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.

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Comments on “Austin Homeowners Association Pitches In To Help Cops Kill A Guy Over Uncut Grass”

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Anonymous Coward says:

No,the HOA didn’t get him killed, the man himself did it.

If he had only upheld the simple rules that the HOA had (and he agreed to when he bought the house) then nothing would have happened.

If he had come out when served with the warrant, nothing would have happened.

If he never picked up a gun, nothing would have happened.

I can guarantee you that the HOA NEVER wanted to call the Police. The Police NEVER wanted to go to the house.

One person, and their continued ignorance of the requirements of being a part of society caused all of the events.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5

if someone who has already fired multiple times at cops come out with his guns drawn there is really no less than lethal force that can be used.

For what reason couldn’t they have tased him or fired a beanbag round at one of his limbs (or even his head)? For what reason was lethal force the one and only method of dealing with him?

Lethal force should be an absolute last resort because no one can bring back the dead. I want to know⁠—with as much certainty as we mere mortals can have⁠—whether it was absolutely necessary in this situation.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Tasers have an effective range of roughly 10 feet. You wanna run up within ten feet of someone shooting real bullets at you?

Bean bags fired from a shotgun are all but impossible to aim at 20 feet. Even assuming you have a shotgun with bean bags ready to go, do you want to run up within 20 feet of someone shooting real bullets at you?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Tasers are on the "never use against a gunman list". Because involuntary convulsions combined with a finger already trigger adjacent means effectively violating the spirit of "know yout target and what is behind it" and "never point a gun at something you don’t want destroyed" rules as the gun could wind up pointed and firing in a lot of directions including into the air, which would be yet another firearm rule violation, or while pointed at yourself.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

"For what reason was lethal force the one and only method of dealing with him?"

I really hate coming out swinging on this particular side of the fence, Stephen, but this much is true; if the opposition has a loaded gun and has begun firing then firing back with live rounds is the only viable option left on the table. Beanbag rounds and tasers require you to get up close and personal with a person who is capable of dropping you from 30 meters away. You could make a case for rubber bullets, classified as "less than lethal" – still a euphemism for applying the equivalent of a baseball bat until the suspect stops moving.

Mind you, there is one caveat here I can apply. With SWAT around and every officer in cover you could just aim for the legs and spray’n’pray. That’d get him on the ground. From that position it’s possible to disarm and control from a distance.

Now, given the scarcity of on-site information we don’t know there peaceful de-escalation was ever on the table;
The man might have been drunk, high, angry, or insane.
The officers might have been threatening, provocative, and hoping for an excuse to rack up a notch on their gun grip.

The reality is somewhere between those two extremes but we don’t know where. What we do know, from the official reports, is that the PD doesn’t want to supply those details. And given the shoddy reputation of US law enforcement that’s really enough to start asking hard questions.

One of which is why has a self-evident answer; why the US needs police officers to do the job of a HOA of going over to someone’s house and telling them "You really need to cut your lawn, sir. You signed off on that when you bought the house".
The answer to which is that any person "being a nuisance" in the US too often turns out to be cradling a loaded firearm in one hand and a bottle of scotch in the other when people arrive to annoy them.

I wouldn’t die on this hill, Stephen. A society which considers the right for everyone to bear arms so vital possession of a firearm is less restricted than possessing a car, a ballot slip, or a credit card, will be racking up a horribly high count of needlessly dead people. That’s just how it is.

The PD should supply more detail on this and US SWAT teams need to learn that when you have overwhelming tactical advantage it’s not a capital sin to go for legs rather than center body mass. Those are the takeaways from this OP.

That a benighted moron or deranged person decided to go out guns blazing over someone mowing his damn lawn…that doesn’t have the odds of a less than lethal ending. Not even in stolid old bleeding-heart Europe.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

That a benighted moron or deranged person decided to go out guns blazing over someone mowing his damn lawn…that doesn’t have the odds of a less than lethal ending. Not even in stolid old bleeding-heart Europe.

In most of Europe, that ending would resulted in social services being asked a lot of hard questions as to why someone was left to deteriorate to such a state.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

"In most of Europe, that ending would resulted in social services being asked a lot of hard questions as to why someone was left to deteriorate to such a state."

That, too. I mean, it’s not as if people slipping through the gap don’t exist – they do. But government agents, social workers and police can approach and speak to them without the expectation of lethal violence and even the mentally ill don’t have reason to expect police approaching them means a swift funeral.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Contrary to popular belief, and Republicans, I’m not for blasting people with “lead”.

rubber bullets

Well. You are mislead slightly here. There are over 30 different designs of rubber bullet. Ranging from the solid ball fired from a snake shot cartridge in a 9mm hand gun, up to a hollow tube slug for an 8 gage meant to be aimed near larger nuisance animals.

Solid shot is dangerous, but hollow shot? Maybe shoot an eye out. But the results at 10m is slightly irritating welts.

Again, I personally choose, and recommend, salt. Pink salt over rock salt. A sugar sealed 9mm canister of formed salt flechette (darts) in a snake shot shell is non lethal. Painful as hell for a few moments. And effective up to 20m. Or 67 feet.
100% organic. 100% biodegradable. 94% non lethal testing.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

100% organic.

In that you don’t go to a doctor and have the shot pulled out. Nor does it do any lasting damage to the environment.

