…..would it be okay with you if the police, the same police who took an oath to “serve and protect”, beat this relative of yours so bad that it caused internal injuries that resulted in your relative dying 11 hours later?
Let’s widen the circle to include your neighbors, classmates, college friends, people who go to your church, and maybe friends in your Yoga class.
What I am trying to do here is to find out how many degrees of separation have to occur before you simply do not care about someone who is beaten so bad by the police and dies of the injuries 11 hours later.
I know we all have to pick our battles – we lack the capacity as humans to fight every battle, donate to every charity, rescue every animal, adopt every orphaned child, or sign up for every protest campaign on the internet.
So, realizing that we cannot do it ALL, what makes us stick our neck out and join that ONE group that is protesting against police brutality? What makes us step up and fight to demand that police re-open an investigation or we log on to a site like http://www.change.org and sign up to join an electronic protest to have someone perform a review of a case dealing with police brutality?
What I believe is required is that we either know the person personally or we know that person’s family – maybe they are related to us or they are our neighbors or they attend our church or it is because someone who is very close to the victim is also a good friend of ours.
As most people know who read my blog on a regular basis, I am interested in seeking the truth. Do I get it wrong sometimes? Yes I do but when I am wrong, I am the first to admit it.
Ideally, while we are on this earth we are doing everything possible to improve things around us and when it is our time to leave, hopefully we turn around say, “I think I did my best to leave this world a better place.”
So, what has all this been leading up to?
We see all kinds of crime in the news – black on black crime, white on white crime, black on white crime, and Cop on “either” crime.
That last one must have raised an eyebrow. If not, it should have.
There is an old saying that comes in various forms – one version is, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?” I guess this version is the longer version, but let’s go with this one and tie it to this blog.
When one black person kills another, it seldom makes local or national news – partly because racial bias is still rampant in our country. It could also be because our plate is full with financial issues, health issues, and other major things going on in our lives. Some individuals might say, another black death – not in my back yard – who cares.
To be sure, I do not agree with that statement – I just wrote it to say how some people care or do not care and what might lead them to their own opinion.
When one black person kills a white person, some whites hint at wanting the black person hung from the nearest tree – no matter what led the killing. Again, this is not my opinion at all.
When one white person kills a black person, blacks, en masse, take to the streets demanding, “Justice!”
When one white kills another, there is usually an arrest, then an investigation, and possibly a trial, and if it is determined that the person who committed the crime was guilty, then some kind of jail time is doled out to the guilty party.
Now for the last category, Cop on “either” crime. What?
Yes, I meant exactly what I wrote – “cop on ‘either’ crime.” This last category is when a cop, in the performance of his/her official duties to serve and protect goes beyond what he/she has been trained to do – and assaults the individual using excessive force – instead of using the appropriate amount of force to subdue someone while making an arrest.
There is a fine line between using too little force and being killed yourself and using too much force and someone dying at your hand. Keep in mind that all suspects are just that – suspects. Let the court decide what becomes of them after an arrest is made.
To be sure, I am not talking about a justifiable shooting tempered with appropriate force being rendered against a suspect when the suspect is countering with deadly force.
Over the past year we have heard of extraordinary shootings by police – one where a suspect was shot approximately 80 times. What was going on to warrant that many bullets being shot into one suspect? Was the target range down for repairs and they needed practice in honing their shooting skills?
I hope that anyone reading this does not think I am making light of that recent shooting.
Another recent case was where an apparent police suspect was shot to death because a victim called in and said that the suspect had a gun. The police went on a hunt until they found the “alleged” suspect and when he supposedly put his hand near his belt or waistband they opened fire – shooting him repeatedly until he died on the spot.
Both of those suspects were black – and unfortunately, when police use excessive force, it frequently involves black suspects.
So, enter Ryan O’Loughlin, a U. S. Navy veteran who served in the first Gulf War. By the way, O’Loughlin was white.
On the night of Jun 8th, 2011, Ryan was enjoying himself as a patron at Perks and Corks café in Westerly, Rhode Island, an establishment described as a “coffee, wine, and martini bar.”
Ryan was enjoying a late-night coffee when another patron, Daniel Smith, who appeared to be drunk, went into the rest room and allegedly punched a hole in the wall with his fist.
