Video of police smashing window and dragging black man out of car sparks outrage and lawsuit
The racial grievance industry and its media allies have a new tool to whip up resentment and fear of the police among African Americans. Call it the “Ferguson effect.” A law firm suing the Hammond, Indiana police has circulated to the media video of officers smashing the window of an SUV and dragging an African American man out of the car after tasing him, as children in the back seat, recording the incident, scream. The video was taken from the backseat of the SUV by one of the children.
Cut down to a few seconds, as shown repeatedly on TV this morning (even on Fox News), the video looks just awful – an unprovoked attack by police on an African American family.
But there is more to the story, and much yet to be seen. The police have their own video taken from a squad car but have not yet released it. The Chicago Tribune (registration required) has a good account of some of the issues involved. Quinn Ford, Liam Ford and Cynthia Dizikes write:
Hammond police pulled over Lisa Mahone around 3:30 p.m. because she and Jamal Jones, who was riding in the front passenger seat, were not wearing seat belts as required by state law, the department said….
There were two children, ages 7 and 14, in the backseat who were Mahone’s not Jones’s. The relationship between Jones and Mahone is not clear.
Mahone was asked for her driver’s license, and Jones was asked for identification.
The police statement does not say why police asked to see Jones' identification. The department referred all questions to the Eichhorn & Eichhorn law firm, which declined to comment. Vicari and Turner could not immediately be reached for comment.
In the lawsuit, Mahone conceded she had not been wearing her seat belt and said she asked the officers to issue her a ticket because she was on her way to see her mother, who was in the hospital and dying.
Jones told the officers he had been ticketed for not paying his insurance and did not have his license, offering to write his information down, according to the suit. "In full view of the officers, Jamal retrieved the ticket from his backpack and offered the ticket to the officers," the lawsuit states.
But the police statement alleges Jones refused to provide his identification on a piece of paper and told officers "'he was not going to do (the officer's) job' and for him to get a piece of paper."
An officer "saw the passenger inside the vehicle drop his left hand behind the center console," according to the police statement. "Fearing for officer safety, the first officer ordered the passenger to show his hands and then repeatedly asked him to exit the vehicle."
Jones, in the suit, said he refused to leave the car "because he feared that the officers would harm him."
In the video, Mahone can be heard saying that she fears the officers would shoot her. This, I think, is the key to the entire incident. There is apparently a fear among many African-Americans that police would shoot them unprovoked, simply on the basis of their race. This has to have been stoked by the Ferguson kerfuffle, though it certainly existed prior to that incident.
However, refusal to cooperate with a legitimate police order is simply asking for trouble.
Under Indiana law, police can ask a passenger of a car for identification, but the passenger can refuse, said Indianapolis lawyer Jack Crawford.
However, more than a simple refusal seems to have been involved:
He had no obligation to do anything, but if he starts reaching around, they can restrict his reach," said Crawford, who noted the case could hinge on whether the officers are able to prove they reasonably could have been in fear for their safety.
"If he was not obeying their commands, that gets real interesting," Crawford said.
Godfrey said that courts, in general, have given great leeway to officers when it comes to handling passengers in vehicles.
"Officer safety is paramount," he said.
At some point during the stop, Mahone shifted the car into gear and began moving until officers warned her that a "stop strip" had been placed in front of her car and would puncture her tires, police said.
Every year, police officers are killed by people during routine traffic stops. When police stop a car, they have the right and responsibility to be cautious. They do no know who is armed, who is crazy, who is on drugs, who is subject to arrest on a warrant, and who might harbor lethal hatred.
Thanks to the lawsuit, the evidence will be fully aired in court. But in the court of public opinion, conclusions are already being drawn, and they mostly will heighten racial tensions in this country. Good times for the racial grievance industry, and bad times for America.