Like I said, hurts like bat to the head. Enough to make most people drop what their holding.

Next time you get a noticeable cut. Go grab the salt shaker. Take of the top, and poor it in the cut.
Then rub it in to simulate getting hit at 15-30m.

My first few chambered rounds are always salt. Best to try less lethal first.

I don’t want to kill you. But I will if I have to.

I’ve advocated for salt rounds locally. They do work more often than not. And the opportunity to end the situation without loss of life should be considered first.

It won’t do anything to stop the cop that you screwed over in the past and who hates you guts and chokes you to death (intentionally or not)… but in cases like this?

Keep in mind tactical 556 salt flechettes are effective up to 50m. Although those are very different than shot or shot flechettes. And can kill.

This article goes overboard on the killer cop idea but in reality we have a perfect opportunity to look at less deadly methods here.

Small-centre hollow rubber pellets or salt could have been deployed here.

And I’m still not sure what they didn’t just gas the guy with the happy little robot.

But the only stun weapon that would have worked is still experimental. Battery charged micro capacitor based tasers aren’t an approved thing (yet?).

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

TIL: "In marketing, organic salt is a term for table salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) that is without additives like iodine or anti-caking agents"

That’s an even worse distorting of the original meaning of the word than organic fruits and vegetables IMO.

They do work more often than not.

Here’s why I would not be in favor of police using salt rounds. It would be only a matter of time before an officer believes they are firing non-lethal ammo and kills someone in a situation where (unlike the one in question) it is clearly unjustified to do so. On the other hand, if that doesn’t happen with rubber or bean bag rounds, maybe my concern is not justified.

And I’m still not sure what they didn’t just gas the guy with the happy little robot.

What do you mean, tear gas? What good would that do?

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

I hit post instead of preview, oops.

As for salt. With a police load you’d obviously separate the rounds. Be it different magazine or different officers.

The situation at hand was a clusterfuck. And I do believe they acted correctly here.
So I’m going to look at how we could have had a different end result.

Bean bag rounds don’t work from a distance and can be deadly if used to close. You have about a 15 foot range where they do what they should.

I have mixed views on rubber rounds. The wrong round at the wrong distance … you can kill, or, just annoy someone.

I would prefer nobody dies in such situations and will always look for a better option in reviewing. Here. The fact that so few even know of it’s existence… is part of the problem. Yet I have no problem finding salt ammunition.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

"I’ve advocated for salt rounds locally. They do work more often than not."

I mean it isn’t a bad alternative. In general most people prefer not to be in agony no matter how brief.

It just won’t incapacitate someone who is desperate enough, drunk enough, high enough, or determined enough from aiming that gun your way and pulling a spray’n’pray. Salt rounds is what you use if someone comes at you with a knife or bat but you want to, you know, just intimidate or drive the guy off.

The good thing about a taser is that it doesn’t matter if you can ignore pain sufficient to drop an elephant.

"And I’m still not sure what they didn’t just gas the guy with the happy little robot. "

Probably something about using gas meant to incapacitate and blind on a suspect in a burning building. Other than that, not a bad idea to fit a robot with tear gas launcher.

"But the only stun weapon that would have worked is still experimental. Battery charged micro capacitor based tasers aren’t an approved thing (yet?)."

Not yet, no. They’re as far off as the electrolaser, really. One of the issues with them being that even if you manage to hit the guy and the darts get stuck good and solid, there’s no real way to get it to stop tasing the guy except using a rubber glove to pull it out. Making it…a bit more than less lethal. A manually activated taser you can stop using once the suspect drops.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

"Again, I personally choose, and recommend, salt."

Painful as hell, yet not incapacitating. Which is the issue when what you’re dealing with is a non-lethal takedown model.

A drunk, high, or sufficiently angry man with a gun won’t stop firing just because he got another reason to be really riled up.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

"But we deploy the taser with it’s even lower numbers. "

Different points of failure. Tasers fail mainly when the darts don’t both make the connection. This is readily solved by multiple officers firing. After that it’s just a game of high-volt, low-amperage battle versus nervous system – always won by the taser.

Meanwhile salt causes pain which unfortunately is tolerated by the people you absolutely want to down the most. The ones riding an endorphin or drug high.

Rubber bullets remains the equivalent of beating someone with a hammer until they drop. Same issue as with salt.

Pepper spray/mace can be tolerated by some but the impaired vision caused by tearing up and involuntary blinking does make them far less effective combatants.

The unfortunate truth is that the human body developed in a way to act in aggression with a do-or-die response of flooding the system with natural painkillers and performance enhancers. By the time trauma and pain starts shutting the system down…the system is shutting down.

Electricity serves the purpose of incapacitation by direct interference in muscle reaction. You can’t just bypass it by being tough or pain tolerant.

This is why the taser and pepper spray are currently the best we’ve got in less lethal hardware. Everything else just relies on trauma and/or pain being incentives for surrender which – unfortunately – isn’t relevant to exactly those you really need downed.

Your concept of the first few rounds being salt is laudable. Problem is that if a gun has already been drawn and fired, walking down from that precipice isn’t easy. You’re relying on the intimidation value of a drawn and presumably loaded gun and the opposition not being similarly armed. And the salt round, should they draw theirs, dropping them in one go.

