Regarding Alton Sterling

Next up in the line of controversial shootings involving the police is the case of Alton Sterling.

The facts:

  • 911 was called regarding a man threatening someone with a gun
  • Police arrived and confronted Alton Sterling who matched the suspect description given to the 911 operator.
  • A taser was used in an attempt to subdue Sterling and was ineffective
  • Sterling continued to resist arrest and was tackled to the ground
  • Sterling was told to not move and continued moving his right arm
  • Sterling was shot and killed.

Now, I already know that this article is going to do absolutely nothing to change the minds of those folks who have already decided the officers were wrong.  We’ve seen this time and time and time again whether it’s Ferguson or Freddie Gray or Eric Garner, no amount of facts, no amount of laws, no amount of reason is going to change the minds of those who think first and foremost with their emotions and whose primary lens that they view the world through is a lens of skin color.

That’s not the point.  The point is to eliminate the straw men arguments from those folks’ reasoning and to hopefully educate.  Perhaps one or two objective minded folks will read this and learn something and think about it going forward when the next controversial shooting occurs.

 

Here’s the video…

 

First and foremost the video is gruesome to watch.  I think we can all agree on that.  Watching a man’s last moments is never going to look “good.”  And I bring that up for a reason.  That initial gut wrenching feeling you have when watching it is often where the thinking starts and stops in these cases.  Because it’s sickening to look at it, that’s all some folks need to know in order to automatically bring the gavel down and declare the officers guilty of cold blooded execution.

This is where you have to set aside your emotion and THINK.  Put yourself in a cop’s shoes for 38 seconds and actually think about it.  They know there’s a strong likelihood that Sterling has a gun because that’s the entire reason 911 was called.  So that’s in their minds before they even arrive.  We don’t have video of what happened when the officers initially confronted Sterling, but it’s safe to say things didn’t go well.

Here’s Sterling’s arrest record.  What isn’t mentioned is that he is also an alleged member of the Bloods gang.  I’m posting it because it’s going to play a factor here.  It’s not to say that Sterling deserved to be shot for any of these arrests so you can squash that thought right now if you’re going there.

arrestrecord

The importance of his arrest record is this: Sterling is a convicted felon who is prohibited from even owning a gun much less carrying one in his pocket.  And yes, a gun was recovered from his pocket.

Having said that and knowing Sterling’s long rap sheet, he knows full well that if those officers find that gun on him he’s going back to prison.  The thought of going back to prison has caused many a person to resist arrest, Sterling was no different.

Now let’s go back to the video.  The taser didn’t work, so one of the officers goes hands on and tackles him to the ground.  At this point the other officer jumps in to pin his left arm and head.  That’s where this particular video picks up although there’s another one that shows the tackle, etc.

Now if you listen closely you can hear one of the officers say, “He’s got a gun! Gun!” in a panicked voice.  I don’t know how the officer figured that out, perhaps he felt it through Sterling’s pocket, but he knew it.  And you can see a tangible difference in the officers demeanor the second that realization is made.  The pucker factor went from 7 to 10 in a heart beat.

The officer pinning Sterling’s left arm says, “Hey boss, if you (expletive) move I swear to God…”  then the other officer says something indistinct but you can tell by the fear and panic in his voice that he’s terrified.

Now watch the video again, and just a fraction of a second before he says “He’s got a gun!” watch Sterling’s right sleeve.  You can see it moving up and down, indicating that the officer did not have control of Sterling’s arm.  So the officer knows Sterling has a gun and knows that he doesn’t have control of his right arm, which is statistically most likely his strong hand.

That my friends would leave ANY reasonable person to be in fear for their lives.  The shooting is justified.  If Sterling had simply complied with every lawful order given to him the moment the police arrived, he would’ve been peaceably handcuffed.  He would have gone back to prison undoubtedly, but he’d be alive.  Once again, the SUSPECT’S actions ultimately led to his own demise, just like we saw with Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Mario Woods, Sam Dubose, etc. etc. etc.

Now some want to say that 6 shots was excessive.  But if you watch the video again, after the initial 3 shots you can hear an officer scream “Get on the ground!”  It’s obvious that the first 3 shots were not enough to stop the threat that Sterling presented.  They wouldn’t have said “Get on the ground!” if Sterling was lying completely still.  It’s clear that he still presented a threat.  The video doesn’t show if he’s trying to get up, if he’s reaching for his pocket or what, but he still presents a threat so 3 more shots were taken which put a definite stop to the threat.

The next part of the video is important as well.  The officer closest to Sterling says “Shots fired!” through his radio, and then drops a very loud F-bomb.  That F-bomb tells me that the officer didn’t enjoy what he just had to do.  It tells me that he felt he was forced to do it.  If this was just a cold blooded execution I imagine they both would have been a bit more nonchalant about the whole thing or perhaps even jovial.  You see neither of those things here.  Instead you see the reaction you’d expect of someone that was both in fear of his life and upset that he was forced to go to that extreme.

I want to eliminate some of the other straw man arguments I’ve seen regarding this case.

  1. “Louisiana is an open carry state.”  That’s utterly irrelevant here because Sterling is a convicted felon prohibited from even owning a gun in a safe in his closet much less carrying one openly or in his pocket.  And even if Sterling wasn’t a felon and did legally own a gun, it’s still illegal to threaten someone with it which is what the 911 call was about.
  2. Sterling didn’t have a gun in his hand when he was shot.  Again, irrelevant.  If an officer knows you have a gun on you and you’re resisting arrest that’s already enough reason for the officer to fear for his life.  Especially if you’re already wrestling around on the ground.  Disagree?  Go pick a fist fight with some gang banger who you know carries a gun and tell me you aren’t afraid that he’ll pull it out and use it on you at any second.  It takes less than a second for someone to pull a gun and use it.
  3. He was shot for selling CD’s.  If you’re saying this, you’re completely dishonest.  He was not shot for selling CD’s.  Officers didn’t even confront him because he was selling CD’s.  They responded to a 911 call, you know, the kind of call that they’re obligated to investigate, because Sterling had allegedly threatened someone with a gun.  He was shot because he was armed and was resisting arrest and put those officers in fear of their lives.

