Is it not a person’s right to gripe about the unfairness, the impropriety, of a traffic stop on Facebook? Of course it is. This is America, and right or wrong, we get to complain about whatever we want to complain about.
Shortly after he was pulled over by a Kentucky State Police trooper on Sept. 16 near his home in eastern Kentucky last year, David Gabbard said he wrote a Facebook post sharing his anger at what he felt was an illegal stop.
“Just love being pulled over for no reason lmao. #maybenexttime. #policeharasment (sic),” the post read.
In the scheme of complaints about cops, this was about as tepid as it gets. But it was apparently harsh enough to infuriate the cop who nabbed him.
The next day, Gabbard claims in a federal lawsuit, the trooper that pulled him over, Scott Townsley, and two others showed up at his Jackson County home he shared with Diana Muncy, approaching from the front and the perimeter.
Townsley was miffed that someone he stopped would soil his good name on Facebook, and he with his two wingmen, since no trooper goes to the bathroom alone in Kentucky, decided that showing up at Gabbard’s home was a really good idea.
“I did not harass you yesterday,” Townsley can be heard saying on the recording, according to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in London, Ky. “I don’t care if everybody knew what you meant. I knew what you meant … that’s the only thing. I knew what you meant.”
The encounter was videotaped by Gabbard’s housemate(?), Diana Muncy, but the video isn’t available. Nonetheless, the complaint alleges that the situation deteriorated quickly.
The lawsuit claims another trooper then took Muncy’s phone and turned it off and “things escalated quickly,” with Townsley slapping and pushing Gabbard, kicking his dog and trying to incite a fight.
Gabbard, perhaps recognizing that a slap fight with a State Trooper wasn’t likely to end well for him, tried to back away. Townsley wasn’t about to give up that easily.
When Gabbard said he did not want to fight with police, Townsley removed his badge and gun and offered to fight as a regular citizen, according to the suit.
Thoughtful as it might be for Townsley to remove his gun, given that it’s generally considered a bad idea to get into a fist fight with a guy carrying a side arm, he failed to grasp that he was, despite his gun and shield, a “regular citizen.” But this is an understandable mistake given that he belongs to a class of regular citizens subject to idiosyncratic sensitivities occasionally resulting in dead bodies of other regular citizens with impunity.
But what do you do when the guy outside your home, incensed about a Facebook post, wants to beat you up?
Muncy called 911 but the dispatcher would not send help because “the police were already present,” according to the suit. A transcript of the 911 call is included in the lawsuit.
This is where the otherwise absurd story of an infantile guy with a gun presents a dilemma. Muncy employed the mechanism that the law would require to address an armed person threatening violence by calling the police. And the response was that they won’t help, because the miscreant is one of their own. What would the next step be? Should Gabbard be compelled to allow himself to be beaten, or worse if it turned out that he could deliver a better punch than Townsley, to be a good, law-abiding “regular” citizen?
Fortunately, Gabbard was not tested.
At that point, according to the suit, a trooper noticed video cameras at the front of the home and showed Townsley. The troopers then left.
But for video, would this situation have devolved into someone being killed, which would most likely have been Gabbard? No one is constrained to die for the law, but the response of the 911 operator in her refusal to send police to address a violent perpetrator who happened to be a trooper would leave no other option.