Chattanoogans have had two reminders in the past nine days that the state is superior to them and that its violent acts against citizens are to be overlooked in light of its pretense of noble public service.
The first reminder of this religious claim against the so-called “free citizens” of Tennessee is the lethargy and indifference of state actors in Hamilton County School administration to subtle death threats against children.
By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7
Officials were deaf to pleas and complaints against bus driver Johnthony Walker, a licensee of the state department of safety and homeland security. He is accused criminally and civilly in the killings of six schoolchildren while transporting them in a bus.
One note to school officials says, “The bus driver drives fast the bus is 366 red bus he drives to [too] fast it fills [feels] like the bus is doing to flip over. And he said the H word to us and when he turns he makes pepole go seat to seat back and forth and when someone is in the ille he stops the bus and he makes pepole hit their head [jerking stops throwing passengers forward].” This letter was submitted Nov. 10 or 16; Mr. Walker’s passengers perished Nov. 21.
No state employee and no employees of contractor Durham School Services appear to have reacted personally, vigorously and indignantly to follow up on myriad complaints while the children were alive.
The second reminder of the state’s quasi-deification of itself and its workers is the excuse given Tuesday of a police execution of a civilian in East Ridge.
Video encounter teaches vital lesson
The Aug. 19 execution is recorded in a 1 1/2 minute dashcam video that shows an encounter between an armed East Ridge city government employee, Daniel Stephenson, a police lieutenant, and Todd Browning, a member of the public, a resident and a holder of the East Ridge town franchise.
Mr. Stephenson aims a rifle, an M4 model carbine firing a .223-caliber military round, at Mr. Browning, whose hands are at his side and whose feet are fixed on the ground when he is hit. He is not rushing the city executive branch employee or imminently threatening the officer with death in the video. Mr. Stephenson, levels his rifle for several seconds as he shouts commands, fires four times into his chest and a fifth time. The violence with which the ejected brass pieces clatter on windshield and hood of the cruiser suggest the great power of the bullets striking the victim’s chest.
The state’s attorney in the county, Neal Pinkston, reviewing an investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s department, calls the gun play “well within the law” under a police slaying exemption in the Tennessee code.
It is lawful because because the officer can be said to have had “probable cause to believe that the individual to be arrested poses a threat of serious bodily injury, either to the officer or to others unless immediately apprehended,” (TCA 39-11-620. Use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer).
The concept “immediately apprehended” here involves a detention from which there is no earthly release. While the camera captures the killing, witnesses also have been quoted. Mr. Browning was tapping the ground with a metal rod called a water main key as if testing its sturdiness, just before being shot, one said. The tool is “probably three-four feet long, with a T-grip on the top,” says Bryan Hoss, the officer’s attorney. “It’s heavy, metallic. It’s a weapon and it can kill you.”
But at the moment of Mr. Browning’s slaying he is neither holding the rod in front of him or rearing back with it to strike a blow; he is not in a racing, darting or crouching position, as if ready to rush forward to strike. But he was “yelling that Lt. Stephenson would have to kill him or else he would kill Lt. Stephenson,” according to Mr. Pinkston and other reports.
The video makes shambles of a press-reported witness quote that “he observed a man running toward an officer,” and a Hoss press release quote saying Browning “ran toward him.” These statements are false.
From grass to tarmac: Fatal step
The Pinkston justification points out that Mr. Browning was approaching the officer. An initial newspaper report quoted a witness as saying, “the man was yelling incoherently and ignored those orders, instead running at the officer, he shot him four times in the chest.” The witness, a neighbor, Alec Long, quotes the officer as saying, “Don’t come off your property or I’ll shoot you.”
Officer Stevenson fired apparently when Mr. Browning, 54, stepped off the grass of his yard right of way and onto the tarmac. Mr. Stephenson is heard in the video shouting, “Don’t make me do this. Stay there. Stay there. Stay there.” What Mr. Pinkston calls a “lengthy negotiation” is apparently no more than two minutes.
Mr. Browning appears in the right frame of the video, standing and Mr. Stevenson fires. After the roar of gunfire, the city employee keeps aiming the rifle at the man on the ground, suspecting he may have to spend a fifth bullet to fell the enemy. Rather than rushing to stow his automatic weapon in his cruiser, he stands still, calls in his deed on his lapel microphone and slowly moves toward the driver’s door, still leveling his barrel across the way at his victim. It’s not known how long he took to make at least a show of trying to comfort the mortally wounded plumber.
