According to the Salt Lake Tribune, at 2:30 am on December 20th, Eric Hill was awoken by his frightened daughter, who had heard knocking near her closet. Then he heard loud banging at his front door.
Frightened at the prospect of a home invasion or burglary, Hill armed himself with a baseball bat and opened the door. Six men in black, armed with assault rifles and tactical weapons, ordered him to drop the bat and placed him in handcuffs. One of the men stated that had Eric had a gun rather than a bat, they would have “blown him away.”
Several of the men entered Hill’s home with their weapons drawn, frightening his wife Melanie Hill and their children. Eric Hill stated, “After the [Newtown, Conn.] shooting that just happened, my [older] kid was already scared to go to school,” and that his children “are just traumatized by this.”
The home invaders that traumatized Hill’s children were from the Ogden Police Department. Yet Hill was not wanted for any crime. He had been mistaken for a different man, charged with “desertion” from the military.
Beyond the specific police incompetence this incident reflects, it tells us a lot about police militarization. In pursuit of a suspect accused of a non-violent offense, police armed themselves with multiple assault rifles and tactical weapons and chose to invade a home in the middle of the night. They stated their willingness to kill anyone who held a gun to defend their home from such a raid. And these were police in Utah, where gun ownership is common.
This is not the first newsworthy militarized raid carried out by police in Ogden. In 2010, Ogden man Todd Blair was killed in a drug raid on his home. The Salt Lake Tribune reported at the time that, “The shooting was deemed legally justified.” Matthew Stewart was subjected to a similar raid in the middle of the night in early 2012, but he allegedly shot back at the home invaders. He has been in jail for months and faces murder charges. The prosecutor, Dee Smith, is seeking the death penalty. Smith is also in charge of investigating police involved shootings, and has not deemed a single one unjustified.
The militarization of American police forces is a nationwide trend, one that has been carried out in concert with the rest of the warfare state. Radley Balko writes that, “A number of federal policies have driven the trend, including offering domestic police departments military training, allowing training with military organizations, using “troops-to-cops” programs and offering surplus military equipment and weaponry to domestic police departments for free or at major discounts.” For years now, the war abroad has been coming home, with police acting less as “peace officers” and more as soldiers.
But the recent Eric Hill incident makes the connection between police militarization at home and American militarism abroad even more obvious. The police raided Hill’s home in the middle of the night and traumatized his family because they confused him for a man who allegedly chose to stop working for the US military.
In any ordinary job, when you fail to show up the boss does not get to send men with guns to apprehend you. However, if you decide to quit working for the military, armed police will come with guns blazing to punish you. The US military is an institution that spreads violence abroad with impunity. Their drones bomb funerals and rescuers in Pakistan and drop cluster bombs in Yemen. Their troops occupy, torture, and kill in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US military even wages violence in Honduras and Guatemala these days. This means that Eric Hill was attacked by police not because he was suspected of committing aggressive violence, but because he was suspected of refusing to commit aggressive violence.
The message seems to be: If you fail to participate in violence abroad, the state will subject you to violence at home.
It’s time to end the wars, both at home and abroad.
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