Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Florida deputies shoot and kill wrong man; claim it was his own fault

UPDATE: See "Florida deputies and Andrew Lee Scott - more news" for the view from August 3rd.

Okay, this really happened.

And there has been no hint of compassion, or regret, or remorse, or personal mortification, or anything from the perpetrators. There has been a heap of justification, of blaming the victim, and perhaps even of cover-up.

Sheriff's deputies in Lake County, Florida, were looking for Jonathan Brown, a suspect in an attempted murder. They got information that he was staying in his apartment in the Blueberry Hills apartment complex, in Leesburg, Florida. So they went there, at 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 15. I guess 1:30 on a Sunday morning is a good time to capture a suspect.

They saw Brown's motorcycle parked in the parking lot, and the engine was still warm. They could have staked out the place, and waited 5 or 6 hours for the suspect to appear, and then taken him with a minimum of disturbance to anybody. But oh, no. They got excited. It reminds me of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Disney's Robin Hood: "This time, we got him fer sure!"

So they knocked on the door of apartment 114, the apartment right in front of the motorcycle. Okay, I guess it's a logical assumption to make, right? What a stupid assumption! Sometimes, when you come home after work, somebody else is already parked in front of your apartment, so you park somewhere else. Or you live on the second floor so you park somewhere at random. Or you know the cops are after you, so you try to throw them off your scent, just a little bit. Anyway, they had his address, right down to the apartment number, and it wasn't apartment 114.

(It turns out that Brown was in the adjacent building, where he was arrested shortly after this incident concluded — without deputies banging on his door.)

So, yeah. They knocked. At 1:30 in the morning. According to some witness reports, there was no answer, so they knocked repeatedly. According to other witnesses, they didn't knock; they BANGED, POUNDED, loudly enough to wake other residents. Then they kicked the door open and went inside. Without ever announcing themselves.

Now, imagine what was going on inside the apartment. The resident, who, by the way, is not Jonathan Brown, but a perfectly harmless and innocent man named Andrew Lee Scott, is startled awake by someone knocking on his door in the middle of the night. He sits bolt upright in bed, wondering what's going on and waiting to see if whoever it is knocks a second time.

Fearing that it might be a burglar, he grabs the gun he keeps — legally — for self-defense, and creeps towards the front door, ready to defend himself and his family. There's a third knock at the door, and then the door comes flying open. Acting in self-defense, he raises the gun and points it at the intruders who come bursting through the door.

Now we go back to the deputies' side of the story. After they kicked open the door and entered the apartment, they saw someone pointing a gun at them. Gee. Imagine that. In a state with the famous "Stand Your Ground" law, and after they had busted down his door without saying that they were cops.

So they reacted the way any cop would do, when faced with the business end of a gun. They shot him. Cops are trained not to shoot unless they intend to kill, and these cops thought they were facing a murder suspect.

But they shot him four times.

It only takes one bullet to bring someone down. The rest were excessive, panic shots, the result of poor training. (At least it wasn't as bad as the cops in New York City in February 1999, who killed an unarmed immigrant named Amadou Diallo, in the entrance to his own apartment building. At nearly point-blank range, four cops fired 41 shots at him, hitting him with 19 bullets. They were acquitted at trial.)

Still, these Lake County deputies squeezed off four shots, when one would have been sufficient.

After the guy was down, deputies realized they had the wrong man. Andrew Lee Scott was not the man they were looking for. So what did they do next? They conducted an illegal, warrantless search of his apartment. According to their report, they found "drugs and drug paraphernalia," which items they used to justify their illegal entry.

I don't know a state in the Union where possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia justifies a cop shooting you to death. And even if he'd only been wounded, and they had decided to arrest him for the drugs, the charges would have been thrown out of court because of the illegal search. There was no warrant, and no probable cause.

Lt. John Herrell, a Lake County Sheriff's Department spokesman, said "When we knocked on the door, the door opened and the occupant of that apartment was pointing a gun at deputies and that's when we opened fire and killed him." There's a bit of disagreement on this statement. First, I don't know who this "we" is, or whether Herrell was one of the three deputies involved in the incident. Second, news reports don't agree on whether, as Herrell stated, the deputies knocked, the door opened, and the "occupant" was there with a gun pointed at them. Some witnesses saw the kind of damage to the door frame that only happens when a door is kicked in. Other accounts of the event say that the deputies were inside the apartment when the "occupant" confronted them. And other accounts, which must be from the deputies themselves, vary as to whether the gun was pointed at them, or simply in the victim's (or "occupant's") hand.

Like I said, it's a cover-up. Or it will be a cover-up, unless FDLE can move fast enough.

And here's the best part of the whole thing: the sheriff's department lays all the blame on the victim. Herrell said: "It's just a bizarre set of circumstances. The bottom line is, you point a gun at a deputy sheriff or police officer, you're going to get shot."  Apparently, that's true even if the cops come busting into your house without saying a word to you at 1:30 in the morning, with their own guns drawn and ready to fire.

