Endless Musings

This blog contains the random thoughts, feelings, and observations of a slightly "left of normal" young woman.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Travisty of Justice in OC

It was after midnight on Feburary 6th in Mission Viejo, California. A 19 year old man named Bassim Chmait was walking to a party with three of his friends. The party was being held at a friend's apartment in the Madrid Apartment complex on Los Alisos Boulevard. As the small group of young adults (their ages ranged from late teens to early twenties) neared their friend's party someone threw an empty soda can at them. In response, the youngsters threw the can back in the direction it had come from.
Right after the can had been thrown a man dressed only in his blue colored bathrobe emerged from an apartment next door to the party waving a badge in one hand and his loaded service revoler in the other. This man's name is Douglas Bates. Bates approached the group of young adults and was heard by witnesses to have said, "You don't want to fuck with a cop, do you?"
One of the young men, named Mike, asked Mr. Bates to please put his gun down. Mr. Bates responded by pistol whipping Mike until he lay on the ground bleeding from his head. As Mr. Bates continued to threaten the group, Bassim Chmait stepped between Bates and Mike to protect his friend from further injury. Neither Bassim or any of his friends were armed or posing any threat to Mr. Bates or his property. Bassim pleaded with Mr. Bates to leave his injured friend alone and put his gun away. In response Mr. Bates shot Bassim Chmait in the head at point blank range.
Mr. Bates turned and went back into his apartment after shooting the unarmed 19 year old college student in the head. Neighbors who had witnessed the shooting called 911. As his neighbors were coming out to help the dying young man, Mr. Bates opened his apartment door (still waving his loaded gun) yelled at his neighbors to "shut up" and then slammed the door closed again.
The police came and talked to Bassim's friends, other witnesses, and Mr. Bates. They did not arrest Mr. Bates or file any charges against him. Apparently, since Mr. Bates is a Homeland Security Officer the same rules that apply to regular citizens don't apply to Mr. Bates. The fact that Mr. Bates was off-duty and out of uniform at the time of the shooting didn't seem to matter. Nor did it seem to matter that neither Bassim Chmait nor any of his friends were armed or theatening Mr. Bates in any way. According to independent witnesses, Mr. Bates was the agressor in this incident.
Hundreds of mourners have gathered for candle light vigils in apartment complex where Bassim was gunned down. Many of the mourner's pain has been worsened by the knowlege that Mr. Bates is still a free man and still lives in the same apartment complex just about a hundred feet away from the vigils. Not only have no formal charges been filed against Bates, but he remains a Homeland Security officer (even though he has been reassinged to desk duty pending a sheriffs investigation.)
Tony Rackauckas, DA for Orange County, spoke with the Chmait family on March 7th to announce that he was turning this case over to the grand jury on March 11th. Chmait's family is relieved that this case is being moved forward, however they are concenred about the amount of time it has taken to press any charges on the man who murdered Bassim. The DA's office had indicated to the Chmait family that part of the problem in perusing this case is "conflicting information." It has been suggested that some if this conflicting information my be that Mr.Bates is now claiming that his gun went off accidently.
Many Civil Rights protesters has taken notice of this story. Bassim Chmait was an American of Arab decent. It has been suggested that had Bassim been white the police would have filed charges against Mr. Bates the night the incident occured. Certianly it would seem that at the very least, Mr. Bates is enjoying special treament by law enforcement that the adverage citizen would not enjoy under such circumstances.
Whether or not Mr. Bates was motivated to shoot and kill Bassim because he was of Arab decent is something that the courts need to decide. If in fact this shooting was racially motivated then Mr. Bates should be charged with a hate crime as well as murder.
The fact that as this issue is still being investigated Mr. Bates is not only allowed to be a free man with no charges pressed against him, but is also allowed to keep his job is a travisty of justice. Why the system would conduct itself in such a way needs to be investigated and the behavior needs to be changed. Homeland Security officers should not be above the law. They should not receive special treatment after gunning down an unarmed citizen in cold blood. This goes for anyone in law enforcement. Those who enforce the law should never be held above the law.
There needs to be specific laws applying to the carrying and use of service weapons when the officer is off duty. One of the most pressing questions Bassim's family and friends have asked is why did Mr. Bates come out of his apartment waiving his gun at unarmed teenagers in the first place? If there are not already laws in place to prevent law enforcement officers from behaving in such a way then such laws need to be enacted. If such laws do already exsist then, why were they not upheld in this case?
As more and more time passes Bassim's friends and family are still waiting for justice. Whether or not justice will prevail in this case remains to be seen. Many times the authorites like to drag their heels in cases like this in the hopes that people will forget and they can sweep the incident under the rug. People need to be aware of these incidents and refuse to forget or back down and keep quiet. If the citizens are unwilling to keep tabs on the government, law enforcement, and all the powers that be, then we lose control of our society.
Today it might be a 19 year college student of Arab decent shot down in cold blood and nothing being done to bring his killer to justice. Tomorrow it could be you or me because we dare to question the system.


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