Monday morning, I woke up to the news that a student at the University of Southern Alabama had been shot and killed by the campus police. The details of the shooting are about as far from the events at Kent State as can be imagined:
A University of South Alabama freshman was running through the streets nearly naked, screaming obscenities and claiming he was on a "spiritual quest" not long before he was shot by a campus police officer, two acquaintances said Monday.Nevertheless, this incident shows that, all these years later, police officers still resort to deadly force when, almost certainly, "other methods would have resolved the confrontation." That language, taken directly from the statement issued by the victims of Kent State after they settled their civil suit against the National Guard and Ohio state officials, came as part of their plea that something be done to ensure that citizens be protected from having their civil rights denied by those acting under color of law. The victims urged "citizens and law enforcement" to "find better ways." (emphasis in original)
Authorities have said 18-year-old Gil Collar of Wetumpka assumed a "fighting stance" and chased a police officer before the officer shot him around 1:30 a.m. outside the campus police station. Police say Collar was naked when he was shot. ...
School officials have said nothing to indicate he was armed. Campus officers typically also carry a baton and pepper spray, though university officials refused to say whether the officer who shot Collar was carrying either.
The university said the officer heard a bang on a window at campus police headquarters and went outside to investigate. The officer tried to retreat numerous times to defuse the situation before opening fire, the university said in a news release.
And yet, here we are, 33 years later, and the University of Southern Alabama just shot a naked student to death because... because... because... WHY? I hate to say this but, in my opinion, Gil Collar ended up dead because the university police had no idea how else to handle this situation. Certainly, it would be pretty amazing if, in fact, this naked man had a weapon and represented a deadly threat to the campus police. But the police were armed with guns. If they had any less lethal tools available, they chose not to use them. The tool that, from reports, would seem to have been most effective -- a trained counselor capable of talking down someone who was almost certainly in some sort of altered state -- appears to have been nowhere in evidence. But, to get back to my question of WHY, forgive me for saying that I believe the answer is depressingly simple: they shot him because it was easiest and they knew they could do so with likely impunity.
And that should send chills up the spine of every student at every college, every member of a disenfranchised minority in every community with a belligerent police department, and every parent who sends a child away to college.
How often has this kind of overreaction occurred since the Kent State victims settled their civil suit, 33 years ago? In the second installment of this series, I quoted their settlement statement where they noted that 28 students had been killed on college campuses under color of law in the previous ten years.
I have always felt badly that I don't know the names of each of those 28 students and the circumstances under which they died. Maybe some of them died in circumstances not unlike those that unfolded this weekend at the University of Southern Alabama and claimed the life of Gil Collar. Certainly antiwar protesters were included in the count. James Green and Phillip Gibbs, the two young men killed at Jackson State on May 14, 1970, were part of the 28. But Samuel Hammond, Delano Middleton and Henry Smith, killed in Orangeburg, South Carolina, in February 1968 would not be.
And what would the number be today? How many have been killed since 1979? How many families have sent their child off to college only to have them come home in a coffin, placed there by the very authorities who are ostensibly charged with protecting the students? How many of these incidents occur with little to no press coverage? How many of these families have been left to grieve without public support? And why, why, why do we still have to wake up to headlines such as these?
Gil Collar, I hope your death can serve to shed light on the needlessly aggressive tactics of the University of Southern Alabama police force. I hope your family will receive the answers and support that they need. I hope the university community will come together to challenge the use of force on their campus. I hope that students everywhere who may be in need of help for mental health or substance abuse issues find that help before meeting a similarly tragic end. And, most of all, I hope that our country someday soon confronts our addiction to violence and that, as a society, we will recognize that violence only leads to tragedy.
And now, Part Three of the PROJECT CENSORED article by Laurel Krause and Mickey Huff.
Kent State: Was It about Civil Rights or Murdering Student Protesters?
by Laurel Krause with Mickey Huff
from the forthcoming Censored 2013: Dispatches from the Media Revolution to be published by Seven Stories Press
The cover-up adds tremendous complexity to an already complicated event, making it nearly impossible to fairly try the Kent State massacre in the American justice system. This imposed “establishment” view that Kent State was about “civil rights”—and not about murder or attempted murder—led to a legal settlement on the basis of civil rights lost, with the US government consistently refusing to address the death of four students and the wounding of nine.14
Even more disheartening, efforts to maintain the US government cover-up at Kent State recently went into overdrive in April 2012, when President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) formally announced a refusal to open a new probe into the wrongs of Kent State, continuing the tired 1970 tactic of referring to Kent State as a civil rights matter.15
The April 2012 DOJ letters of response also included a full admission that, in 1979, after reaching the Kent State civil rights settlement, the FBI Cleveland office destroyed what they considered a key piece of evidence: the original tape recording made by Terry Strubbe on his dormitory window ledge. In a case involving homicides, the FBI’s illegal destruction of evidence exposes their belief to be “above the law,” ignoring the obvious fact that four students were killed on May 4, 1970. As the statute of limitations never lapses for murder, the FBI’s actions went against every law of evidence. The laws clearly state that evidence may not be destroyed in homicides, even when the murders are perpetrated by the US government.
