The true story of how I shot a cop and went to jail (and something about a dildo)
“They got me on some straight-up bullshit, son!” exclaimed the kid sitting next to me in the bullpen at the Erie County Holding Center. “What they get you on?”
“I shot a cop,” I growled, shooting him an icy stare. “And I’d do it again.”
“Son?!” His face froze in delighted dismay. “Real? That nigga dead?!”
“I really doubt it.”
“Jablaow!” he mimicked a gunshot, aiming his hand at the mucus-encrusted, blood-smeared brick wall. “What’d you use–a nine, forty-five…”
“A Sony Handycam,” I said with the unflinching nerve of a coldblooded videographer. “It’s the same kind James O’Keefe uses; he told me himself.”
“James who, nigga?” he balked. “Pfft! You on some fuckin’ camera shit, son?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I shot a video of a cop.”
“Pfft! That ain’t no law, son. Somebody need to tell them motherfuckers!” he hollered, slapping the cold, metal bench. “We all in here on some bullshit!”
Bunting swung by my place at about 2pm and we headed to the demonstration downtown. The New York Marriage Equality Act went into effect the previous evening, and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was protesting gay marriage throughout the state, for reasons of a religious and hate-filled nature. We wanted to cover the event properly, so we brought along a video camera, a couple bibles, and a massive latex dildo/microphone. The jiggly kind is best for serious journalism.
We circled the block a few times, parked and walked over to the growing crowd at Niagara Square. To our surprise (and because most had been bused in from out of state), the delusional NOM bigots totaled about 250. The righteous counter-protesters were only about a dozen strong. As press, we moved among both factions, asking questions.
“The bible says nothing about gay marriage,” I told a NOM supporter, “and marriage invariably results in less sex, so wouldn’t it stand to reason that, as a Christian, you should support gay marriage?” He was confused.
“Would it be fair to say that you’re doing The Lord’s work here today?” I pressed him. After much squirming, “Yes,” was his answer. I pointed to the bible, politely informed him that he shouldn’t be working on the Sabbath, and told him he was going to hell. It’s in the bible.
We also talked to this hayseed who subsists, ostensibly, on moneys derived from the Tooth Fairy. In a hill-folk whistle, he claimed to be “a low-level politician.” He had glossy, moonshine eyes. And dementia, possibly. “They took our rights!” he claimed. I didn’t bother to ask how.
“Your pants are clearly a poly-cotton blend,” I informed him. “You’re going to hell. It’s in the bible.”
The crowd started chanting, “Let the people vote!” Because social conservatives are not allowed to vote for governor or state legislature. Then they started singing. It was pretty gay. “How great is our God?” went the seemingly endless refrain. Not great enough to stop gay marriage which, for an omnipotent being, should have been pretty easy. One would imagine.
“This here’s a chocolate protest,” I heard one woman say to another. Indeed, most of the NOM supporters were black and, apparently, incapable of detecting the historic irony in their prejudice.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” I beckoned one lady. “Are you menstruating?”
“Well, this is what this is all about,” she inexplicably answered.
I was like, “Whaaaa?”
“He’s trying to say you’re unclean,” her husband chimed in.
“It’s in the bible,” I said. “You’re going to hell.”
She then claimed that the New Testament was her guiding principle. I quickly shot back that in Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus said he didn’t come to change the law. Bunting had made a note of this in anticipation of her predictable nonsense. He spends his spare time studying apologetics. I prefer to stab at my eyes with needles. But to each his own–unless it impinges on the rights of others.
We lingered on the outskirts of the protest. Bunting taped while I interviewed. I snagged a beardy bible-humper, but the noise of the rally was ruining our audio, so I broke out the dildophone. “How do you define marriage?” I asked him, waving the wobbly latex member near his face.
“I hope someone does this to your child,” he said, slowly slinking away.
“I’m sorry,” I said, trailing him. “Could you speak into the mic?” He walked backwards while craning his neck toward the dildophone to chastise us on the record. “You’re going to have to speak into the mic, sir,” I said, wiggling it near his face. He then fled.
About five or six pro-gay marriage counter-protesters were standing on the steps of City Hall, right in the middle of the NOM people, holding up humorously scathing signs. The noble police force on hand sprung into action and banished them across Delaware Ave to Niagara Square, which is where the rest of the counter-demonstrators stood. One woman had to be forcibly removed by a large, bald copper–the brave lad. I grabbed the camera from Bunting and tried to get some footage of the action, but the crowd was too thick, and I ended up just trailing them across the street to interview the woman.
She told us about a few indignities she and her children had suffered at the hands of Christ’s flock over the years, and we agreed that most homophobes are really just secret, self-loathing queers. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb.
