As seen in...
ABC News
The Atlantic
Washington Post
The Economist
National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

ABC Agents Mistake Water for Beer

Consider this recent report.  It’s 10 pm and some college students are returning to their car after picking up some items from the grocery store.  Out of nowhere, six guys approach quickly in an odd, non-friendly manner.  One guy actually jumps on the hood of the car. Another brandishes a gun.  The men are talking, but you’re in panic mode thinking a criminal attack is underway.  One of your friends is in the back seat yelling to the driver to “Go!  Go!”   So the driver pulls away.  Talk about a harrowing encounter!

Moments later, a police vehicle with flashing lights shows up and so the college students pull over.  Turns out the men who had approached the students before were ABC agents (that’s Alcohol Beverage Control) in plain clothes.  The agents mistakenly thought the students were in illegal possession of beer.

Let’s pause here to consider the reckless tactics of the police.  The police created a situation where citizens had only seconds to respond to what they reasonably perceived to be a criminal attack.  Outnumbered and seeing a gun, the driver might well have been justified in driving right over an agent in self-defense had he been blocking the way.  It should also be noted that there are now some ten million Americans with carry permits.  Had a permit holder been confronted in this situation, he might have fired on these plain clothes officers.  And then the officers likely would have fired back.   A high risk of deadly force and loss of life over what?   Young adults suspected of  beer purchase.

But this story is not over.

One of the students, Elizabeth Daly, is arrested and charged with three felonies!   2 counts of assaulting an officer and one count of eluding the police.  Add up the possible prison time and she is facing 15 years.  She spends time in the jail and her family scrambles to find her an attorney.

Fortunately, the prosecutor exercises his independent judgment on this affair and he drops the charges.

A happy ending?  Well, as noted, it could have been much worse.  An agent might have been run over.  In response to that, another agent might have shot one of the students.  Or there might have been a miscarriage of justice with a prison sentence for Elisabeth Daly.  None of that happened, but, still, consider:

1.  Ms. Daly now has an arrest record.

2.  The Daly family has a legal bill to pay.

3.  Those ABC agents may well be still out on “patrol.”

Story here.

Creative Commons License
This work by Cato Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.