Fined $500 for “Obstructing” a Police Bullet

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Michael Housley of Arnold, Maryland had his hands full dealing with his wife’s health crisis when the police materialized on his doorstep last July 12.

Earlier that day, Housley’s wife Leah had been taken to the hospital for a mental evaluation. When she left without being discharged, a nurse called the police and asked them to do a “safety check” — a request that is rapidly becoming a leading cause of preventable death.

Housley refused to let the police see his wife, and ordered them to leave. This should have ended the matter. It didn’t, of course.

Officer Doyle Holquist tried to “detain” Housley — that is, the uninvited armed stranger criminally assaulted the worried husband and attempted to kidnap him. Housley broke free and ran inside his house, locked the door behind him, and called 911 — perhaps in the desperate hope of casting out Beelzebub by Beelzebub’s power.

When Holquist and his comrades contacted their supervisors, they received conflicting instructions: One of their superiors advised them not to force their way into the home, the second told the officers that they could break down the door. Nobody gets extra credit for correctly guessing which of those instructions the officers chose to follow.

Once the police had demolished the door, Officer Holquist escalated the matter further, adding aggravated assault to criminal trespass by dousing Housley with pepper spray. One of Holquist’s homies, Cpl. Jeffrey Bauer, attempted to subdue Housley, who “bear-hugged” his assailant. Bauer’s response was assault with a deadly weapon, shooting the besieged man twice with his portable electro-shock torture device.

Confronted with three armed, violent intruders who had repeatedly assaulted him Holquist staged a desperate counter-attack by grabbing a wooden chair and swinging it at Bauer, who — recall — had just attacked him with a lethal weapon. Holquist drew his firearm and shot Housley in the neck.

For several days after the shooting, Housley was in critical condition. During that time, Leah Housley, the supposed beneficiary of police intervention, wasn’t permitted to see her husband, whom she correctly described as the “victim” of criminal violence.

On June 3, a jury acquitted Housley of two counts of second-degree “assault on a police officer,” one count of “resisting arrest,” and one count of reckless endangerment. He was found guilty on two counts of “obstructing a police officer” – the first presumably for absorbing Bauer’s Taser strikes, the second for allowing his neck to impede the path of Holquist’s bullet.

In what he probably thought was a gesture of quasi-divine clemency, Judge Philip T. Caroom fined Housley $500 and offered to expunge the guilty verdicts after a brief term of probation. To his credit, Housley — who has had several reconstructive surgeries on his jaw and mouth, and will have to endure several more — refused the deal in order to appeal the verdicts.

Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas Mitchell was also dissatisfied with the sentence, insisting that Housley’s actions –  like those of any other Mundane seeking to protect his home and family from unwarranted police violence — “rose to the level of criminal conduct.”

10:14 am on July 10, 2010