I also want to address the officers’ body cameras.  It’s been reported that both of their cameras got knocked off during the struggle.  Obviously some people are already assuming that the officers took them off intentionally, despite no evidence that this is the case.  I’m sure the DOJ will look into that, but would it be asking too much to see what those body cameras actually recorded first before we jump to wild conclusions?  I know from experience that it’s easy for many things to become dislodged from the uniform during a struggle, including name tags, radios and yes, body cameras.  In fact you can see that the officer’s radio mic was dislodged from his uniform as it’s dangling by the cord when he gets off the ground.  Same thing might have happened to the body camera.  It sounds suspicious but it’s quite possible that the cameras actually were knocked off.  Let’s see what comes of that before we rush to judgement, is that asking too much?

Yes, I imagine it is.

 

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In defense of Dr. James White

Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries recently posted something to his Facebook page which caused quite the controversy.  I’ll paste what he said and let you read it for yourself… (the italics and bold are not his)

I bought a dash cam recently. Seems everyone in Russia has one (I guess you have to for insurance purposes), and I thought it would be pretty good to have to document some of the crazy things that happen while driving. So I was coming home this evening and happened to be the first car at Glendale and 35th Avenue in Phoenix. And as you will see, a young black kid, looks to be 15 years old or so, was crossing the street. Now if you watch, you will see a police SUV cross in front of me first going east. The kid then comes into the screen, and though he sort of hid it under his elbow, he plainly flips off the police vehicle. Then he is emptying the drink he is consuming as he walks out of the frame. What you can’t see is that he then simply tossed the bottle into the bush in the corner of the gas station. I happened to notice the two ladies in the car next to me had seen the same thing. We just looked at each other, put up our hands in exasperation, and shook our heads.

As I drove away I thought about that boy. There is a more than 70% chance he has never met this father. In all probabilities he has no guidance, has no example. He is filled with arrogance and disrespect for authority. He lives in a land where he is told lies every day—the lie that he cannot, through hard work and discipline, get ahead, get a good education, and succeed at life. He is lied to and told the rest of the world owes him. And the result is predictable: in his generation, that 70% number will only rise. He may well father a number of childrenmost of which will be murdered in the womb, padding the pockets of Planned Parenthood, and those that survive will themselves be raised without a natural family, without the God-ordained structure that is so important for teaching respect, and true manhood or womanhood.

It never crossed my mind to flip off a police car as it passed me by when I was his age. Of course, it never crossed my mind to walk around with my butt hanging out of my pants, either, as if the entire world needed to see what kind of underwear I was sporting that day. I know I would have been mighty guilty had I tossed my drink bottle into a bush—and I never would have dreamed of doing that in front of everyone like this young man did. But I had a father and a mother. And I was taught to respect others, and myself. If I had not had those things, I still would not have acted as he , simply because times have changed, and not for the better. There was simply more restraint in my day. It surely makes me wonder what the future holds. Oh, I know—this is nothing. There are videos on line of kids like this shooting guns in the air and robbing people and doing car jackings. I know. But you need to understand: those folks didn’t get there without first finding it “fun” to strut, flip, toss, and live an attitude of disrespect.

 

With that, the pitch forks came out.  But why?  Let’s break down what White said piece by piece.

He says there is more than a 70% chance that the boy has never met his father.  I couldn’t find this statistic but I found a couple of others that still get the point across.

The first one is the percentage of black children born out of wedlock.  That number is 71.4% according to the CDC.  Now, this statistic doesn’t directly prove that the likelihood that this boy has never met his father is above 70% but it does speak to a systemic breakdown of the family structure among black families.

The actual number of black children living without their fathers is 57.6% according to the US Census Bureau.  So if you want to hold Dr. White’s feet to the fire because he was off by 12.4%, well go ahead and stick that feather in your cap if you feel the need to, but his point is still valid.

If Dr. White had simply left the 70% out of his post entirely and had instead said “There’s a better chance than not that the boy has never met his father” I imagine the pitchforks would have come out all the same despite the fact that this is statistically true.

Dr. White goes on to say “in all probabilities he has no guidance, has no example.”  This is a true statement.  Dr. White’s not claiming to know this as fact, which is why he said “in all probabilities.”  The kid’s actions lend (flipping off a cop and littering) lend credence to this probability.

Dr. White then does make an absolute statement “He is filled with arrogance and disrespect for authority.”  How do we know this?  Because he just demonstrated it by committing two crimes in broad day light, right in front of him.

He then goes on to explain how the kid has been lied to and told he can never get ahead and that the world owes him.  Have you seen the democratic debates lately?  How could anyone argue this point?

He then says “He may well father a number of children”… again… Dr. White is merely guessing, he didn’t say “He absolutely will father a number of children.”  and then says “most of which will be murdered in the womb.”  And here again, he’s basing this off of statistical probabilities which show that 42.4% of all black babies conceived will be aborted.  Is that technically “most” of them?  No.  And again, if you want to stick a feather in your cap because it’s “ONLY” 42.4%, then feel free to do so, but his point is still valid.

Dr. White says “It never crossed my mind to flip off a police car as it passed me when I was his age.”  And I can already hear the retorts now… “Well you never had the cops harass/abuse/brutalize you because of the color of your skin.”  Cool, as long as we’re harping on facts and not making assumptions, you don’t know that this boy has ever been mistreated by the police either, and if that’s the first thought that popped into your mind, your guilty of the very same assumptions and stereotyping of cops that you’re accusing Dr. White of doing to black teens.

He makes mention of his pants sagging, which has absolutely nothing to do with the boy’s skin color, as teenagers of all races do this and it’s equally as revolting.

