Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Thoughts on the shooting of Chosen Sons member Norman Stamp

Buz thinks that the vast, overwhelming majority of current city police and ex and retired city police suffered in muted embarrassment a couple of weeks ago when long-time motorcycle cop Norman Stamp was shot and killed by an on-duty city officer just doing his job. On Sunspot and the police talk forum, there were many, many defenders of the dead officer, and said things like he was a mentor, a great guy, and he would never pull his gun on a cop, etc., etc. Well, if he didn't pull his gun, why did the officer shoot him?
Of course, if the exact same scenario happened with a "street punk",  they would have said good job, and the punk deserved it, etc. Ya can't have it both ways, guys.

Mrs. Stamp has hired a private detective and a couple of lawyers to see about "the truth" and possibly suing the same department he served in for many years.
After seeing some of the bitter anti-police posts, this has riled up in talk forums, one can only conclude, that both the commish and mayor had to be a bit embarrassed to sit there and hear a biker guy say the on-duty cop was lying--to 15 seconds applause. This after the department detailed an honor guard and motorcycle escort for the funeral procession.
Only in Baltimore! Many people in Baltimore feel that the police department has long ago lost its moral authority. I was in a liquor store the other day, buying some refreshing beverage. There was a uniformed officer in the store discussing something heatedly with the owner. I couldn't hear what was being said, but the young clerk says to me: "I hate Baltimore Police. They're so nasty and hard to deal with".

Buz wants to assure readers that most cops just want to do their jobs, make some money for a good life, go to vacation in Ocean City, and go home at the end of the day. They don't carry brass knuckles and go around looking for good fights. Now Buz has been in the Haven Place many times when he was single, but not for about, oh, 15-20  years; as strip joints go, it's a pretty good one. When the Chosen Sons and their ilk, came in, though, it was time to finish the beer and head out. Those guys just gave off "trouble" vibes for anyone sober enough to sense it. And when I was headed out for a cold one, and saw their line of bikes outside the Haven, I just kept right on going. (The consultant says that's trouble avoidance.)

Here are some other thoughts based on a security/risk management/ litigation perspective:
  • Stamp was 65 years old, but wearing "biker" costume, very similar ot members of a motorcycle gang. He was celebrating with other "club" members at a strip joint. One member said to the paper: "Norm always like a good fight". The city attorneys would really like to depose that guy and summons him at a trial--along with any other Chosen Sons members that they could get their hands on. 
  • Carrying brass knuckles is against the law. It's considered a "dangerous and deadly weapon".  Any street thug patted down by an officer would be arrested with them. One poster on sunspot said that Norm always carried them as well as a claw--a device with a handcuff attached to a handle to cause "compliance". It was banned by the department many years ago.
  • Many years ago, all city police were instructed to call on-duty police if they observe trouble AS THEIR FIRST DUTY. They should only intervene if absolutely necessary, and then cooperate fully with the on-duty officers.
  • One detective told me that : "look, everybody knew that it was just a matter of time before someting bad happened with those guys hanging out at that bar".
  • Buz is sure that tunnel vision, a chaotic scene with a brawl going on, adrenalin flowing, and, of course, lots of alcohol caused Norm to not see or hear, or care about the officer ordering him to stop. (Wonder if the city is going to release the blood alcohol level of the deceased--or if they're waiting for the lawsuit). And of course, officers wear those midnite blue uniforms, which can be hard to see in the dark if you're not alert.
  • The private detective is probably going to do little more than regurgitate some police reports and interview one-sided witnesses. I doubt the "victim" or the on-duty police are going to be willing to be interviewed by him. 
  • The two attorneys will find that there is no insurance (the city is self-insuring), and no quick out-of court settlement (see ya in court). The case against the officer who was on-duty and the city is a weak one at best. Bob  Verderaime would have a field day with this case! And given how much city police are liked by city juries (sometimes), a city officer in a strip joint in biker attire suing the city will probably gain very little sympathy.
  • Mrs. Stamp might find better fodder for a lawsuit against the Haven Place for among other things: inadequate security, negligence in providing excessive drinks to customers, allowing and even encouraging folks in biker garb to frequent the place, etc. (A lot of bars don't allow "colors" or biker garb for security reasons).  Of course, given the nature of the business, the owner probably liked them coming in, since they not only bought drinks, but provided his "bouncers" or "security" when they were there.
  • Alas, we think the poor officer who shot Stamp will probably be ostracized by his "colleagues" who worshipped Stamp. Buz thinks he'll probably be gone from the police force before the year is out.
So Buz just wants to say that he hopes that most people who are on the police force are pretty decent overall. Remember, Bmore is a tough place, so you gotta hire some tough people to go out and protect us. And the department tries to weed out nasties, but sometimes the work makes one a little hard. It does its best to discipline and regulate officer activity and use of force. And, of course, many like to ride motorcycles for fun, and don't go in for this other biker stuff.


