Phoenix Police “Help” a Man to Death

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There are circumstances in which people might be tempted to seek the help of police officers. If they do so, they should understand that police are neither trained to help, nor are they expected to. They are trained, equipped, and prepared to employ aggressive violence against anybody who doesn’t submit to them immediately and without reservation — including the people whom they are supposedly there to “help.” This was memorably illustrated by the murder of Michael Ruiz, an emotionally disturbed father of two from Phoenix, Arizona, by the police who had arrived on the scene to “help” him.

On July 28, the 44-year-old Ruiz, who appeared to be intoxicated, climbed to the roof of his apartment complex. Concerned neighbors made the reliably fatal mistake of calling the police to help him. After Ruiz was coaxed down from the roof onto the top of a staircase, a thugswarm quickly coalesced around the uncooperative but non-aggressive man. For three minutes, neighbors watched in horror as Ruiz was choked and tasered while one of the assailants chanted the familiar refrain: “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!”

The assailants then shackled Ruiz’s hands and feet, and dragged him down the stairs. The victim’s unsupported head struck every one of the concrete stairs on the way down. By the time Ruiz reached the ground, he was as brain-dead as the armed functionaries who had assaulted him — only in his case, this was an actual clinical condition. In keeping with the now-familiar ritual, the assailants then confiscated cell phones that had been used to take pictures of the crime scene. Unlike common criminals, police who abuse or murder innocent people claim the supposed right to control the evidence of their crimes.

Neighbors who had witnessed the helpful ministrations of the punitive priesthood were left traumatized by the experience.

“Nobody deserves to be done like that,” eyewitness Verna Young later told the local Fox affiliate. Ruiz’s father Richard Erickson, a retired detective with the LAPD, was mortified to learn that his son had been tasered at least five times before being dragged to death.

Police are under no legal obligation to help a citizen in trouble, and only in the most vanishingly rare circumstances do they face professional — let alone legal — consequences for abusing innocent people. There are individual police officers who, in defiance of all rational expectations, are inclined to help. People who are in trouble don’t have the luxury of assuming that such genuinely exceptional people would respond if the police are called to “help.” We should always assume that if police intervene, innocent people will be hurt — or killed.

 

 

10:48 am on August 22, 2013
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