Laudable, as I said. But in a nation where every hopeless loser is taught the way to get respect is to buy a sleek S&W or Glock 9 mm with a quickdraw holster and a case of whatever the guns & ammo porn catalog billed as most deadliest of the week…this is no longer the game of yesteryear where even in the US the gun wasn’t considered a damn toy.

The case in the OP…I can only state that if the surroundings had been cleared of bystanders and all other personnel was in cover, the SWAT agent might have had the leisure to aim low, putting a FMJ through a shin or thigh rather than center body mass.

I don’t see salt, tasers, or pepper gas helping much in that case. Not with the suspect setting their building ablaze and coming out with guns drawn.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

the SWAT agent might have had the leisure to aim low, putting a FMJ through a shin or thigh rather than center body mass.

To what end? Then the shooter is probably on the ground, probably still holding his gun(s) and probably still conscious. Maybe they give up, on the other hand maybe they now see they have nothing to lose because the police are trying to kill them, so might as well keep firing. There are reasons police don’t shoot to disable: it’s not a reliable method of either keeping a subject alive or ending a violent encounter.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7

A society which considers the right for everyone to bear arms so vital possession of a firearm is less restricted than possessing a car, a ballot slip, or a credit card, will be racking up a horribly high count of needlessly dead people. That’s just how it is.

Knowing this fact and accepting it as an unchangeable fact of life are two different notions. I’m willing to grant, per your comment and others in this discussion, that lethal force was the only viable option in this situation⁠—but that doesn’t change my stance on police violence. As you and others have said, how things got to this point should be as big an issue as (if not a bigger issue than) the violent response from the police.

Violence only ever makes more problems than it solves. So does relying on the police for every problem with which other social services could help. Much like lethal violence, calling the police should be a last resort in situations such as these. Hell, in this specific situation, maybe it was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

For what reason couldn’t they have tased him or fired a beanbag round at one of his limbs (or even his head)? For what reason was lethal force the one and only method of dealing with him?

Because it’s the one and only effective method of dealing with someone shooting lethal force of their own at you. Period.

Anyone who thinks it’s feasible to "shoot the gun out of their hands" or "shoot to injure, not to kill" has been watching too many TV shows. These are things that are theoretically possible, yes, but in practice the most likely outcome is either that you unintentionally kill them anyway, or that you don’t manage to incapacitate them, and then they kill you.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Although we can get that much from the tone of the commenter…the topic in the OP is actually pretty clear cut, following a few links. We’re talking about an irate homeowner who responded to police mowing his lawn by taking pot shots at them with a firearm and finally emerging from the house, guns drawn, in an emulation of that last scene from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".

I’m not going to pick this hill to die on and suggest no one else does either.

What it may offer, depending on the background, is as an argument around the state of Texas mental health care or gun rights. But as an argument against police it really doesn’t have the je ne sais quoi of the George Floyd murder.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"This was his moment to die for his belief."

I think what bugs me the most in this, the most stupidest of times, is that some people are driven to the brink so much they’ll die over not letting their lawn get mowed.

Sure, there’s probably a deeper reason and this may have been suicide by cop by a person already way past any reason or rationale, but still…

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"The police did serve it."

They did not, according to the OP. A "warrant" is served when the person in question has personally received and read it. We can argue about the other details but that one’s basically carved in stone.

We don’t know, for the rest of that sad shit-show, whether the homeowner was drunk, deranged, angry, or too scared to think.
We also don’t know if the PD provoked the incident, but sadly can not rule that out either.

The only hill to die on here is the one where you ask the question "Why are guns held so sacred law enforcement has to assume every nutcase or call they make concerns a potential homicidal maniac with a loaded firearm?".

The death may be wrongful but mainly insofar that it once again exposes the skewed values of a society where the right to own a firearm is better protected than the right to vote, the right to own and drive a car, or the right to obtain and use a bank account.

BernardoVerda (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Fact check question:

Has anyone claimed (I haven’t seen any such claim) that any police (or anyone else, for that matter) were fired on by the man in the house.

The reports are all "shots were fired" "inside the house", but specific claims that anyone (aside from the deceased, himself) were fired upon are notably conspicuous by their complete absence.

morris says:

Re: Re: All laws require violent enforcement

" 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 " TC

All government laws, ordinances, statutes, codes, regulations, orders and mandates ultimately depend upon police violence for their enforcement.

The police go everywhere armed to enforce the will of the government, and if you resist, they might very well kill you… no matter how trivial the basic infraction.

Never support any law or government dictate that you personally are unwilling to kill to enforce– because that action is a fundamental aspect of any "law".

Sure, most people will bend to the weight of government and its very credible threat of direct violence for non-compliance, but some people won’t — and that’s how we end up with dead citizens who don’t mow their lawn and peaceful black guys selling untaxed cigarettes on NYC streets;

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: All laws require violent enforcement

"The police go everywhere armed to enforce the will of the government, and if you resist, they might very well kill you… no matter how trivial the basic infraction."

Literally not true anywhere in the world except in the US and certain third world hellholes.

Laws are certainly upheld by the monopoly of violence but the core criteria in the execution of said duty is proportional response.

According to your argument as written, a police officer can walk up to a ten year old, draw their firearm, and double-tap the tyke in the skull at point-blank range, execution-style, for dropping a candy wrapper on the sidewalk.

