Finger-biting incident Update

by Karoli on September 4, 2009 · 44 comments

Let me start this with a clear record correction. In my initial account, I identified two participants: Yellow shirt guy and PR Guy. I had the identity of the guy who threw the punch wrong.

Here is a photo. You’ve probably seen it, because it’s the one I gave police on Wednesday night, withheld from publication to everyone else, only to discover that the police released my photos to mainstream media without any credit or attribution back to me. More on that later.

after confrontation

The man who did the biting is on the right. On the left, there is a tall man in a yellow shirt, and a shorter, stockier man in a khaki shirt. Behind him is a man in a blue shirt. The man in the blue shirt was not involved, never included by me or anyone else.

The man in the khaki shirt is Bill Rice, the man whose pinky finger was bitten off. The man in the yellow shirt was misidentified by me as the puncher in my initial post. My face-to-face interview yesterday with a Ventura County Sheriff’s department detective made it clear that I was mistaken about who had hit whom.

I was not, however, mistaken about who hit first. In other words, I did misidentify the instigator (and subsequent victim), but I did not err on the sequence of events.

The thread of accusation running through those who sympathize with Mr. Rice goes this way: You didn’t identify the right guy, so your entire account is a lie. Here’s my response to that: It’s common for eyewitnesses to make errors. That’s why detectives interview more than one witness when available, and it’s why lineups are flawed.

Evidently, the police have chosen not to arrest Mr. Rice for assault, despite his admission that he not only hit the man in black once, but hit him a second time.

Once again, Mr. Rice agrees with me on the following: 1) He threw the first (and second) punch. 2) There were words exchanged.

About the flyer lady

She exists. She was threatened, but not touched. It happened ahead of this confrontation. The man in black did cross the street to confront them after it happened. Just after it happened. Here she is arriving at the event.

This whole incident has taught me much about people on and off line, my own perceptions, and overall, has made me a much more cynical person who will be far less willing to co-operate with police or authorities should I ever be called upon to do so again. Why?

  1. Despite my efforts to cooperate fully, and despite a conversation with the police about my photos and my intention to publish them as soon as I had provided all of the information they wanted, they released them with no attribution, no credit, and no notice. Keep in mind, I wasn’t looking to sell them. I stated that outright to the detective. I had, however, promised some people who had emailed or asked that I would give them the link as soon as I published so they could have the first publishing rights to them. As I said, they don’t show much, but they are a clear image of the players.

    I should have just walked away, come home, published them and let them download copies from Flickr. Next time, I’ll know better.

  2. Read through the comments on that post. I don’t take them personally, but they prove one thing: Almost no one cares about the truth. The only thing people seem to care about is their own agenda, which increasingly seems to be hateful, slanderous and devoid of any real sense of debate. That isn’t true of every commenter, but there are more than a few who fit the mold. I was a little minor blip player on a larger landscape. I fight my own battles for reform because without it, my own family is at risk. Yet to read some of these comments here and elsewhere, I am Satan on a black horse. Fine. Why bother.

I also owe major props to Casey Wian at CNN for a fair interview, and honoring his promise to make sure my remarks about the peaceful, positive aspects of the event were included and for having the attribution changed at CNN to me on the photo. He and several others salvaged what rapidly became a very difficult day.

Here’s Casey Wian’s report from Thursday. That photo has been on all the major news channels, even made it to BBC by one person’s account, and only CNN has given on-air credit. Thank you so much, VCSD. Why does credit matter? Because if, at some point, I were to get a J-O-B, it would be nice to have the credit and creds to go along with the resume. Maybe I could actually get P-A-I-D for what I love to do.

To Mr. Guy in Black

Finally, a word to the guy out there who was punched and who bit: Contact the sheriff’s department and get your own side of the story in there. Quit hiding and step up. You’re no hero and you’re rapidly looking like a thug. So step in there and tell your side. That’s what good citizens do. Right now you just look like a street thug, and your absence is proving it. Do the right thing. ABC reports the cops are looking for you. I have an identifiable picture of you. Just get it over with.

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 laserone September 5, 2009 at 3:01 am

Holy cr*p, what an ordeal!

2 Joel Sax September 5, 2009 at 4:45 am

Don't let these goofs distract you from what is important — the Dream.

