Police Reform Advocates Defuse Another Potentially Deadly Standoff!




This-all happened a couple Wednesday nights ago, March 4, around 9:30 to 10:30 in Anaheim.  The good news is NOBODY GOT HURT OR KILLED, and it’s nice to be able to tell an APD story like that.  But the main reason I wanted to tell the story is to show how essential and constructive Police Reform Advocates, who among other things ALWAYS FILM tense law-enforcement situations, are to the overall mission of keeping the peace.

And our story involves TWO police reform advocates, both of whom lost close relatives to Anaheim police shootings – Corie Cline and Advocate 2 who prefers to be unnamed; and a young homeless schizophrenic man named Méle, harmless and beloved by neighbors.

So late that night, in the neighborhood near Euclid and La Palma where his mother and sister live, Méle was wandering around doing something he frequently did – looking into the windows of different parked cars.  And he wasn’t trying to break in or steal anything, which he was never known to do – all he does is talk to himself whenever he sees his image in a reflective surface like a car window.  But somebody apparently didn’t know that, and called in “attempted car burglaries” to the APD.

I know – sounds like how the tragic Kelly Thomas story started out, and that’s exactly what Corie, who lives in that neighborhood and knows Méle, was thinking.  She pulled out her phone and began filming on Facebook Live from a legal distance, while shouting at the police that Méle was harmless, unarmed, and schizophrenic, and shouting at Méle to put down the big white blanket he was cowering behind, before one of the many cops aiming their guns at him panicked and fired.

And there were sure a lot of them, more cars than Corie could count – more than ten, she says, plus an undercover one for good measure – there musta not been a whole lot else going on in Anaheim that night.  Toward the end of the half-hour standoff, the ghetto-bird “Angel” even showed up roaring and circling.  Thinking Méle might be armed, because that’s what the reporting party apparently reported, the police kept shouting at the poor guy to put down his blanket, while he kept clinging to it and begging them to put down their guns. 

If he had made any sudden movements, or tried to run, with all those guns pointed at him, he’d be dead now.

Advocate #2, sitting in her bed at home, saw Corie’s live video, and started communicating via Facebook comments that what was needed was a CAT (Critical Assessment Team.)  Realizing that Corie couldn’t use her phone while filming, she then called APD dispatch herself.  They told her police were responding to a “burglary suspect who might be armed,” and she told them he was schizophrenic, unarmed, and a CAT team needed to be sent out. 

“Here comes the helicopter!”

Right about then (possibly hearing from dispatch) a couple of the cops FINALLY started talking to Corie, who convinced them Méle was harmless, and they all went looking for his sister, to talk him down.  Finally Méle slowly stood up and walked away; the police, apparently having received some message on their walkie-talkies, followed him quietly for a distance and then let him go.

Weird postscript:  the next day I called the very helpful new Public Information Officer Shane Carringer, to hear the police’s version of the incident, and he had a hell of a time finding ANYTHING resembling what I described.  After a lot of looking he said, “Well, there’s a report around that time and place, just that two officers went and checked on a man accused of burglarizing cars, but determined he was innocent and let him go.”  No reported clue, to the authorities, that a couple dozen cops were there for at least 30 minutes, many with their guns drawn, joined by roaring fuel-guzzling ANGEL, on the precipice of a violent tragedy!  Maybe it was all too embarrassing.

But the point I want to make with this story is this:  Our invaluable, tireless, brave Police Accountability Advocates are an essential part of the ECOSYSTEM OF JUSTICE ’round these parts.  And you too should film the police whenever you see them interacting with the public, and let them know you’re doing it – more important than documenting a possible atrocity is PREVENTING one!

APPENDIX:  Corie’s 3-4-2020 Facebook Live videos, while they last:

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.