Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ain't That Amerika: Routine State Terrorism in the Imperial Capital

"Officer Safety" uber alles, you know.

The eleven-year-old girl shrieked in horror as the shower curtain was ripped away, leaving her exposed to the view of a large male stranger. Her sense of  violation was compounded by the threat of immediate, violent death: The marauder was wearing body armor and aiming an assault rifle at the naked, terrified child.

Downstairs, the offender's comrades were ransacking the house and barking profane orders at the traumatized child's family. Sterling Harrison, her 19-year-old brother, was sitting in front of a game console when three of the invaders burst into his upstairs room, bound him, and shoved him down the stairway. Her terrified siblings – one thirteen years of age, the other seven – were corralled and imprisoned at gunpoint in the living room along with the rest of the family.

The invaders were police, of course. Nobody in the home was suspected of committing a criminal offense. No evidence of criminal misconduct was found. The SWAT raid was carried out after 10:00 PM, in violation of municipal ordinances. The rationale for this act of state terrorism was the drug-related arrest, nearly two weeks earlier, of Mordsen Box, the 11-year-old girl's estranged father, who hadn't resided at the address for several months.

This after-dark military raid took place at a residence located less than three miles from the White House.

Thirteen days before the raid, Mr. Box was arrested by Metro D.C. Police after five ounces of marijuana were found following a pretext traffic stop. Officer Taylor Volpe, who conducted the stop, claimed – falsely, according to the family’s lawsuit against the MPD – that the rear license plate of Box's car was partially obstructed by a plastic cover.

Once the stop was underway, Volpe – in keeping with his indoctrination as an opportunistic road pirate – asked if there was “anything illegal” in the vehicle. Like countless others in similar situations, Box made the tragic mistake of answering a question the officer had no right to ask. He stated that he wasn't “aware” of anything illegal in his car, and that Volpe could carry out the search “if you have to.”

“OK, so I can look?” Volpe reiterated, inducing the intimidated driver to make his consent explicit. Within seconds the officer had found the marijuana, which was confiscated along with $180 in cash that was found in Box's wallet. His expired driver's license listed 1054 Quebec Place NW as his home address.

Both Mr. Box and his domestic situation were well-known to the local police. During the weeks leading up to the April 18, 2013 raid, police had paid two visits to the home while searching for Box. On both occasions family members explained that Box didn't live at the address.

Those facts were carefully omitted by Volpe in the search warrant application filed after the traffic stop. Among the falsehoods included in Volpe's affidavit was the claim that a “utility listing” was found for Volpe at that address. In fact, all of the utilities were listed in the name of Shandalyn Harrison, Box's ex-girlfriend.

Invoking his “experience,” “knowledge,” and “training,” Volpe insisted that a search of the residence was justified by the supposed likelihood that a large quantity of narcotics and drug proceeds would be found at the residence.  For too many judges, the rote recitation of such claims will obviate the need for actual evidence.

“In many dozens of other warrant applications sworn by MPD officers to different Superior Court judges in the one-year period, MPD officers similarly claimed under oath, based on the same `training' and `experience,' that a broad category of people referred to as `drug traffickers' attempt to hide the evidence of their criminal activities in other places that are not their own home,” notes the lawsuit filed on behalf of Harrison and her children. “These statements of `training' and `experience' thus purportedly give agents of the District's government the ability to raid and search multiple homes and other locations for every traffic stop or street arrest in which they find contraband.”

At the time he filled out his warrant application, Taylor Volpe was a rookie officer with the MPD. He was assimilated into the department’s institutional culture very quickly.

In July 2013, just weeks after the home invasion that grew out of Volpe’s affidavit, the officer was given a “Rookie of the Year” award by the 5th District Citizen’s Advisory Council of the MPD. Those to whom that award is given “are acknowledged … by cops who know good police work when they see it (and work alongside it),” observed the Council. Given their standards of behavior, Volpe and his comrades would be suitable for employment in some of the worst Third World despotisms. In fact, they might be a bit over-qualified.

