As we come to the close of another year, we naturally look back at the moments and milestones we’ve dealt with as law enforcement officers. This year, like every other, seems to have brought instances of treacherous evil and great heroism — the cowardly deeds of criminals and acts of valor by those who wear a badge and a gun. And then there always seem to be the systemic lapses in judgment that don’t take long to turn to tragedy. As I reflect on 2009, I see a year of Hasans, Huckabees, and Heroes. What do you see? Post a comment below, and have a safe and Happy New Year.
Active shooters like Nadil Malik Hasan, who murdered 13 soldiers at Fort Hood used a tactic for his terrorist attack that has become an all too familiar thing. In 2009 gunmen resorted to attacking in sudden unprovoked assaults all over the nation — there were plenty of criminals and killers motivated by anger, lust, greed, or the sociopathic atrocities of those engaged in radical jihad. On multiple occasions this year police officers were the target of their armed ambushes.
Eric Kelly, Steve Mayle, and Paul Sciullo III of the Pittsburg Police Department were ambushed and killed while responding to an argument over a dog between a mother and son. The “Hassan” who murdered them is named Richard Poplawski, and he is now charged with three counts of criminal homicide and nine counts of attempted homicide.
Lovelle Mixon “should-a-been” in prison were it not for a fatally flawed system called parole. Instead he was free to murder four officers in Oakland, California. He suddenly opened fire killing two officers at a traffic stop, and later, killed two more when while hiding inside a closet, as an entry team from the Oakland PD SWAT Team searched for him.
Maurice Clemmons ambushed and murdered four officers as they were working on their computers inside a FORZA coffee shop in Lakewood. More on this “Hassan” in a moment. Meanwhile, myriad citizens also suffered at the hands of these killers. Eight who planned on living out their lives in peace were killed by an active shooter in a senior citizen home in Carthage North Carolina and 13 died in Binghamton New York — shot to death while they were studying to become a citizen of this great country.
In Binghamton, Jiverly Voong went on a shooting rampage because he was depressed and angry over losing his job and about his poor English skills. In Carthage, a “Hassan” named Robert Stewart had a revolver, a 12-gauge shotgun, and a bag filled with ammunition strapped over his shoulder and was “hunting” for his ex-wife. There are almost too many to count: Richard Moreau in Vail, Colorado; George Sodini in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania; Hassan Shakur and Amanda Anderson in Jersey City, New Jersey; Michael McLendon in Samson, Alabama.
The list goes on and on... there’s even the case of David Headley, of Chicago, Illinois, who has plead not guilty to having a role in the multiple active shooter attacks in Mumbai, India.
The pursuit for multiple victims seems to be the 2009 modus operandi of the radical jihadist, the angry husband, the disgruntled employee, the drug dealer, the gang banger, and the untreated emotionally disturbed person. There are more “Hasans” that walk among us and present a continued threat to all of you in law enforcement and the people you have sworn to protect.
The year 2009 brought two outlandish examples of poor judgment which cost law enforcement dearly. The keepers of the keys made poor decisions and released these killers unreasonably early. People sworn to protect the public have shown misplaced compassion and poor judgment. They lack the will and fortitude, to allow a criminal to be punished in a reasonable manner after these criminals have been fairly tried, convicted and sentenced.
The most notable of these is Michael Huckabee, who was Governor of Arkansas when he commuted the sentence of Maurice Clemmons. Clemmons was serving a 108 year sentence and was not eligible for parole until 2021. Huckabee’s commutation made Maurice Clemmons immediately eligible for a parole, which he subsequently received. This was the first in a series of imprudent acts which allowed Clemmons to be free to kill four Lakewood City Police Officers. The killing of these officers — which has been described as “an execution” — was carried out by a man who should have still been in prison by anyone’s standard of justice.
Governor Michael Huckabee is just one example of the many “Huckabees” out there who are endangering citizens by making indefensible decisions, when wielding the power of commutation, pardon, probation, parole and bond release.
Another example of this was the multiple early releases of Lovelle Mixon, who killed Mark Dunakin, John Hege, Dan Sakai, and Ervin Romans of the Oakland Police Department.
The “Huckabees” of the world are good people, gentle people, loving people, caring people, and often, God-fearing people. They become dangerous to the community, when they gravitate to parole boards, the judiciary, and sometimes high office. While they show compassion for the criminal they forget that there are thousands of citizens in this country who have been raped and murdered by predators who were given one more chance — when one more chance was an unacceptable risk to the community.
After all the evidence is in during a jury trial, if there is a reasonable doubt a jury must acquit. The defendant is found not guilty and walks free.
Every potential “Huckabee” who is considering authorizing the early release of a dangerous felon also should determine if there is “reasonable doubt” — if there is a reasonable doubt about the absolute safety of the community their motto must be, “When there’s a doubt, don’t let them out!”
2009 saw incredible acts of heroism. Justin Garner, who was the lone officer on duty in Carthage North Carolina did not hesitate to enter the Pine Lake Health and Rehab Center and ended the rampage of an active shooter with one well placed shot.
Sgt. Kimberly Munley and Officer Mark Todd responded to Nidal Malik Hassan’s act of carnage and immediately engaged the suspect and stopped the killing.
While Officer Benjamin Kelly of the Seattle Police Department was at the scene of a recovered stolen vehicle he observed Maurice Clemmons the suspect in the killing of four officers, approaching on foot. Kelly reacted with quickness and correctness to the impending ambush and sent Clemmons to his eternal reckoning.
Greg Richards of the Lakewood Washington Police Department fought back after being ambushed and although fatally wounded along-side Mark Renninger, Ron Owens, and Tina Griswold. With his last breath he was able to return fire and seriously wound Maurice Clemmons, ensuring that he would not escape justice again.
One more police hero’s story did not make the front pages but he waged an incredible struggle with an adversary many might face some day…Cancer. During his battle there were those who doubted the officer would return to his duties but this survivor has resumed his duties on the Racine Wisconsin Police Department SWAT Team cancer-free. Officer Steven Fish won his fight and has these hard earned insights to share:
“You must take every day and live as if it were your last. You must make the conscious effort to remain positive and always move forward. If you do this you can overcome adversity and life will be more fulfilling.”
It is an unpleasant truth that there will always be Hasan’s in this world that will make this profession dangerous. It is just as certain that there will be Huckabee’s in this world to make this profession dangerous. There is good news, however. There will also always be heroes like Justin Garner, Benjamin Kelly, Kimberly Munley, Mark Todd, Greg Richards, and Steven Fish to show us the way.