The bullet that ended the life of 29-year-old Army Ranger James Emerick “Jaime” Dean last December 26 was fired by a Maryland State Police sniper named Sergeant Danny Weaver. But the circumstances that brought about the lethal conjunction of Jaime Dean and Danny Weaver were engineered by the architects of Washington's open-ended “war on terror” -- both the foreign military conflicts in which Dean had served, and the domestic militarization of law enforcement that brought about his needless death.
Dean, mentally unbalanced after his tour of duty in Afghanistan, was thrust into a deep depression after receiving notice that the Regime was re-activating him to serve another tour in Iraq. Diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress disorder, Dean was subject to recurring nightmares that would cause him to “wake up soaked in sweat,” his widow Muriel told the New York Times.
He was prescribed medication for his condition, which may or may not have helped. The FedEx letter he received from the Pentagon shortly after Thanksgiving definitely did not help. But the Bush-era Pentagon is not burdened with scruples when it comes to redeploying mentally ill soldiers to Iraq.
By Christmas, Jaime was no longer taking his medication. After hoisting a few at a local bar, he came home, agitated and suicidal. He told Muriel – whom he had married in August – that “the next time you see me I'll be in a body bag.” After shattering a mural on the wall of his home, Jaime grabbed a can of gasoline and threatened to burn the house down; Muriel, somewhat accustomed to Jaime's problems, was able to calm him down. “I told myself in a couple of hours he'll be fine,” Muriel told the local newspaper, the Enterprise.
Reflections on a world-shattering loss: A mirror belonging to Muriel Dean, Jaime's widow, displays a photo captioned by a love note from her husband; below, Muriel is reflected in her husband's tombstone.
Jaime left his home to visit his grandmother, Mary. “He talked about Iraq and some family problems he was having,” she recalled. As he left, Jaime told his grandmother he was going to visit his father, who lived nearby.
At around 9:00 Christmas night, Jaime called his sister and told her “[I] just can't do it any more”; a gun shot was heard in the background, leading Jaime's sister to believe initially that he had killed himself. This impression dissipated after Jaime returned to the telephone, even though he wasn't communicative by that point.
Muriel called the police and asked them to check on Jaime's welfare. Mention was made of the fact that Jaime's father Joseph had several guns in his home, including a black powder gun.
Jaime Dean with his father Joseph, last August (l.); Joseph Dean cleaning his home following Jaime's death in December (below)
Joseph's home, observes an official inquiry conducted by Richard D. Fritz,(.pdf) the Republican County Attorney for St. Mary's County, is “a secluded family farm surrounded by woods and fields” and accessible by “a dead end dirt lane serving only the few houses located thereon.” The home provided “a clear 360 degrees of observation,” meaning that Jaime couldn't leave without being observed.
When the police learned that a suicidal Army Ranger had holed up at the farmhouse, they evacuated the neighboring houses. They also disabled his truck with “stop sticks.” Since the subject was alone, and no crime had been committed, this was not a hostage situation; Jaime Dean was a threat to himself alone. He was isolated and neutralized. The police could easily have outlasted Dean if they had the patience to do so, the vigilance to keep the house under surveillance, and the clarity of mind to get him in touch with his family and loved ones.
After all, the point was “to save lives, not kill somebody,” comments Tony Wheatley, Joseph Dean's neighbor.
But that's now how the paramilitary affiliates of the Homeland Security State operate.
How the Homeland Security State deals with humanitarian crises: An armored vehicle is deployed during the standoff with Jaime Dean. (Photo courtesy of BayNet.)
Joseph Dean's home was surrounded by Emergency Response Teams – that is, SWAT units – from two local Sheriff's departments and the Maryland State Police. Two “Peacekeeper” armored vehicles (courtesy of the Pentagon's Law Enforcement Support Office, most likely) were dispatched to the site. A 14-hour standoff ensued, during which time “family members were not allow to talk to Dean ... [and] his grandmother was threatened with arrest,” recounted the Washington Post.
At about 1:30 am, the police disabled Dean's cell phone and rerouted the residential land line phone so that it could only communicate with the police negotiator. This may have made sense if Dean had been a criminal suspect, but, once again, he wasn't: He was a suicidal, agitated man who most likely would have benefited from contact with his family, rather than with a spokesman for the paramilitary forces surrounding him.
After a bizarre and unnecessary effort to insert a “throw phone” into the house, the assault with “chemical munitions” began: “Somewhere between forty and sixty rounds were shot at the house,” reports St. Mary's County Attorney Fritz in his investigation.
Let's pause for a moment and recap:
Jaime Dean was a combat veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He was prone to violent dreams generated by his combat experience. He was in the middle of an emotional breakdown, cut off from his family and looking down the barrels of a large paramilitary force. And then he comes under attack with non-lethal, but disorienting, chemical weapons.
The eminently predictable product of these factors was Dean's action, shortly after the unwarranted and useless gas attack, was to fire his shotgun in the general direction of the police. That was the first time in this entire episode that Dean had directed gunfire at anybody (including himself). And it “would have been viewed as ... a first degree felony assault, which is punishable by a term of incarceration of 25 years,” observes Fritz.
