Monday, May 6, 2013
California’s vigilante police justice: Trial by machine gun
Michael Nida machine gunned by officer Steven Gilley
In California, there is a new kind of justice. Forget the Sixth Amendment's right to trial. It no longer applies. Instead of an attorney, get a bullet-proof vest, Today's cops are armed with machine guns and innocence no longer matters.
Downey, California: May 4, 2013. Family and friends of Michael Nida gathered at the Memorial site where he was machine gunned to death by Downey Police officer Steven Gilley. The purpose of the gathering was to remember the father of four who lost his life on the way to celebrate his birthday with his wife.
On October 22, 2011, Michael Lee Nida and his wife Naily were on their way to celebrate his upcoming birthday. They had stopped at an Arco station at the corner of Paramount and Imperial Highway in Downey. Michael’s father, after whom Michael was named, recounted the events of the night his son died. He recalled that his son already had been afraid of the police because of what he had seen in Los Angeles. That night, that fear proved justified. The following information is based on the father's account.
Arco gas station, corner of Paramount and Imperial Highway in Downey
While Michael's wife waited for him at the gas station, he walked across Imperial Highway to a strip mall to pick up cigarettes. However he was stopped for jaywalking by Officer Blanca Reyes and forced to sit down on a curb. Fear of the police caused him to get up from the curb and take off back across Imperial Highway. After crossing the street, Michael continued between the gas station and a Walgreens.
An ATM robbery had taken place down the street and the officers incorrectly assumed that, out of all the people between the busy intersection and the ATM, this particular man, who was out on a date with his wife, was a suspect. It may have had something to do with the fact that he looked somewhat Hispanic, being half Puerto Rican by descent. Downey officers Michael Powell and Steven Gilley stopped Michael at the back of the Walgreen’s parking lot. They forced him to lie face down on the ground with his arms and hands out. Officer Gilley, who was holding a machine gun, stepped on Michael with his foot. Officer Powell had been pointing a gun at Michael from about the time Powell saw him and continued to do so. While Michael was on the ground, spreading out and under the foot of Officer Gilley, these officers had sufficient control of his body to be able to determine he was unarmed. Michael managed to get up and move in the direction of Imperial Highway. According to the report, he was 20 feet away from the officers when Gilley shot him in the back with his machine gun.
According to Michael’s father, after being shot, Michael proceeded between the gas station and what was then a Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant towards Paramount. He got to the sidewalk and continued south, falling into the street near a tree, a little past the KFC.
Instead of being able to celebrate her husband’s birthday, wife Naily was present when her beloved Michael died. Her children had to learn that the father they loved had been machine gunned in the back by the police though he was innocent and unarmed.
This particular event was small compared with prior memorial events for Michael because the mother who raised him (Jean Thaxton) had recently been in the hospital after having been accidentally hit by a car. Though she was still recovering, she was driven to the event so she could be part of it. Also present were Jean’s husband Jerry, and Michael’s biological mother Maritza Odell.
Maritza had had to give Michael up as a baby to be raised by the Thaxtons. She had been in the U.S. Navy. She was assigned to go overseas and was not allowed to stay with her child. So she allowed the Thaxtons to raise her son as their own, giving the child two sets of parents.
Michael’s children and family maintain a regular vigil at the memorial site. His children showed extreme courage. They were very bright and were extremely courteous to people passing by during the event.
A point of interest is that these people wanted to help others. Nobody showed any animosity towards the police and there were no exhibitions of anger. Instead of expressing resentment, they held hands and prayed together. Their concern was educating and protecting the public. They were worried about the danger posed to other potential recipients of police bullets.. Michael’s supporters have taken the name Nida’s Rydas and have been handing out cards advising people of what to do if stopped . They hope the advice will help limit the number of future victims. A legal case was filed against the officers and the City of Downey and will be heard soon in downtown Los Angeles.
Barbara Padilla spoke of how her innocent son Marcel Ceja was gunned down by Anaheim police officer David Garcia. She pointed out that it had been raining and he was stopped because he was wearing a hood. She asked this writer if this writer would wear a hood in the rain. Marcel had slipped, fallen and gotten up and was cooperating with the police when he was shot multiple times in the chest by Officer Garcia. No charges have been filed against Officer Garcia and the Orange County District Attorney has made no effort to seek justice in this matter. The Orange County District Attorney's office has been accused of corruption repeatedly and was connected to the Public Guardian rip-off scandal that resulted in two public officials (including the district attorney's girlfriend) losing their jobs. This writer was was involved in exposing that corruption to the press in 2010.
Adriana Avila recounted how her son Andres had been beaten by Pomona police officer O’Malley. Andres filed a complaint and was later shot dead by two Pomona police officers who came upon him when he was resting in a car with his girlfriend. He was unarmed. As in the case of Michael Nida, the Los Angeles District Attorney has declined to prosecute the officers who shot Andres.
Across Paramount at the location his son Sergeant Steven M. Bours was shot, Ronald Bours held a related memorial. A former Downey police officer had provided a video of the shooting that showed the boy was standing with his arms out, cooperating and unarmed when he was shot ten times by Downey police officers. They shot all the fingers off one of his hands in addition to killing him. Steven had received a medal of commendation in the Iraq War. He was a quiet boy and well liked by people throughout the community. His father said he cried every day. During his interview, Mr. Bours kept repeating, “I miss him so much.”
Michael and other police victims represented at the rally were all innocent and unarmed. They were not gang members. They had gone to school, worked to provide for their families and were loved. What happened to them could happen to your child, your brother or sister or your father or mother.
This writer’s uncle was on the LAPD for 18 years, and told about how officers are trained to shoot to kill. America, while disarming a citizenry that is not trained to kill, is arming police forces with bigger and deadlier weapons, weapons that could be turned on anyone you love.
Why is gun control solely aimed at disarming those who have never killed and do not plan to kill? If there is gun control, shouldn't it also apply to those who have killed and are willing to kill again and again?
Ruth Hull is an activist and writer whose career has included work as a criminal defense attorney, a licensed private investigator, and an educator.