The white wash State Attorney Angela Corey poured over the murder of Black Piston Zachariah “Nas T” Tipton two weeks ago may be starting to peal. Derek Kinner of Folio Weekly in Jacksonville, one of two reporters who have actually bothered to cover the murder, ran another story questioning the veracity of public statements about the case this morning.
This one is moderately headlined “Zachariah Tipton’s Family Questions Angela Corey’s Decision Of Justifiable Homicide.” The sub-headline is a little more to the point. It reads, “The murder of the biker slain at Jacksonville Beach still raises unanswered questions.” That is interesting because Folio chose to describe the homicide as a murder. At her news conference November 7, 134 days after the murder, Corey was unequivocal that Tipton’s killer, a National Guardsman and Iron Order Prospect named Kristopher Stone, was innocent of “any crime.”
Kinner’s coverage is the rarest of events in modern journalism. One little piece of the press in Jacksonville is actually doing its fucking job. “Self-defense, cut and dried, simple as that,” Folio smirks sarcastically. “Only maybe it’s not. Tipton, 40, known to his friends as ‘Nas T,’ suffered a broken rib from being kicked, a three-inch bruise from being punched or kicked, and a gunshot wound to the head, all in about 10 seconds, according to the state attorney’s office.”
Kinner notices “the Order has willfully and pointedly eschewed the unwritten rules that have (more or less) kept the peace between rival motorcycle clubs for decades, things like not wearing another club’s colors and respecting other clubs’ territories. They brag about doing so on their website, and while the Iron Order claims to be peaceful, this has led to problems with other motorcycle clubs. As then-Iron Order president Ray Lubesky told Folio Weekly earlier this year, ‘Let me tell you, it’s been violent. This isn’t one incident for us. It happens all the time.’”
You can read Kinner’s complete article here.
You can read the State Attorney’s complete report here.
Folio indirectly quotes Tipton’s mother, Glynda Purdy, as saying that “her family may pursue other legal remedies to obtain what they think is real justice. Purdy dismisses the cops and prosecutors as useless.”
“I believe (Iron Order members) were there waiting,” Purdy told Folio. “They were assigned to do this. They were doing what they were told to do. You are talking (about) people who know the ropes.”
The questions Folio raises are reasonable. They should be asked by other news outlets in Jacksonville and public officials should be shamed into answering them. The most obvious question is why the disposition of the case took 134 days. A second obvious question asks who are the Iron Order and what exactly is it that makes them law abiding.
The day before Corey’s press conference and the public display of the video the family had’nt been allowed to see for nineteen weeks, The Aging Rebel spoke to a Jacksonville area attorney who had a extremely informed understanding of what would happen the next day. The attorney spoke on condition of anonymity. The email was copied to WJXT television reporter Vic Micolucci and it is in the interests of justice and minimally decent journalism to point out what WJXT knew and when.
The Aging Rebel has edited the email for brevity. The attorney was not a psychic. He didn’t get everything right. But what he did get right and how he interpreted what he knew is interesting. The attorney wrote in part:
What WJXT Knew On November 6
“The meeting is at 1:30 at the SAO.”
“One of my sources advises that the video will show two scuffles, one out in the parking area, and the one which involves Zach and another person with the shooter closer to Nippers, the shooter on the ground and firing up at Zach. I question the source due to the camera locations, but I was not able to review the video due to the reluctance to permit it while ongoing investigation, and allegations that the police took the only video after downloading it from the source. Nonetheless, and to be fair, the source is adamant that Zach was an aggressor and this is based upon viewing the approach of Zach toward Nippers. I was not permitted details of the initiation of the scuffle.”
“I was there that night and heard the shots. Four is my recollection. Three pops, then another. My vehicle was parked within twenty feet of the altercation. I frequently went back and forth to my vehicle loading and unloading things. I am aware of the Iron Order being there and at times, all members were in Nippers outdoor area. If the whole evening’s video was secured, it would show me on it and whether or not the shooter was in the bar, but I believe the police only took what they ‘believed’ to be pertinent timeframes.”
