Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V
Forensic Criminologist/Police Expert
Certified Medical Investigator
Copyright September 5, 2015
Last night, I had the pleasure of appearing on FOX NEWS’s Megyn Kelley’s “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement special. As a forensic criminologist who has investigated scores of nationally prominent, high-profile officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths, I found the program both fascinating and extremely frustrating.
Gathered together in a “grandstand guests” format were members of the law enforcement, legal and religious clergy communities; along with members of the radical BLM movement. I thought I would write about my experience as a law enforcement and forensic expert, because what I observed last night motivated me to discuss what I believe is an important and core problem with the message of the BLM movement. The central problem with the BLM movement is that they attempt to forward uninformed false narratives. In fact, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb in reporting that their members spew deliberate lies regarding law enforcement’s encounters and uses of force upon members of the black community.
By way of introduction and full disclosure, I am a retired police officer and detective. My background is in forensic investigations, medicine and applied science. I direct the nation’s only civilian multidisciplinary Forensic Death Investigations and Independent Review Team comprised of retired homicide supervisors, physicians, and forensic scientists. I have personally investigated over 200 serious police uses of force cases, officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths. My team and I are involved in many of the high-profile police-involved death cases covered by national news outlets.
The investigation and forensic analysis of extreme violence and death are my areas of expertise and I am qualified in both Federal and State Courts as a subject matter expert on these issues. I expert for a number of State Attorney Generals’ Offices and major municipalities nationwide. However, I also expert for a number of prominent private civil law firms that litigate civil rights on behalf of plaintiffs. I am known and respected in both the law enforcement and legal communities as a “square shooter” (no pun intended). Unlike attorneys who advocate for people and entities; I advocate for forensic facts. My mission is a search for the truth, no matter where the evidence and truth ultimately takes me.
What I saw last night on Megyn Kelley’s special was concerning and disquieting; but not unexpected. While my professional colleagues from the law enforcement, legal and religious communities were knowledgeable and articulate in voicing their views regarding the BLM movement; I found the activist members of the movement who voiced their opinions to be uninformed, misinformed and in one case deliberately disingenuous in discussing police encounters with and uses of force including deadly force upon black suspects.
It is apparent that the BLM movement appears to be founded upon a number of issues, misinformation and outright falsehoods regarding specific police and civilian-related force encounters with black suspects and persons of interest. Therefore, allow me to take time to chronologically separate the forensic facts from the fantasies that this movement is based.
The Sergeant Crowley vs. Professor Gates “Unlawful Arrest” incident
The assertion that Cambridge police officers including uniformed Patrol Sergeant James Crowley racially profiled and unlawfully detained and arrested Harvard Professor Gates has been proven to be utterly false.
On July 16, 2009, Cambridge police were dispatched to a residence on Ware Street after receiving a call from neighbor Lucia Whalen, who reported that two unknown black male adults with back packs were on the front porch of a residence and that one of the subjects was attempting to forcibly enter the front door by bodily force. Sgt. Crowley was the first officer to arrive on-scene. He spoke with Ms. Whalen and confirmed her observations.
When Sgt. Crowley walked up to the porch of the residence, he observed and encountered Gates, who he found in the foyer of the home. When the sergeant identified himself, explained the reason for their presence and asked Gates to step outside to speak with him, the professor replied, “No I will not.” When Sgt. Crowley again explained that he was responding to a possible break-in, Gates replied, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” When Sgt. Crowley requested asked Gates if there was anyone else in the home, the professor replied that this was none of the officer’s business and accused him of being a “racist.”
When Sgt. Crowley directed Gates to produce some identification to verify that he was in fact the resident, Gates ignored him and began to make a phone call. The sergeant overheard Gates telling someone on the other end of the line that he was “dealing with a racist police officer in his home.” According to Sgt. Crowley, Gates then told him, “You don’t know who you are messing with.” Gates then demanded that the uniformed Sgt. Crowley produce his identification.
Now just for a moment, just place yourself in the shoes of Sgt. Crowley. You have a neighbor reporting a burglary-in progress. You arrive and contact the witness who verifies what she told dispatch. You go to the residence alone in question to investigate a possible felony in-progress. There you find a black man matching the witness’s description in fact inside the home. You are in full uniform and contact this suspicious subject. You identify yourself, explain why you are there and this guy who you don’t know, haven’t searched immediately pulls the “Race Card,” rather than complying with reasonable officer safety requests to tell you if there is anyone else inside the home and to simply step outside to talk with you. Then, when asked to produce his ID to verify he is the resident; this man not only initially refuses to produce it, but accuses you of racially profiling him. To make matters worse for himself, he demands that you produce your ID instead! I think you might agree that this is not the best way a supposedly well educated man begins their conversation with a police officer engaged in the lawful investigation of a possible burglary in-progress, when they are the person of interest and the officer is trying to protect their home from suspected burglars.
