The Conscience of a Killer

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Eric Strausbaugh
of Kenosha, Wisconsin, a 34-year-old husband and father, killed
himself last October 31
. Friends recall that he was experiencing
marital difficulties and a great deal of job-related stress. A large
part of his emotional burden was the result of his actions on November
9, 2004, when he was an accomplice in the
murder of Michael Edward Bell.

Strausbaugh,
an officer with the Kenosha Police Department, confronted Bell in
front of his home at about 2:10 a.m. He has never provided an unambiguous
legal rationale for the stop: He first claimed that Bell was speeding,
then that he had run a stop sign. Neither of those claims was validated
by
the dash cam video from Strausbaugh’s cruiser
(which actually
shows that Strausbaugh blew through a stop sign on the way to Bell’s
home).

The video shows
a visibly puzzled Bell emerging from his vehicle. Within seconds
Strausbaugh is literally at the 21-year-old’s throat, pushing him
up against the vehicle then dragging him off-camera. A brief argument
ensues, in which Bell can be heard exclaiming “I know my rights!”
and Strausbaugh is heard demanding that the young man submit to
a field sobriety test. Near the end of the five-minute video clip
we can hear Strausbaugh order Bell put his arms behind his back,
followed by the unmistakable sound of a Taser being fired.

Three other
Kenosha police officers — who were reportedly within a few blocks
of Bell’s residence — arrived on the scene a few minutes later.
Strausbaugh insisted that he called for backup because Bell “ran,”
but there is no evidence to corroborate that claim.

No more than
ten minutes after the confrontation began, Bell was dead from a
gunshot wound to the head. The actual killing was carried out by
Officer Albert Gonzalez, who, in the clinical language of Dr. Douglas
Kelly, former Chief Medical Examiner for Fond Du Lac County, “made
[a] contact wound by pressing his gun against [Bell's] head at the
time the shot was fired.”

When Gonzalez
pulled the trigger, Bell was being restrained by at least two other
police officers. Strausbaugh maintained that Bell — a much smaller
man — somehow managed to bulldog him up against a nearby car, and
grab for his gun before being shot to death. Bell supposedly accomplished
this feat despite being Tasered twice, as well as enduring
several punches and knee strikes to the ribs
inflicted by Strausbaugh
and Officer Erich Weidner (who arrived within minutes of the initial
stop).

As depicted
in a work of dramatic fiction the Kenosha Police Department wittily
calls a “reenactment” of the homicide, Officer Gonzalez supposedly
shot Bell in the right side of the head, despite the fact that this
would have endangered Lt. David Krueger, who was standing directly
behind the victim.

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