John Crawford was summarily executed by cops on the false statements of a serial liar

On August 5th, 2014, John Crawford III was shot dead by police from behind and without warning in a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Ohio. He was just 22 years old and was a father to two young sons. Police believed, based on a 911 call, that he was preparing to open fire in a mass shooting.

In fact, he was holding a toy gun he was about to buy and was chatting amiably to his girlfriend on the phone at the time he was killed, while they both shopped in different parts of the store. Crawford was not violating any laws at the time — even if the gun had been a serious firearm licensed to him and carried openly, he would have been in the clear under local laws and store rules — and there is no evidence to suggest he was about to break any laws. No one passing him in the store, as seen on surveillance footage, appears concerned or frightened by the toy gun.

Although many things quickly began to not add up about the official version of events that led to his death, much of the justification hinged upon that 911 call. As further details have emerged from the incident (such as video footage and audio of the 911 call, plus reports from his girlfriend who heard the shooting over the phone as it happened) and as journalistic investigations have been conducted into the circumstances surrounding it and the people involved, we have learned that there was very little reason to believe Crawford was an imminent threat to anyone.

In particular, the credibility of the primary witness, who called in the purported threat to 911, has been falling apart extremely rapidly. Not only did his 911 call claims not match reality seen on store camera footage — a BB gun became an AR-15 assault rifle, holding became waving/loading/pointing — but he also immediately lied to reporters in public statements right after the shooting. To bolster his allegedly ability to assess the level of danger accurately, he claimed to be an “ex-marine.” In fact, we now know he was kicked out of training less than two months in the U.S. Marines for “fraudulent enlistment” and a heart condition.

A man with a history of lying made a false report to police (and subsequently reporters) because a Black man living his life, simply existing, and obeying all relevant laws was a clear and present danger in his eyes. Such a a belief stems, inevitably, either from personal racial animosity or institutionalized suspicion and fear of Black men in America that makes unconscious racists out of many others who claim not to be. The latter category, acting out their denied prejudices in mistaken police reports and 911 calls, get a lot of people killed.

One might be tempted to shift all blame onto him and away from police, who were arguably just reacting to the information given to them. But the police officers who responded did so with the most extreme response two uniformed officers can make, and they did not provide warnings before firing, nor did they assess the situation to ensure they were not making a mistake. As they reached the scene, acting on the word of one person, they could not possibly imagine that he was anything but a violent and dangerous man who needed to be put down without any attempt to halt him, negotiate with him, or provide him with due process. They shot him fatally (he died of his injuries at the hospital) and the ensuing panic resulted in the death of another woman in the store.

Meanwhile, dozens of White “open-carry” activists have marched through big box stores across the country with actual AR-15s, to the fright of many customers, to demonstrate their “2nd Amendment rights.” No such “right” or benefit of the doubt was afforded to Mr. Crawford. Meanwhile, the White mass shooters in Tucson in January 2012 and in Aurora in July 2012, ages 22 and 24 respectively, were both arrested alive, having actually killed and wounded dozens of people. No such treatment was afforded to Mr. Crawford.

I want to re-state all of the facts of this situation as comprehensively as possible in one sentence: Police, approaching from behind, shot dead a young Black man in an “open-carry” state, without warning, while he was holding a BB air rifle he intended to purchase, simply because a customer with a record of false statements, who had washed out of the Marines in less than two months after fraudulent enlistment, called 911 with a fear of Black men and falsely claimed the victim was loading and pointing an AR-15 at children in the store.

John Crawford III — and so many like him — deserved so much better.

Unsecured guns still magically don’t count as child endangerment

There was an important post on TIME by Aaron Gouveia about the disparate handling of two cases involving 9-year-old girls who were put in potentially unsafe situations by their parents in the past few months. The more recent of the two cases was the now infamous situation where a 9-year-old girl at an Arizona gun range was handed an Uzi submachine gun — notoriously hard-to-control — and promptly lost her grip while firing and killed the instructor. The latter was a case where a working mother let her child play unattended in a nearby playground with other kids this summer after the girl’s laptop was stolen and she had nothing to do all day while mom was working.

