Category Archives: Crime and Punishment

Forest Acres officer shot, killed at Richland Mall

The fallen officer, Greg Alia.

The fallen officer, Greg Alia.

Horrible news travels so fast these days.

By the time I got a news alert from WACH telling me that a Forest Acres officer had been shot and killed at Richland Mall this morning, the flags at City Hall were already at half-mast:

And more astoundingly, my friend Mary Pat Baldauf had already contributed to a memorial fund for him:

It’s like we don’t even get a moment anymore to absorb the news, to say, “Oh, my God. How terrible…”

So consider that to have been said by me. Perhaps I’ll have more to say later.

The death penalty for Roof?

Thoughts on this?

A South Carolina prosecutor says she will seek the death penalty for an alleged white supremacist, Dylann Roof of Columbia, who is charged with killing nine black churchgoers in June in Charleston.

“This was the ultimate crime, and justice from our state calls for the ultimate penalty,” 9th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson told a group of reporters shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday….

To state what I’ve stated many times before, if I thought the death penalty was right, this would certainly be a case in which I would apply it.

But I don’t, so I wouldn’t.

I found this particularly intriguing:

In recent weeks, Wilson has met with families of the nine victims. At her Thursday press conference, she told reporters that some family members agreed with her decision and others did not. But in the end the decision was hers, she said….

Often, prosecutors will cite the wishes of victims’ families as reasons to pursue a particular charge or penalty. Which is, of course, wrong in a nation of laws and not of men. The prosecutor is right: It is her decision to make.

That said, do you think she has made the right one? Particularly in this case, when our state was pulled together so dramatically by the gestures of forgiveness by the families.

(I had breakfast this morning with Mark Lett, executive editor at The State. As we were leaving, he asked whether I had ever thought South Carolina could come together like that, so quickly, to remove the flag. I said I certainly had not imagined such a thing. I told him that when I ran into Aaron Sheinin at that first flag rally after the shootings, he and I got to talking about how the very earliest anything could happen would be January. And then I said, “Of course, our governor could call on lawmakers to come back into session especially to take the flag down,” and we both laughed in the cynical way that ink-stained wretches of the press tend to do. And then, two days later, it actually happened. It was a miracle — it was a whole raft of miracles to see those people standing together for such a purpose — and it was brought about by those exhibitions of forgiveness. Which gives us additional reason to regard what the families did with awe and reverence.)

Of course, I suppose there’s a school of thought that you can personally forgive someone, but still believe that person should face the consequences of his actions. And this is a consequence for which our laws provide.

I would say that death is not the right way to go. But that’s what I always say. You?

OK, let’s talk about guns in America

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson says he’ll introduce legislation to do the following in the wake of the Emanuel AME massacre and other recent mass shootings:

▪  Close a three-day loophole that allows some S.C. gun purchasers to buy and take home a gun before a background check has been completed. That rule, and errors in the federal background-checking system, allowed alleged Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof to buy a gun.

▪  Require background checks to be conducted through the State Law Enforcement Division and the federal system before a gun sale can be completed

▪  Ban assault weapons, defined as semi-automatic firearms designed and configured for rapid fire

▪ Require reporting of lost or stolen guns

▪ Require state registration and permitting of all guns…

In response to Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin’s statement that there is “no appetite” in the State House for gun control legislation — which you had probably guessed already — Sen. Kimpson “said the Charleston church shootings, which killed nine African-Americans including a state senator, ‘opened people’s minds to doing things in the State House that have never been done before.'”

Which is true enough. Whether that applies to this, however, remains to be seen.

On the same day that I read that, I received a graphic from someone with a blog called CrimeWire, urging me to share it.

Actually it doesn’t tell me a lot I didn’t know, but I share it for those of you who like infographics. It’s lighter on numbers than most such efforts. For instance, I doubt many minds will be changed by such an assertion as, “The Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that there’s substantial evidence that indicates more guns means more murders.” Oh, yeah, says Jim Bob, sittin’ with the boys around the cracker barrel. I bet they’s a heap o’ hunters up at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

For those who prefer text, the facts in the graphic seem to have come from a Washington Post story, headlined “11 essential facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States,” that ran the morning after the Charleston shootings.

