Editorial note: There is a revised and expanded version of this essay at LewRockwell.com.
Nineteen days before Trayvon Martin was gunned down by self-appointed block “captain” George Zimmerman, Manuel Loggins was murdered by an Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy in the parking lot of San Clemente High School. Loggins, a deeply religious man, often visited the school to walk on the track and discuss the Bible with his daughters, who were with him on the morning he was murdered.
According to the most recent of several official versions of the incident, the Deputy was concerned by Loggins’ “irrational” behavior, which involved crashing through a gate and attempting to leave the scene. Even this rendering of the episode, however, doesn’t explain why a Deputy would shoot an unarmed man behind the wheel of an SUV containing two young girls.
The Deputy initially insisted that he “felt threatened” by Loggins. Within a day or so of the story becoming public, the story had undergone a critical revision: The Sheriff’s Office claimed that Loggins had to be shot in the interests of “the perceived safety of the children.”
So zealous were the officers for the safety of two young girls who had just seen their father murdered in front of them that the department took them into custody held them incommunicado for thirteen hours while the official narrative was being worked out. In the words of the family’s attorney, “They just incarcerated them.”
Sgt. Loggins was black; his killer, Deputy Darren Sandberg, is white – and he’s back on patrol duty, without facing criminal charges or administrative punishment of any kind. His union, displaying its customary gift for arrogant self-preoccupation, insists Loggins was entirely to blame.
“It is heartbreaking that Manuel Loggins created a situation that put his children in danger and ultimately cost him his life,” oozed police union spokesperson Tom Dominguez. "It is unfortunate that his actions put his own children into immediate danger and resulted in his death."
That smarmy, dismissive statement irresistibly reminds me of the radio exchange between U.S. troops involved in the Baghdad massacre documented in the “Collateral Murder” video.
Eleven Iraqis were massacred in the unprovoked attack, and several others – including two small children – were seriously wounded.
“Well, it’s their fault for bringing kids into a battle,” one of the murderers snarkily insisted when informed that small children were among the victims.
Loggins’s widow gave birth to another daughter at about the same time she buried her husband.
|Manuel Loggins and his future widow.|
Neither Louis Farrakhan nor Al Sharpton reached out to the Loggins family. As a gesture of solidarity with Trayvon, the Miami Heat basketball team was photographed wearing hooded sweatshirts, the “suspicious” attire the teenager was wearing when he was chased down and shot by George Zimmerman. The Sacramento Kings abstained from a similar symbolic display of sympathy for Manuel Loggins.
Asked by a reporter to comment about the Trayvon Martin killing, Barack Obama pointed out that if he had a son, the young man might resemble Trayvon. The President has yet to be asked to comment about the murder of Manuel Loggins – who is one of two black Marines to be murdered by police within the space of three months.
Last November 19, 68-year-old retired Marine Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. was slaughtered by police at his apartment in White Plains, New York. Chamberlain, an elderly man who suffered from a heart condition and several other ailments, was not a criminal suspect. He had inadvertently triggered a medical alert, which resulted in a visit by paramedics. The police, unfortunately, responded as well, and they quickly displayed their infallible gift for making matters worse.
|Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr. (center).|
Once inside, the police were confronted by a terrified old man who – as documented in video recovered from a Taser – was clad in boxer shorts, with his hands at his side. This dreadful specter was enough to trigger the “Officer Safety” reflex – practically anything will – and the heroes in blue shot him with a Taser and a beanbag gun before gunning him down.
The original story was that Chamberlain “came at the officers” with a butcher knife and – I’m not kidding – a hatchet. His son points out that his father’s heart was so weak that he couldn’t walk more than forty feet without resting. The initial account is difficult to reconcile with the footage captured by the Taser and security cameras. Furthermore, even if the old man had lunged at the cops, they had the duty to retreat: They had no legal or moral right to be in the home, and Chamberlain had the legal and moral right to evict them by force.
