Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but Florida resident Roy Middleton will likely take the advice to heart more than most embattled smokers next time he reaches for a cigarette. As Middleton rummaged through his mother’s car, which was parked in his own driveway, last weekend, police officers mistook him for a burglar and proceeded to unleash a barrage of bullets.
At around 2:45 Saturday morning, Middleton, a 60-year-old black man, had a nic fit and headed out to retrieve a loose cigarette that he had left in his mother’s car, which was parked in the driveway of their shared home. As he was bent over in the vehicle searching for the smoke, Middleton said he heard a voice order him to “Get your hands where I can see them.”
Unfortunately for Middleton, a concerned neighbor saw him in the vehicle and dialed 911 to report a burglary in progress. Evidently, the responding officers snuck up on Middleton; because upon hearing the command to stick ’em up, the nicotine-deprived resident believed that a neighbor was playing a dirty trick.
When Middleton turned his head and realized that two Escambia County sheriff’s deputies were standing in his driveway, he said he backed out of the vehicle with his hands raised in the air. At that point, the deputies allegedly mistook a metal flashlight attached to the car keys in Middleton’s hand for some sort of weapon and opened fire.
“It was like a firing squad,” he said. “Bullets were flying everywhere.”
Middleton, who was nearly executed by firing squad without even being afforded the comfort of a final smoke, suffered shattered bones in his left thigh that will require the insertion of a metal rod and a lengthy recovery process. His mother’s car is also littered with bullet holes.
“I’m just glad they didn’t hit me here or here,” Middleton said, talking about his head and chest. “My mother’s car is full of bullet holes though. My wife had to go and get a rental.”
Unsurprisingly, the Sheriff’s Department blamed Middleton for the near-fatal encounter.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said that Middleton ignored multiple commands from the deputies and, according to a statement given to local media, “eventually lunged out of the car and spun toward them, causing them to fear for their safety.”
Morgan did, however, offer a surprisingly truthful anecdote, “As much as we are trained and as much as officers — which (sic) have Type A personalities — like to say we are in control, we are not.”
A teenage girl who told local reporters that she witnessed a portion of the incident said Middleton didn’t appear to do anything that should have caused the officers alarm, saying simply, “He wasn’t belligerent or anything.”
Middleton is one of the luckier Americans to have encountered jittery cops on private property.
Auburn, Wash., resident Dustin Theoharris was sleeping on the night of Feb. 11, 2012, when cops arrived at his home to arrest someone else. Police woke him from a dead sleep by bursting through his bedroom door. Disoriented from the intrusion, Theoharris reached for a small flashlight. Cops opened fire, hitting him 20 times in the face, arms, legs and torso. His jaw and shoulder were shattered, and he suffered organ damage and a fractured spine. Theoharris survived, but his life will never be the same.
Andrew Messina, a 16-year-old Georgia boy, had a bad day at school on May 1, 2012. After receiving a failing grade to cap off his day, he went home, dug a .357 magnum from a drawer and threatened to kill himself. His mother, Lisa Messina, turned to police for help, telling the dispatcher, “I think he’s going to shoot himself.” Andrew’s mother did not fear for her safety but was concerned for her son’s. Police responded with a SWAT team, an army of deputies, an armored vehicle and a sniper. Within an hour, the police sniper killed Andrew with a shot to the head because he felt officer lives were in danger.
A Florida man was shot dead by deputies of the Lake County Sherriff’s Department at 1:30 on a Saturday morning last July when they failed to identify themselves as police officers and banged on the door of his apartment. Andrew Scott, who was unrelated to the incident the police were investigating, answered the door wielding a handgun, presumably fearing that an armed and dangerous person had arrived to do him harm. As it turned out, he was right.
And there’s more bad news. Personal Liberty Digest™, for years, has been informing readers of the increasingly violent and increasingly militarized nature of local law enforcement agencies. But these days it is getting so extreme, that even mainstream media outlets like USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press are beginning to take note.
You can be sure that the Nation is teaming with officers who aren’t exactly certain to whom their duty to “serve and protect” applies. But if you assume that you are included, you can also be sure that you’re risking your life.