“Ding-Dong Ditcher” Killed by Cop

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Dumb, probably drunk kid knocks on an off-duty cop’s door, then runs away. The cop comes out in street clothes, hunts the kid down in his squad car, then lays him over the hood while he calls for backup. According to the cop, the kid then jumps the cop, smacks the cop’s head on the pavement, and reaches for the cop’s gun. So the cop kills him. The kid’s only prior was a 2007 DUI conviction.

I guess the first question here is why you jump in your squad car to hunt someone down for such a petty infraction. And why you make an arrest for it.  And why you need backup.But putting all that aside, the ensuing narrative doesn’t smell right, either. Why would a kid who seemed to have his life in order knowingly take on a cop on the side of the road, in front of witnesses?

Then there’s this:

The Sheriff’s Office did not release details about the case Monday, but officials say they expect the investigation into the actions of Deputy Carlos Verdoni, who shot Spann, to be completed by the end of this week.

The inquiry into the shooting is divided into two parts: a criminal investigation of the shooting; and an administrative look at whether Verdoni followed procedures when he left his home in shorts, a T-shirt and sandals to track down the pranksters who banged on his door and ran off…

Sheriff’s officials are investigating the shooting even though it happened within the Venice city limits. The Sheriff’s Office says it handles all officer-involved shootings in the county, except for those in the city of Sarasota, through an agreement with the smaller police agencies.

Followed by:

Sheriff Tom Knight has said that he believes Verdoni’s actions were justified and that the investigation will clear the nine-year veteran.

So three days after the incident, and days before the investigation is complete, the guy in charge of the department conducting the investigation says he already knows the cop will be cleared. You’d think he’d at least pretend to be impartial.

Maybe this kid had something illegal in his house, and wrongly decided it would be better to kill a cop than subject himself to a possible search. Maybe he just had a moment of derangement. Or drunken idiocy. So yeah, maybe this shooting was entirely justified. But given that Sheriff Knight already seems to have made up his mind, I’m not sure how much stock we should put into his department’s investigation.

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73 Responses to ““Ding-Dong Ditcher” Killed by Cop”

  1. #1 |  BSK | 

    To all-

    Thank you for the feedback. As others have pointed out, the onus is on the cop to provide evidence to support his claim. Absent that, it doesn’t matter what he says. So, yes, it is a big “IF” and if it doesn’t move beyond that, this is murder plain and simple.

  2. #2 |  JOR | 

    Jesus, people. Even if the cop’s story is 100% correct, the cop hunted some guy down and started throwing him around for no other reason than that someone rang his doorbell and ran off (it may or may not have been the guy he killed). Even if the cop’s story is 100% correct, he had no rational basis and no moral justification for doing what he did, and the guy was justified in trying to get his weapon away from him, and would have been justified in killing him – an armed person who stalked you down on your own lawn to throw you around probably means you serious harm, and you’re not obligated to just take it meekly in hope that he doesn’t really mean to seriously hurt or kill you. Does a lot of cop-on-Mundane violence fit a pattern like this? Yes. So does that mean the Mundanes in many cop-on-Mundane altercations would be justified in disabling or killing the cop? Yes. Deal with it.

    It’s a fancy sort of person who can escalate a conflict to a point where the escalator is justified in doing the shooting.

  3. #3 |  RWW | 

    It seems that the people who voted JOR’s and my comments down believe one of two things:

    1. It’s wrong to kill someone, even in self-defense.

    2. It’s okay to kill someone in self-defense, unless they’re wearing a magical uniform.

  4. #4 |  Elliot | 

    : (#53) “It seems that the people who voted JOR’s and my comments down believe one of two things….”

    Or, something completely different. JOR’s comment seems to be self-contradictory. I couldn’t figure out which sentence was made in irony, or if JOR simply lost track of his point.

    You, on the other hand, took one of Radley Balko’s list of unlikely scenarios which would have justified the use of deadly force, and pretended that Radley was doing the very opposite: arguing for self defense. Maybe you didn’t read carefully, maybe you’re too obtuse to follow a discussion beyond three sentences, or maybe you’re just an obnoxious prevaricator.

  5. #5 |  Zimbabalouie | 

    Sheriff knight said today he expects the investigation to be completed in time for Saturday’s game of the week. He also said that he further expects the investigation to completely exonerate officer Verdoni (with a wink and a nod).

    So far the only thing reported here that is evident is that an armed off duty Sheriff used deadly force against an unarmed citizen. Seems by the report here that all of the evidence (i. e. the deputies story) has no other witnesss or corraboration. So the thought that there may indeed be a bit of CYA going on is rathe justifiable.

  6. #6 |  Morning Links | The Agitator | 

    […] the police officers involved in the “ding dong ditch” shooting has been […]

  7. #7 |  Venice resident | 

    O.K. I live in Venice (well at least 3 months ago I did). It is not a town were such force is necessary! The cops in that town shouldn’t even be allowed to carry guns! look it up yourself the median age in that town is the highest in the nation – something like 73 LOOK IT UP! the entire town is packed with old rich fulk. I didn’t know the kid that gat shot-But I know were he lived, were the cop live and have been at the bar were the kid was earlier that night. I can not believe that pig is still running the streets. Because that cop was an IDIOT the kid is dead… DEAD! I’ve been ding dong ditching myself when I was younger and if some fat headed arrogant jerk face started chasing me in his pajamas I’d go for his gun to! (lets just assume he did, because the pig face killed the only witness).

