Of Bidens and Bikers: Does Anybody Remember Derek Hale? (William Norman Grigg)
Wednesday September 12th, 2012
A fragment of folk wisdom dubiously attributed to Bismack informs us that God watches out for “fools, small children, and the United States of America.” During a campaign stop in Seaman, Ohio, Joe Biden’s proprietary blend of foolishness and childishness may have proven fatal were it not for the intervention of Providence – or, at least, the close supervision of the Secret Service.
Biden inflicted himself on customers enjoying an otherwise pleasant Sunday meal at Cruiser’s Diner. Acting on the familiar and entirely unwarranted assumption that Mundanes delight in being pestered by their tax-engorged overseers, Biden struck up a conversation with a group of bikers “in black leather vests and bandanas,” as Politico recounts the event.
Spying a female member of the club, Biden “pulled a chair in front of himself and pulled her nearly into his lap,” continues the report. “He put his hands on her shoulders and leaned in for a conversation as photographers snapped away.”
Biden apparently thought that his behavior was puckishly charming, and the assembled media lickspittles did nothing to dispel that delusion. One needn’t have a Betazoid’s empathic gifts to recognize that the two male bikers who flanked Biden were neither flattered by Biden’s presence, nor amused by the adolescent attentions he had forced on their female companion. After all, this was a brazen violation of the second rule of biker etiquette (the relevant section of which could be paraphrased as “Keep your hands off of `our’ women”).
Biden’s strained attempt at a mock-populist photo-op occurred during the same news cycle in which the Dear Leader himself took part in a staged bearhug in a pizza joint in Florida. I find myself wondering how Biden’s campaign appearance may have turned out if the circumstances had been altered slightly – if, for instance, his son Beau Biden had decided to make a similar overture to a group of bikers. Had this happened, there is a small but tantalizing possibility that Biden the Younger may have been taught the kind of painful lesson from which fools often receive necessary instruction.
In addition to being the glorious outpouring of vice presidential loins – and thus heir to his father’s incurable foolishness – Beau Biden is Delaware’s Attorney General. Five years ago, Biden the Younger consummated the official cover-up of the police murder of Marine veteran Derek Hale, who was repeatedly shot with a Taser and then gunned down by at point-blank range on the front porch of a home in Wilmington on November 6, 2006.
Derek Hale, an Iraq combat veteran, joined an “outlaw motorcycle club” (OMC) called the Pagans shortly after being discharged from the Marine Corps for medical reasons. In November 2006 he was making a run from his home in Virginia to Wilmington as part of a “Toys for Tots” promotion. He was unaware of the fact that about a year earlier the Delaware State Police had opened an investigation into several members of the Pagans OMC.
Derek was not the subject of the investigation. He had no criminal record, and there were no warrants out for his arrest on the day he was murdered.
On November 6, 2006, Derek was house-sitting for a friend, who had broken up with his wife and was moving to a new apartment. Sandra Lopez, the soon-to-be ex-wife of Derek's friend, arrived with an 11-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter early in the afternoon to remove some personal belongings.
Derek -- wearing a hooded sweatshirt -- was sitting quietly on the front porch of the home when an unmarked police car and a blacked-out SUV arrived at around 4:00 PM and decanted a thugscrum of 8-14 heavily armed police. According to a half-dozen eyewitnesses, the officers were dressed in black, and displayed no police insignia of any kind.
Derek stood as the police surrounded the porch. Within a few seconds, he was hit with the first of what would be seven Taser blasts during a space of 73 seconds. According to eyewitnesses – one of whom, Howard Mixon, was threatened by the officers when he pointed out that Derek was helpless and unresisting – Hale’s last words were a plea for the police to get the children to safety. Witnesses also described how Derek, who was paralyzed from the Taser assault and left wallowing in a puddle of vomit, repeatedly attempted to comply with demands to remove his hands from his pockets.
[He was actually Tasered seven times.]
Derek was prone, unarmed, and helpless when Lt. William Brown of the Wilmington Police Department murdered him by shooting him three times at point-blank range.
The official report commissioned and signed by Beau Biden dismisses eyewitness accounts, retailing as irreproachable truth the self-serving version of the incident provided by the death squad that murdered Derek Hale.
Biden’s report asserted that the Taser barrage was necessary “to overcome Derek Hale’s resistance to the arrest so he could be taken into custody without injury to himself or to the officers.” The arrest was unlawful, and Derek Hale offered no resistance – apart from his inability to comply because of the Taser attack itself.
The document also claims that Hale “continued to keep his hand in his pocket as if holding a weapon and turning in a threatening manner toward a nearby officer armed with an empty Taser.” According to the description provided by disinterested observers, Derek was thrown to his side by a Taser strike, and was too busy vomiting into a flower bed to “threaten” any of the people who had just attacked him.
Derek was within easy reach of his armed assailants. But taking a hands-on approach might have involved a risk to “officer safety” – one that was both infinitesimal and, to the valiant badasses of the Wilmington PD, entirely unacceptable. So for the benefit of Beau Biden and the other authors of the official report the officers confected a story worthy of a Marvel comic book in which Derek ripped the barbs from his clothes and stood up in a “threatening” manner.