Saddam Hussein famously said that “Law consists of two lines above my signature.” For the DC Metro Police, and the pathologically indifferent judges who enable them, “Probable Cause” consists of whatever speculative, unsubstantiated claims an officer makes, as long as they are prefaced with a reference to his “experience and training.” The result is an enforcement regime in which police in the nation's Capital behave in a manner indistinguishable from U.S. soldiers carrying out raids against the families of “suspected militants” in occupied Baghdad.

Sexual humiliation of captives during a judicially authorized home invasion appears to be a standard element of the ritual.

About three weeks before Ms. Harrison's 11-year-old daughter was dragged naked from the shower by an armored, masked assailant, Michael Pitts was thrown to the floor of his home by SWAT operators who tore off his pants and “probed his naked genitals and anal cavity” in front of his disabled mother. The 37-year old Pitts was in the kitchen cooking for his bedridden mother when the Berserkers kicked open the front door.

The rationale for this home invasion was the arrest, three days earlier in a different location, of Pitts' uncle Tyrone, who had been detained on the streets without probable cause by officers who demanded that the 64-year-old man submit to a body search. The pedestrian, who was not suspected of committing a violent crime, was arrested after the officers found a gun.

In the subsequent search warrant affidavit, Officer Mark Pugh listed not a single “particularized fact suggesting that guns, ammunition, or other contraband would be present in the Pitts' home,” the family pointed out in its lawsuit against the MPD. It provided only “generic and conclusory claims that, based on their `training' and `experience,' [police] are likely to find guns, ammunition, and other firearms accessories in a person's home after an arrest for gun possession is made away from the home.”

Neither firearms, ammunition, nor evidence of criminal wrongdoing were found during the raid – and as Michael Pitts can testify, the search was nothing if not thorough. Neither Officer Pugh nor his comrades bothered to explain how a body cavity search could produce evidence of a weapons-related offense. Presumably, their “training and experience” authorize them to inflict pointless humiliation of that kind, and their “qualified immunity” protects them against civil and criminal liability for such actions.

Ella Lane, a 71-year-old woman whose home was raided in October 2012, endured a different variety of sadistic abuse. The elderly woman, who had been watching television when her door was broken down by the SWAT team, was dragged to her front lawn and held, at gunpoint, in view of her neighbors for six hours while occupation troops ransacked the home in which she had lived for 37 years. During that time she was not allowed to eat, drink, or use the restroom.

Once again, the invaders failed to find any evidence of criminal activity. As they left the shattered home, one of the Stormtroopers told Lane that if he were ever called back to the house, he would “make sure that she lost her home,” recounts a lawsuit filed against the department.

As in the case of Tyrone Pitts and his family, this SWAT raid grew out of a warrantless search in which a gun was discovered. The subject of the earlier arrest – a 28-year-old man named Terrence Crossland – was the victim's grandson. Crossland and two friends were smoking on the sidewalk when they were accosted by officers from an MPD Vice unit. Crossland was arrested for violating the District’s open container law after one of the officers found a gun in a jacket belonging to one of his friends.

It was on this basis that Officer John Wright swore out a formulaic and perjurious affidavit claiming that because of his “training and experience” he just knew that “persons involved in illegal activities maintain books, records, documentation and other papers relating to the ordering, sales, and servicing of their firearms.” He didn’t even bother pretending that Crossland’s friend lived in Lane’s house; he simply used the only address he could find. 

Karakatsanis (l.) with fellow civil liberties litigator Phil Telfeyin
Attorney Alec Karakatsanis, who filed the civil complaint on Lane's behalf, correctly observes that “it was not and is not illegal to possess a firearm at one's home in the District. Nowhere did [Officer] Wright allege … that the residents of the home did not possess valid licenses or that they had been disqualified from lawful firearms ownership.” 

Nor did he establish a basis for treating Mrs. Lane as a suspect in a crime: Her only involvement in this matter consisted of living in a home near the scene of the arrest.

