Off Duty U.S. Customs officer shoots unarmed 19-year old Arab-American in head and face. Authorities state that officer committed no wrong-doing and did not even book him for questioning
This incident happened about 15 minutes from my house in the Madrid apartment complex in Mission Viejo, CA on Feb 5, 2005.
As far as a political discussion, this would probably fall under the same category as Amadou Diallo Case, and Abner Louima in an example of law enforcement brutality bordering on outright criminality. Here are the relevant facts:
Early in the morning on Saturday February the 6th around 1:30 am, Bassim Chmait along with three other friends were walking through an apartment complex heading towards a college house party. As they were walking through the apartment complex one oo the neighbors threw a soda can at them from above. In frustration, one of the young boys threw the can into the street, and continued walking down the pathway of the apartment heading to the party. At that point Douglas Bates, an off duty U.S. Custom's officer, left his home with his badge in hand and gun drawn confronting the group of 4 to 6 friends. . he started to yell at them, and when the group of boys turned around, they saw the provoker yelling at them about laughing and being too loud, he was heading towards them pointing his gun a them with a badge in the other hand, yelling "You don't want to fuck with a cop, do you?" Apparently he was upset at the noise and commotion. Mr. Bates then pistol whipped one member of the group. The aggressor was an off duty border patrol/homeland security officer who was not in uniform, his name is Douglas Bates. The four unarmed boys were questioning him, asking why he was pointing his gun at them and begging him to put it down. One of the four boys that were there kept asking the gunman to stop pointing the barrel of the gun in his friends direction. Because of that, the aggressor pistol-whipped his friend on the forehead w/ the gun. Anticipating that the provoker was going to hit his friend again Chmait Bassim got in front of his friends telling the man to please put the gun down. Almost instantly the off duty cop shot Bassim in the head and face by Douglas Bates. After shooting Bassim, Mr. Bates simply walked back into his apartment. While friends were screaming for Bassim and neighbors dialed 911. About 5 minutes later the murder opened his door, with the gun still in hand and yelled at neighbors to shut up, and he want back inside his apartment.
This story comes straight from four witnesses, and neighbors that were there when the murder took place, they saw and heard everything that occurred that night.
You would think that this would be an easy case to prosecute. You would think that Douglas Bates is in jail right now. But he’s not, he’s a free man, he was never arrested, he was never charged, he was never even asked to come to the police station to give a statement. The Orange County Sheriff's Department Spokesman, Jim Amormino stated, "We treated this the same as we would any case. There was no clear evidence of a crime being committed, so there was nothing to book him on."
Here are the reports that this information was taken from:
(registration required) (edit: use Bassim/Bassim for the login and password)
Full disclosure From Eyewitness of the murder:
I know and was casual friends with Bassim Chmait for the short time that I have lived in California. He and his friends were accepting and friendly to a sort of clueless New Englander transplant that I am here in Orange County. To me, this group was a typical group of friends, attending college, partying on the weekends, working crappy mall jobs on the side, even forming their own rap group complete with self-produced CDs. No different than any other group of friends I knew of growing up in suburban Massachusetts. I'm obviously biased towards Bassim and his friends regarding this incident, but that does not mean a reasonable person would not be suspicious after weighing the facts. I just took information from the A.P. and Orange County Register reports above, and didn't include information that I know from 1st and 2nd party sources. There are two independent witnesses not connected at all to the group of friends who saw the shooting, one of whom, a 30-something blonde women, I overheard saying that the authorities would arrest Mr. Bates, but had to go though established procedures. I can't help but think that was empty lip-service paid to a woman who had saw first-hand a violent death. Also, I've heard from members of the group that Bassim was not walking toward Mr. Bates to threaten him, but to aide his friend (whose name wasn't in the report) Mike who was on the ground bleeding from his head after being pistol-whipped.
I attended the candlelight vigil last night at the apartment complex where Bassim was murdered. a scene where typical suburban parents and grandparents mourned the fallen intermixed with younger peers sending off Bassim. All this occurred while Douglas Bates was 100 yards away in his apartment, seemingly unafraid of being arrested for murder. Words cannot express the frustration and anguish for everyone in attendance to know that he was still free while they were attempting to mourn and celebrate his short life.
It is hard not to let the pain of losing someone you know under these circumstances fuel suspicion in the integrity of the legal and law enforcement process. The Arab-American community that Bassim was part of is deeply suspicious of the process, and at various times attendees yelled out "Justice" during the vigil. I can't help but think that if this occurred in the college apartments in Amherst, MA where I attended college, and if the group of kids involved wasn't Arab-American, that there would be no question that an off-duty federal officer would be apprehended immediately. How can there even be the implication that Bates was just defending himself with the facts taken from the incident? But that implication exists in the news reports, where they noted he had a cut lip. The group of young adults had no way of issuing a threat of lethal force; there was no excuse for Bates to use his firearm.
