Coda to a Killing: No Justice for Derek Hale

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The practice
of police “accountability” generally consists of using money stolen
at gunpoint to buy off victims and survivors of officially sanctioned
criminal violence.

Few better
examples can be found than the
$975,000 settlement paid by the City of Wilmington, Delaware, to
Elaine Hale, whose husband Derek was murdered by Wilmington Police
on November 6, 2006
.

The settlement
brings to an end a
federal lawsuit
that was scheduled for trial next July — more
than four years after Derek, a Marine veteran who served two tours
in Iraq, was shot three times at point-blank range after being tasered
seven times within the space of about a minute. Unarmed and cooperative,
Derek was not a criminal suspect and had done nothing to justify
arrest, let alone summary execution.

Pay-offs of
this kind are part of a ritual of self-exculpation in which the
police and the local criminal clique they serve loudly proclaim
their complete innocence, even as their cynical actions offer eloquent
testimony of their guilt. William S. Montgomery, one of the palace
eunuchs who serve Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker, performed his
role perfectly.

“We were very
confident in our case and know that our officers acted properly
and professionally,” lied Montgomery in announcing the settlement,
which — as he went on to say — meant that the supposedly rock-solid
case would be spared “the inherent risk of a jury trial.”

Fortunately,
Montgomery pointed out, the risk of a trial was “eliminated for
less than the cost of defense.”

Through the
miracle of socialized municipal risk management, nobody will face
accountability for the extra-judicial killing of a 25-year-old husband
and father of two stepchildren who had celebrated his first wedding
anniversary just days before he was murdered.

Shortly after
receiving a medical discharge from the Marine Corps, Derek joined
an “outlaw motorcycle club” called the Pagans. In November 2006,
Derek and some friends from the club made a run from Virginia to
Wilmington as part of a Toys for Tots promotion. Derek didn’t know
that for more than a year before he joined the club the Pagans were
the subject of a Delaware State Police investigation.

Derek was house-sitting
for a friend on the day he was murdered. Sandra Lopez, the soon-to-be
ex-wife of Derek’s friend, arrived with an 11-year-old son and a
6-year-old daughter early in the afternoon to remove some personal
belongings. Derek — wearing a hooded sweatshirt — was sitting quietly
on the front porch of the home when an unmarked police car and a
blacked-out SUV arrived at around 4:00 PM and disgorged a thugscrum
of 8–14 heavily armed police. According
to eyewitnesses
, the officers were dressed in black, and displayed
no police insignia of any kind.

At the time,
Lopez and her children were standing behind Derek on the small porch,
which was at the top of a short stairway. The armed strangers ordered
the woman and her kids to move away from Derek, who by this time
had risen to his feet. One of the cops ordered Derek to remove his
hands from his sweatshirt. No more than a second or two later, according
to eyewitnesses, he was hit with the first of what would be seven
Taser strikes.

The Taser blast
knocked Derek sideways and sent him into convulsions. His right
hand involuntarily shot out of its pocket, clenching spasmodically.
Ordered to put his hands up, Derek struggled to comply, but found
himself paralyzed. So he was struck with a second Taser blast that
drove him to the side and induced him to vomit in a nearby flower
bed.

"Not in
front of the kids," Derek pleaded. "Get the kids out of
here."

The officers
continued to order Derek to put up his hands; he was physically
unable to comply.

So they tased
him again.

And again.

And again.
And again.
And again.

“That’s not
necessary!” exclaimed eyewitness Howard Mixon, a contractor who
had been working nearby. “That’s overkill! That’s overkill!”

One of the
bold and brave paladins of public order swaggered over to Mixon
and threatened him: “I’ll f*****g show you overkill!” snarled the
barely literate tax-feeder. Meanwhile, Derek — left to wallow in
a puddle of his own vomit — was trying to comply with the demands
of his assailants.

"I’m trying
to get my hands out," Derek gasped, trying to make his tortured
and traumatized body obey his will. Horrified, his friend Sandra
screamed at the officers: "He is trying to get his hands out,
he cannot get his hands out!"

Few things
bring out the raw courage of a cop like the sight of an unarmed
and defenseless “suspect.” Acting with the serene confidence that
his victim couldn’t harm him, Lt. William Browne of the Wilmington
Police Department — who was close enough to seize and handcuff Derek,
if this had been necessary — shot him at point-blank range, sending
three .40-caliber rounds into his chest.

