Isaac Singletary Update

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Singletary, you'll remember, is the elderly man in Florida who, upon seeing drug dealers on his lawn, came out of his home with a gun to scare them off.

Unfortunately, they weren't drug dealers, but undercover cops posing as drug dealers. Upon seeing Singletary with his gun, they shot him dead. Even the police and town officials concede that Singletary was involved in no criminal activity, and was merely attempting to protect his property from what he thought were criminals.

As noted before, Singletary's death is drug war collateral damage. His death is the entirely predictable consequence of having crimes on the books that the police have to break in order to enforce, and of ratcheting up the stakes for those crimes by declaring a "war" on them. It now looks like the cops who killed Singletary won't face criminal charges. I'm a bit conflicted on this one. But if there are no criminal charges, there should at least be some disciplinary action, at least if that "new professionalism" Justice Scalia was telling us about means anything at all.

The disturbing parts of this case:

  • The undercover narcotics officers were trespassing on Singletary's private property. And they were doing so to engage in drug activity. I doubt this is legal. And if it is, it shouldn't be. Unless they have a warrant, and are investigating Singletary himself (they weren't). 
  • The state's attorney investigation found the police actions justified because Singletary "was an armed civilian who refused orders to drop his gun." But the same report criticized the police for not announcing themselves as police before they fired on Singletary. If both of these things are true, then the state's attorney is saying Singletary should have obeyed orders to drop his gun from armed men he understandably believed were dangerous, and trespassing on his property. If Florida's new home defense law means anything at all, one would think it would mean the right to hold your ground when armed men are on your property.
  • Singletary was shot four times. Once in the back.
  • The state's attorney chose to believe police accounts of who fired first (they say Singletary) over the account of a witness who says the police fired first, because the witness is a convicted drug dealer. Seems reasonable. Except when you consider that (a) one of the police investigators changed his story about who fired first, (b) attorneys for Singletary's family have found four other witnesses who contradict the police account (why didn't the investigator talk to these people?), and (c) police take the word of convicted drug dealers as gold all the time when it comes to securing warrants for drug raids, or to prosecute other drug dealers.
  • Just as an aside, why isn't the National Rifle Association all over this case? I've been told they won't get involved in the Cory Maye case because of the minuscule amount of marijuana (a burnt roach) found in Maye's apartment. But Singletary was an innocent man gunned down for defending his home from what he thought were criminal trespassers. Isn't what he did what the NRA is all about?

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  1. The NRA almost always sides with cops, unless they’re ATF ninjas.

    I found this comment from the earlier thread interesting, in light of the helicopter crash incident that Radley’s been writing about:

    Aresen | January 30, 2007, 6:28pm | #
    Radley

    Not to disagree, but I think “collateral damage” is far too generous a term for what happened here.

    A closer analogy would be the death of a bank teller during a robbery – which counts as first-degree murder in most jurisdictions.

  2. Warty,

    A better analogy would be someone run over by a news crew’s van on its way to cover a bank robbery…. the robber does not get a “hit and run” citation in addition to his bank heist.

    Sheesh

  3. I don’t understand the conflict part. The people who shot him are not accountable for their illegal actions?

  4. NRA = A bunch of brainless, no principled, chest-thumping cowards.

    They can rot in Hades.

  5. There should be a rule that says if you kill an innocent person, your police career is over for good.

  6. If only some “progressive” would come and help us understand that Mr Singletary was at fault, here; if loony Republican panderers had only allowed the government to take the poor deluded man’s gun away from him, this never would have happened.

  7. Man, that was a tough one for Crockett and Tubbs.

  8. So, a guy brandishes a gun to “defend his property” and it turns out badly? Hmmm…

    So of course the NRA doesn’t want to have anything to do with this, it’s a classic example of why people shouldn’t defend their property with firearms.

  9. What charges would Mr. Singletary be facing if he’d killed both of the undercover cops? Or would he not face criminal charges?

  10. MyTube,
    yeah, classic example. If you defend your property, you might get shot by the cops.

  11. Sort of like how drugs can ruin your life; you might get thrown in jail if you use them.

  12. The NRA almost always sides with cops, unless they’re ATF ninjas.

    This is mostly true. The NRA had a very good relationship with the police for a long time (which was good for gun rights in general), but the “cop-killer teflon bullets” debacle in the 80’s put a wedge in between them that the NRA would like to forget about.

    The NRA does some important work. They are sure as fuck not perfect.

  13. Remember that working stiff who got whacked when he pulled a gun on Vitti’s crew when he saw them sneaking through his property?

    Today the consigliere decided that nothing’s going to be done to the wiseguys who killed him. That it was just one of those things. That people should just forget about it.