He says he still would not have done what this kid did even if he had no parents because we live in a different time.  And it’s true.  When Dr. White was a teenager, kids didn’t do that kind of thing even if they didn’t have strong parents because communities at large would hold them accountable.  If you’re trying to tell me he’s wrong about saying times have changed then you need to get your head out of the sand.  And again, this has nothing to do with his race.

He closes by saying the people doing the hard crimes (shooting guns, robbing, car jacking) didn’t just roll out of bed one day and start doing those things.  It started with smaller things like flipping off cops and littering.  Is there something about this statement that is untrue?  Is there anything about that statement that has anything at all to do with race?

Some of Dr. White’s most visible critics regarding this deal (Alex Medina, Lecrae, BJ Thompson) were some of the ones who immediately rushed to judgment in the Ferguson shooting and assumed that officer Darren Wilson was guilty.  I don’t have all day to post links to that, but go look through their Twitter timelines or Google it and you’ll find it soon enough.  They assumed officer Wilson was guilty long before any of the facts were in, because they have prejudice in their hearts against police officers.  The difference is that statistics actually show that police brutality is an incredibly rare event, whereas the things Dr. White was making educated guesses on were actually backed by statistical probabilities.

So who’s really rushing to judgment here?  I think some folks need to take a look at that plank in their own eye.

The Myth of Police Brutality

These days it has been accepted by the public in large that police brutality is a widespread problem.  The real problem is that no one ever stops to examine if this is actually true or not before it’s accepted as fact.  In this article I’ll demonstrate that true police brutality is an extremely rare event.

In 2008, the roughly 600,000 sworn police officers in America had contact with around 53,000,000 citizens.  Out of those 53 million people, about 26,000 of them filed complaints of excessive force.  And out of those 26,000 complaints, only 2,060 (8%) of them were found to have any merit or evidence to back them up.  So out of 53 million people, 0.0039% of them had a legitimate complaint of police brutality.  Hardly a widespread problem.  (Source is Bureau of Justice statistics.  Source link here)

What about people killed by the police you ask?  I’m glad you asked.  I’ll use 2012 as an example here but you can pick any year in the past 15 or so and get similar results.  In 2012 the police arrested 12,196,959 people.  Out of those 12 million arrests, 426 people were killed by police during arrest.  Now bear in mind those 426 incidents were deemed justifiable homicide (the police were defending their own lives or the lives of others).  So out of 12 million arrests, 426 people died.  That’s 0.0035%.  I tried to make a pie chart of this but the number of people killed was so small it wouldn’t even register on the chart.  The most common retort I’ll hear about this is that not all law enforcement agencies report their shootings to the FBI therefore the number is much higher than that.  Fine.  Instead of using the FBI’s data, let’s use the data from the anti-police website www.killedbypolice.net.  The founders of this website have gone out of their way to search for every news article in the country where there’s a fatal police encounter and they pin EVERY death on the police so long as an officer was there.  So for example if they have a heart attack in police custody, that’s counted.  If they die from being tased while amped up on cocaine or PCP that’s counted.  If they die in a traffic accident involving a cop that’s counted, etc.  They really go out of their way to pin everything on the cops; intentional, accidental, justifiable, it doesn’t matter.  So even using their wild-eyed statistics, they’ve found around 1,200 people are killed by police annually.  So out of 12,000,000 arrests, they blame the cops for 1,200 deaths.  That’s still only 0.0098%. I mean, even using the most anti-police statistics available, if you have to move to the 3rd decimal place to the right before you register a number other than zero, can you really honestly still insist that police brutality is some kind of major epidemic?

And if you go to www.killedbypolice.net you’ll see that the overwhelming majority of people killed by police in these stories were either shooting at police or attacking them with a weapon.

To my knowledge no one has tallied the statistics for people intentionally killed by police where it clearly WASN’T justified, probably because the number would be so minuscule that you’d have to move a dozen or more decimal places to the right before you reached a number other than zero.   I mean, off the top of my head I can only think of two stories that MIGHT qualify in the last 5 years, and that would be Walter Scott and Laquan McDonald, and I think the case of McDonald is still questionable at best.

This is typically where people will go anecdotal.  Where else CAN you go when the cold, hard statistics are debunking your narrative?  They’ll say “I’ve got friends who were mistreated by the police.”  And maybe they do, but I’ve found that there’s usually more to the story than what they’re telling their friends.  The facts don’t lie here, police brutality is an extremely rare event.

A few people (not many) will then capitulate in light of these facts and say “Ok fine, but isn’t even one person wrongfully killed by the police too many?”  Yes, but when you live in a world as sinful as ours, do you really expect perfection?  And at this point you’ve changed the subject, because the question was “Is police brutality a big problem?”  and the answer is no, it isn’t.  I’ve just demonstrated it.

If you’re a Christian, Romans 13 also needs to be considered.

Romans 13:  Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

In light of these facts I really pray that you’ll stop spreading the myth that police brutality is a big problem, especially if you’re a Christian.  If you’ve been living with anger and resentment towards the police and are afraid that they’re going to hurt you for no good reason I hope that you’ll be objective in light of these facts and realize that you’ve been driven to that anger and fear by deceptive and sinister sources who have an agenda.

God calls us to the truth.  Now you know the truth about police brutality.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!”  John 8:32.

Nick Johnson’s Sin Against Me

In criminal court cases you typically have to have 4 things to get a conviction.  You need a victim, a suspect, motive and evidence.  If you have those 4 things, a guilty verdict is the usual result.  Now this is not a criminal case but this blog post is about Nick Johnson’s sin against me by leaving a nasty 1-star review of my book despite the fact that he hadn’t even read it when he wrote the review.  In this case I was the victim, Nick is the suspect, Nick’s personal dislike of me was his motive, and the evidence is that Amazon’s sales report shows me that he never downloaded the book when he said he did.  I’ll cover this all in detail.

