Harris County Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth was pumping gas into his cruiser when someone from behind shot and killed him. Sheriff Ron Hickman called it an unprovoked execution.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman told reporters Goforth “was literally gunned down” in what seemed to be “an unprovoked execution style killing of a police officer.”
This is a fair description of a terrible murder. They quickly found a suspect.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Department announced that “routine research” led investigators to Miles. His arrest came after an intense manhunt overnight.
But CNN explained that they got a tip from the suspect’s mother, who added that the suspect, Shannon Miles, was home with her when the shooting occurred. After some digging, it was ascertained that Miles had some priors and spent time in the Harris County jail, providing both the taint and an attenuated motive to try to make sense of his choice as suspect.
The Harris County Sheriff faces a problem. They had a body in custody, but they didn’t have the slightest clue why Miles would have murdered Deputy Goforth. The two had never had contact, and a black guy with a prior in Houston isn’t exactly unheard of. People don’t just kill deputies.
It’s understandable that Hickman, as sheriff, would be outraged at the killing of one of his deputies. It’s understandable that he would lash out, that he would seek some way to make sense of this unknowable nightmare. And he did.
“Our assumption is he was a target because he wore a uniform,” Hickman told reporters.
When you know nothing, make up whatever works best and announce it to the press. The problem is that most deputies, most cops wear uniforms, yet don’t end up being shot and killed “execution style.” It’s a facile assumption, with a likelihood of painting an image in the minds of people who won’t delve any deeper. But it has no more validity than the deputy being a target because of his hair color.
But this begins the myth of the case, and Sheriff Hickman starts to roll:
“We heard ‘black lives matter.’ All lives matter,” Sheriff Ron Hickman said at the conference. “Well, cops’ lives matter too, so why don’t we drop the qualifier and say ‘lives matter’ and take that to the bank.”
Yes, cops’ lives matter too, but his understandable complaint reflects its own tone deafness. If all lives matter, if cop’s lives matter, then so too do the people cops shoot. These words never came out of Hickman’s mouth until it was one of his men. Only when it touches his department does he have an epiphany.
Except, it’s not an epiphany at all. It’s an excuse.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson also told reporters early Saturday the shooter would be brought to justice.
“It’s horrifying,’ Anderson added. “It’s an act of cowardice and brutality the likes of which I’ve never seen before.”
It was an act of cowardice and brutality, but it was hardly one which the rest of us have never seen before. We’ve come to see it often. All lives matter, the sheriff proclaims, but the killing of a deputy is “an act of cowardice and brutality the likes of which [Anderson’s] never seen before.”
Did he not watch as unarmed black men were gunned down by cops in cold blood? Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he didn’t care enough when others were executed to bother watching. Maybe his statement was literally correct, but a reflection of how little he cares about others.
All lives matter? Not if you can’t be bothered to watch.
Anderson echoed Hickman’s sentiments, saying “it is time for the silent majority in this country to stand up and support law enforcement.”
The words “silent majority” harken back to the days of the Vietnam war, to Richard Nixon’s plea for real Americans to be heard over the protesting voices of youth. It didn’t turn out well for Nixon.
But Anderson’s attempt to invoke the failed memory of blind faith is different than before. There is no silent majority that will blindly “stand up and support law enforcement,” as we have watched in horror as cops kill, needlessly and with impunity.
“There are a few bad apples in every profession,” she added. “That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement.”
No, there are not a “few bad apples in every profession” that has killed more than 800 Americans so far this year, a quarter of which were unarmed. That trope won’t fly anymore. And no, there would not be “open warfare” on law enforcement.
It’s terrible that a human being, Deputy Darren Goforth, was murdered. Yet, using his death to trivialize the murders of others, black and white, at the hands of police shows how little you get, how little you care, about any life that isn’t one of yours.
All lives matter? You’re liars, and transparent liars at that. The only lives you give a damn about are yours, and the “silent majority” sees it and knows it. They won’t be fooled again.
But the irony of using Goforth’s death to pitch this failed lie is that you have no clue whether this has anything to do with why he was killed. You don’t care. You’re going to abuse this poor deputy’s murder to push your cause. And that’s clear too.
I am not surprised by Hickman’s statements. He’s a good old boy of the first degree (and not in a good way), who reduced diversity in the Harris County Sheriff’s Office command structure by almost 100% after he was appointed to replace Adrian Garcia who had to resign when he announced his run for Mayor of Houston.
