But For Video: The Jay-Walking Death Spiral

There are numerous points along the way where 33-year-old Matthew Graves could have been more compliant, more accommodating and less difficult. For some, that would have been the obvious solution to his remaining alive, as his bad attitude didn’t help him any. But then, much as it’s likely a wiser tactic to remain alive to complain another day, even if that’s not what the Constitution requires of us, and not what the Supreme Court, in its limited wisdom, believes happens on the street when cops engage with a guy for the heinous crime of . . . jay-walking.

Eagle Point, Oregon, Police Officer Daniel Cardenas did what any normal police officer would do after killing a guy. He told his story.

Cardenas testified to a grand jury that he first spotted Graves while he was driving his patrol car on Oregon 62 around 8:45 p.m. last month and had to brake because Graves stepped into the street against the traffic light, Heckert said Wednesday. Graves went back onto the sidewalk until the officer drove off, then Cardenas said he did a U-turn after looking in his rearview mirror and seeing Graves walk across the street while the light was still green for oncoming traffic.

Cardenas followed Graves to the fast-food restaurant because he intended to talk to Graves about the dangers of jaywalking, Heckert said. He also said he suspected Graves might have had an outstanding arrest warrant or a weapon, the district attorney said.

Is it that there is so little to do in Eagle Point that jay-walking is a major offense, compelling this two-year cop to stop and lecture on its evils? The throwaway in the last quoted sentence might be distracting, as if it was the real reason, the Whren-approved pretext, except you can’t tell by looking at a guy that he has an open warrant, and there was nothing to suggest a weapon. It just makes it sound more serious.

Or Graves just annoyed Cardenas, so he decided to check him out and show him who’s boss? If Cardenas was just cruising, it gets boring, so why not screw with some mutt who pisses you off?

The officers testified that Cardenas used a Taser on Graves after Graves put his hands on him, that the stun gun had little effect, that Graves punched Davis soon after he got into the bathroom, and that Graves managed to Tase Davis with Cardenas’ unholstered Taser. They also said that Davis told Cardenas twice that Graves had a gun and that Cardenas shot Graves twice in the back.

Cardenas went into the bathroom at Carl’s, Jr., with weapon drawn, his first words being “let me see your fucking hands right now.” Not exactly the approach one would expect for a lecture on the evils of jay-walking. Not justifiable in the absence of reasonable suspicion that Graves is a threat to Cardenas, even assuming Cardenas had cause to approach Graves in the first place.

Graves went into the men’s bathroom. Cardenas drew his gun before going into the restroom, ordered Graves twice to show his hands and again asked what he was doing. Graves replied while washing his hands that he was getting food, told Cardenas to shut up.

After Graves finished drying his hands, Cardenas holstered his gun, pulled out a Taser, ordered Graves to the ground and warned he’d be stunned if he didn’t comply.

On the one hand, there is a series of “whys” that can’t be answered. Why enter with gun drawn? Why demand to see the hands of a guy who’s worst possible offense was jay-walking? Why demand he lie on the ground? Why threaten to tase this potential jay-walker? And mind you, the only evidence of jay-walking is Cardenas’ word, revealed only after he killed the guy.

But what about Graves’ right to be left alone?

Graves tried to walk past the officer and out the door, and Cardenas pushed him back, telling him to back up.

“You touch me again and you’re gone,” Graves tells Cardenas.

At this point, it had to be clear to Graves, but for his father’s explanation that he suffered from untreated schizophrenia, that he was seized, even if in violation of his constitutional rights, and pushed a threat to a cop that wouldn’t turn out well. And it didn’t.

Cardenas pushed Graves twice more and shocked Graves with the Taser after Graves pushed him. Graves recoiled while being stunned and Cardenas told him five more times to go to the ground. Graves didn’t comply and instead approached the officer.

Davis came into the bathroom at some point and then the view of what occurs is obscured as the fight between the three begins.

In seven seconds, Davis said there was a gun, Cardenas asked Graves if he had a firearm, Davis repeated that there was a gun, but then said it was a Taser, and Cardenas drew his pistol and fired. Cardenas then immediately reported the shooting to emergency dispatchers.

That Davis appears to have mistaken Cardenas’ taser for a gun, and Cardenas’ shooting was premised on his reliance on his fellow-officer’s call despite it being factually inaccurate, doesn’t save Graves’ life. It also was sufficient to relieve Cardenas of culpability for the killing.

It’s facile to say that Graves brought this upon himself, doing pretty much everything he could to be noncompliant with Cardenas. But such a view requires one to begin with the premise that people owe a duty of compliance to police officers, as opposed to police officers owe a duty of compliance with the limits of their authority, with the Constitution. And yet, this scenario supposedly started with Graves jay-walking, initiating a series of events that ended with his death.