Once additional officers, including Harvard University police officers arrived on scene, the good Professor Gates reluctantly produced his Harvard University faculty card, instead of a valid drivers license or Massachusetts ID card. I am sure that this some intended and pedantic “I’m smarter than you. Look how important I am” slight to the officers. Based upon this information, the Harvard PD officers were able to verify Gate’s identity and home address. Sgt. Crowley then apologized to Gates for the inconvenience and he and the assisting officers left the premises. This should have been the end of this encounter, but it wasn’t. Not because of anything the officers did; but because the incensed and overly self-important Professor Gates just wouldn’t let it go.
As the officers walked away, Gates came out onto his front porch and began to loudly rant and rave about Sgt. Crowley’s racial bias, calling him a racist police officer and repeatedly making veiled threats that he and the police had not heard the last of him. Sgt. Crowley warned Gates that he was now creating a disturbance and warned the professor to calm down or face arrest. When Gates continued his loud verbal tirade, Sgt. Crowley arrested him for disorderly conduct. It was just that simple and in my opinion, a well deserved and lawful arrest.
Unfortunately, and most probably because Professor Gates was apparently a “big shot” within the Harvard academic community, the prosecutor dropped the charges against Gates. However, the condescending professor was right; Sgt. Crowley and the Cambridge PD had not heard the last from him. Gates had a connection to President Barack Obama, who was apparently on his speed dial.
You may recall that it was President Obama who publicly chastised the Cambridge police and Sgt. Crowley on the national news, saying that “The police acted stupidly” for unnecessarily arresting the university professor. It is amazing that the POTUS who touts himself as a former professor of constitutional law knows so little about the laws of arrest and search and seizure and the elements that constitute even basic criminal violations. However, getting the facts wrong has been a consistent theme for this President.
In lieu of the information that the officers had received from a reporting person neighbor that he did not recognize a black man who was obviously attempting to break into a residence, Sgt. Crowley and his officers had more than reasonable suspicion to stop/detain Gates. Sgt. Crowley informed Gates why police were at the residence and that he needed to produce some evidence of residency. However, the professors’ abnormal belligerent and uncooperative demeanor increased, rather than decreased the officer’s suspicions that Gates might not be the resident.
It was Professor Gates’ uncooperative, condescending, “racism” chip on his shoulder attitude and his verbally resistant I don’t have to give you my ID attitude that prolonged his detention and nothing else. Later, after police had cleared the scene; it was Professor Gates and not the police who became the provocateur. When Sgt. Crowley warned Gates to calm down or face arrest, Gates remained verbally non-compliant, loud and disorderly and in fact threatening.
In the end, Professor Gates’ citizen complaint was dropped. The actions of Sgt. Crowley and the other officers were determined to be appropriate and justified police actions. No civil rights tort was ever filed by the pedantic professor. In fact, it was Professor who inappropriately racially profiled Sgt. Crowley. You see, racism wears many colors. End of story and this false narrative about police racially profiling a black man.
The Ferguson Officer Wilson vs. Michael Brown officer-involved shooting/fatal incident
On the morning of August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, 18 and his friend entered the Ferguson Market. Once inside the store, Brown stole several packages of cigarillos. As captured on the store’s surveillance video, when the store clerk attempted to stop Brown, Brown used his physical size and forcefully shoved the clerk away. This accomplished a felony crime of strong-arm robbery. When Brown and his companion left the store, the store clerk called the Ferguson PD to report the crime and provided descriptions of the two men.
Officer Darren Wilson was on uniformed patrol when he spotted Brown and his companion walking in the street. Based upon their descriptions and his observation that Brown was holding packages of cigarillos in his hand, he stopped the men and radioed a request for back-up. Officer Wilson used his SUV to block the movement of the men and told them to get on the sidewalk. At this point, Wilson opened his driver’s side door which was immediately pushed back closed by Brown. Officer Wilson and witnesses state that Michael Brown then reached inside of Officer Wilson’s driver side window, punched the officer and then attempted to grab onto him with his left hand and Officer Wilson’s gun with his right hand. As both men struggled for control of the pistol, Officer Wilson fired. The bullet struck Brown in the hand.
