Monday, October 27, 2008

Is a corrupt hero still a hero?

Larry Davis was an African American South Bronx resident and drug dealer who was made famous 1) for his shootout with and unharmed escape from New York City detectives and the Emergency Service Unit (like S.W.A.T. but with more much abilities), 2) for his acquittal of charges in court afterwards. Was he a hero?

The year 1986: He had been suspected of dealing drugs for years and the killing 7 people, 4 of which were other drug dealers. On the night of November 19th, the cops listed above had busted into some adjoining project apartments where Larry was present with two of his sisters, a sister's husband, two of his children and two others. At this point, the truth becomes fuzzy. Davis' daughter, his lawyer Williams Kunstler, and a few other accounts say that the police busted into Davis' sister's apartment without a warrant and started firing heavy artillery first after Davis had screamed out "Don't shoot! My babies are back there!". In defense and retaliation, he fired back at them. According to the cops who were there as well as some alternative accounts, Larry Davis peeked a sawed-off shotgun and a semi-automatic pistol around the corner he was hiding behind and opened up fire on the cops first, who were performing this raid with a signed warrant from the judge. In the midst of this firefight, he used a child as a shield against the oncoming hail of bullets.

Either way, he shot six cops: one in the mouth, another in the throat, another in the forehead. In the midst of the firefight, he proceeded into the adjoining apartment and made his way out of the window, where he landed into a backyard and escaped.

For a week or so, the police held a manhunt for Larry Davis, until a tip finally led them to his real location in some project apartment building in the Bronx where his sister lived. After taking a random family hostage and making sure that live reporters were there to witness the event so that the police wouldn't murder him in cold-blood, Davis' surrendered his firearm, let the family go and turned himself into the police. As cops handcuffed him and led him to the squad car, people leaned out of their windows and stood on nearby sidewalks chanting "Lar-ry! Lar-ry! Lar-ry!", proud of his rebellious acts.

Why would I question if he was a hero? Why would the police murder him in cold blood? Why were the onlookers proud?

You see, I had mentioned Larry Davis was selling drugs.........but at some point, he was recruited by the cops to sell for them. He admitted in the following trials that, at some point, he was going to go public with his connections to the cops. This puts a new spin on the context of the first raid: perhaps they were really in bursting in there to kill him and shut him up. So, perhaps they did fire first. Other cops say that these the alleged officers were not involved in any illegal activity. But it is a well-circulated belief that there is a tight-knit "brotherhood" amongst policemen. They will often clean up after each other's horrific and immoral acts. Especially in the atmosphere of 1980's New York City, South Bronx, a place known for it's poverty, gang activity, and sharp racial tension poor minorities and a majority-white police force. A restlessness had grown in the people who were oppressed by racial prejudices, and Larry Davis' acts seemed to symbolize rebellion.

In court, Davis' was defended by Williams Kunstler, a civil rights attorney and socialist who was known for defending controversial clients such as Qubilah Shabazz (Malcolm X's daughter), Assata Shakur (Tupac Shakur's aunt) and the Chicago Seven. The prosecution charged him with all kinds of accounts from weapons possession to attempted murder. They presented many witness testimonies and pieces of evidence, but this all failed to push conviction. Kunstler, without a single piece of evidence, proved that the cops were trying to kill Davis' because of his drug dealings with them, and during the raid, he fired back at them in self-defense. The jury believed it, and he was acquitted.

Later on, however, he was found guilty on the charges of the murder of one of the drug dealers and was sentenced 25 to life. In February of this year, Larry Davis was stabbed to death in prison by fellow inmate Luis Rosado. The two had no connection prior to the fight, and it is believed that policemen paid Rosado to kill him.

So, Larry Davis is held as a hero in his neighborhood because he defeated the policemen's criminal trickery with his own criminal trickery. The hero context is that policemen in those times (and still some today) have committed ferocious, racist, criminal atrocities while "law-abiding" officials higher up turned a blind eye to it. Larry Davis committed atrocities against the cops and, with the wit of his lawyer, got the same blind eye turned on him.

Some accounts say that Davis was a reckless figure who tried to destroy anything that got in the way of his pecuniary path. So, he also committed atrocities against his own neighborhood citizens. Others, like his family and friends, say that he was a kind, caring person who did what he had to do in a suffering urban jungle in order to survive. This particular case stuck out to me because I know other people who would say that I, as a black person, am supposed to jump behind and support Davis' acts because he assaulted policemen and got away with it. Because in the minds of people who have experienced terrible, unjustified things from policemen and some who just like to talk and act like they did: all cops are corrupt.

Obviously, this isn't true. But it does still stand that corrupt cops exist. But the question here is: is corruption against the corrupt ok? Am I suppose to support someone who tried to stop immorality by endorsing heavy immorality in his own acts?


  1. Don't Feed The PixiesOctober 28, 2008 at 7:41 AM

    Although Larry got off with the sentence this does not necessarily prove he was innocent - how many innocent people have spent time in jail due to a faulty case, not always due to Police activity.

    Having said this the UK had the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad - which had to be disbanded due to the high level of evidence tampering.

    I think its the same as any profession - you always find people who can be corrupted and like the saying says: if you stare long enough into the abyss...

    A "hero" depends very much on your own point of view. One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist...and you don't want to get caught on the wrong side of the line.

    An interesting post

  2. "[I]s corruption against the corrupt ok?"

    I know that the answer is supposed to be that you can't fight fire with fire, that you need to live and lead by example, and that the other cheek is best turned. Having said all that, when the whole world is aflame maybe it is futile to fight it... In the end, what benefits you/humanity most, dying for a hopeless cause or joining a corrupt one in the hopes of bending it to your will?

    Personally, I say keep your other cheek under wraps and fire up the blowtorch, but maybe I just have shaky morals... and hard-to-follow metaphors.

  3. The Clandestine SamuraiOctober 29, 2008 at 8:54 PM

    I definitely understand.

    The thing is, bending a corrupt cause to your will doesn't stop it from being corrupt, since it's basis will always be there.

  4. You know, I feel that "hero" is one of those fleeting terms. Like "good" or "bad". A hero doesn't necessarily save people. Or accomplish extraordinary deeds. A hero can simply inspire people to want to take action. Motivate them to move. An aspiring terrorist might say "Osama bin Laden is my hero." Would his statement be invalid for its context? Because of who he is? Both? Personally I think his statement would be valid.


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