The South Dakota Attorney General released the report today on the shooting death of Cory Engen who was killed by a state trooper during a shootout in Custer. One thing these reports do not address, largely because it is far out of the scope, is the effects of such deaths on families and friends. But this report did reveal something that we surmised, but drew no conclusions about. Cory had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress syndrome, apparently from experiences he had during four years in the Marines, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The most important details in the report are that Cory forced the officers to shoot him, his own weapon was empty when he was shot, and his rampage was directed at law enforcement officers.
Something we have known for years about the after effects of being involved in war is that extreme behavior is caused as much by the society which soldiers return to as the incidents during their service which disturbed them. In both the cases involving death by law enforcement officers, the young shooters directed their rage at law enforcement officers, who are seen as part of the law and order in a society in which law seems arbitrary and disordered.
There is much to learn and understand about PTSD gone violent.
The first comment on the original version of this was left. Usually such comments are deleted because they contribute to the raging disorder that casts such a malignancy over political and social life. It is left in place as an example to be examined, especially in the context it was made.
|Cody Engen in a photo supplied by his family|
|Daniel Tiger in a police mug shot|
On Tuesday, August 2, about 4:30 in the afternoon, Daniel Tiger was walking with some companions in a neighborhood in north Rapid City. They apparently were carrying liquor and were drinking. They were stopped by three police officers who talked with them in what was reported as a non-confrontational manner for about 2o minutes. The officers did not know they were dealing with a man with a record of assault on a police officer, for which he had served time. He would not provide them his correct identity, however. Suddenly Tiger pulled out a .357 magnum handgun and opened fire on the police officers. He put all three of them down, but one got off some shots from which Tiger would later die. He killed two of the officers, and wounded the third, who is now back on duty.
Friends of Tiger say he talked about committing suicide by cop. That is, forcing a confrontation during which police would be forced to shoot him down. He contemplated this, according to friends, because he did not want to go back to jail, and apparently he knew more charges were being considered against him. And up to this time, he had not lived a life which offered much hope or better expectations.
Cody Engen had quite a different background. From childhood, he was enamored about becoming a Marine. The day after he graduated from Custer High School in 2007, he joined the Marines. He finished a 4-year enlistment this past May and was honorably discharged.
During the early morning hours of Tuesday, Sept. 6, a man on the streets of Custer while the bars were closing was yelling "Custer County Sheriffs: Come out, come out!" It was Cody Engen. His dad is a Custer County deputy sheriff. Cody went on a rampage in downtown Custer, driving over things with his pickup and firing shots from a handgun. He crashed his pick-up into the sheriff's office, then went inside and vandalized the place. When law enforcement came to put an end to his rampage, there was a stand-off and a state trooper shot him. The shot ended the brief insurrection and Cody's life.
Cody, a scout-sniper, served in both Iraq and Afghanistan while in the Marines.
At this writing, the official report has not been issued on the incident which resulted in his death. The 22-year-old ex-Marine may well have suffered trauma during his service. No information has been provided about the direction his life took after discharge. He may have been one of those many veterans who returned to the country he served to find it had no place for him. However provocative such conjecture is, it is pointless. The fact is that two 22-year-olds engaged in aggressive, deadly behavior and were cut down by deadly force.
At the current time, this is not unusual. During a recent trip to the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa, I read of two incidents involving shootings by police officers. In Davenport a man who threatened to detonate what he claimed was a homemade bomb was killed by police. In Rock Island County, a man who had run a barber shop for many years and was president of the East Moline downtown business association pulled a gun on a sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop. He was wounded and hospitalized when the deputy opened fire. The man in Davenport had a life-long battle with alcohol. The man shot in Rock Island County may have financial problems.
But for the young men killed in the Black Hills, there is the fact of the confrontations they forced. They both targeted law enforcement. Law enforcement represents the authority of our government and culture. It is required to enforce the rules established by our government, sanctioned by our culture. The badges and uniforms law enforcement wears represent the state of the nation.
The officers shot in Rapid City were not that much older than the man who opened fire on them. They had hopes and expectations and were building their lives. They were in engaged in the act of community policing when they were shot. Community policing means going into neighborhoods, becoming acquainted with the people who live there, and addressing problems before they become law enforcement issues. Community police is another term for peace officer, the well-established role of keeping the peace. The young officers killed in Rapid City had their weapons holstered and were trying to keep the peace when Daniel Tiger drew a weapon and fired on them.
Across the nation, the killing of police officers is on the rise. So far this year, there have been 132 fatalities of police officers in the U.S. Fifty-three of them were from gun fire. Statistics on how many people were killed by police or how many times police drew and fired their weapons is a different matter. No agencies appear to keep a tally on those incidents. But it is clear that the situations in which police are fired upon and in which they use their weapons is on the rise.
