The Most Shocking Aspect of the Aaron Hernandez Case Isn't That He May Have Killed Someone

It's that a suspected murderer received better treatment than a nonviolent drug offender simply because of his wealth.

Last Wednesday New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder for "orchestrating the execution" of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player who Hernandez had known for about a year. I didn't pay the story much attention—until I saw footage of Hernandez being arrested.

Ride the Pine/WCBTVRide the Pine/WCBTVLet me paint the scene for you: It's broad daylight out. A group of six Massachusetts State Police officers in suits and ties approach Hernandez's North Attleborough mansion from the front. Three of them walk up the steps of his porch, and—with their guns holstered—knock on the door. After roughly 50 seconds of knocking and doorbell-ringing, a shirtless Hernandez opens the door and lets six suited staties, plus a cop in uniform, come inside. As one officer starts to cuff Hernandez right there in the foyer, another officer closes the door, presumably to provide Hernandez with some privacy. A few seconds later, Hernandez—now with a tee-shirt pulled over his handcuffed arms and torso—is led outside to a cop car, where officers gently lower him into the back seat and put on his seatbelt.

Don't believe me? Watch the arrest below: 

No battering ram. No flashbangs. No paramilitary gear. I was shocked. 

Now, it's entirely possible that Hernandez knew he was going to be arrested that morning. That after a week or so of questions and the issuance of a warrant, his lawyer had arranged for Hernandez to go peacefully. This scenario would explain the troopers' suits and lack of tactical gear, why they knocked on the door instead of knocking it down. It would also be an incredible courtesy to show to a murder suspect who had "intentionally destroyed his home security system, [smashed his cell phone], and hired a maid service to clean his home on Monday, the day Lloyd’s body was discovered."

In other words, the type of courtesy never shown to someone like Eurie Stamps of Framingham, Mass., whose story was first covered at Reason by Radley Balko.

In 2011, a SWAT team conducted a midnight raid on Stamps' home in Framingham looking for a couple of small-time crack dealers. In the chaos and cloud of adrenaline that results from knocking down someone's door and flooding his home with men dressed like soldiers, an officer shot Stamps in the neck, killing him. The city's chief of police would later say that Stamps was "tragically and fatally struck by a bullet which was discharged from a SWAT officer’s rifle"; as if guns fire themselves.

When police eventually found who they were looking for—not Stamps, but his stepson and the stepson's cousin—neither of them was armed. Nor did police find any firearms in the house.

It almost sounds backwards, doesn't it? Killing an unarmed senior citizen in the process of arresting two unarmed kids holding a couple hundred bucks and some crack, while sending guys in their Sunday best to bring in a man allegedly involved in not just one violent, gang-related murder, but three?

While I don't think police should've used a SWAT team on Hernandez—he'd already submitted to questioning earlier in the week—the deference police showed him from the start of their investigation is kind of amazing. It's the kind of treatment Chappelle's Show parodied with "Tron Carter's Law & Order," in which a black crack dealer gets to decide when the police arrest him and what they charge him with:

This trend isn't limited to Massachusetts. Across the country, poor people experience an entirely different criminal justice system—from arrest to prosecution—than the wealthy. Oftentimes, this means blacks are treated more harshly than whites and that the people who sell illegal drugs for money are treated differently than bankers who launder that money. 

While football fans are free to care about whatever they want, the most shocking aspect of the Hernandez case isn't that an incredible athlete killed anywhere from one to three people, it's that the location of his home and the name of his employer bought him courtesies that poor, nonviolent offenders committing consensual crimes seldom experience.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It's all about positive public relations.

  • Juice||

    nailed it

  • aber2578||

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  • DJF||

    I am sure that a full investigation will take place on why SWAT was not used, why no dogs were shot, why the house was not burnt down.

    Officers will be put on leave with no pay, others will be fired, some will be sent to jail because of this lack of professional behavior. New rules will be put in place, new ninja uniforms bought, the police will be equipped with special anti-dog guns and flame throwers.

  • PapayaSF||

    I'm not going to defend the overuse of SWAT teams or the over-deference given to celebrities and other rich white collar criminals, but it's not unreasonable for police to think they are more likely to be shot while arresting a low-level crack dealer than while arresting a banker or NFL player, because they are.

    If I didn't know who Hernandez was and just saw a picture, I'd think "dangerous thug." Way to reinforce stereotypes, dude.

