The alternate headline might be: "Don't bring a gun to a snowball fight."
(Warning: There's quite a bit of salty language in the video.)
When it snows, people have snowball fights. When it snows in Washington D.C., somebody is going to draw a gun in a snowball fight. Who would have thought it would be a plainclothes detective with an attitude?
Washington's ABC affiliate WJLA reports:
A lively snowball fight on D.C. streets took a dark turn Saturday when anti-war protesters dressed in anarchist garb showed up, and a D.C. police officer pulled his weapon out of his holster.
The neighborhood snowball fight at 14th and U streets was advertised online. By 3 p.m., more than 200 residents converged for the massive snowball fight.
"No one meant any harm, no one meant anything by -- just having fun, it's highly unfortunate," said Tisha West. "We're Washingtonians and we like to play in the blizzard."
But things started to turn for the worse when the crowd -- some carrying anti-war signs and dressed all in black with masks -- began to pelt passing cars. A plain clothes D.C. police detective emerged from a Hummer -- it's unclear whether it was his personal vehicle or an unmarked police vehicle -- after it was struck. The detective began yelling at the gathered crowd. At one point, he pulled back his jacket, exposing his service weapon -- it's unclear if he did this intentionally. That's when things took a darker turn.
That account is roundly disputed in the comments section of that site, and elsewhere. In particular, several eyewitnesses insist the story overplays the anti-war angle -- hard to say. Unlike a G20 summit in March, there is good reason to wear a black ski mask in the middle of a blizzard. Also, the detective didn't merely "expose" his weapon -- he definitely drew his gun. An alarmed citizen, seeing an angry man waving a pistol at revelers, called 911.
Now, is it a good idea to hurl snowballs at moving vehicles? No, probably not. Is the appropriate response to leap out of your car with a loaded pistol and use the color of authority to threaten people who are really just having a bit of harmless fun? To ask the question is to answer it.
From the Washington City Paper story:
Like so many others, Robin Bell heard about the snowball fight at 14th and U Streets NW and decided to go and check it out. He tells City Desk that prior to the incident, a cop car got stuck in the road and everybody stopped the snowball fight and helped the cop get his car out of the snow. "The crowd cheered and everybody was happy," Bell says.
Soon, though, he started hearing people shouting: "Don't bring a gun to a snowball fight!"
"Then I walked over and I saw a police officer brandishing a weapon," Bell says referring to the uniform cop. He says he didn't see the detective brandish his weapon--only the furious aftermath. He says the detective was yelling and "kind of out of control." "It was really strange to see a police officer so upset and angry over what seemed at best a misunderstanding," Bell explains. "At worst, it was some kids throwing a snowball at him."
At one point, Bell says, the detective ran into the crowd and grabbed man whom he thought might have thrown a snowball at him. Bell adds that the detective them put the individual next to his Hummer. Cops grabbed two others. All three were given warnings. "It was ridiculous because everyone was throwing snowballs," Bell says.
D.C. Police say they are investigating the whole fracas, although a couple of off-the-cuff, early statements by management seem to deny what anyone with two eyes and an Internet connection could readily see. (Update, 12/21: Jonathan Turley has an interesting post about the incident, which offers some details about the head of the D.C. P.D.'s internal affairs division.)
If there is any justice in this world, this Detective Baylor will be working the graveyard for a private security outfit at some Recovery Act-funded construction job come spring. But there is no justice...
Update: Here's the Washington Post story on the hullabaloo:
Police said initially that the detective had not flashed his weapon. On Sunday, the officer was placed on desk duty after Twitter, blogs and YouTube appeared to show otherwise.
If the final investigation shows the officer pulled his weapon after being pelted with snowballs, D.C. Assistant Chief Pete Newsham, head of the investigative services bureau, said that "would not be a situation in which a member [of the force] would be justified."
"We have to see what the entire circumstance was," Newsham said Sunday. "But just a snowball fight, not in my mind. That doesn't seem a situation where we would pull out a service weapon."
Meanwhile, Ann Althouse sides with the cop:
The quoted chant is "Don't bring a gun to a snowball fight!" and that sounds funny and fun-loving, but it got me thinking of the encounters with police that we saw in the 1960s when it took next to nothing to provoke shouts of "police brutality" and "pig." And in fact, if you watched the whole video, you heard the shout "F--- you, pig."
(Click "Read More" to see additional videos below the fold.)