Cop out: My experience with the police

Joe Stumpo
Online Editor

The recent confrontations (a number of them deadly) between African-Americans and police officers that have spawned protests and rioting across the country got me thinking about what I did when I got stopped by the Collin County Sherriff’s Department. It was back in April 2000 for what should have been a ticket for coasting past a four-way stop sign in McKinney.

I have never questioned the traffic tickets police officers issued to me after being pulled over for speeding or not wearing a seatbelt.

My attitude has always been, I did it. I am guilty. Give me the ticket and I’ll decide how to take care of it. It only takes police officers maybe 10 or 15 minutes at most to write you up after they are finished checking your license on the computer in their car.

That’s how long it should have taken the sheriff’s officer to give me a ticket that Sunday afternoon 15 years ago. My attitude towards this particular area in McKinney is, if I don’t see any cars at any of the other three stop signs, then I am just going to slow down and then continue going. That’s a bad attitude. But if there are no cars at the intersection, why should I stop? What should have been a standard citation for missing a stop sign in McKinney became a full-length search of my car.

The officer who asked me if it was OK he search my car said it looked like I was trying to get away from them when they saw me coast past the stop sign. I felt like asking, “If that was the case, why did I stop the minute you turned on the lights?”

I didn’t bring up the question though. I just kept my mouth shut.

The sheriff said it was my right to say no to the search and I would have said no except two scenarios suddenly popped in my head. One was, I could say no and then they’d assume something was up which means they’d just get another car to come by with a search warrant while I wait.

The other assumption was, although I knew damn well there was nothing illegal in my car, would the officer plant anything to make an arrest stick in his opinion?

I pondered these two scenarios for a second and then told the officer to go ahead with the search. He found nothing, but I could tell he was looking for something since I saw him eyeing the inspection and registration stickers on the windshield making sure they were current.

Instead, I stood there outside my car and waited for his partner to get verification on my license, which obviously came back saying I had no warrants (which for the record, I currently have none and have never had any). Yet, his partner still asked if I had any outstanding warrants as he gave my license back.

I told him no. He responded saying for me not to go through stop signs in front of the police because it’s not very smart. I agree.

That’s not the point here. The point is the Collin County Sheriff’s Department asking if they can search my vehicle was their way of saying I was hiding something, which wasn’t the case.

When this happened, I sat there wondering if my rights were violated in some way, but things could have gotten worse if I had smarted off to them and not cooperated.

Therein lies the difference between what I did and what so many African-Americans who died at the hands of police officers didn’t do, whether the search was legal or not.

I am not denying there are bad police officers out there, but I am also convinced there are three times more good officers than bad. The officers who purposefully wrongfully shot innocent civilians during a stop (I am not just talking about African-Americans here) and committing murder do get prosecuted and do get prison time. Every police department in this country be it a small town or a metropolitan city like Dallas has its internal problems.

Police officers don’t out of their way targeting individuals based on the color of their skin in hopes of them getting to use deadly excessive force and maybe starting a war between society and cops. There’s always a reason why you are pulled over by law enforcement.

The lesson that ought to be learned is if you want to go home alive or prevent your arrest following a traffic stop, you might want to avoid any confrontation with the local police.


The continuing battle for political correctness

Joe Stumpo
Online Editor

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signs a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state house grounds July 9, 2015, in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate on the flag was reignited three weeks ago after the mass murder at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. (Credit: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signs a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state house grounds July 9, 2015, in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate on the flag was reignited three weeks ago after the mass murder at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. (Credit: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

When South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a measure into law on July 9, to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol (which was then removed the next day after flying for 54 years), I couldn’t help but ask this one question: If South Carolina (and so many other southern states that flew the Confederate flag) knew there was a race problem, why wasn’t the flag removed before 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire, killing nine African-Americans June 17 at a prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Church?

A sick individual cold-bloodedly murders minorities in hopes of starting a race war and now South Carolina and the rest of the country have a change of heart? If such supposed offensive historical symbols of the Civil War had been taken down years earlier, would that have kept Roof’s shooting rampage from happening? I doubt that about as much as I doubt more stringent gun control laws would stop mass shootings from happening.

Truth is this wasn’t the first shooting inside a house of worship. There have been countless shootings inside churches before the Charleston incident. Many innocent lives have been lost. Where was all the shock and outrage then over gun violence and mental illness?

