No matter what you believe as to whether or not Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting 18 year old Michael Brown on August 9, it is important to know the details of what generated much of the bitterness leading up to the shooting and subsequent riots that occurred there. Despite nearly non-stop coverage for months, national news media “talking heads” have largely suppressed the details about a key event that led to the shooting and mass local unrest.
That event happened in broad daylight on June 12, 2000 in nearby Berkeley when three undercover law enforcement agents fired 21 bullets into a car at a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant, killing its unarmed occupants, Earl Murray and Ronald Beasley. Beasley was an auto repair shop manager and father of three children. Murray’s widow, Virgieann, was left to raise four daughters and a step son on her own.
The parking lot was the horrendous scene of another classic undercover drug bust that went wrong. The first problem was that there was no drug deal. Murray had been targeted after he was convicted twice for victimless crimes, once for a drug charge and another for firearms possession. Beasley had no criminal record and thus, his “crime” was being in the same car with Murray.
A second problem occurred when 3 of the 13 law enforcement officers at the scene, including the two shooters, claimed that Murray’s parked car was moving forward and they opened fire because they felt threatened by it. Their claims were contradicted by fellow officers, eyewitnesses and an investigation that showed Murray’s car was in reverse. It could not move because it was blocked by a police car.
The third and foremost problem is that even if there had been a drug deal it did not justify murdering unarmed men who were minding their own business in broad daylight. St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch refused to prosecute Detective Robert Piekutowski and Drug Enforcement Agent (DEA) Keith Kierzkowski for the deaths. He justified his refusal with his opinion of Murray and Beasley: “These guys were bums.” McCulloch seemed unaware that the bill of attainder clause in Article I Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits any government agent from being the judge, jury and executioner of an American. He also seemed unaware that in America, even “bums” have Constitutional protection.
When the grand jury declined to indict the officers, critics contended that McCulloch withheld all independent evidence from the jury. He was also the same prosecutor when evidence was presented to the grand jury in the recent Ferguson case and the jury declined to indict Wilson. In that case, critics contend that McCulloch’s Assistant, Kathi Alizadeh, gave the grand jury a copy of Missouri Statue 563.046 which contained language that had already been ruled unconstitutional by Tennessee v. Garner in 1985. Days later when she was asked point blank by a grand juror if the U.S. Supreme Court had overridden the law she said: “Don’t worry about it…” Her dishonest court action and McCulloch’s failure to uphold the law in the Berkeley case warrants the prosecution of these two prosecutors.
The Berkeley case is eerily similar to the New York shooting death of 23 year-old Sean Bell who was gunned down years later on November 25, 2006. In that case, undercover agents from the New York Police Department (NYPD) fired about 50 bullets into Bell’s car, killing him and permanently injuring his two passengers. Bell, a former star high school baseball pitcher, was leaving his own bachelors party after midnight at a New York club where his friends and father were in attendance. He had a three year old daughter and was scheduled to marry her mother on the same day of his death. Once again, there were no drugs and the victims were unarmed. The families of those victims eventually received over $7 million in taxpayer funded settlements from the NYPD. The families of Beasley and Murray received nothing after a wrongful death lawsuit for the Beasley family was dismissed by Judge Richard Webber.
Just recently on May 28, 2014 in my home state of Georgia, a 19-month-old toddler, Bou Bou Phonesavanh, was nearly killed in an unwarranted drug raid at a Habersham County home. Police used a no-knock warrant and hurled a flash-bang grenade that landed in his crib. Once again, there were no drugs and no armed occupants. A Georgia SWAT team also shot and killed an armed homeowner during a September 24 drug raid sparked by the word of a self-confessed meth addict and burglar who had robbed the property the previous day in East Dublin, GA. No drugs were found. David Hooks, 59, became the 34th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.
These violent taxpayer funded attacks on unarmed citizens were conducted by the very people we entrust to protect us. They are all obvious examples of violations to the clear plain text in the 4th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That amendment is supposed to protect Americans against unreasonable search and seizure. Instead of protecting the citizenry, these agents consistently conduct murderous raids and commit far more heinous crimes than anything their victims are accused of doing.
The solution to the problem is relatively simple. Federal, state and local law enforcement must honor the U.S. Constitution and abide by their oaths. If they had done so, Murray, Beasley and Bell could be alive today raising their children. Michael Brown may have then had more respect for Officer Darren Wilson and Wilson would have had less cause to shoot Brown. In that case, all of the burned down businesses on S. Florissant Rd. in Ferguson would still be standing today.
But it is unlikely that our enforcement and judicial officers will ever hold themselves and their fellow officials accountable to the law and their Constitutional oaths. Government agents now even use sting operations to create crimes that don’t actually exist. Too many federal, state and local officials are determined to continue tearing down the principles of individual liberty upon which America was based and replace them with a totalitarian police state that most Americans despise. Until these same officials are committed to stopping unconstitutional drug raids, taxpayer funded murders of unarmed citizens and prosecutorial cover-ups, the vicious cycle we witnessed again in Ferguson may continue indefinitely.
AUTHORS HISTORICAL NOTE: At the time that Beasley and Murray were killed by a detective and DEA agent, Asa Hutchinson was the head of the DEA. In 1982, Hutchinson had become the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas which included the town of Mena. Shortly thereafter, Barry Seal, the infamous drug runner and CIA operative, moved his home base of operations there. Seal began drug operations from Mena in 1983 when Bill Clinton became governor.
Asa’s background and connections are perhaps best explained by Mara Leveritt, in her book “The Boys on the Tracks”. That book chronicles the dramatic deaths of two teenagers, Kevin Ives and Don Henry, who stumbled across a government run drug operation one night in 1987. Evidence strongly indicates that those teenagers were likely killed by police officers who provided security for the drug operation.