Nobody is giving Graves a “citizen of the year” award for his actions. Even if you have the right to be left alone, the right to walk out of a bathroom, you don’t touch a cop. But the fact that this death spiral began with Cardenas’ choice of entering a bathroom with gun drawn, with orders to comply, suggests that there was no way this was going to end well. And it ended as badly as possible. Because of jay-walking.

14 thoughts on “But For Video: The Jay-Walking Death Spiral

  1. B. McLeod

    Of course, Graves is now forever safe from the perils of jaywalking (in yet another illustration of “destroying the village in order to save the village”).

  2. Nobody of Import

    There’s a reality item there…

    While it ended without culpability…is that accurate? Gun drawn? Into a bathroom for someone not complying for a _*JAYWALKING*_ offense? Seriously? He may not be guilty of murder…but the Cop in question has no damned business being with a job in that line of work…EVER AGAIN.

  3. Rich

    “You don’t touch a cop.”
    You don’t spit into the wind.
    You don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with Slim.
    They concede nothing. So, why should we?

    1. SHG Post author

      There are certain things a person can do which will almost certainly end in pain, if not death. Touching a cop is one of them. Whatever comfort you can take in being righteous tends to be reduced by the amount of pain, if not death, making it a poor choice. Don’t make poor choices that end in pain, or death, because it’s just not worth it.

    2. Patrick Maupin

      “You don’t touch a cop” (or women, or children, or anybody, actually) without their consent — this is a good rule. Like all rules, sometimes it may need to be broken, but there will be consequences.

      We’re not going to get kinder, gentler cops by letting them run roughshod over all of us, but we’re not going to get kinder, gentler cops by turning every police interaction into a shoving match, either.

  4. Fubar

    … And mind you, the only evidence of jay-walking is Cardenas’ word, revealed only after he killed the guy. …

    … And it ended as badly as possible. Because of jay-walking.

    Because of obstreperous balking?
    Noncompliance when cops do the stalking?
    Murder One makes imperative
    To learn the right narrative:
    “He had threatened my life by jay-walking!”

  5. Mike-SMO

    The “jawwalking” just drew the officers attention. Alternatively, he might have fit the description of the SOB who broke an old lady’s face to get her purse three blocks away. It could have been anything. Graves wasn’t “right”. He foced a “nothing” interview into a deadly contest.

    Graves wasn’t acting right in the street or when he went into the burger joint. Once Graves went into the men’s room, the closed door was an “ambush” situation . It isn’t surprising that the office drew his firearm and the taser.

    In the restroom, Graves repeatedly pushes toward the officer into grappling, knife or club range. In close, bad things can happen faster than you can imagine. The taser was ineffective, possibly due to the mental disorder, drugs, or possibly the bullky/loose clothing. Graves closes with the office several times leading to the wrestling match. The rest is reported above.

    Graves was clearly unable to understand the situation and behave in a relevant manner. He probably should have not been running loose. He was aggitated and so oblivious that he was shoving at an officer with drawn weapons displaying a fine immitation of a physical attack.

    Hey! Shit happens, and I may not be aware of everything going on. So when a police officer, hospital security, plant security, etc appears, I am responsive and careful. It might be routine or there might have been an assault, or some such. I certainly do not rush up to him and grab at him, especially if his has a firearm in his hand.

    Graves’ behavior looked like an attack. Playing stupid until he could get in close. Too bad. But, the “predators” learn from the “crazies” how to get in close. You only get an instant to react.

    Most psychiatric patients do quite well with medication and support from family and/or friends. That is just as well, since, without some exciting “incident” that triggers “official” action, it is now almost impossible to have an adult involuntarily commited for psychiatric care. People like Graves are targets for “predators” or, if their disorder progresses, end up threatening or attacking someone while they battle the horrors inside their skull. The mis-communication about, “GUN!” made the situation much worse for Graves than it could have been, but Graves was heading down a dark rod and trying to go over the cop to get there.

    In our fair city, maybe four years ago, an aggitated “mumbler” stumbled into a city shop, took a soda and package of donuts and left without paying. The owner called the police. When the first patrol car arrived, “mumbles” threw a donut, pulled a chef’s knife from his jacket and charged. Aw! They killed him because of a donut. Crap! They shot him because he attacked with a damn big kitchen knife. Graves didn’t have a knife but he “kept on coming”, shrugged off multiple taser hilts, and made it physical.

    Stop whining about “jaywalking”.

    1. SHG Post author

      An interesting use of baseless assumption to rationalize violent incompetence. My personal fav is your borderline psychotic assertion:

      Once Graves went into the men’s room, the closed door was an “ambush” situation.

      That’s some serious idiocy. Hope no one ever lets you have a gun, as no one who thinks this absurdly should be armed.

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