Outrage as Video of ‘Sick’ Prankster Faking Zombie Attacks in Miami Sweeps Web
by Soren Dreier
A video of a prank zombie attack going around the internet is being heavily criticized as both insensitive and dangerous after the recent cannibal attack of a homeless man in Miami.
The video shows a young man running around the streets pretending to be a zombie wearing a ripped, bloodied shirt, growling at people and scaring them away.
At the beginning of the footage, the screen says: ‘On Saturday May 26, 2012, a naked man was chewing on the face of another naked man in downtown Miami.
‘After police arrived the man kept eating and growling, the police had to open fire until the cannibal was dead…..It’s not over, it’s only the beginning!’
The incident they are referring to is one that has captivated and shocked America after Rudy Eugene – apparently high on a potent form of LSD – attacked Ronald Poppo on MacArthur Causeway last week, beating him and eating his face off during a horrific 18-minute ordeal before being shot dead by police.
The video is being slammed as sick and dangerous by viewers, many of whom say the prankster was lucky he did not get shot.
Florida Forces Towns to Pull Local Laws Limiting Guns
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ
MIAMI — The signs — “No Guns Allowed” — are being stripped from many Florida government buildings, libraries and airports. And local ordinances that bar people from shooting weapons in their yards, firing up into the air (think New Year’s Eve) or taking guns into parks are coming off the books.
The state has spoken, again, on the matter of guns, and this time it does not want to be ignored: since 1987, local governments in Florida have been banned from creating and enforcing their own gun ordinances. Few cities and counties paid attention, though, believing that places like Miami might need to be more restrictive than others, like rural Apalachicola, for example.
But this year the Legislature passed a new law that imposes fines on counties and municipalities that do not do away with and stop enforcing their own firearms and ammunition ordinances by Oct. 1. Mayors and council and commission members will risk a $5,000 fine and removal from office if they “knowingly and willfully violate” the law. Towns that enforce their ordinances risk a $100,000 fine.
To comply with the law, cities and counties are poring over their gun ordinances, repealing laws and removing gun-related signs. In Palm Beach County, that means removing ordinances that bar people from taking guns into county government buildings and local parks and from firing guns in some of its most urban areas. In Groveland, that means they can now fire their guns into the air to celebrate. And in Lake County, firearms will soon be allowed in libraries.
“Now you can have a shooting gallery in your backyard,” said Shelley Vana, a Palm Beach County commissioner. “We are really urban areas here. I come from a rural area in Pennsylvania. I understand that guns are appropriate in a lot of places with no problems. But in an urban area, it’s different.”
State lawmakers who supported the bill, which was backed by the National Rifle Association, said local governments were overreacting, particularly since the original law that pre-empted local gun ordinances was passed in 1987.
“The notion that a city ordinance stops violence is patently absurd,” said State Representative Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who sponsored the bill. “People lawfully carrying weapons with permits are rarely part of the problem.”
The law seeks to protect licensed gun owners who travel from county to county and may not be familiar with the patchwork of rules that dictate where they can carry and shoot a gun.
Florida gun laws are broader than local ordinances. They restrict guns, for example, at legislative and city council meetings but not inside the buildings themselves. They permit target shooting under “safe” conditions and in “safe” places, and they make it illegal to display a firearm in a rude or threatening manner, unless it is in self-defense. Floridians also cannot knowingly fire a gun in a public place, in an occupied building or on a paved street. But those who support stronger laws said words like “knowingly” and “safe” often make enforcement difficult.
Local gun ordinances first galvanized gun rights advocates in 2000 when South Miami passed an ordinance that required trigger locks for guns while stored. The National Rifle Association took the town to court, and the town lost. But counties and cities across Florida continued to vote on or enforce their own gun ordinances.
“The bill provides a remedy, if somebody chooses to be irrationally stubborn,” Mr. Gaetz said.
Some cities and counties, though, say they will lobby for a change so they can have more flexibility. Officials say that none of their ordinances violate the Second Amendment; they just give them added power to tamp down crime.
“It’s a disregard for public safety,” said Shirley Gibson, the mayor of Miami Gardens, where signs prohibiting guns in parks were taken down. “It’s not a good message to send.”
Kraig Conn, the legislative counsel for the Florida League of Cities, said fining individual mayors and council members for their legislative actions sets a “horrible precedent.” Lawmakers hold immunity that protects them from liability in civil lawsuits for duties they perform. “It pierces legislative immunity,” he said. “This is part of our common law system.”
It also runs counter to the Republican principle that local control is best.
In a state of 18 million people, with rural and urban areas adjacent to one another, “the State Legislature doesn’t know where it makes sense to restrict guns,” Mr. Conn said.
A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but Narces Benoit’s decision to videotape a shooting by Miami police landed him in jail after officers smashed his cell-phone camera.
It was 4am on May 30 when Benoit and his girlfriend Erika Davis saw officers firing dozens of bullets into a car driven by Raymond Herisse, a suspect who hit a police officer and other vehicles while driving recklessly. Herisse died in the hail of lead, and four bystanders also suffered gunshot wounds, the Miami Herald newspaper reported.