(This should remind you of yet another incident, in November 2006, when Atlanta cops conducted a no-knock raid on a house whose only resident was an 92-year-old woman. They rushed into her bedroom, where she fired one shot at them from an old "rusty revolver," and they fired back. They fired 39 shots, killing her with 5 or 6 bullets and wounding each other with the rest. They planted three bags of marijuana in her house to recover as "evidence." They were convicted at trial.)

Not a word has been said about Andrew Lee Scott's mother, wife, girlfriend, or other family members. Scott was 26 years old. Somebody's got to love him and miss him. The sheriff's office has not made any (published) statement of condolences to his family, or regret for the unfortunate incident. All we have gotten from them, through the media, is a weak "Well, it was his own fault." And now that they're under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, they're not saying anything.

Please don't get me wrong: I'm not pro-drug or anti-police. In fact, thanks to the antics of Our Neighbor From Hell, we have become closely acquainted with, and are on good terms with, our local police department. However, we are thousands of miles from Florida, thankfully, and we will never have to deal with Lake County's style of "to protect and to serve."

Let's summarize a few things:
1. They decided to make a move on this guy at 1:30 in the morning. If they weren't cops, the move they were contemplating would be called "breaking and entering" at the least, and a "home invasion" at the worst.
2. They went to the wrong address. They saw the motorbike and jumped to an erroneous conclusion, even though they had the correct address in their hands. By the way, that was simultaneously a perfectly logical and stupid-beyond-common-sense conclusion.
3. They didn't announce who they were. If someone knocks on my door at 1:30 in the morning and doesn't say anything, they had better tell me who they are, or I'll be in fear of my life, too.
5. They bashed in the door and entered the apartment, according to some accounts.
6. They shot more than once.
7. After they realized their mistake, they searched the apartment.
8. They justified their actions, and they blamed the victim.
9. The sheriff's office is circling the wagons, and refusing to acknowledge possible errors in judgment or training.
10. The sheriff's office is not showing an ounce of sympathy for the victim or his family, and no compassion for anyone but their own people.

I do not advocate any kind of citizen retaliation against the deputies involved in this unfortunate incident. You will notice that I haven't mentioned them by name, even though their names and a great deal of other information about them is available on the Internet. The Internet today is too full of haters and kooks, who would make life miserable for these officers and for their families. That's not the way Drew would want to be memorialized, and I don't think he would advocate that kind of behavior. One innocent life has been destroyed already; let's not hurt anybody else, okay?

UPDATE: See "Florida deputies and Andrew Lee Scott - more news" for the view from August 3rd.


Richard Howie said...

I was one of Drew's coworkers, and I'd like everyone to know he was not a violent person. He was a great friend and everyone that knew him will miss him tremendously. We love you Drew.

Anonymous said...

My husband worked with Drew (as hes known to friends) and I just wanted to say Thank you. You are the first person to post something logical. Thank you for stating the obvious. And you can bet your bottom I would answer the door the same way. He was a very kind person. The cops here seem to let the gun and badge go to their heads. If I speed I get a ticket. They fly down my street NO lights No sirens. They took a sweet and loving person away and dont seem sorry in the least. My family will be moving out of the state of FL asap.

Amanda said...

What happened to this man is horrible and it is always sad to see someone lose their life without cause. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to those who knew him and will miss him greatly.

However, as someone who has had some LE training, I can see the deputies side of things. I'd be happy to talk to you in person about it. I don't necessarily agree with their actions or their comments, but I can see it from their point of view.

I also don't necessarily think news reports are a super legit source...I stopped watching the news completely because they tend to bend things as much as they can to make cops look bad. I've seen events while out with LE officers and have read the story in the newspaper or seen it on the news the next day and it's completely twisted; completely false accusations about things I've seen with my own eyes.

Zyzmog said...

Amanda, thanks for writing in. I do agree with you about news reports not being a reliable source for facts. When I first heard about this incident, I read a lot of different reports about it, trying to distill the real story. I've pointed out some insconsistencies and conflicting reports in my write-up.

I'd like to hear what you have to say about it, too - over ice cream sundaes or something like that.

I can understand why the deputies shot him when they did. What makes this such a tragedy is that it didn't have to happen, and that the victim didn't do anything wrong.

Just to clarify for all of my other readers: remember, I'm not anti-cop. I tried to make that clear in my original article. I'm just anti-stupid.

FLMomma said...

Police, not all mind you, think little of us sheep,as one officer said. I stumbled upon a cop site. They are not making things any better. Policeone.com The cops have changed the door opening 4 times now according to the news. But one question on the latest one. He flung the door open....if the door was flung open, why is there 5 shots to the door with one in the frame? They never ran the tag number. Every cop has a sholder radio, one in his car, and a computer. Plus this time they had a dog. None of them were used. I get a knock on my door at that time of night and I have a weapon of some kind with me. Should I now fear the cops here? No. I won't give them that type of power over me. I have 3 children and I WILL protect them at All cost! I was at the protest and the candle vigil. The cops never told him to drop his weapon. They open fired. They are in the wrong. Knowing Drew he never would have had his gun if they said who they were.