It’s Not Murder

Preamble:  My thoughts and prayers to the family of Tommy McClain.  There is nothing he did up to at the very worst a few seconds before the shots that lead to his dead that warranted death.  We all know this and we grieve with you for your loss.

PART I:  My bias

Unless irrefutable evidence is brought forward, Eureka and it’s culture wars will have another wound.

I think we are all familiar with the old school/transplant divide in HumCo.  This culture divide may be something that Eureka and Humboldt have experienced since Europeans arrived here.  But it’s pretty clear the culture wars have been happening with the waves of immigrants this area has experienced within some of our lifetimes.  From the sixties “back to the landers” to the Bay Area economic refugees like myself to 100’s of others with stories that are not easily categorized.

The difference I’m experiencing on the left is not this obvious clash of cultures.  It’s a political clash of cultures which I believe is generational.  In short, I don’t share a default anti-authoritarianism which I believe stemmed from the events of the civil rights era in the south and then was repeated through the Vietnam era.  Those protests were fundamentally different, but the enemy was the same.  It was the status quo and their enforcers.

I hope everyone today see’s the righteousness of the struggles against authority and the hand of authority – the police – was in the South.  Many, including myself, see obvious echos of the protests in Ferguson this Summer.  However, I’m not sure how many of us are less impressed with the ultimate results of the anti-authoritarianism of the Vietnam era.  I’m absolutely for sticking it to the man for a war one fundamentally doesn’t believe in.  I honor and cherish the Ladies in Black who will be (update 12:20 PM – “are”)under the flag at the Courthouse again today at noon protesting our continuing wars in the Middle East and South Asia.  Having said that, there a disconnect in a reactionary anti-authoritarianism that I believe, locally, has it’s roots in the Bay Area in the 1960’s.  No evidence for that, it’s just a hunch.  That is the bias I go into this topic with.

PART II:  Some thoughts on handling Mr. McClain’s death as a community

I think it’s important to acknowledge that Tommy McClain’s death under all but an infinitesimally small possible circumstances could not be considered murder.  And it will not be considered murder when this is all said and done.

One of the first things they teach you – some would say indoctrinate you – with in the Army is the difference between killing and murder.  The officers involved in the shooting that night were on the job and their argument for the killing will be self defence – which we all acknowledge is legitimate in theory (not necessarily in this case of course).

So the question is not about murder, it’s about how a man died, should he have died, and if not how will justice be served.  These are really tough questions and most of us on the left want there to be a fair determination of what happened and consequences and actions to be meted out appropriately – importantly – including the very real option that Mr. McClain only died that night because the officer firing the shots made a mistake.

The best chance we have to find out exactly what happened and to have satisfactory justice served if there was a tragic and deadly mistake made is, ironically, to give Police Chief Mills the space to serve the public by focusing on exactly what happened that night, not on defending one of his own.

So on this Tuluwat Examiner post there are two things that jump out at me that I disagree with.  a) It’s not murder, and b) I question the power and effectiveness of a Citizen’s Review Board.  I think we need to Keep It Simple and have people focus their limited time for civic interest and activities to be focused on our employees who actually oversee (or should if they don’t currently) Chief Mills – The Eureka City Council (not on the internal dynamics of a Citizen’s Review Board which will be more easily to manipulate than the City Council).  Let’s make sure we are putting pressure on the Council for an honest and transparent investigation of what ultimately lead to an unnecessary death of a civilian by those we hired to serve and protect.  Let’s make sure that we the public – left and right – are able to wrap our heads around a situation where a mistake was made by a peace officer.  We ourselves, or even family members of ours, might have made the same mistake – if there was one – given the circumstances.  This is not to say there shouldn’t be serious consequences if it was a mistake – there should be because this potential mistake cost a life.

Rest in Peace Tommy McClain, and deepest sympathies to your family and friends.  You should still be alive today.