ppatin said...

Interesting comments. I'd read a lot of good things about Norman Stamp on Sunspot, but I know that a huge portion of the posters there are idiots so it was good to get your take on this case.

buzoncrime said...

Thanks, P!
And he was assigned to the Marine Unit, which unlike the wire tries to portray, is not a punishment assignment; it's a gravy job.

Anonymous said...

What, if any, are your thoughts regarding the claim that Stamps friends are frequently making; that he would be unable to draw his weapon if he was wearing brass knuckles.

I personally think that it's a straw man, and that we have no indication as to which had he was wearing them on, if at all.

buzoncrime said...

Well, there are several possibilities here:
1. There is certainly the possibility that he was not wearing them on his gun hand. Many officers, for example, used to carry their nightsticks on their non-gun hand, so they would have ready access to their gun.
2. There is the possibility that he did have them in his gun hand, but dropped them during his dance with the Taser.
3. Further, depending on how the brass knuckles were designed and their width, it is certainly possible he could have still had them on and still have gone for his gun--aim be damned. In fact, one of the posters on one of the talk forums I read stated that he went home, dug out an old pair of brass knuckles "from many years ago", and was able to both wear them and easily draw his gun.
4. Further, it is possible that when he was tased, the gun fell out of Stamp's holster or waist, and Officer Torres thought he was going for it.
5. It is possible that when he was tased and fell down, the gun became visible, and Officer Torres thought he was going for it (whether Stamp was or not--you put yourself in that situation by the preceding events and decisions).
6. Finally, we had a firearms instructor when I was there, Lt. Joe Key (now does expert firearms consulting) who told us at least once that if you are attacked and take defensive measures and your attacker keeps coming, and he/she is armed with something and/or is much bigger than you and you are in danger of serious injury, you can shoot him. In other words, it may have been legally defensible for Torres to have shot him even absent the gun, if Stamp got up and still had the brass knuckles.

Of course, the key question which Stamp's friends don't want to deal with is: why did Officer Torres shoot stamp? For fun?? Because he just felt like it? A bunch of "bikers" fighting and here comes another one?! Of course, Buz does not have access to the interviews with Torres, the other officers, or the bikers, Homicide does. And he has not read the reports of physical evidence at this chaotic scene.
However, the most likely evidence is probably what generally is believed to have happened: After the tasing, officer Torres saw the gun (somehow), and thought Stamp was going for it and killed him. We all wish it weren't so, but it most likely was.

Anonymous said...

I knew Norm as well as alot of police in and around Baltimore. I also not that the newspaper had recanted some false staements a couple of days later. I also read that Norm's BAC was next to none. I feel bad for Norm whose name is being dragged through the mud right now. As if his 44 years on the force was nothing. He had awards and medals and everything throughout the yrs. I've also read that the officer who shot him has only been in the USA for about a year. If the officer who shot him did so out of fear or accident, I feel for him. There's no feeling like shooting someone, but to find out it was a college, has to be devastating. Norm was a great cop and an even better freind. So what if he rode a motorcycle. BIG FREAKIN DEAL. Motorcycle club? So what? It was formed an inhabitated by cops. You got street gang members who are on the force. Admittedly so by them. I've met a few in the city. I hope that the truth does come out so the man can rest in peace. And for all the Norm bashers, don't judge a book by it's cover. Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Anonymous said...

To the other anonymous, where did you read these various claims you are making?

buzoncrime said...

