But For Video: The Biker’s Dilemma

There is something about riding a motorcycle that makes a person feel a level of freedom they can find nowhere else.  The wind in their face.  The agility of moving about at will.  The sense of being beyond the constraints of mundane limits.  Of course, very few bikers are outlaws, many wearing the same tie to work that chokes the rest of us.  But while on that motorcycle, they’re free.

There’s something about a guy on a bike that makes some cops feel puny and scared.  That’s how Ottawa Hills Police Officer Thomas White must have felt as he stopped Michael McCloskey on his Harley.  Ottawa Hills, Ohio, is a speed trap, a place that pretends to be special despite the fact that it will always be in Ohio.  And the local cops cruise the streets to find someone foolish enough to tempt fate.  McCloskey was feeling free enough to do just that.

Via Steve Magas at BikeLawyer :

On May 23, 2009, Harley rider Michael McCloskey was gunned down – shot in the back – by an Ottawa Hills police officer, Thomas White.  His crime?  SPEEDING – doing more than the 25 mph posted speed!

This story begins when Michael McCloskey and a buddy decided to ride their bikes.  Around 2:15 am they found themselves in Ottawa Hills.  Mr. McCloskey rides a rather loud Harley.

On the video, you can see that Officer White followed the bike for several minutes before he activated his lights and siren.  An agent investigating the shooting testified that it took about “5 seconds” or “600 feet” for Mr. McCloskey to stop the bike after Officer White activated the lights and siren.  Mr. McCloskey testified that the loud bike prevented him from hearing the siren and when he slowed at a stop sign he realized the police car was behind him.

White’s cruiser was equipped with a dashcam, better to prosecute with.  But what it shows this time is the banality of a man shot by a cop.

The action starts at about 3 minutes, with the stop at 3:35.  No big hubbub.  Nothing particularly noteworthy, beyond the few seconds that elapsed between the time the cruiser stopped and the moment McCloskey’s body jerked from the impact of a bullet.  After he goes to the ground, with the motorcycle still between his legs, you see smoke coming from the bike, likely from the burning of his leg by the exhaust.

Ottawa Hills is all about speeding tickets. It’s not about shooting people, something that’s not supposed to happen in the speed trap racket. So White was in trouble.

Officer White was charged with felonious assault with a gun specification.   His criminal case came up for trial in May, 2010, almost a year after he shot Mr. McCloskey.   Officer White is described as a “part time dispatcher and part time officer” for Ottawa Hills.  A special agent investigating the shooting was asked, after reviewing all the evidence, why Officer White shot Mr. McCloskey. He said, “It is unknown.”

But White testified on his own behalf.

…Labeling the situation as a “high risk vehicle stop,” Officer White testified that it would be “unusual” for someone to turn around when he shouted a command to them and so he believed Mr. McCloskey was reaching for a weapon.

…It appeared as if he was reaching for a weapon,” he said. “I feared for my life so I fired one shot…

The jury didn’t buy it either. White was convicted.  At sentence, White maintained that he should not be punished for a “split second decision.”  He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

But for the fact that there was a dashcam on former Police Officer White’s cruiser, Michael McCloskey would have been nursing his bullet wound and burned leg in prison, and Ottawa Hills would still be a place that bikers should avoid.

7 thoughts on “But For Video: The Biker’s Dilemma

  1. Dan

    Split second decisions are hard? Police sign up to make those decisions. Work in a deli if they’re too hard.

  2. Dan

    Admittedly, I do not know what its like to operate a commercial meat slicer, not knowing whether I’ll go home with all my fingers or not. So God bless the meat slicers, without whom might wife/daughter/sister/mother would not be able to safely eat lunch.

  3. SHG

    That’s right. I lost the tips off of two fingers when I was a teenager, all so that diners could enjoy pastrami with “special sauce.”

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