. Police arrived to find a man suffering from gunshot wounds, Evans said.

Police pursued a van leaving the scene of the crime. Three men bailed out of the vehicle in the area of Cedar Street and Lambert Avenue, Evans said. A foot chase ensued and officers arrested the trio in that area, he said.

“We believe we have the three responsible for the brazen killing of the store owner here,” Evans said.

Boston police identified the suspects as Christian Soto-Olivero, 21, of Mattapan, Jerome D. Hobson, 38, of Dorchester, and Shawn Redden, 26, of Brockton.

“It’s crazy what people do for a little bit of money,” said a worker at a Subway shop a few doors away from the hardware store, who asked not to be identified.....

And what they do for a lot (like lying us into mass-murdering, environmentally-destructive wars)!



Three men suspected in death of Mission Hill hardware store owner ordered held without bail

Was my lead, not the Trump switcheroo.

Slain Mission Hill store owner recalled as ‘the last of a bygone era’

The soul of a neighborhood, killed for no reason

She chose to write about that instead. How disappointing.


Man shot by police in Chelmsford domestic violence incident

"Armed suspect sought in N.C. national forest" Associated Press  July 23, 2017

MILLS RIVER, N.C. — Authorities told visitors to stay away from a national forest in North Carolina on Sunday while they searched for an armed suspect, saying he escaped by stealing a mountain bike at gunpoint.

An area of the Pisgah National Forest extending between Asheville and the South Carolina border was closed while officers were hunting for 38-year-old Phillip Michael Stroupe II of Weaverville.

Roads and trails south of the Blue Ridge Parkway and east of US Highway 276 were closed to let investigators conduct their search.

Sheriff’s deputies said they were chasing Stroupe’s vehicle Saturday through an area popular with hikers and campers, adding he stole the mountain bike and later pedaled into the woods.

In a separate break-in case in South Carolina, officials said two people were taken into custody after firing at police officers who were investigating a home invasion in Marion.

Marion County Sheriff Brian Wallace said no one was hurt in the shooting or a car chase Friday.

The sheriff said the men fired on the officers at a home near Marion. One bullet hit a deputy’s shotgun, breaking it.....


Can you hear me now?


Charges dropped in Ohio police shooting of unarmed black man

Who didn't see that coming?

After Justine Damond shooting, Minneapolis police now must turn on body cameras for all calls