  • ||

    It's unreasonable to think you're more likely to get shot by two unarmed crack addicts than by a man who shot and killed at least one person and may have shot and killed others?

  • ||

    Allegedly shot...

  • Paul.||

    Allegedly sold crack.

  • entropy||

    Alleged crack.

  • PapayaSF||

    Yes. Who would you feel safer arresting: three random crack addicts, or O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, and Phil Spector? They are all murderers, but not as likely to be dangerous when cornered like the crack addicts.

  • Brett L||

    not as likely to be dangerous when cornered like the crack addicts.

    Citation needed.

  • PapayaSF||

    I don't think one needs a citation for what is a combination of common sense and street smarts. How many arrests of high-profile defendants have ever resulted in cops getting shot? I suppose there must be a few, though I can't think of any, but by far most arrests of celebrities or rich people aren't dangerous to do. Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen aren't going to pull out a gun and start blazing, but your random drug dealer or bank robber might very well do so.

  • sticks||

    Well if the cops treated the high profile arrests like the arrest of drug dealers....you misogyny start to see the celebs defend himself and shoot back

  • PapayaSF||

    Unlikely, but I love the autocorrect "you misogyny start."

  • Rudy||

    No crack dealers are going to be unarmed.

  • Bean Counter||

    Uh, we NOW know the crack dealers were unarmed. The cops on the raid had no idea whether they were armed or not. Given the rather violent world crack dealers inhabit, assuming that they would be armed is probably the most reasonable and prudent choice. That doesn't excuse the out of control violence of many drug arrests, etc. But just assuming that what you read in an online blog is what the cops knew at the time is just a LITTLE prejudicial.

  • R C Dean||

    The fact that the cops apparently know how to act like civilized members of society just makes it even more bitter when they choose not to.

  • robc||

    THIS.

    1 million times THIS.

  • Paul.||

    I agree with you hunnert percent. However, notice the suits and lack of uniforms.. These appear to be detectives. I submit that detectives are a different breed.

    I like to believe (operative word 'like') that when you get to the detective level, you've got some IQ points above and beyond your average patrol cop and are capable of visiting a perps house without battering rams and the like. Ie, it's more like the movies-- which I've repeatedly postulated are behind the times.

  • Jerryskids||

    I think the arrest has more to do with the fact that they were on national TV than anything - how many people watched this on CNN and ESPN and ABC?

    The cops were acting nice and professional because they were, in fact, acting. How would they have acted if the TV cameras weren't there? Who knows? Nobody gets a chance to see TV footage that was never shot so it might as well have never happened.

  • Paul.||

    Tough call. The cops seem to love the hard-charging tough-on-crime publicity they get from the military style raids.

  • Bean Counter||

    Extraordinarily good point!! I may have to take back some of the things I have thought about you.

  • Aresen||

    Well, the cops didn't want to jeopardize their free season tickets.

  • RBS||

    I guess they left the cheque drops back at the station.

  • ||

    Shoulda used the gif of him opening the door.

    Oh and from the gif and your picture it has ride the pine stamp on it, not sure why you attributed it to deadspin.

  • Mike Riggs||

    DANKE. Will fix. (Saw it on Deadspin first.)

  • Ted S.||

    I hate gifs substituting for video. Bandwidth wasters, and they're almost never funny.

  • NewWorldDan||

    We should send along TV News crews with cops more often.

  • Aresen||

    There are whole networks of copsucker TV crews.

  • B.P.||

    I think we need a ruling to determine why SWAT was not used -- Aaron Hernandez: white Hispanic?

  • AlgerHiss||

    This is a great piece highlighting the awful condition of US civilian peace keeping, which is completely out of control.

    But more disgusting is that current state of these silly-assed sports organizations such as the freak'n "nfl" and the freak'n "nba".

    This story lists 27 nfl (I refuse to capitalize this as I find them worthless and unimportant) arrests since this years "superbowl".

    Thugs and ass-wipes make up these "sports" teams. Who could possibly pay any attention to this shit is beyond me.

  • Generic Stranger||

    You've got an...interesting set of priorities there. Out of control cops that can shoot you with impunity are less disgusting than sports leagues you can choose not to watch/do business with?

    Tell me...what color is the sky in Bizarro World?

  • AlgerHiss||

    Sorry...here is the story of the 27 nfl sphincters:

    http://www.businessinsider.com.....owl-2013-6

  • Mike M.||

    I don't think it's fair at all to dismiss every professional basketball and football player as a thug and a criminal just because some of them are. I agree that there are a lot more than there should be, but it's still just a minority of players.

