The Color of Heroes and Villains (Update)

Few things resonate more than the Castle Doctrine, the right of a homeowner to defend his home and family from attack.  When it turns out that the invaders wear shields, the homeowner’s defense turns from an inalienable right to controversial.  So controversial that homeowner Marvin Louis Guy faces the death penalty for the killing of Det. Chuck Dinwiddie.  Had Dinwiddie not been a cop, Guy might have gotten a medal instead.

So when Dallas Horton’s shooting of Sheriff Louis Ross four times for kicking in his door  resulted in prosecutors declining to charge him, one would have expected some cheers for the rights of the homeowner against the police invaders.

The homeowner who nearly killed an Oklahoma police chief during a raid won’t face charges since cops busted the wrong house.

Chief Louis Ross borrowed a bullet-proof vest from a Washita County Sheriff’s Office deputy only minutes before kicking down the front door of a suspected bomb threat hoaxer.

Horton and his wife were briefly detained and released when Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation realized he had no idea the police were raiding his house, a statement released by OSBI read.

That was how the raid was described in the New York Daily News.  The headline at Think Progress, however was not so kind:

White ‘Survivalist’ Shoots Police Chief Four Times, Is Released Without Being Arrested Or Charged

But the Raw Story headline was even worse:

White ‘survivalist’ gunman shoots black Oklahoma police chief 4 times — and walks free

And the description of Dallas Horton goes into deeper, and uglier, detail.

Horton’s neighbor David Delk described the gunman to the Oklahoman as a “survivalist” type who mistrusted the government, was openly unfriendly to neighbors and wore a lot of black clothing.

Well, you know how those guys who wear black clothing are, right?

A Facebook profile believed to be Horton’s is rife with racially charged images and jabs at black leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton. “Hurt ME and your [sic] gonna feel pain,” declares one image, “hurt my BEST FRIEND and your gonna need an ambulance, hurt my FAMILY…I’m gonna need a shovel.”

And what kind of sick white survivalist would defend his family?

Another image shows a blood-spattered 18-wheeler cab with human limbs sticking out of it. “JUST DROVE THROUGH FERGUSON,” it reads, “DIDN’T SEE ANY PROBLEMS.”

Sheriff Ross, of course, is black.  BLACK!  Coincidence? Hah!  So does this change the scenario from homeowner who defends his home from intruders who break down his door (there is no indication that a warrant was obtained) at 6 a.m., to a white “survivalist” who shoots a black sheriff?

These are the cases that test us. The way we characterize, and recharacterize, what happened is a reflection of how tenuous rights become when a detail changes.  In this case, it was the attitude of the homeowner and the skin color of the sheriff.  The suggestion is that the decision of the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation that Horton was unaware that his invaders were police was racially motivated.  It suggests Horton was a racist. The decision to cut Horton free was racially motivated, and it was all because Sheriff Ross was black.

Here is the problem.  Even if we assume that Horton is racist and that all the negative attributes one attributes to a “survivalist” are accurate, he is still entitled to defend his home from intrusion, whether they be armed criminals or armed law enforcement, provided he was unaware that he was shooting at a sheriff.

Even people we don’t like have rights.  And among those rights is the right to think, and express, racist views.  At the same time, headlines that focus on Horton’s views with the obvious purpose of calling his conduct into question because of his beliefs without any basis to show that they bore upon his conduct, undermine the right.

If a person is entitled to defend his home, then he can do so whether he’s white or black, whether his intruder is white or black, and whether he has any particular feelings about people who are white or black.  The Castle Doctrine isn’t color-dependent.

When the surplusage is stripped away, however, the situation becomes cloudy again:

The incident began with a 911 call around 4 a.m. on Thursday, said Sentinel Mayor Sam Dlugonski. A caller reported that a bomb had been planted in Sentinel Community Action Center, home of the local Head Start program.

The city contacted the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s bomb squad, which responded to the scene and found no evidence of explosives.

Chief Ross and deputies from the Washita County sheriff’s office traced the call to Horton’s residence on State Route 4. Officers entered the residence by breaking down the door.

