How much harassment must a cop cleared in a fatal shooting of a suspect be subject to before such harassment pushes the boundaries of the law? And what about his neighbors, who had nothing to do with the shooting?
That’s the question officials in Colorado Springs must answer concerning Officer Alan Van’t Land, who was cleared of any wrongdoing in last fall’s shooting of 19-year-old De’Von Bailey. And so far, those city officials are doing a damned bad job of it.
On the recent anniversary of Bailey’s death, a large crowd of “protesters” crowded the neighborhood where Van’t Land and his family live. The aggressive crowd, some of them with their faces covered and armed with semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, filled the streets, making it impossible for residents to drive to or from their homes.
A video shot at the scene shows a truck driven by one neighborhood resident being stopped in the street by a crowd shouting obscenities and quickly approached by many yelling people, including two with guns pointing toward the vehicle. Yet instead of police arresting those armed criminals on felony menacing, assault or other potential charges, they simply used a bullhorn to ask them to move aside.
When the noisy crowd got to the driveway where the man had parked, he was standing guard in the driveway with his own AR-15 at the ready, pointed in a safe direction. The armed resistance prompted the crowd to quickly move away while yelling, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” Of course, that’s the false narrative that grew out of a lie picked up and widely reported by media in the Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting of Michael Brown, who charged officer Darren Wilson.
The police response continued to be underwhelming, instructing residents to shelter in place rather than clearing the neighborhood and protecting them. “An official message has been sent to residences in the area of the 6000 block of Pulpit Rock Drive to shelter in place due to the civil disturbance/protest,” a tweet from the police department said. “This message is to keep community members informed and safe.”
Keeping Officer Van’t Land safe might be a difficult job, as some involved with the protest-turned-felony plan to hound the officer mercilessly, and are proud to say so. Event organizer Shaun Walls, a member of the Empowerment Solidarity Network, said that the group was not surprised that Van’t Land wasn’t fired as a result of the shooting.
“So now we’re going to be at his church. We’re going to be in front of his neighbor’s house,” Walls told Colorado Public Radio. “We’re going to become a nuisance for him.”
The Colorado Police Department should understand that such “protests” go beyond the realm of legality when they involve stopping citizens in the street with guns pointed in their direction and aggressively harassing citizens to the end of the earth, cop or not. Hopefully they’ll do the right thing soon and give this officer the protection he—and any citizen in that same situation—deserves.