Death Penalty for Running a Stop Sign

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As a banjo-playing, white-suited absurdist stand-up comedian in the 1970s, Steve Martin once facetiously suggested that one way to bring about a radical decline in the crime rate would be to impose the death penalty for jaywalking. This proved to be more prophecy than punchline.

On Tuesday (May 10), Allen John Kephart, a 43-year-old resident of Crest Park, California, was fatally electrocuted by a deputy sheriff in Twin Peaks. The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports that the deputy had seen Kephart run a stop sign and then “confronted” the driver at a nearby gas station. Speaking on behalf of the armed bureaucrat who killed Kephart, San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Office apparatchik Jodi Miller claimed that the victim became “combative” — which in practice could mean merely that he gave the uniformed stalker a dirty look.

“During the struggle to arrest Kephart … he was tasered and lost consciousness,” the paper reports. “Medical personnel began CPR at the scene. Kephart died at 4:25 p.m. at Mountains Community Hospital in Lake Arrowhead.”

In keeping with established custom, the Sheriff’s Office is pretending to be mystified over the cause of death, which certainly couldn’t have anything to do with the entirely gratuitous use of the Portable Electro-Shock Torture device (or PEST). Thus an autopsy has been ordered to provide a suitably exculpatory “official” cause of death, which will probably have something to do with a heart condition, high blood pressure, or some other physical imperfection that is survivable as long as the person thus afflicted is spared the lethal attentions of tax-devouring bullies armed with torture toys.

Missing from the terse press account of this act of criminal homicide is any examination of this question: Why was an arrest “necessary” in order to deal with a minor traffic infraction? No mention was made of Kephart being the subject of an arrest warrant for an actual crime. The likeliest explanation here is that Kephart was considered “combative” because he treated the costumed functionary with the contempt such people richly deserve, rather than submitting with the bovine docility such state employees have been taught to expect. Inflicting injury or death as summary punishment for “Contempt of Cop” is an increasingly common practice.

Washington’s King County recently hit up its resident tax victims for $10 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Sarah Harris, whose husband, Chris, was left paralyzed and brain-impaired after being slammed head-first into a concrete wall by Deputy Chris Paul. At the time, Deputy Paul was responding to a report of a fight. Harris, who had been mistakenly identified as a suspect, fled the scene. If Harris had kept running, Paul most likely wouldn’t have caught up. Unfortunately, Harris stopped — and Paul, sensing an opportunity, plowed into the much smaller man with a body-block that resulted in permanent spinal injury. The department referred to this deliberate assault — which actually amounts to attempted homicide — as a “tragic accident.”

Long before that May 2009 incident, Paul — an individual of considerable tax-fed girth — had already developed a reputation for excessive use of force whenever he encountered “contempt of cop.”

“By 2008, he was striking, tasing, and wrestling with suspects; using takedowns, foot sweeps, punches and pepper spray,” reports Seattle’s KING-TV His supervisors found all of it acceptable under department policy, but warned him to look for alternatives and to avoid arresting people simply because they challenged his authority or weren’t respectful.”

A year after Paul crippled Harris, he bull-rushed and face-planted Jeff Gold, a mild-mannered computer technology consultant with a wraith-like physique. Like any other bully, Chris Paul seems to prey exclusively on victims who are not only unarmed, but much smaller — and he appears to specialize in blind-side attacks. Gold had noticed Paul and one of his comrades “haranguing” two harmless people in a bus shelter, and began to take photos with his cell phone.

When Paul noticed Gold, the deputy shot him a look the man described as “chilling.” Gold turned to leave, jaywalking as he did so. After Paul bellowed at him to stop, Gold treated the tax-feeder to an appropriate one-fingered salute — an imprudent act, but not a criminal one. This infuriated Paul, who blind-sided Gold, breaking his nose. Claiming that Gold had “obstructed” him, the deputy handcuffed and abducted him, but the spurious charge was quickly dropped.

Two very similar subsequent assaults resulted in formal complaints to the King County Sheriff’s Office, which acknowledges that Paul is a “difficult” deputy but insists that it is powerless to take the unionized thug off the streets.


10:53 am on May 11, 2011