And that argument is made even more ridiculous given that you didn’t even have to employ that sort of broken logic to contradict the OP – where you could just say something to the effect of; "Well, it certainly isn’t a desirable outcome but there’s probably no country in the world where storming out, guns drawn, against well armed lawmen in cover, will end well".

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Why was he neglecting his lawn? Did anybody check on him before sending in enforcement officers? The reported behaviour is consistent with someone with mental issues that need dealing with.

This looks like an all too common case of somebody with mental health problems ending up dead because ensuring compliance with some regulation is more important than helping people.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Why was he neglecting his lawn? Did anybody check on him before sending in enforcement officers? The reported behaviour is consistent with someone with mental issues that need dealing with."

In most other places this would probably end with the man ending up in rehab or health care after getting carted off in cuffs by a bunch of more or less gentle yet firm officers of the law.
But in most places it’s generally rare that a nutcase may have a firearm or ten on the premises or on their person.

This is actually a case where I can’t fault the US police. The responses back and forth were proportional and reasonable up to the point where the resident decided to, for some reason, start using texas lawmen for live-fire practice. At that point it all devolved into the less glamorous version of the shootout at the OK corral.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The failure in this case dates back over two years at least, from where he stopped mowing his lawn, and mowing his lawn was probably the least of the problems that needed dealing with. Also, not helping in situations like this is that U.S. police are often aggressive and loud, rather than polite and assertive.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

There’s something to be said in the US simply being a violent nation.
Born of religious renegades (north) and criminals (early in the south) and baptised in blood following the “shot heard round the world”.

Land rights in the 1680s. The revolution. Whiskey rights in the 1810s. Civl rights and state’s rights in the 1840s-1870s.

Self determination in the 1890s. Womens rights in the teens. Liquor rebellions in the tens-30s. Civil rights in the 60s. Political rights in the 70s and 80s.
Civil rights in the 90s.

What other nation has anti-violence protests that majority turned violent?

This country has always been prone to violent reaction.

Seriously. Look at the 2 attacks on our country by foreign states. We nuked one and flattened the other.

We’re simply a violent people. The good thing is we generally stay here. ????

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

We’re simply a violent people. The good thing is we generally stay here.

Unless that winky face meant "I’m kidding, the main thing we’re known for around the world is exporting violence, destabilizing other countries, and generally screwing everything up everywhere we go" then I think you need to study some modern world history.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Did anybody check on him before sending in enforcement officers? The reported behaviour is consistent with someone with mental issues that need dealing with.

So they send a mental health professional in to check on him. That person gets shot, because the homeowner is a deranged lunatic who shoots people. Then the police are called, and they shoot him. Only difference is now you have one additional dead guy.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I can guarantee you that the HOA NEVER wanted to call the Police.

That’s a big fucking [citation needed]. Have you met the people who run HOAs? Not all of them are terrible people, but I’ve met more than one who would use the threat of calling the police if you didn’t do what they wanted you to do, even if what they wanted wasn’t a HOA rule. There are definitely people out there who think they’re in the right no matter what and will drop a dime for no reason other than you disrespecting them.

It’s entirely possible the dead man is at fault. It’s also entirely possible he had issues that no one tried to deal with and instead only focused on his lawn, which may have been a symptom rather than the actual problem. But you don’t have enough information to draw a conclusion that it was definitely his fault unless you have more information that’s not been reported by the police or the reporter.

You also can’t assume that he agreed to the HOA rules when he bought the house. It’s possible he inherited the house or bought it before the HOA existed. You also can’t assume it was simple for him to maintain his lawn. You make a lot of assumptions without sufficient evidence.

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OGquaker says:

Re: Re: Re: A because B denotes D

Where in the hell do the Police enforce contracts between private parties? (Abortion is currently an exception in Texas) Of coarse, breaking my contract with the DMV and/or Court judgments will get me killed, but not tearing the cellophane off the video game, or a 25 year old contract restriction that was signed because the only alternative to signing a 15 page purchase agreement in this culture is living on the street. P.S. The dead no longer care, and no one who made up the "facts" around this event cares ether.

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Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

He was never served with a warrant. Absent being served with a warrant, they were trespassing and under the laws of the state of Texas, he had a right to use the necessary force to remove them from his property. The fact that they were uniformed police officers is legally irrelevant under Texas law.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Re: Re:

Inverting That One Guy’s question: was firing a gun a necessary level of force to remove them from his property?

This is certainly tragic and stupid, but to decide that this is entirely the police’s fault is a bit of an overreach, especially when you cross the pro-police reporting by NBC with Tim’s glossing over of the actions taken by the homeowner. A lot of info has gotten lost in the translation.

I want body-cam and/or audio before I assign blame or decide the cops behaved unreasonably on this one. If someone is shooting at people merely for approaching the door of their home or standing on the lawn, that certainly qualifies as an active shooter situation. Even if they’re trying to remove trespassers from their property while simultaneously trying to avoid being served with a warrant.

Speculating: That said, the way this unrolled in the end sounds suspiciously like "suicide by cop", with the person coming out of their how holding (pointing?) one or more guns. It would be nice if the police weren’t so obliging in performing the deed.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Inverting That One Guy’s question: was firing a gun a necessary level of force to remove them from his property?"

You could just invert my comment above to that question (posed by Stephen T. Stone, not That One Guy, i think).

Even so, no. Every sane resident in the US should realize that if the cops show up to mow your lawn then that lawn will get mown. Yet morbidly, that’s the hill he chose to die on in his quest for freedom.

