Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Much has been written and reported about the Friday murders on a Portland MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) commuter train. I have some thoughts from a law enforcement perspective.
Let’s be clear, I was not on the train. I have no firsthand knowledge of how the incident evolved. As I understand it…
It was a busy commuter train loaded with passengers – about 4:30PM. Jeremy Christian was causing a disturbance. He was loud and erratic – screaming abusive language like: “colored people are ruining the city.” He then seemed to turn his wrath on two young women, who he perceived to be Muslim.
Passengers, three men, attempted to intervene, trying to calm Christian down, stating that he should sit down and leave the train at the next stop. The situation escalated quickly. Christian pulled a knife, slashing out, ultimately killing two of the men and injuring another. Christian then jumped off the train at the next station. He was quickly apprehended by law enforcement.
The citizens who confronted Christian are praised as heroes. And without doubt, their efforts to neutralize a bad situation were heroic. However, from a perspective of a former FBI Firearms and police instructor, their actions were perhaps ill-advised. This is not meant as criticism. The men showed bravery. Their intentions were noble. I will explain my reservations.
The men, probably due to the noise and confined space on the train, approached Christian too closely and attempted to reason with him. Christian was manic, apparently deranged and possibly under the influence of drugs. The men’s approach made him feel diminished and ‘trapped.’
Experienced law enforcement officers know that people like Christian are not easily ‘talked down,’ especially when they have an audience. Police recognize that someone like Christian is extremely dangerous, and they would give themselves space to maneuver – unless a situation demands otherwise. A uniformed officer probably would have talked to Christian from five to ten feet and encouraged him to step off the train at the next stop so that they could discuss it; being careful that Christian would not perceive the situation as ‘losing face.’ At that point, an arrest could be made without endangering other passengers.
As an FBI Agent, I carried a gun on duty and off duty for several years. If I had been on the MAX train during this incident, I would not have approached Christian. As any citizen should, I would have called 911 advised them of the situation, asked the police to meet us at the next stop.
What would Christian have done if I had approached him, showed my FBI credentials, and told him to sit down and be quiet? Probably, the situation would have gone from bad to worse. Now, if he had been brandishing a knife and threatening to harm other passengers that would be a very different situation and could have, probably would have, warranted lethal force.
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Before I leave the subject of my recent surgery, I’d like to express a word or two about religion and what role it plays in my life – more importantly what I believe.
This is an awkward subject in that I have had close friends and relatives who are, for lack of a better word, religious. On the other hand, I have had close friends and relatives who were atheists – at least I think that is how they would describe themselves.
There is a saying that ‘there are no atheists in foxholes.’ I tend to believe that, but can’t say with certainty. I’ve never been in a military operation where death seemed probable or imminent. Even if I had been, I’m convinced that would not be a priority topic for discussion among my comrades-in-arms. It’s just too personal.
On a bit of an aside, awhile back I was reading about D-Day (June 6, 1944). There were many dying young men on the beaches, many merely boys. Medics reported that dying soldiers did not, for the most part, call out to God. They often called for their mothers. I found that statement troubling and hard to forget.
The type of heart surgery I had can be a little scary. They, after all, cut/saw your chest open and stop your heart while they make repairs. That said, we are so lucky/blessed to have the expert medical care that actually accomplishes this type of surgery – as well as even more difficult surgeries – on a day to day basis, on hundreds if not thousands of people.
In my last meeting with the cardiac surgeon, before surgery, he was actually pretty upbeat – stating that he had done more than 30,000 similar surgeries. This was shocking – “30,000.” Then you start thinking maybe he will get bored with this particular operation, maybe lose focus and start thinking about playing golf later that day; or even worse – nod off during the procedure. He said that my surgery had a 99% chance of success and a complete recovery. I didn’t say it, but my immediate thought was: What about the other 1%? I did say “that sounds pretty good.” He smiled and went on his way.
What is odd, from my perspective, is that he never asked anything about me. My wife was there so he knew I had family; but he asked nothing about me personally: What do you do in life? Are you retired? Do you have kids, grandkids? Hobbies? A dog? I guess he knew everything about me that he cared to know from the various x-rays, blood tests, my DOB, and my overall physical appearance. I was just number 30,002 as far as he was concerned. A few weeks later I went to his office for a follow-up, but he had an emergency surgery so my wife and I just talked to his nurse – who, incidentally, was quite nice.
What does this have to do with religion? Well, I said a little prayer while they were wheeling me down to surgery. I did not ask for a successful surgery – too presumptuous. And what I did say (think) or ask from God is private.
