|Greene County, Missouri, Sheriff Jim Arnott|
Do we support such action? No. Do we understand how people can become so disturbed by police abuse that they choose to take matters into their own hands? Yes.
That's because my wife, Carol, and I have come face to face with police brutality -- twice. And we've seen how officers tend to lie when confronted with the need to cover for their actions. Is it infuriating to witness such behavior from "public servants" who are sworn to "serve and protect"? It sure as heck is.
Consider our unlawful eviction last September 9 in Springfield, Missouri. Our coverage of that horrifying event has focused largely on my wife's broken arm. And that is understandable because the injury was severe (see X-ray below), it was the result of unmistakable police brutality, and it was caused by Missouri officers who had no lawful grounds that day for being on the property we were renting. On top of that, it involved officers bursting into our home, with six to eight weapons (assault rifles and handguns) coming at us from all directions.
But the actions that led to Carol's broken arm might not have been the most outrageous we witnessed that day. In fact, there is little doubt we saw officers commit federal crimes.
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott was on the scene, standing about five feet away when at least three of his deputies surrounded and brutalized Carol, slamming her to the ground, butt first, with frightful force -- the kind that can cause concussions, After watching his officers injure a citizen by yanking viciously on her arms, Arnott's immediate instinct was to lie.
He pointed at Carol and said, "She assaulted a police officer." I saw the same events from about 15 feet away, and if I had not been so concerned about Carol's well-being, might have let out a guffaw when I heard Arnott's words. As it was, I did manage to say, "You've got to be kidding."
No, he wasn't kidding, as became clear when he ordered Carol handcuffed, placed in the back of a squad car, and driven to the Greene County Jail. (Imagine how all of that felt when the humerus, the large bone in your upper arm, has been snapped in two--with multiple pieces so pulverized that trauma surgeons later could only clean them out because they were of no use in the repair process.)
When you read Missouri law on "assault of a law-enforcement officer," you realize that Arnott is more than just a liar--he's also a con man, an abuser (of both Carol and the public trust), and likely a criminal.
Who else probably is a criminal in this scenario? That would be the deputy--whose name remains unknown for now--who appeared to do most of the damage to Carol's arm.
He and Arnott both apparently violated 18 U.S. Code 242 (Deprivation of rights under color of law), which holds:
Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States . . . shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. . . .
In other words, both Arnott and his deputy could face up to one year in prison. And given the bodily injury that Carol suffered, plus the dangerous weapons used in unlawfully forcing us from our home, one or both of them could face up to 10 years in prison.
|X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm,|
before surgical repair.
Here is a key finding from the House case:
With regard to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment as to traffic stops, the district court instructed the jury that a traffic stop conducted by a law enforcement officer is constitutional only if the officer has both authority or jurisdiction and a sufficient legal basis for the stop.
House involved unlawful seizures, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, via traffic stops. Our eviction involved the unlawful seizure of a person, my wife Carol. That also invokes the Fourth Amendment, so the principle announced in House also was present when Sheriff Jim Arnott ordered Carol arrested and imprisoned. This is made clear in the House ruling:
"[A] person is `seized' ... when, by means of physical force or a show of authority, his freedom of movement is restrained" such that, "in view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave." United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 553-54, 100 S.Ct. 1870, 1877, 64 L.Ed.2d 497 (1980). A seizure is effected by force "when there is a governmental termination of freedom of movement through means intentionally applied[,]" such as where a law enforcement officer pulls his vehicle "alongside [a] fleeing car and sideswipe[s] it, producing [a] crash" regardless of whether the officer intends "to give the oncoming driver the option of a voluntary stop" or "to produce a collision." Brower v. County of Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 597-99, 109 S.Ct. 1378, 1381-82, 103 L.Ed.2d 628 (1989). A seizure by means of show of authority requires both a show of authority and submission to that authority. California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621, 628-29, 111 S.Ct. 1547, 1551-52, 113 L.Ed.2d 690 (1991). That is, a government officer effects a seizure by means of a show of authority where "the officer's words and actions would have conveyed ... to a reasonable person" that "he was being ordered to restrict his movement," and those words and actions actually "produce his stop." Id. Certain "circumstances ... might indicate a seizure, even where the person did not attempt to leave," including "the display of a weapon by an officer ... or the use of language or tone of voice indicating that compliance with the officer's request might be compelled." Mendenhall, 446 U.S. at 554, 100 S.Ct. at 1877. An arrest is the "quintessential" example of a seizure of the person. Hodari D., 499 U.S. at 624, 111 S.Ct. at 1550.
Did Sheriff Jim Arnott order that Carol Shuler be seized? There is no question about it, under the law. Did Arnott have sufficient legal basis for making that order? Not even close. Did he commit a federal crime? Absolutely. Is it any wonder citizens are fed up with police brutality, and the lies that inevitably follow as cops try to avoid accountability at all costs? No, it isn't.
(To be continued)