3 Randy Miller September 5, 2009 at 6:50 am

What if the police aren't really looking? After all, this comes from Faux News, Fairly Unbalanced. Will you publish?

4 connie111 September 5, 2009 at 7:13 am

Hello There!

I do not think the man who was punched in the mouth and bit off the attackers finger should come forward. NOPE! I think he should move away from the Thousand Oaks area and re-settle someplace else.

Just think of the hateful political climate we are living through, and the cost of his energy and legal bills he could incur if he were to come forward. And for what? What good would it do for him to become the Poster Child for the *Wing Nuts* and their attempt to discredit anybody who disagrees with them? If the man who was punched in the face and bit off the attackers finger were to come forward, we would know if he ever cheated on his homework in 3rd Grade by the time the *Wing Nuts* were done with him!

And they would use this as a scare tactic to make people who want a single payer health care option in this country STAY HOME AND STAY QUIET!

It would be best if he just hide in his room until he can get out of town. No sense in being a sacrificial lamb here. Emotions are really running very high, and who knows what could happen to him or his family if he were to be publically identified.


5 Charley September 5, 2009 at 1:10 pm

While you may have made a mistake with the police, you cannot stop participating. If everyone remains quiet, then the police will not be able to catch the bad guys.

As for the biting man surrendering, there is an ethical vs. practical question.

While it is clearly self defense, if he is caught he will be dealing with a serious legal problem. He will need an attorney and that is going to cost money. If the district attorney chooses to prosecute his legal bills may climb into the low five digit range.

And we are talking California, a judge and a jury here. There is no telling what mix of people in personalities he will draw. Even though he is dead to rights legally, there are no sure bets if it goes to trial.

On top of that, the minute he is identified, he will find himself in the center of a media storm. The media will camp out on his door step, his place of business and even his favorite donut shop if he has one.

They will seek out and harass his family members and friends. If he's got an ex-wife, they'll track her down. If she is mad at him and willing to spew, bonus!

They will hire private investigators to pull his credit reports. They will talk to his neighbors, They will seek out people that went to school with him, his teachers and former employees.

His life will be come a living Hell for the next three to six weeks. Every little secret or embarrassing fact of his life will become a matter of public record. Depending on the crews involved, some media outlets may seek to convict him before he is even arraigned.

Would you do surrender knowing what will come from it? I don't think I would.

6 Karoli September 5, 2009 at 2:10 pm

I would publish if I had confirmation. However, my interview with the
detective indicated that they were, in fact, looking.

7 vwb September 5, 2009 at 6:00 pm

I would say that to arrest khaki shirt punching man for assault or even mutual combat (which is a crime) they need a victim. Since finger biting man has not come forward Khaki shirt man is safe.

8 disgustedbyyourblog September 5, 2009 at 10:35 pm

If you promised someone first rights to your pictures of the event, I have to ask. . . Didn't you go to the event with an agenda? Also, did you not realize that you were posting your story on a blog that anyone could read? Do you not realize that you put yourself out here in blog world for all to comment to? Talking to the Police was the right civic thing to do. I thank you for that.

But I am amused that you are fed up about the feedback you received on your blog. How about next time you're at an event taking pictures that you intend to send to someone who requested 'first rights to publish' and there is an incident, that you again speak truthfully to the police, hand over what you are willing to hand over and then don't bother to blog about it.

9 Karoli September 5, 2009 at 10:49 pm

No. I didn't go with an agenda beyond expressing my support for health
care reform. The promise was made AFTER THE EVENT. After they read my
post. And yes, duh. Of course I knew I was posting my story on a blog.
I posted it AFTER I SUPPLIED POLICE WITH THE PICTURES (see paragraph 2).

Glad I amused you.

10 Karoli September 5, 2009 at 10:59 pm

One final thought: Based upon your user name, I see that my blog in
some way 'disgusts' you. I believe that disgust is quite avoidable,
suggest this remedy: Unsubscribe from the comments, click the little
“x” in your browser, and never let my blog darken your door again.
Then you won't be disgusted anymore, you'll be free to go on your
merry way doing your merry thing. With all the best, of course, dear.