Dean would fire his shotgun two other times during the siege, once after a drowsy sniper carelessly let his rifle discharge (remember: only police and soldiers are responsible enough to be trusted with firearms), and once at a second “throw phone” placed in the window at around 11:30 am.
Do they look like Peace Officers to you? Tactical operators outside Joseph Dean's home during the 14-hour siege. (BayNet photo)
By that time, the police had devised an “overall plan of operation”:
*A police officer named Trossbach, a childhood friend of Jaime's, was brought to the scene to try to “talk him out.”
*If this failed, the SWAT operators would bracket the home with the armored “Peacekeepers.” “Peacekeeper 1” would plant an explosive charge on the right side of the house; “Peacekeeper 2” would be deployed to the front.
“If the actions of Trossbach, in attempting to talk Dean out did not work, chemical munitions would be redeployed by both Peacekeepers, from the front, and the back of the residence,” reports Fritz. “If the chemical munitions did not work, the explosive charge would be detonated in order to blow a hole in the side of the house so as to remove the security provided by this windowless wall, and to serve as a possible point of entry.”
The first question that occurs to me is this: If an effort was going to be made to “talk him out,” why didn't the police allow Jaime's wife, father, grandmother, and sister to talk to him? A second question: Fritz points out that only five minutes were allotted for Officer Trossbach to make the attempt to talk Jaime out – why? What was the rush?
At 12:45, according to the chronology assembled by Fritz, “power is cut to the house. Telephone to the residence is dead, negotiator continues to attempt contact but cannot because phone is dead. State Police Peace Keeper is deploying chemical munitions in front, Calvert County armored vehicle is deploying chemical munitions to the rear of the residence.”
Once again, I have to ask: What was the rush? And how was Jaime supposed to react to this assault?
Two minutes later, Jaime opened the door and appeared to be pointing his gun at the armored Peacekeeper. That's when Sgt. Weaver, fearing for the safety of the officers therein, fired the shot that killed Jaime Dean.
“The officer [Sgt. Weaver] had to take that action to protect the exposed officers,” insisted Maryland State Police Col. Thomas Hutchins shortly after the incident. “It's a tragedy that was not of our doing. It was Mr. Dean who decided.”
What, exactly, did the victim “decide” here? Dozens, perhaps scores, of perverse decisions were made by police officials that created circumstances perfectly calibrated to result in the death of Jaime Dean, of which I'll highlight just a few:
*The first perverse decision was to treat the matter as a hostage situation, rather than a humanitarian emergency.
*The second was to militarize the encounter, which made escalation, rather than de-escalation, the predictable course of action.
*The third was to cut off Jaime from his family, rather than to try desperately to reconnect him with them. Since bloody when is it proper to prevent communication between a suicidal person and his family?
*The fourth was to unleash “chemical munitions” against Jaime, which predictably provoked him to return fire; I'm cynical enough – as a result of studying many episodes of this kind – to believe that this might have been the desired outcome.
*Who was the tactical genius who authorized the use of explosives? What was to happen after the wall had been breached? Was there any option here that would not have resulted in Jaime Dean suffering a violent death?
*And who decided to cut power to the home while Jaime was on the phone with a police negotiator?
County Attorney Fritz, who concludes – incomprehensibly – that Jaime's “killing may well be justifiable under the law,” excoriates the police for creating a set of circumstances in which that killing became inevitable.
Since “the police had both time and location in their favor,” Fritz points out, “there was absolutely no need to push an extraction of Mr. Dean. This was not a hostage situation, where an innocent civilian was being threatened... to the contrary, it was a barricade by a single individual, who was demanding to be left alone.”
“Time after time, Mr. Dean informed officers that they should not attempt to approach his house, and for them to back off, or they would get hurt,” continues Fritz. Legitimate Peace Officers would have cooperated, while being ready to help if necessary. But Dean was dealing with paramilitary operators whose mission was to make the subject submit, or be destroyed – even when that target was a mentally ill man who had not committed a crime.
Fritz points out that “there was absolutely no need to take on such an aggressive stance.” And the operational plan to end the standoff “needlessly created a situation that if Mr. Dean exposed himself as he did, the Counter Sniper, Sgt. Weaver, would have no option but to utilize lethal force, as he did.”
Which is to say, Col. Hutchins, that it was you – your department, and the tactical units deployed on-site, who “decided” to end Jaime Dean's life. It was your choices that resulted in the shot being fired that killed Jaime in the doorway of his father's home, leaving his blood smeared five feet into the entryway of a house that had already been perforated with scores of chemical munitions.
Jaime Dean while deployed in Afghanistan.
In a larger sense, however, these circumstances were devised by those who preside over the Warfare/Homeland Security State. Such people regarded Jaime Dean not as a wounded but affable young husband and father (to his newly acquired stepson), a generous neighbor, an exemplary employee – but only as someone to fill a uniform, and perhaps a coffin, in a pointless and immoral war in which needless tragedies like the one that killed Jaime are commonplace.
(Thanks to Trevor Bothwell of the Free State Project for his capable reporting on this tragedy. Thanks as well to Lew Rockwell for tipping us to the New York Times essay about Jaime and his needless death. It should also be pointed out that Jamie's widow Muriel has established an In Memoriam website for her husband.)
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