As for my own views… As I’ve stated before, I think the problem in America is just that too many guns exist. Everybody talks about the rights of individual gun owners, but I don’t really look at who owns the guns. Ownership is something that can change easily, through burglary for instance. There are just too many of them in existence, and it’s inevitable that some of them will be in the hands of the wrong people at the wrong time.

It’s an economic problem: Too many violent people chasing too many guns.

But while I feel like I diagnose the problem correctly, I have no idea what to do about it. I just don’t see a solution. We are so far down this road, and nothing but the mass destruction of the overwhelming majority of guns that exist would back us up. And there are far too many Americans who adamantly oppose taking a single step back. I don’t see that changing.

So I’m not terribly hopeful that any legislation I’ve seen or heard of would have a chance of significantly reducing gun violence. Anything that passes constitutional muster just tinkers with the technicalities of how guns change hands and move around.

Oh, and before the more dedicated advocates for the 2nd Amendment start hollering, “Brad’s gonna round up all your guns and destroy them,” allow me to clarify: That is NOT gonna happen. Not in this country. No one can MAKE it happen. It’s a political impossibility. So stay cool. I only mention this to underline the fact that I see no workable solution to the problem of Too Many Guns.

I usually don’t say “I give up” on an issue. I usually try to suggest a solution. But I just don’t know where to go on this.


Dylann Roof to face federal hate crime charges

This just in a little while ago:

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted Dylann Roof for hate crimes in the June killings of nine African-Americans at a Charleston church, according to sources familiar with a federal-state investigation.

The 33-count indictment charges Roof, 21, a white man from the Columbia area, with 12 counts of committing a federal hate crime (nine counts of murder and three attempted murders), 12 counts of obstructing the exercise of religion and nine counts of the use of a firearm to commit murder.

Hate crimes under federal law are crimes committed against someone because of their race, color, religion, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or disability. South Carolina does not have a hate crimes law, but some 45 states do.

Under federal law, prosecutors may seek the death penalty where violent death has resulted The U.S. Justice Department is exploring whether to seek the death penalty against Roof….

Personally, I’m happy to see “the book” and all the charges it contains thrown at this guy.

But… I should note that I don’t believe “hate crimes” should be in the book to start with. Punish the deed, not the political attitude behind the deed. This is one of those few areas where I agree with libertarians: Allowing the government to punish attitudes is giving government too much power, and an offense against the freedom of conscience enshrined in the 1st Amendment. One is allowed, in this country, to harbor horrible ideas, as long as one does not act upon them.

Which leads me to the possibility of the feds pursuing the death penalty.

Three points on that:

  1. I don’t believe in the death penalty.
  2. If I did believe in the death penalty, the killer of the Emanuel Nine would definitely be a candidate for it.
  3. If I did believe in the death penalty, I certainly wouldn’t want it administered for “hate crimes,” for the aforementioned reason. If you’re going to hang a man, do it for murder, not for his motivation.

The confusing knot of jurisdiction lines around Columbiana

CKDuZ3sWUAguyzXRemember the post last week about the confusion of county and city boundaries around Columbiana Mall, which speculated about how that might have contributed to the mixup that allowed Dylann Roof to get a gun?

At the time, I bemoaned the fact that I was unable to find a map showing those jurisdiction lines.

Alert reader George Chisenhall, who uses Google Maps Pro, came to the rescue over the weekend. As he explained, yellow lines are city/town limits, while the light green ones show county boundaries.

Thanks for helping out, George!


Bernstein files bill to try to stop the next Dylann Roof

This just in from the House Democrats:

Rep. Beth Bernstein to Introduce Background Check Completion Act in SC House
Legislation will mirror Congressman Jim Clyburn’s bill in US House
Columbia, SC – Richland County State Representative Beth Bernstein announced Thursday that she will prefile the “Background Check Completion Act” in December. The same bill was filed earlier this week in the U.S. House of Representatives by South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn.
The bill will require licensed gun dealers in South Carolina to wait until a background check is completed before selling a firearm. Under current law, if the FBI does not approve or deny the background check within three days, the licensed dealer has the discretion to proceed with the sale of the firearm. The alleged shooter in the Charleston massacre used this loophole to purchase the weapon that was used to kill nine people last month. Bernstein’s bill will close that loophole and make sure all background checks are completed before a transaction can be made.
“This is one of the most dangerous loopholes we currently have in our gun laws,” said Representative Beth Bernstein, a mother of two young daughters. “Most law-abiding citizens who purchase firearms have their background checks approved within minutes. But when someone has a criminal record, or pending charge, it may take longer for the FBI to gather all the information to determine if that person is legally authorized to buy a gun. We shouldn’t put an arbitrary three day deadline on something that could result in a deranged individual or criminal purchasing a gun. If we’re going to require a background check, we should require the background check be completed.”
Representative Bernstein stressed that this bill is not a form of gun control.
“As a CWP holder, I’m a strong supporter of gun rights and the second amendment. And I can assure you this bill is not gun control. It simply makes sure that the background checks that are already taking place are completed. If this bill would have been in place earlier this year, the Charleston shooter would not have legally been sold a gun from a licensed dealer. If closing this loophole saves just one life, it is worth it.”

