David Martinez made his initial appearance in court yesterday. Martinez, a member of the Mongols Motorcycle Club, is charged with the murder of a Pomona, California Swat officer. That charge is enhanced with the accusations that he murdered a police officer engaged in his official duty and that he is a member of a criminal street gang.
Martinez is alleged to have shot Officer Shaun Diamond in the back of the head as a fourteen man Swat squad broke down Martinez front door in the darkest hour of Tuesday morning – five and a half hours after the moon went down and more than three hours before dawn. Martinez’ mother, father, wife, his two children and his sister who is afflicted with Down’s Syndrome were all in the house at the time.
Martinez has not yet entered a plea. His attorney, a man named Tom Medrano, asked Judge Renee Korn to continue the hearing until November 13. Medrano said he hadn’t yet seen the search warrant which another judge named Maral Injejikian sealed on October 23. Medrano told CBS that Martinez’ mother and father were at the door when the warrant was served and that the case is “not what it appears to be.”
In court Medrano told the judge that Martinez has been kept naked in his cell in Los Angeles’ infamous Twin Towers jail and that he has not been fed since his arrest. Late last month, six former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies were sentenced to federal prison for deliberately obstructing an FBI investigation into the extent of violent abuse of inmates in the Twin Towers. Martinez appeared in a court in a yellow jumpsuit, which is the color reserved for mentally ill inmates.
Judge Korn replied, “The court would instruct them to have him clothed unless there is some sort of security concern on behalf of the Sheriff’s Department.” Korn then ordered Martinez held without bail.
A spokesmen for the Sheriff’s Department later told CBS that Martinez had been clothed in a “cloth” that couldn’t be torn and that he was being “watched closely.” The innuendo is that Martinez is a suicide risk. The implication of that is that alleged cop killers may have a higher suicide rate than other accused men in the Twin Towers.
The Martinez case is a local Los Angeles story but it illuminates some realties in postmodern America that should probably work their way onto the national agenda. News coverage has focused on the perceived tragedy that befell Officer Diamond. Most of the city of Pomona is festooned with blue ribbons. There was a vigil for the dead man last night. Martinez is routinely vilified as a “motorcycle gang” member.
Most Los Angeles media are covering the story as if it would somehow be disrespectful to Diamond to think out loud about the chain of events that led to his death, how it could have been avoided and how Diamond, wearing a suit of armor, came to be shot in the back of the head.
What is most obvious about this news event is that the Swat raid in which Diamond was killed was intended to punish Martinez for the non-crime of being a Mongol. Whether one approves of motorcycle clubs, or the Mongols, or the Hells Angels, or the Tea Party or the Masons or the Communist Party or the Ku Klux Klan the government of the United States is forbidden by our most fundamental laws from punishing their members simply because they have exercised their God given right to identify with any group they want. Dynamic entry Swat raids are a form of extrajudicial punishment that is intended to circumvent most of the Bill of Rights.
The raid that resulted in Diamond’s death, the wounding of Martinez’ father and Martinez’ current legal jeopardy exemplifies the perils of such punitive raids. The federal police force that instigated the raid, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, hid their involvement behind local police. Police shopped for a judge, in this case Injejikian, who would be gullible and cooperative enough to give police everything they wanted. The information on which the warrant is based is secret and was supplied by a confidential informant who may or may not have lied. As long as the affidavit on which the warrant is based remains secret the reasonableness of the search can never be examined.
There is no probable cause to believe or even an articulable reason to suspect that Martinez and his family would not have cooperated with the search. The police were looking for a gun. There is no indication they found the gun they were looking for. “Oh they found a gun,” a witty lawyer quipped yesterday.
The raid was, to quote a Los Angeles federal prosecutor named Reema M. El-Amamy, “guerilla street theater” and it was a way to extra-judicially punish a man and his totally innocent family.
Diamond would be alive today if the investigators in this case had simply walked up to Martinez’ door and knocked.
Blocking The Fatal Scene
The other great mystery in this case is how Diamond, wearing body armor and a helmet, got shot in the back of the head by a suspect who was standing in front of him. Multiple Sheriff’s spokesmen have said repeatedly that “Diamond was standing behind officers as they smashed through the front door of the home with a battering ram.” The most recent, official blocking of this strange scene says that Martinez was hiding behind his mother and father when he fired.
Martinez father was wounded. He was wearing a bandage on his arm yesterday in court. And when Martinez fired he somehow struck his father in the arm which was probably hanging, at most, 50 inches off the ground. This most miraculous of all shots then failed to hit the officers directly in front of the Martinez family but did somehow strike Diamond, standing outside, in the back of the head, at a height of say 69 or 70 inches, and penetrated his Kevlar helmet.
Whether the press will broach the subject or not, there probably isn’t a competent defense lawyer in Los Angeles who will not say privately that they think Diamond was probably killed by the accidental discharge of shotgun being held at the ready by another cop. The most likely series of events is that a Swat officer standing behind Diamond with his finger on the trigger of a shotgun was jostled as the team broke into the Martinez home. The buckshot would have penetrated Diamond’s Kevlar helmet and then fragments of the helmet or deformed pieces of buckshot would have wounded Martinez’ father.
“I want to know what happened to the taggants,” one unusually competent and informed source said yesterday. Taggants are microscopic markers that can be placed in munitions to trace their origin. The ATF, which was responsible for this raid, is a great proponent of taggants. Unfortunately, in this case, the round that killed Diamond probably did not contain taggants.
Which raises the next obvious question: What was removed from Martinez’ father’s arm? And the question after that: Was Martinez’s father’s arm burned? And the question after that: Was Diamond autopsied?
And the question after that: Does the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have a history of telling the truth?
And the question after that: If a dozen heavily armed and masked men smashed in your door and swarmed into your house in the middle of the night what would you do?