If anything this appears to showcase a person who should have sought and received mental health care a long time ago, because running out of a house, gun drawn, in the face of a posse of texas lawmen is neither the most rational of responses nor does it have a history of ending well.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not a fan of HOAs.

An HOA for a condo is one thing. The roof, water, and parking lot are everyone’s concern. An HOA controlling property in common to the neighborhood (say, a pool, ‘park’, or the like) is similar. ("We can’t have nice things if you guys won’t support them.)

But too many HOAs are vehicles for personal aggrandizement, hobby horses, NIMBYism, "Not in YOUR Front Yard Either"-ism, and so on.

Some problematic covenants, and HOA behavior:

… should I go on?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not a fan of HOAs.

One more for the list:

  • Value-ism

That’s where the few owners in power act like Value Nazis. The premise is, everybody needs to present his/her home as if it were brand new, almost as if it were empty and ready to move in. This is so that owners of other properties who want to leave can get the best price. They are treating it as an investment, instead of as a place to live. Which makes every one else afraid to treat their house as their home, and that’s a very sad state of affairs, indeed.

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me says:

Re: You couldnt be more wrong

This is a situation that the cops should never had been involved in, HOAs suck on their own, but you just send the guy a warning and then fine him if he doesnt comply, and if need be the thing goes to court. Cops should never have played a role in this at all.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Get off my lawn!

There is zero reason for Police to be mowing someones property.
If someone is not in compliance with HoA rules, use HoA responses to them – things like fines. Someone comes on your property, takes equipment out of your garage / shed? This is Texas, you’re going to get shot at.

It’s ridiculous for the police to act in such an irresponsible manner. Leave the warrant, walk away. Talk about escalating the situation. We don’t know the mental state of the person in the house, there are a million reasons for them to act unpredictably, and plenty of them completely legal.

Deescalation is a thing.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Could be right, but that would be even more ridiculous.
Talk about a need to defund the police – the lawnmower brigade, coming to your town with their nifty riding mower?
Maybe they got discounts on surplus military grade lawnmowers…

OGquaker says:

Re: Re: Re: Ownership is a fallacy

The Corporation of Los Angeles (1850) pays "ex" "Gang Members" to come onto private property on a regular basis and paint over "grafiti". No HOA on this 1915 house. I (disregarding my life and limb) starting going off on this City’s paint-over crew when they were re-painting our glass church signs, they relented and painted our whole sidewalk in blackboard green! We are the temporary Vermin that pay a monthly/yearly fee to the State-franchised Banks to temporarily occupy the Government’s real-estate assets. Arbitrary-or-capricious? See UC Berkeley, 2014 https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8zm02483

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Talk about a need to defund the police – the lawnmower brigade, coming to your town with their nifty riding mower?"

Civil forfeiture. If your local precinct decides they need a lawnmower, zamboni, big wad of cash, brand new SUV or Margarita machine for the successful execution of their duties, they can always obtain one from some random bypasser in possession of the desired object.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Wow. Never get out of the boat. Techdirt seems to be populated fascist toadies. Why do the police even respond to HOA complaints about mowing the lawn? They can fine the guy, they can do all kinds of stuff that doesn’t involve sending the police to tell someone to mow their lawn.

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rdking647 says:

Re: Re:

the police didnt respond to an HOA complaint.
someone had complained to the city code compliance (not the cops) had in the past dealt with the homeowner for the same thing and had cut his lawn sending him the bill. (the law in austin is grass 1 foot high ).

code compliance came out to cut his lawn since he refused to. He responded by shooting at then which is when the swat team was called.
hours later,after he set his house ablaze he came out of the house armed,pointing his gun at the cops. given that he had already shot at people the cops took him down

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Because if there’s one thing the country needs more of it’s cops acting as goons for even more groups who desire some intimidation-on-demand.

This could have been solved in five minutes, deliver a letter making clear that the lawn needs to be mowed or a fine will be issued(and if they person cannot do it then help can be provided) and then walk the hell away, but instead it ended with one man dead and a local reporter acting entirely mystified how the victim ended up in that state because they are too gutless to pin the blame on the person who shot him.

sumgai (profile) says:

Having read no further than TFS, I have to ask one question: why did no one issue the command "Drop your weapon!"? Or gun, or anything along this line. That’s been standard police procedure since Day One, and yet….

The only mitigating factor there would be that we were told (via the news article) that "he was carrying his guns"…. that could’ve meant that he was carrying them in a menacing fashion, i.e. pointing them at someone. But I didn’t read it that way, did anyone else?

$20 USD says that Qualified Immunity will be denied at the Appellate level. In about 4 years.

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TRUTH says:

NONSENSE

The cops told this guy they were coming. It wasn’t some sort of no-knock. When they got there, this dude started shooting at them. Rather than return fire, they backed up and called in more cops and resources. Eventually they had SWAT, hostage negotiators and mental health officers. This idiot then set his house on fire, walked outside with 2 guns in his hands, pointed them at SWAT and got smoked. Whoever wrote this article is either drawing conclusions from an information vacuum or is genuinely retarded. Cops didn’t kill him over tall grass… he got shot because he decided to point a loaded firearm at a SWAT team after shooting at cops.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: NONSENSE

Just FYI, it doesn’t matter how hard you hammer on the caps lock or what name you give yourself. If you have an alternative version of the story that doesn’t match what’s being reacted to above, you need to cite your sources. Nobody’s going to believe an anonymous commenter on their word alone, especially when the original article provides its sources.

