Monday, June 9, 2014
TWO LVMPD OFFICERS ASSASSINATED
A CHILL IN THE DESERT
OFFICERS SEEN AS THE "ENEMY"
Photos of slain Metro Police officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo are displayed
during a news conference at Metro headquarters following the death
of the two officers and a citizen in Las Vegas June 8, 2014 (Reuters / Steve Marcus)
TAGS: LAS VEGAS POLICE OFFICERS EXECUTED, JARED AND AMANDA MILLER
MURDER-SUICIDE PACT, FAR RIGHT WING EXTREMISTS, MILITIA MOVEMENT,
SOVEREIGN CITIZENS GROUPS, CLIVEN BUNDY RANCH STAND OFF,
DOMESTIC TERRORISTS, HOME GROWN TERRORISM
(Monday June 9, 2014 Las Vegas, Nevada) It was a premeditated assassination. The two Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Officers were taking their lunch break at 11 o’clock yesterday morning. They had just finished eating and were talking when their two executioners approached. Witnesses say the Officers had no time to react or respond although one of the mortally wounded Officers did return fire. Their fates were sealed in the blink of an eye. Officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, were easy targets for the married couple who took their lives in a chilling act derived from whatever madness possessed them. It was an act of diabolic cowardice as much as it was the product of two cold blooded like minds who seem to have viewed the Officers as representations of all they despised. It has been reported that the Revolutionary War-era Gadsden flag, the yellow flag, which contains an image of a coiled snake and the words "Don't tread on me," was draped over the fallen Officers along with a swastika stamped manifesto. The killers removed the Officers firearms, ammunition and badges before fleeing the scene.
After their fatal assault in CiCi’s Pizza where the pair of LVMPD Officers had eaten lunch the murderous duo identified as Jared and Amanda Miller raced across the parking lot of the large retail center, entered the Walmart and shot and killed a civilian who was carrying a legally registered hand gun. Joseph Wilcox, 31, attempted to shoot Jared Miller. Wilcox may have fired shots, but he didn't know that the shooter's wife was nearby and as she made her way behind Wilcox she shot and killed him. Pandemonium ensued as customers fled from the busy Walmart and a brief fire fight between responding LVMPD Officers and the Millers lasted a few short minutes until the trapped couple died in an obvious murder/suicide pact.
A NOT UNCOMMON PROFILE
As local law enforcement authorities and FBI Agents scrambled to learn as much as possible about the Millers late into last night, some of the details that have been released have a familiar ring to them. Interviews with neighbors claim that the Millers were not close to anyone in the community and often appeared in public in costumes. They were known to spout anti-government sentiments and Jared was known for his beliefs in various conspiracy theories. Law Enforcement Officials discovered a trove of white supremacist paraphernalia including swastikas, “anti-tyranny” propaganda and a far right wing manifesto in the couple's apartment during a search. The couple had boasted that they had participated in the armed standoff at the Cliven Bundy ranch earlier this year, a cause that drew anti-government zealots from across the country when the Bureau of Land Management had sought to seize some of Bundy’s livestock that had been grazing on federal land without payment for the last 20 years. At this point little is known of the Miller’s association with that cause or affiliations with other ultra-right wing groups.
What has been established thus far about the Millers is that they had recently relocated to the Las Vegas Valley from Lafayette, Indiana where Jared had a lengthy criminal record primarily for drug related charges. Neighbors in Las Vegas have said that the Millers often appeared to be “high” and were suspected of using crystal methamphetamine although that has not been confirmed by authorities here.