    The fact that people are suprised is comical.

  14. “So of course the NRA doesn’t want to have anything to do with this, it’s a classic example of why people shouldn’t defend their property with firearms.”

    So, how should one defend one’s property?

  15. Hmm, over on the crashing ‘copters thread they mention a case of a robber being charged with murder because the clerk killed the robber’s accomplice. The logic being the clerk wouldn’t have pulled the gun if they hadn’t been robbing the store.
    Obviously, Mr. Singletary wouldn’t have pulled his gun if the cops hadn’t been trespassing while pretending to be drug pushers…
    So, which is it, young feller?

  16. Anyone with sense knows that the cops will fire first, and will shoot to kill. Notice that no attempt from our best trained weapons specialists was made to simply disable the poor man … they had to kill. I would wager that at least 80 percent of all officers in this country have a sick kind of bloodlust that motivates them to kill anything or anyone they can, if given a situation where they could disavow culpability. These are a generation of testosterone fueled violence junkies that simply cannot wait to kill … and they have ALL the power. Should anyone be surprised when this happens?
    I am sorry to say that this will never change unless citizens do more than simply arm themselves … THEY need to shoot to kill.

  17. “Notice that no attempt from our best trained weapons specialists was made to simply disable the poor man … they had to kill.”

    I am not defending the cops here, but nobody is trained to “shoot to disable”. The standard training is the “double tap”; two rounds to the center of mass, and that is all she wrote. If you shoot, you are taking a lethal action.

  18. Wayne … thank you for that clarification. I must have been mistaken, but I sincerely thought that they were/are trained to injure while minimizing the chances of death. In any case, the bigger mistake here was that they failed to mention that they were police officers. That these vile creatures will be able to walk away and perpetrate their deeds upon other unwitting innocents makes them worse than the vast majority of criminals in this country. Perhaps we should inundate the local police station with protests, for what it’s worth …

  19. These stories just wear me out. Police policy needs to change. Police should not break the law to catch a crook. Police should think through their actions and anticipate that they are likely to be confronted by a frightened homeowner if they illegally trespass; and they are likely to be in a situation where somebody is going to die as a consequence.

  20. I sincerely thought that they were/are trained to injure while minimizing the chances of death.

    No, no, no. If you’re shooting at somebody, you had better be trying to kill them. Otherwise, you use a taser or a beanbag or noogies or strong language. Shooting somebody is a poor way to not kill them.

  21. I really don’t see a conflict here.

    Armed thugs trespassing on his property, he came out to chase them off, they shot him dead.

    Murder plain and simple.

    So what if they were undercover cops? The didn’t announce it, didn’t have a warrant, etc. So that should be irrelevant.

    Just cause your a cop you shouldn’t be able to break the law, murder innocent civilians and just say, “It’s okay. I’m a cop.” and walk away from it.

  22. Isn’t there some need to consider proportionality when acting in defense?
    If the trespassers were climbing in his window, then use of or brandishing a gun is perfectly appropriate. But if they were merely standing on his lawn, then calling the cops or calling out for them to “move on” is a better first step. When the kids kick their soccer ball on your lawn, does a good libertarian ask them to play elsewhere (and play a real sport, like baseball) or
    does he fire a shotgun in their direction?
    You know the answer and so should anyone who exercises his right to keep and bear arms.

  23. “Just cause your a cop you shouldn’t be able to break the law, murder innocent civilians and just say, “It’s okay. I’m a cop.” and walk away from it.”

    Yeah, I agree.

  24. “Isn’t there some need to consider proportionality when acting in defense?
    If the trespassers were climbing in his window, then use of or brandishing a gun is perfectly appropriate. But if they were merely standing on his lawn, then calling the cops or calling out for them to “move on” is a better first step. When the kids kick their soccer ball on your lawn, does a good libertarian ask them to play elsewhere (and play a real sport, like baseball) or
    does he fire a shotgun in their direction?
    You know the answer and so should anyone who exercises his right to keep and bear arms.”

    You are right, of course, although I don’t know the details of this case. The devil is in the details, as always.

  25. True enough, but if he was working under the assumption that the trespassers were drug dealers, then it seems like it would be a bad idea to approach them unarmed.

    Do we know if Singletary had attempted to contact the police before approaching these cops?

  26. “When the kids kick their soccer ball on your lawn, does a good libertarian ask them to play elsewhere (and play a real sport, like baseball) or
    does he fire a shotgun in their direction?”

    If those cops had actually been playing soccer on his lawn, that analogy might make sense.

  27. If you are going to criticize the state’s attorney who investigated the incident for doing a poor job, then you should include his name, so he is properly embarassed.