This all started when I was looking over my book reviews and noticed I had a 1-star review from someone.  The review was made on November 7th and simply said, “Just terrible.”   No mention of why this person thought it was terrible.  So I decided to click on the Amazon Customer link associated with the review.  When I did, a familiar icon popped up.  Then it occurred to me, that’s the same icon that Nick Johnson (Twitter handle @pastornick) uses.  It also said the customer was a missionary in Mexico, which Nick is.  So it was pretty obvious that it was Nick that left the review.

Here’s evidence of that.  Note the date the review was left (November 7th) as that’s important.

Nick had a personal problem with me over disagreements on Twitter and said that I insulted him.  So it was pretty clear to me that Nick left the bad review just as a vindictive attempt to spite me.

I called him out on it and he admitted to being the one that left the review.  He said he actually did read the book and just didn’t like it and that’s why he left the bad review and told me I was a bad writer with thin skin.  I had my doubts that he ever read it.

The main reason I initially believed he was lying is because it didn’t make sense that someone who dislikes me on a personal level would even be interested in reading a fictional novel written by me.

This belief was further bolstered when Nick admitted that he doesn’t even like Christian fiction, which is shown in this screenshot.

nickscreenshot1

So right there you can see him admitting he doesn’t like Christian fiction.  Why would you read a book, from an author you dislike personally, in a genre you don’t even care for?  You wouldn’t!  He’ll say he has a lost family member that’s a cop and he thought maybe the family member would like it and hear the gospel and so he read it for that reason.  Weak.  If you knew Nick’s disdain for JD Hall and anyone who associates with him you’d know that he’d never recommend a book by one of JD’s associates to a lost family member or anyone else.  Especially if he only picked the book up after I insulted him.  Who would recommend a book to a family member after being supposedly insulted by the author?  (By the way, I never threatened to contact his mission if he didn’t delete his review.  Someone in the Pulpit Bunker suggested that it might be a good idea since he was sinning against me.  I agreed that it might be of interest to his mission board to know he is lying and in unrepentant sin against another believer but I never contacted his mission and never encouraged others to do so.  It has never been about the review, it was about his sin against me.  The review was simply the tangible and rotten fruit of that sin.  I did urge him to delete the review because it was made under sinister circumstances given that 1) he dislikes me personally and 2) he dislikes the genre of the book.  He was in no position to leave a fair and unbiased review of my book even if he had read it.  Regardless, I did not contact his mission board and never asked anyone else to do so on my behalf as he claims.  I did send a generic tweet that I had tagged Nick in, and asked someone to retweet it so that he would see it (because he wouldn’t have seen my tweet even if I tagged him because he had me blocked).  But that’s it, I never asked anyone to harass him.  Here’s a screenshot of that.

PicsArt_01-04-04.08.20

Here’s the screenshot of Nick saying that he only picked the book up after I supposedly insulted him on Twitter.  If this was a criminal court proceeding, this is what the prosecutor would present as a little something called “Motive.”

nickscreenshot2

So after a few public tweets back and forth (which Nick later deleted) we had a private conversation.

Here’s the conversation on Twitter, I added some words to it to point out some lies and other things, but those are the only edits I made, and I can provide the original screenshots to anyone who’s interested.   (sorry for the pic sizes, you might need to right click, select View Image, and then left click the image when your cursor changes to a magnifying glass to enlarge the picture.)

nickconvo1withedits

So my intention was to leave it at that.  Nick changed his review from 1 star to 3 stars and actually did explain what it was about the book he didn’t like.  I still didn’t believe he had read the book at the time of the 1 star review (November 7th) but at the time I didn’t think I had any way to prove it so I decided to let it go for the time being, plus he did provide enough detail to make me believe that it was at least possible that he had skimmed through enough pages to be able to justify himself and actually provide reasons that he didn’t like the book.  Now take note of the date of the above Twitter conversation (December 15th) because that’s going to be important.

It was still bothering me, however, that Nick had smeared my reputation on Twitter under the lie that he had read my book so I decided to dig a little further and I pulled up my Amazon sales report to see if it could shed any light on the matter.  Boy did it!  In a twitter conversation that I’ll provide screenshots of below, Nick said he believes he read the book in late October or early November to coincide with his 1 star review on November 7th.

Here’s where Nick is caught in his lie.  Here’s the incontrovertible proof: the Amazon sales report did not show that a single Kindle Unlimited user (which is how Nick claimed he read the book) had read any portion of the book anywhere near the time he said he did.  In fact, the first Kindle Unlimited user to EVER download ANY portion of the book was on December 16th.  Amazon’s sales reports are very detailed for Kindle Unlimited sales and will even show me how many pages of my book were read that day, as authors get paid per page turned instead of the book as a whole if the customer is reading the book through Kindle Unlimited.

Nick’s defense is going to be that there’s no possible way he could’ve known any details about my book on the 15th if my reports didn’t show any pages read until the 16th.  That’s his big defense.  That’s what he’s hanging his hat on to defend himself.

There are a few plausible explanations for this.  The most obvious one is that you can download a free sample of the book which won’t show on the sales report at all.  I can’t recall the exact details about the book that Nick mentioned on Twitter before he either deleted the tweets or made his account private, but I’m 95% certain the details he provided could have been learned from the free preview alone.  If Nick or one of his Twitter followers would like to dig those old tweets up and try to prove that he provided details that AREN’T available in the free sample I invite them to try, but I won’t hold my breath.  Wouldn’t matter even if they did, because there are still other plausible explanations.