Dear Anonymous #2, comment on May 13th:

Thank you for your comment. I'm sorry your friend died, but I'm also sorry that the situation evolved as it did, and I was blogging on it in a non-personal, professional way of looking at it as well as hoping that people would realize that from a criminal justice perspective, police are subject to the laws also and it was, I believe an embarrassment to the average officer. We don't all "like a good fight", but try to avoid it if possible.

I am an avid reader of the news, so I did not notice that the newspaper "recanted" anything; nor did I see that Officer Stamp's blood alcohol level had been published at all. If anyone out there knows, please let me know.

I'm not sure I would characterize Norm's name as having been "dragged thru the mud". The paper and TV stations simply reported the facts of the shooting incident as they knew them. In fact, I believe the media went way out of their way to treat his death as a tragedy and was way totally respectful of him and motorcycle folks.

Buz believes that most of Officer Stamp's friends and supporters are going through the various stages of grief, including anger and denial. Perhaps, with time, they will eventually reach the stage of acceptance.

I'm not sure what bearing it has that Officer Torres was "only in the USA for a year". If he was legally entitled to join the police force, so what. I had read on BPD forum that he had 5 years on. So what. By the way, residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens (and proud of it).

I learned that officer Torres has received serious death threats and lives in Southern Pennsylvania, so the Pa. State Police have established a detail to guard his house.

I agree that shooting someone, and killing them, is like no other feeling. Most officers who kill someone in the line of duty leave the force in less than 5 years.

I understand that officer Stamp had many friends and that he was a great friend to you. You are right to feel sad, angry, and in disbelief.

Buz believes there is nothing wrong in liking to drive or ride motorcycles. There is a lot of fun, there. (Though they are quite unsafe as vehicles go.) And motorcycle clubs are nice for riding with friends and family thru the country.

John said...

Were the results of the investigation ever released?

buzoncrime said...

John---Never heard anything else at all about this case, except that sometime in the fall a reporter asked Commissioner Bealefeld about it (I don't recall the context). Commish replied abruptly, and a little testily, something to the effect that: it's over and done with; we stand by all or our actions, and consider the case closed.
I'll let you know if I find out anything more.

Anonymous said...

Well, it looks like you took what was being posted instead of the real facts. The City did lose the case. They lost due to the facts, not your personal beleifs. Being a cop, it's tough out here. It's shame that it went down as it did. Oh , the statement that was in the paper about Norm liking a good fight was recanted by the same paper the very next day. Or I guess you didn't read that. I beleive in the judicial system. It works most of the time. That's why I keep doing what I do.

buzoncrime said...

Dear Anonymous #3: the city lost the case? What do you mean? Did it go to court or did it settle it out of court.
I have not heard anything one way or another.

My personal beliefs had nothing to do with it one way or another, except, if what you say is true, the facts of the case would govern amount of money which was settled for.

I know being a cop is tough: I was one for 29+ years.

Nope, didn't see the recant you refer to.

And, I also agree with the judicial system we have; it's not perfect, but it's all we got.

So, I'm not exactly sure what you are writing about, but apparently you feel it's ok for a group to go out drinking, carrying brass knuckles and their firearms, and getting involved in a fight, and, somehow, not noticing the presence of uniformed police and police cars who were on duty responding to the fight?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Only a pompous arse would judge people just because they are bikers
so norm was a biker and a personal friend "buzoncrime" you are one arrogant to speak like an authority on this matter like you know $hit
I am one of those outlaw bikers you dont like and personally i think norm was murdered by Torres and further more if Torres was such a great cop why is he on trial now in Pa for attempted murder of his neighbor so again you passed judgement on a good cop and you dam sure used this platform to state how you feel about bikers let me tell you
all the bikers i know and care about come from many walks of life and these are outlaw 1% not criminals as the government wants you to believe.. they just choose not to be sheeple like some other people who live off the word of they said so we must comply ....some are solders, some paramedics, firefighters long shore men, municipal workers, tow truck drivers, BGE line men insurance appraisers, Business owners and the list goes on i dont think any of them could ever stoop to be a maggot mouthy reporter like you "buzoncrime" personally if i ever ran into you id like to wipe my arse with your face!!