Airstrikes, shellings stoke fears of police militarization

Cindy McCoy, killed by a police guided missile, as she sold cookies in front of her Nebraska house - are militarized police to blame?

Bob and Kathy McCoy, looking at the spot where a Nebraska State Patrol rocket destroyed their home

Cindy McCoy’s mother remembers it like it was yesterday.

Cindy was in front of her house selling homemade cookies to raise money for the local SPCA. “We’d seen the news stories about authorities clamping down on things like illegal lemonade stands and bake sales, but we didn’t really think it could happen here,” said the 35-year-old homemaker, speaking from the rubble of the family’s modest home in Holdrege, Nebraska.

She remembers being in the kitchen preparing potato salad for lunch when she was thrown to the floor by a massive explosion. “The ceiling came down on me, there was smoke everywhere. I thought it was an earthquake.”

Pulling herself from underneath charred ceiling beams, she saw a smoking crater in the driveway where her daughter’s lemonade stand had been. There was no trace of Cindy or her cookies, except for some burnt scraps of pink clothing and a few calcified chocolate chips.

Neighbors’ cars had been set on fire and windows were blown out along the length of the street. Several passing motorists and pedestrians were injured.

Cindy was the victim of a strike from a Nebraska State Patrol HIMARS satellite-guided rocket system, based 150 miles away in Lincoln and operated by ex-military contractors. The 100-pound warhead left a crater 30 feet deep.

Ordinarily, Cindy’s death would have become just another statistic, but thanks to the outcry over the heavy-handed police response to rioting in Ferguson, Missouri triggered by the shooting of an unarmed black teen, the alleged militarization of US police forces has become a taking point across the nation.

Militarization of the police: Ferguson and beyond

Miami-Dade police helicopter firing a warning missile at unruly Dolphins fans in 2013

In Monterey, California recently, local cable news viewers watching what seemed like just another routine police pursuit witnessed a scene of horror. A young mother trying to avoid arrest for an outstanding warrant was driving her Chevy Suburban the wrong way down a Highway 101 off-ramp when a California Highway Patrol A-10 “Warthog” tank-buster aircraft ended the chase in a hail of 30 mm depleted uranium armour-piercing shells which reduced the Suburban to a smoldering wreck and left the 26-year-old woman fighting for her life in the hospital.

And in March, vacationers in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina who complained about drunken rowdiness among spring breakers were stunned when the local sheriff’s office called in a salvo of 120 mm naval gunfire from the battleship New Jersey, leased by harbor police last year after being decommissioned by the U.S. Navy. Nine teens were killed in that incident, and dozens more were seriously wounded.

Police authorities are quick to defend their actions as judicious use of force in an increasingly violent society. Called upon to justify the missile strike on Cindy McCoy and her cookie stand, Nebraska State Patrol superintedent Gary Cluger told reporters: “We know from experience in Iraq and Afghanistan that roadside vendors have been a favorite location to lure U.S. forces into IED ambushes. I felt the use of force in this case was justified. I am not prepared to send my officers in unprotected patrol cars into potential life-threatening situations”.

Dandy Goat law enforcement reporter Betty Strobe contributed to this report before being pulled over for running a stop sign in Camillus, New York. It is thought that she is now being held in a Camillus police department “black site” somewhere in Eastern Europe.

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