Rep. Bernstein commended Congressman Clyburn for proposing this legislation on a federal level and maintained that she will pre-file the same bill in the South Carolina House of Representatives in December.”


The Dalai Lama on the Charleston massacre

I read a short item about this in The State this morning, so I was interested when I saw that publicists had sent me the embed codes for clips from Larry King’s interview with the Dalai Lama.

So I share it with you. From the release:

Larry leans in to ask the heartfelt question “When you see terrible events. When you see a man shoot up a church in South Carolina don’t you question your faith?”

“We need to make more effort to bring awareness regarding the value of compassion. Compassion means, it’s the sense of concern for others well being and the respect of others’ lives. When you have that sort of conviction it’s impossible to bully others, to cheat another, to kill another,” His Holiness answered.

The message isn’t failing. The Dalai Lama explains that obsession with worldly possessions & a lack of teaching children about inner values contributes to tragedies such as the shooting inside the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina “The message is not properly channelized. The message of love is just inside the church and not daily life.” He continues, “The existing modern education is very much oriented about material value.  Not much is talked about regarding inner value.”…

I’m sure he is right that we all, including Dylann Roof, could use better “values.” The answer seems a bit oblique, though — somewhat lacking in specifics, possibly because His Holiness comes from such a different cultural perspective that the killer’s particular brand of deadly animosity is far more bewildering to him than it is to us. Or perhaps I’m just failing to completely understand the role of materialism in this case. (I mean, I can draw such a line: A high school dropout feels so oppressed by his low economic expectations that he constructs a worldview in which “others” are to blame for his plight. I’m just not sure that is central to what happened.)

Nevertheless, when he calls for more compassion, I am sure he is in the right of it.

Did shoestring annexation bring down the Confederate flag?

Y'all, I'm sorry I was unable to find a map that shows how crazy the jurisdiction lines are in this area. Anyone know where I can find something like that online?

Y’all, I’m sorry I was unable to find a map that shows how crazy the jurisdiction lines are in this area. Anyone know where I can find something like that online?

Or, far more horrifically and directly, did Columbia’s shoestring annexation lead to the murders of the Emanuel 9?

This is Kathryn Fenner’s assertion, which she sketched out in an email:

Roof was arrested at Columbiana, by Columbia Police, in Columbia, but in Lexington County. When he went to buy a gun at Shooter’s Choice, the background check was done by calling Lexington County, who sent the checker to the police–the checker called the West Columbia Police, who had no record, instead of Columbia–because unless you are a wonk like me, you might not realize that Columbiana is in the city limits–shoestring annexation, just like Woodcreek Farms where the Mayor lives.
If Roof had not been able to buy the gun….

You’ve read about all the confusion over the jurisdiction in which Dylann Roof was charged. And you’ve probably been confused yourself passing in and out of jurisdictions in the Columbiana/Harbison area.

At least some of this confusion was caused by the shoestring annexation of Columbiana in 1989, as a way of grabbing those expected tax revenues.

Hence the connection that Kathryn has drawn.

An open letter to Glenn McConnell

I was looking around to see whether anyone had spoken to Glenn McConnell during the past week. It was interesting to see national media “discovering” the unique individual we have known for so long.

One such story noted that McConnell is declining interviews until after the funerals of the dead from Mother Emanuel. That’s what I would expect; it’s the sort of sense of propriety that characterizes him.

