License to Kill, Part II
By Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Last week, I recounted the tale of how David Aguilar, a 44-year old veteran from Tucson, Ariz., came to be shot to death on his own property by an undercover drug cop, who has not been charged with any crime as of this writing.
We then prepared to deal with the case of Ralph Garrison, 69, a video store owner from Albuquerque, N.M., who dialed 911 before dawn on Dec. 16, 1996 when a gang of black-clad men started breaking into his rental property next door, using sledge hammers and axes.
On Dec. 18, the daily Albuquerque Journal printed a transcript of that 911 call. I delete some repetitions and pauses:
Garrison: "They're breaking into my house -- a whole bunch of people. ... Please hurry up."
"How are they trying to get in?"
"Oh, they're breaking in with uh, axes and all kinds of stuff. ... Please. I've got a gun. I'm gonna go up there and shoot them."
"OK. Stay on the phone with me. I'm getting somebody out there, OK?"
Reporter Jeff Jones, of the Journal, writes that Garrison's voice was "filled with fear and panic" as he described lights being shined in his eyes, and insisted he had no idea who the invaders were.
"Please hurry up. Please hurry up," Garrison says. "I'm gonna go out there now."
"Can you take the phone with you?"
"OK. Take the phone with you."
As Garrison moves toward his back door, his dog begins barking, and he complains he still can't see what's going on because of lights shining in his face. "I've got my gun," he says. "I'll shoot the sons of bitches."
Police report that Albuquerque Police Officer H. Neal Terry and county deputies James Monteith and Erik Little -- displaying no badges, dressed in unmarked dark SWAT gear and possibly wearing their black hoods pulled down over their faces -- saw Garrison come to his back door with a gun in one hand, a cellular phone in the other. All three officers opened fire with their AR-15 assault rifles, discharging at least 12 rounds.
Police Chief Joe Polisar said it isn't department policy to notify 911 dispatchers before serving a warrant -- in this case one under which police hoped to find "counterfeit items including checks, driver's licenses and birth certificates."
Garrison was not suspected in connection with the "fake ID" ring. No one was arrested that day. Local papers were not told whether any false documents were found.
Officers did find it necessary to shoot and kill Garrison's Chow dog, when the animal tried to protect his master after he was down.
Garrison's wife, Modesta, was inside the home at the time police killed him.
Albuquerque police officer Howard Neal Terry, one of the three "lawmen" involved, has been a defendant in three federal excessive-force lawsuits in the past six years, the local daily reports. The city of Albuquerque has paid more than $375,000 to settle the three lawsuits.
In one case, Terry kicked an unarmed man in the head, causing permanent brain damage, and then contended the 64-year-old Mexican man "resisted arrest." In another case, the city argued (before paying up) that another Mexican man, whose home Officer Terry has invaded, was responsible for his own injuries since he failed to obey the officer's orders. In March 1993, Terry was one of two officers involved in the fatal shooting of Randy Libby, a 30-year-old man who supposedly threatened them with a locomotive-shaped cologne bottle. The city paid off the Libby family to the tune of $100,000.
Polisar and County Sheriff Joe Bowdich said they believe the officers shot Garrison in accordance with departmental policies.
The officers "couldn't look into his heart and mind," Polisar said. "They simply had to make a split-second decision."
Why do I doubt that if Mr. Garrison had shot and killed the deputies, Sheriff Polisar would be holding a similar press conference to explain why Mr. Garrison was not being charged with any crime, since "He could not look into the hearts and minds of the unidentified, black-clad men brandishing AR-15s at him on his own property. He simply had to make a split-second decision"?
# # #
Pro-government extremists will argue that, in each case, if these citizens had docilely allowed armed strangers to have their way, they might still be alive.
But this does not constitute a rebuttal to my contention that we are now living in a police state. Rather, it merely constitutes advice on how we might behave if we hope to survive a little longer in a police state.
The Jews of Eastern Europe figured their best course was to passively obey the authorities in 1942. We all know where that got them.
Our judges are now issuing search warrants which allow police to invade private property without notice, and murder any law-abiding citizen they find there, on as flimsy a pretext as "searching for fake ID."
The mistake made by David Aguilar and Ralph Garrison was not in taking up arms to defend their homes, families, and neighborhoods. That is the right of every American.
They made their mistakes when they allowed themselves to be outgunned, when they failed to wear Kevlar, and when they decided to confront their violent assailants directly, rather than waiting with longer-range weapons in positions of concealment.
The people will re-learn these lessons eventually ... if only through genetic selection.
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
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