The Murder of Abraham Arellano: “Suicide By Cop”, or Something Else?
Originally written April 13th, 2019.
At 6 pm, April 13th, 2019, I attended the vigil for Abraham Arellano, a Hispanic man who was killed by a Frederick County Sheriff’s deputy in what police are calling a “suicide by cop”. Much has already been written about Abraham, how he made a call from his cell phone about a home intrusion, how his girlfriend and child were in the home, how Abraham had a gun, and he wanted the cops to stop him before he murdered his loved ones, driven suicidal by the fact that he was supposedly being left by his girlfriend, who may have been able to take his child out of his custody, tied up with a neat little bow.
What you may not have heard are the stories from family and friends. Abraham was not suicidal, they say. According to investigators from the ACLU, the weapon that Abraham was holding was a historical artifact, an antique pistol which was rendered mechanically incapable of firing a bullet, which would thus make it, legally and mechanically speaking, not a firearm. In order to legally be a firearm, a firearm has to be able to fire a bullet or some projectile at sufficient speeds to injure or kill a person. What was in Abraham’s hand was not capable of that, thus it was not legally a firearm; its antique status would make it more like a historical item.
Abraham did not point the historical item at police, even according to police. So why did he die, why was he murdered? Police have asked local organizers and activists not to use the word “murder”, because to use that word implies that police have done a horrible thing for which they should be ashamed. They say that for activists and organizers such as myself to use the word “murder” will antagonize police, and make them not want to build bridges with us.
Let that sink in for a moment, the people with guns who are legally allowed to shoot you, want you to worry about *their* feelings after they shoot a man. A family has lost a father, a cousin, a son, and a friend, and the police are worried about their own feelings, not those of the grieving family. Not one police officer, even a retired one, showed up at the vigil to say to the Arellano family, “We are so sorry for your loss. This was a horrible accident that I deeply regret. This never should have happened, and I promise that we will fix it, we will change how we operate to prevent this from happening again.”
Not one, and I think that, plus the tears in the eyes of Abraham’s mother, his aunt, and his friend as I took the women’s hands and offered my sincerest condolences, moved me the most; I was moved to rage. I’m supposed to tell you that I understand that the police made a mistake, even if some of them refuse to acknowledge it. I’m supposed to tell you the best thing to do, the positive diplomatic thing, is to advocate for nothing but changing police procedures, that’s it. Not for the firing of Sergeant Kevin Riffle, the deputy who murdered Abraham with a police issue semi-automatic rifle. I’m not supposed to call for his incarceration for murdering a Frederick County resident. I’m not even supposed to say “murder”.
But you know what? To hell with that. What little, conflicting evidence exists of the moments before Abraham’s murder…no, his assassination, paints a picture of the police firing the second that it was established that Abraham had an item of some kind in his hand, before they even knew what it was. Community members have stated that they are aware from speaking to other officers that the police knew, in contrast to their reports, that Abraham’s girlfriend and child weren’t even in the house.
Abraham never even raised the supposed “weapon” to indicate to officers that he intended to do them harm. He did not pose any threat to officers whatsoever, he did not attack them or even threaten to kill himself, or say “kill me”. We have that evidence according to ACLU investigators, in spite of the official police reports. The police say that they did everything by the book, as per an internal investigation by Sheriff Jenkins’ office, which determined Sergeant Riffle to not be at fault. Our investigators and their evidence show a different story.
I am infuriated by the lack of answers that police have for activists and the victim’s family. I am tired of the idea that in Frederick County, we seem to have to beg the Sheriff’s deputies not to kill us. What if it were my brother? Half of me would be in inconsolable grief, the other in a blind rage. I feel the pain of innocent people, the Arellano family and friends, who report intimidation by police. They say police entered the Arellano home with bloody uniforms on. Friends of Abraham report the police telling them to, “keep your mouth shut and your comments off of Facebook”.
What the hell is going on in Frederick? With everything inside of my heart, I demand an independent investigation. I demand the firing and incarceration of Sergeant Riffle, and of Sheriff Jenkins, and nothing less. I demand a full federal investigation into the mafia that is the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department.