When I watched “All in the Family (1971-1979) and “The Jeffersons” (1975-1985) as a kid I did not count how many racial epithets (and there were many) Archie Bunker said about most every race. I didn’t know what the words “honky” and “zebras” meant at the time when George Jefferson uttered those words to describe interracial couple Tom and Helen Willis Apparently neither did the live audiences otherwise why were they all laughing? Or why did the networks incorporate laugh tracks when those comments were said?

“The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985) was and is no more a show seated in racism than Breaking Bad was a show seated in reality,” said Hazzard’s star John Schneider upon hearing the series was pulled by TV Land in response to the Charleston shootings and the suddenly racist Confederate flag painted on the famous car Bo and Luke drove, the General Lee.

“I am saddened that one angry and misguided individual can cause one of the most beloved television shows in the history of the medium to suddenly be seen in this light,” Schneider told The Hollywood Reporter. “Are people who grew up watching the show now suddenly racists? Will they have to go through a detox and a 12-step program to kick their Dukes habit?”

We can’t say Merry Christmas to anyone out of fear of offending someone who doesn’t celebrate it. We can’t dress up as “Caitlyn Jenner” for Halloween because the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community finds it insulting.

When people aren’t busy wasting their breath on the dumbest of debates, like changing the name of the Washington Redskins football team to something else that won’t be offensive to Native Americans, they’re busy setting double standards.

They say nothing when liberal hate commentator Ed Schultz shouts how former Vice President Dick Cheney’s heart should be ripped out, kicked around and stuffed back into him. The minute Rush Limbaugh, however, calls Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a slut, without bothering to read the transcript of where Limbaugh was coming from when he said it, the double standard liberals want “The Doctor of Democracy” gone from the airwaves.

The minute I criticize President Obama I get called racist when my criticism of him has nothing to do with his race. It’s his lousy policies destroying America that I have no stomach for.

With the Confederate flag now in a museum I can’t help but wonder (as I drive throughout my neighborhood seeing the American flag proudly displayed outside numerous homes), how long will it be before someone finds the symbol offensive and demands that it be removed from a neighbor’s home?

In case you were born yesterday, I got news for you. It’s already happening.

Texas crime drama: A lesson in morality

Copy Editor

Image courtesy Richland Communication and Marketing Department Carter Brown plays the most challenging role as Martin in “Comes the Storm.”
Image courtesy Richland Communication and Marketing Department. Carter Brown plays the most challenging role as Martin in “Comes the Storm.”

Events related to a small Texas town and a group of friends became the focus of the Richland Drama Department’s first fall production, “Comes the Storm,” which ran Oct. 6-10.

“Storm,” an original two-act play written by Drama Department Chair Andy Long, takes place in a run-down bar named “Ida’s Place” in present time.

Long named the bar “Ida” on purpose, he said, because “it’s a good, old-school Texas name.” Also, one quote from the Bible, specifically from the book of Job, inspired him to write the play. It’s “Out of the south comes the storm; out of the north, the cold.”

That quote, Long said, stuck with him because in Texas we don’t get winter. We get “freakish ice storms” that shut everything down, so in “Storm” it was snowing.

Long was born and raised in Houston and wrote the play this past summer. It was based on when he was young and visited the same type of bar in Deep Ellum in Dallas.

The plot revolves around six characters, friends who experience an unexpected violent murder and suddenly wind up in a moral battle over the circumstances. All six actors are Long’s sophomore drama students.

Kudos to Scott Osborne and Long for creating such a fantastic set of a quaint small Texas bar. With a couple of tables, a tiny lighted bar complete with Budweiser and Lite signs, plus a piano, it seemed so inviting to the audience that they probably felt right at home while craving their favorite drink.

Mieko Hicks portrayed Ida and Raied Makhamreh, her overly doting husband, Tim. They displayed some great chemistry as a twosome. With Hick’s deep, low voice, she commanded attention in all other scenes. While trying hard to prove his love for her by taking good care of the bar, Tim never feels it’s enough to satisfy her and admits that, “Ida calls all the shots.”

Audrey Clark had the delightfully sexy role of Carla, who dazzled the audience with southern speech and a cute, little skimpy outfit with boots, while explaining how she and the love of her life, Frankie, were married in a casino three weeks earlier.

Carter Brown had the most challenging role as Martin, who arrived at the bar one day and never left. Long created this character to be “very pure in spirit, resembling a religious figure.” Brown stole the show with a fantastic performance, which included loud outbursts, some wild facial expressions and sporadically spouting off biblical verses whenever the mood hit him while shuffling around the stage in baggy beige clothes. His performance was thoroughly enjoyable.

