leagle.com provides us with a story of a “crime prevention-specialist” who had no idea what to do when experiencing an actual crime. Here are the facts of the case, with my analysis:
On a March 2008 morning the two public officers were driving through a Rancho Cordova neighborhood conducting an interagency program known as “Blight Busters,” one purpose of which was the identification of code violations. Their truck had magnetic emblems for the City of Rancho Cordova on its doors.
Houston, we have a problem . . .
“Blight Busters” is an obvious euphemism for “City Inspectors Causing Trouble.” When you cause trouble don’t be surprised when it finds you. So why is one of these two public officers a “crime-prevention specialist” instead of, say, a cop? What does “crime prevention” have to do with building code violations? The city’s website explains . . .
The Blight Buster campaign is an integral part of our Growing Strong Neighborhoods project,” said David Sander, Rancho Cordova Council Member. “Our goal is to identify and correct blight and nuisances that can impact safety and property values.”
During their visit, Blight Busters will be on the lookout for visible junk and rubbish, non-operative or unregistered vehicles on streets or vehicles parked on driveways and lawns, illegal home businesses, and unlicensed animals. They will also be looking for construction without permits and health and safety violations.
Like I said, they were out looking for trouble. It arrived on two wheels.
They stopped in a small, five-house cul-de-sac to examine a house with a large shed built next to a fence, which was a possible violation of setback requirements. When they returned to their truck to drive out of the cul-de-sac, there was a motorcyclist at the entrance looking at them. (The code inspector had noticed a motorcycle following the truck earlier.) The motorcyclist passed them, made a U-turn behind them, and stopped.
So the code inspector was aware that he was being tailed by a motorcycle—and didn’t keep on driving? Any code inspector with more than one day on the job would know that his is an occupation with more than its fair share of highly charged “conversations.” In other words, he’s a target. When biker boy—who’d been shadowing them—passed their vehicle, turned around and stopped, it was time to go.
When the motorcyclist parked between two cars, the crime-prevention specialist got out of the truck and approached him to explain why they were there and give him her card. The motorcyclist, whom she identified at trial as defendant, asked if she lived in the area. She told him that she did not and asked if there was anything with which she could help him.
It seems the inspector wasn’t such an idiot after all. He stayed in the truck and let his well-intentioned colleague be the point-person in what was obviously going to be a confrontation.
I would have loved to have heard the crime-prevention officer’s “explanation” for their presence. I’ll bet it was a bunch of PC planner-speak, perfect for antagonizing someone who hates the government.
The initial interchange should have set off alarm bells. How many Deliverance-style movies do you have to see before you realize that “You ain’t from around here are you?” is a prelude to violence? Her “Can I help you?” reply was a clear attempt to pull rank on the guy holding the helmet calling her a stranger in these parts. How dumb is that?
He once again asked if she lived in the area, then said that he knew where she lived and where she slept at night. The code inspector, hearing these remarks, told her that they should leave. The crime-prevention specialist, who was feeling afraid, raised her hands and backed away, telling defendant to have a nice day. She wrote down the motorcycle’s license plate number.
Ask any cop: a failure to move a conversation forward is a clear sign that a person is locked in some sort of interior psychodrama. More alarms.
We know nothing of the motorcyclist’s body language, but I’ll bet you there was plenty of evidence that he was preparing for action. Twitching. Shifting around. Looking around. Adrenalin will do that to a guy.
“I know where you live”? Holy ‘effing excrement, definitely time to leave. As the code inspector pointed out. The crime-prevention officer’s hand raise and rearward retreat was not the best way to exit, stage right. It’s a passive gesture, indicating weakness. Entirely understandable BUT—
It’s far better to issue a loud verbal warning to a potential aggressor—“BACK OFF”—and walk away sideways as fast as you possibly can, keeping your eyes on the potential perp. At this point, you need distance. As much distance as possible. As quickly as possible.
