X Because of Y Was Really Because of Z

I read an online rant by a guy claiming to have been arrested for “standing up at a football game.”  I’m not familiar with the laws in every state, but I was fairly certain that no state, especially Alabama, had a law making it illegal to stand up at a football game.  I contacted the arresting agency and requested a copy of the incident report.

The truth of the matter was that the guy bought a general admission ticket.  During the game, he moved to the reserved seating area where he stood directly blocking the view of other fans. Those fans complained to the event staff upon which time it was discovered that he didn’t have a ticket for that area.  He was asked to return to the general admission area, and he refused.  He was subsequently arrested for Alabama’s version of what we in Georgia would call criminal trespass.  The element of the crime was that he was in an area for which he didn’t have a ticket and refused to leave that area.  It wasn’t for standing up at a football game.

The story above was to illustrate what is a frequent occurrence of the misreporting, intentional or otherwise, of a police-citizen encounter especially when there is a sensational outcome.

At the time that I write this, the news media is buzzing with a story about a man in New York City that died after a confrontation when police there attempted to arrest him supposedly for selling cigarettes on the street.

Some pundits and social media users are making such statements as “he was killed for selling cigarettes.”

Such is absolutely not the case.  Force was not used by the police officers on scene until the man began to physically resist arrest.  Therefore, force wasn’t used for selling cigarettes on the street, it was used due to a lawfully arrested person resisting arrest (obstruction under Georgia law).  Had the man not physically resisted the arrest, the incident would not be a news item.

Nothing in the above should be construed as to supporting the existence and enforcement of such laws dealing with the street vending and taxation of cigarettes.  Nothing in the above should be construed as advocating the use of any particular tactic.  All I will say in regard to the tactics used is that if a person is able to say anything, especially repeatedly, then they have not been “choked out”.  If you doubt this, go by your local mixed martial arts gym and request someone there put you in an actual choke hold and see if you are capable of speech.

I urge you to look past headlines and emotional appeal of a situation and drill down to the actual facts of a case.

One comment

  1. A close relative of mine is stomping her feet on Facebook about the above referenced case and the “choke hold that killed him”. Yesterday she was posting about how you could not trust the media on an unrelated story. I tried to explain that she could not have it both ways. I would unfriend her but that is going to make family gatherings difficult.

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