In 2012 an official investigation revealed that Officer Miguel Masso, a minute or so before he fatally shot a young man, “went into auto pilot and could no longer hear.”
Knowing such, would you later hire this man to carry a gun and be involved in high-stress situations on a daily basis?
Would you hire a man to serve and protect after he was sued, in part, for this:
“Officer Gottlieb, Police Officer Vanhorn, Police Officer Reveron and Police Officer Masso entered his holding cell. They commenced to assault and batter the plaintiff, with physical and electronic force, which was totally unjustified… Plaintiff was repeatedly struck by Tasers… causing his back to sustain severe burn marks and permanent scarring, along with neurological, psuchological and other personal injuries…”
Would you hire a man to deal with the public on a daily basis who had been accused of torturing a prisoner in New York City, when the investigation concluded that the charge had been “neither proved nor disproved” ?
Would you hire a man who shot himself in the foot as he killed 18 year old Alan Blueford on the streets of Oakland, CA on the night of May 6th, 2012? Whose body camera mysteriously turned off as he chased Blueford through a street party? Who sources claimed had admitted in deposition during civil suit questioning that he had PTSD from his tour of duty in Iraq?
Miguel Masso was hired by the Oakland Police after leaving his job in New York City in 2007 in the wake of the torture lawsuit cited above. He resigned from the Oakland Police Department in late Spring of 2014 in the aftermath of the lawsuit brought by the Blueford family against the City of Oakland. He quickly found another job with the Hollister Police in August, 2014.
Hollister, CA is a town of some 37,000 people about two hours south, southeast of San Francisco. On January 28th, 2017, at about 10:30 PM, Earl Malanado, a 50 year old mechanic, and his wife, residents of Hollister, CA, stopped at a traffic light on Highway 25 and, from the rightmost turn lane, turned right. For some reason Officer Masso, alone in a patrol car and stopped four lanes over in the leftmost turn lane, decided to back up, cut across three lanes, turn right and begin to follow Mr. Malanado’s car.
After following the Malanado’s car for about a mile without lights or siren, Masso pulled Malanado over, approached the car, and informed Mr. Malanado that the license plate information that came back for his car did not match the car description. This was puzzling, as Malanado had, a year prior, registered the plates with the car.
What Earl Malanado was actually in violation of was an expired registration and not having proof of insurance on him. Earl knew he had messed up and had no problem accepting responsibility for these failures, and so told Officer Masso. What he couldn’t figure out is why Masso had tailed and stopped him in the first place.
Masso went back to his police car to write up tickets for the violations – the issue of the license plate data not matching the car’s description never came up again. Upon returning to Malanado’s car to have Earl sign the citations, Officer Masso saw that Earl had his cell phone out and was filming, as is his constitutional right. Masso became visibly upset. He asked Mr. Malanado whether he would sign the tickets and he got an affirmative. Then Malanado asked him repeatedly why he had been pulled over, because it still didn’t make sense. Was the license plate/description issue made up out of thin air to provide an excuse to execute the stop? But what attracted Masso’s attention to Malando’s car in the first place?
Masso wouldn’t answer, and then said “I’m going to take you to jail.” He ordered Mr. Malanado out of the car. That’s when things went south.
According to Malanado, Masso opened the car door himself and, as Earl exited, the officer grabbed him, yanking him out of the car. Masso swept Malanado’s cell phone out of his hand, into the air and over the hood to land on the other side of the vehicle. Masso then proceeded to drag him to the rear of the car, screaming at him and smashing him to the ground. Pushing Earl’s face into the dirt and pressing on the back of his knees, Earl was having difficulty breathing while Masso continued shouting incoherently, occasionally saying “Stop Resisting!” despite Earl doing what he could to cooperate – in fear of his life.
This continued until a second officer, Matthew Weiss, pulled up, at which time Masso handcuffed Mr. Malanado, yanked him to his feet by the handcuffs (causing Earl to bleed at the wrists and injure his elbow), arrested him for resisting arrest, ultimately giving him into the custody of Officer Weiss.
Fortunately for Mr. Malanado, the danger to his life ended when Weiss arrived, but the violations of his civil rights did not. Taken to the jail for booking, instead of bringing Earl directly into the jail when they arrived, Officer Weiss took him aside, and without reading him his Miranda rights, began to question him about what had happened. Hours later, after Earl had been released from jail and gone to the hospital, Weiss reappeared and again began questioning Malanado without informing him of his right to remain silent.
We don’t know what would have happened if Officer Weiss had not pulled up. What is certain is that Miguel Masso most certainly should never had been hired by the Hollister Police. (Nor should he have been hired by the Oakland Police, for that matter, given his record from New York City.)
If the Hollister Police did not know what track record their potential hire had, that is bad – very bad. Insufficient background checks and potential withholding of information by other departments where he had worked point out very serious failures. While if they did know, and hired him anyway, that’s even worse.
Miguel Masso and officers like him – victims of trauma from being in the military or otherwise, those who see a gun behind every shadow, hotheads, “cowboys,” and those whose ego prevent them from dealing with the public with restraint and respect when the public is not reciprocating, do not belong on police forces. They most certainly should not be able to go from city to city, itinerant timebombs with a gun on one hip and a taser on the other waiting for the next Alan Blueford or Earl Malanado to step across their path.
Another prime example is Timothy Loehmann, who killed 14 year old Tamir Rice. He had been deemed emotionally unstable and unfit for duty in his previous police posting, yet made it onto the Cleveland police force with tragic results.
Consider Spotlight, the Academy Award winning film telling the story of how priests accused of child molestation were protected by their superiors with transfers from town to town. Like the priests in Spotlight, problem cops move from town to town, creating a danger to residents. Unlike Spotlight, there is no one whose job it is to address the issue – at least the Archbishop of Boston should have been dealing with the problem, even if he failed to.
Earl Malanado does not want Miguel Masso behind bars for what he did the night of January 28th, though in a just world assault and false arrest should be enough to put him there. In an interview Malanado said
“My wish is that he not be a Police Officer anymore. That he no longer be in a position where people’s lives are in his hands.”
Truly, no one else should have to endure similar moments of terror, not knowing if they are going to live or die at the hands of an out-of-control officer.
The Police Chief of Hollister, the City leaders of Hollister, and the people of Hollister should want that too.