JOURNALISM OF THE SAINTS: Christen was shot and killed by police!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2020

All sides agree on what happened:
Robert Christen, age 37, was shot and killed in Mora, Minnesota on Wednesday, September 30, 2015.

Was he shot and killed "by Minnesota police?" We're not entirely sure why you'd put it that way.

Everyone agrees that Christen was shot and killed by Shana [LAST NAME WITHHELD], a Kanabec County sheriff’s deputy. It's also agreed, by all concerned, that Christen was unarmed.

As such, the Washington Post's Fatal Force site lists Christen as one of the six unarmed people who were shot and killed by police officers in Minnesota since the start of 2015.

For those who wish to evaluate our current "journalism of the saints," the circumstances of Christen's death may well prove instructive. Below, you see the initial online report by WCCO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis.

This initial report appeared on October 1, 2015.
The report was souced to police authorities, with punditry by one local resident thrown in:
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office says a man is dead after he made threats and attacked a deputy in Mora Wednesday.

Shortly before 9 p.m., Kanabec County Sheriff’s Deputy Shana McIalwain responded to a residence on the 500 block of Watkins Street after a man called and said he intended to kill someone at the address.

Thirty-seven-year-old Robert Sullivan Christen, of Duluth, arrived shortly after the McIalwain arrived. The sheriff’s office says Christen drove up at a high rate of speed and crashed his vehicle into a tree on the front lawn.

Despite being ordered to stop, Christen continued to advance and then attacked McIalwain, repeatedly punching her in the head. She then shot Christen to stop him. He died at the scene.

[...]

McIalwain, a one-and-a-half-year veteran of the department, suffered injuries to the forehead and arm in the attack and was treated and released by paramedics. She has been placed on standard administrative leave.

Christen had a prior assault conviction. Investigators are not sure of the relationship between Christen and the homeowner, but they say two children live in the home.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating.
According to the Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office, Christen had threatened to kill someone in a particular home. The deputy sheriff—she was in her second year on the job—reported to the scene and was later attacked by Christen.

"She then shot Christen to stop him," WCCO reported. Also, an investigation had begun.

The factual claims in this initial report were wholly sourced to Kanabec County authorities. There was no obvious reason to assume that every word in that report was accurate, though of course it could have been.

By the time the investigation was finished, there seemed to be little doubt about what had happened. Everyone seemed to agree about the basic facts of the case. The only question that remained was this:

Could something else have been done?

What did the investigation reveal? For starters, we'll recall a lyric from the widely-recorded song, A Tramp On the Street:

As it turned out, Robert Christen was indeed "some mother's darlin'." He had indeed been "some mother's son."

That mother agreed as to the facts of the case, as you'll see below. This might also be said of Christen:

He had once been a fullback for the University of Minnesota's Golden Gophers. We'll guess that he was bigger and stronger than the officer who shot and killed him that night, but we've seen no official statistics to that effect.

Remember, this was an investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed man. What did the investigation reveal? For that, we direct you to a poignant news report by Kirsten Faurie in the Kanabec County Times.

Faurie's report appeared on March 3, 2016. The investigation was now complete. As she started, Faurie reported the basics:
FAURIE (3/3/16): Five months after the fatal shooting of a man by a Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office deputy, the county attorney determined the deputy was justified in her use of deadly force and therefore no criminal charges will be filed against her.

Kanabec County Attorney Barbara McFadden made the determination Feb. 19, shortly after the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) concluded its investigation of the incident. The investigation revealed the man, 37-year-old Robert S. Christen, had a history of mental illness and was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the shooting.
So far, Faurie's report is quite sketchy. As her report continued, she continually referred to Christen on a first-name basis.

She also quoted Christen's mother at length. Under the subheading, "Suicide by Cop," she described some of the basics:
FAURIE: On Sept. 30, 2015, at approximately 8:45 p.m. Rob made a 9-1-1 call to report a “possible crime” and stated he was going to kill a person at a home on Watkins Street, Mora where Rob’s girlfriend, Juanita Lietz, and her two children lived.

According to a letter from the county attorney’s office, Deputy Shanna McIalwain was dispatched to the home and spoke with Lietz and another adult who were at the residence. The second adult left with the two children while McIalwain and Lietz stayed at the home to wait for Rob to arrive.

As more detail emerged about Rob’s violent threats from dispatch and from Lietz who had been receiving text messages from Rob, McIalwain called for backup. Moments after, McIalwain saw Rob’s car come flying around the corner, squealing the tires and honking the horn. The car came over the curb and into the yard toward the front of the house stopping as it ran into some bushes.