Another strong possibility is that Amazon doesn’t report pages read on a minute-by-minute basis and instead gathers all pages read for a full day and reports them the next day.  This makes the most sense as it would be a lot of extra tedious work for Amazon to credit me with pages read at noon if the customer then reads additional pages a couple of hours later.  Makes more sense to wait until that day is finished and then report them.  In fact, Amazon’s website seems to confirm this is the case as shown in this screenshot…

salesinfo

Another possible explanation is that the book was downloaded in a different time zone and thus reported the pages read on the 16th even though Nick did provide a few details in the late evening of the 15th in my time zone.  If Nick had a VPN active when he downloaded the book, this possibility becomes even stronger, and Nick stated he uses a VPN at times (which will be documented later in the article).

Another possible explanation is that he gathered details about the book from others who already had the book such as @RevAaronDavis who also had disagreements with me on Twitter but did enjoy the book.  Note that I am not accusing Aaron Davis of conspiring against me or anything, as he seems like an honest guy, I’m just noting the possibility that details could have been shared between he and Nick in passing conversation.

I also saw other Twitter users who are friends of Nick’s asking what the name of my book was on December 15th and I made traditional, non-K.U. sales of the book that day, before and after that day, and it’s possible that people who purchased the book traditionally may have fed him a few details.

Another possible explanation is that he somehow pirated the book and that’s why it doesn’t show that he downloaded it when he said he did.  (Please note I am not accusing him of pirating it but merely listing it as a possible explanation even though I agree it’s an unlikely one).

All of these are possible explanations.  However, what Nick doesn’t have an explanation for is how Amazon completely failed to report that he downloaded the book in late October or early November when he says he downloaded it.

Here’s the screenshot from my sales report that shows NO Kindle Unlimited user read ANY pages of my book when Nick says he did.

amazonproof

So after discovering incontrovertible proof that Nick had NOT yet read my book at the time of his nasty 1-star review, I once again reached out to him to have a private conversation about it and give him a chance to own up to his sin against me and make amends.  Instead, Nick chose to double down and then reported me to Amazon as supposedly bullying him into removing his review.  He’s unable to provide ANY evidence that he downloaded the book when he said he did such as the standard e-mail Amazon will send when you purchase or download a book.  I’ve posted screenshots of that conversation below (it’s long).  Before you read it, note that he accuses me of asking friends to give favorable reviews of my book, which I never have done and never will do (unless they actually read it and enjoyed it), and I defy him to provide proof of such an unmerited accusation.  Also note that there are a couple of book spoilers in this conversation but they’re all from very early in the book (like the part of the book you could read in the free sample).  This conversation took place December 31st.

nickconvo2witheditsnickconvo3witheditsnickconvo4witheditsnickconvo5withedits

So let’s once again cover the facts very quickly.

  • Nick left a 1-star review on November 7th
  • Nick was called out about it on December 15th
  • Conveniently, “someone” hurriedly read a sizable portion of the book in a single day which was reported by Amazon on Dec. 16th.
  • Nick stated he read the book late Oct. or early Nov. through Kindle Unlimited.
  • Amazon sales reports show I had no Kindle Unlimited downloads from ANYONE until December 16th.

Imagine Nick was a suspect in a murder.  The investigators discover that Nick had a clear motive to commit the murder as he had publicly admitted that he did not like the victim.  Nick’s alibi was that he was at the gym at the time of the murder.  The investigator asks, “Great, I know the owners of that gym, they keep meticulous records and have video cameras aimed at the doors.  If you were at that gym, there will definitely be evidence that you were there and this will eliminate you as the suspect.” After the investigator leaves, Nick hurriedly signs up as a member at the gym he claimed he was at that night.  The investigator goes to the gym a couple of days later and they have no record of him being there at the time of the murder.  Nick’s face doesn’t appear on their video cameras.   The owners of the gym look through their books and don’t see that a Nick Johnson had ever even been a member until after he was asked for his whereabouts that night.  The investigator returns to Nick and says, “Nick, did you sign in when you went to the gym the night of the murder?”  Nick says, “Yes, I did, around 8:30 P.M.”  The investigator says, “Well, there’s no record that you signed in that night, the cameras never showed you walk through the door, there’s no record that you were ever a member there before the murder, and you can’t provide a receipt or bank statement that showed you ever paid membership dues at the gym prior to the murder.  Care to explain that?”  Nick says, “Well, no.  I can’t explain that, but I can tell you what the gym looks like inside!  Isn’t that enough proof for you?”  I imagine the jury wouldn’t deliberate too long before they returned their guilty verdict.

I want to re-iterate that this was never about a bad review.  I can handle a bad review if the author actually read the book and is leaving his unbiased and honest opinion.  But that was not the case here.  This was a case of a person who disliked me personally and saw his chance to spite me and took it.  I’ve shown the proof of it.  As I told Nick already, I’ve already forgiven him for what he did, but even though I’ve forgiven him I still have a right to defend my reputation since he persists in these lies that he read my book before leaving his 1-star review and that I tried to bully him into changing his review when he was only leaving honest feedback.  I think any objective observer will clearly know that Nick lied after viewing what I’ve presented.  Those who wish to dismiss me simply because I’m associated with JD Hall are being willfully ignorant.  That’s about all there is to it.

I can hear my trolls and detractors already.  They’ll say I have nothing to complain about because my book sales weren’t exactly thriving anyway and will probably also sneak a personal jab in about me being a bad author or having thin skin.  For one, that’s beside the point, a lie is a lie and sin is sin.  Two, most authors start slow.  J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame had her book rejected by multiple publishers before she hit it big.  Hugh Howey, the most successful indie author of the last decade, started his career with a single book he wrote in his spare time that languished for quite some time before it went viral.  If anything, a fraudulent 1-star review is most harmful to an unknown indie author like me who doesn’t have many reviews good or bad yet.

Regardless if my book is ever a smashing success, it’s still something I’m proud of and the gospel is clearly presented in it.  But Nick still sinned against me by lying and leaving a bad review that could have hurt my potential sales (and still could if Amazon suspends me).   Just as if he had simply stolen a single dollar bill out of my pocket while I wasn’t looking, sin is sin.  I’m sure my detractors will also say that my reputation has been damaged from my own doing.  That may or may not be true, but if it is, at least it was from MY decisions and actions and not something that is based on a bald faced lie from someone else.  If people choose to think ill of me from something I’ve actually said or done that’s fine and fair, but if they think ill of me because someone told them lies about me, that’s another matter altogether.