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austinite says:

up until last year i lived in that neighborhood and know some of his neighbors.

heres what really happened.
austin code compliance had been called in the past to his house due to an overgrown yard and had cut his grass,billing him.

they were called again because he refused to cut the lawn,in violation of austin laws.

when code compliance came to cut the lawn he fired multiple rounds at them. then swat was called.
the homeowneer ended up setting his house on fire and then came out of the house pointing guns at the swat team.
thats when they took him down.

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If there’s video of the event, showing it went down as you stated, then I’ll have to retract my earlier statement about QI.

What I’m curious about is Austin’s code enforcement procedures. For instance, does the city municipal code call for using SWAT to subdue angry homeowners? In most places I’ve lived, that job usually falls to the judge, in a properly brought suit.

Oh, wait… this is Texas. That says everything I need to know. Never mind.

(If you live in Texas, and you don’t like the reputation your state has earned, then do something about it – VOTE the bastards out!!)

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"If there’s video of the event, showing it went down as you stated, then I’ll have to retract my earlier statement about QI."

My deployment of google-fu did not turn up a video. But multiple news sources all delivering more or less the same story. There are a few police procedures there I have questions about but a few key notes stand out here;

1) Police arrived.
2) Municipal agents began mowing the man’s lawn.
3) Shots were fired from inside the house, at or around officers present.
4) Swat was called. Standoff ensured
5) Shots once again fired at officers from inside house.
6) House fired from inside, man emerging, guns in hand.
7) Swat officer fired, man went down, died in hospital.

Plenty of questions to be asked but we’re not talking about a child or hobo gunned down after a vicious, one-sided beating, choked to death while cuffed or shot in the back.

This story is not the hill to die on when it comes to police brutality and overreach. Plenty of other questions to be asked but that one? Not so much.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Following sources with timelines found;

Google – Washington Post City officials in Texas went to cut a man’s overgrown lawn. He was later killed in a standoff with police.

Google – Nbcnews City’s attempt to cut Texas man’s grass leads to a standoff, a fire and his death, police say

The publication "Newser" is less detailed but does have a tentative id on the homeowner – a Robert B. Richart who’d been in conflict with city authorities since mid august over his lawn violating the city code. It’s my guess that if you live in an often drought-stricken region having a lawn the equivalent of dried hay more than a foot high within city limits is considered a fire risk.

Given the chain of events as described this isn’t a case I’d use to illuminate police overreach.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

OK, well thanks for doing his research for him, though I’d prefer if the person making an argument provides their own basis for doing so…

"Robert B. Richart who’d been in conflict with city authorities since mid august over his lawn violating the city code"

Seems like there would be plenty of time there to defuse the situation. If the argument started in August and he was killed in October, not only are there ways to deal with it but the risk of fire would surely be lower in October. Whoever decided this could only be solved with guns, it’s a damn shame.

"Given the chain of events as described this isn’t a case I’d use to illuminate police overreach."

Overreach depends on the exact chain of events. If the SWAT team were reacting to an active shooting situation, I can understand why such force was used. But there appear to have been months where that could have been avoided.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"…well thanks for doing his research for him, though I’d prefer if the person making an argument provides their own basis for doing so…"

What can I say, I got curious?

"Whoever decided this could only be solved with guns, it’s a damn shame."

True enough that it’s a solid flustercuck, but…it has to be said the city did warn him a number of times and did mow his lawn for him when he refused to comply, as noted (and sent him the bill). This time around, though, he decided to open fire on the guys mowing his lawn and police officers.

I’m not normally used to having to defend US police but in this case I really don’t have a leg to stand on in that regard.

"If the SWAT team were reacting to an active shooting situation, I can understand why such force was used."

Which is sort of what happened. Swat was only called after the homeowner started shooting at people. There was a classic standoff, negotiator present, hours of trying to coax him outside. Finally they sent in a robot to view the house and found it to be on fire. Then they tried to approach and he opened up on them again, finally emerging from the house on fire wielding guns. That is when a SWAT officer took a shot.

"But there appear to have been months where that could have been avoided."

In any nation in europe, sure. But this was the US. The man was armed and apparently dedicated to using those guns in some sort of final stand against the nefarious government entities hell-bent on…mowing his lawn.

I honestly can’t see a way to de-escalate this except getting him a proper therapist. Who would then be the one fired on.
I have no good answers for so many problems which seem so readily solvable in nations where the right to own a firearm isn’t held in higher regard than voting rights and a driver’s license…????

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The US is a comparatively large country for its young age. Built completely with guns and blood.

The difference in this country compared with o modern Europe, is we’ve created this country not once but twice at the barrel of a long gun in the hands of the residents.
The vast majority of the country supports owning a weapon. This isn’t a Republican vs Democrat issue.
https://democratsforguns.com/

The numbers vary by poll from mid 60s or low 80s percentage of the population.
But it’s near always well over half.

It’s a cornerstone of our existence.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"It’s a cornerstone of our existence."

There have been plenty of nations founded over the course of human history – the ones valuing readiness to violence as a cornerstone of their national charter, however, rarely end well.

