When I first started blogging at CopBlock.org, I would breakdown news articles about the police, asking the questions the newspapers always seem to miss, and pointing out the red flags and obvious lies within the reportage about the incident. Now that I’m no longer on the road doing Liberty On Tour (though the LoT Hitchhiker is currently active out there), I’m going to start doing so again.
This week’s CB.org Breakdown comes from the Concord Monitor, a daily newspaper based in the capitol of New Hampshire, and the way they covered the police shooting of a mentally ill man that occurred on March 2, 2011.
By Maddie Hanna / Monitor staff
March 3, 2011
Neighbors of the man killed in an officer-involved shooting last night in a Concord apartment building say he was mentally ill and became upset when the police served him paperwork yesterday afternoon.
The man, who neighbors identified as Wayne Martin, got upset at about 2:30 p.m. yesterday and started banging on doors in the 30-unit apartment building at 4 Garvins Falls Road, said residents Mark Small.
“It didn’t seem like he was in the right state of mind,” Small said.
So far, we know that everything was fine until the police served Martin with unknown paperwork. Why didn’t the reporter ask what the paperwork was for? If it was a summons or other court document, it most likely would be a matter of public record. Knowing what paperwork was served is a huge, but missing, piece of the puzzle. It could go a long way towards clarifying the reason for Mr. Martin’s behavior.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has not released the name of the victim or of the officers involved in the shooting, which investigators say happened around 8:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Small said he then heard Martin get on the phone in his apartment, “talking to the disability office, the Social Security office, talking about blowing them up.”
This is typical police procedure, refusing to release the names of public servants who shoot and kill people. Whether it’s justified or not shouldn’t matter. The public has the immediate right to know who, what, when and where when it comes to the actions of all public servants — especially the police. If anyone else shot and killed someone, the suspect’s name, address and photo would be plastered everywhere, and heavily publicized until he or she was caught. Yet, when it comes to police, they are given a paid vacation, aka “administrative leave,” and told to lay low while they are investigated behind the blue wall of silence.
And please don’t jump to conclusions on the basis of the quote from Small here. For all we know, Martin was talking about “blowing up” the Social Security office’s phones, a slang term meaning “to call repeatedly,” and nothing violent at all. Or, it might be possible that Martin’s anger is being misunderstood.
Small said the police told residents they had to leave the building at 5:30 p.m. yesterday. Small said he came back at about 7 p.m. and saw officers outside Martin’s door. There was “a lot of shouting and yelling,” Small said, and Martin was “talking about how he’s not coming out.”
Another neighbor, John McNair, said he opened his door between 7 and 7:30 p.m. but police officers told him to stay in his apartment. Sometime later, McNair said he heard gunshots.
“To tell you the truth, it sounded like it was hitting my door,” he said.
When it grew quiet, McNair said he opened his door and saw a body on the ground. He said officers told him it was a crime scene and he needed to stay in his apartment. McNair said Martin was mentally ill and McNair believed he had not taken his medication this week.
Another neighbor, Paul Randall, said Martin, who lived alone, hadn’t been able to get his medication recently.
As of late this morning, residents are being allowed to come and go from the building and the State Police are still on the scene.
If Martin was off of his medication, then his actions, including shouting threats and pounding on doors, are at least explainable in that context. His anger could also be due to the government frequently changing his disability and social security plans. People who expected to live a higher quality of life after paying into these programs are starting to realize they aren’t getting what they paid for. This certainly doesn’t justify threatening to blow up buildings full of innocent people, but it is understandable that someone’s initial reaction to such constant frustration would be so overblown. We will never know whether the statement, “blowing them up” held any water, but even if it did, I doubt Mr. Martin was one of the few people who knew how to make a bomb, and could or would actually go through with building one and using it (to be fair, I did not actually know him). The truth is, we’ve all threatened to do something terrible we never had any intention of carrying out. Those kinds of flippant expressions of anger are a lot more common than those few people with the wherewithal to carry them out, despite what they tell you on TV.
Either way, five hours after the phone calls, police shot and killed Martin, presumably, in his doorway.
The police were at Martin’s apartment at 2:30 pm to serve him with unknown documents. Since they left, it’s safe to assume Martin required no futher police attention at that time. Yet, the police did return around 5:30 pm and told residents of the complex to leave, but no one knows why. Had there been a complaint? How many officers were on scene? What was the reason for asking residents to leave? What were the police there to do? Then from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm (approximately) an unknown number of police are on scene and Martin is inside his apartment. Were the police talking with Martin? What did they find out? Then sometime between 7pm and 7:30pm McNair, another resident of the complex states he opened his apartment door and saw a body on the floor — Martin’s. Why did Martin come to the door? Why weren’t less lethal weapons used? What threat did Martin pose to anyone? Unfortunately, we have no answers to these seemingly obvious questions.
My opinion here is that Mr. Martin was a victim of the system. The government had probably reduced his benefits, perhaps causing him to fall behind on his rent, which lead to an eviction notice, which the police served him with that afternoon. This understandably upset Mr. Martin, who had just had his state medical insurance reduced so much that he couldn’t get the medication he needed. When he called the “public servants” responsible, he was very angry and said some outlandish things — and likely as a matter of policy, the cops were called back out. At that point, Martin felt desperate and freaked out. He locked himself in his apartment, then at some point he decides to, or is talked into, going to the front door, where he’s even more freaked out by all the men pointing guns at him, and as a result, makes a “bad move” (which will most likely be the official justification for the shooting), and is fatally shot by the trigger happy cops.
While no one knows exactly what happened besides those who were present, even if the system didn’t set into motion a chain of events that ultimately lead to Martin’s death, there are still a whole lot of questions left to be answered. Police are supposed to “serve and protect” we, the people. Having a bad day, being mentally ill, or falling on hard times — even all three at the same time — most certainly does not warrant a summary execution at the hands of the very government officials supposedly tasked with protecting our safety. Does it?