Before I end this post, I want to mention that I never contacted Nick’s mission board and I don’t intend to at this time.  I did initially consider it but after examining my own heart I realized that it wouldn’t truly be for the right reasons.  If Nick continues to lie to people about me I may change my mind just to put an end to the slander and protect my reputation.  Or if Amazon does suspend me I may need to take more drastic measures to get him to admit his lie so that my account will be re-instated (although I’m sure Amazon will realize he lied if they do ANY research into his kindle history of downloaded books).  But as things stand now, if I called his mission it would be primarily out of revenge if I did, and that’s not the right reason.

So I’ll end this post the same way I start my book: with a quote from Marcus Aurelius…

“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”

Regarding Mario Woods

This post will attempt to explain why the San Francisco Police Department’s shooting of Mario Woods was justified.  The video of the shooting can be found here… (Warning: it does show him get shot)

Before we get started, please read my earlier post titled Why Cops Shoot People With Knives.  That information is important in this case.

In the case of Mario Woods, he had allegedly stabbed a family member and police were flagged down by a witness who saw a man (Woods) matching the suspect description and still holding the knife.  Police responded and Woods refused to drop the knife and surrender.   Bean bags and pepper spray were then apparently used but were ineffective.

I’m not sure if the officers were carrying Tasers or not but it’s irrelevant, as the Taser X26 (the most common model carried by police) has a maximum range of 15 feet, but an ideal range of 7 feet.  That’s well within the danger zone of a knife (21 feet).  They were under no obligation to expose themselves to further danger by trying to get to the ideal 7 feet needed to tase Woods, especially after bean bags and pepper spray couldn’t convince Woods to comply with the lawful commands to drop the knife and surrender. (Update: I recently learned that SFPD officers are not issued tasers so this wouldn’t have been an option even if they wanted)

 

It’s important to understand that since Woods was the suspect in a stabbing (which is a felony) the police were duty-bound to 1) prevent him from assaulting anyone else, 2) prevent his escape and 3) arrest him.

Preventing his escape is an important aspect to this case.  They have Woods backed up against a wall which is good.  They have something of a semi-circle formed around him as well.  They are duty-bound to protect the public that are witnessing this event and to prevent Woods’ escape.  So all things considered, they’ve done a great job so far.  They tried less-lethal means of disarming him to no avail and they have him surrounded.

And at this point, they are doing nothing but holding their ground and continuing to issue lawful commands to drop the knife and surrender.  It’s Woods’ actions that force their hand.  Woods begins to walk to his right (our left) and one of the officers, in an attempt to contain him, moves into his path.  Again, it’s important to remember that Woods does not have the right to just walk wherever he wants to.  He’s been told he’s under arrest and he continually refuses lawful commands to drop the knife and surrender.  If he had simply remained stationary, the officers likely would have stayed right where they were as well.  If he had dropped the knife and surrendered, he would have been safely arrested.

But that’s not what Woods did.  As Woods walked towards the officer, all while refusing lawful commands to stop, drop the knife and surrender, that officer was reasonable to believe that his life was in danger from Woods as Woods was close enough to potentially stab the officer if he suddenly sprinted towards the officer.  The other officers there were also reasonable to believe that their fellow officer’s life was in danger which justifies them shooting as well (which also explains why Woods was shot so many times, as 5 officers firing a few rounds each adds up quickly).

That’s essentially it.  When you advance towards an officer, whether lunging or not, and you’re around 8 feet away from him, while holding a knife and refusing to drop it or surrender, it’s reasonable for an officer to believe his life is in danger and put a stop to the threat on his safety.  And I’ve got a strong feeling the grand jury will agree in this case.  woods

Many will say the officers could have done something differently, but my question is, what specifically do you have in mind?  They tried bean bags and pepper spray and those things were ineffective.  Should they have simply let him keep walking, wherever he pleased, and run the risk of him escaping or taking someone hostage?  Should they have let him actually start stabbing them before they took action?

How about this, instead of always asking what the officers could have done differently, let’s turn that question around and ask what Woods could have done differently.  For one, he could have chosen to NOT stab a family member (allegedly).  Two, he could have dropped the knife when lawfully ordered to.  Three, he could have stopped walking towards the officer when lawfully ordered to stop.  Any of those things definitely would have led to a result that didn’t see Woods in a body bag.

Indeed, Woods would still be alive if he had listened to the advice from the woman on the video screaming like a banshee: “JUST DROP IT!”

 

Why Cops Shoot People with Knives

With the recent police shootings of Laquan McDonald and Mario Woods, I’ve seen a lot of armchair quarterbacks asking why the police didn’t simply take the knife away from them and arrest them instead of shooting them.  A pastor named Cole Brown (Twitter handle @colebrownpdx) was one such critic and said even his wife knows how to disarm a guy with a knife and then called all police incompetent. This statement told me all I needed to know about his ignorance of real life combat. A suspect on PCP like Laquan McDonald would’ve carved his wife up like a Christmas ham if she had tried to disarm him, but I digress. The point of this post is to explain why police very often shoot guys that are holding knives.

First let’s start with the legal aspect of it.  Cops are allowed (and in fact duty bound in many cases) to use deadly force if a suspect poses an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to another person.

It should go without saying that a knife, even a box cutter, poses such a threat if wielded by someone intent on using it in an assault.  A knife can put an eye out in an instant.  That’s serious bodily injury.  A knife can sever the carotid artery in an instant.  That’s serious bodily injury at best, but most likely death.  Same with the femoral artery, jugular vein, etc.  There are a lot of places on the human body that are very vulnerable to a blade and it only takes one swipe with that blade-a fraction of a second-to be potentially fatal.  And contrary to popular (but ignorant) belief, the kevlar in officers’ vests will not stop a blade.