Even this soon after yesterday’s tragedy some in the press have already pigeonholed the couple as right wing misfits, hardcore white supremacists and anti-Obama haters. Such premature classifying is a hallmark of today’s 24/7 hyper-paced news cycle where the need to fill air time and headlines is typically fed rumor, innuendo and supposition in the absence of facts. This widespread tactic allows for an occluded lens through which the public perceives horrible events such as this. With yesterday’s savage murders coming so close on the heels of several other media inflated mass shootings it is tempting to spout the same old rhetoric about guns and gun control, lapses in mental health care and the litany of tattered and torn explanations offered up for public consumption whenever such an event occurs. While convenient for the media, the spread of inaccurate information often does more harm than good and helps perpetuate “copycat” acts of violence. What often gets lost in the shuffle are the basic facts. In this case it was two individuals acting for reasons we can and will never know because they took their motives with them when they died. Every act of mass shooting and murder is the product of those indididual perpetrators psyches. To assign blame to external forces and influences ignores the basic variables in the equations. There is no easy way, no reasonably effective method, and no additional laws to be passed, amended or enhanced that will prevent similar crimes in the future.
A DIFFERENCE OF DISTINCTION
Each human life is of equal value and each death by fire arm should be of equal concern and consequence. What distinguishes yesterday’s event from others in our very recent past is that there appears to have been a “political” component motivating the Millers. In their social media trail they left signs that they were acolytes of the most virulent strain of right wing politics harkening back to the 1990’s when the “militia” movement crept out of shadows in horrific ways. This is of course no excuse for what the Millers perpetrated but it is in the mix as authorities and average citizens, law abiding, responsible gun owners wrestle with the underlying causation. This is a futile effort; there can be no clear understanding of what the Millers did, why and to what end.
The two ambushed Officers appear to have represented all the Millers despised about America today. Disenfranchised by circumstances, alienated by their own behaviors, they sought acceptance in a “movement” that considers no legal authority beyond the level of the County Sheriff. One can trace this thinking back to the standoff at Ruby Ridge and the bungled assault at the Branch Dividians compound in Waco Texas where federal agents killed scores of believers including children in a ferocious conflagration. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber cited these events as his motive to retaliate against what he saw as a tyrannical federal government.
There has long been a strain of fierce libertarianism, anti-government radicals, extremists, and members of the so called “sovereign citizens movement” quick to pick up the mantle of “revolution” and government overthrow via armed conflict. To the rest of us this thinking is so alien and idiotic that it is difficult to fathom just how deeply held their hatred is; how can these people equate their beliefs and theories with reality? It is the frightening prospect that some of these groups of well-armed dedicated groups have various degrees of organizational structure and it is such allegiance with the like-minded cells that sets them apart from the other perpetrators of mass shootings of late. The Millers acted as a pair and had long espoused the venomous hyperbole of the militia and sovereign citizens’ movement as well as white supremacy doctrine. They are different in kind from the loner who suddenly erupts and goes to a familiar location to kill as many victims as possible. Aside from some web sites in the darker corners of the Internet the lone gunmen have no association with any wider cause or movement beyond their own psychopathology.
THE HOME FRONT
Even before the Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act of 2001 expanded the definition of domestic terrorism, there have been home grown ideologues willing to commit acts of what has been considered terrorism in the name of a variety of causes. Some previous acts of domestic terrorism have targeted commercial interests such as the logging and mining industries that experiencing acts against property by environmentalists of one kind or another. Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber” was a domestic terrorist just as was Timothy McVeigh. Some groups that have attained main stream, primarily left wing liberal appeal, such as PETA and Greenpeace have often conducted operations that interfered with ranching, fishing, and utility providers. For the most part they have not employed lethal means towards achieving their stated ends. They have, at times, caused severe property damage and operational disruption that has been monetarily costly but have not left any victims injured or killed.
The strain of domestic terrorism that poses the most clear and present danger is the organized groups as mentioned above. When armed men and women seek to usurp the authority of the government at every level, for some, at the most local level, the likelihood of others acting out in similarly aggressive, murderous ways increases. There is strength in numbers and while these zealots represent a miniscule segment of the total population, they can inflict terrible damage where ever and whenever they choose particularly when they band together or are drawn to a specific cause such as that at the Cliven Bundy ranch in April. The “sovereign citizens” who flocked to the Bundy ranch armed to the teeth seemed prepared to do battle, literally repel “by any means necessary” federal agents from carrying out their official duties. The Millers were in attendance for some time during the Bundy ranch crisis but it is unclear as yet how long they stayed there and the terms by which they left.