Because of this “menacing” behavior, insists the Biden Report, the Taser-wielding officer nearest to the victim “believed he was in immediate danger and, thus, began an evasive move. Lt. Brown believed that the use of deadly force was immediately necessary to prevent serious injury or death to that officer.” A second officer was preparing to gun down Derek when Brown shot the victim.
The police had the advantage of numbers and firepower. Their subject had been under surveillance for days; he was clearly not a threat. He had been Tasered seven times when Lt. Brown pulled the trigger. According to Beau Biden, this was entirely justified because of fears on the part of the assailants that Derek – who was in convulsions – had not been rendered entirely immobile.
Attorney Thomas Neuberger, who represented Derek's widow Elaine in a lawsuit filed against her husband's murderers, described Biden’s report as “a shameless cover-up because the use of deadly force was not justified. Fourteen heavily armed and trained police officers should be able to arrest a citizen without killing him after they have Tasered him seven times and he is lying in a pool of his own vomit."
Shortly after he filed the lawsuit on behalf of Derek’s widow and stepchildren, Neuberger told me that when Thomas MacLeish became commander of the Delaware State Police in 2005, his most urgent priority was to improve the public image of his scandal-plagued agency.
“Over the past several years, we've represented a lot of police officers, including some from SWAT teams, so it's not as if we're anti-police, even though we consider the State Police [DSP] hierarchy to be corrupt," Neuberger told me in early 2007. "We've gone to court on behalf of whistleblowers and officers who have filed civil rights complaints of various kinds. Of the ten lawsuits we've filed, we've either won or successfully settled nine of them. Most of the cases have involved the Delaware State Police, and the DSP's hierarchy has received a lot of negative publicity. I suspect that might be what's behind the raid in which Derek was killed.”
Clearly, the DSP wanted to find a suitable “threat” – preferably one that was telegenic without posing significant risks to “officer safety” – to cast as an antagonist in a high-profile PR campaign. The Pagans were a perfect fit. The Feds cut themselves in for a piece of the action, and a joint “task force” was created to target the Pagans.
Eventually, the DSP was able to produce a 160-count indictment against several members of the motorcycle club. That document was replete with lurid – and studiously vague – allegations of “racketeering” and “gang activity.” Derek was never a criminal suspect. In fact, he didn't become a "person of interest" until after he had been murdered by the police.
Immediately after the shooting, the DSP contacted the Virginia State Police and -- in a deliberate act of official perjury -- told them that Derek was a suspect in a narcotics investigation. Police from Delaware and Virginia barged into the Hale family's Manassas home, shoving aside a grieving wife and two devastated children in order to carry out a charade of a search in the service of an official fiction.
Not content to murder Derek and terrorize his already traumatized family, the people who orchestrated that charade defiled the victim’s memory. On November 21, 2006, the DSP issued a press release that was a Soviet-grade specimen of official mendacity. The State Police claimed that Derek “was at the center of a long term narcotics trafficking investigation” and that his death was a justifiable use of force because he had “resisted arrest.”
By exonerating the police who murdered Derek Hale – including William Brown, who actually pulled the trigger – Beau Biden conferred his imprimatur on the post-mortem assassination of the victim’s character. He also disposed of the matter before a suitable answer was found to the most important question: Why was a paramilitary strike team sent to arrest him? The most reasonable explanation is that the federally supervised task force wanted to intimidate him into becoming an informant.
At the time of Derek Hale’s murder, several other Pagans were already on the federal payroll. One of them, James “Pagan Ronnie” Howerton, was recruited by the FBI in 2004.
While being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars as an undercover Fed, Howerton – a convicted murderer became the club’s sergeant-at-arms.
In 2009, the Feds breathlessly announced that they had compiled a massive indictment against the Pagans as an interstate criminal conspiracy– only to see that document deflate into a small number of relatively trivial charges against specific members of the club. The “criminal enterprise” claim boiled down to the accusation that the Pagans had committed a federal offense by running a raffle. The City of Wilmington paid a $975,000 settlement to Derek’s family in December 2010, avoiding a civil trial scheduled for the following July.
The biker milieu isn’t to everybody’s taste. Like every other private association, biker clubs do occasionally attract people inclined toward violent crime. Clear-eyed social observers would conclude that innocent people are far safer in the company of bikers – including members of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs – than in the company of police.
William Queen, an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, spent roughly 30 months infiltrating the Mongols Motorcycle Club. His labors – which cost a great deal in money extracted from tax victims, and nearly destroyed Queen’s family – yielded an insignificant haul of controlled substances and “illegal” firearms.
Trite and pointless as the operation proved to be, it did give Queen an opportunity to strut and preen about his supposed accomplishments.
“While they are wearing that patch, they are untouchable to the world at large,” wrote Queen of the Mongols in his memoir, Under and Alone. “No one can make trouble for them without bringing down the fury of the whole Mongol Nation.”
As Queen conceded, that description applies much better to the violent, lawless brotherhood that employs him: “Living full-time as an outlaw gave me a perspective few law-enforcement officers ever get to experience. I was often more at risk from my supposed brothers in blue than from my adopted brothers in the gang.”
By covering up the murder of Derek Hale, Beau Biden performed an indispensable service on behalf of the people to whom Queen refers as “outlaws with badges.”
Biden the Younger is now serving as the Obama Campaign’s semi-official emissary to military veterans, some of whom might want to confront him about traducing the memory of Derek Hale, an honorably discharged Marine combat veteran.
William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.