Then, I ran across this at the site Inside Higher Ed, and I thought I’d share:

An Open Letter to College of Charleston President Glenn F. McConnell

June 22, 2015 – 6:17pm

Dear President McConnell,

First, please accept my condolences on the loss of your friend and former colleague,Rev. Clementa Pinckney, as well as our mutual colleague, College of Charleston librarian Cynthia Hurd. Their deaths, and the deaths of Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson at the hands of a white supremacist terrorist are a tragedy that we can hardly imagine. These people were giants in our community, and we feel the collective pain of their absence, but I also know the loss is particularly personal to you.

I am writing to you because you are the leader of my college and one of the most influential people in the state of South Carolina.

I am asking you to support the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds.

I know that you are a student and practitioner of the principles of servant leadership, as demonstrated during your time in the legislature, and over the past year as you’ve guided College of Charleston. You’re well aware of the controversy surrounding your initial selection as our president, and yet, in a short time, by listening to others and meeting the needs of those you lead, you’ve convinced many that you were the right choice all along.

You are now serving a different constituency than in 2000, when, as a member of the state legislature, you helped broker the compromise that removed the flag from the capitol dome to the Confederate memorial on the grounds. Then, you were looking for a solution that would defuse a politically volatile situation. Even as you declared, “Many of us who love the flag would have preferred it stayed on the dome,” you recognized that its removal was necessary.

It is clear that the legislature will soon be tasked to consider the removal of the flag from the grounds entirely. A number of your Republican former colleagues have already expressed their desire to retain the flag in its place of honor. Many say they are “undecided” or have yet to commit to a position. A statement from you in support of removal may help prevent the kind of contentious battle we do not need at this time.

If the Confederate battle flag once symbolized “heritage, not hate,” the actions of the white supremacist terrorist who proudly posed with the flag, as well as symbols of Apartheid South Africa, before murdering nine Black people in the midst of a Bible study, have rendered this distinction meaningless.

Perhaps we can argue that the flag was misappropriated by the white supremacist terrorist, the same way it was misappropriated by those who originally hoisted the flag to the top of the S.C. Capital dome in defiance of the Civil Rights Movement and support of segregation in 1961.

I accept the private and deep feelings of pride and honor absent any racial animosity that many people associate with the flag. I can respect them even as I do not share them.

But those private feelings no longer outweigh the public symbolism of a flag that for many declares them as inherently unequal. It is a flag that has been adopted by an internal terrorist enemy that we must band together to defeat.

Sadly, President McConnell, the picture of you from 1999, showing you posing in front of the flag at your family’s old memorabilia store, for me, is now indelibly associated with this heinous act. I can no longer explain it to people who ask me about College of Charleston. It is inconsistent with the pride I feel for this place and my respect for your leadership this past year.

This is, in many ways, unfair. Signaling hate is obviously not your intention. You have declared yourself a champion of equality and diversity. In fact, one of your first acts as president was to take concrete steps to increase diversity at College of Charleston. You have been walking your talk as a leader.

I hope you agree it is time to take another step.

That which we could not imagine in 1999 or 2000 has now happened in 2015.

Though, if we really search our hearts, we know that these murders were not unimaginable at all, but rather wholly predictable, inevitable even, when we refuse to confront these wounds. The white supremacist terrorist spoke openly of his plans. In his twisted mind, these murders were justified.

He found comfort in this flag, and believed its public display meant that he spoke for many.

We’ve had so many powerful gestures of healing in our community over the last week, proving that the white supremacist terrorist does not speak for us, but we cannot let these moments of solidarity distract us from these larger issues.

Yes, the flag is “just” a symbol, but it is now an irrefutably toxic one. How could we conclude otherwise?

I understand that you believe discussion of the flag should wait until after the victims have been laid to rest. I disagree. While those services help us heal, the severity of the crime also demands justice, the swifter the better. Each day the flag flies on the capitol grounds it may give sustenance to others who share the white supremacist terrorist’s twisted ideology.

This is justice denied. In your most recent message to the college you said, “The College of Charleston will need to be the center for our collective healing.” Removing the flag is only one small step, but it is necessary.

President McConnell, you have the wisdom, and spirit, and influence to help heal your college community and your state.

Please support the removal of the flag from the S.C. State Capitol grounds.



John Warner
Visiting Instructor
College of Charleston

Yes, it would be wonderful for McConnell to lend his support to getting the flag down. He may even do it. If so, the effect would electrifying, among all who know him.

