Innocent Man Executed?

Shoot first and ask questions later is bad police policy. Just ask the Brits. Obviously, Jean de Menezes handled the situation poorly and brought unnecessary trouble upon himself. However, that hardly justifies two cops holding him down while a third puts five bullets in his head. This isn’t a case of an innocent suspect being accidentally killed while being subdued during criminal acts. This isn’t like the cases of children with water guns or paintball guns being killed by frightened cops. This was an execution. A man whose guilt in anything had not been established – they merely knew he was "suspicious", belligerent, and fleeing – was caught, immobilized, and executed. There is a fine line between protecting citizens and acting as judge, jury and executioner.

I pray this never happens again.

I’m not holding my breath.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

10 thoughts on “Innocent Man Executed?

  1. Emily

    Yes, but he was suspicious, belligerent and fleeing in a padded fleece coat (despite the warmer weather) into the Underground, which had been bombed two weeks earlier and almost bombed the day before.

    I’m not saying they should have shot him, nor am I saying it’s good policy.
    What I am saying is that I think, in that split second they had to decide, the British police drew the only conclusion they had available to them: This man is dangerous, poses a threat to London commuters, and must be stopped.

    They were wrong, of course.

    Imagine if we’d had air marshals armed with guns on every flight before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Suppose that, a few days after the attacks, on one of the first flights after air traffic was restored, a man in a bulky coat stood up in the back of the plane and started making his way to the cockpit. Suppose that he was glancing around nervously. A flight attendant approaches him: “Can I help you with something?” He says no, and continues toward the cockpit. The air marshal approaches him. The man realizes it’s an air marshal approaching him and begins to run toward the cockpit. The air marshal runs, but can’t catch up to him before he is to reach the cockpit.

    In that split second, the hypothetical air marshal would have to make a decision: Should he shoot the man to prevent the man from possibly hijacking or crashing the plane? The Sept. 11 attacks would be fresh in his mind — he would remember how airplanes were used as bombs. And he would want to do everything in his power to stop that from happening again. So he might decide to shoot. And then, the next day, it might be revealed that the man approaching the cockpit had been mentally ill (and that’s why he was running), but he wasn’t a terrorist. Then what?

    Again, I’m not saying the shooting was justified. It is a tragedy, without question, and policies certainly should be reviewed to prevent such tragedies. I may not agree with the police’s actions, but I understand them. I probably would have drawn the same conclusion about the suspicious man that they did, if I had been in their shoes. (I think many, many people would have thought the same thing.) And if I’d had a gun, who’s to say what I would have done in the name of protecting my fellow citizens?

  2. theomorph

    I agree with Emily. Innocent people, civilized people, people who understand the system know not to run when the police are pursuing. They recognize that they have rights, and they are usually able or willing to assert those rights in the face of potential police error. You can look as guilty as you want, but the moment you run from the police, you’re broadcasting a message: “Either I’m guilty, or I’m stupid.” Either way, I can’t say I harbor much grief for such a person’s departure from this earth.

    What would worry me is if police had said to the man, “Come with us,” if he had come peacefully with no resistance, if they had taken him outside, had him kneel, and shot him in the back of the head. That would be an unambiguous execution.

  3. Funky Dung

    In principle I understand the split-second decision to shoot someone you fear is a terrorist. What I fail to see the need for is five bullets to the head while a man is held down. That sounds more like an act of rage than anything else. Also, if he’s pinned by the other two cops, why must the third shoot him at all? He was apprehended. Where’s the threat? If you’re really worried about him pushing a button or pulling a cord, why not just knock him out or otherwise incapacitate him. If he’s really so dangerous that you must shoot, why shoot five times?

  4. Rob

    “I agree with Emily. Innocent people, civilized people, people who understand the system know not to run when the police are pursuing.”

    Depends on where you’re from. In some parts of Brazil, your only choice is to run. Well, at least if you want to live.

    Were the police identifiable as police?

    And realize: had they found him on the subway looking suspicious, he may have gotten executed anyway.

    Twisted Mind Alert: Do terrorists set things up so that The Powers That Be think some innocent people are guilty, just to watch the mayhem?