Having said that, the mere act of holding a knife and refusing to drop it makes one a serious threat to anyone nearby.   Officers are trained that they need a minimum of 21 feet of distance between themselves and the knife wielder to be considered “safe.”  Some departments have pushed that distance out to 30 feet in their training.

Why?  Because unlike in the movies, someone wielding a knife can’t be easily disarmed of it.  Even if the officers outnumber the suspect, the chances of the suspect getting at least one stab in with the knife before he is subdued are still pretty high.  And as I’ve already stated, one stab is enough to cause SBI or death.  So cops are under no obligation to allow themselves to be stabbed before they’re allowed to protect themselves.

Here’s some pictures of a cop who underestimated a suspect with a knife and thought he could disarm him because the suspect was small.

WARNING: GRAPHIC VIOLENCE

Watch this training video to see how quickly someone with a knife can close distance and get a stab in before the officer has time to draw his weapon and fire.

What about tasers? The maxiumum range of most police tasers is 15 feet but the ideal range is closer to 7 feet. That puts you well inside the danger zone of someone with a knife. Tasers also require both prongs to penetrate clothing and skin in order to administer an effective shock. The prongs must also be at least a couple of feet apart to be effective. They must also hit an area of the body with lots of big muscles (between the torso and thighs) in order to completely incapacitate a suspect. If both prongs hit an arm, or both prongs hit a leg it may slow a suspect some but it won’t incapacitate them. Thick clothing like a winter coat can often prevent the prongs from penetrating and someone like Laquan McDonald who is on PCP can often times shrug it off even if the Taser connects. In short, the Taser (a less lethal weapon) is not the appropriate tool to use on someone with a knife (a lethal weapon). The same is true of pepper spray, baton, etc. Sometimes bean bag guns or pepperball guns are effective, but officers don’t always have the luxury of waiting for that equipment to arrive, and those tools aren’t always effective either (which was the case with Mario Woods).

So to the armchair quarterbacks that want to criticize police for how they handle people holding a knife, I challenge you to try a little experiment for yourself. Go to the store a buy the biggest red marker you can find (make sure it’s a permanent marker). Take the cap off and hand it to a friend and then put on your most expensive set of clothes and see if you can wrestle the marker away from him before he can ruin your clothes with it. Scared just thinking about it aren’t ya?

Thabiti Anyabwile’s anti-cop bias

officer

Thabiti Anyabwile has been pretty outspoken about his disgust with the American police system.  Recently he posted an article over at the Gospel Coalition titled A Call to Evangelical Pastors: Let’s Do Our Part to End Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration.  I will mostly be addressing that article.

In the comments section of that article, I posted some statistics about police brutality.  Since he had no means to argue with these facts, he simply deleted the comments altogether and said that we were “having different conversations.”  OK, I was sure we were both talking about police brutality, but OK.

Here are the stats I posted.  They were gathered from the Bureau of Justice.  In a given year, around 600,000 officers will have contact with around 53 million citizens.  Of all of those millions of encounters, there are around 26,000 complaints of brutality.  Of those 26,000 complaints, only about 8% were found to have any merit or evidence (believe it or not, people often make false allegations against cops because they don’t like going to jail).  So out of 53 million encounters, there were around 2000 credible complaints.  That’s 0.0039% of all police-citizen contacts resulting in a credible brutality complaint.  If you have to move 3 decimal places to the right before you register a number other than zero, how can you claim that police brutality is an epidemic?

If you want to talk about only people that are killed by police, let’s look at some stats on that (from the FBI’s database).  In 2012, about 12 million people were arrested nationwide.  Of those 12 million arrests, 410 resulted in the police killing the arrestee.  Even if all 410 were completely unjustified murders, that would be 0.003% of all arrests resulting in a murder.  But those 410 deaths were justifiable homicide.  There aren’t any stats collected on unjustified killings, probably because you’d have to move a dozen or so decimal places to the right before you reached a number other than zero.  Or to look at it another way, police successfully made 99.997% of their arrests without having to kill the arrestee.  But we’re supposed to believe that it’s the wild west out there, with cops just shooting anyone that moves, especially if they’re black?  The facts show otherwise no matter what the mainstream media’s rhetoric says.

I’m not sure if this Laquan McDonald shooting was justified or not.  I’m not sure if there was a cover up or not.  But even if something criminal did happen in that case on the part of the officers, this kind of thing is still an extremely rare event.  You’d never know it because the mainstream media trips all over themselves to report these things when they happen.  They don’t bother to report the other 11,999,590 arrests that go down without bloodshed because that doesn’t get ratings.

Furthermore, I wonder if Thabiti is aware of Ezekiel 18:20 which says, “The soul who sins shall die.  The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son.  The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

Ok, so let’s say for the sake of argument that every one of these controversial cases (Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, etc) was outright brutality by the cops involved.  Should we then hold every officer in America accountable for those officers’ actions?  Especially in light of Ezekiel 18:20?  Isn’t it the height of hypocrisy to hold an entire group of people accountable for the actions of a few, while simultaneously complaining that cops (and other whites) judge the entire black race based on the actions of a few?

Imagine if people wrote Christianity off every time the mainstream media reported a pastor caught in some sexual or financial scandal!  Imagine if they judged you, Thabiti, as being guilty of that pastors sins, and then wrote of “systemic” problems within Christianity because one pastor out of hundreds of thousands was caught in some scandal?  Think that might feel a little unfair?  Now imagine the most widely known Christian pastors were the ones actually judging you guilty of another pastor’s sins.  Think you might feel a bit betrayed by your brothers in Christ?  Yeah, Christian cops feel that way all the time these days.  I can count on one hand the number of widely known Christians that have publicly backed cops over the last year (Voddie Baucham, Franklin Graham and Steve Camp are actually the only ones that come to mind).  The number of them that have bashed our cops are too numerous to count however.

