• James Emerick Dean: Executed By the Police State

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    I'm not
    hurting anybody!
    I'm
    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?

    Post-traumatic
    stress

    Jamie Dean
    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.

    According to
    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
    of Vietnam."

    Perhaps even
    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
    prevalent symptoms
    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.

    Jamie and
    Muriel

    It
    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
    26, 2006.

    "To look
    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."

    Muriel doesn't
    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.

    "He was
    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, u2018God 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.

    On Christmas
    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."

    That
    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 standoff

    According to
    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.

    Shortly after
    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.

    During this
    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.

    Instead of
    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
    visible.”

    By
    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.

    Response
    to investigation

    The shooting
    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.

    Jamie Dean
    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
    Eric
    Podosek
    , who got drunk, told someone he was depressed, and passed
    out. Thankfully, Podosek surrendered to police before the State
    could execute him.)

    State's Attorney
    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.

    After all,
    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”):

    "[T]here
    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.”

    Specifically,
    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.

    Fritz condemned
    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.

    The Maryland
    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?

    While Fritz’s
    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
    commander.

    Moreover, Jamie
    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
    provoking him.

    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
    department.

    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.

    Murder or
    manslaughter?

    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.

    Indeed, Sheriff
    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 u2018u2018[i]t was Mr. Dean who
    decided" his own fate.

    Unfortunately,
    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.

    Resources:

    James Emerick
    Dean Death Investigation:

    PTSD-related
    suicides among "war on terror" vets:

    Treatment available
    for PTSD:

    June
    2, 2007

    Trevor Bothwell
    [send him mail] maintains
    the web log, Who's
    Your Nanny?

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