Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Satilla Shores

Another day, another shooting in America.  What happened?

NOTE:  See my updated posting about this incident.  As more and more information comes out, the worse it gets.  It now appears that the man taking the video above actually hit Aubery with his pickup truck, before they chased him down and cornered him on the road.

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I harp a lot about how the media gets things wrong or often ignores things that are not deemed to be newsworthy.   A few weeks ago, there was a shooting locally, where two white men set out in their pickup truck (loaded words) with a shotgun and a handgun, to track down a black man who was jogging through their neighborhood.  A struggle ensued, the man was shot.  The local police don't think there was a crime.   A District Attorney from a neighboring county was brought in, due to a conflict of interest, and a Grand Jury is to be impaneled to see if charges should be brought. They likely will.

Sadly, this could turn out to be another Trevon Martin kind of case - where the facts are so muddied that a jury at trial might not find guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt" even with compelling video evidence, which unfortunately does not show the entire confrontation and shooting, which appears to occur out of camera range.  But blurry images on TMZ (which has an unedited version of the video, compared to YouTube, which has portions blanked out) are hard to figure out on your cell phone or laptop.    One would assume the Grand Jury will have a better view of the video - as well as another purported video.

I would offer a "trigger warning" about these videos, but that would be in very poor taste.

What has the media gotten right and gotten wrong?   Mostly wrong, I'm afraid.  To begin with, this is a national news story, whether you like it or not.  But the New York Times and Washington Post, both of which would ordinarily salivate over a story like this, are so caught up in the beatification of former Mafia Don, Andrew Cuomo.   Under ordinary circumstances, both papers would rip Cuomo a new one, but as he has made himself into the anti-Trump on the back of this crisis (taking a page from the Giuliani playbook) those two papers can't help themselves, fawning over each Cuomo photo op (today, sanitizing a subway car) and proclaiming the victory of "science" over reason - failing to understand they are the same thing.

I am not sure that "governing by science" is such a good idea - bear in mind that eugenics was deemed as "science" at one time, as were the racial purity laws of the Nazi regime.

But I digress, but not by much.

The "news" sadly seems fixated on this virus, which is a big deal in New York, but life goes on as usual in 90% of the planet, which is a good thing, otherwise New Yorkers would starve to death.   But this also means that a lot of newsworthy stories have been swept under the rug in favor of the latest trivia about the virus.   It is only when this man's family made a deal about this that the media finally took notice.   If you want to get into the news, you need to issue a press release.  It is as simple as that.  The newsies of today don't even know how to write - so you write the story for them in the form of a press release and they will barf it up, verbatim, in every news media outlet.

And until recently, the news they have printed was a press release from the Police Department, which argued that this was a legitimate "citizen's arrest" gone wrong.   The news now dutifully reports that Satilla Shores, where the shooting took place, is a "neighborhood" in Brunswick, Georgia.  This makes it sound like a place where one might wander off into, just walking around town.

Far from the truth.  It is an isolated community located off route 17 out by Exit 29 near I-95.  I drive by it all the time.  I have never been in it.   There is one road in and out, and you really have to go out of your way to get there.  It is at least fifteen miles from Brunswick, Georgia and is located in Glynn County, not the City of Brunswick proper.   Don't confuse a post-office address with a location.  Our house in Hollin Hall was in Fairfax County, not the City of Alexandria.  Yet our mailing address was "Alexandria, Virginia".   There was talk of changing that to "Mt. Vernon" or some other locality, but traditionally, it was deemed we were in Alexandria, not Mt. Vernon, so the address stuck.

If you look at the place on Google Maps, you'll see what I mean.   It is a 21 minute drive from my house, and I'm 20 minutes from downtown Brunswick.  This is a "neighborhood" in Brunswick as much as Darien is.

This raises the question in my mind as to how this man ended up there?   He didn't live in Satilla Shores.  How close by did he live?   The nearest "neighborhood" (meaning another cluster of homes in the marsh) is at least a mile away, if not more.   You really have to set out to get to this "neighborhood" - it isn't something you wander into.  The media, having not been there fails to mention this, or if they have been there, fail to mention it on purpose.

There is apparently another cell phone video that shows the man inside a house "under construction" which is apparently an abandoned house owned by a 90-year-old man who has been "remodeling" it for a long time.   Why he was in there is anyone's guess.   Some argue he was stealing things.  But since he was on foot, wearing nothing but jogging shorts, a t-shirt, and running shoes, what the hell could he be stealing?

People on our island wander into houses under construction all the time - curious as to see what the new owners are doing.   I've seen this in other neighborhoods as well.  Of course, in bad neighborhoods, people may wander in to steal copper pipes or wiring - but again, this guy was jogging wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  Where would he conceal even the smallest stolen item?

But then there are even more questions about the shooters.   They claim there were a series of break-ins in the neighborhood, but the only crime reported recently was a handgun stolen from the shooter, who left it on the front seat of his pickup truck, unlocked, parked in the street.   Great - another responsible gun owner!  I mean, what the fuck, I wouldn't leave loose change in my car, parked on the street.  A valuable handgun?  No way.

But it gets better - the guy is a former Glynn county cop - a police force with such a poor record that there is talk of abolishing it entirely.  I wrote about them before - they are still doing "Sting" operations to entrap closeted gay men on Grindr and then shaking them down for $3000 a pop - threatening to expose them to their employers or family members.    That part of "Old Dixie" needs to be driven down.