Long said, “He [Martin] is that helpless part of our society that’s the pure. We have a lot of people in our culture who are lost that way. You talk to them and when you’re lost, one of the things that a lot of people rely on is religion. And Martin relies on that.”

In one dramatic scene, loud gunshots from outside disturbed the friends while stranded at the bar. Jabin Lewis, as Carla’s newlywed husband Frankie, was able to pull off a quick, but dismal death scene as he stumbled through the door just long enough to fall flat on the table, bounce to the floor – and die. The duffel bag he carried, loaded with cash was scattered all over the place.

Suddenly, friendship turns to conflict, and the dire situation is turned into a moral dilemma: Martin wants a reward if the money is turned inso he can go to Disney World. Ida wants to keep it to expand the bar. Carla and Tim want to turn it in, but then Ida confesses her brother, Ben, had something to do with Frankie and some of the stolen money. Ben, however, is nowhere to be found.

Eric Obregon, portraying the deceptive Detective Padilla, arrived next to demand his fair share of the money after questioning the group about the murder. The scene fell rather flat as he spoke. Until he became violent, slamming Tim’s hands with a baseball bat, then shooting him in the thigh while he curled up on the floor screaming in pain.

In the final scenes, Padilla shows his true colors. He steals money from the cash register, orders the group to lie about a masked robber coming to the bar when the police come, and insists on handling the investigation himself. Carla takes several stacks of the money and disappears. Ida is elated, thinking she’s got the rest of it.

Martin, however, spouts one last meaningful biblical statement: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

The most important moral lesson Long said he wanted people to walk away with is: “Don’t be greedy. Learn to embrace and be happy with what you’ve been given and what you’ve earned. Learn that sometimes enough is enough and in order to be happy and successful, we don’t all have to be millionaires.”

If there’s one vital scene the audience should remember from “Comes the Storm,” it’s Martin clinging to the duffel bag stuffed with money as he slowly backs out the door into the ongoing snowstorm.

‘Sicario’: Full of gritty, intense action

Entertainment Editor

For those who don’t know, “Sicario” is Spanish for hit man. That is just one of the aspects covered in this intense and gritty action drama which pulls no punches in its storytelling technique.

Emily Blunt, who earned her action stripes in Doug Liman’s enthralling-yet-exhausting “Edge Of Tomorrow,” is aces as FBI agent Kate Macer. She’s asked to join a U.S. task force to apprehend a Mexican drug dealer.

At the head of this task force is FBI agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin, “No Country For Old Men”) who, for all intents and purposes, is her boss. Graver is assembling a team to follow a ruthless Mexican drug dealer.

Also on the team is Oscar-winner Benicio Del Toro (“Traffic,” “The Usual Suspects”) as a man simply referred to as Alejandro. He is a man who speaks few words, only opening his mouth when absolutely necessary.

The action switches back and forth between the United States and Mexico with the greatest of ease. It’s the same basic formula as the James Bond films.

The storyline’s greatest shift in tone resides in the empathy factor regarding those who are good and bad. The majority of the time, those who are bad receive their just desserts. That wasn’t the case with the recent crime caper “Black Mass,” where Johnny Depp’s main character James “Whitey” Bulger was just a ruthless criminal killing for no reason.

In “Sicario,” the violence is portrayed as necessary. The gritty action sequences are well done and justified.

At the head of this flick is director Denis Villeneuve, who helmed the gritty, hard-to-watch kidnapping tale “Prisoners” in 2013. Like “Prisoners,” he only shows violence when absolutely necessary.

Grade: A

Costumes for a frightfully exciting night

Staff Writer

With Halloween less than two weeks away, now is the time to throw something together that will not scare away too many people. Gentlemen, here are a few tips to make that night just as enjoyable for you as it will be for the ladies.

For guys, the questions to answer are fairly simple. Do I want to go all out or stick to the clichéd mask with all black clothes? Is the group going to dress up? Am I pairing up with my girlfriend? How much money am I really willing to spend?

The options could be anything from a supervillain to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If dressing up isn’t your thing, do the typical mask idea. Be sure to make it your own, though. Instead of buying a scary mask, buy a horse head and wear all brown. If you really are not in the holiday spirit, the absolute easiest costume is to wear all black from head to toe. All you have to do is follow someone and BOOM! You’re a shadow for Halloween!

With Halloween so close it pass before we can even enjoy it. Whether you’re a shadow or a sweet princess or a prince charming, be bold, be safe, and embrace the spirit of Halloween. I’ll be watching “Nightmare Before Christmas.” It’s scary enough for me.

