Saturday, October 21, 2006

Family panicked by armed raid, another error.

A.J. Nuckols wrote a letter to the Star-Tribune, a local newspaper in Chatham, Virginia. So what makes the letter worthy of mention?

Mr. Nuckols recounts what happened to him and his family by the out-of-control police. He is a local farmer, his wife teaches school and he has three children. He describes his family as church going, hard working and law abiding.

“On Saturday morning, Sept. 23, 2006, many police vehicles appeared in our driveway. Men in black with flak jackets rant to and around our house. My wife was at home alone, I drove up and asked, “What’s going on?”

“Men ran at me, dropped into shooting position, double-handed semi-automatic pistols pointed at me, and made me put my hands against my truck. I was held at gunpoint, searched, taunted and led into the house. I had no idea what this was about. I was scared beyond description. I feared there had been a murder and I was a suspect.”

He and his wife were interrogated (anyone want to bet the police did not mention a thing called their Miranda rights?). This excessive show of force was not over some violent crime. Nor was it even over something as violent as pot smoking -- the usual excuse for these trigger-happy thugs. It was for “internet crime”.

Neither Nuckols or his wife really use the internet and and say they don’t even have an email address. Then the police began questioning them about their children. Nuckols says he began to doubt his own children under the barrage of questions.

Their computer, cameras, DVDs and video tapes were grabbed by the police. He and his wife were held at gunpoint for five hours until their kids came home and the police began questioning the children. “It was awful. We were accused of horrible crimes, crimes that even the mention of would ruin our reputations.”

A month later, and I think they were lucky the state moved this quickly, all their possessions were returned. They were told that the wrong IP address had been identified. Again a peaceful family had armed men pulling loaded weapons on innocent people over yet another police error. Should people this incompetent be allowed to carry weapons?

Nuckols wrote: “Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Department, Bedford County Sheriff's Department and Blue Ridge Thunder invaded our peaceful lives with military force based on one piece of wrong digital information.” The group with the military sounding awe and shock name, Blue Ridge Thunder, is a new program of “to safeguard our children from internet crime by ‘weaving a seamless web of protection’ around them, across the nation and around the globe.”

One would not think that the local sheriff’s office in Bedford County did not have the authority to weave protection “across the nation and around the globe” but I guess they have visions of grandeur. Now I have have to wonder about the ‘seamless web of protection” for the three Nuckols children? Did they feel safer coming home and having armed men holding their parents hostage and interrogating them?

(The "photo" on the right is how the Blue Ridge Thunder show their staff on their website. I presume this is to give them an air of mystery and strike terror into the hearts of criminals. Except on their media page they have photos of the same people. Maybe it was another error.)

Blue Ridge Thunder says they “apprehend perpetrators, protect potential victims, and educate parents, teachers and children...” Oh, yes. That day these armed clowns apprehended innocent people, and turned the Nuckols children into victims. But they sure made good on one thing: they gave these parents, one even a teacher, and these children an education they will never forget.

Blue Ridge Thunder even has a list of media coverage on their web site. They fail to mention any articles about the botched raid on the Nuckols home. In fact the only publicity for all of 2006 they mention was a plaque they received from the federal government. They even show a picture of one of their smiling officers holding the plaque with two men standing next to them. The three men are identified by four names in the caption. I guess the fourth is “undercover” since he’s invisible in the photo. Or perhaps they just got the wrong photo as well.

Nuckols has the right to be angry. How easily can things go wrong and someone get killed. It doesn’t take much for error prone cops in the heat of an armed attack to rush into a house, break in is usually the tactic, and mistake an innocent movement as “going for a weapon” and someone with a remote control in their hand lies on the floor dead.

Take just one such case to see how easily this happens. Erdman Bascomb was sitting at home watching television when police crashed through his apartment door. Bascomb was on the couch with the TV remote control in his hand. A police officer saw the remote and shot Bascomb to death thinking it was a weapon. Police where there on a drug raid but no drugs were found.

Nuckols writes: “The investigators did not do their jobs. They did not even know that we had children. Incompetence? Apathy? Do these computer police have too much power? No innocent United States citizen should be subjected to this based on so little evidence. Inexcusable. Civil rights laws have been established to protect the innocent. Our ancestors fought and died for these rights.”

Nuckols seems to think the Constitution matters. He even quotes it. He seems to think that the armed invasion of his home, based on “one bit of incorrect evidence was totally unreasonable.” He seems to think he still lives in what used to be called the United States of America. Those are noble ideals but the America he believes in stopped existing a long time ago. The idea of limited government, well, only lunatics believe in that anymore. This is the aqe of warrantless searchers, suspension of habeus corpus, and a Fourth Amendment that has been stripped of any recognizable features. This is George Bush’s America. Don’t expect to find any vestiges of Thomas Jefferson floating around.

Certainly giving the local Barney Fife military weapons is a major mistake. And this overwhelming show of force that police now use for the most routine of matters is going to get many more innocent people killed. Perhaps only the deaths of more cops in situations where no death should have been necessary will be the only thing to get the power-mad bureaucrats to rethink their militarization of the police. Unfortunately the police tend to go in with body armour and innocent civilians, often not even knowing that what is happening is a police raid, are the ones who end up dead. But in Bush speak that’s called “collateral damage” and no one really worries about that anymore. If you do you’re just unpatriotic.