Mr. Browning’s earlier wrongs
The neighborhood confrontation is not the first that hour between officer and citizen. Mr. Browning had opened himself to charges of making terroristic threats.
Minutes before, Mr. Browning has caused a scene at an East Ridge auto store where he terrified employees and was “threatening to kill people that were inside and throwing objects around the store,” Mr. Hoss says. “One of the employees behind the counter was terrified. Other customers were pointing out the suspect. The suspect was yelling, screaming and previously threatened customers with a knife. The suspect’s eyes were bulging like he might have been on drugs. Lt. Stephenson ordered the suspect to stand down, show him his hands and comply. The suspect threatened to kill the officer, kill himself and charged at Lt. Stephenson. Because Lt. Stephenson did not see a knife or other weapon in his hand, he did not fire. Lt. Stephenson showed tremendous restraint at that moment not to shoot him while in the store.”
Statutory wiggle room
The statute requires that the government employee identify himself as “a law enforcement officer” and it says that he “may use or threaten to use force that is reasonably necessary to accomplish the arrest of an individual suspected of a criminal act who resists or flees from the arrest.”
This language about arrest wierdly slips into killing mode. If the law says the purported goal of the officer is “to accomplish the arrest” of someone who must be “suspected of a criminal act,” how does deadly force at any point enter? The statute makes death the sum of all the parts of a lawful arrest. Mr. Pinkston’s state law sees a corpse at the endgame of the arrest process in this statutory excuse for the modern state. Arrest is a pretense in the statute, words of art that covers and justifies a state execution.
‘Other reasonable means’
No citizen confronting another citizen for a common law citizen’s arrest would be given such latitude as that found in the next part of the law. In section B, the officer is allowed to use deadly force to effect an arrest “only if all other reasonable means of apprehension have been exhausted or are unavailable.”
Even though Mr. Stephenson’s attorney says client’s deed “was absolutely justified” and that the officer “was fully within his right,” alternatives to and “all other reasonable means” of action are not part of the story in the video.
The law need not trouble itself with details of alternatives. A humane, caring and safety-minded officer will always find reasonable means to make peace.
Cops felled in the line of duty are said to have made the “ultimate sacrifice.” Cops put their lives on the line to enforce laws. An officer willing to yield his life for the safety of the citizenry, by dint of training, however, fobs off that greatest sacrifice on a foolish and evidently suicide-minded man. I suggest the care of human life be paramount for every East Ridge city government employee, and that none slay a taxpayer as easily as it happened in the video.
Rather the officer make that ultimate sacrifice than an honest, hard-working irascible plumber. Rather the mistake fall upon the officer than the citizen. Rather a miscalculation of risk lie against the city staffer than the resident. Rather the officer, with his wife and children at home, than the commoner dad and husband whose neck and temple blood vessels are bulging in irrational anger and a quasi-suicidal rage in the moments before he is slain standing with his hands at his sides.
A self-preserving total claim, however, controls the officer. No need to find alternatives, but stand your ground.
An officer unwilling that any man should perish at his hand will come up with alternatives referred to in the law. A cop who dares not kill a person not convicted of a capital crime will not let alternatives easily be “exhausted” or be seen as “unavailable.”
➤ Could not the officer jump back into his car to await a backup? The lieutenant had called backup. It was moments away. He could have driven to the end of the street and waited for things to cool off.
➤ He could have backed away to a yard opposite the Prigmore street address of Mr. Browning, 54. He could have retreated, have even unbuttoned, sat down and thought about what to do.
➤ He could have made a show of taking off his pistol, locked it his car door behind him to avoid anyone taking it, walked toward Mr. Browning to simply chat with him man to man (a la local economy and free markets).
➤ He could have said, “Excuse me,” stepped to his car, could have donned an oversized sports jacket; that would have reduced the threat level and intimidation factor of his military webbing, weapons and gear.
➤ He could have just done nothing rather than screaming back at a man with emotional and personal — maybe even drug — problems.
The officer’s “training kicked in and fortunately, he got to go home that night to his family and kids,” intones Mr. Hoss, state apologist. “These officers face tremendous, unexpected and dangerous situations every day. In the end, if they rely on their training, like Lt. Stephenson, it keeps all of us safer.”
Mr. Stephenson may have shown restraint at the Auto Zone, but did nothing to treat (negotiate) with Mr. Browning. Had he done so, his story would have endeared himself to the public because it would have showed his hatred of shedding innocent blood. But he might not have been able to live down locker room snickers from tough-guy former military compatriots who fill the ranks of police departments around the U.S.
