Howard Kurtz takes a large powder: On the evening of February 26, would you have wanted Timothy Smith’s job?
Timothy Smith isn’t rich or famous. On February 26, he was the first police officer to respond to the scene where Trayvon Martin had just been killed.
Initially, Officer Smith was dispatched to the scene because of George Zimmerman’s now-tragic phone call. He arrived on the scene with remarkable speed. Tragically, he arrived on the scene just twenty seconds after Martin was shot and killed.
Did Smith do anything wrong that night? Before we address that question, let’s offer a word about the half dozen people who were on the phone making 911 calls when Smith arrived on the scene.
People who lived near the scene of the shooting were upset and frightened that night. You can listen to their 911 calls, which are instructive, at this post. In several instances, you can hear the waves of relief that goes through their voices when they see that Smith has arrived.
That is one of the civilization-permitting services performed by a competent police force. And by the way:
Would you have wanted Smith’s job that night? Would you have wanted to be the person who had to come around the side of a building, emerging on a very dark scene where someone had just been shot?
From Smith’s report, it's clear that he already knew that someone had been shot. “As I arrived on the scene, dispatch advised of a report of shots fired in the same subdivision,” he wrote. “...I was then advised, after receiving multiple calls, that there was a subject lying in the grass between the residences of 1231 Twin Trees Lane and 2831 Retreat View Circle.” (Smith's report is found early on in this cache of documents.)
Would you have wanted to be the person who rounded the corner and came on that scene, not knowing if you might be the next person shot? Officer Smith accepted the challenge. (“As I walked in between the buildings I observed a white male, wearing a red jacket and blue jeans...”)
We wouldn’t have wanted that job—and Smith did nothing wrong that night. Neither did his colleagues, though we’ll assume that some perfect police force in some perfect land probably could have done better.
We’re sorry, but the officers who responded to the scene weren’t a bunch of belly-scratching crackers straight outta 1955. They performed their basic functions that night and in the days and nights which followed.
Were they belly-scratching rednecks who didn’t care if a black kid got shot? Sorry. On March 13, rightly or wrongly, the lead investigator, Officer Chris Serino, officially recommended that Zimmerman should be charged with manslaughter.
At that time, the states’ attorney passed on this recommendation. But that’s what Serino advised.
Six nights later, a slander campaign began on MSNBC. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/23/12. Our archives further detail some of these themes, though so much disinformation was pushed that it would take a major effort to document it all.)
In fourteen years at this post, we don’t think we’ve ever seen a cable news channel behave more egregiously. Week after week, the hosts and “analysts” at this cable “news” channel pumped a stream of disinformation, all of it designed to make you think that Timothy Smith and his colleagues were a bunch of belly-scratching redneck crackers who didn’t care that a black kid got killed.
They pumped this disinformation into the midst of a highly inflammatory situation. They made claim after claim after claim after claim; these claims turned out to be false. For example, here was our alleged “professor,” on the fifth night of the onslaught:
HARRIS-PERRY (3/23/12): And remember, part of what goes there has to do with the presumption of what’s happening. Police officers use discernment, judgment, discretion all the time when they encounter a domestic violence situation, when they encounter street-level violence. That’s part of what police officers are trained to do.Sorry. Timothy Smith disarmed George Zimmerman, as soon as he arrived on the scene. (“Zimmerman complied with all my verbal commands and was secured in handcuffs. Located on the inside of Zimmerman’s waistband, I removed a black Kel Tek 9mm PF9 semi auto handgun and holster.”)
So if you have police officers under the judgment and the leadership of a police chief who has apparently trained them that when they find an unarmed teenage dead in a gated community, not only did they let Zimmerman walk, he walked with the murder weapon, I mean—or the killing weapon, because we don’t know if it was murder.
But this is a man who is not disarmed. This is a man whose permit has not been revoked. This is a man, who, when the police officers saw what happened, that there was an armed man and unarmed child, they said, “Well, this looks like a circumstance in which we should let this person go.”
The professor made a mistake that night. But so what? Her colleagues continued to pimp this claim for weeks, even after the Orlando Sentinel correctly reported that it was bogus. And to this day, the professor hasn’t corrected herself. She hasn’t told this channel’s millions of viewers that this claim was wrong.
But why single out the professor? Incredibly, no one has issued any corrections at this astonishing “news channel.” Last week, when reams of documents were released, this “news channel” simply looked away from its legion of errors.
MSNBC took a powder. The professors, Rhodes Scholars and millionaires all pretended that nothing had happened.
But then, someone else hasn’t said a word about this channel’s astonishing conduct. Tomorrow, the remarkable silence of Howard Kurtz—the silence of the lambs, the swells, the silence of the guild.
Should Zimmerman have been charged that first night: No, says Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft.
To read her analysis, just click here. You can decide if you think she’s right—but her site is an invaluable resource if you’re trying to follow this case.