Montana officer Grant Morrison was found not culpable for shooting Richard Ramirez to death during a traffic stop last April, claiming he feared for his life because he thought Ramirez' hand was reaching for a nonexistent weapon.
After much testimony from police officers about what a bad guy Ramirez was and how he was high on meth, despite video evidence (below) that provides no evidence for Morrison's assertion other than that he was aggressive and high strung and hostile, but does show him continuing to shout bullying orders after opening fire and taking nearly a minute to call for medical help, Morrison was not charged.
AP account from KOAA, excerpt:
A jury at a coroner's inquest determined Wednesday that a Montana police officer was justified in shooting and killing an unarmed man high on methamphetamine during a traffic stop….
The seven-person jury deliberated about an hour before delivering its decision.
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said he does not expect to file any charges given the jury's decision…
Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said it was the fifth officer-involved shooting in his eight years as head of the department. Each shooting was ruled to be justified, he said.
"That tells us we're doing the right thing in the right way," St. John said…
This was Morrison second killing of a citizen in the line of duty; he also faced no charges in that case, also because he said the murdered Jason Shaw was reaching for a BB gun.
Morrison was placed on paid leave after the Ramirez killing and is now investigating, wait for it, prescription drug crimes.
There is nothing in the video by the way, or in anything that the officer said to the four people in the car he pulled over in it, that shows any obvious legitimate reason for the stop to have occurred in the first place. (All the press reports merely blandly refer to a "traffic stop," no reason given or apparently necessary. You are in motion through the world, you are open season for a cop to hassle you, and given the vagueness of so much traffic law and the Whren v. U.S. decision, that's pretty much true.
[UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Notorious GKC for pointing out something I shamefully missed: while not clear from the video, and not mentioned in most of the press accounts which refer to "traffic stop" and not "shooting investigation stop," the Daily Inter Lake clip I link below does quote authority's claiming that the officer thought Ramirez had been involved in a shooting earlier that day. Apologies for missing that. More about that in this Missoulian clip, again from when the shooting occurred and not this week, which says that Morrison had already identified Ramirez as being in the car before he pulled it over. You can decide whether any larger point about the dangers of traffic stops remains.]
UPDATE UPDATE: Now this more detailed account of Morrison's testimony from Billings Gazette says he did not identify Ramirez as being in the car til after he'd pulled it over, so perhaps there is a polemical point about traffic stops to be made after all. You decide!]
It bears repeating: the more bullshit reasons police have to even initiate an encounter with a citizen, the more both citizen and even cop are at risk; and that the pettiest of traffic and other rules that give police a chance to initiate a confrontation with citizens at their will deserve more serious thought than people tend to give them.
The Montana News Association excoriates local police's attitude toward citizens in traffic stops that can lead to these tragic results.
If you want to feel like Ramirez surely deserved it, this contemporaneous report from Montana's Daily Inter Lake has details on how bad and druggy the murdered man and his family are. Again, none of this seems to have any bearing on the event as presented in the video.
See the video. Disturbing, natch:
Hat tip: Free Thought Project.