The morning after a homeless man in San Francisco was shot and killed by police, someone else had moved into his tent. “I can’t say nothing,” the new occupant said before moving into the small blue and grey tent on the sidewalk. “It’s done.”
The death of a homeless man on a busy California street is not uncommon. Neither, in a country in which 1,134 people died at the hands of law enforcement last year, are fatal police shootings.
Yet the story of how 45-year-old Luis Gongora was killed this week, pieced together from friends and neighbors – both those who sleep in tents and others who have roofs over their heads – raises alarming questions.
A multi-county grand jury has indicted Oklahoma Sheriff Bob Colbert and Captain Jeffrey Gragg on three felony counts of bribery and extortion and recommended that Colbert be removed from office. The sheriff, according to the indictment, conspired with a captain in his office to extort $10,000 from a driver arrested on suspicion of possessing drug proceeds. It’s a development that could reshape the caustic fight to reform civil asset forfeiture laws in Oklahoma.
Civil forfeiture laws allow law enforcement officials to seize cash and property suspected to have been involved in, or to be the direct result of, illegal activity. No criminal charges need to be filed, nor any convictions obtained. In fact, in most states and at the federal level, the owner is responsible for essentially proving his own innocence if he wants to win back his cash, home, or car.