from the shitcan-these-bozos-before-they-can-be-indemnified dept
That’s just the way it is.
It shouldn’t be this way. Cops are given an incredible amount of power and expected to handle it responsibly. But when they start doing things they shouldn’t be doing, out come the lies. Accountability may as well be a foreign term of legal art because cops understand it about as well as they understand the laws they’re supposed to enforce: ie, not at all.
When cops are allowed to deliver the narrative, it goes something like this:
An off-duty representative was struck by a possible bullet fragment after an argument in front of a Billings bar turned violent early Saturday morning, and one person was hospitalized due to a rollover crash after fleeing the scene.
Billings Chief of Police Rich St. John provided what details were available about an altercation at the Grandstand Sports Bar and Casino during a press conference held Saturday afternoon. No arrests have been made, but at least one round from a handgun was possibly fired by a suspect. Both the representatives and a civilian who was involved are expected to fully recover, while the man pulled from the crash suffered life-threatening injuries.
That’s from the Billings (MT) Gazette’s original reporting about an altercation at a local bar. The police chief noted an investigation was ongoing and details were limited, but still provided enough details to make it appear the off-duty officer was a victim, rather than one of the perpetrators.
From what investigators have gathered so far, St. John said that a group of off-duty officers met at the Grandstand on Friday night. At around 12:45 am, a Yellowstone County deputy, a Billings police officer and a civilian left the casino and were talking in the parking lot. A maroon Chevy Malibu then pulled into the parking lot carrying two people and came to a stop near the three.
“Words were exchanged,” St. John said, and driver of the Malibu brandished a handgun. The representative and police officer both went to the driver’s side window to seize the weapon. The civilian went to the other side, opened the car door and “either told the passenger to get out or pulled him out,” in order to get to the driver holding the handgun.
The Grandstand is a bar. The off-duty officers were drinking. They did not simply “meet,” a term that makes it appear the officers were fully in control of their mental and physical facilities when the so-called “altercation” took place. Also, it’s clear from this statement that the only story provided was delivered by the off-duty officers, considering the other person involved was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.
The real story arrived a few days later. CCTV footage from the bar provided a completely different — and an almost completely inarguable — depiction of the so-called altercation. The officers’ statements to Billings PD investigators were lies. The entire chain of events was set in motion by two off-duty officers (and one other person who has yet to be identified, but is suspected to be a recently retired officer) who decided they had the right and the power to apprehend and physically assault someone who offended them by driving through the parking lot while they stood in it, presumably intoxicated.
The whole exchange, both audio and video, was captured on the Grandstand’s security cameras and [Louis] Delgado, a 24-year-old with a newborn baby, wants everyone to see the video. It was the cops who started the fight, he said, and he never fired his gun.
The recording is disturbing. It shows the off-duty cops acting as aggressors while presumably under the influence. The aftermath — as was first reported by the Billings Gazette — exposes the officers’ belief they could get away with assaulting someone if they concocted a story about a shooting.
Here’s what actually Happened, as captured by the bar’s camera.
On the night of the incident, the three men left the bar through its west exit at about 12:45 am, according to security footage. They lingered, talking as other patrons left the bar and headed for their cars.
Several minutes pass before Delgado in his Chevy Malibu with his friend rolls into the frame. [Officer Matt] Frank puts his knee into the door of Delgado’s car, and then sets down a bottle.
Delgado yells at the men to get out of his way.
One of the men responds, “Really? Or what?”
Delga fears the much larger men and warns them he has a gun, his attorney said.
In the video, Smart and Frank are then seen reaching into the driver’s side window, with the deputy throwing several punches at Delgado.
“Don’t pull af—ing gun, you f—ing idiot. Are you f—ing kidding me?” one of the men yells.
One of the men can also be heard saying they also have guns.
As Smart was throwing punches, Delgado hit him hard in the mouth with the butt of his gun.
At about the same time, the third man walked around to the passenger side of the car where Delgado’s friend sat. The third man can be heard saying, “Get out. Police.” It is apparently the first time any of the three men identify themselves as law enforcement. Delgado’s friend gets out and walks away.
As Frank, still on the driver’s side, manages to get the door open, Delgado speeds away, heading west on Grand. The third man, who had climbed into the car, jumps out.
Delgado sped away from this assault, ultimately rolling his car and suffering serious injury. Twenty-five law enforcement officers showed up at the bar to handle the unverified statement that an officer had been shot. No gun or muzzle flash can be seen in the video. A gun was recovered from Delgado’s car after the crash, but it is evidence of nothing. Anyone over the age of 18 who isn’t a convicted felon can legally carry a concealed firearm in Montana. And nothing in any report on the incident indicates the recovered gun had been recently fired.
Officer Matt Frank has since been placed on administrative leave. And the Billings PD has a much bigger investigation on its hands. As the Billings Gazette reports, Officer Frank — one minute prior to putting his knee into Delgado’s car and instigating the off-duty officers’ assault of Delgado — was also captured on the security camera footage kicking another passing car as it pulled out of the parking lot.
What’s on display here is these officers’ bullying behavior — something encouraged by the immense amount of power they’ve been given and the complete lack of accountability that often accompanies this power. It shows the officers felt they could not only assault a “civilian” with impunity but that they could get away with it — a not totally unreasonable assumption given how most law agencies minimize, if not completely ignore, officer misconduct.
These officers had no idea a camera captured the whole incident. That’s why they felt comfortable lying to the 25 officers who rushed to the scene of the nonexistent shooting of an off-duty officer. Now they’re going to be facing an internal investigation and a civil rights lawsuit from Louis Delgado without the ability to lie about what actually happened that night. Hopefully they’ll be out of a long job before Delgado’s lawsuit has run its course, making it almost impossible for them to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for their wrongdoing.
Filed Under: billings, pd billings, louis delgado, matt frank, montana, police, police brutality