Round the clock, day after day, I'm hearing about the supposed heroism of Chase Maddox, a Georgia police officer who was shot over the weekend. The story goes like this: our heroic officers were serving a warrant, things went bad, and brave Chase Maddox rushed to the scene to help where he was tragically gunned down and died a true hero's death. Since he died, strangers from all over the country have poured out hundreds of thousands of dollars to help his widow, his newborn child who never got to meet Daddy, and his disabled son. The man who shot him (we are being told) was a deranged religious extremist with "anti-government views" who, dagnabit, just couldn't stay on the right side of the law. Another crook, whom we all ought to be glad is dead.
Well, you can call me crazy if you want to (you won't be the first), but I'm seeing serious problems with the story I'm being told, and I want to hear all the facts.
Now don't get me wrong. This is a tragedy. Death is the tragic end of all of us, and none of us ought to take glee in it. No one is happy that there's a new widow in town, nor is anyone glad that a baby will never know his Dad. There are lots of people suffering here. And I'm not saying that Maddox's death was a good thing, or even a justifiable thing. What I'm saying is that I don't think the media is giving us a balanced story, and we need to have it before we hail the police as heroes for getting shot.
How is the story in the news unbalanced? Well, for example, I just mentioned Maddox's widow and his baby. I've been hearing about them all day. I haven't heard a peep about Guthrie's three homeschooled kids. Maddox's kids have suddenly inherited a windfall. Who's going to pay for Guthrie's kids to go to college? Even if Guthrie is guilty as sin, surely his kids aren't. I haven't heard any comments on the radio from Guthrie's wife, even though it seems like, having been a witness, her testimony would be particularly valuable to understanding this story. Is it fair that we're hearing so much from one side, and nothing from the other?
Before I continue, I'd like to remind you that the police aren't always the good guys, and can't always be trusted. In addition to all the other atrocious corruption I've documented here, Georgia has had in the last year a sheriff and his deputies charged with felonies after they (allegedly) sexually assaulted an entire high school, and another sheriff charged after he was (allegedly) caught in some kind of gay sex act in a public park. Now, does any of that have any direct relationship to Chase Maddox? No. But we have to remember that working for the police doesn't instantly make a person a hero. We can't presume that one party is perfect here. We need to hear all the facts and then make a decision about them.
First things first: On the day of the shooting, I read in the AJC (which cites no sources except for "authorities") that Maddox and two other officers were shot by Tierre Guthrie. The article is emblazoned with a smiling picture of our hero, Maddox, backed by the red white and blue.
So I ask, "Well, who is Guthrie? Why did he do it?" The only answer I get is "The officers were trying to serve a warrant."
And as a human being, I naturally apply my own experiences to the situation. I think, "Okay, well, if the police were serving a warrant, then they had better be serving a valid one, because otherwise, Georgians have a legal right to defend their homes. So I dig deeper looking for the warrant. I can't find it posted online. Was it valid? My guess is that it probably was. Apparently the guy had missed court over a traffic stop.
But then, I start to apply some of my own experiences. I think back to a day when I, completely by accident, missed a court appearance. The ADA asked for a warrant for my arrest. If the public defender hadn't done me a courtesy by calling me to remind me that I had a court date, and if I hadn't been able to rush myself out there, I could have been in this guy's shoes. And I think it's worth noting that the charge against me was eventually thrown out, and that on the day in question, I was being required to appear in court, literally, for the purpose of informing them that I had no business to conduct. So I know better than anyone about how unreasonable Georgia courts can be with these "failure to appear" warrants.
And I know how difficult it can be going to court to fight a ridiculous charge. Concerning my recent loitering case, I had to go to court about a dozen times over the course of a year, and the case had put me out of work. They make the process as slow and grating and miserable and expensive as possible in hopes of dragging a plea out of you, even if they know you're innocent.
So I put myself in Guthrie's shoes for a minute, and I think, "I'm supposed to presume that this guy is innocent. He hasn't been convicted of anything. He had probably been put through a load of trouble by the court, and now he was looking at going to jail over a traffic ticket, maybe just because he got one of a dozen court dates wrong."
And we have two people dead and two others wounded over a traffic ticket. How did we even get here? Should anyone go to jail over a traffic ticket? Did the police do any kind of due-diligence to keep this situation from escalating? Did they call the guy and ask him if he intended to appear at court? Did they attempt to make any friendly contact that non-threateningly presumed the man's innocence? Or did they just kick his doors down with guns out and ready to fire?
You know, I had a lawyer friend once who was a former cop. He told me that in the old days, he used to serve most of his misdemeanor warrants by calling people and telling them to turn themselves in. As he told it, they almost always showed up at the jail on their own. I'm convinced that these raid-and-gun-battle arrests are almost entirely avoidable.