I mean, I’ve read my Jeffersson – it’s pretty clear the founding fathers at the time envisioned a continuation of history up to the point in time they lived in – where violence was considered a normal part of society and killing someone in the street could be justified by dueling rules. I don’t think any of them ever imagined a society where it would be considered strange or newsworthy for people to kill one another in the street.

And that’s a problem. In many ways the US is emulating the old roman republic. And the thing with that is, that republic – and the civilization it tempered its addiction to violence with – didn’t last. When political polarization between the various factions became extreme the damn thing fell into the hands of a strongman who then converted it into an empire instead.

I keep saying it’s a good thing Trump was inept. More a Claudius Nero than a Julius Caesar. Even so the rumblings among the neocons under GWB of an "american hegemony" are still alive and kicking among the less intellectual alt-right republicans today.

"The difference in this country compared with o modern Europe, is we’ve created this country not once but twice at the barrel of a long gun in the hands of the residents."

Err…you do realize, I hope, that Europe has been shaped by wars for about ten times the time the US has existed? Our aversion to guns in the hands of every citizen has reasons. Insofar as I know only the swiss retain their love of guns – but unlike you guys they take pride in surrounding the gun-owners privilege with rules of both common sense and law.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Err…you do realize, I hope, that Europe has been shaped by wars for about ten times the time the US has existed?

Absolutely, yes! There’s a key difference though. Most of your land mass, Europe, Asia, war was generally organised. Armies. Trained for that method and purpose.

The US fought 2 national revolutionary wars, our revolution, and the Civil War, both the majority were non-military civilians.

We’ve always been a civilian culture ready for the fall to arms.
For the good, and the bad of that.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Both wars involved the majority of troops being militia.
In the case of the revolution, we had no standing army at all. Not a legitimate one on European standards.

And let’s not toy with the facts. The civil war… involved nearly every civilian in the south.
Standing armies were a few hundred men at best in most states.
Of over 3mil involved most were not, at the beginning, trained army or navy they were local militia. Supported by armed civilian populations.

Guns were a part of the very birth of our renegade nation. Guns created us at in the smoke of a musket.
The honour of the duel still holds sentimental value in many of the populace.

It’s just who and what we are.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Lawn care

It is probably the case that he should have had help for mental issues months if not years ago. That things got to the state that they did is an is a symptom of a society that does not care for its members. The question that needs addressing is now why he was shot, but rather way were things allowed to progress to the state that he was acting as he was.

OGquaker says:

Re: Re: 12 inches !

In 2003, i put plastic sheets down to kill off this front lawn, Las Vegas was paying over a dollar a square foot to get rid of lawns & Los Angeles started using tax dollars to encourage getting rid of lawns from 30 cents in 2008 to $2 in 2018. One foot tall? Wow. In LA County 2-4 inches is the limit. In Oregon, people just laugh, no "Lawn Care Enforcement" they say. I know in America’s mid-west, lawn care is more important than having your pants on in public. "Lawn Care" is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition; American Psychiatric Association

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 12 inches !

"I know in America’s mid-west, lawn care is more important than having your pants on in public."

That may be true enough…
…but in the specific case of Austin at least (and I suspect, by now, most of the midwest and south) lawn height is part of the fire safety regulations. The last thing you want in a drought is the wildfire starting within city limits, I guess.

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Anonymous Coward says:

While I have to wonder why the cops should care about lawn care on private property, the guy did shoot first multiple times. It’s not like they exercized itchy trigger fingers at some unarmed innocent this time.

Not having seen the scene, I can’t say if they could’ve stopped him non-lethally, but obviously they couldn’t just let him keep shooting at people.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

It’s not like they exercized itchy trigger fingers at some unarmed innocent this time.

They aren’t supposed to gun down the guilty, either. Barring a situation where lethal force was the one and only viable option available for taking him down, non-lethal force could’ve and should’ve been used to subdue him.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What evidence do you have for your assumption that lethal force wasn’t the only viable option?

My assumption is that cops have access to non-lethal weaponry and can use it to subdue individuals both violent and not. My assumption is that lethal violence is an absolute last resort because no one can undo the taking of a life. My assumption is that unless the cops can prove that lethal violence was the only viable option for dealing with this man, they could’ve (and should’ve) used non-lethal weaponry first until lethal violence became the only viable option.

What evidence do you have for your assumption that lethal force was the only viable option for dealing with the man who was killed?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

My assumption is that cops have access to non-lethal weaponry

That may or may not be correct. I think tasers are pretty standard, but those are quite short range. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was the only less lethal option they had with them, and the person was too far away for a taser shot. I would say any SWAT team should have a variety of less lethal weapons, but I don’t know that they actually do.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"My assumption is that cops have access to non-lethal weaponry and can use it to subdue individuals both violent and not."

Not really true.

Cops have access to "less than lethal" ordinance. Most of which has the drawback that they are close-range devices. if the one you need to subdue is at range and possesses a modern firearm you don’t really have the option to apply said devices.

Honestly the best they could have done is drop pepper spray grenades into his house from range but once they discovered the place was on fire that was sort of off the procedural table.

"What evidence do you have for your assumption that lethal force was the only viable option for dealing with the man who was killed?"

He was firing a handgun within city limits. Generally speaking whenever someone does that outside of an actual shooting range the understanding exists that something within a thousand yards will serve as a backstop. If lucky that backstop won’t be a person.