Many other commentators have expended a lot of internet ink pointing out the absurd overreaction of law enforcement and the other parents who narc’d on the mom, particularly given that there was actually an extremely low risk of anything terrible happening and just a generation or so ago 9-year-old kids were wandering all over their communities without any adult supervision at all and no cell phones. The mother in this case has been severely and disproportionately punished, as we’ll see in a moment.

There is one angle not really covered by Gouveia which is that the mother and child in the playground case were Black (unlike the family in the other case), and there is a long history in the United States of forcing Black mothers to work extremely long hours for poor compensation while shaming and even criminalizing how they are compelled to raise their kids under those circumstances.

Nevertheless, Gouveia summarizes the two cases well in his article and raises the other crucial contrast in how the cases were handled with regard to a kid on a playground surrounded by other kids and parents versus a child executing a man by accident. And that’s the gun angle:

Instead of a loaded weapon, Harrell armed her daughter with a phone, and sent her to a playground with lots of other kids and adults. The only shooting that took place was the cool water from a splash pad and some hoops on the basketball courts. There were even volunteers who came by the playground with free snacks. While perhaps not ideal since Harrell was at work, she sent her daughter to a family-friendly place with an environment geared toward fun and summertime frivolity. The same kind of place I routinely rode my bike to at the age of nine.

Yet Harrell is the one arrested. Who lost her job. Who spent 17 days in jail, temporarily lost custody of her daughter, and faces 10 years in prison.

Harrell’s detractors claim someone could’ve kidnapped her daughter at the playground, which is true. But while there is a low risk of child abduction at a public playground in broad daylight, it pales in comparison to the risks involved with letting a 9-year-old fire a machine gun. So please stop referencing the 2nd amendment, because I’m certain our Founding Fathers weren’t contemplating the benefits of letting children fire hundreds of rounds per minute when they drafted the right to bear arms.

As usual, guns in the United States get special treatment*, especially when “accidents” happen in public or in the home, again and again and again.

So, in addition to the important context of criminalization of Black Motherhood, these contrasting situations (and their handling) speak to the wider problem of how local law enforcement and prosecutors handle gun-related accidents involving children (most of which involve a child’s death or serious injury, rather than that of the adult instructor).

7,500 children a year are admitted to U.S. hospitals with gunshot wounds, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Of those, 500 die each year. Many others are pronounced dead on scene. Yet, authorities routinely refuse to file child endangerment charges against parents when children accidentally shoot each other or themselves with unsecured firearms. Take a look at this set of clippings by David Waldman of the dozens and dozens of children under 14 who died through accidental shootings in 2013, and note how the cases were resolved. It’s most often deemed an “accident” and the case is closed without charges against anyone, including the adults. Which is insane.
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Another day, another mass shooting in America

In the past two and a half weeks, including today’s, there have been 3 U.S. mass shooting events (using one definition of at least 4 dead). At least 14 events if you include those with lower death tolls but 3+ wounded.

Today’s shooting, in gun friendly Nevada, left two police officers and a random bystander dead, before one of the shooters killed the other and then herself. Despite having guns and attempting to use them, the police officers were unfortunately unable to stop the attack. (More guns won’t stop these events. In contrast, events from Columbine to Tucson to last week’s Seattle shooting more often end with someone tackling the shooter.)

In the first five months of this year, there were 12 mass shooting events with at least four deaths.

So, do we get to talk about guns being the problem yet? Or still no…?

June 1, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 86

Topics: Gun control, VA scandal. People: Bill and Nate.

Discussion Points:

– What reasonable gun control measures could be taken to reduce U.S. gun violence and accidental deaths?
– Are we being distracted from the real issues on guns?
– Should Republican Iraq War supporters in Congress be blaming the Obama Administration for a Veterans Affairs scandal they didn’t notice either?
– What can be done to improve the VA?