But there’s no way to say now. In the meantime, I was impressed by the letter — respectful, conciliatory, collegial and with just the right tone to persuade. That’s just the kind of tone all of us should adopt as we engage this debate in the coming days.

But it’s all about heritage, right?


This just in from The Hill:

The website for the alleged gunman in the Charleston, S.C., mass shooting was discovered Saturday, multiple reports say.
The Last Rhodesian” depicts photos of Dylann Storm Roof, 21, the man accused of attacking Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and murdering nine people.
The domain for the website was also registered last February to “Dylann Roof,” The New York Times reported Saturday.
The Daily Beast also reported that photos of Roof on the website were taken in spring, according to metadata.
The site features a document describing the evolution of its author’s racist worldview.
It is not clear who is responsible for either the photos or the article, titled “An Explanation.”
“I chose Charleston because it is [the] most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country,” the author says. It’s not made clear what would occur at the location chosen…

I was unable to call up the site. I don’t know whether it’s been taken down, or there’s just too much traffic going to it…

No, wait! I got it… and I’m sorry I did.


Dylann Roof in cell next to Michael Slager

Wow. This just in from the Associated Press:

The 21-year-old man accused of killing nine people at a black church in Charleston is being held in a cell next to the former North Charleston police officer who fatally shot a black man running away from him.

Charleston County sheriff’s Maj. Eric Watson said Friday that Dylann Roof, who is accused in the church shooting, is in a cell next to former officer Michael Slager.

Slager has been charged with murder in the death of Walter Scott. Slager’s shooting of a fleeing Scott following a traffic stop on April 4 was recorded on a bystander’s cellphone…

Church shooting suspect said to be in custody

Dylann Storm Roof, wearing Rhodesian and South African flags, from his Facebook page

Dylann Storm Roof, wearing Rhodesian and South African flags, from his Facebook page

Just to update from my previous “on the loose” headline — if indeed the suspect and the shooter are one and the same. From The State:

A source close to the investigation says the suspect in a Charleston AME church shooting that killed nine Wednesday night was captured Thursday in Shelby, N.C.

Authorities named 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, of the Columbia area, as the suspect in the shooting that killed nine, including state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a longtime South Carolina legislator who was pastor of the church….


A monster is on the loose in South Carolina


UPDATE: Suspect has been captured.

Again, South Carolina is leading national news for a horrible reason, and this time it’s even worse than the Walter Scott shooting. In fact, it’s nine times as bad.


Dylann Storm Roof

Police are giving the monster a name: Dylann Storm Roof. They say he sat with people engaged in prayer for an hour before announcing that people like them had to go, and opened fire.

This time, one of the dead had a familiar name: Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor. And the church where the shooting occurred, Emanuel AME, looms large in our history, both proudly and tragically.

There is so much that we have yet to learn about what happened exactly, but I thought I’d best go ahead and put up this post for your comments as we await more…

Americans concerned about crime used to favor gun control. Not so much now…

People used to say "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword," Ned Stark being a case in point. Today, they seem to think that if you outlaw swords, only outlaws will have swords...

People used to say “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword,” Ned Stark being a case in point. Today, they seem to think that if you outlaw swords, only outlaws will have swords…

You know, today would be a good day to just let Bryan take over the blog, the way he did while I was out of the country. I’d suggest that, but I’ve been binge-watching “Game of Thrones” via HBO NOW, and if there’s anything to be learned from that, it’s that it can be dangerous to leave someone else in charge of your kingdom.

Here’s the second topic today suggested by Bryan. He alerted me to this report from the Pew Research Center, which is summed up in this lede:

For most of the 1990s and the subsequent decade, a substantial majority of Americans believed it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun owners’ rights. But in December 2014, the balance of opinion flipped: For the first time, more Americans say that protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership, 52% to 46%….

I think this is related to what’s been happening in the GOP the last few years.gun poll

Increasingly, “conservatism” is really libertarianism in disguise, and is related to anti-government feeling in the country. People who once upon a time would have wanted just the cops to have guns don’t trust cops that way any more. It’s a two-edged blade — distrust of government on one side, a libertarian view of the 2nd Amendment on the other.

Also, as the Pew report notes, people have an exaggerated sense of the prevalence of crime. They think the streets are more dangerous than they are, and since they don’t trust government to protect them from all that imagined mayhem, they want to pack heat….