Ricky’s Take 5

“The Monster Squad” (1987) — This is a fun little flick involving monsters of lore, including The Mummy (Michael Reid Mackay), Dracula (Duncan Regher), Frankenstein’s monster (Tom Noonan) and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Yom Woodruff Jr.). It is a bit dated, but it’s also just a good old time at the movies. B-

“Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut” (2014) — After years of waiting, Shout! Factory released a director’s cut of Clive Barker’s (1990) feature about a fictional place called Midian, where monsters live and all your past transgressions are forgiven. In this flick, monsters are the good guys and man is evil. B+

“The Frighteners” (1996) — Michael J. Fox (“Back to the Future”) is a ghostbuster-for-hire who encounters some ghosts that are not altogether friendly. From director Peter Jackson, who would later go on to direct trilogies for J.R.R. Tolkein’s “Lord of The Rings” and “Hobbit.” B-

“Gremlins” (1984) — This was an early start for Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin. A pint-sized creature named Gizmo, a mogwai, creates monsters that are mean, self-serving and rude. A

“Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (1990) — This one satirizes the original with Phoebe
Cates’ Kate Beringer explaining why her family does not celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. A-

-Ricky Miller

RLC students sing backup for Groban

Copy Editor

It’s not very often students receive the musical surprise of singing with a multiplatinum artist.

That’s just what happened, though, to Richland jazz singers when chorus director Dr. Michael Crawford told them they would be singing backup for Josh Groban.

“I think they’re having a hard time believing this is actually going to happen. So they’ve worked hard,” Crawford said.

Rehearsals for the event have been taking place Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Crawford said a few weeks ago an agent for Groban contacted him to ask if the jazz singers would be interested in working with Groban during his upcoming tour through Texas in October.

Crawford, who had never met Groban, said he was happy to say “yes.” The performances will take place Friday in Austin and at the Fair Park Music Hall in Dallas Sunday.

“The shows are about an hour and a half,” he said. “We will back him up on two songs: “Anthem,” from the musical “Chess” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel.”

Crawford said he and the backup singers will just come out and sing these two songs with Groban. He will learn more details Friday, when they are scheduled to arrive in Austin. Dress rehearsals are at 2 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.

Groban’s most recent collection, “Stages,” came out in April. It consists of songs from Broadway musicals, such as “Les Misérables,” “Carousel,“ and “The Fantasticks,” among others.

Groban requires 20 singers. They are: Sopranos: Natalie McCurley, Rachel Moon, Rachel Trevino, Rhina Restrepo, Angel Hare, Ashely Fuentes; altos: Martha Schessler, Bethany Zientek, Veronica Merritt, Maria Beltran; tenors: Crawford, Garrett Dunaway, Josh Usry, Steven Singleton, John Villalas; baritones: Brandon Jones and Nick Paldino, and basses: Alex Gonzales, Valentin Lopez and Drew Bramlett.

“The jazz singers were chosen because they are my best singers,” Crawford said. “I have to have 20 singers. I only have 12 jazz singers, so I’ve augmented it with eight other singers from the chamber group.”

Crawford said he won’t be taking any rhythm section players, just the 20 singers on the trip, and they equally are divided among men and women.

Groban wants the backup singers to wear black.

“They stipulate black for men and women … no sparkles, which I told my singers, you know, they really have to be almost part of the wallpaper,” Crawford said. “No hair, no makeup, nothing like that that stands out. They’re really not paying a lot of money to hear us. They’re paying a lot of money to hear him.”

After the performance in Dallas, he and the singers will have their pictures taken with Groban, which they are pretty excited about, Crawford said.

“I think this is an incredible opportunity for our singers to be involved. Even if people don’t listen to his music, they know the name,” he said. “And, I would guess that a lot of people have listened to him. He’s quite a phenomenon.”

Crawford has sung some of Groban’s pieces and said while Groban can cover both tenor and baritone, his songs are very difficult to sing because he has such a wide range.

Crawford said he thinks it speaks well for Groban as an entertainer to be able to make this opportunity available to college kids because every place he goes, he contracts with a college group for backup singers.

“He wouldn’t have to do that,” Crawford said. “He could probably figure out something else, so I think he does it for all the right reasons.”

There’s one other aspect of importance for the jazz singers.

Crawford said they’re earning $2,000 for each performance, which will be used to help finance a spring tour for 16 jazz singers.

“The Choral Department gets the $4,000 for a trip to Seattle next March for a local jazz festival,” he said. “We travel every spring, but this is a little more costly, so the fact that this came along is really pretty good.”