Identifying the causes of such confrontations is the issue. Daniel Tiger and Cody Engen had widely different life histories, but they shared a social and political environment that is causing unrest in many parts of the world, and is showing unrest in America.
People who are trained to deal with confrontations cite the rule that the way to head off deadly confrontations is to never put a person in a situation where the person is convinced he has nothing to lose. What did Daniel Tiger and Cody Engen have to lose? Did they have anything to gain? Or were they caught in a state of hopelessness with no expectations
The unemployment rate is cause for despair, not only among those who have not found jobs, but among those who have taken jobs far below their education and skills and who qualify for better paying more engaging jobs. The jobs just are not there to be had. They have been eliminated through a process of outsourcing. There is not much hope or expectation for members of the working middle class. And certainly none for the economic lower class, which is growing exponentially.
The poverty level in the US. has grown to 15 percent of the population; one person in every six is in that category. There is no hope and expectation for this class. And what do they have to lose if they revolt? Whether they submit meekly to the destiny of their designated class or engage in flaming revolt, their prospect is ignominious death. What do people of this class have to lose?
During the debate among Republican candidates early this week, there was a moment from the audience that has been avoided by most of the legacy media. It came when the moderator raised a hypothetical question, which for many among that 46 million living in poverty is not hypothetical, about whether a person who needed healthcare but did not have insurance should be allowed to die. The audience intruded with a resounding "Yeah." What the media ignores is the message that "yeah" conveys to the growing class of poor in this country. It is the same message being sent in regard to jobs and the flagging economy. Class warfare and the propaganda that fuels is not a war declared by the poor against the wealthy or the Democrats. It is a war being conducted by the wealthy and the political party which has taken up its cause.
Congress is caught up in a gridlock because it is more consumed by engaging in a political fight in which the defeat of the current administration has towering priority over the welfare of the country. But Congress is a reflection of the values and attitudes of the country, and while the misanthropic who have announced they are quite ready to disenfranchise the poor and struggling from any of the promise that once defined America may not be the majority, they have managed to control the national dialogue. The fixation of the media on the petty pissing duels among the petty pissers in Washington provides a surface gauging of the thought processes of the populace. Reading blogs and comment sections of the news media show a population that is dominated by those who education has failed and who have failed education. They cling to misinformation, defamatory allegations, and a belief that their hatred of the poor class that they have helped to create and enlarge is somehow an expression of Americanism. They revere the ministers of malice and misinformation such as Palin, Bachman, Perry, and Romney, who see serving them as the road to power. The message to the poor is no matter what those struggling in the current economy do, they have nothing to lose. They have been designated as the post and expendable to the plutocracy that has emerged as the ruling force of America.
There are problems to be defined and faced. But those who conduct the campaign of misanthropy and oppression under the banner of conservatism deny the problems and refuse to engage in defining discussion and the formulation of real solutions. Their solution is to further the advantages and privileges of the rich, who have sucked up the nation's wealth, and to cling to the belief that the notional beneficence of the wealthy is the salvation of the poor and middle classes.
There appears to be no desire or ability to confront the problems that underlie our faltering economy. A few economic historians say that the days of economic growth and power are over for America, as it becomes more thoroughly tied to the global economy. They point out that American growth was fueled by abundant, cheap energy and abundant, cheap minerals. Those resources have been depleted and can be extracted and made usable only by expensive and complex processes. The twentieth century, they say, was an anomaly in terms of economic expansion. The world is returning to a "more normal" pattern of economic growth and distribution. There are ways of confronting and dealing with the forces that are moving the world back to feudal times, but those who are unable and unwilling to consider the implications have co-opted the dialogue. They are happy that they are contributing to the burgeoning growth of a class of serfs, who they despise.
Their message is a denial of any cause for hope and expectation and what is promised in the American pledge to liberty, equality, and justice. They are interested only in a concept of liberty that permits them to dismiss and deny those who have not claimed any part of America's wealth.
Those who wear the badges and uniforms of American authority do not realize that they no longer signal messages or hope and expectations of opportunity, equality, liberty, and justice. Rather they signal a dismissal and a rejection of those qualities for anyone who does not identify with the privileged class, with those who come to realize that hope and expectation are systematically being denied them. Daniel Tiger and Cody Engen were recruits in the army of the hopeless. They attacked the emblems of what America is becoming and has largely become.
What did they have to lose? And how many will follow their lead? What does the vast majority of Americans have to lose at this point? No one in the political leadership at this time has the sentience or the desire to assess the situation. The only vote they cast that gets attention comes out of the barrel of a gun.
Any messages of hope and expectation are dismissed as liberal fatuity. And so, America goes. Suicide by cop.