Sorry to say it Stephen, but once someone picks up a firearm and starts firing it at other people, that’s when I turn and walk off that hill, because that’s the point where even I’ll assume the last option comes into effect.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Tear gas, tasers, beanbag rounds, concussion grenades/“flashbangs”, that “sonic cannon” shit used on protestors⁠—unless the police lacked access to those (or any other) non-lethal weapons, they could’ve used them to at least try to subdue the man. Lethal force should’ve been the absolute last resort; until I see evidence that proves it was, I’m inclined to believe it wasn’t.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Barring a situation where lethal force was the one and only viable option available for taking him down, non-lethal force could’ve and should’ve been used to subdue him."

Well, they did sit for hours with a negotiator trying to coax him out until they sent in a robot and found he’d set the house on fire. Then when they sent in firefighters he opened up on them again. Finally he stumbled out of the burning building, guns in hand.

The thing about "nonlethal" measures is that they are usually close-range and unreliable. A beanbag from a shotgun will toss someone back, likely disarming them, but has very short range. Tasers are similarly close-range weapons. Rubber bullet takedowns are essentially the equivalent of beating someone with a hammer until they stop moving.
Meanwhile the guy coming out of the house is armed with weaponry which has an effective range of between 30m and 200m depending on whether it was a handgun or a rifle. Bullets fired will, depending on trajectory, lodge in something. That something may be a bypasser.

Looking at the details as described in multiple news sources this has all the hallmarks of "suicide by cop" more than anything else.

There are plenty of examples of police overreach and brutality but this…isn’t one of them. This case is about someone who held and fired a gun at officers, not a poc with a smartphone or standing in their own kitchen holding a chef’s knife, or a homeless man after a vicious beating.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say they’ll find this turns out to be caused by yet another mental health issue caused by desperation.

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Anonymous Coward says:

The cops don’t care. It’s the neighbors and the city that want him to mow his damn lawn. Every city has code enforcement like this, and if you don’t mow it they will mow it for you and send you a bill. The problem is HE STARTED SHOOTING AT THEM while they were mowing his lawn. That’s why the cops were involved.

The exact same thing happens to the power company people who trim trees. They are 100% entitled to come onto your property and trim anything remotely near the power lines. Morons like the decedent take potshots at them.

I expect better from Tim. This is Masnick-level dumbtakery.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Guy was helped to death. Apparently tried to communicate in no uncertain terms he didn’t want them there, and I’m guessing they couldn’t possibly understand because they are paid not to. They needed to be there, their paychecks depended on it…

Hypothetically, a robot mower would have been cheaper than this response. Nobody could die. A target painted on top, and everybody gets to do their thing and live to tell about it. This was a documented repeat problem, why settle on a peaceful solution when blame and sensationalism is SO much more profitable?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Why rip out a lawn? What good to anyone is that?

Because you live in an area with an ongoing 20 year drought, both Lake Mead and Lake Powell are already at record lows, and short grasses have never even been vaguely native to your area and cannot survive without significant water usage.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

There’s a difference between allowing the return to nature of an unnatural man-made oasis and the bare destruction of life.

If you’re worried about water use then ban exterior irrigation of non-edible plants. Like a lawn.

What you are suggesting is to destroy flora that is already there, naturally or not, to reach an objective that could be reached by other means.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Maintained or not. They’re nature. They provide habitat for animals from micro organisms to large wildlife. "

In a drought area it’s generally not a good idea to maintain what amounts to a foot tall bale of hay the size of a building plot within city limits. This realization has been slow in coming though and I’m actually happy to see that southern state fire safety regulations are including rules about this these days.

OGquaker says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Nope. As a lifetime "enviro-mental-ist" lawns suck, California is now outlawing lawnmowers, and Monsanto’s (Bayer’s?) Roundup lawn care sterilizes the biosphere causing the soil’s fauna to belch CO2. I once was a felony "environmental-terror" defense witness, the prosecution poisoned my testimony, presenting the Judge with an 8×10 photo of this front yard with it’s green-on-green 54inch World globe (bought many years ago from the Lockheed Skunkworks) and low weed patch. Urban lawns are bling. P.S. The SUV key-scratching Perp had been a PhD candidate in biology, he was committed to a locked half-way house and put on drugs for the next few years: that mind is gone now.

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Lostinlodos (profile) says:

All issues

There’s multiple issues here. Take them one by one.

Dangerous idiot fired shots over having his lawn mowed!
Criminal.

Second. Cops over reacted.
Criminal? Should be.

The they sent in a robot to deal with the dangerous psycho. Ideally that robot could have nicely dropped a canister of atomised sulphur gas or pepper gas.
I’d go so far to say less lethal: the fuck is shooting at you drop some CS.

Standoffs always end with someone dead. Just gas the dangerous fuck and be done with it!

Why the hell everyone needs to shoot first…!

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fairuse (profile) says:

HOA + Bad civil enforcement = SWAT team solution

  1. The "Lawn" is probably a grass that browns into straw. Fire hazard? Maybe, don’t plant grass (the highways are seeded with grasses that are not natural to local environment for example) and lawn is the same.

  2. For reasons, city hall just sends mowing crew which must have PD backup.

  3. Can HOA enforcement civil suit.

  4. SWAT team – Not tv show — center mass trained.

The problem is there was who cares attitude at city hall.

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