Part 1 – Gun Control:
Part 1 – Gun Control – AFD 86
Part 2 – VA Scandal:
Part 2 – Veteran Affairs Scandal – AFD 86

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

Related links

– David Waldman: Children 14 & Under Killed by Accidental Gunfire in 2013
– TPM: Study: U.S. Hospitals Admit 7,500 Kids A Year With Gunshot Wounds
– Buzzfeed: How The NRA Built A Massive Secret Database Of Gun Owners
– Newszap: Gun control battle continues in Delaware
– AFD: 11 fatal mass shootings in 5 months
– Chicago Tribune: U.S. violent crime down for 5th year in 2011: FBI
– Mother Jones: NRA Blames Violent Video Games for Newtown, But Partnered With Company That Makes Them
– Wired: A Biometric Gun Lock That Even the NRA Might Like
– BMJ: Gun use in the United States: results from two national surveys — Hemenway et al. 6 (4): 263
– AFD: Infographic: Iraq War vote vs. VA scandal critiques
– Mother Jones: Documents Show the VA Debacle Began Under George W. Bush
– CNN: Timeline: The VA’s troubled history
– ABC: Veterans Affairs Scandal: What You Need To Know


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Further assorted thoughts on gun policy this week

The NRA people act like they’re the most oppressed population in the entire United States, when in fact they control the entire debate and all policy outcomes on anything related to guns — or even tangentially related to guns — at the Federal level. This power continues despite gun-owning households being only about a third of households these days, and probably only a fraction of those being hardliner NRA members who oppose any reform except fewer controls.

Things that are now “tyranny” apparently include

  • locking your gun away from children;
  • selling guns with biometric locks;
  • magazine limits;
  • allowing background checks to try to keep legal guns out of irresponsible hands;
  • keeping track of who owns things intended to be used as a deadly weapon like we do for a person’s car, which is not intended as to be used such;
  • doctors asking if you keep a gun in the house because it’s a known health risk factor;
  • restricting general ownership of military-grade firearms designed solely to kill people in combat; etc. etc. etc.

Here’s another question: If widespread anticipatory gun ownership is the only way to avoid or throw off totalitarianism, how did all of the Eastern Bloc countries and the Soviet Union fall apart without a huge shoot-em-up revolution from 1989-1991?

Even in the middle of World War II and just afterward, the Soviets managed to very effectively suppress a vast array of nationalist/partisan revolts against the USSR in the outlying Soviets and occupied satellites (Ukraine, Poland, etc.) even when those people were quite heavily armed. One of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world as measured by sheer number of successful target assassinations was the Western Ukrainian insurrection against the Soviet government after the Nazi withdrawal. Thirty months and 11,725 assassinated Soviet officers, agents and collaborators later, the heavily armed Ukrainian Insurgent Army was ultimately brought down by infiltration, psychological warfare, and their own alienation of the local population. So much for guns saving the day against a totalitarian occupier.

A half century later, the Soviets were brought down by, essentially, bankruptcy and internal political reform. If you want a realistic fantasy of throwing off totalitarianism, it probably won’t look like “Red Dawn.” No, it probably just involves a lot of spreadsheets, endemic corruption, and ill-conceived defense expenditures.

“Joe” the “Plumber” says aloud what the gun fanatics were thinking

Failed Congressional candidate and inexplicable, accidental 2008 presidential campaign star Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher opened his mouth and said some charming things on the UCSB shooting that all of America’s gun fanatics were thinking anyway but didn’t have the national platform to be caught saying:

“But: As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.”
“In conclusion, I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are going through, having had your child taken away from you. However, any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those.”

You’re why we want gun control

The 2nd Amendment hardliners say gun control is the step right before we lose the 1st Amendment Right to Free Speech.

But I’d venture that a bigger threat to Free Speech is this response to pro-gun control arguments: “U should be shot & killed. Hopefully with an unregistered gun. U r a clown.” (One of many messages we’ve already received today at my job.)

So they want to protect the Right to Free Speech by murdering those who speak out for gun control? Seems legit.

If you are about to write out a comment saying that someone who opposes guns or supports gun control deserves to be shot, just understand that you’re making the case for taking away guns from you specifically better than anyone else ever has.