“Have a nice day?” Didn’t Michael Douglas go ballistic when a McDonald’s employee said the same thing? I’m sure there are more antagonistic parting remarks, but most them involve swear words.
At that point, it was past time to leave. Standing outside the truck writing down the motorcycle’s license plate number in front of the biker? Red rag to a psychotic bull.
Defendant drove his motorcycle to the entrance of the cul-de-sac, where he parked it and dismounted. He approached the truck holding a gun. The crime-prevention specialist was still standing outside, attempting to contact a deputy on her cell phone about defendant. He pointed the gun at the crime-prevention specialist’s head, pulled back on the slide to chamber a round, and had his finger on the trigger.
Airplane crashes are almost always the result of compound errors. One mistake wouldn’t have caused the crash. A series of blunders triggers the tragedy.
In this case, the crime-prevention specialist should have got in the truck as quickly as possible and left the scene. When the defendant approached the truck with the gun, she should have either positioned the truck between herself and the perp or simply run like hell.
Is it possible she didn’t see him? I can think of no good reason for the crime preventer to have let her eventual attacker out of her sight for a femtosecond, but anything’s possible. As for the code inspector, perhaps he should have had a quick word with his colleague. Something along the lines of GET IN THE TRUCK NOW!
One wonders how far the gun was from her head. Once you’ve lost the chance to run, the closer the gun to your body the better. If it’s within striking distance, strike! It doesn’t take much to push the barrel off target. Which you really should do if someone is about to blow your brains out.
You don’t need me to tell you that. It’s standard self-defense stuff. Of course, the city of Rancho Cordova would never hire a “crime-prevention specialist” without making sure she’d had proper police training before hitting the streets. That would be incredibly irresponsible.
And yet when faced with a deadly threat, she did sweet FA.
She saw him chamber a round three or four times, which indicated to her that he had in fact pulled the trigger but the gun had not worked. She backed up to the rear of the truck. Defendant asked her why she had been at his house. To her knowledge, they had not previously encountered him. The code inspector got out of the truck at this point and intercepted defendant, telling defendant, “I’m the one you want.”
If a perp is having trouble with his gun, God is telling you “I’m going to give you one last chance.” Again, fight or run. Backing up? Engaging in conversation? Not so much. Maybe not at all.
Question: why didn’t the code inspector run over the motorcyclist back when he had the chance? Anyway, I know his colleague had hoisted herself by her own petard, but c’mon. A little help here?
Offering yourself as a sacrificial lamb is so Hollywood, and so not it. Again, it’s a passive move in a situation screaming out for overwhelming aggression.
Why would a deranged man make any distinction between one government employee and another? (Hey, he had her card.) I’d bet you dollars to donuts that if the perp’s gun had worked, he would have shot BOTH of them.
Defendant told the code inspector to put his hands on the hood of the truck. Defendant pressed the gun against the code inspector’s head and accused him of having been in defendant’s back yard. The code inspector offered his badge to defendant, and told him he had the authority to inspect yards (although he had not in fact been in any back yards that day).
Same mistakes again. Gun near head, attack! And if you’re going to negotiate with a man holding a gun against your head—who just tried to shoot your colleague—pulling rank is not the recommended procedure. Especially as it didn’t work before.
What, pray tell, was the crime-prevention officer doing at this time? So much for crime prevention.
Warning defendant that he was in a lot of trouble, the code inspector told him that the police were on their way and defendant should leave. Backing off while still pointing his gun, defendant said this was the code inspector’s lucky day and drove off on his motorcycle. The public officers identified him about 90 minutes later when defendant was arrested at his home (where defendant attempted to keep them from seeing his face).
The defendant was not wrong. If not for a mechanical malfunction, the code inspector would have been lying on the pavement in that quite cul-de-sac, dead as a doornail.
Moral of this story: prepare, stay aware and get the fuck out of there. If not, fight for your life. Remember: wolves tear sheep to pieces.