11 vwb September 5, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Ya Ya Ya. Pro health-care mad man crosses the street looking for a fight and knuckle-headed soon to be 9 fingered right winger takes him up on it. Boy, and I thought that I had done some hot-headed dumb stuff before as I was sitting in jail asking the bailiff if I could take off my dunce hat yet.
How can any of the true facts be discussed in this climate.
Facts such as why is Attorney General Jerry Brown of California looking into the denial by private health care insurance companys of up to 39% of all claims.
Of course this number is a highball number for all the health ins. companies in Calif as reported by the California Nurses association. Evidently we have a for profit health-care insurance system in this country that has been screwing its customers on a regular basis. What to do?
I know.
Go bite off some right wing freedom fighter’s finger…
Bon apetit.

12 Karoli September 6, 2009 at 2:46 am

Surely there are better ways than that. I don't know…I was raised to
believe in the democratic process. Last time I looked, it didn't
include biting people or punching people in the face. That would
appear to be the invention of thugs and those with little faith or
desire to participate in the civilized process.

13 Randy Miller September 6, 2009 at 8:11 am

Is your photo from after the incident as you stated, or before as stated by the police? And if they are looking why did they allow the hospital to dispose of material evidence i.e. the finger? Bite marks are great identifiers. This has Faux all over it.

14 disgustedbyyourblog September 6, 2009 at 8:17 am

Point received. I picked my username in response to your original blog. I was frustrated to hear your sympathy for the Biter, who I understand crossed the street, and your asides about the Bitten man. I realize your account would defend the Biter since he was from your side of the street, but to insult the Bitten who may have been doing the typical man response of punching someone when he get's his space invaded, and then defending the Biter who took the man response to the level of dismembering the tip of a pinky finger? Well. . . that logic 'disgusts' me. At the time you posted the blog, I sensed you were proud of the Biter for crossing the street to defend the 'damsal in distress' I like that chivalry myself, but when men start punching for principle, they also should pay up when they are done. If Bitten caused physical harm to Biter that required treatment, he should pay Bitten's bill too.
I've kept the name out of convenience. Didn't think much more about it. But it does have an offended tone to it.
As I read your responses and your previous blog about your career in the insurance industry, I have become more sympathetic to your personal situation.
I agree that we need reforms too. I just don't agree with handing all our power over to the government. I don't believe that the government will be more altruistic towards either side. You're right about the need for reform, I think in this case that your support of the government to correct a problem will result in you finding yourself in even tougher circumstances. Medicare and Social Security are or about to be bankrupt. How will we pay for Health Insurance for all too?

15 vwb September 6, 2009 at 9:38 am

So, what should be dun about For Profit health ins. taking the money and then denying payment for medical treatment. I wonder how many people have died as a result. (Can you say death panels). I bet there are plenty of people out there who have whorish stories to tell about how they have been treated by the current system. The CEOs of these companies are no different that the Bank CEOs who gave themselves huge boniness as there companies where taking huge amounts of taxpayer bail out money. There profits have gone up 400 % just in the last few years as they have figured out how to systematically screw the American people.
You know, I really don't hear any solutions cumming form the right. Just ; I have mine so the hell with you. The reality is; you only think you have health care, and you do, until you get sick. Thin they will take your money and run. Because they can. And if you complain they will call you a socialist. And that is indeed what will you will become, a socialist, because that's what poverty does to a person.

16 Charley September 6, 2009 at 6:01 pm

vwb wrote, “taking the money and then denying payment for medical treatment”

That's really easy. Read the insurance policy. If it is not covered, they don't pay.

As for the profit, that is the only reason the health insurance companies exist. Without the promise of profit investors would invest their capital elsewhere. Without that capital, there would be no health insurance for anyone.

If you take the profit motive away, no one will be covered.

Contrary to popular belief, profit is not a four letter word. That is what makes the United States economy go round. Without profit medical research would dwindle to a mere shadow of what it is now. The vast number of well equipped and staffed hospitals we enjoy in the United States only exist because of investors looking to make money. Doctors would not be able to invest the hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes make it through medical school without the high paychecks to pay off the loans.

The right repeatedly offered solutions. Perhaps you were not listening. Removing restrictions on where health insurance companies can do business is one. Another is requiring health insurance companies to open their entire catalog of policies to everyone. That means if they sell a policy to GM employees, they have to make the same policy available to anyone that asks for it at the same price.

