It used to be considered “fighting dirty” if you kicked a man while he was down. But those gentleman’s rules don’t apply to police officers, apparently, when it comes to resolving conflict with the homeless. They're already down on their luck, many of them, and the very people they trust to keep the peace are often the ones who treat them worst. The latest example of how one can get legally assaulted by the police comes from Denver, Colorado.
The incident wouldn’t have been provable without the offending officer’s body camera. But that’s all we’re able to thank him for. The incident occurred 6/3/16 when police responded to reports of a fight in progress and arrived on the scene to find homeless resident Greg Heard (reportedly fighting with another resident), hiding behind a bush near a property wall. Officers Greg Dulayev and Adrian Enriquez approached Heard.
Dulayev can be heard saying, “Hands up!...Crawl out on your hands and knees. I’ll f___ing tase you.” It wasn’t a “Crawl out on your hands and knees, OR I’ll f____ing tase you.”
It appears from Dulayev’s own words he already had every intention of deploying his less than lethal device on Heard. Whether or not Heard was guilty of a domestic disturbance is irrelevant. For a White man to demand that a Black man crawl on his hands and knees while at his feet, is humiliating enough. But, when Heard appeared to attempt to reason with the officers, he was immediately tased without any further talk.
Heard’s lawyer John Holland is seeking damages to the tune of $750,000 dollars and preemptively released the body camera footage to the public to be able to draw their own conclusions. Holland is releasing the video because as he says, "it's a matter of public concern. It should be out there, so people can understand that they should be very, very careful when confronting police officers armed with tasers. Because they will be tased — and many people have died from tasing. It can be deadly."
Adding what some could say is insult to injury, officer Dulayev asked Heard, “Why’d you do that man? All I asked you to do was come out.” Okay officer. From what we could see and hear (the audio wasn’t running in the seconds leading up to the actual tasing) he was complying with your commands to come out and put his hands up. And his “no, no” wasn’t an, “I’m going to fight you” as much as it was a “hear me out officer and let me explain what’s going on”, at least from one journalists’ perspective. But you lied to Mr. Heard when you told him all you wanted was for him to exit from behind the bush. On the contrary, you told him to come crawling out on his hands and knees and that you’d tase him. And that’s precisely what you did. You tased a man who was trying to reason with you. Once again, the 100 percent compliance policy is going to cost the city and the police department, hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars because you wouldn’t hear the man out. Nice work! You’ll probably get a commendation.
This is precisely the types of incidents that The Free Thought Project has faithfully covered; seemingly harmless encounters with police which often end with either someone having electrified fishing hooks being shot into their torso, or worse. All too often, police officers revert to their weapons instead of their wisdom by asking themselves, “how best can I handle this situation?”
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Officer Dulayev discussed the incident with Heard again asking the homeless man who was already in tears saying his parents were dead, he’s poor, and that he’s already been to prison twice. Dulayev said, “When you come at me like that. I told you to stop with your hands up. You kept coming,” he said defending his actions. Well, part of what you said officer Dulayev, was correct. You did tell him to come out with his hands up, and as he was still walking out from under the bushes, you tased him, without really giving him a chance to speak with you about what was going on. Of course, that conclusion is a bit subjective. Others may see a man who was already angry, is combative, and not following police officers’ commands. For his part, Heard said he deserved to go to jail, supposedly because of his actions in the fight, but he protested being tased.
When paramedics and/or firemen arrived on the scene, he told them Heard “charged” at him. We’re not sure which body camera footage would show Heard charging the officer. From the one we saw taken from his own body cam, it doesn’t appear at all that Heard was charging anyone. It’s also unclear what he would have done to the officer had he gotten much closer. Only Heard knows what he was going to do after getting the officer’s attention. Maybe he would have attacked him. We don’t necessarily think so. But one thing’s for certain. He didn’t charge officer Dulayev.
Heard admitted to officer Enriquez that he’d been drinking and using crack cocaine earlier in the day but said he had submitted to officer Dulayev’s commands and was being compliant when he was tased. We, at The Free Thought Project, understand that the taser brought an end to Mr. Heard being perceived as a threat, allowed the police officers to handcuff the suspect, and subdued him. However, we just simply believe there’s a better way to deal with the public than demanding 100 percent instantaneous compliance with officer commands with every encounter or else they can be “f___ing tased”.
Holland (Heard's lawyer) opined about the police officer's use of deadly force and discussed his client's case;
We made a demand to the city and said, 'What are you doing with this? The net effect is, you didn't give him a chance to surrender. He was in mid-step. You didn't let him finish the step when you gave him the warning and then you tased him'...You can see his eyes looking right in the camera, and he looks friendly. His hands are down. He's obviously unarmed and he looks like he's giving up. He was under the bushes, and he has to get out, but he's doing what he's supposed to do. Then he gets tased, which is mean-spirited and unjustified, and the officer starts saying, 'Stop resisting,' which he's not doing at all. At that point, his head is down on the ground and he's semi-paralyzed. His arms are trapped underneath his body. They had to pull them out in order to handcuff him. His face is in the dirt, he isn't jumping or flailing, his feet aren't moving. He's hurting and says he's having trouble breathing, and the officer tells him that he can't be short of breath because he's talking. But just because you're short of breath doesn't mean you can't talk."
The attorney also spoke to the need for law enforcement to build trust. "We've talked to the city, and they're not interested in resolving it without a lawsuit. So we're in the process of bringing a suit — and we think this society needs to continue to think very hard about the police's use of force. If we're ever to rebuild the relationship that people on both sides claim they want, it's going to require police to be much more respectful of citizens' rights and not always pretend that abuses of power like this are just or justifiable. Just because you get stopped by a policeman doesn't mean you get to be injured, and I'm afraid the law is heading in that direction — toward allowing injuries at will. People beware," he said.
What do you believe? Did Heard “charge” officer Dulayev? Was he a threat? Did the officer do the right thing or was there something more he could have done? Is 100 percent compliance with police officers’ commands even attainable? Please share your thoughts below.