James Chasse Jr.: The Columbo Moment
The title of the WW’s front page story on the death of James Chasse Jr. poses a question: Why did he die? In fact, the article states that all we really know is that the man is dead - the rest of the story is "mostly questions." Okay, I can play that game. It even feels better. Since there is so much mystery as to what really happened here, we’re actually off the hook. Sure, we should press on trying to figure this case out, but there are so many, many darn uncertainties, that we may never know what really took place.
Of course, we could read the witness testimony, but that hasn’t been released. Darn it, there’s another question for you: Why not?
Ahh, it doesn’t matter. The fact that we care so much about all these questions shows that we have done our job. We didn’t just let this one slip by us. No, we asked questions, and asked them again. It was a little like Peter Falk in Columbo. You know how he used to ask questions, and then throw one more in at the end? Sometimes just posing that last question was enough for everyone to know the truth.
So, let’s just say this was a Columbo moment. What would he ask? Okay, here’s my version and let’s pose it to the coroner: "You say the fatal injuries occurred when an officer fell on the man during the take-down - ribs broken in 26 places. Then a terrible struggle broke out. The man fought intensely; he writhed around, he tried biting the officers. It went on and on, and the officers delivered blows, but you say this wasn’t when the fatal wounds occurred. No, that happened before during the tackle and fall part of the pursuit. I just have one question: How does a guy with that many broken ribs from a fall to the ground and an officer landing on him, put up any kind of fight at all? Doesn’t it make more sense that the injuries occurred not during the fall but during the fight? Doesn’t it figure that the officers caused the fatal blows? I mean he didn’t pass out when he hit the ground - no, he went on fighting the 3 police. How does a man so badly hurt do that?"
Of course, the TV Columbo was trying to get at the truth. He never just hid the obvious behind a bunch of questions.