While Smith was exiting the establishment, the owner of “Perks” insisted that Smith pay for the damage. Smith left and the owner called the police – but Ryan, acting as the nice guy, left the establishment to catch up with Smith to try to convince him to return and pay for the damages.
Enter the police to the scene. By the time the police arrived, Ryan had already convinced Smith to pay for the damages.
When police approached Ryan and Smith, the owner of “Perks”, Bryan Keilty, approached the police and said that they were not needed any longer because the problem was worked out.
The police told Keilty, “You called us to handle a problem? Let us handle it. Next time don’t call us if you want to take care of things yourself. Go back inside and let us take care of this.”
That comment by the police officer should have been a clue that something bad was going to happen.
It was one of those truly dumb statements like when you tell a relative, “You went on a European vacation and all you brought me back was this dumb t-shirt?”
Both could have the same tone, but the police comment clearly was a statement telling everyone that the police are in charge and they will determine what is going to happen – who, if anyone will get arrested, and who, if they resist, will suffer the consequences.
Shortly after that statement, the police handcuffed Smith and while Westerly, R.I. Officers Terence Malaghan and Sgt. David Turano were questioning O’Loughlin, it is rumored that he used abusive language to them – at which time they told O’Loughlin to turn around so they could handcuff him. It is believed that O’Loughlin refused to turn around and instead he put his arms straight out in a way to permit the police to handcuff him – which must have really ticked them off. Ryan was then pepper sprayed by Officer Greg Barna who then led O’Loughlin down an alley out of view of others where he was allegedly beaten in the face, legs, and back with Barna’s night stick.
Officer Barna said that O’Loughlin was visibly affected by the pepper spray but continued to not comply with the Officer’s orders.
This is where, in my opinion, “dumb” comes in. Ryan was drinking coffee, so his thinking was not impaired as it could have been if he had been drinking wine or having martinis.
I surely was not there but I believe Ryan O’Loughlin was aggravated because he thought he took care of the issue and wanted the police to back off and let Smith workout something with the owner of “Perks” to pay for the hole in the wall. The police were not buying Ryan’s argument.
Everyone knows that there are some police officers who are hoping and praying that a suspect either resists arrest or uses offensive or threatening language. To be frank, it is at those times some of these officers are looking for any reason to beat the hell out of someone because they know they will have the full backing of their superiors and their union representative. This is especially true if all officers involved get their story straight and back each other up – which includes lying to superiors and on police reports.
If Ryan had any clue this group of officers were just itching to inflict bodily harm on someone, Ryan would be alive today because he would have sensed something bad brewing.
Keep in mind that Smith was the guilty party that night and the police were there to apprehend him for vandalism. Also keep in mind that Smith, even though he was possibly drunk, had enough common sense to not resist the officers and not become argumentative.
Maybe Smith was the street wise person and O’Loughlin was just not connecting the dots and that is a damn shame.
When Ryan O’Loughlin made the choice to stand up for Smith and not the police, it should have been obvious to him that he could be the next one in cuffs and maybe more.
I know this is hindsight, but if only O’Loughlin gave thought to simply surrendering and having Keilty, the bar owner, talk to the police chief or even a judge on his behalf. I am sure that if Keilty explained to the judge that O’Loughlin went outside to convince Smith to pay for the damages, O’Loughlin might have been released with either a small fine or better yet, a good ass chewing and a slap on the wrist.
There was a woman at the scene who saw the initial action of the police but did not see what happened in the alley.
She must have been aware of the violence that occurred because she later said that her dad was a longtime NYC police officer and she knew, at times, that force was necessary to subdue suspects. She might have heard what was going on in the alley or she might have seen Ryan as he was being put in the squad car.
She also said that she was sick of hearing about people being mistreated by police and that people in her town were fearful of speaking out.
Ryan was arraigned on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He was released on bond and after returning home he was taken to a hospital where he died a few hours later.
Please keep in mind that Officer Barna stated that he only hit O’Loughlin on the back of his legs with his night stick, yet O’Loughlin was badly bruised in his face, his back, and on his legs.
