05 Nov 2009

The Policeman Is Not Your Friend, Firefighter Edition

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As usual, William Grigg alerted me to this outrageous tale:

Michael “Mikey” Bartlett Jr. said the reward he got for rescuing several people from an early morning fire Sunday on Crain Avenue in Kent was to get Tasered and arrested by Kent police, allegedly for hindering firefighters’ efforts at the scene.

Standing outside the Crain Avenue house Monday, Mikey Bartlett, 19, said he was not treated Sunday for burns he suffered to his ear, head, back and arm when he entered the house to warn family and friends of the fire.

One of those who made it out thanks to Mikey Bartlett was Matt Moschella, who woke up to his friend screaming “Fire! Fire!”

Mikey Bartlett had left the house around 4 a.m. Sunday to watch the unofficial Halloween celebration wind down, but went back inside for his cellphone, he said. That’s when he saw flames coming out of his sister Shannon’s room.

Shouting for everyone to get out, he put his T-shirt over a friend’s face to keep the smoke out of her lungs as he led her outside.

Fortunately, Shannon Bartlett was not in her room. She had left for her boyfriend’s house 30 minutes earlier. When she returned during the emergency, there were several Kent police officers outside. When she approached one, whom she identified as Sgt. Ed Wheeler, and asked “Can you guys help?” she said he “laughed in my face” and called her an obscene name.

“‘What the (expletive) you think we’re gonna do?’” Shannon Bartlett quoted Wheeler as saying. Soon after, Mikey Bartlett was Tasered, arrested and booked for misconduct at an emergency and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.

He sat in the Kent jail from 4:38 a.m. Sunday until his 1:30 p.m. arraignment later that day, then for two-and-a-half more hours in Portage County Municipal Judge John Plough’s Kent courtroom before he could get to Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna for treatment.

Michael Bartlett Sr., Mikey’s father, said Monday he was taking his son to the burn unit at Akron Children’s Hospital to get checked out. He said he believes “the world would be a worse place without police officers,” but was bothered by what his children reported about Sunday’s incident.

“To stand there laughing, that’s not how a policeman should behave,” Michael Bartlett Sr. said.

Cole said four police officers’ written accounts of the incident disagree with the Bartletts’ account. He also said anyone needing medical care while in Kent police custody “gets it,” and that every time Kent police use force during an arrest, a separate report is filed for supervisors. Such a report was filed after Sunday’s incident, Cole said.

He said Mikey Bartlett “understood there was nobody left in the house” at the time of his arrest.

“Mr. Bartlett was not thinking clearly or of his own safety. His actions were hindering the firefighters and he was placing himself in danger … after being warned several times,” he said.

As for the alleged profanity: “I’ve tried to get (Sgt. Wheeler) to curse, and I have yet to succeed in 10 years,” Cole said.

Hmmm. What’s more likely here? Someone whose house is on fire, decides to make up a bunch of stories about cops swearing at her, OR, a bunch of cops lying to cover up what happened?

When I was in high school, I would not have believed the above. I would have thought the girl was nuts or was just covering up for her brother (who inexplicably decided to try to stop firefighters from putting out his house’s fire). But since then I have encountered so many stories of cops doing things much worse–and then their bodies lying for them because that’s what a good cop does–that I treat the police’s version of events as conveying zero information. When evaluating stories like these, I focus solely on the complainant’s credibility and the internal plausibility of the story.

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