So I read more about Guthrie, and here's what I'm reading. "Sovereign Citizen." Did he say he was a sovereign citizen? If he did, I don't know about it. I didn't see him saying anything about it on his facebook page. Who knows. Maybe he was proud of that ideology. But I look at my own experience, and I know that the police scream "sovereign citizen" at anyone they don't like, because they think it's a good excuse for engaging in violent conflicts with them. So, did the police go into the situation having decided that Guthrie was a supposedly dangerous sovereign citizen and act especially aggressive because of it? What other political or social motivators might have been at play? Police carry the same biases and vendettas as anyone else.
And where's the picture of Guthrie in uniform standing in front of a flag? He was a veteran you know. Instead the AJC gives us a picture of the "No trespassing" sign outside his house and some night-time picture of him in a dew-rag. Which, I don't know, demonstrates to us that he's creepy or something?
Incidentally (and I have to go on record about this all the time because Jason Berry is a lying idiotic sack of trash), I'm not a sovereign citizen and I
think know that sovereign citizen ideology is completely stupid. I shouldn't have to say all that. The fact that I keep winning in court should pretty well settle the matter about whether or not I hold those backward legal-ish views. But I digress.
So supposedly Guthrie had anti-government ideologies. Well, anyone who is out of work because of too-many court appearances over a traffic ticket and facing endless hassles thereby, probably does have some kind of reasonable opposition to a badly broken system. I wouldn't call that "anti-government," but I know the news and police well enough to know that they would. Now I don't know what Guthrie believed, and whatever it is, I'm not endorsing it or defending it. Maybe he really did have some crazy extremist views. But his views shouldn't really be a crucial part of the picture here. As far as I can tell, he didn't start hunting police officers down because of his political views. He was shot and killed at his own house, afterall, evidently because he had been accused of a "crime" that harmed no one.
And if we're going to talk politics, when are we going to hear about Maddox's political views? Maybe the news should publish any dirt they can drudge up on him. Have they looked through his disciplinary files to see if he's been in any trouble before? I'm not seeing it anywhere, so why do we get that stuff on Guthrie?
And then, we get to the part that I'm really skeptical about. What actually went on at that house? I haven't seen any body camera footage. I haven't heard any tape recordings. I can't even find any written accounts about what happened at the house. And that's weird, because there was a wife, and kids, and other officers who could give us at least some information.
Here's what we know: the police showed up to serve a warrant, and people ended up shot. Who shot first? We don't know. Why did that person shoot? We don't know. Was Guthrie trying to protect his family from police officers who unreasonably drew on him first? We can't know. Did Guthrie crawl on his face begging for his life and still get shot in the back like Daniel Shaver did? We can't know. At this point, I can't even find news confirmation about what bullet struck and killed Maddox. For all we know right now, this could have been a case of friendly fire among the police that just happened to kill Guthrie in the cross fire. And until we can know the facts with certainty, we're obligated as reasonable people to presume that Guthrie is innocent. Everyone has a right to that, and if we're going to treat others the way we want to be treated, we should give them the same presumption we would want. And if Guthrie is to be presumed innocent, then we can't really presume yet that Chase Maddox is a hero, can we? And seeing that we can't make those presumptions until we have evidence, maybe the news should be presenting an unbiased picture of the facts, instead of hailing one man as a hero, and making the other look like a crook and a madman.
And guess what? Guthrie's also dead here, and he won't get to tell his side of the story. The guys who brought in back-up to kill him over a traffic ticket will.
Look, I don't know any of the people involved in this, and I wasn't there. I've got no connection to it. But this story really terrifies me, because I read it and I think, "This could have been me, and for all I know it still might be someday." The media published hundreds of articles about me all over the world, and only one reporter ever called me to check his sources. That's why we're talking about my case on this blog. If I had been shot at my house on August 3rd, 2014 or any other day thereafter (as I very well could have been), you'd have read alot of these same things. The police would have called me an anti-government extremist religious radical sovereign citizen (even though I'm obviously not). They would have hidden behind a warrant (even though it was invalid, and I was ultimately found innocent regardless). They could have gotten away with anything without even answering questions for the news about what happened. The fact is that they came out to my house with overwhelming force for no reason and charged me with obstruction even though I complied with them. What if they had just decided to shoot me and be done with it? I lie awake tonight knowing that the news would have called me a monster for having died, and would have called my murderers heroes for having killed me. I can't help but think about how my innocent wife and children would have had to bear the shame for lies told in the news.
So here's what I know: the media and the police get it wrong. A lot. Are they wrong here? I don't know. All I'm saying is that if we're going to always be right, we can't jump to conclusions when we haven't yet heard half of the story. Two men are dead. Two other men are injured. Two wives are grieving lost husbands. Five kids are without dads. I don't see how we can ever reasonably get to this point over a traffic ticket, and I don't trust what the news is telling me. If that makes me crazy, so be it.