After being shot, Brown ran across Canfield Drive with Officer Wilson in foot pursuit. Brown ran approximately 180 feet before abruptly turning around and coming back towards Officer Wilson. At one point according to Officer Wilson, he observed Brown to put his hand under his shirt near his waistband as be approached. Fearing that the larger and more powerful Brown might be armed and was going to seriously injure or kill him, Officer Wilson fired again at Brown in self-defense. The officer fired twelve rounds and fired when Brown fell to the pavement dead. The entire incident transpired in approximately two minutes.
Destroying of the False Narratives – The BLM’s Assertions vs. The Forensic Facts
Michael Brown never reached inside Officer Wilson’s patrol SUV or touched him. False. Michael Brown’s autopsy, forensic, DNA and ballistics reports all support the forensic facts that Brown did reach into the vehicle to assault Officer Wilson and grab his gun. The assertions from other so-called witnesses that Officer Wilson reached outside of his SUV to grab Michael Brown were discredited by the USDOJ/FBI investigation.
“Hands up. Don’t shoot!” This was the slogan from which the Black Lives Matter movement was born. BLM activists assert that Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown in the back as he was running away. False. They also assert that Officer Wilson shot Brown when the man had his hands raised. False. Here are the forensic facts.
Ballistics analysis proves that Officer Wilson fired a total of twelve rounds at Michael Brown during their confrontation. Two rounds were fired from the officer’s SUV and ten were fired from the roadway. Although there were several individuals who stated that Brown was shot as he ran from Officer Wilson, the forensic and ballistics evidence proved this was not the case.
None of the shots fired by the officer struck Brown in the back. Officer Wilson fired three separate gunshot volleys, pausing to assess between each one. Six to eight of the officer’s shots struck Brown, including the shot to his hand.
While a couple of witness stated that Brown had his hands up to surrender when he was shot; none of the forensic evidence including the autopsy and ballistics reports supported their statements. Further, the investigation showed that these same witnesses later gave conflicting reports as to what they had allegedly seen that day. Several witnesses even recanted their initial stories that Brown had his hands up when shot. Other questionable witnesses who had reported that Brown never turned towards or came at Officer Wilson were discredited by blood trail and DNA evidence that confirmed that Brown did in fact run from, the turn around and move directly towards Officer Wilson when he was shot. Other witnesses stated that Brown was “charging” Officer Wilson and posed an imminent threat immediately before he was shot. These statements support those of the officer. FBI investigators were unable to find any evidence or credible witnesses to support the widely reported and false assertion that Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown while Brown had his hands raised. So, once and for all; the entire “Hands up. Don’t shoot!” narrative was and continues to be a lie.
The Freddie Grey vs. Baltimore PD Officers In-custody Death Incident
On April 12th, police officers working in a high crime, drug sales area of Baltimore observed 25 year old recidivist criminal Freddie Grey involved in the possible hand-to-hand sales of drugs. As police approached, Grey fled on foot and was pursued by the officers who captured him. When the officers searched Grey, they found him in possession of a spring-assisted knife which they believed to be illegal. Grey was arrested, handcuffed and placed into the rear of a transportation van, but was not secured in a seat belt.
During transportation to the Western District police station, Grey became agitated and subsequently suffered a serious medical emergency. He was comatose and hospitalized for a serious spinal cord injury and later died on April 19th.
After only a twenty-four hour investigation by state investigators, six Baltimore officers involved in Freddie Grey’s arrest and transportation have been charged with several crimes including second-degree murder in connection with Grey’s death.
A leaked Medical Examiner’s report of Freddie Grey’s autopsy and toxicology reports show that Grey suffered a devastating spinal cord injury after his head slammed into a wall in the back of the police van. The Medical Examiner who authored the report found no evidence that Grey’s spinal injury was caused by any use of policed force during his arrest. The forensic medical evidence indicates that Grey broke his neck and that the wound to his head matched an extended metal bolt in the back of the van. No police were riding in the back of the van with Grey.
Well known forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht has opined that Grey’s manner of death was consistent with a “rough ride” in the police transportation van. However, my colleague imminent forensic pathologist Dr. Vincent DiMaio, who has worked scores of high-profile death cases has suggested that Grey’s manner of death should actually be more accurately classified as “accidental or undetermined.” As a Certified Medical Investigator myself, I tend to agree with Dr. DiMaio’s opinion at this point.
