Death by Checkpoint: A Murder in Massachusetts

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Kenneth Howe of Worcester, Massachusetts was beaten to death by police last November 25. This is the official conclusion by the Essex County Medical Examiner, who ruled that the official cause of death was “blunt impact of the head and torso with compression of the chest.”

It is profoundly doubtful that the killing of the 45-year-old Howe– carried out by a swarm of 10-20 tax-feeders at a “sobriety checkpoint” — will be prosecuted as a criminal offense of any kind, let alone murder.

“The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner uses the term homicide to mean a death at the hands of another,” explained the M.E.’s attorney, Jacqueline Faherty. “A medical examiner does not offer an opinion regarding criminal wrongdoing or civil liability.”

In keeping with routine procedure in any case involving the death of a helpless Mundane at the hands of the Bullies in Blue, the Medical Examiner eagerly described the victim’s cardiovascular disease as a “contributory factor” in the death.

Curiously, “contributory factors” of that kind aren’t taken into account when someone is fatally beaten or otherwise subjected to lethal violence by a gang of bullies not carrying the insignia of state “authority.” 

Often, when someone dies at the hands of an assailant or assailants whose violence is  sanctified by the state, we are supposed to believe that the victim wasn’t killed by the police — he just happened to die in their custody.

Thus victims of lethal Taser strikes succumbed to “excited delirium,” rather than being murdered by electro-shock torture. The assailants similarly seek to exculpate themselves when an innocent person suffering from heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, or other medical problems is beaten or suffocated to death by a police mob.

By way of contrast, when violent deaths of that kind are inflicted by commonplace criminals, the victim’s health problems — if they are mentioned at all — are taken as evidence of the exceptional viciousness of the crime.

The tacit assumption here is that police are entitled to kill anyone at any time who displays anything other than immediate, complete, unconditional submission. This is why every encounter between police and citizens is freighted with the potential for lethal violence — and why those who travel by automobile are helots on wheels.

Kenneth Howe  (referred to as “Thomas” in some media accounts) was co-owner of a barbershop, a husband, and father of three children. His contributions to society were immeasurably more valuable than anything done by a tax-feeder in an “official” capacity.

He was murdered at a roadblock set up as part of a joint sobriety enforcement operation conducted by the the Andover Police Department, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, and the Massachusetts State Police. Roadblocks of this kind offer lucrative opportunities for overtime, courtesy of federal subsidies to “mobilize” local law enforcement.

In a very real sense, Howe was a victim of the federalized Homeland Security State. He could also be considered a casualty of Leviathan’s longest and most destructive war, the federal “War on (Non-Government-Approved) Drugs.”

Police accounts say that Howe was observed making a “furtive movement” as the car in which he was a passenger approached the checkpoint. The driver says that Howe, who had been smoking a marijuana cigarette, was trying to snuff it and put on his seat belt.

When Jodi A. Gerardi, a female state trooper, approached the car, Howe told her, “It’s only a marijuana cigarette.” After being ordered from the vehicle, Howe tried to flee. The distaff tax-feeder screamed, “I’ve been assaulted” — something the driver, the only objective eyewitness, disputes. Gerardi’s account describes Howe as “releasing” a pit bull and “assaulting everyone in his path” as he fled the scene.

Eventually he was taken to the ground “where he continued to disobey orders to ‘stop resisting’ by several other officers,” Gerardi reports, reflecting the common assumption that Mundanes must patiently endure whatever abuse their tax-subsidized betters see fit to inflict on them. After being “softened up,” Howe was  handcuffed and placed in leg restraints. He died at a local police barracks shortly thereafter.

“There is absolutely no way reasonable force was used in this case,” insists attorney Frances A. King, who is representing the murder victim’s widow and children. “He has handcuffs on part of that time and leg irons and [the police] are beating him to death.”

The murder of Kenneth Howe at an East Berlin-style checkpoint in Massachusetts is a sobering illustration of a principle none of us can afford to forget:  While government cannot produce anything of value, it excels at making “criminals” out of innocent people, and corpses out of living human beings.

11:30 am on January 24, 2010
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