To protect and serve? Stories from readers

Sean M. Davis COO, Media Trackers
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A Note from Tucker:

Since we began reporting on what happened to our writer and friend Sean Medlock (Jim Treacher), we’ve received many similar stories from readers across the country who’ve told us about their encounters with abusive and negligent federal law enforcement agents.

The sheer volume of the stories stunned us. What happened to Sean apparently is not unique, but part of a larger and disturbing – and frankly un-American – pattern of abuse of power. The government and its law enforcement arms exist to protect its citizens, not bully them. Some have forgotten that. If you have had a similar experience with an out-of-line agent, we urge you to post it below as a public service.

It’s important to note that as widespread as these abuses may be, they are still the exception. The majority of our law enforcement officers are decent and honorable. They perform a difficult, sometimes dangerous job for relatively low pay, and they do it because they love our country. We respect them for that. And because we do, we hope to play some small part in rooting out the bad actors in their midst.

. . .

On the afternoon of April 11, 2008, I was on my way to my now-wife’s house to drop off a cake for an upcoming party before catching a flight to visit her family. The clock was ticking, but I had given myself extra time to run some errands and pack after leaving work.  Then Angel Echevarria, an agent with the Federal Protective Service (FPS), swerved out of his lane and slammed his patrol car into the back left side of my car. Instead of apologizing for wrecking my car, Mr. Echevarria verbally accosted me, threatened to arrest me, and made a very deliberate movement to his holstered weapon. When your car is wrecked by an insecure and armed federal officer, constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure no longer apply.

Federal Protective Serivce1Paperwork filled out by Mr. Echevarria which omitted not only a valid contact number, but also his vehicle’s license plate number

The road to my wife’s home (now our home) is four lanes – two lanes for each direction of traffic with a landscaped median in between. The sprawling development along the road to the West was part of the 1788 ratification of the Constitution, which authorized Congress to accept roughly ten square miles of territory from the states to be used by and for the new government (the same land was later returned to Virginia in 1846). The neighborhood is quiet, the people are friendly, and there is not a federal building in sight. To this day, I can only assume that an FPS employee in that area had to be headed home and certainly not on duty protecting the country’s federal buildings or its federal employees.

I was driving in the right-hand lane and was only a block from my destination.  At the approaching light, a line of cars formed in the left-hand lane behind a vehicle waiting to turn left. It was out of this lane that Mr. Echevarria swerved. Sandwiched by parked cars on my right and several other cars on my left (including Mr. Echevarria’s), I had nowhere to go. Mr. Echevarria’s patrol car slammed into the latter half of the front driver’s side door and screeched all the way past my gas tank.  After I collected myself and counted to ten, I stepped out of my car, planning to take the high road and ensure that Mr. Echevarria was alright.  And that’s when things got interesting.

“Are you alright?” I asked.  “NO,” he yelled.  “What does it look like?  My car is wrecked.”

This was the point at which I realized I might not make that flight.

“Well perhaps you should’ve stayed in your lane, then,” I replied.

“I had my blinker on!”

“I don’t care if your whole car was blinking, you don’t just get to swerve out of your lane and smash other cars.”

Mr. Echevarria then demanded that I provide identification and proof of insurance. I asked him to do the same. When he refused to even give me his name, I declined to provide him with my driver’s license given his behavior and previous outbursts. I knew my rights and I knew that as the person at fault, he had no legitimate authority to use his position to intimidate me. He again demanded my information, and I again declined and requested the same from him. And that’s when things went from interesting to ugly.

Mr. Echevarria very deliberately moved his hand to his holstered firearm and threatened to arrest me unless I provided him with my I.D. and proof of insurance. This was not because I was a threat (my friends regularly inform me that there’s no way I weigh more than “a buck twenty soaking wet”); it was because he wanted to use his position and his firearm to intimidate me into giving up my rights. It is difficult to negotiate with a man whose only apparent source of courage is holstered to his waist.

At that moment I seriously considered allowing him to arrest me on principle. I knew I had done nothing wrong, and I also knew that the blatantly wrongful arrest of the chief investigator of a U.S. senator with oversight of FPS and the Department of Homeland Security would make quite a news story. However, instead of using the same intimidation tactics as Mr. Echevarria or using my position as a bargaining chip, I gave up and gave in to his demands. At that point, despite not having any authority to do so, Mr. Echevarria ran a background check on me from his patrol car, using taxpayer resources to effectively spy on me after wrecking my car.  Unfortunately for Mr. Echevarria, a photographer for the Associated Press witnessed the entire incident and eagerly gave me his contact information.

Federal Protective Serivce2

Business cards of incident witness, FPS supervisor

Sitting in the front seat of my now-wrecked car, I called the Alexandria police and told that that a federal officer wrecked my car and threatened to arrest me when I asked for his identification. About 15 minutes later, an officer with the Alexandria police arrived, as did Ronald J. Young, Mr. Echevarria’s supervisor. Instead of briefly speaking to each of the involved parties upon arrival, the Alexandria police officer spent quite some time chatting with Mr. Young and Mr. Echevarria. When he finally came to ask me about my side of the story, he seemed completely disinterested. When I told him that a photographer for the largest wire service in the country saw everything, he went from disinterested to outright annoyed.

Knowing that I needed written proof and verification of what had just happened, I asked the officer to file a formal police report about the incident and to please include Mr. Echevarria’s outrageous threats and behavior. The Alexandria officer declined.  He told me that they only filed police reports where damage exceeded $1,000.  Although several panels of sheet metal and the frame of my car were obviously damaged, he told me that it was only a few hundred dollars worth of damage and not a big deal.  My insurance company later paid out a claim of nearly $1,500, and neither FPS nor the General Services Administration ever responded to calls from my insurance company.

I took pictures on my phone, wrote down notes, and called my wife to give her a contemporaneous account of what happened.  Nearly an hour after the incident, all three officers were gone, my previously pristine car was near-totaled (but luckily still drivable), and my flight was quickly approaching.  I drove the remaining block to my wife’s house, dropped off the cake, and rushed home to pack.

When I returned to work the next week, I called the legislative liaison for the Department of Homeland Security and requested the contact information for the Office of Inspector General (OIG). I filed a complaint with the OIG and was later deposed in my office by an OIG special agent.  As I wrote in my official complaint to the OIG:

“The actions of Mr. Echevarria made me feel threatened and gave me reason to believe that he would violate my personal freedoms and liberties in order to cover up the fact that he hit my car.

“I strongly believe that Mr. Echevarria used his position as an armed federal officer to intimidate me into giving up my rights and liberties.”

When I inquired several weeks later about the status of the investigation, I was told that a report was in the works. When I later asked for the report, my request was denied.  And when I later filed a Freedom of Information Act request relating to documents about an accident in which I was personally involved, I never heard back. So much for government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

At least I didn’t miss my flight.

Sean M. Davis is a student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and will be joining the Daily Caller in June

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