Austin Homeowners Association Pitches In To Help Cops Kill A Guy Over Uncut Grass
from the all-american-dystopia dept
This is one of the most horrendous — and one of the most American stories — I have ever read. It encompasses a lot of distinctly American issues, ranging from law enforcement violence to the disturbing ability of private individuals and entities to reliably summon law enforcement and bring about the destruction of others.
It starts, as so many stories about police violence do, with some needlessly exonerative reporting by journalists — in this case by Elisha Fieldstadt of NBC News.
An attempt by Austin, Texas, officials to serve a search warrant and provide lawn care resulted in shots fired, an hourslong standoff, a house fire and a death, police said Wednesday.
You’ll immediately notice two things about this sentence. First, there’s the phrase “provide lawn care” — the sort of service that wouldn’t normally generate local news headlines, much less coverage from a national news network.
The second thing you’ll notice is the phrase “resulted in shots fired,” as if the end result of these actions were the inevitable outcome of “providing lawn care.” This, of course, is an absurd statement. It’s also absurd to write that something resulted in something when it involves police shooting someone because the fact is police shot and killed someone and that’s what should be noted, rather than semi-obscured with phrasing that suggests police were powerless to stop their own violence.
Nothing about this gets any better. The word “warrant” carries the implication that some serious crime was the impetus for this deployment of Austin police officers. But it was only a “nuisance” search warrant, which means the only crime committed was administrative — a violation of homeowner-focused codes that aren’t considered actual criminal offenses.
Here’s how the Austin PD describes this arm of its law enforcement efforts:
The Nuisance Abatement Unit is composed of one Detective and one Sergeant. The Nuisance Abatement Unit works “behind the scenes” with property owners and other city departments in an attempt to first gain voluntary compliance with properties that have been deemed a “nuisance”.
It’s a two-officer office. But this “nuisance” homeowner was confronted by an unknown number of police officers and code enforcement officers. And that’s before things went haywire, resulting in the arrival of the Austin PD SWAT team, mental health officers, and a crisis negotiator.
Who knows what was going on in the resident’s mind? And, I guess, who cares, now that he’s dead? Several hours were spent trying to get the resident out of his house… to mow his lawn? Sometime after the officers left a warrant posted on the door and “code enforcement officers” began mowing the resident’s lawn, the resident decided to start firing his gun from inside his house. At whom, it doesn’t say.
The SWAT team rolled in, along with its presumably less-violent entourage, leading to a standoff that was broken by the resident again firing his gun from inside his house. The cops sent a robot in to deal with the resident and his gun. That’s when officers noticed the house was on fire. This finally prompted the resident to leave his house, which he did through his garage while carrying guns. At that point, SWAT team members shot him.
That leads to another tragicomical bit of view-from-nowhere reporting:
“At that time, a SWAT officer shot and struck the resident who went down with a gunshot wound,” [Austin Police Chief Joseph] Chacon said.
Officers got the man away from the house and treated him before he was taken to a hospital, where he died. It’s unclear what caused his death.
Really? That’s the reporting? Presumably the man left the house without any bullets in him. He went to the hospital with at least one bullet in him. People who have zero bullets in them tend to remain alive. People with bullets in them have a greatly reduced chance of surviving. It seems pretty clear what caused his death. This paragraph shows an alarming amount of deference to the sources for this reporting, all of which appear to be law enforcement officials.
The final insult to the dead man are the last two sentences of the article, one of which features Austin PD spokesman Jose Mendez.
Their main goal Wednesday was to get the man in compliance with the local homeowners association.
“They attempted to cut the lawn for him, and this is the reaction they got,” Mendez said.
In other words, the HOA got him killed. A complaint about the length of grass resulted in shots fired, a standoff, and a dead Austin resident. And it’s all capped off with the police spokesperson blaming the dead man for the chain of events that ended in him being killed by officers.
There’s the cautionary aspect of this incident: anything code or law on the books will, at some point, need to be enforced. And that’s how people end up being killed over lawn care, with an assist by entities that wish they could be as powerful as the people they rely on for enforcement: homeowners associations.