Mongols Motorcycle Club patch holder David Martinez, told Judge Renee F. Korn he was not guilty at his arraignment at the county courthouse in downtown Los Angeles yesterday. Korn denied him bail anyway which probably tells you all you need to know about the ever darkening relationship between the American people and what is ironically still called “American Justice.”
Martinez is accused of “murdering” a police officer named Shaun Diamond. Diamond was part of a gang of militarized police who broke into Martinez’ home in the middle of the night. The entry was probably illegal in and of itself. In California, police cannot simply break into someone’s home without announcing their presence and giving the residents a reasonable amount of time to pull on their pants and open the door. That didn’t happen here. The cops simply shouted that they were there and then broke down the door. It is the sort of thing police lie about all the time.
The raid was part of an ongoing investigation of the Mongols. It was one of seven simultaneous raids on homes occupied by Mongols members. Based on a secret statement made by a confidential informant the police were looking for a gun. The rationale behind using Swat to serve the warrants is that Mongols are very scary so police must dress and act like Star Wars Stormtroopers. The actual point of these terrifying and destructive raids is to punish people police officials distrust or dislike without the impediment of due process.
Sometime in the deliberately befogged seconds after the police combat team broke in Martinez’ door and threw a bomb into the home, Officer Diamond, who was standing outside, was shot in the back of the head. The notion that Martinez, standing inside his home behind his parents, somehow murdered Diamond who was standing outside the home on the porch behind other Swat members, is blatantly absurd. Every lawyer who has heard the police version arches his eyebrows. The idea that Martinez was acting out of malice rather than fear is at least questionable.
Diamond was probably a victim of friendly fire and that is, for reasons both vain and cynical, impossible for authorities to admit. The press isn’t about to question the official story. The most basic truth about being a crime reporter for a daily paper or a television or radio station is that the police are your primary source. Police reporters parrot police because without the cooperation of the police, crime reporters must learn to say. “Welcome to McDonald’s. May I take your order please.” So media in Los Angeles and throughout the United States have perpetuated the cock and bull story that a “Mongols gang member” “gunned down” a cop who was “only trying to serve a warrant.”
A month ago, fledgling television star Steve Cook, who lives 1,400 miles from Los Angeles but is still widely considered to be an authoritative source, wrote about Diamond’s death and Martinez’ arrest: “This represents the exact reason why I do what I do. Believe any propaganda that you wish but the cold hard reality is that these are CRIMINAL organizations and serve no legitimate purpose. The Mongols have a history of violence dating back to the 70’s not to mention their involvement in drugs, theft, extortion etc. They are a Motorcycle Gang not a Motorcycle Club.” Unfortunately, Steve Cook is part of the problem. Cook’s opinion about the Mongols is the same lurid fantasy that rationalized the violent, military style raid on Martinez home in the first place.
Something’s Happening Here
There were riots last week in Ferguson, Missouri after a white cop named Darren Wilson got away with shooting and killing a large and scary black teenager named Michael Brown. There were demonstrations last night in New York after a white cop got away with choking out and killing a large and scary black man named Eric Garner. The President, who is black, has described those two incidents in racial terms, as an escalating conflict between American police and “communities of color.” In response to that racial crisis, the leader of the free world has promised to very slightly slow the unprecedented, federally sponsored militarization of American police. In addition to white racism, Obama thinks police need better training as soldiers and he has asked Congress to authorize $263 million to pay for that training and for body cameras.
Obama’s statements about the need to throw even more money at the cop industrial complex coincide with the release of a 19-page report clumsily titled “Review: Federal Support For Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition.” Among other things, the report notices:
“Between FY2009 and FY2014, the federal government provided nearly $18 billion dollars in funds and resources to support programs that provide equipment and tactical resources to state and local LEAs. LEAs can acquire equipment through various programs administered by the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Defense (DOD), Homeland Security (DHS), Treasury (Treasury), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).1 DOJ, DHS and ONDCP directly fund equipment purchases through multiple grant programs. DOD manages the transfer of excess equipment and also helps LEAs obtain new equipment at lower DOD prices. Additionally, DOJ and Treasury fund equipment purchases and other law enforcement activities through the equitable sharing component of the federal asset forfeiture programs.”
“The bulk of the equipment transferred from federal sources to LEAs is fairly routine—office furniture, computers and other technological equipment, personal protective equipment and basic firearms. But federal agencies also transfer, or fund the purchase of, military equipment, including high powered weapons and tactical vehicles. Although such tactical equipment constitutes a small percentage of the total material that flows from the federal government to LEAs, it is nonetheless substantial. For example, under the DOD 1033 program, only 4 percent of the property provided to LEAs last year was “controlled property” (property listed on the Department of State Munitions Control List or Department of Commerce Control List). However, this 4 percent translates into 78,000 pieces of controlled equipment transferred from DOD to LEAs. To date, approximately 460,000 pieces of controlled property are currently in the possession of LEAs across the country.”
Whether he was a good cop or a bad cop Shaun Diamond did not have to die on October 29. He would probably be alive if he had simply walked up Martinez’ door at breakfast time, knocked, waited and served his warrant. Whether he is a good guy or a bad guy, David Martinez doesn’t deserve this murder charge.
Martinez won’t be home for Christmas. His former attorney, Tom Medrano quit on him yesterday. As reported here last month, Medrano couldn’t work out a fee payment agreement with Martinez. The Mongols Motorcycle Club probably will not be able to help Martinez pay for his defense. In previous federal cases against the Mongols and other motorcycle clubs, federal investigators have characterized legal defense funds as “racketeering acts” that prove motorcycle clubs are criminal conspiracies. Those accusations are a kind of Catch-22 that are intended to prevent club members from getting a fair trial.
A temporary public defender named Mearl Lottman told Judge Korn yesterday that his office would need another month to sift through the “voluminous discovery” in the case. Officer Diamond’s autopsy report, which might explain how Diamond was shot in the back of the head isn’t part of that discovered evidence. The autopsy report remains sealed. The press won’t begin to know the basis for the charges against Martinez until an evidentiary hearing is convened on January 7. Until then the news in the case will remain that Martinez is a scary gang member who callously murdered a hero.
The Martinez case suggests big stories about big issues. Like, when the hell did Los Angeles become Fallujah? Does more force and less finesse really make cops safer? Doesn’t the maintenance of law and order really depend more on the consent and cooperation of the people than the overwhelming firepower superiority of the police? Just how dangerous are the Mongols anyway? Are “Islamic radicals” really “joining bikie gangs to fund possible terror plots” as Australia’s Daily Mail alleged yesterday? Is that why America is at war with motorcycle clubs?
And maybe the big question, when did the American Fourth Estate, whose alumni include Bat Masterson, Stephen Crane and H. L. Mencken, become so gutless? “I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie,” Mencken once wrote. “I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.” Until at least January 7, America’s press will conspire with America’s police to keep America ignorant about the circumstances of Shaun Diamond’s death. America deserves better than that. So does Shaun Diamond. So does David Martinez.