Statutorily allowed extra-judicial summary capital punishment
In such encounters a killing is clearly in view and Mr. Pinkston’s test allows for its justification. Only the moment matters. Only Lt. Stephenson’s dignity matters. An order is an order, and it must be obeyed once made. Like the law of the Medes and the Persians, once given it cannot be rescinded.
The citizen must back down. He may be irrational. He may be angry. He may have thought processes that prohibit him from looking out for himself and his own life. He does not recognize that he is facing immediate death if he doesn’t back down.
Moments before the video camera rolls, Mr. Browning has stepped out of his house and into his yard. “The suspect was swinging the weapon as he crossed his yard,” says Mr. Hoss, the attorney, “yelling at the officer and headed directly for Lt. Stephenson. Again, he was saying to Lt. Stephenson that he was going to kill him and that the officer was going to have to shoot him.”
Mr. Browning perhaps thinks himself as being masculine, protecting the wife and children whom he mentions on the video. He’s not acting rationally. But the officer has the statute vaguely in his mind as he rehearses the steps. He knows ahead of time what’s going down. The officer exacerbates the anger that Mr. Browning feels. Aiming the rifle at him escalates Mr. Browning’s irrational cries. Bringing the rifle to bear implies its coming necessity. It relates a single tale, a single report.
2 cases, 1 story
A reckless bus driver goes for weeks throwing passengers across the aisle with abrupt turns and bumps their noses with abrupt stops — and one day kills them in a wreck. An officer serving Mayor Brent Lambert’s executive branch of city government executes an ill-tempered plumber in his town who makes bare-handed criminal threats of a store’s customers.
School system and bus contractor employees may have been incompetent. Racial favoritism of black for black may have covered for Mr. Walker. Systemic racism may have let his warning signals go because these children are, after all, minority students from poor and broken families and we don’t have to worry too much about them
Behind the best of these proximate explanations lurks another. It is the modern atheist state that knows no law but its own. It rejects the 6th commandment against murder and lawless killing with its concomittant requirement for the preservation of the lives of others. By mass schooling and welfarism the state deadens its customers’ sense to its own impetuousity and determination to preserve itself and its prerogatives. State clients can be ill served or even ruined, but they must not question the superiority of the progressive state in the education market or any other.
In the Walker and the Stephenson slayings and how they are enabled or excused we see its true nature. It lacks sympathy for the individual, it lacks care for the family, and is superior to Christian or even traditional morality.
For the mature viewer
This minute-long dashcam video shows the execution of an East Ridge, Tenn., resident Todd Browning by city employee Daniel Stephenson, a police officer. The encounter Aug. 19 shows Lt. Stephenson shooting Mr. Browning five times point blank with an assault rifle.
Police killing exemption statute
TCA 39-11-620. Use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer.
(a) A law enforcement officer, after giving notice of the officer’s identity as such, may use or threaten to use force that is reasonably necessary to accomplish the arrest of an individual suspected of a criminal act who resists or flees from the arrest.
(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a), the officer may use deadly force to effect an arrest only if all other reasonable means of apprehension have been exhausted or are unavailable, and where feasible, the officer has given notice of the officer’s identity as such and given a warning that deadly force may be used unless resistance or flight ceases, and:
(1) The officer has probable cause to believe the individual to be arrested has committed a felony involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious bodily injury; or
(2) The officer has probable cause to believe that the individual to be arrested poses a threat of serious bodily injury, either to the officer or to others unless immediately apprehended.
Michelle Heron, “Officer’s attorney says East Ridge shooting was justified,” Wrcbtv.com, sept. 2, 2016 http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/32999811/officers-attorney-says-east-ridge-shooting-was-justified
Brittany Martin, “HCSO releases name of person killed in officer involved shooting in East Ridge,” Newschannel9.com, Aug. 19, 2016. http://newschannel9.com/news/local/officer-involved-shooting-investigation-underway-in-east-ridge
“Attorney Says East Ridge Officer Fired At Man Only After He Approached Him With Weapon And Threatened To Kill Him,” Chattanoogan.com, Sept. 2, 2016. This s tory contains a name error for the dead man. http://www.chattanoogan.com/2016/9/2/331160/Attorney-Says-East-Ridge-Officer-Fired.aspx
Press release, Neal Pinkston, district attorney’s office, Chattanooga