On Wednesday, we urged readers to be cautious before jumping to conclusions regarding the young man who was shot to death by a Eureka Police Officer. In trying to be fair and objective, we asked readers to wait for more facts before making judgements about the tragedy. At that time, all we had was a press release which was very short on details. The release basically stated that the police had been looking for warrant suspects in the area, saw two people arguing, one of which “appeared” to have a gun. Officers supposedly gave commands, and the victim reached for the apparent gun and was shot to death by an officer.
Well, we have have received more information about the events that night. Our staff has been in contact with residents who described the hour or so before the fatal shooting. According to those neighbors, EPD was out in full force searching through the neighborhood (presumably for the warrant suspects they wrote about in the press release). These eyewitnesses described EPD Officers going through alleys, stopping any and all pedestrians, and seemingly treating everyone as if they were hiding a fugitive. One of the witnesses reported that Officer’s seemed to be on high alert, with hands on their guns in every encounter. The witness even went as far as to say “it appeared the officers were itching for a fight”.
We’ve also seen the numerous posts by family members of the 22 year old victim, Thomas McClain. This morning, the Lostcoast Outpost went into further detail about what the family witnessed. These posts describe Mr. McClain as being in his front yard using his cell phone. They further assert that the police shot him even though he didn’t have a gun.
Chief Mills, as the protege of Murl Harpham, has taken a page out of the Old Guard EPD playbook and refused to provide many details about the killing. This is troubling, to say the least. If there was in fact a gun in the victims hand, or he was reaching for one within grasp, then why not release a statement that a gun was found on scene near the victim? What Mills said was that there was a “gun found on scene”. He also said, “there was a gun recovered. I don’t want to get into where exactly the gun was until I can prove that forensically to my satisfaction… . I want to make sure I’m a 100 percent accurate.” That’s a lotta’ wiggle room Andy. Do you mean, in the house? Or, in a car nearby?
How about a persons right to have a firearm. With all of the police activity, isn’t it reasonable for a person having a lawfully owned weapon within reach in case the bad guy that every cop is looking for ends up on their property (if that was even the case, which we have doubts about)? The police went to the victim, not the other way around. And why is being loud at a family gathering a reason for police to intervene? No one called the police or complained about the behavior.
This tragedy smacks of the types of nastiness and failed leadership that brought on community outrage with EPD in the past. The few facts that we have now speak of something that went very, very wrong.
A 22 year old man was shot to death in the front yard of his own house. His family was around when he was killed. There wasn’t a call or complaint to the police to go to that house. They were in the area looking for completely different people.
On top of that, we have received information that several of the victims family members were “tazed” by EPD officers. Obviously, witnessed a family member shot to death in his front yard you might be distressed, to say the least. The reaction by the Eureka Police was to use a high level of force against the upset family members (electronic weapons).
This is looking more and more like the days of Cheri Moore and Christopher Burgess. Both murdered by officers in the Eureka Police department under very questionable circumstances. Is this the type of “New Leadership” that Mills has brought? Absolutely. The officer on the street is a reflection of the leadership at the top. If their marching orders are to “kick ass and take names” then you will get heavy handed officers. If the marching orders are “use your brain and think tactically” then you will have officers who can slow things down and hopefully prevent unnecessary killings.
The fact that Mills hasn’t disputed the claims about whether the victim was holding a cell phone or a gun is very telling about his leadership, which harkens back to the bad old days of EPD. The fact that a young man was gunned down by police while standing in his own front yard, and that there was no call for the police to be there is nothing less than completely heartbreaking.