EXTREMISTS ON BOTH SIDES
One need not look for too long in the never ending wave of rhetoric in all forms of the media that appeals to extremists be they on the Right or Left. Some observers contend that the right wing hate filled conservative juggernaut that includes Fox News, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin and others of their ilk are to blame for an emboldened sovereign citizens movement. Yes, these voices blow the dog whistle of divisive political warfare that finds huge audiences of like-minded ears. Certainly the Left has its hyperbolic blowhards lead by the likes of the buffoonish Chris Mathews and his colleagues at MSNBC. They too stir the pot attracting any segment of their “base” that feels somehow aggrieved and insist on radical change immediately on issues ranging from homosexual rights to much laxer immigration policy. Thus far, however, there have not been people on the Left act out violently.
Just as when a cold front collides with a warm air mass, the Left and Right find themselves in a seemingly intractable storm with guns being the lightening rod. Guns, per se, as in legally purchased and responsibly owned and used, are not the issue. They are an easy target for the Left and a constitutional issue to the Right. Amid this tempest is enough hypocrisy from both sides to go around. In one of the odder rhetorical twists the role of government in our personal, private lives is a shared rallying cry. The Right demands “small government”, all their constitutional rights yet wants to control women’s reproductive rights. They are pro-life until the unborn fetus becomes an infant and may be born into circumstances that require the Mom to seek some form of financial assistance from the government. The Left is decidedly pro-choice and wants their constitutional rights protected forever seeking wider and wider applications of constitutional law as it suits them. Those pro-choice “small government” types on the Left conversely want increasingly rigid gun control legislation yet bristle at the notion of government infringement on their rights. The contradictions in both camps are abundantly clear.
THE GREATER OF TWO EVILS?
As of today there have been 73 school shootings across the country since the horrific massacre of 26 young students and faculty at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. Depending whose statistics one references an average of 58 people are shot every day in America with an average death toll of 14 per day. Virtually not a week passes that does not see a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) fatally shot or otherwise killed in the Line of Duty somewhere. The “execution” of Police Officers such as that here yesterday was once far more common than it is today. In the 1960’s and 1970’s in some of the biggest cities various civil rights groups, racial militants and self-described mercenaries for all sorts of causes saw brutal ambushes on police Officers with some of the most notorious hitting NYPD during that time period. But the militia groups and sovereign citizen, self-described “patriots” of today pose an even greater threat not only to LEO’s but to all citizens.
The “well-armed militias” out there actually see themselves as a new breed of patriot when all they are is a rag tag collection of splinter groups some more organized than others but all seeing a call to arms as a viable solution for what they see as our declining profile in the world and insipient cultural and moral decay on our home turf. Ominously these groups are attracting more and more from the “Warrior Generation” we created over the past 13 years. These veterans are well trained; battle hardened and some feeling disenfranchised enough to heed that call to arms domestically.
Juxtaposed within our violent culture are the loners; the exact opposites of the new guard “patriots”. As we have too often seen of late, these killers have been predominantly young white men from middle class means some with diagnosed mental illness. They are not driven by wider political causes and seek only to lash out against whatever real or perceived offenses they’ve incurred throughout their lives. In every recent incident the shooter had legally purchased the fire arms they used in their assaults. The point being that despite tighter restrictions on gun ownership there is no way possible to end such murderous attacks.
In the hue and cry that always follows a mass shooting event such as that which occurred here yesterday the prescriptive rhetoric espoused by the gun control advocates is to make it more difficult for people to purchase fire arms, particularly, the “mental ill”. While on its face it appears uncontroversial enough, a measure that most can agree on when it comes to the legal sales of guns. (Naturally there is no effective means available to stop the illegal purchase and transport of guns into the inner cities.)
