James Emerick Dean: Executed By the Police State
by Trevor Bothwell
in here by myself!
Tell your men to back off!
Why are you surrounding me?
These are some
of the final (paraphrased) pleas heard on a police audio recording
of army reservist and Afghanistan war veteran James Emerick Dean,
who was shot and killed by a Maryland State Police sharpshooter
during a standoff on December 26, 2006. The despondent Dean, who
had just received orders of deployment to Iraq, simply wanted to
be left alone, barricaded inside his childhood home to contemplate
suicide. The State, however, had other ideas.
Jamie, as he
was known by his friends and family, was 29.
But let’s rewind
a bit, shall we?
voluntarily enlisted in the army in 2001 and served 18 months in
Afghanistan between 2003 and 2005. After he returned home to Southern
Maryland in the summer of 2005, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the carnage and horror he
had witnessed during combat.
a recent report
released by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, "At least
one-in-three Iraq veterans and one-in-nine Afghanistan veterans
will face a mental health issue, including depression, anxiety,
or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," and "PTSD rates for
Iraq veterans are already higher than the rates recorded among veterans
more astonishing, a different study has found that of those vets
who have received a mental health diagnosis, more
than half exhibit two or more mental health disorders.
By any reasonable
account, Jamie was probably in the majority. He began to drink heavily
and suffered from nightmares and night sweats, all among the more
of PTSD. He could naturally be moody, but the disorder only seemed
to make his temperament worse. Despite the pain, Jamie generally
kept his feelings bottled up even around his family members, who
never quite grasped the severity of his illness even as it metastasized
into suicidal impulses.
Jamie was prescribed
a handful of medications for the PTSD, but there was one thing in
his life that seemed to help him cope better than anything else.
On August 16, 2005, he went to Toots’ Bar in Hollywood, Maryland
with his father Joseph. That’s when he met Muriel, the girl who
would become the love of his life.
didn’t take Muriel long to fall in love with Jamie, the man who
always made her laugh, spent almost every day with her, would call
her every morning to sing to her and tell her how beautiful she
was, and would eventually propose to her on Valentine’s Day 2006
over a candlelight dinner. Jamie and Muriel were married on August
at his face, Jamie looked like a hard, mean man," Muriel tells
me, "but he was gentle and loving, the most caring man. The
PTSD made him have the moods he had, but that didn't matter to me
because being with Jamie was all I wanted to do."
pretend her marriage to Jamie was all hugs and kisses, however.
They had their share of arguments (usually over the drinking), and
they struggled together through Jamie’s emotional ups and downs
and nightmares. On several occasions Muriel recalls waking up in
the middle of the night, herself soaking wet as the result of Jamie’s
sweats. But like most marriages, the good far outweighed the bad.
In large part Jamie was happy; he loved to hunt and ride his four-wheelers
around the family farm. Most of all, though, he just enjoyed being
with Muriel and spending his time with her two children (his new
stepchildren) and their dogs.
And then it
happened. On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Jamie received orders
to Iraq. He was to be in the war zone by the New Year. Almost immediately
Jamie’s attitude changed, and he was sent into deep depression.
He would tell Muriel he felt like he was going crazy, his drinking
became much worse, he was constantly angry, and he would stay out
late until he knew Muriel was in bed for the night.
pulling away from me, the pain of which I can't explain," recounts
Muriel. "My counselor says that is their way of making it easier
to leave when they have to deploy."
A few days
before Christmas, Jamie made Muriel dinner and gave her one half
of a necklace he’d bought for each of them. "I wear one half
of a heart and he wore the other half that says, ‘God watch over
me and thee while we are absent one from the other,’" Muriel
explains. "Jamie told me that, no matter what happened, we
would always be together as long as we had these necklaces."
On the night
of Jamie’s birthday, December 23, 2006, Muriel asked her husband
what bothered him the most about going to Iraq. He responded, "Leaving
you and the life we have." Jamie was philosophically opposed
to the war in Iraq, but he told Muriel that going would be easy
if he didn’t have her.