    Having said that, the New England Patriots absolutely deserve to be taking a LOT more flack than they are for not just drafting this piece of shit, but giving him a $40 million dollar contract.

    It was such common knowledge even three years ago that he was very bad news that most teams weren't willing to take the risk on him at all, and that's saying a lot.

  • dinkster||

    A good half of those arrests are non crimes.

  • Paul.||

    That after a week or so of questions and the issuance of a warrant, his lawyer had arranged for Hernandez to go peacefully.

    Why would a wink and a nod from a third party guarantee officer safety? If the officers are arresting someone who's allegedly committed a violent crime, and they apply tactical brigades to that arrest scenario, then they should in all scenarios.

    Police are either liying to us, or they're lying to themselves. I'll let them decide which.

    And so I don't have to post twice:

    "tragically and fatally struck by a bullet which was discharged from a SWAT officer’s rifle";

    *throwing up a little in my mouth*

  • Luddite||

    If you have no ability, as a supposedly highly-trained professional law-enforcer, to restrain your trigger finger, then you have no business being a law-enforcer, and should be stripped of your duties post-haste.

  • Luddite||

    fuckin' commas, how do they work? (/ugh)

  • Aresen||

    Luddite: I suspect that it is more cause for promotion than dismissal.

  • Whahappan?||

    Responsibility and accountability are for the little people.

  • Aresen||

    Police are either liying to us, or they're lying to themselves.

    Why not both?

    "self-deception, the root of all evil.-- Robert A. Heinlein."

  • Paul.||

    Also, let's run with the theme that Hernandez was expecing the arrest and this was all a formality.

    1. Don't celebrities who kind of sort of know that an arrest will be made and have already arranged the terms with the lawyers turn themselves in peacefully? I mean, usually?

    2. If Hernandez was expecting the arrest and all this was a formality... why did he answer the door shirtless and in his skivvies?

    Apropos of #2, if I'm expecting an arrest, and I'm expecting news cameras to be on scene, I'm going to answer my door fully dressed and ready to go.

  • ||

    He doesn't appear to have much common sense so it's not very surprising.

  • Paul.||

    I considered this after I posted, that Hernandez is just that ghetto. But that fucked up my narrative.

  • Henry the Twooth||

    Are you kidding me. When the officers heard they would be arresting Hernandez, they probably had to hold a lottery to see who would get to go and arrest the football star (and tell their kids about it later).

    But, realistically, the level of force used is generally proportionate to the level of resistance expected. Of course the police aren't always wrong, but I would rather the police be wrong on the side of not destroying property and "discharging firearms".

  • Angry after 40||

    "Level of resistance expected". I think the main problem is the cops think it is easier to knock down a door than to investigate long enough to have an expectation. You would think in order to expect the kind of resistance to justify swat team no knock entry, they would have to have the correct address.

    If we treated cops with anything approaching the zero tolerance we treat 10 year olds with, there would not be any more bad cops.

  • R C Dean||

    the level of force used is generally proportionate to the level of resistance expected.

    I think you're confusing "is" with "should be".

  • Geoff Nathan||

    Many of you will remember the SWAT team incident in Detroit where a young girl was killed in what turned out to be the wrong apartment. Again, they were looking for an accused killer, but were also being filmed by a TV network as part of the raid.
    FWIW the trial against the cop whose gun 'discharged' ended in a hung jury two weeks ago, and the prosecution is weighing its options.

    http://detroit.cbslocal.com/20.....lice-raid/

    Certainly contrasts with this arrest...

  • daveInAustin||

    And how many seconds did Jose Guerana have to open his door after working a graveyard shift in a copper mine?

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  • Mark22||

    Calling that a "trend" is dangerously misleading, implying that things are getting worse. It's not a trend at all, police has never been evenhanded.

    I'm not even sure that it is as corrupt as you imply. Cops may be particularly polite to someone they like, but if they thought there was any chance of violence or flight, they would put on the riot gear out of sheer self-interest.

  • Rudy||

    Seems a little ancedotal, doncha think? Where is the proof that this happens more for poor people than rich people? SWAT Teams are not standard procedure for arrests, even for suspected murderers. And is it not rational for the police to expect more resistance from a drug dealer than a banker?

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  • Anvil||

    Great article by Mike Riggs to point the hypocrisy in our law enforcement agencies, as well as great comparison to an episode of "Chappelle's Show".

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