In case the problem with getting generally homophobic men who are armed to the teeth who aren't meaningfully accountable to the law to go and arrest men cruising in parks wasn't obvious enough, here's a story that shows what can happen when everyone in that needlessly tense situation panics. I wonder how many stories like this we don't hear about?
Atlanta-based CEO DeFarra Gaymon was in New Jersey for his high school reunion, when he got caught in a cruising sting and a cop killed him. Here's the Times reporting what the cop's side of the story. I wouldn't put too much stock in it, since the only other witness to the incident is dead and the cop seems well-trained in the language he needs to put forward to justify his actions.
The officer and his partner were patrolling the park in plain clothes, part of an operation that has been going on for years, said Mr. Laurino, the prosecutor.
Around 6 p.m., after chasing down a man and arresting him, the officer realized he had lost his handcuffs in the pursuit and went back into the woods, alone, to retrieve them, the prosecutor said.
"The plainclothes officer was bending down to retrieve his handcuffs," Mr. Laurino said, "when he was approached by Mr. Gaymon, who was engaged in a sexual act at the time." Words were exchanged that the prosecutor said "would lead one to believe that" Mr. Gaymon was propositioning the officer.
More after the jump.
"The officer pulled out his badge, identified himself as a police officer and informed Mr. Gaymon that he was under arrest," Mr. Laurino said. Then, he said, Mr. Gaymon shoved the officer to the ground and ran, ignored the officer's demands to stop, and repeatedly threatened to kill the officer if he approached. The officer cornered Mr. Gaymon beside a pond and tried to handcuff him, Mr. Laurino said, but again Mr. Gaymon resisted.
"Mr. Gaymon reached into his pocket and lunged at the officer in an attempt to disarm the officer," Mr. Laurino said. The officer, "fearing for his life," the prosecutor said, shot Mr. Gaymon once, and he died at the hospital three hours later.
An unarmed man who asked a police officer to have sex (if that's what Gaymon did, and there's no real proof) isn't a reason for the officer to fear for his life, but isn't it cute that that's exactly what he needed to have felt in order to be allowed to shoot Gaymon and that's exactly what he's saying?
And what kind of police officer can't handcuff an unarmed CEO? Why was the officer in plainclothes and armed and conducting a sting for a misdemeanor in the first place? Also, it seems strange to me that someone could get chased by police and arrested, but no one else would notice and people would go on having sex in public just a minute later in the exact spot where the police were.
He says he chased Gaymon because he was "engaged in a sex act" and then propositioned the officer, but the former is the most common lie police officers tell in cruising stings and the latter isn't a crime. If he actually was performing a sex act, the punishment is a fine and defendants who fight the charge from the beginning often get off the hook because the officers have no proof anyways.
This is part of the problem with these cruising stings, and it's not an unforeseeable problem, a bad apple, or a one-off freak incident. Police are armed for a reason and we have too many of them going around with too little accountability or training, which is just a recipe for disaster. Using that sort of violence to arrest (and not stop, since we know that these stings just plain don't work to actually stop public sex) some guys looking to get off is like killing a fly with a machine gun.
The ACLU and Garden State Equality are asking for a
federal state [corrected] investigation, and this absolutely should be taken out of the hands of local law enforcement. Police cannot police themselves, and they're already circling the wagons around this officer. They have many reasons to sweep this under the rug, but the public's interest is best served by truth and accountability.
Local clergy are talking to the police in private and then going to the media:
"We came to ask questions and get answers for our community," said the Rev. Lori Williams, an Orange pastor who is president of United Clergy. "We use the park. We have children who use the park."
I'd be worried too if I had children who use that park. Apparently cops shoot people there.