He was also an investigator for the local DA's office, which is why the case was sent to a neighboring county for review.   The local police claimed that this was a "citizen's arrest" gone wrong.   But citizens, even if former Police, have no business chasing down people because they "look suspicious".  Call 911, wait for the cops to show up and shoot them.   Oh, right, another little problem the local police have here - this is not the first controversial police shooting in the area.

But seriously, if you go running after people with loaded guns, bad shit is going to happen.  If someone comes up to you with a gun, and not in uniform, it is only reasonable to assume that they are trying to attack you, and you are entitled to use deadly force to defend yourself.

On the other hand, you are not entitled to chase after people and shoot them to defend property.  Like I said, leave that to the Police.

At the very least, this looks like a case of manslaughter.   Whether it could be a case of first- or second-degree murder remains to be seen.   Driving around with loaded weapons, trying to "citizen's arrest" someone for trespassing on a property that is not your own is at the very least, reckless.  Whether they had the mens rea or intent to murder is up to a jury to decide.

The man who was shot was apparently a local football hero whose life hit the skids.  He had run-ins with the Police before, and apparently some issues with drugs.  I am not aware of the toxicology report from the incident (I presume they did one, right?).  Brunswick, Georgia is known as the methamphetamine capital of Southeast Georgia - it is an epidemic here.  Whether that was a factor or not, is unknown.

The whole thing is very sad and could have been prevented.   It is tempting, when someone steals your shit, to go after them - or anyone you think stole your stuff.  The problem with vigilante justice is that it is all-too-easy to go after the wrong person or to let things get out of hand.  That was the problem in the Treyvon Martin case.   Just because there were break-ins in the neighborhood doesn't mean you can go around accosting people you think may be the culprit.

A better approach is to own less shit, take better care of it (leaving a gun in your car overnight?  Unlocked?  On the street?  WTF?) or moving to a better neighborhood.

The sad thing is, because of the "standard of proof" in criminal cases is so high, convictions are hard to come by.   That is why both George Zimmerman and OJ Simpson walked - there was "reasonable doubt" in the mind of the jury, even in cases that look open-and-shut in the media.  Both of those defendants proved themselves to be utter assholes, later on - which makes people wonder whether justice was done.

The vigilante thing is just a non-starter.  If you get into one of these situations, even if you are acquitted, the rest of your life is ruined.   Ask Bernhard Goetz how things worked out for him, after the subway shooting.  Yes, he was acquitted (of the shooting offenses), but his life never went back to normal.   The fantasy that your handgun will protect you from crime and that you can shoot criminals with no consequences is, sadly, a fantasy.

And sadly, today, we are letting people out of jail because of this virus, or because we feel bail is "unfair" to poor people (and most criminals are, by definition, poor).   The rich, of course, have no need to steal, or of they do, use legal means to do so.  But the result of this "let's feel sorry for criminals" deal is going to be felt (and is being felt) in terms of rising crime rates.   In California recently, a man was arrested three times in one day for breaking into and stealing cars.  He was given appearance tickets each time.  Criminals aren't dumb - they will figure out quickly there are no consequences to breaking the law, and this will mean more Bernhard Goetz's and George Zimmerman's in the future.

Sounds odd, but the solution to lawlessness is law-and-order, not vigilantism.

Sadly, I suspect this case, like so many others before it, will be sensationalized on the television and Facebook.   Let's just hope they don't bring in Judge Ito and his collection of troll dolls.

UPDATE:  Apparently there was a third person (a neighbor) who was riding in the back of the pickup truck, and the father and son were in the front seat.  They were all gathering up a 'posse' to hunt down this alleged burglar.

The DA from an adjacent county is - or was - going to impanel a grand jury, but in the interim, the local police have arrested the father and sun and charged them with "murder" and assault.  Sounds fishy to me.  One of two scenarios could be playing out here:

1.  Overcharging:  If you charge with murder (Georgia doesn't have first- and second-degree murder, just murder) they may be able to argue to a jury that they didn't intend to shoot this fellow, but rather to just detain him in a "citizen's arrest".   Since lesser charges of manslaughter were not brought, the jury would then find guilt only as to simple assault.

2.  Short-Circuit the Grand Jury:  By arresting and charging now, the case could be taken out of the hands of the DA in our neighboring county, and thus the Grand Jury as well (which might have filed multiple charges, including manslaughter as well as murder).    Put the case in front of a local Judge quickly, and maybe they are acquitted on a "self-defense" charge.

Bear in mind that when the shooting victim grabbed the gun, the shooter could argue he was in fear of "imminent death or great bodily harm" and thus entitled to use deadly force in self-defense.   Again, reasonable doubt is all they need show to a jury.   And the video - since it pans out of view at key times - doesn't really make it clear one way or the other.

One thing is certain - you go out chasing after people, carrying guns, bad shit is going to happen.  This would be manslaughter or negligent homicide in other jurisdictions.  Interesting that manslaughter hasn't been charged.

Or.... maybe that is what they will get these fellow to "plea" to in a plea bargain.

All I can say is, it is going to be a major media shitstorm in 3..... 2...... 1..... as already celebrities are chiming in, and the poor fellow is being called "the jogger" and a whole narrative created around this.

Justice likely won't be done one way or the other.