Eve, Jamie told his uncle, Robert Purdy, that 2006 was sure to be
his last Christmas with the family, that he kept having nightmares
about dying in Iraq. "I tried my best to assure him that he
was wrong and that he would be all right," Purdy recalls. "Then
he hugged me good-bye and told me he loved me. I should have noticed
this odd behavior but I thought that he was just down with the depressing
letter calling him back to duty."
night Jamie upset Muriel by getting really drunk after he promised
he wouldn’t, so the two weren’t speaking by Christmas morning. Jamie
left to go to his father’s house but returned later in the day so
he and Muriel could exchange presents. Despite their feud, Jamie
had still taken the time to hide all of Muriel’s gifts around the
house so she’d have to go on a scavenger hunt to find them.
But then, merely
hours later, Jamie flew into a tirade. Whether brought about by
the impending deployment date during the holidays, the fear and
frustration accompanying Jamie’s imminent departure from his wife,
or the cumulative effects of an emotional tidal wave that flooded
reality with an illness he simply couldn’t overcome, Jamie lost
it and proceeded to trash his house. He broke glasses, hit furniture,
and told Muriel the next time she saw him he’d be in a body bag.
He angrily smashed a large mirror that hung above the couch before
storming off again to his dad’s place in the woods.
the death investigation by St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney Richard
D. Fritz, who notes that it is the responsibility of his office
to "[make] sure that our police are above reproach in their
relations with our citizens," on the evening of December 25,
2006, Jamie Dean called his sister at approximately 9:10 p.m., telling
her he "just can’t do it anymore." Hearing a gun shot
and fearing her brother had just committed suicide, Jamie’s sister
made a "check the welfare" call to 911.
10:00 p.m., St. Mary’s County Deputy Sheriff Morley approached the
home of Joseph Dean, where a despondent Jamie Dean was barricaded
alone inside. Morley proceeded to tell Jamie to come outside so
he could see that he was all right. Agitated and intoxicated, Jamie
indicated he would comply but ultimately refused to do so.
timeframe, Maryland State Trooper Sughart made contact with Muriel,
who informed him about Jamie’s military status and mental issues,
and indicated that there were up to 12 shotguns and possibly a black
powder gun in the house. Surrounding residents were soon evacuated
from the area, while Sgt. Johnson of the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s
Department contacted Jamie, who told Johnson to leave him alone,
that he was not going to come out of the house, and that he would
hurt anyone who tried to enter.
At 10:45 p.m.,
the St. Mary’s County Emergency
Services Team (SWAT team) took
up perimeter positions around the house (Fritz refers to this
as the Emergency Response Team in his report). They were soon joined
by the Calvert County and Charles County Emergency Services Teams.
Police attempted to negotiate with Jamie Dean for several hours,
during which time they disabled Jamie’s cell phone and routed the
residence phone to the negotiator’s telephone number.
waiting for Jamie either to exit the property or pass out from exhaustion
and alcohol intake, the county police units began to fire chemical
munitions (tear gas canisters) into the house at approximately 4:19
a.m. on December 26. Though the state’s attorney’s report states
that between 40 and 60 canisters were fired, the actual final count
was around 85. After being fired upon, Jamie exited to the rear
of the house around 4:33 a.m., raised a shotgun into the air, and
fired in the direction of a police car located at least 50 yards
away. State’s Attorney Fritz noted that there was little evidence
to establish whether the shot was fired directly, or if pellets
"rained down" around police cars. An officer also remarked, "The
windshield of the vehicle sustained numerous chips that were barely
11:10 a.m. on December 26, the Maryland State Police had arrived
on the scene and begun to deploy personnel and resources. For the
next hour or so, county and state police attempted negotiations,
deploying throw phones and engaging in sporadic telephone conversations.
At 12:25 p.m.,
a negotiator made telephone contact with Jamie, who stated, "I’m
going home," and indicated that he may be coming out. However,
it was at this point that the batteries in the police cell phone
died. Then, mysteriously, at 12:45 p.m. power was cut to house,
and a state police Peace Keeper vehicle deployed chemical munitions
in front of the house while a Calvert County armored vehicle did
the same in the rear of the residence.
