A Tale Of Two Narratives

Police car, photo by Matti Blume

An altercation on Plano, TX streets between Black Lives Matter protesters and a frustrated driver has drawn international attention and dueling narratives. Amidst the spin, the truth is being lost.

Background is needed. On March 14, in Allen, TX a man named Marvin Scott III was smoking marijuana in public at an outlet mall. Police detained him, because smoking cannabis is illegal in Texas. It is a misdemeanor offense, with possession of two ounces or less subject to up to 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine.

Scott was acting erratically, so the police took him for evaluation at a nearby hospital. No physical injuries were found, and he was then taken to the county jail. Scott continued to resist arrest. He was restrained by strapping him to a bed, sprayed with pepper spray, and had his face covered by a spit mask – a breathable fabric mask that limits the ability of a subject to bite or spit at officers. He was kept in that condition for several hours, during which he became unresponsive. He was subsequently pronounced dead.

Seven correctional officers have been fired due to violations of procedure which resulted in a death, and an eighth has resigned.

This is where the narratives start to split. Scott’s family points out that he had been self-medicating after being diagnosed with schizophrenia two years before, and that he was not given the benefit of medical care because he was black in a mostly white area. This runs up against the fact that people are not allowed, even when properly diagnosed with issues, to determine their own corrective regimen using illegal drugs and to utilize those drugs in public (taken to extremes, that viewpoint would allow people to shoot heroin at a table in a Chuck E. Cheese if they’d been diagnosed as sociopathic). Also, the initial trip was to a hospital, where he had the access to medical personnel they claim was denied to him due to his skin color. Pro-BLM outlets have taken the family’s assertions and presented them as if their concerns were valid, even though they are demonstrably not.

When he was brought to the jail he was combative and struggling, very plausibly associated with his diagnosed schizophrenia. This has been used by some to excuse the officers’ actions. In reality, the officers reacted to Scott’s aggression inappropriately, violating department procedure either through direct action or by intentional inaction contrary to required process (such as addressing when fellow officers may have committed assault by pepper spraying a restrained individual). Their firings were entirely valid, in contrast to how they have been presented by some who claim to be for “law and order”.

Two sides, the same set of facts, two dramatically different interpretations and neither of them wholly accurate. This is a recipe for tension, one which was further complicated when the coroner returned with an official verdict of homicide for manner of death.

This has been interpreted by Scott’s advocates to mean that the officers acted with the intent to cause Scott’s death. That’s not what the classification means. Coroners and medical examiners have five options available to them for manner of death: suicide, homicide, accident, natural and undetermined. “Natural” refers only to physical disease and the aging process and is thus not applicable. He made no attempt to harm himself, so “suicide” was out. The facts of the case were known, so “undetermined” was eliminated. That leaves only “homicide” and “accident”. If the death of a person occurs due to actions taken by another who has the intent to cause fear, harm, or death it counts as a homicide. In this case, despite the harm being inflicted in an effort to stop Scott from reacting violently, harm was enacted. It was absolutely a technical homicide, but there is no evidence of malice nor intent to cause fatality.

The cause of death – more specific than the legally useful manner of death – was determined to be “fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement”. In simpler terms, he had a stress-induced heart attack, stroke or similar fatal event. Video of the event has been subsequently viewed by investigators and family. The family representatives have said that he was clearly in distress, which strongly suggests that Scott had not calmed – which was reportedly the response which correctional officers had been demanding from him before they would remove the restraints.

The family saw a beloved relative with a mental condition who was suffering for hours. The officers saw a man who was threatening violence and refused to become quiescent. Both can be true, but when the situation is only presented from one side that can be difficult to recognize.

This was the situation which inspired a group of activists to march, demanding justice. They had a narrative they believed: Scott had been denied proper treatment, restrained, and ultimately killed because he was black. They are calling for the officers to be arrested. An internal investigation is underway, and will determine whether the spraying constituted an excessive use of force; without such a determination significant criminal charges seem unlikely, as most of the firings were for violations of procedure which did not rise to the level of misdemeanor crimes. Meanwhile, others are demanding the officers be reinstated, something which is not going to happen. They are sets of contradictory expectations developed by the different skewed narratives.

This brings us to Saturday.

Andrew Kloster is a prominent member of the Federalist Society who has been a staffer at the Scalia Law School and the Heritage Foundation and held multiple positions in the Trump administration. He’s also a pathetically transparent liar, as far as Plano is concerned. Plano has been ranked among the most conservative cities in the country by various groups for more than a decade, with bleedoff from the Republicans in the wake of Trumpism manifesting as about a 3% vote for Libertarian candidates and support for conservative-leaning Democrats.

Posobiec is a prominent alt-right conspiracy theorist; Kloster’s willingness to retweet him is an indication of his mettle. In this case, as in others, Posobiec is misrepresenting the facts, and in so doing providing an indication of one of the flawed narratives.

The “armed” description comes from something which is presented at the thirty second mark of the embedded video. It was being described as looking like a gun by many Republican pundits, and that in turn – as intended – fueled the story that a gun was levelled at the enraged driver. The device in question, as confirmed by police, was a legally carried electrical discharge device – a taser, designed to stop people from attacking by causing an arc through muscle tissue and burning out most available energy by rapid fibrillation. The driver was aggressive, initiated pushing contact with the demonstrators and punched toward some of them in addition to screaming at a police officer at close range during the official conduct of his duties. What he did was, simply, illegal. He committed a series of misdemeanors while on camera.

That said, the protesters were also acting illegally. They had filled out all paperwork required by the city for the protest and they had police available to monitor their actions and provide safety. They then shifted into an area which was not within the boundaries of their planned demonstration, and in so doing blocked traffic. This action would be expected to cause police to request the protesters to clear the way, and if refused, to trigger fines to the protest coordinators… but the police were there in part for political reasons, to try to reduce tensions from both sides of the often misinformed activist community. It would have been foolish and incendiary to act in a heavy-handed fashion against people who had been inspired to protest by fatally improper police action.

Blocking traffic is illegal and dangerous, a fact that should not be glossed over because of any perceived value of a cause. Minor fines are in order for the protesters, and may yet be levied. That said, the man who yelled at the officer is no hero and has earned misdemeanor charges. As with the precipitating Scott case, neither side is wholly correct, but they are fueling political narratives which have been amplified throughout the country and beyond.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.