Posted: February 14th, 2011 by Militant Libertarian
Three times each week, 36-year-old Keith Briscoe of Winslow Township, New Jersey would begin his day by going to a nearby Wawa convenience store for soda and cigarettes. Briscoe, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and lived with his parents, went to the local Steininger Behavior Services clinic for treatment, and he would have a smoke outside the store while waiting for the office to open.
As far as anyone in the neighborhood could recall, Briscoe had never bothered anybody. He wasn’t causing trouble on the morning of May 3, 2010, when he had the lethal misfortune of attracting the attention of Winslow Township Police Officer Sean Richards. When Richards demanded to know who he was and what he was doing, Briscoe was cooperative, telling the officer — who had no business bothering one of his betters anyway — that he was waiting to go to the clinic.
“Patients often go up to the Wawa before their sessions to buy coffee [or] cigarettes,” a medical professional who worked at the clinic informs Pro Libertate. “The local businesses and police are aware that there are psychiatric patients in the area and know to call Steininger in the event that one of them gets lost or is getting into trouble. This cop took it upon himself to do what he did without asking anyone in Wawa if there was any problem. Wawa hadn’t called the police to intervene because Mr. Briscoe would frequently go there.”
Richards should have left well enough alone, but since he had a gun, a piece of government-provided jewelry, and an unearned sense of superiority, he didn’t. He demanded that Briscoe get into his police cruiser, supposedly to be given a ride to the clinic. Briscoe wisely turned down the offer.
Richards later admitted that he hadn’t received any complaints about Briscoe’s behavior, and that he did nothing that warranted an arrest. According to the former clinic staffer, Briscoe was known to be “very kind and gentle [and] would never be aggressive.” Yet when the harmless and intimidated man refused to get into the police car, Richards committed an act of criminal assault by seizing and attempting to handcuff him.
As Briscoe tried to escape, Richards called for “backup.” He also attacked Briscoe with his Oleoresin Casicum spray, a “non-lethal” chemical weapon that left the victim choking and struggling for breath.
At this point, three bystanders saw Briscoe struggling with a uniformed assailant, a situation that presented them with the “Tom Joad Test,” which I’ve previously described thus:
“When you see a cop — or, more likely, several of them — beating up on a prone individual, do you instinctively sympathize with the assailant(s) or the victim? Do you assume that thestate is entitled to the benefit of the doubt whenever its agents inflict violence on somebody, or do you believe that the individual — any individual — is innocent of wrongdoing until his guilt has been proven?”
The bystanders failed the test. Rather than intervening on behalf of the victim, or simply butting out, these statist Samaritans reflexively gave the uniformed assailant the benefit of the doubt, and joined in the beating. Five more armed tax-feeders, summoned by Richards’s frantic call for “backup,” then arrived to pile on. A few minutes later, Briscoe was dead as a result of “traumatic asphyxia” — that is, he suffocated at the bottom of a thugscrum. The Camden County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide. But the chief assailant was not charged with a homicide-related offense.
According to the Camden County prosecutor’s office, although Richards had committed an illegal arrest, he couldn’t be prosecuted for homicide because New Jersey “law” doesn’t recognize the unalienable right of innocent people to resist unlawful arrest. This supposedly means that once Briscoe “resisted being taken into custody, police had the right to take actions necessary to restrain him” — up to and including the use of lethal force.
What this means is that in New Jersey — a state afflicted with some of the most corrupt and abusive police officers this side of Tahrir Square — someone who survives a murder attempt by a uniformed thug can be prosecuted for “resisting arrest” even if it is proven that the police assault was a criminal act.
In fact, according to one recent ruling from the state Superior Court (State of New Jersey v. Craig Byron Joseph Martin), it is a crime to resist even when a police offer specifically and repeatedly states that the subject is not under arrest. The police officer in that case testified: “I said, `Sir, you’re not under arrest. I’m just patting you down for my safety.”
The subject was instructed to place his hands on his car. When he removed his hands from the vehicle, the officer told him, “I’m going to handcuff you. You’re not under arrest.” Eventually the incident degenerated into a “scuffle,” in which the officer — once again, by his own account — exclaimed: “You’re not under arrest; stop resisting arrest!”
Ah, yes: “Stop resisting” — the refrain of rapists, police, and other violent degenerates.
Richards, who murdered Briscoe for the supposed crime of resisting an illegal arrest, was charged with simple assault and as a result was sentenced to a year on probation and the loss of his job. He also agreed that he would never seek to expunge his record, although it’s not clear how that provision could be enforced.
“This plea ensures that Richards will be forever barred from holding such a position of authority again,” insisted Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk. Actually, it’s entirely possible that Richards will join the ranks of corrupt, disgraced “gypsy cops” who invariably find employment elsewhere as members of the coercive caste.