    I really wish I didn’t think of stuff like that….

  5. theomorph

    Depends on where you’re from. In some parts of Brazil, your only choice is to run. Well, at least if you want to live.

    Turns out, though, that this was not in “some parts of Brazil,” but in England, of which the unfortunate victim had been a resident for three years. People don’t come to countries like England or the United States because they expect to have to run from authorities.

    And realize: had they found him on the subway looking suspicious, he may have gotten executed anyway.

    Huh? Not likely. Not after he’d been investigated, as happened after he was killed, and they discovered he was innocent.

    This is one of my pet peeves. When you live in a society like this one (U.S.A.), or that in England, you need to know that you have substantial due process rights, and you need to know that you have the right to assert them. As far as I’m concerned, just as ignorance of the law is not a defense, neither should ignorance of your rights be a reason to go acting like a damned fool and running from police. Even if you’re guilty, you will always come out even worse if you run.

    I know it’s harsh, but in my opinion, people who run from the police deserve whatever they get. Think of all the cases of “police brutality” that make the headlines. How many of those people turned themselves over peacefully or otherwise cooperated with authorities? How many of them acted like damned fools and resisted or ran? Certainly, there’s no excuse for excessive force (e.g., five bullets shot into you while two other guys are holding you down), but neither is there any excuse for inflaming the natural instincts of people who are authorized to carry and use firearms.

    Running from police is about as smart as joking about having a bomb in your luggage when you go to the airport. And if behaving like an idiot gets you offed, I can’t say I have a tremendous amount of sympathy. Or any at all, for that matter.

  6. Katolik Shinja

    Re: Innocent people, civilized people, people who understand the system know not to run when the police are pursuing.

    From: Final minutes of the innocent man mistaken for a terrorist:
    “Lee Ruston, 32, who was on the platform, said that he did not hear any of the three shout “police” or anything like it. Mr Ruston, a construction company director, said that he saw two of the officers put on their blue baseball caps marked “police” but that the frightened electrician could not have seen that happen because he had his back to the officers and was running with his head down.

    “Mr Ruston remembers one of the Scotland Yard team screaming into a radio as they were running. Mr Ruston thought the man that they were chasing “looked Asian” as he tumbled on to a waiting Northern Line train.

    “Less than a minute later Mr Menezes was pinned to the floor of the carriage by two men while a third officer fired five shots into the base of his skull.

    “Again, Mr Ruston says that no verbal warning was given.”

  7. Katolik Shinja

    A bit nmore context, from the above article:

    “Another family member said that he had recently been attacked and robbed in that area by a gang of young white men and thought the plain-clothes officers were muggers.”

  8. howard

    I could understand the police officers’ actions if (and only if) they had done what they had in a last resort (i.e. – had no other way to immobilize the suspect). But if they did in fact have him immobilized, what could the possible justification be for shooting a defenseless man in the head?

    And don’t give me the split-second argument; these officers are supposed to be trained professionals — the victim, on the other hand, was not.

    If the news story here goes uncontradicted, this is so much worse than just a regrettable error.

  9. Jordan

    I believe that the police officers were concerned that the man was loaded with plastic explosive which he might be able to somehow detonate even if his hands were pinned. Consider, if he had a wire running to a button on his wrist, and he worked his pinky around to that button, 100 people could die in the train car that day. _That_ is why they shot five bullets to the head; not because they were worried that the man might have been planning a few moments ago to pull out a gun but because they believed that, in the next ten seconds, he was going to detonate a huge bomb.

    I do have a great deal of sympathy for the man who was shot, and was probably just confused; he was from brazil and might not have known why plainclothes policemen were chasing him; perhaps a plainclothesman in Brazil is not quite as nice as one from Britain. Whatever his reasons, he ran, and died. It is a tragedy, even if I do defend the cops’ actions as being understandable, not acts of rage but attempted acts for the defense of the huge crowd packed into the underground car.

  10. Jerry

    And to follow up on Jordan’s comment, they’d aim for the head (even though was immobilized) for fear of detonating any explosives that were on his torso.

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