The Blue Divide: A tale of two communities colliding

The Blue Divide: A tale of two communities colliding

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Before the violent events of the last couple weeks in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas, a young black man named Patrick Mumford stopped at a friend's home after work in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Savannah.

That friend had a warrant and three Metro Police officers were on their way to serve it. What happened next became a classic tale of two cultures colliding.

Each had his own reasons for how they responded to the situation, but one thing is clear: the body cam video you're about to see is anything but cut and dry.

I ask only one thing as you view this video and the facts behind it: open your mind, be the cops, be the suspect and be aware that there is nothing unusual about what these cops and young black men are facing in our community every day.

It's February 1 and Metro Cpl. Charles Wilson is headed to assist two other Islands Precinct officers already on scene, already speaking with 24-year-old Mumford. Mumford is smoking a cigarette in the passenger seat of his car when the officers arrive.

The home on Martha Street is the home of the man they are looking for, and within seconds the three white officers are wondering if Mumford, dark skinned, five feet five inches tall, 135 pounds, could be their warrant suspect, Michael Clay, light skinned, five foot seven inches tall and nearly 200 pounds.

"What's your name man?" the Corporal on scene asks.  "What's your name?  I'm gonna ask you one more time.  We probably need to talk to you, so. What's your name?"

Mumford replies almost with a question: "Um, Patrick?"

Mumford gives his first name, but in a statement issued after our inquiry about the incident, Metro Police Chief Jack Lumpkin said it was, "unclear to the officers."

They proceed as if Mumford is their man.

"OK, stand up. Stand up," the Corporal says. "Turn around and put your hands on the car."

Mumford stands for a moment then sits back down into the car.

"What happened?" Mumford asks. "What did I do?  What I do?  You all not tell me what I do."

There is a short scuffle with another officer on scene attempting to catch Mumford before he
sits back down.

"You got a warrant, dude," the officer says. "You got a warrant."

These officers are either unaware or not concerned they have the wrong guy.  And at no point throughout the entire ordeal do they ask him for ID.

But keep in mind, this is all happening in front of their warrant suspect's home.

Mumford recalls how he was feeling at that moment, just seconds into the incident.

"They [are] trying to pull me out of the car, and I'm trying to go back in because I'm really scared of all the police.  I'm not really knowing exactly what's going on.  So, at the same time, I don't really know what to do or what to think."

Back in the driveway, Mumford is continuing to resist.

"Naw, man. Hey Jack, call my people Jack. No man. No," he continues.

"Why not just, they say, who are you?" I asked Mumford.  "Say, my name is Patrick.  Here's my ID. Why not just do that as opposed to saying, what did I do, I'm not giving you anything? What was going through your mind that said, 'I'm going to resist this for now'?"

"I really don't know," Mumford responds. "I was kinda scared like. I really just wanted them to give me some information.  At least if they would have came and showed me a warrant that said Patrick Mumford, then I probably would have been more compliant with them."

Mumford is not compliant in any way with the officer's commands.  He seems unaware that his actions are raising the tension, and perhaps fear, among these cops.

At the same time, the officers' raised voices and attempts to physically pull Mumford from the car are also escalating his fear and anxiety. But it's about to get much trickier for both sides.

One of the officers at the scene is now yelling.

"Got out of the car," the officer says.

And so is Mumford.

"You all let me know what's going on," he says.

Right here. It's one of several times that Mumford appears to be reaching, this time behind the car seat.  But for what?

After viewing the tape himself, Chief Lumpkin said Mumford "reached down toward the floorboard of the car in a manner which the officers perceived as a threat to their safety."

Mumford explained to me why he was reaching.

"Actually, I was trying to climb into the back because, when I saw the Taser, I didn't want to get shot in the chest with a Taser, so I was really, you probably saw me lift my leg up," Mumford said.

Yet despite all the climbing, blocking and reaching, the officers show amazing restraint. Yes, they are looking for the right opportunity to fire the Taser, but how many times over the last several years has deadly force been used by police in this country because the suspect was "reaching"?

Once again back to the driveway where Mumford is trying to get information from the officers.

"I'm getting up, man," Mumford says. "You know what? Somebody show me the warrant."

The Corporal and his officers have had enough. The second officer finds his mark when Mumford's back is to him and fires his Taser once, then a second time.

"Handcuff him now.  Handcuff him," the corporal yells.

And the incident is over.  Start to finish it's 90 seconds of fear, tension, uncertainty, misunderstanding.

I asked Mumford what could the officers could have done differently that would have eliminated the need for any of this scuffle?

"Well, if they'd have come up and said 'excuse me sir, you fit the description of a suspect. We have a warrant for the person we're looking for. May I see your ID?' If they would have said that then none of this would have never happened."

With Mumford against the car, the corporal finally sees the suspect's driver license.

"I don't know if you got a warrant because you're not who I'm looking for," the corporal said. "But here's the deal, when I asked you for ID because you look a lot like the person we're looking for. When we ask you for ID because you look a lot like the person we're looking for, and living at this address, you give us ID. And you start all this fighting nonsense, dude, You catch up a charge you didn't need to catch. All you had to do man was give me this."

Again, the officers never specifically asked Mumford for an ID.

After reviewing the entire tape at our request, Chief Lumpkin understands that more often than not, these otherwise innocuous situations are a bit more complicated, saying, "They (my officers) must simultaneously decide how to protect the public, the involved citizens and protect their own safety."

In this case, some might argue the officers showed too much restraint. Others might look at Mumford as lucky to be alive today.

Just before ending our interview with Mumford, he made what perhaps best sums up the mood of thousands in our community and hundreds of other across the country.

"You're a human being, just like me," Mumford said. "You just have a badge.  It's just a job. You should just come at people a different way. Better."

The chief and Internal Affairs at Metro began their investigation of the actions of these three officers only after we made them aware of the video and the potential issues it raises.

For Mumford, the consequences of that February night could become much more devastating. At the time of the incident, Patrick was on First Time Felony Probation for a non-violent drug offense.

It's a program that allows first-time offenders to have their criminal records erased if they follow very strict rules.

Mumford just got his Associates Degree, has been holding down a full-time job and has stayed out of trouble for years, following that probation requirement to a tee. Until the obstruction charge that night.

The charge was eventually dropped, but probation still considers it a violation, meaning Mumford could go to prison for seven years and be tagged a felon for life.

That probation hearing is in September.

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