The purpose of posting this is to simply give it more of an audience than Orange County. I figured it would be front page news that a federal officer shot and killed a 19-year old young adult. All that it is has gotten is two A.P. releases, and a write-up in the Orange County Register Local section. In an incident like this, the facts that come out first serve as the template for later attention, and I want to get out the facts that suggest that Douglas Bates behaved in a criminal manner, and not in righteous self-defense. If Mr. Bates receives no punishment, there is the possibility for a news story in the magnitude of Amadou Diallo. If the established media don't look into incident in a more detailed comprehensive way, I would hope that this could be kept alive in blogdom to prevent it from sinking down the memory hole.
And you might think that this is all a single incident, but it isn’t. Orange County, CA happens to be one of the richest and most exclusive communities in the country.. but with wealth and privilege, come power and corruption. Orange County police have been known to cover up for each other. Just a year ago officers tried to hide a run-in with assistant sheriff's son, who faces a rape trial.(See Teen Sex, Cash and Videotape - All of millionaire Don Haidl’s fortune can’t buy his kid a dollar’s worth of sense , and The Game Is Up - Despite daddy’s money, power and influence, gang-rape defendant Haidl runs out of outs) and just 6 weeks ago the wife of San Clemente Sheriff was involved in a hit-and-run accident which killed a 10 year old boy on Camino De Estrella, No charges have been filed, and police refuse to give any statements about the matter.
Attend the Vigil Every Saturday Night @ 9:00 PM until JUSTICE has been served.
DIRECTIONS: In Mission Viejo just take Los Alisos all the way down past Marguerite, and the Madrid Apartments will be on the left hand side, look for a group of people there.
Contact Orange County Sheriff Department and demand that they properly investigate this case.
Orange County Sheriff Department
714-647-7042 OR 949-425-1800 OR 714-628-7170
Inquire why the shooting of Bassim Chmait is not considered a crime. Get them to state publicly that the U.S. Customs Agent was acting is self-defense, which is completely ludicrous, but pin them down on their rationale.
Here is the P.R. guy responsible for covering the sheriff's department's ass. Call and ask questions.
Orange County Sheriff's Department
Michael S. Carona Sheriff-Coroner
Public Information/Public Affairs Office
Jim Amormino, Director (714) 647-7042
I've been told that it would be more effective to make inquires regarding this incident to the Orange County District Attorney's Office. His name is Tony Rackauckas. The Main Office Phone Number is:
Here is the link to the DA's website: http://www.ocgov.com/da
Here is some contact information for the U.S. Customs & Border Protection.
First here are links to email complaints the CBP: Make a comment about U.S. Customs and Border Protection by clicking hereRegister a complain with the CBP here Click on the "Ask a Question Tab" to send an email. I have doubts that this will all the effective. But the more the noise directed at the CBP the better.
Here is more general info about the Los Angeles office and the D.C. headquarters:
Field Operations Office Information
Location Address : 1 World Trade Center
Long Beach , CA 90831
Mailing Address : Same As Above
General Phone : (562) 980-3100
General Fax : (562) 980-3107
Operational Hours : 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM ( Pacific )
Name : Michael Fleming, Press Officer
Address : One World Trade Center
Long Beach , CA 90831
Phone : ( 562 ) 980 - 3110
Fax : ( 562 ) 980 - 3369
Here is information on CBP Headquarters:
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20229
Robert C. Bonner
Chief of Staff
Equal Employment Opportunity
Special Assistant to the Commissioner
Policy & Planning
Nicolle Sciara (Acting)
Michael C. Mullen
Jayson P. Ahern
Office of Border Patrol
David V. Aguilar
Training and Development
Thomas J. Walters (Acting)
E. Keith Thomson
Information and Technology
(CIO) Rod MacDonald (Acting)
William A. Keefer
Office of Public Affairs
Seth Statler (Acting)
Richard L. Balaban
Regulations & Rulings
Human Resources Management
Robert M. Smith
Daniel Baldwin (Acting)
Orange County Sheriff's Department Info (none / 0)
Mission Viejo Patrol Area page: http://www.ocsd.org/PatrolledCities/mviejo.asp
Here is the information for the:
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DIVISION
550 N. Flower Street, Santa Ana, CA 92703
(714) 647-7040 email@example.com