Long after the incident, the police rationalized that the invasion was necessary because they weren’t sure whether “anybody else inside was in danger.” This is a matter that could have been cleared up through use of an obscure piece of technology called a telephone, a remarkable instrument that could have been used to contact either Mr. Chamberlain or his son, who didn’t live far away. But this would have deprived the armored adolescents on the police force of an opportunity to bust down a door and impose themselves on someone who couldn’t fight back.
George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer, appears to have perceived practically every black male – on one occasion, a child he described as “7-9 years old” – as suspicious.
Predictably, Martin’s family believes that Zimmerman acted on bigoted motives. In the case of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., there is material evidence of racism at work: Recordings of the standoff captured racial epithets, including the “n-word,” hurled at the harmless old man by some of the officers involved in murdering him just a few minutes later.
Nevertheless, the Tolerance Police – for some reason -- haven’t made the slaughter of Kenneth Chamberlain a cause celebre.
One much-remarked detail in the killing of Trayvon Martin is the fact that the supposedly suspicious teenager was “armed” with Skittles and a can of iced tea. This summons memories of Jordan Miles, an 18-year-old from Pittsburgh who was nearly beaten to death on the street near his grandmother’s house two years ago.
His assailants claimed that Miles struck them as “suspicious” because he fled at their approach, and that they feared for their lives when he appeared to be armed. It turns out that his concealed “weapon” was a bottle of Mountain Dew, an admittedly toxic substance but one harmful only if taken internally.
Miles, who stands 5’6” and weighs about 160 pounds, was swarmed by three large adult males, who slugged him, kicked him, and beat him with a club improvised from a tree branch.
The attackers were police officers, who weren’t prosecuted or subjected to administrative punishment. As is customary whenever a Mundane is left bloody by the ministrations of the State’s high priests of coercion, Miles was charged with “aggravated assault,” which presumably took the form of flailing his arms while bleeding on his sanctified assailants.
When those charges were dismissed, the police union – in a typical fit of corrupt petulance – conducted a mass “sick-out” as a protest. This had the unintended, if short-lived, effect of making Pittsburgh’s streets just a little safer. This crime was quickly forgotten, and Miles’s family recently received a trivial, tax-subsidized settlement from the City of Pittsburgh. Once again: This episode, which offers several strong points of similarity to the Trayvon Martin killing, didn’t ignite a nation-wide firestorm of media outrage.
Every week – perhaps every day – innocent young black men are beaten and killed by armed strangers who act with impunity, and often in circumstances quite similar to those in which Trayvon Martin was killed. The perpetrators of those assaults are police officers. George Zimmerman was a self-commissioned “captain” in a Neighborhood Watch program with which he had no formal affiliation.
For some reason the Sanford Police Department saw fit to treat him like a cop by granting him the kind of “qualified immunity” usually afforded only to fully accredited members of the exalted brotherhood of state-sanctioned violence.
Civilian disarmament advocates have implicated Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law in Trayvon Martin killing. The Sanford Police have refused to charge Zimmerman, insisting that “under the law, it had no call to bring charges,” reported the New York Times.
Enacted in 2005, Florida’s “Justifiable Use of Force” statute (Title XLVI, Chapter 776) recognizes that an individual has the natural right to use deadly force when confronting the threat of “death or great bodily harm” from an intruder or an aggressor. This does not apply when “The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in … [a] dwelling, residence, or vehicle,” or if the individual who employed the defensive force “is engaged in an unlawful activity….”
Martin, an unarmed teenager with no criminal record, was headed to his father’s home in the Miami Gardens gated community. Although he was described by Zimmerman to the police as a “suspicious individual,” Martin had an unqualified legal right to be where he was.
In his 911 call, Zimmerman told a police dispatcher that “There’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something…. These a**holes always get away.” Zimmerman actively pursued Martin, after being specifically instructed that this was unnecessary.
When Martin noticed Zimmerman, the teenager – who was speaking to a girlfriend via cellphone – made reference to being “hounded by a strange man on a cellphone who ran after him, cornered him and confronted him,” as summarized in an ABC News report.
“Why are you following me?” Martin asked Zimmerman. A few moments later, Zimmerman shot Martin with his 9 millimeter handgun. Several witnesses reported hearing the teenager cry for help before the shot was fired.