There are many more solutions that do not involve financial ruin for the treasury or the private sector.

17 vwb September 6, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Charley, I would like to see a bill from the right side of the isle having to do with these repeatedly offered solutions you are talking about. I don't think one exists.
How can I listen if all they say is no, no, and don't come up with a bill of their own.
By the way, how do you feel about a couple of things.
Health Ins, company's refusing to sell insurance to anyone who has ever had Cancer.
Health ins. company's raising the premium based on a persons age.
Health ins company's cutting you from there insurance if you get sick and cant make your payments. Now your sick and don't have ins.
Health ins. company's putting in the contract (which they right, not you) that they will not pay for experimental or unnecessary treatments. Then calling any expensive treatment experimental or unnecessary.
It seams that the right side of Congress denies that these problems even exist.
What say ye. I'd really like to hear some Republican answers.

18 Stephanie Himel-Nelson September 7, 2009 at 5:13 pm

I totally understand how your recollection of who hit could be wrong. In law school and while working on a psych degree I read so much about the fallibility of eye witness testimony, but it's hard to understand it until you're an eye witness. It just so happens that a few weeks ago my house was broken into, I saw the robbers and later looked at a photo line up. They caught the guys. They had them dead to rights, they just wanted another ID from me. I got it totally wrong.
So I get it, Karoli, I totally get it. And you're so right that most people care more about their own agendas than the truth.
One last thing – as a fellow shutterbug, the police releasing those photos would SO PISS ME OFF! Would it have killed them to attribute the photos to you? Geesh.

19 Charley September 7, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Then don't give your pictures to the police. It is their job to collect evidence, not credit and act as photographer's agent. Once your pictures become part of the case file, they become part of the public record and anyone can use them.

Here's another piece of trivia for you. The pictures were credited. Her name would have been listed in the report as the person that took and turned over the photos. Blame the media that didn't credit you.

20 Karoli September 7, 2009 at 7:04 pm

You and Connie have a point from a legal standpoint. For me, I guess it's more of a citizen thing. Hard for me to know if I'd surrender. I can't imagine being in that position at all. Still boggles my mind that it came to blows and bites.

21 Karoli September 7, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Without writing a treatise on Social Security and Medicare funding, I'll just say this much: both trust funds were breached in order to make the budget look balanced, and now both trust funds are used to make the case that reforms cannot occur.

Fact is, we should just move to single payer so that all Americans receive basic benefits inside of an already-established infrastructure. Insurance companies sell supplemental coverage, dental, vision, whatever else on whatever basis they want to, and everyone smiles. Given that we're stuck with fixing this godforsaken crazy system that we've got right now, I'd be open to any solution to the price issue. For perspective, we're low utilizers who pay 21K/yr for a family of 4. That's not scalable.

22 Karoli September 7, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Oh, pissed off only begins to describe it. I even told the detective I had promised to give them to a couple of people (no, I wasn't selling them, I was GIVING), and so they did a complete end run around me. Nice guys. Makes me glad to be a citizen of this fine county.

23 Charley September 7, 2009 at 7:15 pm

You are only partially right. The other side of the Social Security claim is how many fingers are now in the pie. When it was crafted it was never meant to be disability insurance. The number of “benefits” added to program doomed it even before those idiots cracked the seal on the locked box.

24 retreat from violence is legal September 9, 2009 at 6:08 pm

The finger biter has a perfectly good reason for having left the scene. He was retreating from a known violent individual in order to avoid this violent individual again resorting to violence. The principle of retreat is deep in the history of laws of self-defense. He should get a lawyer and have the lawyer speak with the police under condition of anonymity. If the police are satisfied with the answers that there was no crime, there would be no compelling reason for the police to identify him by name as there would no longer be any crime to investigate.

25 retreat from violence is legal September 10, 2009 at 12:08 am

The finger biter has a perfectly good reason for having left the scene. He was retreating from a known violent individual in order to avoid this violent individual again resorting to violence. The principle of retreat is deep in the history of laws of self-defense. He should get a lawyer and have the lawyer speak with the police under condition of anonymity. If the police are satisfied with the answers that there was no crime, there would be no compelling reason for the police to identify him by name as there would no longer be any crime to investigate.

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