None of the other four police officers who collaborated in the crime has been punished at all. However, all five officers, along with the “Samaritans” who collaborated in the murder of Keith Briscoe, are the subjects of a $25 million civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the victim’s family.
Legal commentator Elie Mystal points out that the “Good Samaritans” in this matter had no reason — apart from a “reflexive trust of police” — to assume that Sean Richards was justified in using force to subdue Briscoe. “They chose the wrong side, and now a man is dead,” Mystal observes. “There should be some kind of punishment for that.”
“And don’t tell me that holding these people accountable will have some kind of ‘chilling effect’ on the willingness of citizens to help their fellow man,” Mystal continues. “This is America! We are founded on a skepticism of authority. We believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty. It’s entirely consistent with the American experience … [not to assume] that police officers are always right or on the side of good.”
The Mundanes who joined in the assault will most likely end up ruined financially. The same is true of Sean Richards, now that he’s no longer wearing the habiliments of the State’s punitive priesthood. But the others still employed as agents of coercion will probably be spared similar hardship through a settlement worked out in collaboration with the local armed tax-feeders’ union.
And still, somehow we’re supposed to believe that the take-away here is that the lawsuit poses a new threat to “officer safety,” because it will discourage Mundanes from coming to the aid of police next time they assault a helpless individual.
“They saw a cop struggling and they jumped into action,” says Tim Quinlan, the attorney representing Sean Richards, of the Mundanes who helped murder Keith Briscoe. “Now you’re going to have cops getting killed because people are afraid to get involved.”
Somehow that unlikely prospect fails to send a chill down my spine, or leave me prostrate with inconsolable grief.
New Jersey cops appear to specialize in unprovoked assaults on harmless people who suffer from mental illness.
On May 29, 2009, Ronnie Holloway was standing on a street corner near a restaurant when Officers Joseph Rios III and Erica Rivera pulled up in a cop car and berated the 49-year-old man for having his jacket unzipped. As is usually the case in such encounters, things went dramatically downhill in a hurry.
Rios, an Iraq combat veteran, appeared to be on “contact patrol” — that is, prowling the neighborhood looking for an excuse to throw somebody to the ground. Holloway, an unassuming man on medication for schizophrenia, presented a perfect target of opportunity.
A video recording of the event shows Holloway meekly zipping up his jacket. As he did so, Rivera exits the vehicle and distracts Holloway while Rios blind-sides him, slamming him to the ground and beating him repeatedly with his fists and baton. After a brief pause, Holloway — who is clearly terrified, but not putting up any physical resistance — is able to rise to his feet before being slammed onto the hood of the police car.
|Joseph Rios in Tirkit, Iraq.|
“I didn’t know if I was going to see tomorrow at that point,” Holloway later said of the assault, which left him battered and bloody and with a serious injury to one of his eyes.
The beating continued until backup — in the form of two additional police cars — arrived to help drag Holloway off to jail.
Despite the fact that he had behaved like a properly docile Mundane, absorbing an unprovoked beating without making any effort to flee or fight back, Holloway was charged with resisting arrest and “wandering,” supposedly in search of narcotics.
In filing their official report of the incident, Rios and his partner did what police in such circumstances always do: They committed perjury in the form of “creative writing.” Rios claimed that when he and Rivera told Holloway to leave the corner, Holloway “verbally challenged” them. “Step on the sidewalk, you’ll see,” Holloway supposedly said to Rios, assuming a “fighting stance” as he did so.
Rios had no right or authority to demand that Holloway — who had done nothing to anybody — leave the street corner. It’s also clear from the video that the beating began before Holloway would have had an opportunity to fling a verbal “challenge” at Rios. Some measure of Rios’s reliability as a witness is found in the fact that his Use of Force Report claims that Holloway wasn’t injured in the attack.
After the May 29 assault was publicized, the Passaic Police Department “pulled a Mubarak,” as it were: They defied public outrage for as long as possible, keeping Rios on active duty, and then suspending both Rios and Rivera (the latter for failing a fraudulent claim of a job-related injury during the incident) when the outrage failed to dissipate.
Owing entirely to public pressure put on the Passaic municipal government, Rios has been charged with aggravated assault and official misconduct. He has entered a plea of “not guilty by virtue of a government-provided wardrobe.”
“I did what was proper,” lied Rios in a June 2009 press conference. “I did what I was trained to do under circumstances that existed at that time. I stand by my actions.”
His attorney, Anthony J. Iacullo, defended the assault as a pre-emptive strike against some unspecified threat posed by an uppity Mundane: “Based upon what Officer Rios feared might happen, and based upon his not submitting to arrest, the actions were taken.”
Holloway’s “resistance” consisted of cringing and covering up in confusion and terror as Rios rained down punches and baton strikes. In New Jersey — as is the case elsewhere in the Soyuz— even such minimal and reflexive attempts to protect one’s self from State-sanctified violence is treated as a criminal offense.
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