As Karakatsanis points out, Wright's warrant application “sought permission for what amounted to a Colonial Era general warrant, requesting that `a Search Warrant be issued for the entire premises … for any other evidence of a crime that may be found.'”

General warrants of the kind routinely used by Washington's Metro PD figured very prominently in the angry letter sent to London by Jefferson and his colleagues explaining the moral basis for the use of lethal defensive force against colonial-era law enforcement officers.

That comparison is unfair, given that colonial-era Redcoats tended to be more restrained than contemporary American police officers, and they were also more liable to punishment for any abuses they committed. A more appropriate comparison would be to the behavior and methods employed by the Regime's occupation forces overseas.

The MPD's warrant applications adapt the “pattern of life analysis” used in counterinsurgency operations – both Special Forces raids and drone strikes. “Probable cause” isn't necessary to authorize such measures. All that is required to unleash the strike teams or dispatch the drones is for analysts to establish connections of some kind – kinship, known association, a single cell phone conversation or text message – between a potential target and a “suspected militant.” In the fashion of the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, anybody who is killed or injured in the operation is classified as either a “militant” or an associate of one

The execution of Miriam Carey.
Unlike the residents of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area, people living in D.C.’s majority-black neighborhoods aren’t terrorized by the Empire’s robotic heralds of mass destruction. They are merely haunted by the knowledge that police can invade their home without cause, strip-search them in front of their families, or drag their naked, screaming grade school-age daughters out of the shower – and then threaten them with the loss of their home if they pay a return visit.

The three incidents described above, which are typical of the estimated 80-124 SWAT raids that occur every day in the American Soyuz, took place within a ten-mile radius of the White House. Two of those raids, interestingly, were carried out a few months before Miriam Carey was executed in the streets of Washington, D.C. after inadvertently driving through a traffic barricade near the White House.  

No other country endures routine state terrorism of this variety.  Perhaps we should consider this one facet of “American Exceptionalism.”

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Dum spiro, pugno!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is so much wrong with what is pointed out in Will's reporting on what is going on in Metro DC, which also mirrors many cities throughout the US. Lets work our way down from the top to lay bare, in how these attacks on the citizens whom have engaged in no criminal conduct are playing out. First off, a judge needs to sign a warrant to allow such a military raid to happen on a citizens home. The warrants in these cases are clearly based on a need or want to go fishing for finding something criminal to charge citizen/s with. Clearly there is no solid legal grounds to sign such warrants beyond pretending there is. So this makes it clear the judges are nothing more than part of the scam to steal property should there be criminal allegation. The county attorney or District attorney and the staff in such a government offices. Also engage in criminal conduct by becoming part of the scam by not investigating such criminal actives once a civil lawsuit or many suits are filed against the police. Follow this, the reasons for a real criminal investigating are warranted against the police and the judge who signed the search warrant more so than the people whom the warrant was used against. The county attorney and staff take many cases in front of the very judges whom are signing warrants. By the county attorneys and judges working together where private property can be confiscated without any arrest but based on the findings of the likelihood (and likelihood is very subjective) of some kind of crimes have happen in the past. But clearly there is no evidence that can clearly prove that crimes or what kind of crimes have happen in the past. Just a one sided theory that X crime or crimes likely had happen. These actions by government lawyers, judges and county attorneys and their staff, show there is no such thing as justice. I have not noted the police in this matter because they are of such a group of bigots that haven't the abilities to understand that they are the boots on the ground, ripping America to pieces and destroying any of their children's futures. There's no point in noting them. They are such willing partners in such criminal conduct by the system when the time comes and the time will come, which is where this is all headed. These very same police will murder American citizens when ordered. Sadly the likelihood of them doing it on their own without being orders is no longer a likelihood but a fact that is happening across America right now and has been. And the government lawyers are protecting them by far and larges, the judges and country lawyers. Back in the days when the Christians were thrown to the lyons in the coliseum in Rome. That was government and its employees doing such murdering. Nothing has changed, but technology because man is man and is sinful. Larger government has a price, a thirst that is never quenched and will drink your blood and then your children's blood, the vampire state is awake and well.