Civil Liberties

Angry, Upset Cop Kills Shocked, Unarmed Man Face Down on the Ground Over Expired Inspection Stickers; Naturally, Acquitted of All Charges


Ed Krayewski blogged about this shooting when it happened earlier this year. Officer Lisa Mearkle of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, was hunting David Kassick through the Pennsylvania snow as if he were a frightened deer.

Why was this paladin of public safety doing this? Because she saw Kassick had an expired inspection and emission test stickers on his car. When she tried to pull him over for it he kept driving, eventually to his sister's house, then got out of the car and continued to try to move toward safety for himself and not quietly let her apprehend him.

She tased him, he was writhing on the ground, she screamed at him loud and long about showing his hands and not moving and then she shot him twice in the back, killing him. He had no weapon and pointed nothing at her.

She was acquitted this week on charges of third-degree murder and voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

Associated Press insists in its report that "Kassick's hands repeatedly disappeared underneath his body as Mearkle screamed at him to keep them where she could see them and then fired the fatal shots."

Upon charging her, District Attorney Ed Marisco believed the video supported an indictment:

"At the time Officer Mearkle fires both rounds from her pistol, the video clearly depicts Kassick lying on the snow covered lawn with his face toward the ground," according to the arrest affidavit. "Furthermore, at the time the rounds are fired nothing can be seen in either of Kassick's hands, nor does he point or direct anything toward Officer Mearkle."

You can watch the video yourself at this site. I don't find the AP's version unambiguously correct, if only because the video did not always show Kassick's body. Certainly he was at times trying to show his hands, though also going through understandable felt need to just seek something like comfort as his body reacted to electric shock**. There was at least one point where for a half-second one hand was clearly not visible to Mearkle, and then it was again, with no weapon in it

Mearkle didn't seem to be moving to where her visual angle on the downed victim would satisfy her desire to be exactly sure where his hands were at all times. I guess reasonable people could differ on whether there was any reason at all to think Kassick could have been any threat at all, but it is abundantly clear from Mearkle's voice and behavior that she was by no means at that point a reasonable person.

She had been hunting a human like an animal through his family's property and shocking him for no reason any sane person could see as reasonable. I guess when you consider it your job to do that to people (she presumably at this point had the vehicle driving with its fatal expired emission and inspection sticker's license plate and could pursue the vital to public safety task of ticketing him through other more peaceful means), you might on occasion get a bit high strung and worry that, hmm, maybe this guy I just chased and tasered and is writhing on the ground because I'm hunting him with weapons drawn and screaming at him like a bloody insane banshee might try to hurt me.

Even though I can see no evidence of this, I should just kill him. 

Surely a jury will think that makes sense. And because she's a cop, they did. Mearkle even complained on the stand that her even being charged was politically motivated.

**CORRECTION: The post originally misused the term "electrocute" three times to describe what happened to Kassick. That term properly means to kill with electricity, not merely to shock.