McIalwain stepped out of the home and was standing on the landing when Rob got out of the car and began to rush toward her. McIalwain drew her handgun and ordered Rob to stop. Instead, he approached her, pushed away her hands and immediately began punching her in the head. After striking her three times, Rob took a temporary step back either by choice or by loss of balance.

McIalwain reported that at that point she was becoming dizzy and felt she was losing consciousness. Out of fear that she could pass out and be beaten to death, shot with her own weapon or the residents of the home harmed, McIalwain fired her weapon at Rob six times, missing with the first shot but striking him five times. When EMTs arrived they provided several minutes of medical care then pronounced Rob dead at the scene.
Should the deputy have fired her weapon? Was there something else she should have done instead? We have no experience or expertise judging such tragic questions.

As she continued, Faurie reported that Christen had marijuana and cocaine in his system at the time of his death. She also quoted a statement by McFadden—a statement in which the county attorney seemed to misstate one aspect of the facts of the case, at least as Faurie had reported them.

That said, Faurie also began to quote Pam Christen, the mother of the deceased. Here again, Pam Christen was referred to on a first-name basis.

“He was very sick,” Pam Christen said of her son. “My husband and I basically believe this was suicide by cop.”

Rob Christen had been somebody's darling. In some detail, Faurie proceeded to quote Pam Christen as she told the tale.

We include Faurie's sub-heading:
FAURIE: A long struggle

Five months after her son’s death, Pam harbors no anger against the police. In fact, she expressed sympathy for McIalwain.
“I want it very clear that we hold no ill will against the police officer. She was put in a terrible position and she did what she had to do,” she said.

Rob’s family said he had a long history of mental illness and was receiving treatment. Pam said the events of Sept. 30 show Rob had not been taking his prescribed medication and that he had slipped into a manic episode.

Rob was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 25 years old. In the 12 years since his diagnosis to his death, Pam said she had seen her son hospitalized 50-60 times, each time only at the peak of a crisis. She said her family was even advised by a social worker for Rob to tell hospitals or the police that he was going to kill himself in order to be admitted.

“It takes a crisis to get any help,” she said. Pam recalled many times that Rob would call the police on himself. Threatening to kill someone or kill himself was the surest way to make sure he was admitted to a hospital.

“When he was not sick, he was a very loving and wonderful person,” said Pam. “He was such a wonderful son.”

Lietz shared a collection of photos that showed the kind and loving side of Rob.
Just months before his death, Rob was a groomsman in his friend’s wedding. Pictures also show Rob playing happily with Lietz’s family at Paul Bunyan Land and with his favorite dog, Casper.

But his constant struggles with mental illness took their toll. “He just didn’t want to be sick anymore,” said Lietz.
This was an example of hometown, first-name reporting. Mora's population is something less than 4000. It lies some 65 miles from the Twin Cities. The population of Kanabec County is more like 16,000.

Faurie's report continues from there. She quotes the Kanabex County sheriff commending the deputy sheriff for her service that night.

“It was a tragic event that ended terribly,” the sheriff is quoted saying.

The sheriff and Pam Christen are each quoted further as they discuss the shortcomings of the mental health services which had been available to Rob Christen. They each discuss the need to treat mental health issues outside a criminal context.

“We need to get people the help they need and jails are not the place for that,” the sheriff said.

Faurie had composed a lengthy small-town news report. Her report could have been a launchpad for a discussion of some major social issues.

At the upper ends of our mainstream press, few such extended discussions occur. At present, the journalism of the saints is perhaps crowding out some such discussions and coverage.

According to the Fatal Force site, police officers in Minnesota have shot and killed six unarmed person since the start of 2015.

Robert Christen was one of the six. The basic facts in the other five cases may all be quite different.

That said, Wesley Lowery cited this event right at the start of his recent high-profile essay in The Atlantic. Tomorrow, we'll revisit, and review, his presentation of this case. His presentation might be said to be an example of "the journalism of the saints."

We won't be saying that such journalism is right or wrong. We do think it's worth considering the way this event was presented to The Atlantic's occasionally story-fed readers.

Tomorrow:
"A gruesome cycle"

The fuller lyrics: Reading Faurie's report, we recalled these widely-recorded lyrics:
He was some mother's darlin', he was some mother's son
Once he was fair and once he was young
And some mother rocked him, her darlin' to sleep
But they left him to die like a tramp on the street
The first three lines seem appropriate here. The gravamen of the fourth line was perhaps implied elsewhere.

23 comments:

  1. All I see in the dembot's piece is this: "One week later, a Kanabec County Sheriff’s deputy killed Robert Christen, a white former fullback for the Wisconsin Badgers who was enduring a mental-health crisis of his own."

