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Preacher Says he Was Beaten and Tortured by Arizona DPS & Border Patrol AgentsSocial Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
A look at how some cops really behave in America; the story of a pastor beaten and tased repeatedly for trying to assert his right to privacy.
(TEMPE, Ariz.) - The April 14th 2009 Border Patrol and Arizona police beating of a Baptist Minister named Steven Anderson at a border checkpoint, may stand out as one of the most disgraceful recent examples of police brutality and official breech of authority.
The supposedly trustworthy state and federal agents appear to have made a game out of how badly they could beat and physically damage and humiliate a person, and while the man's cameras remain confiscated, it was recorded on tape.
There are those stories that sometimes are just so grating, so wrong, that they are like an abomination. As stories of torture at the hands of Americans grab the headlines, we are reminded that abuse of power is the ultimate betrayal of a person's character, and it defines the conduct of an agency.
The frenzy to increase border scrutiny near Mexico seems to have tensions unusually high, and perhaps that factors in as one of the reasons this man of God was so completely and ruthlessly beaten and degraded while he was totally helpless.
Police violence that was in the national spotlight in the 1960's and 1970's has apparently never gone away, and is showing its ugly head much too often.
Money making TV hits like COPS have glamorized police and sometimes that is great, they deserve it, when they do. But along with the celebration of watching the demise of our fellow citizens, we have forgotten to pay attention to things like police violence, unless something absolutely amazing is caught on tape.
Fourth Amendment Rights
Tempe, Arizona resident Steven Anderson, Pastor of the Faithful Word Baptist Church, was driving on Interstate 8, about 70 miles east of Yuma, Arizona, when he approached the U.S. Border Patrol Crossing and came to a stop.
Anderson is what you could call a Civil Rights Crusader, and he sticks to his 4th Amendment Right that grants him protection from illegal search and seizure. It is generally known simply as a person's right to privacy.
He stated to the Border Patrol agents over and over that he was not going to roll his window down; he simply wanted to be allowed to drive away. He asked if he was being detained repeatedly and asked if they had a search warrant.
"I have a copy of the Constitution in my backpack," he told the increasingly irritated agents.
At one point on the tape an agent takes out his nun chucks in apparent anger and displays them, and at another point an agent tells him in less than perfect English, "In the Border Patrol Checkpoint, the person's rights doesn't matter here."
The ordeal lasts approximately half an hour, and then Anderson is told that he can go. If the story ended there, media agencies like this one would not be covering it right now.
The story absolutely doesn't end there. It is worth noting that while Anderson is asserting his rights, it is obvious he is greatly trying the patience of the law enforcement personnel at the checkpoint.
Still, what happened will go down as one of the worst examples of police abuse. This wasn't Rodney King, keep that in mind.
It was his return trip on Interstate 8 that led to disaster. Anderson's refusal to allow what he perceives as an unconstitutional violation of his Civil Rights, led to a brutal beating and he has eleven stitches and cuts and abrasions and a battered face to attest to it.
History of Police Abuse
Police in America are a lucky group. They get to regularly violate the rights of people and beat them and abuse them and as long as they stick to the poor and unfortunate, the homeless and the gang members, they can get away with a lot.
The main reason this happens is that a suspect runs, and "makes a cop sweat" or is a "smartass" or "flippant" to an officer. Sometimes an officer is "having a bad day" and that is the excuse. Depending on the circumstances, any number of things can happen when one person has a badge and a gun and the other doesn't.
In a way, any cop who subscribes to this really big school of thought, of justifiable police brutality, is not a cop at all, but a Civil Rights violator and a disgrace to their uniform.
Ironically, I believe police and clergy, along with educators, belong to the top three professions where one has to tow the line and live a legal life and execute their jobs in a lawful manner. You can't be both ways and be worth your salt.
Cops, of all people, don't give a break to lawbreakers.
I look back at my life growing up in Los Angeles, seeing first-hand what happened when cops got angry. As a Marine, I saw it one night when I was taken to jail along with another El Toro Marine on a drunk in public violation. In the Orange County Jail, I watched the deputies ruthlessly beat this older homeless man because he wouldn't answer their questions. They hit him over and over like a bunch of sadistic devils. I always suspected he may have been a deaf mute.
What happened to Mr. Anderson at the Border Patrol checkpoint has remarkable parallels and I wish for his sake that wasn't true.
Roughly 70 miles east of Yuma, he was again stopped as a matter of routine at the immigration checkpoint. He says he did nothing to deserve his eventual arrest and he believes his Fourth Amendment rights protect him against unreasonable search without a warrant.
Arizona DPS cites a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of checkpoints near border areas. But the enforcement under that technicality isn't the route they ultimately took.
Border Patrol agents brought a drug dog to the car and then, according to Anderson, it quickly moved away without interest. The Border Patrol agents were then joined by members of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, who surrounded Anderson's car, insisting that the dog "found something" as he continued to assert his right to privacy.
The officers reportedly told him that he should protect his eyes because they were going to break his passenger window with a hammer. As he shielded his face, an officer "came out of nowhere" and smashed the driver's window six inches from the pastor's face simultaneously as the passenger window was busted in.
He was immediately tased not once or even twice, but a total of three times while he begged for mercy. His description of the brutality is relayed in the second video posted below. The first is a half hour long video showing how long it took for Anderson to pass through the Border Patrol Crossing the first time. The second video is not as long.
The Pastor's wife, Zsuzsanna Anderson, has maintained a blog on the case and it is a fantastic resource for those who want more details and also for those who would like to offer supporting words and even donations. (Zsusanna Anderson blog)
Zsuzsanna said, "Please continue to keep our family and this situation in your prayers. We appreciate the many emails, calls, etc. that we have received from around the country and the world."
She also says that the incident involving DPS officers R. Jones and J. Mitchell led to the confiscation of Anderson's two camcorders.
"In spite of several promises from his agency that they would be contacting us this afternoon, we have yet to hear from them," Zsuzsanna Anderson said.
She continued, saying that despite numerous requests by media, attorneys, and themselves for DPS (highway patrol) and DHS (border patrol) to release their respective tape recordings of the abuse, they have not made them public yet.
Anderson is quoted in the Arizona Daily Republic, saying what he did not comply with was being interrogated or searched.
"Does that 1976 Supreme Court case give them the right to beat the hell out of somebody?" Anderson asked. "What they did to me was totally unnecessary. They're not even claiming I fought back."
If you have time, watch the videos and draw your own conclusions.
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
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