It was discovered that O’Loughlin suffered extensive abdominal bruising and a lacerated liver – and if memory serves me, your liver and your abdomen are not located in your legs.
It appears that the Police Chief might be complicit in what appears to be a cover-up because his first words regarding the incident were that he has no evidence of any wrongdoing by his officers and he wonders if O’Loughlin suffered from any preexisting conditions.
My opinion is that O’Loughlin did suffer from one major preexisting condition – he was naïve and he believed that law enforcement officers were there to serve and protect – and not to accost and abuse.
The Connecticut Medical Examiner’s office ruled O’Loughlin’s death a homicide resulting from blunt force trauma to the abdomen.
Unbelievably, a grand jury found that the actions of the police officers were justified.
What stands out to me is the obvious disparity between the police officers report and the Connecticut Medical Examiner’s cause of death.
Officer Barna said he only hit O’Loughlin on the back of his legs but the Medical Examiner said that O’Loughlin died as a result of blunt force trauma to the abdomen.
So, what needs to happen? There are several possibilities and I would like to list a few.
- Anyone who is upset as I am about this obvious police abuse needs to go to http://www.change.org/petitions/justice-for-ryan-o-loughlin and read and sign the petition that has been started to ask the assistance of Dept of Justice, AG Eric Holder & Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into Ryan O’Loughlin’s death and to open a federal investigation.
- Citizens of Westerly, Rhode Island might want to consider attending a city council meeting to encourage city council members to give a “No confidence vote” to the Westerly, Rhode Island Police Department.
- Ryan O’Loughlin’s family might consider filing a civil suit against the three officers and the police chief.
- Ryan O’Loughlin’s family and friends might consider a 5k walk for justice for Ryan where people can be unified in their resolve and carry signs supporting Ryan while others carry signs protesting police brutality.
- Ryan O’Loughlin’s family might consider setting up a Facebook page where everyone can protest what these three officers did to Ryan.
On a side note, Edward Mello, the police chief of Westerly, RI, at the time, has since retired and has taken a job as police chief of Jamestown. Chief Mello was making $97,000 and will be making $80,000 in Jamestown, BUT, he will be eligible for a pension from Westerly of around $62,000. Wow, I wish I could do that!
On another note, none of the police officers involved in Ryan’s brutality were ever suspended with or without pay during the investigation.
Does that give you any clue in how this police department protects its’ own?
What is a shame is that Smith, the person who started all of this when he slammed his fist into the bathroom wall, will have all charges dropped if he keeps his nose clean for a year.
Also, he was required to pay “Perks” $250.00 for damages and he was required to donate $100 to the Violent Crime Indemnity Fund.
To add insult to injury, the owner “Perks” said that Smith is welcomed in his bar because, after all, anyone can have one bad night. Tell that to Ryan’s widow.
Something has to be done. I did not know anything about Ryan until two days ago and I feel I am doing my small part.
I am sure I can figure out six degrees of separation between me and Ryan if I was so inclined but that does not matter to me at all.
I am a retired military person and I feel for Ryan and his family – he survived the first Gulf War and came home only to ultimately be brutalized by his own police department.
Ryan truly made a bad decision getting into a disagreement with the police at the scene – but surely, he did not deserve to die that night.
Ryan made one big mistake leaving “Perks” to get Smith to return and pay for the damage. Ryan left to help out Keilty, but when Ryan was being assaulted by the police, Keilty simply went back inside instead of doing what he could to diffuse the situation.
Heads ultimately need to roll and guilty parties should be incarcerated.
My personal belief is that the Police Chief needs to lose his pension from the Westerly Police Department and he should be sued by Ryan’s widow in civil court. The three officers should lose the opportunity to EVER serve in law enforcement and they also should be sued by Ryan’s widow in civil court.
If it is ever determined that there was a conspiracy involving the police chief and the officers and possibly the police union, all parties involved in the conspiracy should do hard time so they can find out firsthand what brutality really feels like – in prison.
Do you care enough about what happened to Ryan, who died at the hand of law enforcement?
If something is not done about this case, the next person who might be victimized by those who are paid to serve and protect MIGHT BE YOU.
Here are a few links to a few newspaper articles that talk about Ryan and his family and that tragic night.