Last June, Brian Hitchcock was rear-ended by a police motorcycle driven by Officer Anthony Parente of the Hermosa Beach, California Police Department. Parente had pulled behind Hitchcock at a stoplight; when the light changed, he pulled in even tighter and inexplicably hit his siren and running lights. When Hitchcock reflexively stopped, Parente plowed into the back of the BMW. The officer was thrown head-over-heels, landing in the backseat of the open convertible with his boots sticking in the air.
“Do you need any help?” Hitchcock asked the stunned and shaken officer, who told the driver that he needed his radio. Transmitter in hand, Parente spoke two words that may end up ruining Hitchcock’s life: “Officer down.”
Hitchcock clearly wasn’t at fault; by Parente’s own admission, the officer was less than two feet from the BMW’s rear bumper when he activated the siren.
“I stopped and he ran into me,” Hitchcock told the Daily Breeze newspaper. “That happens all the time. Generally, they cite the person who rear-ends somebody.” Oh, but things are different when a member of the sanctified brotherhood of government coercion is the party at fault in a tailgating-related accident.
The Los Angeles County DA’s office found no evidence that Hitchcock caused the accident by intentionally stopping short. Yet Parente’s vindictive comrades, in collaboration with the Hermosa City Prosecutor, are trying to have Hitchcock sent to prison for “criminal assault” — which in this case consists of being rear-ended by an inattentive, mis-behaving tax-feeder.
Though the charge itself is outrageous, the Stasi-inspired tactics used to pursue Hitchcock are repellent and terrifying — and a useful illustration of the bottomless sense of privilege that increasingly typifies our sanctified guardians of public order.
First came public defamation, notes Paul Teetor of LA Weekly: “A press release issued by the Redondo Beach Police Department framed the incident as the fault of a driver who appeared to stop short in order to injure a police officer — a far more sensational angle than a cop rear-ending a car because he turned on his siren while tailgating.” When the County DA failed to find evidence of culpable misbehavior on the part of Hitchcock, the police took a page from the Stalin/Beria playbook: They began prying into his personal life and political opinions in search of “socially dangerous” attitudes.
“Police reports and witness statements show that a monthlong investigation by Redondo Beach Police into Hitchcock’s background found no evidence of anti-police bias,” observes Teetor. “After that, Redondo Beach Detective Mike Strosnider invited Hitchcock to a let’s-be-friends lunch at Subway on the pretext that the investigation was over. It wasn’t. Strosnider secretly recorded the lunch in hopes of capturing incriminating comments, but came up empty, according to his own report.”
After failing to show that Hitchcock was an “anti-police vigilante,” the heroes in blue pursued a different approach, emphasizing that his actions must be considered assault because they left the intrepid Officer Parente fearing for his life: “Parente, 6’1″ and armed with his duty pistol, claimed to be so afraid of Hitchcock — a gray-haired, fairly out-of-shape man in a Hawaiian shirt — that Parente feared Hitchcock would snatch the shotgun from his fallen motorcycle.” Parente enhances this account with spurious details — disputed by objective witnesses on the scene — intended to make it appear that Hitchcock had been driving erratically at the time of the collision.
Parente has revealed himself to be a perjurer and a coward, but for some reason — most likely the prospect of a lucrative “disability” claim — he adds impotence to that self-portrait, claiming that the “soft tissue” injuries he sustained resulted in “intimacy problems with my spouse.” Since injuring himself in an accident he caused, Parente has been on paid vacation. If he and his comrades have their way, 59-year-old Hitchcock, who suffers from Type 2 diabetes, will spend three years in prison.
(My thanks to LRC reader Chris Kennedy for the tip.)3:53 pm on February 16, 2011 Email William Norman Grigg