It began last weekend with the slaying of a female ranger at Mount Rainier National Park and it ended yesterday with the suicide of a veteran Seattle police officer on the wrong end of a drug investigation and the aftermath questions that always accompany stories about “dirty cops.”
Somewhere in the middle of the mayhem, the small voices whisper that life will go on, and that humans are pretty resilient. Mostly, they tell us to learn something that may help prevent a rerun.
From all indications, Ranger Margaret Anderson never had a chance, and nobody in her position under the same set of circumstances would have had a chance. The shooting that took her life happened fast; too fast to react. Even Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer noted that during a press briefing down the road from where Anderson died.
The feeble attempt to blame the 20-month-old statute that allows private citizens to carry loaded firearms in national parks was met with righteous indignation. Even one opponent of the guns-in-parks law, as reported by this column, acknowledged that if the prohibition on guns was still in effect, it would have made no difference to the presumed killer, Benjamin Carlton Barnes.
Bill Wade, the outgoing chair of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, said Congress should be regretting its decision to allow loaded weapons in national parks. He called Sunday’s fatal shooting a tragedy that could have been prevented. He hopes Congress will reconsider the law that took effect in early 2010, but doubts that will happen in today’s political climate.—Fox News
A memorial service for Anderson is scheduled next Tuesday, Jan. 10 at Pacific Lutheran University. Meanwhile, the benefit fund raising effort by local firearms activists for Anderson’s family – she leaves behind two very young daughters and a husband – continues here.
Anderson’s death was bad emotionally for Washington’s law enforcement community, but nobody could have foreseen just how bad things can be until they got worse.
And that brings us around to Seattle Police officer Richard F. Nelson, a 21-year veteran of the force, respected and with lots of friends. There were reports in the Seattle Times, on-line Seattle P-I, KING and KOMO. Only the Times chose to withhold its public comment section due to the “sensitive nature” of the story.
Arrested late Wednesday night on drug charges, Nelson – husband and father of two daughters – was booked into the King County Jail early Thursday morning and released about 30 minutes later without bail. According to at least one newspaper account and the Seattle Police Blotter:
“Nelson wasn’t afforded any more lenient or severe treatment because of his status as a police officer.”
That’s not entirely accurate. He was driven home by a police commander.
However, a check with the King County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that Nelson’s in-and-out of jail process was “pretty routine” for a first-time drug suspect.
There has been some talk about Nelson’s access to firearms after his badge and department-issue sidearm were taken. What’s to discuss? According to sources in law enforcement, a mere arrest does not automatically give police the authority to walk into someone’s private residence and start grabbing private property, including firearms. There has to be probable cause, there must be affidavits and statements by investigators and there must be a request for a search warrant – and the warrant must be issued – before anyone knocks on or kicks in a door.
Nelson was found at about 11 a.m. Thursday lying near a popular hiking trail on the north end of Rattlesnake Lake, about four miles southeast from North Bend, suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He died at about 3:30 that afternoon.
In the wake of this event, some people were calling for Chief John Diaz’ resignation. Why? Seattle police sources tell this column, and Diaz even said during Thursday’s press conference, that he authorized the investigation last year. Wednesday night’s culmination was the climax.
Why should Diaz step down for doing that?
Diaz personally drove to Issaquah to meet with Nelson’s family, which must have been one of the hardest things he ever did.
Some treat this case as if it were a Seattle police problem. Wrong, again. In any professional endeavor, there will be people who break the rules. Police work isn’t immune, anywhere on the map. Recall that last year, several former New Orleans police officers were convicted in the killing and cover-up of slayings in the days after Hurricane Katrina.
Here’s a story out of Kansas City, MO that broke during the holidays:
The Wyandotte County Prosecutor’s Office has charged a Kansas City, Kan., police officer in connection with a Christmas Day disturbance.
Officer Michael Mills, 32, a veteran of the police department since 2003 and a member of the department’s tactical SCORE team, was charged with aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle.
According to prosecutors, Mills fired shots into a car in the 3800 block of North 112th Terrace between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on the morning of Dec. 25.—KMBC News
Then there was this little misadventure from last July in Baltimore, MD:
A Baltimore City police officer was arrested and charged Tuesday with leading a heroin distribution operation, including allegations that he arranged drug transactions while on duty and met conspirators in the parking lot of his district station, records show.
The officer, Daniel G. Redd, 41, was taken into custody Tuesday at the Northwest District police station, officials said. Several law enforcement sources say Redd had been under suspicion for years, but within the past six months city police asked the FBI to investigate.—Baltimore Sun
And before we wrap things up, this tidbit from Orlando, FL in November explains better than this column that police, like any profession, will try to find the bad apples and deal with them:
The chief of the Orlando Police Department said an 11-year veteran of the force was arrested for buying drugs.
During a press conference Friday night, Chief Paul Rooney said Jaime Bridges, 34, bought oxycodone while on duty.
Earlier in the week, OPD staged a controlled buy with Bridges as the target. She bought pills on East Colonial from an informant, he said.—WKMG News
Wasn’t it the late Jack Webb, who dead-panned his way through the 1950s and 60s as Sgt. Joe Friday of the Los Angeles Police Department, who once said during one of his famous monologues that the trouble with police is that you have to pick them from the human race?
Here’s a little vintage Webb to sharpen your own perspective.
This promises to be an interesting, and even exciting year, but it is definitely off to a very crummy start.
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