Body camera bill advances (too late for Walter Scott)

Just thought I’d share this report from John Monk with y’all:

A bill that would fund and require body cameras for all South Carolina police officers was passed unanimously out of a SC senate committee Wednesday morning.

The bill is now headed to the full judiciary committee for another hearing next Tuesday.

The body camera bill was introduced in December by Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington. It already has had three hearings this year in a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee led by Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg.

The bill also has bipartisan backing, with co-sponsors including Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, and Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, as well as Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, and Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley….

Would a body camera have prevented the Walter Scott shooting from happening? Yes, I think it would have…

The unraveling of Todd Kincannon

I’ve never known quite what to think, much less say, about local attorney, former state GOP director and social media provocateur Todd Kincannon.

Some of his detractors on the Web have less trouble labeling him, although they sometimes seem to be trying too hard, I suppose in an effort to match his own vitriol. The characterizations come across as strained: “chinless monster,” “Tea Party troll,” “‘Family Values’ Lunatic,” “‘Pro-Life’ Sociopath,” and so forth.

Not that he hasn’t asked for it (in fact, he has seemed to relish the attention).

The couple or three times I’ve met him, he’s seemed a contained, respectful young man, although eager to be heard — not very different from most ambitious young white men one finds in the background of the GOP these days. Of course, I haven’t seen him in a while. The last time was when we appeared together on Cynthia Hardy’s talk show on WACH-Fox, and that was several years back.

But the Todd Kincannon who has roamed the internet with marked aggression in recent years has been something else — a disturbing figure, a sort of poster boy for the phenomenon whereby social media bring out the very worst in some people.

He’s been banned from Twitter, his weapon of choice, twice for such eruptions as:

zulus ebola

And, if you’ll forgive me for repeating it, his most infamous utterance:


This seems a good time to make a point about words and the way they are abused in our political discourse…

A lot of people, particularly on the left, have a penchant for calling people they disagree with “hateful.” I’ll see the word “hate” used, and I’ll compare it to the comment or position that it’s applied to, and it just doesn’t match up.

Those Tweets from Todd Kincannon? Now those are hateful, even if he’s only doing it to get attention. Just for future reference, this is the standard for the word.

Back to our topic…

Todd is in the news again:

A former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party arrested Monday for charge of criminal domestic violence has been released on a $5,000 bond.JJTKINCANNONMUG

James John Todd Kincannon, 33, who is also an attorney, was arrested in connection with an earlier incident that caused his wife to tell deputies she was fearful for her life, Lexington County Sheriff Lewis McCarty said in a statement released Monday.

Ashley Griffith stated to deputies that on March 26 she was involved in an altercation with her husband who became angry with her after the two left an event, an arrest warrant alleges. According to the warrant, Griffith told deputies that Kincannon yelled at her and used profanity while driving near Irmo. Griffith also said that she lowered her window and yelled at passing motorists to help her while she pleaded with Kincannon to stop the car.

Griffith said Kincannon began driving the motor vehicle erratically and avoiding traffic lights while driving at a high rate of speed, the arrest warrant alleges. Griffith then tried to exit the car but Kincannon grabbed her arm in order to stop her…

For his part, Kincannon blames his behavior on the prescription, non-narcotic antitussive benzonatate: “I’d never taken it before, and took it for the first time last night. Basically, I went completely crazy after taking it.”

Folks, I’ve taken benzonatate. I took a LOT of it early this year, when I was having trouble functioning because of a cough I couldn’t get rid of. For a couple of weeks, I took it every eight hours. It helped some. It did not make me violent, or lead to any sort of out-of-control behavior. Yes, drugs affect different people different ways — the old prescription asthma medication Tedral used to make me paranoid if I took it with caffeine. I really thought people around me were deliberately trying to upset me. But I didn’t do anything about it, because I knew the reaction was irrational.



Of course, he does claim that he did the ONE thing you are never supposed to do with benzonatate: bite down on the capsule and break it before swallowing it. As Wikipedia warns, “Excessive absorption of benzonatate will occur if the gelcaps are chewed or allowed to dissolve in the mouth. This may lead to an overdose of the drug. Overdose of benzonatate may manifest as central nervous system side effects, such as mental confusion and hallucination, restlessness and tremors.”