Was this a case of Dallas Horton calling in a phony bomb threat?  If this claim is accurate, that two 911 calls came from Horton’s home, then there is a secondary issue, the false report, for which Horton should bear culpability.

And what of the claim, accepted by OBI, that Horton didn’t realize his invaders were police?

Ross cast doubt on the credibility of Horton’s claim that he didn’t know officers were present, noting that there was “screaming from five officers of the law announcing our presence, requesting to see hands.”

This is usually more than sufficient to raise a significant doubt that the homeowner was unaware that these were police raiding his home, enough so that he wouldn’t be readily believed ahead of law enforcement.

In a second statement released yesterday the Oklahoma State Bureau Of Investigation said Horton was “fully cooperating with the on-going investigation” and “no traces of explosives were found.”

While it’s always nice to know that no explosives were found, what of the phony bomb threat?  Somehow, that aspect of the situation was completely ignored by the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation.

And then we have the question of the apparently warrantless raid on Horton’s home, a follow-up based on the claimed trace of the call to his telephone.  Much as some may see it a matter of concern that he was somehow involved in a threat to blow up a Head Start program, was there sufficient exigency to ignore Horton’s right to be secure in his home?  After all, there may well have been cause to believe that he made a phony bomb threat, but there was nothing to suggest that he possessed explosives in his home.

While the reporting was quick to smear Horton for being a white, gun-loving,  zombie-hating survivalist, the question that remains in this bizarre case is why the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigations took the position it did, both in accepting Horton’s claims so easily and ignoring what appears to be potential criminal conduct.

There may well be racism involved here warranting further concern, but by the OBI, not Horton.  It may well be that Horton was engaged in criminal conduct, but the smearing of Horton’s views obscures the more disturbing culprit, the OBI.

Update: Oh, this one is getting uglier by the moment. Via REvers, the plot thickens:

James Edward Holly, 27, was arrested Tuesday afternoon on a complaint of making a bomb threat, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reported in a news release. The Washita County district attorney will determine if Holly will face other charges, OSBI officials stated.

So, apparently white “survivalist” and zombie hater Dallas Horton didn’t make the phony 911 bomb threat at all?

OSBI originally reported that Ross and Washita County sheriff’s deputies had located the caller in his home in the 200 block of S 4. However, OSBI later said that a forensic computer analyst examined phones taken from the home, and the call “was not made from phones in the possession of those who live inside the home nor any other phones inside the residence at 205 S 4th in Sentinel.”

So prior representations that Sheriff Ross’ guys traced the call to Horton were, ahem, overstated?

Sentinel Mayor Sam Dlugonski said someone called 911 and used the name Dallas Horton to make the bomb threat. The man who lives at 205 S 4 is Dallas Horton, Dlugonski said.

Because people who make phony bomb threats usually use their real name in anticipation of warrantless raids by police on their home in the wee hours of the morning?  And yet, this was attributed to Sheriff Ross being black and Horton being white?

22 comments on “The Color of Heroes and Villains (Update)

    1. SHG Post author

      Well, that certainly places a different spin on things.

      OSBI originally reported that Ross and Washita County sheriff’s deputies had located the caller in his home in the 200 block of S 4. However, OSBI later said that a forensic computer analyst examined phones taken from the home, and the call “was not made from phones in the possession of those who live inside the home nor any other phones inside the residence at 205 S 4th in Sentinel.”

      So now we’re back to the warrantless raid on the wrong home, based upon the erroneous claim that Horton made the calls.

      Which raises yet another question: Was Horton targeted by Ross because of his views, and the expectation that this white “survivalist” was the kind of guy who would do such a thing, so they raided his home because of his views?

      1. REvers

        I doubt Horton was targeted, not specifically at least. See the last paragraph in the story:

        “Sentinel Mayor Sam Dlugonski said someone called 911 and used the name Dallas Horton to make the bomb threat. The man who lives at 205 S 4 is Dallas Horton, Dlugonski said.”

        Now, whether or not his views made this claim more believable to the cops, I can’t say. But I can guess.

