In Florida, Non-Submission to a Police Beating is “Attempted Murder”

Mounted with hand on throat

Every day, somewhere in this supposedly free county, some version of this script is played out: A police officer spies an individual committing a harmless but “illegal” act, aggressively pursues the subject, inflicts physical violence on the victim, then escalates that violence to lethal or nearly lethal levels when the victim doesn’t immediately submit to the state-licensed aggression.

We could refer to this as the “From Malum Prohibitum to Murder” model of police escalation. Citizens who aren’t killed in such encounters can expect to be punished for the impudence they display by surviving. Police officers responsible for the actual crimes of violence will not face prosecution, owing to the evil doctrine of “qualified immunity.” A recent episode in Florida resulted in several charges – including attempted murder – against a man whose only apparent “offense” was to refuse to submit to a beating by a police officer.

The assault began when an officer named Ronald Cannella who had attempted to pull over a man named Livingston Manners for allegedly running a stop light dragged the driver from his vehicle and threw him to the ground in a gas station. It’s quite likely that Manners, in justifiable fear for his safety, sought a well-lit area for the encounter with the brigand.

Security camera video shows that Manners was compliant and non-aggressive as the officer tried to “build the stop” by searching his vehicle. The officer eventually reached into the vehicle and pulled Manners from it, and the victim does nothing to resist, holding his hands face-up and to the sides. Cannella can be seen putting a forearm on the face and the throat of his victim, and then punching him repeatedly. Although no audio is available, it’s certain that this attack was punctuated with the rapist’s refrain, “Stop resisting!”

Cannella eventually places the victim on his back and appears to be attempting to place a chokehold on him. Manners defends himself with a maneuver similar to the “guard” position from Jiu-Jitsu, trapping the uniformed assailant’s arms and holding him at bay for roughly 45 seconds until the aggressor’s comrades arrive.

At no point in the struggle is Manners seen making an aggressive move, or touching the throat of the assailant. It is possible that the victim applied a lapel choke – but if he did so this came after Cannella had already repeatedly struck him and, apparently, attacked his own throat first.

Although Cannella claimed in his report that he feared for his life (the default emotional state of police officers, who are trained to see the public as enemy combatants rather than fellow citizens), and that during the ninety-second scuffle Manners choked him into unconsciousness, the cop is still on top and apparently in control when other officers arrived to beat and tase Manners into submission.

Cannella claimed that Manners “locked his legs around my body preventing my escape” while he “forcefully grabbed my throat and strangled me.” Yet in the video, Cannella displays no difficulty extricating himself and standing up once a fellow costumed enforcer arrived on the scene. Any breathing difficulty he experienced was most likely a reflection of his panic and poor cardiovascular conditioning, rather than actions taken by his victim.

In addition to the peculiar offense called “resisting without violence,” the charges against Manners include “attempted murder” for allegedly placing his hands on the throat of the armed and violent stranger who had him pinned to the ground, beating and attempting to choke him.

The report by the Miami NBC affiliate faithfully regurgitated the Hollywood PD’s line, describing the incident as a “vicious attack on a police officer” in which the Intrepid Defender of All That is Good and Decent was “choked unconscious.” The report likewise retailed the outrage expressed by Lt. Derik Alexander that a biker who arrived on the scene didn’t wade in to help the tax-devouring functionary subdue Manners. Although the biker’s motives were never explained, by not reflexively taking the side of the uniformed aggressor, he passed the Tom Joad Test.

Police frequently place unarmed victims in headlocks and chokehold-style restraints. If the standard being used to justify the attempted murder charge against Manners were applied uniformly, the use of such techniques by police would justify a lethal defensive response by the victim, or a citizen who came to his rescue.


4:57 pm on July 2, 2014

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