Another prisoner in the van identified as Donta Allen initially told Baltimore investigators and a Washington Post reporter that Grey had been agitated, screaming and was banging around in the van during transportation. Allen told police and the media that he thought that Grey was “intentionally trying to hurt himself.” He has later recanted this statement. A search warrant application describes Grey during transportation as “irate” and that he “continued to be combative in the police wagon.”
Freddie Grey’s toxicology report showed that he was under the influence of significant levels cannabinoids and opium at the time he was hospitalized. This finding would be forensically consistent with the possibility of Grey swallowing the drugs he was attempting to sell while fleeing from police in order to destroy evidence. The presence of drugs in Grey’s system would also support his past criminal history as a drug dealer. In the past eight years, Grey had been arrested on no less than fourteen occasions for felony possession of controlled substances and possession with intent to distribute. Again, Freddie Grey was only 25 at the time of his death.
The narrative presented by activists including members of the BLM movement is that the Baltimore police officers involved in this incident murdered Freddie Grey. There is no forensic evidence to date, or witness statements that support this assertion. The autopsy report detailing Grey’s traumatic injuries and drug influence; and prisoner Allen’s initial statements to police and the media are far more favorable to the defendant officers than to the prosecution’s theory of criminality. Therefore, the BLM assertion that Baltimore police “murdered” Freddie Grey is unsubstantiated at this time.
Freddie Grey is no one’s hero or role model. In reality, he was a recidivist drug dealing criminal who sold the same poison on the streets that is effectively killing members of Baltimore’s black community. While the death of any young man is a tragedy; in my opinion Freddie Grey is certainly no one who should be memorialized with a public mural. The people who should be memorialized are the victims of drug-related crime. It’s amazing that members of the BLM movement, political activists, and some of the media just don’t get this.
Police Officers Kill a Disproportionate Number of Black Men
Perhaps the most damaging, yet utterly ridiculous and false narratives forwarded by the Black Lives Matter movement is that police officers kill a disproportionate number of black males during encounters nationally. After hearing it exclaimed time again by BLM activists, I have determined that they say this as a deliberate scare tactic, hoping that no one will ever do the research and take them on. An excellent example of this tactic is what I heard one activist say on Megyn Kelley’s show that I was on. One BLM member told the audience, “One black man is murdered by police every twenty-eight hours.” Really?!
Here’s the truth and I encourage you to review the research I have listed.
In researching the most recent data from the FBI on homicides nationwide from January, 2009 to the end of 2012, of the 56,250 homicides reported during that period, 1,491 were the result of police uses of force. This equates to an average of roughly 372 persons a year dying as a result of police force intervention.
Of the 1,491 persons who died as a result of police uses of force, 61.4% were white males. Only 32.2% were black males and 3.2% were males from other races. Females dying as a result of a police use of force comprised the final 3.2% of deaths.
By comparison, of the 56,259 homicides reviewed from 2009 – 2012, 19,000 or nearly 39% involved the killing of black males. Of these, only 2.5% involved the death of a black male as a result of a police use of force. In contrast to police officers, private citizen killings of black males in self-defense justifiable homicides at 3.4% were higher than black male deaths attributed to police. What stands out as a significant and shocking statistic is that 17,719 criminal homicides (murders) of black males, or 93.3% from 2009 – 2012 were at the hands of other criminals who were predominately other black males (89.6%). This is what is referred to as “black on black crime.”
In sharp contrast to the false narrative that police officers have some racial motivation to kill black men, from 2009 – 2012, nearly 41% of police officers were murdered by black males; whereas only 32.2% of homicides of black males were attributed to a police use of force. This is significant, given the fact that blacks as a whole comprise only 13% of the U.S. population of 316,128,839 persons and there are less than 900,000 peace officers in this country, many who do not work in a street patrol capacity.
To put this study into perspective, an average of 120 black males, or one out of every 173,871 black males, die yearly as a result of police uses of force. This is compared to 2,369 black males being killed in motor vehicle accidents and 2,532 committing suicide each year. This means that the chance of a black male in the U.S. being killed by police during a use of force is roughly 0.00078% of one percent. In fact, when all homicide of black males statistics are considered, black males are 35 times more likely to be murdered by another black male; 20 times more prone to die in a motor vehicle accident or by suicide; and 21 times more susceptible to being killed in a self-defense justifiable homicide than killed by any police use of force.