Still, I don’t find benzonatate to be a persuasive explanation. It seems a bit too neat. It suggests that he’ll be fine if you keep him away from cough suppressants. And social media (was he on benzonatate when he posted those Tweets? no, because he said this was the first time he’d had it). And, I suppose, red kryptonite.

Here’s hoping Todd Kincannon gets it together, and soon. What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is the spectacle of a man unraveling. Now that it’s gotten to the point of violence, it’s pretty scary…

It’s not THAT unusual in SC for white cops to be charged with shooting unarmed black men

post shoot

That’s kind of a two-edged headline, isn’t it? On the one hand, it suggests that it’s not that unusual for white cops to shoot unarmed black men in SC. And indeed, The State recently reported that police have shot at people more than 200 times in the past five years.

But my point was that the charges against North Charleston cop Michael Thomas Slager for shooting and killing motorist Walter Scott are not unique.

That was in my mind last night when I was sort of surprised to see the story leading the NYT. But I was in a rush, and my laptop was taking an absurd amount of time to perform the most basic operations, so I didn’t stop to look up the recent incidents that were at the back of my mind.

But this morning, when I saw the Washington Post story (which The State led with) that characterized the charge as “what seems to be an unprecedented move in South Carolina,” I thought I should take a moment to do some basic research. I was further spurred by this quote from my old friend Joe Darby, also in the Post:

“I am surprisingly and gratifyingly shocked because to the best of my memory, I cannot think of another occasion in which a law enforcement officer was actually prosecuted for something like this in South Carolina,” said the Rev. Joseph Darby, first vice president of Charleston’s NAACP branch.

Warming to his subject, Joe further spread his rhetorical wings:

“My initial thought was, ‘Here we go again. This will be another time where there will be a cursory investigation. It will be the word of law enforcement versus those who are colored as vile perpetrators. People will get very mad, but at the end of the day nothing will change.’ This kind of changed the game,” Darby said of the video and Slager’s arrest.

When Joe says he cannot think of another case ” in which a law enforcement officer was actually prosecuted for something like this in South Carolina,” I believe him. But his memory is dead wrong.

Just in the last few months, there have been at least two such cases, which I found in just a few moments this morning:

  • State Trooper Sean Groubert was fired and charged with a felony, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, after his dashboard video showed him shooting Levar Edward Jones in the Columbia area. Groubert’s trial has not yet been held, but Jones  has received a nearly $300,000 settlement from the state.
  • Former Eutawville police chief Richard Combs was charged with murder in the May 2, 2011, shooting death of Bernard Bailey. A mistrial was declared in the case when the jury deadlocked in January.

Now, let’s be clear: As The State reported, no cop of any race has yet been convicted in any of those 209 shootings in the past five years.

And these three cases seem to be unusual in that there was video evidence in two  cases, and the other took place right in front of the courthouse in Eutawville. So this should certainly add fuel to the national movement to have cops wear body cameras at all times.

But it’s plain that these charges were not “unprecedented,” and that Joe Darby’s memory is lacking. And maybe the world’s press got excited over this “unprecedented” case for the wrong reasons. (Based on modern news standards, it’s still a good story, because of the video causing the authorities to reverse themselves. The horrific video itself — which you can see below — is enough for such a story to go viral. But it’s not man-bites-dog.)

Finally, I just noticed that the Post has corrected itself. Its current version of the story no longer contains the unwarranted speculation that the situation is “unprecedented.” But the story still leads the Post’s site. More to the point, is still leading with the old, erroneous version.

SC shooting case leading the NYT

NYT homepage

I thought this was interesting. This story is leading the New York Times website at the moment:

A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting and killing an apparently unarmed black man in the back while he ran away.

The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, had said he feared for his life because the man took his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man fled. The North Charleston mayor announced the state charges at a news conference Tuesday evening.

The shooting in North Charleston comes on the heels of high-profile incidents of police officers using lethal force in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere around the country. The deaths have sparked a national debate over whether police are too quick to use force, particularly in cases involving black men.

Why? I suppose because the editors consider a situation in which South Carolina is prosecuting a white cop for shooting a black man a man-bites-dog situation, in light of stories that have made national news elsewhere in the past year.

Hey, we could be making headlines for a lot worse reasons than that. And we have.

So this is improvement.