“They’re wrestling right in the back of my porch,” one witness told a police dispatcher. “The guy’s yelling help and I’m not going out.”
For some reason, police investigating the matter “corrected” one key witness, a local schoolteacher, by insisting that it was Zimmerman, not Martin, who had cried for help. This makes little sense: Zimmerman was armed and outweighed the frightened teenager by more than 100 pounds. (Again, one can’t help but be struck by the similarity between this incident and countless others involving actual police assaults on helpless victims.)
In addition to “correcting” one eyewitness, the Sanford PD pointedly ignored the testimony of Martin’s girlfriend, to whom the victim expressed his own fears about the unidentified man who was stalking him.
Zimmerman’s original story, as summarized by the Miami Herald, was that “he had stepped out of his truck to check the name of the street he was on when [Martin] attacked him from behind as he walked back to his truck.” Zimmerman claims that he shot Martin “because he feared for his life” – a conjuration uttered by every police officer who has ever gunned down a helpless person.
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee – who has been compelled to resign – pronounced that he was satisfied with Zimmerman’s version of the incident, moving quickly to wrap up the case because “there is no evidence to dispute the shooter’s claim of self-defense.” The police released him without testing him for drugs or alcohol.
Zimmerman, who was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer in 2005 – has called the police to report “suspicious” black males 46 times since January 2011. Neighbors have described him as “fixated on crime” and have complained about his “aggressive tactics.”
An aggressor, of course, isn’t “standing his ground.” During the February 26 incident, Zimmerman pursued Martin, who had a legal right to be where he was. By creating the confrontation, Zimmerman was the aggressor. He had both the moral and legal duty to retreat, rather than to escalate the confrontation by employing force of any kind.
Florida’s self-defense law, like similar statutes elsewhere, makes an exception for law enforcement officers. Although he was not employed by a police department and not an official member of the volunteer neighborhood watch, Zimmerman clearly considered himself to be acting in a law enforcement capacity. For reasons yet to be made clear, the Sanford PD uncritically accepted Zimmerman’s self-characterization, granting him the kind of “professional courtesy” commonly extended to members of the privileged fraternity of official coercion. In doing so they went so far as to tamper with eyewitness testimony on his behalf.
According to ABC News, “The Sanford Police Department says it stands by its investigation, and that it was not race or incompetence that prevented it from arresting Zimmerman but the law.” Under the terms of the Florida state statutes, however, Zimmerman committed an act of criminal homicide, not justified self-defense. Yet the civilian disarmament lobby – most likely working in collaboration with police unions – moved quickly to implicate the “Stand Your Ground” law in the killing.
Police unions, the civilian disarmament lobby, and the state-centric media all subscribe to the idea that the government should have a monopoly on the use of force. This is why they oppose “stand your ground” and “castle doctrine” laws recognizing the individual right to armed self-defense.
The opposition of police unions has become particularly acute in recent months as they have lobbied against “castle doctrine” laws in Minnesota and Indiana that explicitly recognize the natural right of citizens to use lethal force against police officers who unlawfully invade their property or threaten their lives.
Yes, the familiar cast of prejudice profiteers and racial ambulance chasers – who failed to be moved by the racially charged police murders of Manuel Loggins and Kenneth Chamberlain -- has helped turn the killing of Trayvon Martin into a public works project. But the ideology that has propelled this issue to the top of the media agenda isn’t a variant of racial collectivism: It is the even more murderous doctrine of government supremacism, under which Zimmerman’s lethal actions would be considered entirely appropriate if he had been swaddled in a State-issued costume.
Within six months we should see a plethora of bills -- supported by a coalition that includes the Brady Campaign and police unions -- bearing Trayvon Martin's name, all of which will seek the repeal of "Castle Doctrine" and "Stand Your Ground" self-defense laws.
Update: It begins....
"Where is the outrage over every single one of the thousands of children and teens killed by guns?" fulminated totalitarian nanny statist Marian Wright Edleman of the so-called Children's Defense Fund on March 24. Edleman condemns what she calls "gun slinging Americans unrestrained by common sense gun control laws" -- that is, laws that fail to provide a monopoly of violence to the most lethal segment of society, the State's enforcement caste.