In May 2007,
Delaware
Attorney General Beau Biden
— yes, the glorious outpouring of
Vice Presidential loins — issued a report vindicating Browne’s actions.
The report began by claiming that “the purpose of the Tasering was
to overcome Derek Hale’s resistance to the arrest so he could be
taken into custody without injury to himself or to the officers.”

Leaving aside
the fact that the Taser assault caused severe injury to Derek (as
a coroner’s report later confirmed), and also made it impossible
for him to comply with police orders, every
eyewitness to the murder who wasn’t implicated in the crime

insists that the victim never resisted arrest in any way. Furthermore,
Thomas Neuberger, one of the attorneys who represented Derek’s widow,
pointed out that the Wilmington PD’s departmental policy on Taser
use does not authorize the use of that reliably lethal weapon on
non-resisting suspects.

Biden’s report
also claimed that Derek’s "menacing" behavior — which
consisted of vomiting into a flowerbed while begging the police
to get the kids out of harm’s way — led the timid creature known
as William Browne to believe that “he was in immediate danger” and
that “the use of deadly force was immediately necessary to prevent
serious injury or death” to him or to one of his partners in state-sanctioned
crime.

No
charges were filed against the individual who murdered Derek Hale
.
Shortly after Biden issued his report, Browne was promoted. This
infuriating detail was merely filigree on the tapestry of mendacity
woven by Delaware’s “law enforcement community” to cover up the
murder of Derek Hale.

In the years
prior to the anti-Pagan crack-down by the Delaware State Police
(DSP), the agency was besieged with lawsuits alleging civil rights
violations, and subject to several ongoing corruption probes.

Attorney Thomas
Neuberger told
me three years ago
that DSP Commander Thomas MacLeish (or “Colonel
Tom,” to use Neuberger’s not-at-all affectionate nickname), who
was appointed to his post in 2005, made improving the agency’s public
image his highest priority. A high-profile campaign against a big,
bad biker gang was just the thing to repristinate the department’s
image.

The State Police
operation eventually yielded a 160-count indictment, much of which
was withheld from the public. After prosecutors had cluttered the
air with lurid but vague allegations of “racketeering” and “gang
activity,” thirty-two Pagans were arrested on narcotics and weapons
charges. The investigation came to a thoroughly anti-climatic end
when fewer than a half-dozen Pagans were charged with narcotics-related
offenses. All of them were given deals that didn’t involve prison
time.

Like six-year-old
Aiyana
Jones
, who was murdered by police last May in a Detroit SWAT
raid staged for TV cameras, and 21-year-old
Las Vegas resident Trevon Cole
, who was murdered by police (while
trying to dispose of a misdemeanor-sized amount of marijuana) in
a hotel drug raid that was also the outgrowth of a “reality TV”
program, Derek Hale was a casualty of a police PR campaign. He
didn’t become a “person of interest” until after he had been
killed.

Immediately
after the shooting, the DSP contacted the Virginia State Police
and — in a deliberate act of official perjury — told them that the
murdered Marine was a suspect in a narcotics investigation. Police
from Delaware and Virginia barged into the Hale family’s Manassas
home, shoving aside a grieving wife and two devastated children
in order to carry out a charade of a search in the service of an
official fiction.

The architects
of this cover-up weren’t content to terrorize Hale’s devastated
widow and step-children; they also traduced the character of the
murder victim.

On November
21, 2006, roughly three weeks after Derek’s death, the DSP issued
a breathtakingly dishonest press release alleging that the victim
had “resisted arrest” and claiming that he “was at the center of
a long term narcotics trafficking investigation which is still ongoing.”
Meanwhile, prosecutors frantically cobbled together the above-mentioned
ominum gatherum indictment in the hope that somebody — anybody
— connected to Derek would be charged with an actual crime.

Now,
three years later, the people responsible for the murder and cover-up
have taken care of the final detail by paying off the victim’s family
at taxpayer expense.

Derek grew
up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Shortly after he was murdered, a
man who had known Derek in his childhood contacted me
to express
his outrage that a “responsible, respectful” young man of exceptional
character could survive two tours of duty in Iraq, only to be slaughtered
by a Death Squad here at home.

“There is no
way in hell he would have threatened a police posse,” Derek’s friend
told me. “When I saw his obit in the local paper I thought he must
have been killed in Iraq or something — but alas our own home-grown
terrorists took the life of an innocent man.”

December
21, 2010

William
Norman Grigg [send him mail]
publishes the Pro
Libertate
blog and hosts the Pro
Libertate radio program
.

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Best of William Norman Grigg

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