Detroit, MI — In the land of the free, if police see you without your seatbelt on, they will claim the right to extort money from you. In the land of the free, if police feel that your window tint is too dark, they will claim the right to extort money from you. If you resist this extortion, police will claim the right to kidnap or kill you. A tragic example of this played out in Detroit over the weekend as police attempted to extort a man they saw without his seatbelt on and whose window tint was too dark.
Two people are now dead, following a high-speed chase with Michigan police Friday night. According to WXYZ, investigators say they tried pulling over a Chrysler 300 spotted on the Southfield Freeway for a seatbelt violation and tinted windows.
It is important to note that the driver of the Chrysler 300 made a reckless and ignorant decision to drive that fast through a crowded neighborhood. And, had anyone else been hurt, it would have most assuredly been their fault, as they chose to drive at a high rate of speed.
That being said, however, had police not claimed the right to extort the driver for the victimless crimes of window tint and not wearing his seatbelt, he would’ve likely never driven that fast to begin with.
When the officer attempted to pull the driver over Friday, he took off. This initiated a chase that would span several blocks and eventually end up in a neighborhood in which children were playing outside.
When the chase entered the neighborhood, the officer should’ve immediately backed off to protect the safety of its residents. However, it appears that he pursued the driver instead.
According to police, the driver dangerously drove through the neighborhood, hit two other cars, and eventually came to a crashing halt when the car slammed into a tree. The images of the wreck are shocking, as the engine is seen several feet from the car.
“As they were fleeing to the area they got about a block ahead of the troopers when they ran through a stop sign and then struck the front end of a passenger van that was proceeding down Ashton Street,” MSP Lt. Michael Shaw said. “The driver of the 300 lost control and eventually struck a tree.”
“There’s no other way to describe the crash, besides horrendous. It’s horrendous,” Shaw told WXYZ news.
Police have not released the names of the two individuals in the car. However, they did note that the car was not stolen. Officials also noted that they have dashcam video of the chase.
According to police, the pursuing officer followed the proper protocol for a chase keeping his lights and sirens on. But there is nothing proper about creating a dangerous and deadly scenario in an attempt to extort revenue from citizens for choosing not to wear a seatbelt.
As John Whitehead points out, trying to predict the outcome of any encounter with the police is a bit like playing Russian roulette: most of the time you will emerge relatively unscathed, although decidedly poorer and less secure about your rights, but there’s always the chance that an encounter will turn deadly.
The odds weren’t in Walter L. Scott’s favor. Reportedly pulled over for a broken taillight, Scott—unarmed—ran away from the police officer, who pursued and shot him from behind, first with a Taser, then with a gun. Scott was struck five times, “three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear — with at least one bullet entering his heart.”
Samuel Dubose, also unarmed, was pulled over for a missing front license plate. He was reportedly shot in the head after a brief struggle in which his car began rolling forward.
Levar Jones was stopped for a seatbelt offense, just as he was getting out of his car to enter a convenience store. Directed to show his license, Jones leaned into his car to get his wallet, only to be shot four times by the “fearful” officer. Jones was also unarmed.
Bobby Canipe was pulled over for having an expired registration. When the 70-year-old reached into the back of his truck for his walking cane, the officer fired several shots at him, hitting him once in the abdomen.
Dontrell Stevens was stopped “for not bicycling properly.” The officer pursuing him “thought the way Stephens rode his bike was suspicious. He thought the way Stephens got off his bike was suspicious.” Four seconds later, sheriff’s deputy Adams Lin shot Stephens four times as he pulled out a black object from his waistband. The object was his cell phone. Stephens was unarmed.
If there is any lesson to be learned from these “routine” traffic stops, it is that drivers should beware.
Sadly, the two people in that Chrysler 300 will never get a second chance.