        1. SHG Post author

          A 911 call comes in for a bomb threat, with the caller claiming to be Dallas Horton. The call turns out to be a phony. So what are the chances that Dallas Horton called in a phony bomb threat and used his own name? I know, let’s raid Horton’s home without a warrant, knowing he’s got guns in there, and see if it really was him!

          Geez, the stench of this case just gets worse and worse.

            1. Not Jim Ardis

              No, I think that it was exactly that. It just went sideways in the opposite direction we usually think they would.

              Someone hates Mr. Horton, spoofs his number (apparently that’s not all that hard), makes the bomb threat and drops his name, and poof – cops delivered to your door on demand.

              It just so happens that in this one, rare case it was the cop that shot, as opposed to what we assume would happen (the cops fire at anything that looks like it might be picturing a weapon, because who’s going to stop them?)

              It certainly explains how the cops “traced the call” (the number showed up on caller ID, and they looked up who owned that number and the address associated to it, and sees the owner’s name matches the name left as part of the threat), yet the phones show none of them actually made the call.

              Someone tried to get Mr. Horton killed, and was willing to use the cops as the murder weapon.

  1. JGG

    I agree that the articles obscure the more important issue, but they seem to be written against the implied counterfactual “but if the homeowner were black (and posting inflammatory stuff about cops on Facebook, etc.) and the sheriff white, we’d be looking at a different story.” That seems right to me, and worthy of outrage, though these news outlets have directed their outrage sloppily.

    1. SHG Post author

      That was indeed my initial point, that the counterfactual produced headlines that were the exact of opposite of what one would otherwise expect.

  2. JohnC

    It seems strange not to mention — either as a point of astonishment or of reflection — if not laud the fact that this fellow shot a police during a raid, and walked out no worse for the wear.

      1. William Doriss

        More than remarkable. Unheard-of, shall we say?
        I mean, this never happens, except by incomprehensible accident.

        This is a v. curious case, one for the record book, irregardless,…

        1. bacchys

          It happens more often than that. Henry McGee and Marvin Guy, just to name two recent ones. Cory Maye was another.

          The cops in this case were probably not particularly well-trained in dynamic entry. I’ve seen some sites state that Chief Ross was the only cop in the department, which probably makes it fairly easy to figure out who is chief. It that’s true, that means he’s also the SWAT team, and probably doesn’t spend a lot of time training at it.

          That probably explains how they could yell on their way in and Horton not understand them. Five or six people yelling isn’t really announcing yourself. It’s just making noise.

        2. JohnC

          “More than remarkable. Unheard-of, shall we say?”

          Uh, no. Not in the least. In fact, statistically speaking, more likely than not (albeit for a variety of motives).

  3. ppnl

    Did they trace the call in the sense of using the phone company to find where the call originated? Or did they trace the call by looking up the address of the person who identified himself?

    And could you trust the police to answer honestly if you asked?

    1. SHG Post author

      When you ask questions about words used in stories on the internet, does the internet often respond to you? Have you seen anyone about that who is competent to diagnose you?

      You might want to try framing whatever point you are trying to make in an affirmative statement rather than unanswerable questions next time so that it offers something of value. And as to just “looking up the name,” it’s possible the caller spoofed Horton’s phone number as well. Without facts, we don’t know. We do know, however, that whatever the method of “tracing” they used, it appears to have been very wrong.

  4. tgt

    Yes, it’s great that a homeowner defending his home was given the benefit of the doubt for shooting an intruder who happened to be a police officer. I think the calls of racism are because this is not normally the case. You’ve written, repeatedly, about how when things go wrong, the police tend to immediately blame the civilian(s) and make excuses for the officer(s). Considering all the evidence we have of unconscious racial bias in policing and prosecuting, it’s fair to question whether this is a case of the police and prosecutors doing the right thing for the right reasons, or whether they are acting out of character for racial reasons.

    1. SHG Post author

      So that raises questions about the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation’s handling of the case. Yet, the party smeared was Horton because of his politically incorrect views.

  5. Andrew

    Constitutional rights. They’re either for everyone or no one. This is still controversial for some reason.

    1. tgt

      I’m pretty sure that’s what’s in question here. Why was the right thing done here, when the wrong thing is standard?

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