Humboldt County Sheriff Officers shot and killed Robert Garth in the morning of Saturday August 7, 2010. CopWatchers and friends of the Garth family went to Blue Lake, after learning of the shooting. We took lots of video and photos. We want here to share what we learned, in brief.
First this: As we write this post (Saturday night, August 7, 2010), we anticipate two things. The first is that the media (i.e. Thadues Greenson of the Times-Standard who was in Blue Lake) will parrot, stating as fact, the police story. That's what the media ALWAYS does.
Now, we know the police story will be told in defense of the cops who murdered Robert. Thus, we can anticipate words that imply that the cops were scared for their safety and lives, the safety and lives of others; that they had to make a split-moment decision and the danger resulted in the split-moment decision to shoot (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11? shots?), and that Robert had mental health problems, which made him unpredictable or dangerous (perhaps the media will even put out an anecdotal story about Robert in another time to illustrate such a problem). However the media will do it, taking direction from police statements and police press releases, the media will criminalize the victim, Robert Garth, and recite excuses for the cops- cops who just ended a life!!
These notes are not in chronological order. For instance, although we initially talk about the District Attorney and his so-called investigation, he did not show up for quite a while into the day.
District Attorney (DA) Gallegos and his investigator arrived on the scene and told Robert's family and friends that the DA's office wanted to get statements from each of them. The investigator from the DA's said he wants to hear about “mental health issues”, “any history you can fill us in on.” He said, “I don't know Robert. I never dealt with him.” “We're trying to do some fact finding, gather evidence, get peoples' statements- to get our opinion about what happened..and we'd love to sit down and talk with you.” We say: Don't investigate the victim! Investigate the cops who shot and KILLED! The DA investigator wants people to talk, why? So the DA can say, "Well, he was crazy and dangerous, so... the shooting is justified.” What does the investigator want from people who did not even SEE what happened or know nothing about the particular cops who shot Robert? They are not witnesses! The DA will, undoubtedly, like he has EVERY OTHER POLICE MURDER, justify the killer Sheriffs' actions. And like he did with the murder by the cops of Martin Cotton II, the DA willl ignore or not even seek any real witness statements if he cannot alter it in the cops' favor. [For example, the DA was not interested in witness Lou Valente who watched the Eureka cops beat Martin to death and contacted the DA because his conscience could not let him be silent. Nor was the DA interested in speaking with the man who was IN JAIL next to Martin Cotton when Sheriff personnel continued the beating which killed Martin. The DA does not seek justice, but justification for the cops' murderous actions.]
So, here are observations, notes from August 7, 2010:
A neighbor said that between 7 and 7:30am, he saw Robert chasing another man going up the on-ramp toward Arcata on 299. The neighbor said that the other man threw off his backpack, and at one point Robert had a rake. The neighbor said he saw Robert hit the other guy with the rake and the backpack.
Two Sheriff cop cars arrived, with 4 cops inside. According to the neighbor, when the cops approached Robert and the other man were facing each other and talking, Robert holding the other man's arm. The neighbor perceived that things had calmed down. However, the neighbor said that “the cops didn't give him [Robert] a chance.” Really fast, it looked like one of the cops tripped, stumbled, and then the cops fired on Robert. The neighbor thought he heard between 6 and 11 shots.
One of the cop cars stayed in the same spot where it initially pulled up all morning and most of the afternoon. The car was very close to Robert, as if it drove up within just feet of him.
By the time CopWatch folks arrived, the Sheriff's officers had sent the other guy home.
The backpack was about a football field away from where Robert lay dead.
There was no rake laying on the ground.
The Sheriff's officers wouldn't let Robert's parents near the scene. One Blue Lake nighbor said that the cops didn't even tell Robert's mother in her house nearby that her son had been killed.
The Sheriff's officers put up a canopy, then laid it on its side so no one could see Robert's body, or what they were doing near his body.
One person (who was in a position to overhear) said he heard the cops at the scene laughing at the situation.
Two Sheriff's investigators drove up the neighbor's driveway in an unmarked grey SUV. A woman sheriff cop got out and asked the neighbor, who could see things from his window (same neighbor mentioned above), if she and Sheriff officer Wayne Hansen could ask him questions and get a statement. The two cops got in the front seats of the Sheriff's vehicle and had the neighbor witness get in the back (like when someone is arrested). They were in the Sheriff's vehicle for about 30 minutes.
Coroner personnel arrived with a Sheriff's officer from Southern Humboldt. The Sheriff talked to one of Robert's younger brothers. He told him that he had called the forensic pathologist who said he couldn't make it to Humboldt until next Saturday. The Coroner went on to tell the brother that he can't let the family see Robert's body until the forensic pathologist could do an autopsy next Saturday. Coroner was telling him that Robert's body is evidence and they can't risk any “contamination” from family members' clothes or anything from being near it. [The Sheriff's left Robert's body on the side of the highway for most of the day]. Later, the same brother asked if the family could see a photo of Robert's body and was told, “No, that would be releasing evidence to the public, and we can't do that.” [It appears that the coroner personnel who was primarily speaking to the family was Charles Van Buskirk. He worked with Frank Jager when Jager was Coroner and helped cover up the truth about other killings. Van Buskirk is about as honest as a 12 dollar bill. A couple of years ago he visited the home of a grieving mother who's young daughter died under very suspicious circumstances, and who's toxicology report did not match what should have been in the daughter's body. When the mother showed the first sign of suspicion, Van Buskirk told her "People of your income or class think of these things [their children dying or being killed] like a lottery ticket." When the mother in disbelief asked him "What did you say?" he repeated his comment again- that poor parents regard their kids being killed as a lottery ticket (a way to get money?!).
Gallegos showed up after the coroner personnel with about 6 other people. When someone said, “Robert was unarmed”, Gallegos kept telling everyone that Robert had a metal pole.
No one could see the rake or metal pole that had been mentioned. Why was that potential evidence moved or disappeared, but the backpack was still in sight, on the ground?
A coast guard helicopter came and circled and landed on the freeway, blowing things around. The wind was so strong that it blew the backpack (evidence?) off the road and down the embankment a bit. Coast guard and Sheriff personnel switched out and went in the helicopter and circled a couple of times, purpotedly to take aerial photos. The helicopter was running the entire time they were switching out. At least a half hour after the helicopter took off and left, the Sheriff officers realized that the backpack had been blown away- moved. Three sheriff officers went to get the backpack; one picked it up and put it back where they thought it had been. Then they took pictures.
When Robert's body, after hours, was put in the coroner's vehicle, witnesses could not see the body being moved. About 10 cops surrounded Robert's body at that time, so witnesses do not know who moved the body.
Sheriff's Officers shot and kiled Robert Garth. The same Sheriff's agency also conducted investigative action and, it appears, also moved Robert's body.
When the coroner had come over to talk with one of Robert's younger brothers, the fire department showed up and began HOSING down the freeway where the shooting happened.
The coroner personnel (at least two of them) did not come to talk with anyone (family, etc.) until after the body was in their vehicle. Then they drove the vehicle to where the people were (about 9 family, friends, copwatch).
People were told that the names of the officers who killed Robert wouldn't be released because they were being interviewed...
The neighbor (mentioned above) said that his sons in the house saw everything too. They appeared to be, by CopWatchers' perception, at least in their teens. They stayed in the house. The neighbor's window has an unobstructed view (until the Sheriff's blocked it) of the spot where Robert was shot.
The neighbor said that he “didn't hear them [cops] say 'stop' or nothing” before they shot Robert.