7 thoughts on “It’s Not Murder

  1. Michael says:

    Here’s some ancient wisdom about law and order that to me brings in a dynamic perspective, a Godly one to be sure:

    Psalm 11

    1 For the choir director: A psalm of David. I trust in the LORD for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly to the mountains for safety!2 The wicked are stringing their bows and setting their arrows in the bowstrings. They shoot from the shadows at those who do right.3 The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?”4 But the LORD is in his holy Temple; the LORD still rules from heaven. He watches everything closely, examining everyone on earth.5 The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates everyone who loves violence.6 He rains down blazing coals on the wicked, punishing them with burning sulfur and scorching winds.7 For the LORD is righteous, and he loves justice. Those who do what is right will see his face.

  2. Anonymous says:

    there was reportedly a very heated argument in process which precipitated the military response. unless the second person in the argument mysteriously appears, there was clearly no reason for the military to be there, thus it was clearly murder.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The only real obstacle to having a Police Review Board is having enough concerned citizens to volunteer.

    Since that’s not a problem, I can understand why law enforcement has stood in their way for 30 years.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Apples and Oranges….

    How would you feel if someone questioned the need for a Grand Jury, Human rights Commission, a Law Enforcement Liaison Committee, or a Democratic Central Committee, among two dozen other local volunteer political, and non-profit community groups, boards, and committees, that completely contradicts your statement:

    “…glaring example of the difficulty in finding warm bodies for civic positions…(???)


    For 30 years local residents have been advocating for a Police Review Committee. You are the first, outside of law enforcement and certainly among the “progressives” (?) I’ve known, to question the need, or the potential public commitment.

    No opposition candidates for Eureka’s First Ward? Eureka’s Mayor? Last time the Fifth Ward?

    Who, in good conscience, could ever recommend that anyone run against these Good Ol’ Boys and Girls.. It’s not only corrupted by money, an opposition candidate must compete for 30% of the eligible electorate that actually votes and that have mostly made up their mind long before the election. What have they actually “won” when the vast majority abstains?

    Just for the (slim) CHANCE to convince the 16% needed to win, Kim and Natalie not only need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to drench media, saturate yard signs, professionally track every registered voter, hammer phone banks, coordinate events, volunteers, donations and endorsements, ($100 thousand dollars for supervisor); they must also compete for a minority of voters so small that it causes both sides to mimic their opponents values. So far, this has only worked for the right-wing, for example, Albin won’t lose any votes for his deceit, but he will gain a few critical votes from democrats voting the party-line from their sample ballot.

    On the other hand, Kim and Natalie will lose some their base as they distance themselves from Measure “R”, (omitted from printed brochures), or by recommending “licencing panhandlers”.

    I am not fooled by either side’s trickery and will vote for Kim and Natalie anyway, however, if either of these women wins, they will be among an extremely rare minority…a town with a majority of registered democrats that has never had a real democratic majority in any elected or appointed office.

    What is it they say about maintaining the same strategy and hoping for a different outcome?

  5. TIANNAH says:


    1. Tiannah, your anger is righteous and just. I think all evidence points to an EPD that can serve it’s people with much less – death. Is it abuse of power? It might be – and I’m sure it often is on a case-by-case basis. The respect I get as I walk down the street in daylight probably is not given to those walking in the wee am hours as one example.

      The other side of the coin is this. There is a real and seemingly worsening breaking and entering crime spree. A person I know just moved here from out of town and now after his home was broken into is moving back to McKinleyville. My next door neighbor’s home was robbed – at noon.

      We need police – and we need policemen and woman who have the expectation that they will be able to return home from their workplace. That’s the other side of the coin.

      So how do we balance the two? We need civilian accountability of our police force and as satisfying a riot and a demonstration is – and I’m not saying it isn’t warranted – that has to be backed up by a plan of action.

      I think the best plan of action is a thoughtful and responsible City Council. At least two members recently are members of the police fraternity – something I don’t think leads to objective oversight – especially when there are two other members who also seem to tacitly agree that might makes right is an acceptable police strategy.

      That’s where we start, elections, and there is an important one in November. Please make sure you and everyone you know votes. That’s where we can tell the police, remember you serve us, not the other way around.

      That is not going to solve the problem immediately and its definitely going to fill the gaping holes of hurt and loss that friends and family of Chris and Tommy feel – or the sense of injustice that can never be satisfactory addressed for relatives and friends but IS shared by many of your community members – I’d even wager by some on our police force.

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