At 12:47 p.m.,
the Peace Keeper vehicle was located between 8 to 15 feet from the
front of house, continuing to dispense tear gas. The driver's side
door was facing the front door of house when Jamie partially opened
the storm door. According to several reports, Jamie raised a long
gun and pointed it at the Peace Keeper. At this point, state police
sharpshooter Sgt. Daniel Weaver fired one round from approximately
70 yards away, striking Dean in the left side. By 12:52 p.m., Jamie
Dean had no life signs.
of Jamie Dean can only be described as an atrocity, an appalling
abuse of authority by government agents who seem intent to prove
that we aren’t to do anything without their oversight, apparently
even kill ourselves.
held no hostages, was not a fugitive, posed no threat to anyone
but himself, and, above all else, committed no crime that warranted
harassment by police, certainly not SWAT teams. SWAT units are comprised
of police officers trained in tactical skills who have one goal:
to defuse existing violent situations, with deadly force
if necessary. Their duties most definitely do not include needlessly
creating or escalating nonviolent ones. (This seems to be becoming
a disturbing trend, however. Only a few weeks ago, SWAT teams in
upstate New York surrounded a house occupied by Iraq war veteran
Podosek, who got drunk, told someone he was depressed, and passed
out. Thankfully, Podosek surrendered to police before the State
could execute him.)
Fritz has ruled that the shooting of Jamie Dean itself was "justified,"
inasmuch as the sharpshooter perceived a mortal threat to his fellow
officers at the time Jamie raised his weapon. Indeed, the police
have just as much right to protect themselves as we do. However,
to his credit, Fritz also concluded in his report that the tactics
employed by the Maryland State Police "can best be considered
as progressively assaultive and militaristic in nature," were
"overwhelmingly aggressive," and were "not warranted
under the circumstances of the facts present in the case."
In other words, the situation never should have been escalated to
the point where shooting Jamie Dean was necessary.
Fritz emphasized that because the police had time and location in
their favor (Jamie was on a secluded family farm surrounded by woods
where threat to innocent passersby "was slight to non-existent"):
was absolutely no need to push an extraction of Mr. Dean.
This was not a hostage situation, where an innocent civilian was
being threatened by Mr. Dean; to the contrary, it was a barricade
by a single individual, who was demanding to be left alone."
Mr. Fritz also criticized the misuse of the state police Peace Keeper
vehicle, which is susceptible to many types of ammunition. While
it has many practical law enforcement uses, it is not intended for
use as a siege vehicle against individuals firing unknown weapons
of an unknown caliber. While this vehicle was in use, a Charles
County armored vehicle was in a standby mode, positioned to the
left of the residence.
the state police not only for placing every member of the emergency
services team in danger by using an inappropriate vehicle to approach
the house, but also for needlessly creating a situation that would
give a sniper no choice but to use lethal force if Dean exposed
himself as he did.
State Police arrived on the scene at 11:10 a.m. on December 26.
Jamie Dean was dead by 12:52 p.m. that same day. Given that only
one hour and forty-two minutes had elapsed between the time
the state police arrived and the time they shot Jamie, one has to
wonder if the use of a vehicle susceptible to ammunition was intentional,
a part of some perverse plan to justify a "quick kill" of their
target. Amazingly, if the tear gas didn’t get Jamie to come out
of the house, the final phase of the State’s three-tiered plan was
to blow a hole in the side of it. Could one honestly contend that
the police were not determined to kill Jamie Dean?