Whereas, an average of 120 black males die each year as a result of a police use of force; 373 persons a year are struck by lightning. In essence, the chance of a black male dying as a result of police force intervention is considerably less than their chances of being struck by lightning. That’s far from the BLM movement’s assertion that police kill one black male every twenty-eight hours.
By the way, recent Officers Injured/Killed in the line of duty statistics also show that upwards of 80% of suspects who injure or kill officers are armed with weapons; with 70% of those suspects being armed with handguns. So, the BLM inference that police officers are simply killing black men without cause; or for some benign reason is blatantly false.
It is every American’s civil right to protest against the government. Colonial Americans protested against British oppression, excessive taxation and unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons and property before this nation was formerly established. Non-violent protest can be healthy, informative and change affecting. However, the Black Lives Matter movement is none of those things. They are a violent group that cannot control its members. It’s not just the few of the BLM who threat law enforcement; it’s the many and that’s a scary thought. In fact, if you watch Megyn Kelley’s FOX NEWS special, you will hear one woman blatantly infer a threat towards police on-air.
Anytime a group marches and openly chants violent and life threatening rhetoric such as screaming, “Pigs in a blanket; fry ‘em like bacon” and “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!” as we recently observed in Minnesota and in downtown New York City; then we need to be concerned for our safety. That’s how Hitler with his brown shirted Nazi party and Mussolini and his black shirted Fascists began their movements. If you recall, both of these movements began their assents into power by forwarding false narratives.
To put all of the BLM’s lies and false narratives into context and comparison with law enforcement; we have yet to see a police officer walk up behind a black man who was putting gas into his car, shoot him in the back of the head and then pump fifteen more bullets into his lifeless body before walking away unconcerned. We have yet to see a police officer waltz up to two black men sitting peacefully in a car, shoot them both in the head execution style and then exclaim on social media that he was out “To put wings on a couple of pigs today.” It’s just that simple.
Don’t believe the BLM’s response that “only a relative few” of their members are extremists who shout violent rhetoric and commit acts of violence during demonstrations. Be concerned that this entire movement was founded and exists primarily upon a pack of lies and supports a violent and confrontational agenda directed towards police.
The BLM movement is about assigning blame upon police; but refusing to accept ownership and responsibility for the endemic problems historically plaguing the urban and rural black communities for decades.
The police did not create pregnant tweens; 74% of black families without fathers; or a 50+% high school dropout rate. The police are not responsible for drug sales and addiction; or murderous street gangs. The police are not responsible for glorifying gangsta rappers who refer to black women as “bitches and ho’s.” Police officers are not responsible for encouraging impressionable young black men to prioritize drug money over family and faith. Law enforcement is not responsible for an ever soaring black on black inner city homicide rate. The police don’t create these problems; they respond to them. That’s their mission and their responsibility.
If the members of the BLM movement; some of the enabling liberal politicians; and media really want to get to the root causes of the polarization between themselves, a relative minority of the black community, and law enforcement; then I suggest that they take a deep breath and a hard look into the mirror to see how we got where we are today. This serious problem did not happen in a vacuum.
The vast majority of the black community are not supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement or their extremist radical counterparts who spew violent rhetoric. I heard a number of the good people on Megyn Kelly’s show last Friday night who spoke of the need for unification, mutual cooperation, and the re-prioritization of family and faith. Law enforcement can work with that. However, the good people of the black community have got to speak up to assertively renounce the BLM movement and their violent rhetoric and disruptive actions. If they do not, this nation will see levels of violence like never before. It’s just that simple. The question is do the involved parties have the heroic courage and commitment needed to stand up and renounce this radical group.
About the Author
Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V, BCFT, CFA, is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist and Certified Medical Investigator who directs the nation’s only multidisciplinary Forensic Death Investigations & Independent Review Team. He is also a former police detective who has investigated over 200 officer-involved shootings and in-custody death cases. His law enforcement and forensic site is found at www.DrRonMartinelli.com
U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, “Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s LE Officers,” 2006
“Examining the Prevalence of Death from Police Uses of Force,” Johnson, Richard, Ph.D., 2015, University of Toledo
U.S. Department of Justice, FBI Uniform Crime Report Supplemental Homicide Reports and U.S. Center for Disease Control Death Classifications, January, 2009 – January, 2012
National Safety Council, Injury Facts (2012), www.nsc.org