Sunday, March 24, 2019

Jesus Calderon
In Loving Memory

As with the perceptible universe, the microcosm that is humankind is chaotic, violent and destructive. Likewise, on rare occurrence, one may experience a fleeting glimpse of an almost magical and unyielding cement that holds each solidly together, against all reason, preventing utter destruction. Friday evening I was fortunate enough to catch such a glimpse of the magic at the core of humanity, an intense love and immeasurable grief as I think I've never witnessed before.

When I arrived at the home of Jesus Calderon, I was feeling regret that I had not known the man. No stories, no information can ever give a person the real sense of a tragedy as that unexplainable thing that reaches into the heart. By the end of my communion with Jesus' family, I felt strongly that I not only knew the man, that he had been my friend, but that it was right for me to grieve his loss. Without reserve, Jesus' family drew me and numerous others into their world with the message of how immense was their love and how unbridled was their grief. It was a true lesson of brotherhood I will not forget.
Memorial placed where Jesus fell

Jesus Calderon, "Tio Chu" to his family and closest friends, was once the primary breadwinner and familial center of all around him but several years ago a serious accident left Jesus with a head injury resulting in greatly diminished motor skills and mental disabilities. He was aware enough of what had happened to him that he fell into a state of chronic and severe depression. Despite this, he was just as loved, honored and respected by his family and friends as he ever was.

Jesus Calderon

Having myself battled clinical depression all of my adult life and having, numerous times in my past, reached out to authorities to save me from myself, I could not stop thinking that it was likely my privilege alone that may have saved me more than once from the same fate as that of Jesus. I was profoundly aware of the injustice that led to the death of Jesus and the suffering his loss is causing. More than once, I had the thought, because I have always been perceived by responding officers as "one of them", my life and safety was held in much higher regard than the life and safety of Jesus; An "us vs. them" perspective all too common in law enforcement.

In the early afternoon on Tuesday, March 19, Jesus' family, fearing he might attempt suicide, called 911 begging for help. It was the 8th time they had had to call emergency services in fear of Jesus life and safety. The previous 7 times, fire rescue arrived first and was easily able to defuse the situation and take a compliant Jesus to the hospital for much needed care. This time, however, Sheriff's Deputies arrived first and aggressively interacted with Jesus. Knowing that Jesus was severely disabled and non-aggressive, Deputy Kevin Stabins pulled his firearm and loudly demanded that Jesus drop the knife he was holding. Eye witnesses to the shooting claim that Jesus, who was slowly shuffling toward the deputy due to his physical handicap, and who did not understand English, was slow in responding to the deputy's commands. Through frantic translations by a family member, Jesus eventually did understand what was demanded of him and, when he was approximately 14' from Deputy Stabins, he dropped the small knife he was holding. It was after Jesus dropped the knife that Deputy Stabins shot 3 rounds  into his chest. In the aerial view below, you can see where both Jesus and Deputy Stabins were standing when Stabins discharged his weapon. When Deputy Stabins arrived on the scene, Jesus was sitting in a chair in front of his garage door, about 32' from the end of the driveway. Jesus stood and slowly began walking toward Stabins, the knife visible in his hand the whole time.
Aerial View (click picture to enlarge)
Deputy Kevin Stabins
In uniform with a taser holstered on his left hip.

It is the opinion of this author and the family of Jesus Calderon that, given the known history of Jesus peaceful interactions with emergency services, and, given the proximate distance between Jesus and Deputy Stabins, that non-lethal measures could certainly have been used to diffuse the situation. It is the opinion of this author that it was Deputy Stabins who needlessly escalated the situation and, without cause, took the life of Jesus Calderon. It is the well considered opinion of this author and friend to Jesus' family that the misleading and untruthful statements by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office clearly show that this life so unjustly taken away was and is of no value to them and that the Sheriff's Department has no consideration for the devastation their deputy left in the wake of his callous and deadly actions.

Please, if this death of an innocent loving and loved man has touched you, please consider a donation, large or small, HERE to help give Jesus the dignified funeral and burial he deserves.

I will end with a few statements from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and statements from family and eye witnesses to the killing of Jesus.

Sheriff's Dept. statement: "The deputy had no time. It happened so fast when the deputy first approached the subject, he came in close proximity, he didn't see the knife until the subject jumped up and aggressively began displaying the knife."
Eyewitness testimony: When Deputy Stabins exited his patrol car, Jesus was sitting in a chair about 32' away from him. Jesus stood from the chair and began to walk slowly toward Stabins. Because of his physical disabilities, Jesus was incapable of anything more than a slow shuffle. The knife was clearly visible in Jesus' hand during the whole encounter. Deputy Stabins shot Jesus 3 times in the chest from a distance of about 14', after Jesus had dropped the knife. Witness testimony is that the knife was very small and could not have presented any threat.

Sheriff's Dept. statement: "When Calderon refused to drop the knife, Sheriff Chad Chronister says the deputy was forced to shoot."
Eyewitness testimony: Jesus did not speak or understand English. A family member at the scene was frantically translating for Jesus the commands of Deputy Stabins. When Jesus understood that he was being ordered to drop the knife, he did so BEFORE Deputy Stabins shot him. Jesus was about 14' from Deputy Stabins when he dropped the knife and was shot by Stabins, causing his death.

Sheriff's Dept. statement: When the deputy first approached the subject and came in close proximity, he didn’t see the knife until the subject jumped up and aggressively began displaying the knife, advancing toward the deputy. The Sheriff's Office said deputies have been called to the house 7 times since September of 2018. All calls involved suicide attempts involving a knife.
Eyewitness testimony: On this 8th call, the family informed the 911 dispatcher that Jesus had a knife. The responding deputies knew before they arrived that Jesus was in possession of a knife. As a result of the brain injuries sustained by Jesus, and the resulting physical disabilities, it was impossible for him to have "jumped up" and he never showed any aggressiveness.

Lastly and needing no counter comment.

Sheriff's Dept. statement: "He's visibly emotional, he's upset," Chronister said of the deputy. "I think visibly bothered by the fact that he had to deploy deadly force."...Sheriff Chronister said in his news conference this is the eighth suicidal subject call the sheriff's office has received from the home since 2018. "I think it says we need to make treatment available to everyone who needs it," Chronister said.

This I can't contradict. Treatment for severe depression is far more expected and hoped for than an execution. 

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