Skip to main content

Davis Journal

Death fueled by misguided right-wing conspiracy

Mar 16, 2023 01:20PM ● By Cyclops

The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author. 

Last week a Utah community was the scene of a police shooting and, as in highly publicized national incidents, there was an abundance of comments, some hasty and some the result of more serious consideration. This column reflects the latter.

Undoubtedly, law enforcement has a blemished record from George Floyd’s death on a national scale to the more local shooting of an autistic boy in Salt Lake City. The recent killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis by police officers to the memory of a badly beaten Rodney King by Los Angeles cops besmirches the badge and does not reflect on the vast majority of officers whose aim is protection, not provocation.

It is also tragic when a young man in his 20s meets an untimely death, especially over something that should never have escalated in the first place. But in last week’s case, my sympathies rest firmly with the five police officers.

If there is a culprit, it’s a family’s flirtation with misguided right-wing conspiracy.

The mother sits on the political fringe. When she was pulled over by police last year, she protested with the right-wing babble that Utah cities were “a fiction” and that government had no jurisdiction over her right to travel without showing a driver’s license or vehicle registration. In a court filing she also tossed out the frivolous assertion that Social Security numbers constitute “the mark of the beast” with ample references to the bible.

So, it was no surprise when her son, a supposedly educated man with a college degree, was uncooperative after an officer pulled him over for driving without a license plate. Instead, the car posted a placard declaring that the driver had “constitutional sovereignty.”

It should have been a peaceful encounter, but the young man refused to roll down his window more than a few inches and, refusing to hand over identification, told the officer he was not required to cooperate. It didn’t help that, according to the police report, he was wearing a holster and a handgun was visible in the vehicle near the driver.

Somehow, in the next few chaotic seconds, an officer yelled, “Gun, Gun, Gun!” and shots were fired as other officers attempted to pull the man out of his car.

The family complained that he was shot while still in his automobile. That’s probably true, but it was the driver’s decision to stay in it.  Sure, he was, as the family said, “terrified for his safety,” but his safety only came into question when he refused to step out of his car and answer routine questions from the police officer. The officer who stopped him didn’t approach the car while pointing a gun. He had a valid reason for stopping the vehicle. The whole episode should have resulted in a nominal fine.

I’m sorry for the man’s death and I support the investigation into the details. If the police are proven wrong, punishment should ensue. But while the family calls the man a “patriot” who was “brutally murdered,” I see a man raised in a home full of anti-government flimflam who baited a policeman who simply wanted to fulfill his duties and return home after his shift for a good night’s rest.

The real reason for the man’s death was a shoddy understanding of the Constitution and an accompanying delusion fueled by conspiracy theories.  

Bryan Gray, a longtime Davis County resident, is a former school teacher and has been a columnist for more than 26 years in newspapers along the Wasatch Front.