The Aging Rebel was told by numerous sources that there were either five or six shots. It now seems likely that those witnesses heard a combination of gunshots and echoes.
What Lawyers Should Ask
In his email to both The Aging Rebel and WJXT, the attorney then asked a series of lawyerly questions about the police investigation into the Tipton murder.
“So, was toxicology done to determine drinking,” the attorney wondered.
It is an important question. In fact the shooter, who is a National Guard Medic with access to drugs, was not tested for alcohol, marijuana or any other psychoactive drugs. It is a widely reported fact that the Army is awash in officially prescribed psychoactive drugs including, but not limited to, Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Cymbalta and other SSRI antidepressants as well as Topamax and Neurontin, Chantix which is prescribed to control tobacco use and has been linked to violence, and the asthma drugs Singulair and Advair which have been reported to have mood altering effects.
The State Attorney assumed the shooter was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol because investigators were told by members of the Iron Order that prospects are forbidden to drink. Officials let it go at that.
The anonymous attorney then asked another question Angela Corey should have asked.
“Even if the video shows the shooter on the ground and even if two men were pounding on him, and he shot in self defense (meaning he reasonably feared for his life at the time), shouldn’t the shooter be arrested and have to assert the ‘defense’ rather than the SAO failing to file charges based upon the shooter’s testimony and lack of toxicology? Of course, due to the Iron Order alleging they are a law enforcement club, they have privileges and prior to this evening, their command had advised to shoot the OMC club members if in an altercation because the OMC clubs will not talk to police or report altercations. There is an email in existence that establishes this fact.”
The attorney then raised questions that undermine the seemingly airtight credibility of the video evidence that the state said exonerated Kristopher Stone. For example, what did the video show and what didn’t it show?
“The ‘witnesses’ will be an issue,” the attorney stated, “because there were only about ten to twelve true witnesses after the fact and a few less prior to the shots being fired. Another source advises that as the Black Pistons pulled in there were no Iron Order members in the parking lot.”
“The video cameras are at the four points of the Jax Beach Marine building and I am not aware whether or not other cameras were functioning,” the attorney explained the night before the State Attorney’s announcement. “I am told that the Iron Order were suddenly out in the parking lot. I know that the Iron Order were on the Nippers deck walking about and at several tables, and mostly sitting at the closest tables to the parking lot at the SE corner of the Jax Beach Marine building, the southwest corner of Nippers deck, right near my vehicle, and able to view incoming bikes and patrons.”
Shame On WJXT
There were, in fact, a dozen witnesses but the only two with more than glancing knowledge of the ten-second fight that got Zach Tipton shot in the head were the shooter and another Iron Order prospect named Tim White. The limited angle of the poor quality video that purports to show Tipton initiating an unprovoked attack on Stone doesn’t show what Tipton or the two Black Pistons who accompanied him saw or heard. It is impossible to know, for example, if an Iron Order member flashed a gun or other weapon that made Tipton and his companions fear for their lives. It is the kind of detail that arises at trial.
Even though the State Attorney either did not see or ignored the holes in the official account of Tipton’s murder the Jacksonville media should not. Journalism shouldn’t be about the beauty of the on camera talent. Journalism is about skepticism, not public relations. Journalism should be about confronting official power when official power appears to lie.
WJXT got the same tip and the same set of obvious questions this page got. The television station acted like the sort of bubble headed bleached blondes who give television news a bad name. As Kinner pointed out in his story this morning, WJXT responded to Corey’s press conference by announcing, “a series looking into motorcycle clubs. The first entry paints the Black Pistons and their parent club, the Outlaws, as villains, while the Iron Order is portrayed as a law-abiding club that would never do anything untoward, because they’re cops and military, the good guys, and these things are black and white.”
Even television can do better than that.