The question to be asked about enhanced background checks is how exactly will a potential gun buyer’s “mental health” history, or lack thereof, be determined? This thorny question speaks directly to matters of personal privacy and the Patients’ Bill of Rights as codified in the HIPPA policies. Current databases contain information on convicted felons but, as we all recognize, an individual can fly under the radar forever if they have lived an unassuming, law abiding life. It is only when an individual enters the criminal justice system and is subjected to whatever mental health screening particular jails and prisons utilize that they may or may not carry with them the label of being mentally unfit to own a fire arm.
In the cases where an individual has never demonstrated overt mental illness, never been evaluated for the same, that the gapping gulf between who can and who cannot purchase a gun is most prominent. To require mental health providers to “report” to some agency or authority whenever they encounter a patient they determine by whatever diagnostic tools they employ that they are treating a patient who may pose a “danger to himself or others”, collides forcefully with the doctor/patient confidentiality as it does with an individual patients’ personal constitutional liberties regarding privacy. There seems no way to circumvent the array of ethical and privacy concerns in an effort to “weed out” those who may in the future commit a mass casualty attack, multiple murder via fire arm or any other crime for that matter.
THE LATEST “NEW NORMAL”
When we were suddenly thrust into a post-9/11/2001 world it became apparent that we as a nation had to enact changes in some of the fundamental principles that define us. We learned we had to forfeit a great deal of privacy as our cities became flooded by closed circuit surveillance cameras as well as the awkward acknowledgment that our smart phone or other cellular device could act as a tracking point for our movements. We have learned that the National Security Administration (NSA) has been collecting tremendous amounts of “mega data” that can be analyzed and mined at their whim. The Patriot Act that was so hastily drafted and enacted into law contains legislation that, in some cases based on little to no hard evidence, we might be stopped by Law Enforcement, have our car and house searched, and could even be an unwitting ally to the Law Enforcement Community (LEC) in some version of a sting operation. As a consequence we have grown more suspicious of each other and created an increasingly divisive element into our society. For some, particularly those out on the extremist, militant wing of the far Right, this “New Normal” is a call to arms and for some the cause of real raging paranoia which are all volatile when mixed.
The bastard children bread by that paranoia are those who do not recognize the legitimacy of our government rather they perceive them as an active enemy; an enemy already plotting to drop troopers from black helicopters into their communities and disarm them and, perhaps even, imprison them. These folks have plenty of ammunition to stoke their ire and confirm their very worst nightmares. Talk radio is awash across the country spewing hatred and inciting some to violence. Fox News is their TV network and their Nielsen Ratings show they reach a wide audience. Again, this are not causes just contributing factors. It is the rare individual or individuals who even consider engaging in armed conflict against local, state or federal LEO’s.
There are no easy answers for the illnesses infecting our society; no off-the-shelf solutions to inoculate people from incendiary messaging at both extremes of the political divide. There are no feasible “macro” solutions so; the solutions must originate at the micro level in places like our homes, families, neighborhoods, schools, churches, and civic organizations. None among us can live in a state of hyper alertness nor should we feel it necessary to do so. But parents have a responsibility to teach their children well. We all have a responsibility to each other in accordance with the “See Something, Say Something” initiative promoted wit much success by the NYPD.
It is sad we find ourselves at this murky juncture; at a clash of Left and Right that could escalate with even the smallest provocation. As cold and callous as it seems we have to accept this new normal. Gun control won’t help us, certainly no politician is capable or willing to step into the breach and try to enact change. The LEC is but a truly Thin Blue Line separating order from anarchy, chaos from civility.
Let us all remember the two LVMPD Officers assassinated here yesterday and hope that they did not sacrifice their lives in vain. Bless them both and condolences to their families. They can perhaps someday after the worst of the grief has ebbed come to realize that their husbands and fathers, sons and daughters, and their entire extended families are now safely home and in the Presence of the Lord.
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