In the way of full disclosure, I’m not what you would consider a religious person. I consider myself an agnostic. I don’t know if there is a God. I don’t know that there isn’t a God. Those who have an established religious faith – I say ‘good for you;’ but, as far as I’m concerned no one knows with absolute certainty there is a God. That said, no one, including self-avowed atheists, even those willing to shout their atheism from the roof tops, know there is not a God. It is the ultimate unknowable. Someday, that final day, we will know or we won’t know. But, in the future, I plan to focus on the Golden Rule. That might be adequate.
Memorial Day is this coming Monday. Let’s remember… the boys.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
In the future, maybe more than in my past blog posts, I plan to write about some of my life experiences, people I know and have known, events of note, and general experiences I’ve had thus far. Recently, I had one of those block-buster events that I must say knocked me back, and that’s an understatement. It caused me to reevaluate my priorities. Take a closer look at the meaning of life, and what’s important.
It came on rather suddenly. I was diagnosed with an aneurysm which was serious enough that I was routed immediately to the emergency room of a major hospital. As any doctor would tell you, if your aorta ruptures, it’s pretty much ‘lights out.’ Kind of funny now, but my initial emotion was anger – anger at no one in particular I guess, except perhaps myself.
I’m in my early 70s, but I lived a fairly healthy life. I don’t drink or smoke. I’m generally careful about what I eat. I was not what you might consider overweight. I exercise and belong to a gym. It’s silly to think that way, but my initial impression was ‘this just isn’t fair.’ Of course, I’m fully aware that one of the basic tenets of life is that life is never fair. Stupid of me to even think otherwise – even as a passing thought. Look around your local community. Look around the world. That I had such a thought, even momentarily, now embarrasses me.
Eight days in the hospital – replaced a portion of my aorta, a new heart valve, and one bypass. It’s been nearly eight weeks post-surgery. Recovery, at times, has been a bumpy road. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight. I now weigh what I did in high school; but look, of course, much worse than I did in high school. I now resemble a plucked, anorexic chicken. I won’t be prancing around the beach in my Speedo any time soon. (Actually I don’t have a Speedo, and haven’t had one since the HS swimming team. And my friends would surely opine ‘thank god for that.’)
I’m in a cardiac rehab program and making progress. The Doc said I could try golf again after three months. I’m a little worried about my golf game. But, friends have assured me not to worry, that my golf game never amounted to much anyway. It’s great to have friends willing to offer support when you’re really feeling down.
I’m going to write more about my life and how it has evolved. It’s been quite a ride. Some of you might enjoy reading this. Well, maybe not, but I plan to write about it anyway. It’s part of my therapy.
Friday, May 12, 2017
I have some comments regarding the sudden termination of James Comey, FBI Director. It seemed pretty clear that Director Comey had to go. I do not, however, agree with the manner in which he was given his walking papers. Ham-fisted. You just don’t treat people that way. But the President just doesn’t seem to get it.
I understand why a President, any President, under the given circumstances, would have ‘fired’ Comey. The Director seems to have let his ego overwhelm his judgement. I listened to all of his recent testimony before the Senate Committee; and it made me cringe. He was loving the limelight, basking in the attention. It was too obvious. His statement, in consideration that he might have influenced the Presidential election in some way, had made him “mildly nauseous,” well he made me mildly nauseous. An FBI Director simply does not talk that way. My opinion.
Now, I must say that Comey, as I understand it, was fairly well liked in the Bureau. Generally speaking, most who have worked with him consider him to be a good and decent man – intelligent, personable, and well versed in the law. But those qualities do not necessarily make a good Director of the FBI.
His inevitable downfall began with his ‘prosecutive opinion’ regarding Hillary Clinton. At that point, he apparently decided to assert his primacy over the Attorney General’s Office which is, theoretically at least, his superior. His determination that Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted – after describing in some detail how she was undoubtedly in violation of Federal Law – was something of a shock to those who have worked in federal law enforcement. He stated that there was no indication of “intent.’ When the relevant statutes protecting classified information do not, for the most part, require establishing ‘intent.’ Hillary Clinton violated the law – pure and simple. Comey should have turned that information over to the Department of Justice for them to make the decision as to whether or not they were willing to prosecute, and if not why not.
Summation: Hillary Clinton was either ‘off the chart’ ignorant of how to handle classified information, or she purposely defied the law – feeling, I suppose, that she was above the mundanity of such laws. I believe the latter.
After exonerating her, Comey was later trapped attempting to explain to Congress and the American public why the FBI had to reopen the investigation of Hillary, and her errant emails, right before the Presidential election. The Weiner computer. Whoops. Last straw.
And, what was the genesis of all this? Well, of course, it was the private meeting of the Master Manipulator Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the tarmac where, according to Lynch, they discussed grandchildren and golf. How stupid do they think we are?
Sorry Mr. Comey but you allowed yourself to become collateral damage of that meeting. It’s best that you move on.