I avoided raising issue about Hickman and Anderson personally to focus instead on their manipulation of Goforth’s murder to trivialize cops murdering citizens. Whenever a cop is killed, the spin machine goes into overtime. It’s not just Harris County, and it’s not going to change what the majority, the minority, and everyone in between, has come to realize is happening.
That they still don’t grasp that the days of the lie are over is the takeaway.
I tried taking #LivesMatter to the bank but they told me they don’t recognize hashtag activism as a form of currency, no matter who’s endorsing it. Please advise.
Good post. but i wonder if you’re right about the silent majority. in my neck of the woods most people still seem to want to be on the side of the police, if they can. even more so if you throw in race.
Aside from the dubious relevancy of “your neck of the woods,” you’re conflating two separate issues. Yes, people still want to believe that the police are the good guys. Not only do they want to, but they need to, as there is no way people can sleep at night thinking that an armed gang of killers is roaming loose, and they’re paying for their weapons.
But at the same time, these same people see the needless murders of people, black and white, by cops. Other than the die hard morons, people of all ages and political stripes take no comfort in needless killing, and with video and serious reporting, they’re seeing what they’ve long denied. There is no longer any place to hide from it except by sticking one’s head up one’s ass.
In other words, they may not like it, but they can no longer deny and ignore it.
“But CNN explained that they got a tip from the suspects mother, who added that the suspect, Shannon Miles, was home with her when the shooting occurred.” That statement is the one I can’t find.. still looking but, even if it’s true i don’t think most people would believe it.. cuz ‘priors’..
“People don’t just kill deputies.” .. not like that anyways. Usually, there’s a stop, struggle, etc.. not this time. & it doesn’t make sense..
Did he take the deputy’s gun, or money, or car, or anything ?
Is there Video of the entire time the Deputy was there ?
Was there any interaction between the 2 guys before the shooting?
this is just weird..
It’s really been a bad 2 months for shootings everywhere.. but this, and what’s being said & spun about it.. it’s scary..
Thank you Scott. I live in the Houston area and this murder has brought out all the public sympathy that is taboo to show when the victim is killed by a cop.
I believe the official Texas ratio is one cop equals 20 black men. Except in Waco.
The press are often lazy about covering it unless there is some un-ignorable footage or an easy racial angle but they kill a lot of white people too.
The writers I know at the Chron are pretty good, but it’s easy to max out in Houston. Too much carnage.
‘“Our assumption is he was a target because he wore a uniform,”’
Thats some great sleuthing there! Start with an assumption and work your way towards it. I wonder what the assuption would be if it was a black man killed execution style, but my money would be “gang related shooting” or “a drug deal gone bad”.
Assumptions are more revealing about the person making them then the person they’re assuming about.
When I saw the lives matter quote superimposed on a picture of the sheriff being shared on facebook, I didn’t know anything about the case. I did think it was kind of stupid and self serving for a cop to lecture about how important cops’ lives are. I also wondered how exactly lives matter was better than all lives matter in this context. But it certainly didn’t bother me. If I’d known that he had just lost a deputy, I’m sure I’d have felt some sympathy for him. If I’d known he was saying this as an emotional ploy to distract from a possible rush to judgment, I might have been outraged. The silent majority doesn’t have to be fooled if it can be kept in the dark.
Thank you for writing this post. It expresses exactly how me and many of my friends feel with regards to the statements made by the “authorities” on this crime. When Law Enforcement in many communities behaves like it is an occupying army, kills people on an almost indiscriminate basis, and then is captured on camera doing as such, and gets away with it, it is extremely spurious when they claim to the victims. The power dynamic is also always skewed in Law Enforcement’s favor. If the situation had been reversed (a deputy walks up behind an unarmed black man and shoots him in the head) I would be surprised if it even made local news. As terrible as this is, it is not in the least bit surprising.
It does seem odd that a Harris County Deputy would be targeted for shooting just because he’s wearing the uniform. Now if he had been targeted for a roadside body cavity search….(no link, but it’s easy enough to Google the terms. And maybe guess as to why the cops in Harris County Texas are targeted by this ‘anti-cop rhetoric’ the sheriff can’t seem to fathom.)
Seriously? What does this add for lawyers on a law blog? This is worthless crap.