The destruction of the original Strubbe tape also shows the FBI’s intention to obstruct justice: the 2012 DOJ letters on Kent State claim that, because the original Strubbe tape was intentionally destroyed, the copy examined by Allen cannot be compared to the original or authenticated. However the original Strubbe tape, destroyed by the DOJ, was never admitted into evidence.
The tape examined by Stuart Allen, however, is a one-to-one copy of the Kent State Strubbe tape admitted into evidence in Kent State legal proceedings by Joseph Kelner, the lawyer representing the victims of Kent State. Once an article has been admitted into evidence, the article is considered authentic evidentiary material.
Worse than this new smokescreen on the provenance of the Kent State Strubbe tape and FBI efforts to destroy evidence is that the DOJ has wholly ignored or refuted the tremendous body of forensic evidence work accomplished by Allen, and verified by forensic expert Tom Owen.16 If the US Department of Justice really wanted to learn the truth about what happened at Kent State and was open to understanding the new evidence, DOJ efforts would include organizing an impartial examination of Allen’s analysis and contacting him to present his examination of the Kent State Strubbe tape. None of this has happened.
Instead, those seeking justice through a reexamination of the Kent State historical record based on new evidence have been left out in the cold. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, involved in Kent State from the very beginning as a Cleveland city council person, asked important questions in a letter to the DOJ on April 24, 2012, titled, “Analysis of Audio Record of Kent State Shooting Leaves Discrepancies and Key Questions Unaddressed”:
While I appreciate the response from the Justice Department, ultimately, they fail to examine key questions and discrepancies. It is well known that an FBI informant, Terry Norman, was on the campus. That FBI informant was carrying a gun. Eyewitnesses testified that they saw Mr. Norman brandish that weapon. Two experts in forensic audio, who have previously testified in court regarding audio forensics, found gunshots in their analysis of the audio recording. Did an FBI informant discharge a firearm at Kent State? Did an FBI informant precipitate the shootings?Concerned Americans may join Congressman Kucinich in demanding answers to these questions and in insisting on an independent, impartial organization—in other words, not the FBI—to get to the bottom of this.
Who and what events led to the violent encounter that resulted in four students dead and nine others injured? What do the FBI files show about their informant? Was he ever debriefed? Has he been questioned to compare his statement of events with new analysis? How, specifically, did the DOJ analyze the tape? How does this compare to previous analysis conducted by independent sources that reached a different conclusion? The DOJ suggested noises heard in the recording resulted from a door opening and closing. What tests were used to make that determination? Was an independent agency consulted in the process?
For more than a year, I have pushed for an analysis of the Strubbe tape because Kent State represented a tragedy of immense proportions. The Kent State shooting challenged the sensibilities of an entire generation of Americans. This issue is too important to ignore. We must demand a full explanation of the events.17
The FBI’s cloudy involvement includes questions about Terry Norman’s relationship to the FBI, addressed in Mangels’s article, “Kent State Shootings: Does Former Informant Hold the Key to the May 4th Mystery?”:
Whether due to miscommunication, embarrassment or an attempted cover-up, the FBI initially denied any involvement with Norman as an informant.Even more telling, Norman’s pistol disappeared from a police evidence locker and was completely retooled to make sure that the weapon—used to create the “sound of sniper fire” on May 4—would not show signs of use. Indeed, every “investigation” into Kent State shows that the FBI tampered, withheld, and destroyed evidence, bringing into question government involvement in both the premeditated and post-massacre efforts at Kent State. In examining all inquiries into Kent State, an accurate investigation has never occurred, as the groups involved in the wrongs of Kent State have been investigating themselves.19
“Mr. Norman was not working for the FBI on May 4, 1970, nor has he ever been in any way connected with this Bureau,” director J. Edgar Hoover declared to Ohio Congressman John Ashbrook in an August 1970 letter.
Three years later, Hoover’s successor, Clarence Kelley, was forced to correct the record. The director acknowledged that the FBI had paid Norman $125 for expenses incurred when, at the bureau’s encouragement, Norman infiltrated a meeting of Nazi and white power sympathizers in Virginia a month before the Kent State shootings.18
14. Associated Press, “Kent State Settlement: Was Apology Included?,” Eugene Register-Guard, January 5, 1979, http://news.google.com/....
15. Mangels, “Justice Department Won’t Reopen Probe of 1970 Kent State Shootings,” Plain Dealer (Cleveland), April 24, 2012, http://www.cleveland.com/... and kainah, “Obama Justice Dept.: No Justice for Kent State,” Daily Kos, May 2, 2012, http://www.dailykos.com/....
16. Mangels, “New Analysis.”
17. Letters between the Department of Justice and Representative Dennis Kucinich, archived at the Congressman’s website, April 20 and April 24 of 2012, http://kucinich.house.gov/... and http://kucinich.house.gov/....
18. Mangels, “Kent State Shootings: Does Former Informant Hold the Key to the May 4 Mystery?,” Plain Dealer (Cleveland), December 19, 2010, http://www.cleveland.com/....
19. Freedom of Information Act, FBI.