A man in New Hampshire has just been convicted of criminal threatening. It’s a win for the police who have gotten this criminal off of the street and behind bars where he belongs. I’m not sure what kind of country we would be if we didn’t have our police departments on the lookout for these types of criminals and protecting us from them. This man’s crime? He had a pocket knife open in his hand, ready to defend himself against two darkly clothed men who were following him down a dark city street late at night. The thug! He obviously didn’t know the two people who feared for their lives from his actions were two armed policemen on a training exercise!
Yes, that is correct. Dustin Almon was walking along a street alone on November 8, 2008. As he was walking he noticed two men in dark clothes following behind him. Those two men were Liquor police, one a trainee that officer Anthony Cattabriga was training. Why that training involved following a man walking down a street was not entered into the record, nor was the name of the trainee. Dustin looked back twice and then turned around and asked the two individuals “Why are you following me?” In his hand he had an opened knife with a two inch long blade, his hand held down by his side, pointing the blade to the ground.
The officers, who were both armed with guns and Tasers, responded by saying “police”. At this point, Dustin closed up his knife and clipped it back onto his belt and complied with all instructions.
Officer Cattabriga testified that he feared for his safety. Remember, Officer Cattabriga and his partner were folllowing Dustin, in plain clothes, while carrying both guns and Tasers under their jackets. And HE was the one who feared for his safety.
The judge ruled Dustin guilty after examining the knife. When his attorney made the very plausible case that Dustin was acting in self defense, Judge Sawako Gardner suggested that it did not matter. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Dustin HAD no previous record. He does now.
I am wondering if this is really how we want to be handling interactions between the police, who we give the power to hold a gun to our heads, and the citizens who might just be concerned for their safety with two individuals following them down a street. Dustin wasn’t doing anything wrong, he wasn’t a criminal and he had never been in any kind of trouble before. There is no reason to suspect that he was over-reacting to the way he was being followed.
I am sure that there are a lot of people glad that this person was found guilty. Perhaps next time he is walking down a dark street and being followed by two people who aren’t police officers but muggers, he will think better of defending himself. That’s the last thing a country like ours wants, an armed and dangerous citizenry.
Dustin’s attorney has stated that he will be appealing the decision.