The Conscience of a Killer (William Norman Grigg)
Sunday January 2nd, 2011
Eric Strausbaugh of Kenosha, Wisconsin, a 34-year-old husband and father, killed himself last October 31. Friends recall that he was experiencing marital difficulties and a great deal of job-related stress. A large part of his emotional burden was the result of his actions on November 9, 2004, when he was an accomplice in the murder of Michael Edward Bell.
Strausbaugh, an officer with the Kenosha Police Department, confronted Bell in front of his home at about 2:10 a.m. He has never provided an unambiguous legal rationale for the stop: He first claimed that Bell was speeding, then later asserted that he had run a stop sign. Neither of those claims was validated by the dash cam video from Strausbaugh's cruiser (which actually shows that Strausbaugh blew through a stop sign on the way to Bell's home).
The video shows a visibly puzzled Bell emerging from his vehicle. Within seconds Strausbaugh is literally at the 21-year-old's throat, pushing him up against the vehicle then dragging him off-camera. A brief argument ensues, in which Bell can be heard exclaiming "I know my rights!" and Strausbaugh is heard demanding that the young man submit to a field sobriety test. Near the end of the five minute video clip we can hear Strausbaugh order Bell put his arms behind his back, followed by the unmistakable sound of a Taser being fired.
Three other Kenosha police officers -- who were reportedly within a few blocks of Bell's residence -- arrived on the scene a few minutes later. Strausbaugh insisted that he called for backup because Bell "ran," but there is no evidence to corroborate that claim.
No more than ten minutes after the confrontation began, Bell was dead from a gunshot wound to the head. The actual killing was carried out by Officer Albert Gonzalez, who, in the clinical language of Dr. Douglas Kelly, former Chief Medical Examiner for Fond Du Lac County, "made [a] contact wound by pressing his gun against [Bell's] head at the time the shot was fired."
When Gonzalez pulled the trigger, Bell was being restrained by at least two other police officers. Strausbaugh maintained that Bell -- a much smaller man -- somehow managed to bulldog him up against a nearby car, and grab for his gun before being shot to death. Bell supposedly accomplished this feat despite being Tasered twice, as well as enduring several punches and knee strikes to the ribs inflicted by Strausbaugh and Officer Erich Weidner (who arrived within minutes of the initial stop).