Police noticed the man filming the shooting and an officer jumped into his truck, and put a pistol to his head, Benoit said. The video shows officers crowding around Herisse’s vehicle before opening fire, followed by indistinguishable yelling at onlookers, including Benoit, to stop filming.
The cop yelled: “Wanna be a [expletive] paparazzi?” Benoit recounted in a TV interview.
“My phone was smashed, he stepped on it, handcuffed me,” the 35-year-old car stereo technician told CNN.
Despite his phone being destroyed, Benoit was able to save the footage by taking the memory card out of the device and putting it in his mouth before handing it over to police, he said, adding that officers smashed several other cameras in the chaos which followed the shooting..
“There are two questions at play here that need to be separated,” said Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at the University of California. “One is: to what extent is it illegal to record officers doing their duties? And secondly, did the police destroy someone’s property and evidence?”
“Whether or not the recording was illegal, the police conduct as alleged would be illegal in any case,” Volokh told Al Jazeera. In Florida, it is legal to record conversations, unless the conversation is “confidential”, which this public altercation likely was not, Volokh said.
After having his phone smashed, and being taken to a police station to be photographed, Benoit was summoned to appear before the state attorney on June 3 with “any and all video and all corresponding audio recorded on May 30 that captured incidents occurring [sic] prior to, during and after a police-involved shooting”, according to court documents.
Benoit and Davis have hired a lawyer. The couple stopped giving interviews soon after the incident, Reese Harvey, their attorney, told Al Jazeera. Harvey also declined to comment about the couple’s possible plans for legal action against the Miami police.
The incident is the latest in a series of debacles involving citizens using mobile phones to record police actions.
“The impact of citizen recording of police brutality, or activity in general goes back at least 20 years to the LA riots,” said James Hughes, executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, a research organisation. “It increasingly raises questions about surveillance; whether surveillance from citizens can put a check on power,” he told Al Jazeera.
Sparked by video of police beating Rodney King, in what many saw as an example of institutionalised racism, the 1992 Los Angeles riots left more than 50 people dead and caused about $1bn in property damage.
“As almost everyone in the US has a cameraphone at this point, it’s very common to have any kind of police activity in a crowded setting recorded by citizens, usually from multiple angles,” said Jamais Cascio, a research fellow at the Institute for the Future. “These kinds of events are unusual and people will want to show friends and family, and, increasingly, because people are learning that it can be important to have evidence of police misconduct.”
And, with the spread of easily accessible recording technology, US security forces are being joined by counter-parts around the globe in being concerned about mobile technologies.
“Echoes of Rodney King in Karachi and Miami”, was the headline of a New York Times blog, analysing a recent case from Pakistan, where a television journalist recorded security forces killing Sarfraz Shah, an apparently unarmed teenager. The video sparked protests across the country.
Speaking about the recent case in Florida, Police Chief Carlos Noriega told the Miami Herald that the couple’s allegations were the first he’d heard of officers allegedly threatening people or destroying cameras or mobile phones.
“It was quite a chaotic scene,” the chief said of the late night shooting. “We were trying to figure out who was who and it was a difficult process. Not once did I see cameras being taken or smashed,” he said, adding that Benoit’s video is evidence which could help investigators.
The incremental erosion of our rights have been intentional. In fact, there has been a so-called Police State Roadmapwhich has served as guidance.
Technology ‘outpacing’ laws
While visual evidence, through government surveillance cameras and individuals’ phones, can help make prosecutions, police unions and likeminded groups argue that police officers might second-guess themselves if they know they are being recorded and delay making necessary decisions. There are also arguments about privacy; mainly that conversations between private individuals and security forces should not be recorded by third parties.
And even though Eugene Volokh and other legal experts believe recording public police activities isn’t a crime in Florida, that doesn’t mean police are happy about it.
“In the United States, the laws about the recording of police activity vary considerably from state to state. In Massachusetts, for example, existing laws that forbid recording someone without their permission have been extended to prohibit the recording of police. In Illinois, the law now explicitly bans the recording of police,” Cascio told Al Jazeera. “I believe that citizens should have the right to record the actions of officials on duty; Citizens can’t really fight back when they see police misconduct, their only tool is the ability to document the misbehaviour.”
Some experts argue that laws, often designed to deal with audio wiretapping of telephone conversations and now applied to video recordings, are not keeping pace with new technologies. Volokh, however, is not one of those people.
“It isn’t a technical question; it might be a question about basic values,” Volokh, the legal scholar, said. “How much do you value people’s ability to gather the news and how much you value privacy?”
There may be a debate on whether the increasing frequency of security forces, and society in general, being caught on tape is primarily a technological question or an issue of values. But advances in the former may make debates about the latter redundant.
“Efforts to forbid these recordings are ultimately futile. Cameras are becoming smaller, and are able to record and upload video quickly. I’ve seen otherwise normal-looking glasses with built-in cameras,” Cascio said. “The technology is rapidly outpacing any attempt to control it using dated and misapplied laws.”
You can follow Chris Arsenault on twitter @AJEchris