As is their constitutional right to peacefully assemble, the counter-demonstrators offered appropriate counter-chants to the NOM nonsense. “Let us vote!” they chanted. “58% support gay marriage!” the counter-demonstrators replied. The cops were determined to silence the counter-demonstrators. Bunting filmed an exchange between officer Donna Donovan, who was presumably conceived to the tune of “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” and a couple of the human-rights advocates on scene. She flipped out and said, “I don’t want my picture taken. I don’t want my picture taken!” She then charged at Bunting, stomped on his foot and slapped the camera down from his face. She threatened to arrest him. Myself and a few others informed her that it’s not illegal to videotape her in public.
A few minutes later, Donovan was lecturing some counter-demonstrators about how “disrespectful” they were being and that they needed to shut up. “Being disrespectful isn’t illegal,” I told her and grabbed the camera from Bunting. The lecture continued, so I trained the camera on the exchange. “I told you that I don’t want my picture taken!” Donovan shouted, charging at me. She slapped at the camera and broke out her handcuffs. I held out my right hand, thinking she was full of shit. She clapped the cuff down on my wrist with the intensity of a woman bent on causing physical pain (my wrists are still slightly bruised and scratched). I held the camera out with my left hand to pass it to Bunting. I was being unlawfully arrested and I knew they’d erase the exonerating footage. “Josh!” I yelled. “Josh!” He turned around to grab the camera, as Donovan pulled my right hand behind my back and tried to violently slap the camera to the ground. Bunting took the camera, she finished cuffing me, the cops confiscated the camera from Bunting and then they took me on a perp walk.
Once in the squad car, cuffs cutting into my wrists, I tried to ask her why I was being arrested. I said, “I don’t understand–”
“No!” she screamed. “You don’t understand what we go through! You don’t know me! I don’t care what you people do in bed!” She went off in that manner, for a solid two minutes, and I told her she needed anger management. And, absolutely, she does need to work on her people skills. It was immediately apparent that she has a diminutive woman cop Napoleon complex, and she overcompensates by being an unreasonable bully.
When they bring you into the holding center, cuffed behind your back, they ask you to stand next to a white brick wall and stare at a red X made of electrical tape. Apparently, 8 inches is too far away from the wall, so Donovan told me to get closer and pushed me up against it. Her coworker cop dude then said, “See, I would have introduced him to the X and not been so nice about it.” So she says to me, “You hear that?” in this smart-ass tone.
I said, “Yeah, I heard that. He intimated that he was going to bash my head against a brick wall because he’s a fucking asshole.”
He replied, “I didn’t say I was going to bash your head against the wall.”
“Yeah,” I replied, “and you don’t know the meaning of the word ‘intimate’ either.”
Donovan then said, “He just thinks he’s always getting bashed because he’s gay.” I told her I wasn’t, but it didn’t matter either way. She then said I was in denial. Her asshole partner then said, apropos of nothing, “He’s an atheist.” They both chuckled derisively, for some fucking reason.
Again, I asked why I was being arrested. Donovan said that I was “behind her shouting things,” and explained to the other cop that I was a counter-demonstrator. I informed her that, no, I was in the press, reporting on the event. I informed her that yelling is not illegal, that I was not chanting, and I inquired how she knew I was yelling if I was behind her. “My kids say I have eyes behind my back,” she said, smugly.
The cops moved me into a smaller processing room, removed the handcuffs, put me up against a wall and had me take off my pants. One cop made a show of loudly snapping on some latex gloves. My asshole did not want. But all he did was shake out my pants, searching for contraband. Another cop went through the camera bag.
“You got any weed in here?” the one cop asked. “The bag smells like weed.” They were getting excited by the prospect of having something to legitimately charge me with.
“You don’t know what weed smells like then,” I told him. No weed. Idiot.
“Whoa!” he yelped upon discovering the dildophone. I explained what it was for, but they said they didn’t believe me, and tried to embarrass me about it. I ran for the disgusting office of Congress; I am beyond embarrassment.
The pig asked rhetorically of the clean dildophone, “What’s this brown stuff on it?” They all laughed.
“Probably bodily fluids,” I said. “I bought it from a hobo who pulled it out of his ass.”
Donovan learned that I was with The BEAST, and that I’d be writing about the incident, so she said that she’d be sure to get news out about the dildo before I got released. And then a cop I couldn’t see behind the desk asked, “Is he a fucking faggot or something?” And they all laughed.
They moved me down the line for more questioning. “Religion?” the one pig asked. This is done for special meal requirements, etc., but having just been mocked for my atheism, I was a bit touchy.
“Why the fuck does that matter?” I asked.
“It’s a fucking question on the form is why it fucking matters!” he yelled. “Get the fuck in there!” There was the mucus and blood stained bullpen. Later he’d call me out for my mugshot, which I couldn’t help but smirk about. “Yeah, go ahead and smile, asshole,” he said. “You’re being arrested, moron. Real fucking funny.” I don’t know what they expect; the sign on the wall to the right included a photocopied image of a shirtless Patrick Swayze which read, “Road House”. This is apparently the totally unfunny place you’re supposed to look when they snap your profile picture.
