But For Video: Getting Kicks At Burning Man (Update)

Perhaps the most basic reason for police not to engage in a car chase is the potential for harm to innocent bystanders. And for a 28-year-old guy, that harm came to pass when he swerved to avoid a collision.

City officials said Wednesday morning they have “serious concerns” about how police handled the pursuit that began sometime around 11 p.m. in the Greenville section of the city and ended about six miles away with an innocent man fighting for his life.

Leo Pinkston, 48, has been charged with aggravated assault and eluding in the crash. Police fired multiple shots at Pinkston about a mile down the road before the crash.

What made cops chase Pinkston isn’t clear, although they wanted him badly enough to shoot at his moving car. You know, like the movies, except this wasn’t in the movies.

According to the Jersey City Police Department’s guidelines, officers should not fire from or at moving vehicles unless “there exists an imminent danger or death or serious bodily harm to the officer or another person” and when “no other means are available at that time to avert or eliminate the danger.”

Additionally, the use of deadly force is justified when an officer feels there is “imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.” Shooting at a fleeing suspect is only acceptable when the individual “caused or attempted to cause death or serious bodily injury,” poses an “imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury should the escape succeed,” and when there is “no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons.”

Of course, the justification tends to move in a beautiful circle, as a guy flees police pursuit, thus presenting a danger to others, thus giving rise to an imminent danger to others which justifies shooting to prevent that danger. Of course, there was the “other means” available, which was not pursuing the guy.

Not only did Pinkston present a risk of harm to “innocent persons,” but that harm came to pass, when the innocent West New York man swerved, resulting in a fiery crash. And this was caught on video.

Yes, the innocent man was on fire. Yes, the cops approached with guns drawn, just in case the innocent man came too close to an officer and singed his medals. Yes, rather than assist the innocent burning victim, they kicked him in the head.

The video, obtained by Univision and shared with The Jersey Journal, shows the 28-year-old man emerge from a burning car with parts of his body covered in flames. He is seen rolling on the ground to put out the flames. At the same time, more than half a dozen officers, many with their guns drawn, surround the man.

At least one cop in the video is seen forcefully kicking him in the head and neck area. Other officers are seen stomping on parts of his body.

Apparently, the police were unclear that the burning man wasn’t Pinkston, who they decided deserved to burn, plus get kicked in the head, but the innocent bystander. In their ignorance, they just couldn’t let a good stomping opportunity be wasted.

“Our investigators have reviewed the video and we believe with certainty that this man is the bystander from West New York who suffered burns, not Leo Pinkston, the individual pursued by police,” Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said in a statement.

Much as the fact that this was an entirely innocent bystander makes the video more outrageous, would it have been otherwise acceptable if this had been Pinkston aflame? Well, First Rule of Policing notwithstanding, of course.

Yet, even with the certainty that this was an innocent person, reaching the conclusion that stomping on a burning man isn’t heroic police work remains elusive.

“We have serious concerns about the conduct of this pursuit, however, we are reserving judgment until the conclusion of the prosecutor’s investigation,” said Morrill, who declined to comment specifically on the video.

Not just “concerns,” but “serious” ones. And yet, they are reserving judgment, as the innocent man remains in the hospital fighting for his life. Rushing to the defense of these officers who could well have been traumatized by killing the innocent man, the union president has called for calm.

No cops have been suspended in connection with the chase, Carmine Disbrow, president of the Jersey City Police Officer’s Benevolent Association, said. He criticized Public Safety Director Jim Shea’s decision to confiscate new police SUVs from the district’s involved in the pursuit.

“As it should be, this entire incident is being fully investigated,” said Carmine Disbrow, president of the JCPOBA. “Taking swift action isn’t always elegant, but this video clearly shows that the officers acted quickly to extinguish the flames, and pull this man out of harm’s way.”

The only question remaining is whether the officers deserve a medal for their bravery in not hurting their feet while stomping on the burning man. On the bright side, there were no shots fired at the 28-year-old such that other innocent bystanders might have been killed as they protected and served.

Update: Jersey City officials now say they want to fire the cops involved.

H/T Chris Halkides

11 comments on “But For Video: Getting Kicks At Burning Man (Update)

  1. Black Bellamy

    Every single cop on the scene will tell the investigators that they reasonably believed the man on fire was Pinkston. They will describe hearing this over their radios and from other officers on the scene, but they will be unable to identify which particular person said this. They will all say they believed Pinkston to be armed and that he presented a grave threat to every single being on the planet. They will say that they were blinded by the bright flames, but through the haze and smoke they reasonably believed that Pinkston was rolling on the ground in order to present a smaller target as he was trying to get into a prone sniper position from which he could deploy his .50 caliber rifle and grenades. They will testify that they saw Pinkston set himself on fire in order to create a smoke screen for his upcoming machine gun RPG bunker-buster depleted uranium robot death machine assault spree. Imagine the bravery and utter sacrifice of the heroic head-and-neck kicking officer who braved this inferno of danger, who selflessly put himself in peril so that others might live.

    Only thorough training and a shocking amount of personal bravery prevented a certain massacre, the chorus will sing.

    1. Frank

      And this is why the Back the Blue Act of 2017 is a bad idea. With just a bunch of suppositions the cops can generate enough “evidence” to make a lawsuit effectively impossible.

      1. SHG Post author

        And stomping out the fire appears to be the case. Anything to save his face from burning. Are they great guys or what?

        1. B. McLeod

          You know, there are probably times when any first-responder will do, but sometimes, you really do need a trained firefighter.

  2. Ahaz

    I’m tired of seeing video like this. Why is the first reaction to this incident to unholster their weapons? And why is the second reaction to exert physical violence? I think we’ve all seen too many video where cops roll in without all the facts, without taking the time to understand events and immediately proceed to exert force and in some cases deadly force. Tamil Rice, John Crawford and many other citizens would be alive today if cops simply slowed down. Instead, these cops will be excused for “following procedure” or they acted as they did out of fear of the unknown.

    1. SHG Post author

      They claim ignorance, which always allows cops great latitude to do harm. It’s the cops’ best friend.

      1. JAF005

        SHG, this is a hard one not to personalize. How the hell can your first reaction to a guy, who is more or less engulfed in flames, be to kick him in the head.

        1. SHG Post author

          Damn fine question. The best answer I can imagine is that if there’s any chance whatsoever that, through some inexplicable chaos theory of connection, harm of any sort might ultimately come to a cop, that’s what you do. I can’t explain it because I can’t think that way.

        2. LocoYokel

          They were trying to help him put out the flames but he wouldn’t stop resisting their help so they had to subdue him first. If there’s audio in the video (I haven’t seen it), listen and I’m sure you’ll hear them shouting “STOP RESISTING” repeatedly. This man is very lucky he finally stopped before his resisting reached the level of needing deadly force to terminate.

          1. B. McLeod

            Indeed, some mentally ill guy in Oklahoma was killed today while resisting the help. But at least he didn’t suffer burns (except, maybe, powder burns).

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