I came across this story in The New York Times yesterday; below is a brief summary.
On February 4 of this year, Monroe Bird III, a 21-year-old black male, was sitting in his car with a friend, in the parking lot of his apartment complex in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ricky Leroy Stone, a 56-year old white security guard, approached the car because he had been instructed by the management of the apartment complex to look out for couples having sex in the parking lot. Mr. Stone said he shone a light into the car, told Mr. Bird that he was with security, asked for identification, and then tried to open the car doors. (Why is he trying to open the doors? He is not a police officer, and there is no mention of any felony being committed.)
Mr. Bird locked the car doors and tried to back out of the spot, according to Mr. Stone, who told police he stood behind the car to prevent Mr. Bird from leaving and was hit when the car backed up. He said that he jumped and fell against the rear window, breaking it.
When he was back on his feet, he said, he fired three shots as Mr. Bird drove away. He told police that he feared for his life. (Apparently Mr. Stone was not hurt too badly if he was able to get back on his feet and fire his weapon. Also, Mr. Bird was driving away from the scene, why does Mr. Stone say he was in fear for his life. If that were the case he should have called the police.)
Mr. Bird was paralyzed immediately and was treated in Tulsa hospitals for several months. In April, an official with HealthCare Solutions Group called Mr. Bird’s stepfather, Johnny Magness, to say that the company was beginning an investigation. Two days later, the company denied coverage for Mr. Bird’s medical claims.
The denial meant the family could not transfer Mr. Bird to a rehab center where he could have received preventive care and adapted to life as a quadriplegic. The family appealed the denial, but it was affirmed last week.
Mr. Bird’s medical claims might not have been denied had criminal charges been brought against Mr. Stone. But Oklahoma has a “stand your ground” law permitting citizens to “meet force with force” if they are attacked. (What force was Mr. Stone trying to meet with his gun if the car was driving away?)
Steve Kunzweiler, the Tulsa County district attorney, concluded that Mr. Stone’s use of force was justified because he thought his life was in danger. “Mr. Bird might have made choices that might have gone a different way if he had listened to the security guard and obeyed his instructions,” Mr. Kunzweiler said. (Why would Mr. Bird have to “obey” a private security officer if there was no crime being committed? And what about Mr. Bird’s state of mind; I’m certain he had some fear.)
And here’s this interesting little piece of information: police discovered a vial of marijuana, illegal in Oklahoma, in Mr. Stone’s bag that night, and the results of a preliminary blood test showed that he had cannabinoids in his system!
David Riggs, a lawyer for Mr. Bird’s family, noted that the state’s stand-your-ground law did not apply when “the person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity,” such as drug possession. “The fact is, he was shot in the back as he was fleeing, driving away from this security guard,” Mr. Riggs said of Mr. Bird. “If there was ever a threat, there is no longer a threat.”
After the denial of coverage, Mr. Bird was discharged and went to his family’s home in Boley, Okla. The young man, who required a ventilator to breathe, was cared for around the clock by his mother and grandmother, who fed him, bathed him, helped him cough, turned him in bed to prevent bedsores, and moved his limbs to maintain his range of motion, said Tezlyn Figaro, a publicist speaking on the family’s behalf.
Despite their care, Mr. Bird developed blood clots in his lungs and died on June 30.
So an innocent 21-year old male is killed by a private security officer who was found to have marijuana in his system, and the district attorney will not be pursuing any charges against the security officer for the killing. Meanwhile the family of the victim is stuck with a million-dollar medical bill which the insurance company has refused to pay.
Something is rotten in the state of Oklahoma…
If you would like to read more about this tragic event, and watch an interview with Mr. Bird from his bed shortly before his death, here is the link.