  28. The state’s attorney investigation found the police actions justified because Singletary “was an armed civilian who refused orders to drop his gun.” But the same report criticized the police for not announcing themselves as police before they fired on Singletary.

    Ironically enough, if the trespassers had not been police, Singletary would probably still be alive. It is most likely that actual criminals would have acquiesced to the owner’s request to get off the property.

    It is sad that the same agreeable social behavior didn’t occur to the undercover cops. But then they know they’re not going to be punished regardless…

  29. So, a guy brandishes a gun to “defend his property” and it turns out badly? Hmmm…

    So of course the NRA doesn’t want to have anything to do with this, it’s a classic example of why people shouldn’t defend their property with firearms.

    That is a “good” point, MyTube. Very “perceptive” and “well thought out.”

  30. Are police in Florida immune from Wrongful Death suits? At the minimum you’d think Jacksonville would be liable for that.

  31. wayne | July 30, 2007, 12:22pm | #
    “So of course the NRA doesn’t want to have anything to do with this, it’s a classic example of why people shouldn’t defend their property with firearms.”

    So, how should one defend one’s property?

    Clearly, he should have called the police. That would’ve shown those drug pushers on his lawn! It worked for David Ruttenberg, didn’t it?

  32. Ironically enough, if the trespassers had not been police, Singletary would probably still be alive. It is most likely that actual criminals would have acquiesced to the owner’s request to get off the property.

    It is sad that the same agreeable social behavior didn’t occur to the undercover cops. But then they know they’re not going to be punished regardless…

    That would require the police to have an attitude other than total fucking domination, which goes against years of training and indoctrination. Even under cover, if anybody questions your authority, shoot/tazer/nightstick first, seek to understand later.

  33. Cases like this one make it extremely hard to lament the killing of a policeman.
    They obviously don’t care about killing us.

  34. I seriously doubt he’d of come out armed for kids playing soccer, apples and oranges.

    We’re talking grown adults specifically clothed to look like drug dealers and acting the part.

  35. Isn’t there some need to consider proportionality when acting in defense?
    If the trespassers were climbing in his window, then use of or brandishing a gun is perfectly appropriate. But if they were merely standing on his lawn, then calling the cops or calling out for them to “move on” is a better first step.

    I don’t know about that city, but in Detroit cops don’t bother showing up for lots of crimes. If you find your car is broken into, or your home has been robbed, it is up to you to go to the police station and file a report to get the paper work for your insurance company – the cops just can’t be bothered to actually come by and check it out. It is unlikely the police would bother to respond to such a call, and if they did it would be several hours before they would be there.

    In a lot of cases, the cops are extremly angry and intimidating to the people who actually call the police.

    In this case, telling the drug dealer to beat it himself was probably his only option if he didn’t want them dealing drugs in his yard.

  36. I seriously doubt he’d of come out armed for kids playing soccer

    On the other hand, whenever I see kids in front of my place skateboarding or swooping around in their “heelies,” I affix a sniper’s scope sight to Ol’ Betsy.

  37. That is a “good” point, MyTube. Very “perceptive” and “well thought out.”

    Thanks. Gotta love guns!

  38. You’re “welcome.” I “look forward” to reading more of your “thoughts” about guns in the future.

  39. Am I cynical for wondering what the official story would have been had this guy been a better gunfighter and actually won?

  40. Not to assume motivations here, but Mr. Singletary was, very likely, protecting his property in more than one sense. In Florida, a homeowner who knowingly allows drug deals to occur on his property, whether or not he is dealing or indeed is even complicit in the action, is subject to asset forfeiture. I vaguely remember a case being decided this way under very similar circumstances, except of course the “drug dealers” were not undercover police officers.

  41. Very funny, Stevo. I love your light touch. No qualifications necessary.

  42. If you think a armed guy coming out of his house to address drug dealers is “too much”. Remember cops view drug dealers as so dangers they need a SWAT team to enter a drug dealers house. Cops believe drug dealers are armed, why would this guy think any different.

  43. We’re talking grown adults specifically clothed to look like drug dealers and acting the part.

    In fact, they probably WERE dealing drugs.

    In this case, telling the drug dealer to beat it himself was probably his only option if he didn’t want them dealing drugs in his yard.

    And as the aforementioned David Ruttenberg case illustrates, failure to prevent drug activity on your premises can land suspicion on you, and even lead to having your property seized.

    Those of us who are to be ‘served and protected’ are stuck in a catch 22 where the police are often causing the problem, and holding us accountable.