"As a nation, we must aspire and act to become the world leader in protecting children against guns rather than leading the world in child victims of guns," Edleman continues, reveling in the pureile fallacy that evil inheres in the inanimate object called a "gun," rather than the malevolent will of an individual who employs it to harm another.
"We need a relentless, powerful citizens' voice to break the gun lobby's veto on common sense gun policy," Edleman declares, using the expression "common sense" as a functional synonym for "civilian disarmament."
Second Update: Where are Zimmerman's Injuries?
"You fail to mention that Zimmerman had a bloodied nose and blood on the back of his head," complained an anonymous commenter below, reciting -- as if it were incontestable fact -- a second-hand assertion made on the shooter's behalf.
Surveillance video taken shortly after the shooting makes it clear that Zimmerman -- who was arrested, but not held, by the Sanford Police -- appeared to be uninjured. He sustained no physical trauma whatsoever -- unless the purported life-and-death struggle with Trayvon Martin is somehow to blame for the 28-year-old's male pattern baldness.
|No wounds, no blood -- no evidence of a beating.|
Eyewitness accounts establish that some kind of a physical struggle took place -- but the notion that Zimmerman was nearly beaten to death by Trayvon impossible to sustain.
Third Update: Here they are ...
... in a photograph taken minutes after the shooting, before he was "cleaned up" by paramedics. Although the wounds clearly weren't life-threatening, they are garish and appear painful -- and clear evidence that Zimmerman was getting the worst of a fight he precipitated with an unarmed teenager he accosted without justification.
In a documented cell phone conversation with his girlfriend just before the shooting, Martin expressed concerns over being shadowed by Zimmerman, who pursued Martin on foot when the young man tried to flee. The girlfriend heard Zimmerman confront Martin, demanding to know who he was and what he was doing. In his account to the police, Zimmerman said that after talking to Martin, he reached for his cell phone, at which point he was "jumped" by the teenager. A Zimmerman family friend was told that when George reached for his phone, Martin saw the guy's gun -- and that this provoked the fight.
If this version is accurate, it was Martin -- not Zimmerman -- who acted in self-defense: He was an unarmed teenager confronted in the dark by a stranger with a gun, and was fighting for his life.
The investigating detective wanted to hold Zimmerman on suspicion of negligent homicide; this charge seems entirely justified. Second-degree murder, in my view, is not, and if I were on a jury presented with that charge I would vote to acquit.
It's pretty clear that there was a fight...
... and Zimmerman was getting the worst of it. We still don't know how it started, or which party was actually "standing his ground" in the face of a mortal threat. An eyewitness to the altercation who didn't see its beginning told the police that Martin was crying for help shortly before he was shot -- but the investigating detective insisted that she got that incredibly important detail wrong.
Another recent report claims that there were traces of marijuana in Martin's blood, which is interesting but entirely irrelevant to the question of self-defense. Zimmerman was never tested for alcohol or drugs.
A special -- and urgent -- appeal
Regular readers of Pro Libertate are aware that this blog has been my primary means of supporting my family since October 2006, when I lost my last "regular" job. In recent months I've been working full-time (and then some) for Republic magazine. While that engagement offers many compensations, a living wage is not found on that list. I am hopeful that this will eventually change for the better, but pending that happy day I still have a family of eight people for whom to provide.
Our circumstances recently took a "sudden but inevitable" turn for the worse": For the second time in three years, our landlord has decided to allow the home in which we're living to go into foreclosure. He quite thoughtfully informed us about this four months after he stopped paying on the mortgage.
We could really use any help we can get -- and I'm willing to provide something in exchange for it.
I've recently received a case and a half of my most recent book, Liberty in Eclipse: The War on Terror and the Rise of the Homeland Security State, and I will send a personalized copy to every person who donates twenty dollars (or more). Please contact me (WNGrigg [at] msn [dot] [com]) with a mailing address.
Thank you so much, and God bless!
Dum spiro, pugno!
Dum spiro, pugno!