report is sufficiently and appropriately critical of the Maryland
State Police for its actions and poor decision-making, the state's
attorney inexplicably lends no narrative in his report to the equally
unacceptable actions of the county police departments. After all,
it must be noted that Jamie Dean never fired his weapon until
he was fired upon by county authorities dispensing tear gas
well before the state police arrived. This was initially authorized,
it is assumed, by St. Mary's County Sheriff Tim Cameron, who was
eventually joined by state police Lt. Mark Gibbons, the on-scene
Dean merely discharged his shotgun into the air, not directly at
the police, which caused the shotgun pellets to rain down on one
or more police cars with the velocity of a bird dropping. Certainly
this may have been a lamentable act, but one that was entirely justified
given that the police initiated the use of force. Moreover, Dean,
a trained marksman, was in possession of at least one rifle and
could have begun picking off the cops if he truly wanted to. The
police were well aware that they were dealing with an emotionally
traumatized individual and must be accountable for unnecessarily
To be sure,
the firing of the tear gas marks the most pivotal point in the timeline
of events, as it defines the moment where the police go from protecting
and serving to tactically assaulting Jamie Dean's civil liberties.
Why this is apparently undeserving of the state's attorney's utmost
criticism as well is anyone's guess, and raises the question of
whether Mr. Fritz is trying to cover for his county’s sheriff's
Given the fact
that police needlessly escalated a situation where no life (other
than Jamie’s) was initially in danger, the only reasonable deduction
here is that Jamie Dean was slaughtered gratuitously and in outrageous
fashion by government agents of Maryland.
At the beginning
of this entire episode, Deputy Morley’s job was to check Jamie Dean’s
welfare. Instead of merely confirming that Jamie was suicidal and
leaving well enough alone, the police surrounded him anyway knowing
full well he wanted no business with them. Without provocation,
the police initiated force by firing dozens of tear gas canisters
at Jamie. And when he did what any other normal human being would
have done in that situation and retaliated, the police simply seized
on this and used it as an excuse to further antagonize Jamie Dean
and ultimately kill him.
So where do
we go from here? The state’s attorney has submitted his death investigation.
He has admitted beyond question that, at the very least, the actions
of the state police were an egregious assault on an innocent man’s
civil liberties. Though he has given no indication of doing so,
the only appropriate course of action at this point is for Mr. Fritz
to bring manslaughter charges against those persons on the respective
county and state police forces who made command decisions that directly
resulted in the death of Jamie Dean.
While it could
well be argued that the Maryland State Police made premeditated
decisions that only could have caused Jamie’s death, murder charges
likely would be over the top given that the police had a tactical
plan that at least began with peaceful negotiation. However, there
is every reason to believe that St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron
and Maryland State Police Lt. Mark Gibbons could rationally be accused
of manslaughter as a result of their collective negligence.
Cameron all but admitted
that his department had no business assaulting Jamie when he stated,
"[Dean] said he was not going to come out [and] that he intended
to commit suicide." And state police Col. Thomas E. "Tim"
Hutchins should be fired on grounds of idiocy alone for having the
audacity to claim that Jamie Dean’s killing was "a tragedy
that was not of our doing," and that ‘‘[i]t was Mr. Dean who
decided" his own fate.
given the double standards that exist between agents of the State
and the rest of us commoners who are expected to merely conform
and comply, I won’t hold my breath waiting for Jamie Dean’s killers
to be brought to justice. How that makes them "above reproach"
is beyond me.
Dean Death Investigation:
suicides among "war on terror" vets:
Iraq War vet kills himself, Mark Benjamin, UPI, March 16,
With PTSD At Risk Of Suicide In Cases, Stephen Spotswood,
U.S. Medicine, September 2005
Barber Commits Suicide, David Swanson, AfterDowningStreet.org,
January 18, 2006
Iraq veterans in Japan commit suicide, Agence France-Presse,
March 10, 2006
of Iraq War Vet Who Committed Suicide Flies Flag Upside Down,
Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, July 18, 2006
system ill-equipped to treat mental anguish of war, Chris
Adams, McClatchy Newspapers, February 9, 2007
mourns Iraq veteran who committed suicide, Martin J. Kidston,
Helena Independent Record, March 10, 2007
Was the Only Way Out of Iraq for Col. Westhusing, Robert Bryce,
Texas Observer, March 16, 2007
Have Greater Suicide Risk, AP, May 10, 2007
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