I waited in the frigid bullpen with a half a dozen detainees for a few hours, being called out periodically to answer questions about my mental health and get my fingerprints scanned. The cop who took my prints was actually a really nice guy, who could teach Donovan a thing or two about dealing with people. Eventually, they gave me my free phone call and took me upstairs to a private 8 x 6 cell. I’ve stayed in seedier hotels but, in contrast to the bullpen, there didn’t seem to be any air conditioning at all. I sleeplessly sweated through the night, as they never turn off the lights.
[Note that I did not omit the part about being read my Miranda rights; they were never read to me]
Wake-up call at 5 am, shitty breakfast, and the confounding movement from one locked room to another, each smaller than the next, until many of the 18 detainees were forced to sit on the filthy floor. Arraignment hearing at 9:30. Fallon, BEAST publisher & lawyer, was there waiting with the arrest report and I got my first look at the bullshit charges against me:
What tripe! Let me address these charges one by one:
I wasn’t yelling anything. Although my sympathies clearly lie with the counter-demonstrators, I was there acting as press–weird press, but press nonetheless. I didn’t call the cop an “asshole” until after my unlawful arrest when one of them implied he was going to crack my head against a brick wall. Regardless, calling a cop an asshole is perfectly legal.
Disruption or disturbance of a religious service, funeral, buriel [sic] or memorial service:
I wasn’t aware a group could conduct a religious service on the steps of a government building. What is this fucking Texas?! Anyway, I interrupted nothing. And don’t those Westboro Baptist idiots do this all the time?
Harassment in the second degree:
Really? I “did strike, shove, kick…” someone? Who? One of the NOM supporters? I was on the other side of the street! Find me one person who can corroborate this line of bullshit and I’ll show you a filthy liar. And, again, it’s not illegal to videotape an officer, whether the diminutive fascist can handle it or not.
List of confiscated property:
Digital voice recorder
Aside from being likely the funniest list of confiscated property in the history of Erie County, there was one very big omission: my video camera. Fallon and I were told that the camera was “too big” to be held at the Holding Center, which is complete bullshit, and that it was taken to a precinct downtown. This was obvious done so that Donovan could erase the footage of the unlawful arrest–or to disappear the camera entirely.
After getting the runaround, we eventually did get the camera back and, yes, all the footage from the rally was gone. Fortunately, they failed to completely wipe the hard drive, so we may be able to recover the data. The BEAST legal team is still working on getting the right program and making sure we don’t fuck it up. Data recovery is something of a one-shot deal and, if you do it wrong, you can lose it all permanently. Stay tuned for that and more commentary about the belligerent camera-averse Buffalo Police Department (there’s been a couple very similar incidents lately in the area).
At the risk of being too long-winded here, I’d like to address one more thing at this time: The Buffalo News. Here’s their description of my unlawful arrest:
Buffalo police made one arrest, charging Ian Murphy, the Green Party candidate for the Congressional seat that Democrat Kathleen C. Hochul won in a special election in May, with disorderly conduct. Police said in a report that Murphy, 35, of Amherst, was using abusive, obscene language and shoved a person in the crowd.
OK. I’m actually 32. The arrest report says nothing about the sex toy, and that definitely didn’t happen, so I asked them about it. I heard back from Deputy Managing Editor Stan Evans by email. He told me that “[t]here is a second summary report at police headquarters about the arrest and incident.” Fair enough, I guess. He also told me that they emailed me on Sunday night. I was in jail! The only reason I’m bothered by their shoddy reporting is because it nearly equals the amount of coverage they granted me during my entire run for Congress. Lesson: next time I run for Congress I’ll do it with a dildo.
Video should be coming shortly…
The following is Bunting’s description of events after my arrest:
After the police took the camera, I walked away from the crowd towards the middle of Niagara Square to break the bad news to our attorney and publisher Paul Fallon. He wanted to know if these were city cops or metro cops. I wasn’t sure. Police all look alike to me. Yeah, I said it.
After that I rounded up some witnesses who said they were willing to testify to what had happened. After collecting their contact information, I called Fallon back to see what our next move would be. He told me to try to get a hold of a lieutenant. This was someone called B Lark, and she had some staring at people to do and didn’t have time to talk to us.
By the time I got back home, I’d missed a few calls from Fallon. He said something about how he was blindsided by how Ian had a dildo. This was the first time I’d heard that the police planned on making up phony charges to justify the arrest. We’d had the dildo out earlier, but the police didn’t mind. The only thing they told us to do was to stop recording them. I apologized for not telling him about that, but in the back of my mind all I could think was: Of course we had a dildo. We were covering a NOM rally. What were we supposed to do – cover it without a dildo? Madness.