“Justice delayed,” the 19th Century British Prime Minister William Gladstone once remarked, “is justice denied.” Most people interpret Gladstone’s remark to mean that he thought justice is a good thing.
Meanwhile, in the new and improved America, a 30-year old named Michael McCloskey, whose friends used to call him “Biker Mike,” remains confined to a wheelchair and Thomas Caine White, the 32-year-old, former, part-time Ottawa Hills, Ohio cop who gunned McCloskey down like a mad dog during a routine traffic stop on May 23, 2009 is still free to jog, shop at Walmart and get drunk at his Fourth of July barbecue.
McCloskey, who was then 25 and a friend named Aaron Snyder were riding their Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Ottawa Hills, near Toledo, about 2:15 a.m. White initially said he signaled the pair to stop for exceeding the 25-miles-per hour speed limit but would later say he believed the men were alcohol impaired.
White called for backup and a second Ottawa Hills cop named Christopher Sargent observed Snyder drive over a curb into grass and then back onto the street before stopping. Sargent took Snyder into custody on suspicion of drunk driving.
After McCloskey came to a stop White pulled up behind him. While White was still in the cruiser with his lights and sirens on, McCloskey looked over his right shoulder toward White’s vehicle and then looked toward the backup officer arresting the other rider. White got out of the cruiser and yelled something and when McCloskey turned again to glance over his right shoulder McCloskey shot him in the back. The entire traffic stop was recorded on a video camera in McCloskey’s cruiser and you can watch that raw video below.
McCloskey was instantly paralyzed from the waist down although he retained feeling in his lower extremities. His motorcycle fell on him exhaust side down and as his hot exhaust pipes burned through his leg McCloskey begged White and Sargent to pull the bike off him. After Snyder ran to help McCloskey he asked White and Sargent to help him get the 600 pound motorcycle off the 200 pound man. White replied, “He’s your friend. You get the bike off of him.” McCloskey’s burns caused nerve damage and he remains in constant pain.
White was eventually charged with felonious assault with a firearm enhancement. He went to trial and his defense consisted of trying to convince jurors not to believe their own eyes. White testified at his trial a year after the shooting that he had ordered McCloskey to put his hands up and that McCloskey had made “a reaching movement” the led White to believe McCloskey was pulling a weapon.
The professional police establishment rallied to White’s defense. Several “expert” witnesses testified McCloskey was to blame for getting in the way of White’s bullet. A former FBI Agent named Urey Patrick testified “If McCloskey had turned off the bike and raised his hands on the handle bars this wouldn’t have happened.”
White was convicted and the month after his trial he was sentenced to ten years in prison. After his conviction, the former cop was allowed to remain free on $100,000 bond while he pursued his appeals.
White’s conviction was overturned by the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals in January 2013. White’s lawyers argued that the former cop was a public employee who had acted in good faith. The Appeals Court ruled that the firearm enhancement that guaranteed White would have to serve at least three years in prison could not be applied to cops, and ordered prosecutors to retry White without that enhancement. Prosecutors appealed that ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court which heard oral arguments on the case in early February. Both the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, Inc. and The National Fraternal Order of Police filed amici curiae briefs on White’s behalf.
In oral argument Christina Corl, the attorney representing The National Fraternal Order of Police, told the court “You have to understand that a police officer acting and discharging his service weapon in the line of duty is just fundamentally different from the armed robber holding up a gas station.” In other words, the law applies differently to cops.
As of this morning, the Supreme Court of Ohio had not issued a ruling and White remains free.