  44. You’re “welcome.” I “look forward” to reading more of your “thoughts” about guns in the future.

    At least we can both agree that Singletary’s strategy of grabbing a shotgun and charging a bunch of dangerous-looking guys turned out to be a really great one. I guess the rule is that you should exercise your second amendment rights on others before they excercise theirs on you…

  45. Rex- In Chicago it seems the cops are to busy commiting crimes to have to to respond to them as well.

    This is murder plain and simple. This is why no one sheds a tear about a cop dying in the “line of duty,” these days.

    This will not end until they are called out to accidently kill the relatives of those in power who can facilitate the changes we need. But until it affects them directly its of no matter to them. But gun down a few of their innocent relative and I bet they see things differently.

    Anon tips to politicians relatives homes, judges familes etc should do it in no time. I bet it only takes on politicians family member getting murdered on an anon tip to bring the change we seek. Shame that so many are worth so little i the eyes of the law, the law which inflicts more harm than the objects they seek to ban ever would.

  46. Or possibly, we should demand more from our police officers. But nah, if there are drug dealers on your lawn, just duck and cover. Surely they’ll just go away peacefully, right?

  47. “””I guess the rule is that you should exercise your second amendment rights on others before they excercise theirs on you…”””

    It wasn’t his 2nd Amendment right he was exercising. That goes to ownership not use. He was exercising his right to defend his property, that’s a right that the drug dealers, and cops were not exercising. I’m not sure if you have a right to self defense if you’re trespassing on someone’s property.

  48. Out of curiosity, I wonder what the cops would have said if he took a picture of the drug deal and had it published in the newspaper as the drug dealers on my front lawn. I bet the cops would have a problem with that too.

  49. Another “great point,” MyTube. “Please” keep them coming.

  50. What we need is a law abiding anti-police organization . . . with a charter that clearly states that cops will be fired upon if the innocent armed civilian has reason to feel said copper(s) represent a clear and present danger. It’s time to turn the tables folks …
    it is the only way to fight back and protect your life, liberty and property.

  51. The state’s attorney investigation found the police actions justified because Singletary “was an armed civilian who refused orders to drop his gun.” But the same report criticized the police for not announcing themselves as police before they fired on Singletary.

    Excuse my Anglo-Saxon, but this is freakin’ retarded. A person of no authority that you’ve never met before is trespassing on your property, dealing drugs and orders you to drop your weapon. This gives criminals carte-blanche to commit crimes by ordering their victims to drop their weapons.

    Had the report discovered that the police had announced themselves, they could at least fall back on that. But to admit that Singletary had no knowledge as to the status of the people on his property, and then in the same breath claim that he should have “followed orders” and dropped his gun…well that just chaps my ass.

  52. Singletary “was an armed civilian who refused orders to drop his gun.”

    Hold it!! CIVILIAN! So what branch of the Armed Forces did his MURDERERS belong to? And under what section of the UCMJ did they commit this act lawfully?

    Oh, wait a minute, they were armed CIVILIANS too. IE city police officers.

    Time was this use of CIVILIANS to refer to “not policemen” was restricted to bad TV cop shows. Now it’s part of the language of demagogic State Attorneys and Mayors.

    Corruption of the language might not be as serious a crime as Murder, but it certainly seems to help in facilitating it.

  53. Kind of reminds me of that case where the cops murdered a man in his own home and got away with it because he “took up a defensive position” (ie jumped behind a couch).

    Of course if armed men in black bust your door down guns drawn and dont bother to announce themselves as cops I guess your supposed to stand there and wait to die just in case they might be cops and hiding or defending yourself are not allowed.

  54. I don’t know how to break this to you, libertarians, but the reason the NRA is not all over this is that Mr. Singletary was black and the NRA leadership is a bunch of republicans. When an 80 year old white man gets shot while defending his home we will see the outrage all of a sudden.

  55. NRA = Not Really Associated
    As a life NRA member I can tell you that the “new NRA” only cares about fund-raising and exacerbating policy issues, not the cops, not the gun owners, not NRA members, only the money for NRA salaries (read exorbitant) hey, it is what it is!

  56. belle waring,

    Yeah, just like they fought Mayor Nagin and his goons in court after they confiscated New Orleans residents’ legal firearms after Katrina hit.

    New Orleans is a lily-white place, right?

  57. “Yeah, just like they fought Mayor Nagin and his goons in court after they confiscated New Orleans residents’ legal firearms after Katrina hit.

    New Orleans is a lily-white place, right?”

    In the videotape I saw, it was white folks having their guns confiscated. That would lend even more support for belle waring’s assertion that the NRA is racially motivated.

    The NRA to support the rights of all colors of Americans, so it is of no (major) importance to me if they fail more for one color over another.

  58. Isn’t there some need to consider proportionality when acting in defense?

    Only if you’re a pussified apologist grasping for a post hoc rationalization for murder committed by agents of the state.

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