    It appears that since the dead guy was of an inferior "white race", the dembot doesn't feel this incident deserves any condemnation.

    Of course if not for the WHITE SUPREMACY, in a better world, once they receive a call from someone threatening to kill somebody, they should send a social worker, to give him a lecture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ma0 ma0 * ,!, ,!,

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    2. Yeah, and I believe that's what they actually do in Liberia, the Blessed Land of NO WHITE SUPREMACY: they send a social worker.

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  2. “Was he shot and killed "by Minnesota police?" We're not entirely sure why you'd put it that way.”

    Unless you don’t consider a Minnesota sheriff’s deputy to be “Minnesota police”, then why wouldn’t you put it that way?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because his parents believe he killed himself, with cops being merely his suicide method?

      Delete
    2. There is no category for that in the archives. Maybe Somerby thinks there should be, but it is hard to assess intention once someone is dead. Even if there is suicidal intent, does that mean the cops must shoot him? The question remains whether the cops could have found a better way to deal with him. And factually, he was shot and killed by police.

      Then there are the quote marks around "by Minnesota police?" That implies that Somerby had some problem with calling them police. That is what mh addressed and I agree with what mh said. If the concern were that he was suicidal, the quote marks would be around the words "shot and killed".

      Delete
  3. "We won't be saying that such journalism is right or wrong. We do think it's worth considering the way this event was presented to The Atlantic's occasionally story-fed readers."

    And yet Somerby is strongly implying that Lowery's journalism is wrong because it is juxtaposed with the different hometown journalism that quotes the mother extensively and supplies painful details of what is portrayed as a suicide by cop.

    Somerby never comes right out and says what he means. In fact, he says the opposite, but then supplies text that doesn't permit acceptance of that opposite, this time saying "We won't be saying that such journalism is right or wrong."

    What good is a political discussion with someone who won't state his opinion clearly so that it can be argued?

    Lowery's purposes are different. That was said yesterday by MH. Somerby's purposes also dictate his writing, and he seems to be wanting to undermine Lowery and the BLM journalists by portraying these shooting as all tragic but justified, as this single case appears to be. Who does that? Somerby likes to say that people such as Lowery are using loaded language, but so is Somerby.

    Liberals tend to prefer language consistent with their own values and goals. So does any human being. That's why, when Somerby uses language to sway people against the arguments of Lowery and those espousing liberal causes, it is safe to say that Somerby is not liberal and not a supporter of BLM or any other liberal cause. His language always nudges an unwary reader toward Trump and the conservative perspective.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'That's why, when Somerby uses language to sway people against the arguments of Lowery and those espousing liberal causes, it is safe to say that Somerby is not liberal and not a supporter of BLM or any other liberal cause. His language always nudges an unwary reader toward Trump and the conservative perspective.'

      That is why it's important to point out, as I frequently do that Somerby is not a liberal, but a malevolent Trumptard.

      Delete
  4. "He was some mother's darlin', he was some mother's son
    Once he was fair and once he was young
    And some mother rocked him, her darlin' to sleep"

    This song is entirely inappropriate, once again. Every person on this earth is born from a mother who, if he or she is lucky, loves her children. So what?

    Somerby sets aside the last line, because it makes clear that the Hank Williams son is about a tramp, a homeless person. The shooter and the cops and even Lowery are none of them homeless. All of them had mothers.

    Why would Somerby grab these particular lyrics? For one thing, because the small-town journalist quoted the shooter's mother at length. For another, because it creates sympathy for the victim but also for the cop. Sympathy for anyone involved in such shootings is way beyond the point. The point is a very different question: How do we prevent such shootings by addressing the underlying problems either before (through prevention) or without involving police with weapons?

    I find it very odd that no one ever talks about disarming the police. Officers do not carry guns in Great Britain and many other countries, yet they keep the peace and do their jobs. The answer is no doubt that they do not have to contend with an armed populace, but if police are disarmed and a shooting occurs, it is clear whose fault it was. There would also be greater pressure for disarming all of us. As long as neither Somerby nor anyone else is talking about the real problems -- too many guns -- no amount of sympathy for victims or police is going to solve this problem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Um, Lowery is the journalist, deadrat. News of his madness may be a surprise to him.

      Delete
    3. Sorry, I'll correct it. I blame the heat. And the drugs, of course.

      Delete
    4. Are you really this dumb?

      The shooter and the cops and even Lowery are none of them homeless.

      The shooter, the (other) cops, and the journalist aren't germane to the lyrics.

      The tramp in the song is by definition down and out, abandoned by society. Christen was left to his madness by a system with inadequate care for the mentally ill.

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