I’ve read enough from Thabiti to know that he’ll say there’s still a problem of “systemic” injustice.  I hear this term a lot, but I’ve still yet to see anyone really define specifically what it is.

There are no laws on the books that discriminate by race.  Possession of powder cocaine is the same offense in the penal code for blacks as it is whites.  Possession of crack is the same offense for both races as well.  Want to argue that harsher sentences were enacted for crack because everyone knows that’s the “poor man’s drug?”  Fine.  (The harsher crack laws were passed in the 70’s by the way, much has changed since then, including the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.)  Want to advocate for making the sentencing for those two drugs exactly equal?  Fine.  That still has nothing to do with police officers.  They don’t write law and they don’t decide punishment.  If there’s an officer out there cutting white people loose when they possess drugs but arresting black people for possessing the same drug, by all means, drop the hammer on him.  If there’s a judge handing out drastically harsher sentences for the same offense to people with the same criminal history in the same circumstances, yes, that judge should be held accountable.  That doesn’t mean ALL judges should be held accountable.  It doesn’t mean there’s an inherent problem within the system itself.  The system itself is designed to be fair, if there are rogue actors within the system that are enforcing it unfairly, hold that actor accountable, not everyone in the “system.”

It’s extremely discouraging for Christian cops to be treated as perpetrators of injustice merely because they wear a badge.  It’s exponentially more discouraging when the people most often painting them in this light are widely known pastors.  More than that, though, I am concerned for fellow officers who aren’t believers.  Where is the outreach to them?  I’ve yet to see an article from anyone that specifically mentions unbelieving cops as being in need of the gospel.   Want to talk about a marginalized people group?  There are 2 cops for every 1,000 American citizens.  Much less than 2 per 1000 are believers I would imagine.  Pretty easy for them to get lost in the fray.  Even easier for those unbelieving officers to write Christianity off should they stumble upon The Gospel Coalition or Christianity Today and see a multitude of contributors throwing them right under the bus.

I actually tend to agree with most of Thabiti’s 7 affirmations and denials.  Thabiti then made 6 things he’s committed to doing, and they are this…

  1. Finding ways to foster meaningful discussions that build neighborhoods.
  2. Investigating claims of injustice so that I might be educated and prepared for sound action.
  3. Demonstrating against injustice.
  4. Advocating for public accountability
  5. Bringing moral pressure to bear on justice issues–especially the end of police brutality, misconduct and the war on drugs.
  6. Brokering solutions and strategies for resolving pressing injustices.

On #1, I’m not really sure what he means by “discussions that build neighborhoods”, that sounds like one of those well-meaning phrases that has no actual tangible meaning.  But as far as fostering meaningful discussion, Thabiti has blocked me on Twitter and deleted my comments on his TGC articles.  It seems he’s only interested in fostering discussions with those who already agree with his premise that police are the big problem in society.

On #2, he says he commits to investigating claims of injustice.  But which injustice?  All injustice?  Including when officers like Deputy Goforth are executed while pumping gas for no other reason than the uniform he wears?  Is that an example of an injustice that Thabiti commits to investigating?  Somehow I think what he meant to say was “I commit to joining in on witch hunts every time a controversial story hits the news involving a white cop killing a black person.”  Perhaps I’m wrong, I’d love to be proven wrong actually, but if Thabiti’s stance towards Ferguson-where he discarded all the facts and still sided with the criminal because of his skin color-is any indication of how he’s going to be “investigating injustice” then I have a feeling I won’t be proven wrong at all.

On #3, Thabiti commits to demonstrating against injustice.  Does this mean he will be marching with the Blue Lives Matter crowd when cops are killed for no reason?  Or will it be the terrorist organization known as Black Lives Matter that he’s demonstrating with?  We shall see, but I have a feeling I know what he means.

On #4, Thabiti commits to advocating for public accountability.  Public accountability for whom?  Officers?  Criminals?  Both officers and criminals?  Again, if Ferguson is any indication, I think we know the answer.  There was no talk of Michael Brown’s accountability for committing a strong arm robbery and then punching an officer in the face and trying to take his gun away from him.  Where’s the public accountability for that?  Didn’t see any demands for accountability from Thabiti, only an insistence that Officer Wilson was guilty of murder despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, followed by a perpetuation of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” myth that was soundly debunked by forensic evidence.

On #5, Thabiti commits to bringing moral pressure to bear on justice issues.  Only if they involve dropping the hammer on cops though.  If a criminal kills a cop, whatever.  If a criminal kills another criminal, meh.

On #6, he commits to brokering solutions and strategies for resolving pressing injustices.  I have no idea really what that means or entails, other than “de-militarizing” the police (a myth in and of itself).

Of all the talk about demanding justice, it seems his idea of justice is dropping a heavy hammer on cops before all the facts are in.  Of all the talk of showing grace and mercy, it seems he only wants grace and mercy for black criminals, there’s none to be given to officers.  And in all of the talk period, I see very little about the concern of the souls of either cops or criminals.  Thabiti committed to doing six things.  Six practical things he plans to do to battle police brutality and misconduct.  None of them included preaching the gospel to officers (or black people for that matter).  None of them included showing them love, mercy or grace.  None of them included calling bad officers to repentance and saving faith.

This is why people say “stick to preaching the gospel.”  God’s Word is sufficient and equips man for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).  God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11).  Sure, you can go and march with the Black Lives Matter protesters and interrupt white people’s brunches and join in on the witch hunts when a cop has to shoot someone.  You can gain some cheap applause while doing so.  You can get some pats on the back.  You can get some retweets and likes and shares.  And you’ll also alienate the very people you have seem to take issue with.  The very people who, in your eyes, apparently need the gospel the most, are the very people you’re not interested in sharing it with.  They deserve better.  The Great Commission demands it.