Orlando, FL – Accused of assaulting a police officer, a homeless man was recently found not guilty after a jury reviewed the body cam video of the arresting officer. Instead of charging him with resisting arrest, the jury agreed that the unarmed man had a right to defend himself against an overzealous cop.
On August 26, 2015, Terre Johnson, 44, was sitting on the curb when Officer James Wilson confronted him for no apparent reason. After threatening to give Johnson a citation for asserting his civil rights, Officer Wilson questioned whether the homeless man could even afford to pay the bullshit ticket. On his own body cam video, Wilson threatened and insulted the surrounding homeless people willing to defend Johnson’s constitutional rights.
As Johnson verbally defended himself, Officer Wilson placed his hand directly in front of Johnson’s face. When Wilson ordered him to keep his hands down, Johnson immediately complied and placed his hands on the ground while continuing to argue with the condescending cop. As Johnson asked the aggressive officer to give him five feet of space, Wilson incessantly pressed his hand against Johnson’s chest while putting his face in Johnson’s face.
Telling Wilson to check his record, Johnson warned, “It’s gonna tell you to approach with caution and get some fucking backup because I love beating up cops.”
“Are you threatening me, Mr. Johnson?” Officer Wilson asked.
“No, I’m not threatening you,” Johnson answered. “I feel threatened. Please, back up.”
When cops cannot find a reason to arrest someone, they will often antagonize individuals to the point of committing a crime. Although Johnson warned the officer that he was the wrong one to mess with and repeatedly told the cop to check his record, Wilson kept provoking him in an attempt to justify an arrest. As Johnson attempted to diffuse the situation by walking away from the aggressive officer, Wilson followed and assaulted the innocent homeless man.
Suffering injuries to his head, Johnson was charged with resisting arrest with violence, resisting arrest without violence, and battery on a law enforcement officer. Before the jury could deliberate on a verdict, the judge dismissed the resisting charges and downgraded the battery on a law enforcement officer to simple battery. The jury later found Johnson not guilty on January 14.
According to Officer Wilson, Johnson’s initial crime was sitting on city-owned property with his feet in the street. Although many major cities have attempted to ban homeless people from existing within their city’s limits and have arrested priests willing to feed them, existence is not a crime. However, cops continue to criminalize people who cannot afford legal representation or a roof over their own heads. With our silent consent, abusive cops will continue to oppress those of us who cannot afford justice.