Editorial Weekly
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A real SWAT team from wikipedia commons.

Early last week two men entered a home on Tobacco Road in North San Juan. The men were dressed in a mix of dark clothing and had badges and guns, and claimed to be drug cops. Naturally, when heavily armed people kick in your door and claim to be cops, we all know enough to figure they really are cops; at least they were acting like cops.

The pair continued to act like cops, binding the four people in the house and helping themselves to money, cannabis, computers and other electronics.

When the duo left with the goods but no talk of arrest it was clear they were not cops, and one of the hostages worked himself loose and headed after the thieves in his pickup.

He successfully caught the two, and while dodging a hail of bullets was able to ram their fleeing pickup twice.

On the second ram the robber’s pickup lost control and crashed, killing one of the thieves. At least that’s how the Nevada County District Attorney, Clifford Newell, tells it. He’s charged the victim, Christopher Teachout, with manslaughter, and the second robber, Terry McCleod, with murder in the death of the driver and first robber, Daniel Fitzpatrick.

It is not known if the victims and robbers knew each other.

Nevada County has moved against the ranch where the robbery took place. According to media sources, the cops went back to find a hundred pot plants and some pounds of shake and nugget buds. Not to be left out, County building went over and found a number of violations including (gasp!) a wood burning water heater.

The four victims had medical cannabis recommendations but had more than enough ganja for that, and the DA will likely go ahead and bust them for the pot, too. He’s reportedly considering going "federal" with the charges.

To recap: four people, who happened to be farmers of the most highly valued of California’s crops, are minding their business when two armed men claiming to be government paid thugs burst in, hold them at gunpoint, bind them and rob them of several thousands of dollars of stuff.

The two flee the home, one of the victims follows and tries to prevent their leaving.

They screw up and one of them dies.

The fact that the DA has charged Teachout, one of the victims, with manslaughter is a miscarriage of justice, and very likely this is the reason the people of North San Juan have gone on record supporting the victim. Someone holds you at gunpoint, and you have a chance to bring them up, that’s known as self help. Pointing a loaded gun is an invitation to death and injury, and that set the bar for the event.

Likewise, it is not justice to charge the second robber with murder. Had the two killed Mr. Teachout in the event of their crime, his death should have been charged, but this isn’t the case. The two were partners, taking their chances together. McCleod could have as easily been killed by Fitzpatrick’s bad driving.

We can understand the response by Nevada County. First off, the public has been well trained to react poorly to "drug related violence" more profoundly than "diamond related violence". It’s simply good PR to throw the book at everyone.

More importantly, though, law enforcement barely has control over the population. The gift from Homeland Security to local cops of automatic weapons and armored vehicle aren’t to fight off Arabs.

If Nevada County allowed people to bring their own revenge for rip offs, more people would die. The violence might escalate. Mr. Teachout endangered himself and others on the road; DA Clifford Newell can’t be expected to allow such dangerous behavior to go unchallenged.

Still, we aren’t fooled. The robbery isn’t about pot, it’s about money. Pot is worth money because it’s prohibited. Without the pot, this is just a home-invasion robbery. The reporting on this is a reflection of bias in law enforcement and sensationalism in mainstream media.

Had Mr. Teachout been a CHP officer and run the robber off the road into a tree, it’s doubtful he’d be charged with manslaughter, or have his house searched, or have his water heater examined by the county; he’d have become a modest local hero.

Had Mr. Teachout been a wealthy man, driving the fleeing miscreants off the road with his Lexus, it’s doubtful he’d have been charged.

The difference is largely this: the poor are not allowed to protect themselves, not even from each other. The crappy economy is what drove McCleod and Fitzpatrick, contractors by trade, to robbery. It’s the crappy economy that drives people to grow more weed than they probably should. None of the people involved had any control over the economy, and the people who are responsible for the depression lived out the day in comfort and plenty, with no examination of their water heaters, either.

Further, there is a fear and bias against people who like their privacy and space; rural people we call them. Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal is quoted in local media as saying, "It's so remote, there is a large contingency of individuals who like to grow marijuana in that area. There's no doubt in my mind that this is why that home invasion robbery took place." This despite the fact that the urban area of Denver, Colorado is being called the "new pot capital of the world".  Source here

Royal is quoted as saying: "It's unfortunate, but it's the nature of the beast for these commercial growers. "They grow larger quantities of marijuana, people find out, and they think, 'Why worry about growing it? Let's just go rip it off.' And that's what we're seeing, an increasing number of serious violent crimes involving home invasion robberies where marijuana is the target."

The sheriff did not blame the wealthy of Nevada County for owning things robbers want to steal, or for being so greedy their wealth draws attention, or for living only in areas where wealthy people live. Perhaps he has done so at other times, but probably not.

Among the complaints of those supporting Mr. Teachout is the fact that cops won’t come to rural Nevada County for a pot robbery.

The over-charging of people for the crimes they do commit helps make this the oppressive police state it’s become. None of us have much control over that, not even Newell, though he plays his part as a bureaucrat to keep the system in place.

When such measures do actually go to ballot, they are accompanied by propaganda to whip a fearful and poorly informed public to insist on more, harsher laws, and electing more aggressive DAs, resulting in half of us being paid to watch the other half.

Before too many more years, cannabis will be legalized in California, and probably other states will follow suit, forcing the feds to finally turn cannabis legality over to the states, as it should be.

When that happens, people like Mr. Teachout and his friends will lose their business to corporations who will grow, process, market and sell cannabis, and they’ll be even more poor than they had been.

In the meantime, heads up: it’s still a bad idea to rip people off in the mountains; sometimes they hand your trouble back to you.

There is a Sac Bee article and ten pages of comments HERE

NOTE: The Sierra County Prospect does not condone taking the law into one’s own hands. We do, however, understand it.





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