    Lets use this same story with different characters. Some drunk ass rang my door at one in the mourning. first off I wouldn’t even care – but for the sake of this case lets say I chased him. what’s the first logical thing to do? grab my gun of course… So I can chase this kid and shoot him on his front lawn.

    Now what the heck would happen to me? I swear to all thats good I wouldn’t get a paid vacation! I would be cuffed as soon as the pig heads arrived – and thrown in jail for the rest of my natural life! Thats exactly what would happen and everyone knows it! But because cops have more connection then a microprocessor there obviously granted a license to kill in any situation. I swear If I ever have the opportunity to meet this cop I will be more then happy to voice my thoughts but then agin he’d probably shoot me to!

    So if you all are reading another story about a pig shooting a kid in veinice you know what happen!

  8. #8 |  Venice Resident and MOM | 

    I am so angry I could spit. As a mom of two boys myself my heart goes out to the grieving parents. At 14, I did the same prank. That was 40 years ago. Then 20 years ago some neighborhood children did a rash of the prank. So, we disconnected the door bell and left the front porch light on. After all, kids get bored and move on=and/or=they grow up and move on, either way, it all does come to an end. Never in a million years would we have grabbed a gun and jumped iinto our car and hunted them down. They are our neighbors and they are our children. I lost respect for Venice cops the month after I moved to Venice. They have always hated our youth and I have witnessed them harassing them (and they even tried it once on me since I was younger looking and driving my son’s red sunbird). For Venice, and for Florida as a whole-everyone looks the other way until it is their child. No ONE deserves to die for this prank. If this crappy cop would have only reacted as any loving parent would, he would have stayed home-or at best-kept his gun locked up. He needs anger management classes at the very least. And by the way-what ever happened to the video footage from the cop car? And he is still harassing the youth in Venice, and why not-in Venice, they can get away with murder.

  9. #9 |  RWW | 

    Elliot: I’ve read and re-read JOR’s comment and my own, and tried to make sense of yours, and I simply can’t do it.

  10. #10 |  Elliot | 

    RWW, I tried to make sense of comments from you and JOR and had the same problem. Perhaps you could explain this to me?

    JOR (#12): “As any cop is, morally, fair game for anyone who wants to kill one for any reason at all, a cop is never justified in killing someone merely to ensure his own safety. (For the same reason that DIY robbers aren’t justified in killing people who resist them.)”

    Is the first sentence supposed to be ironic? I would guess so, but then the sarcasm is lost in the second sentence, as JOR switches to an opposing moral proposition. Unless, of course, JOR is implying that any cop is the moral equivalent of a robber. (And, what is a “DIY robber”? Is that “do it yourself”? I don’t understand the relevance of using that acronym in this context.)

    RWW (#42): “JOR (#12) hit the ail on the head, but I’ll reiterate:

    [Balko:]Maybe this kid had something illegal in his house, and wrongly decided it would be better to kill a cop than subject himself to a possible search… So yeah, maybe this shooting was entirely justified.

    If the kid had something illegal and decided to kill a cop to protect himself, it’s simply self-defense on the kid’s part.”

    You’re equivocating between avoiding being “subject … to a possible search” with “protect[ing] himself….” Outside of a specific context, those are two different things, and your assertion, taken as a generalization, is wrong.

    For example, you could have a kidnapped child, a murder weapon, or a pile of cash from a bank heist. Those qualify as “something illegal” and if confronted by a cop, your desire to avoid having your “something illegal” discovered is not moral justification for killing.

    Perhaps by “something illegal” you mean drugs, or other things which, in a free society, wouldn’t be illegal, but happen to be illegal under the immoral Prohibition laws. OK, different circumstances. If that’s what you want to focus on, you should have been more specific.

    RWW (#53): “It seems that the people who voted JOR’s and my comments down believe one of two things:

    1. It’s wrong to kill someone, even in self-defense.

    2. It’s okay to kill someone in self-defense, unless they’re wearing a magical uniform.”

    Given the confusing nature of JOR’s remark and the problems of your remark, I think you completely overlooked far more reasonable reactions to what you wrote. Like: confusion, misinterpretation, or a disagreement with your apparent generalization.

  11. #11 |  ronald | 

    theres a similar case where an old man shot a kid from the back with a rifal the officer heard about the case and did the same thing these sheriffs are out of control. killing people for nothing he did not identifie himself as an officer as well as in front of witnesses. someone will shoot him before he can shoot the witnises

  12. #12 |  Jimbo | 

    American’s are so damn funny . . . bitch and complain about cops all the time. “He was rude to me, he demanded my cooperation and/or respect, he was too rough with me (after I committed my crime), he violated my rights. . .” Just about any other country out there a cop can beat you to a bloody pulp for looking at them wrong and then throw you into jail for days afterward . . . no questions asked. It is the American public’s general attitudes to those people sworn to protect them (yeah there can be a few bad eggs) that causes the majority of these issues . . . too many yank lawyers making too much money on BS civil rights violation suits . . .

  13. #13 |  Tears of America | 

    No matter what the outcome of the investigation regarding this young man’s actions, this shooting resulted in “premeditated murder” under the color of law. Any ordinary citizen taking the same action against a prankster, would have been charged with “premeditated murder”. Local and state law enforcement will continue to have this type of power because of poor voter turnout or people who do vote, taking their prejudices/ignorances to the ballot box. see what happens in Venice during the next election????? Who was it that said, “…absolute power, Absolutely corrupts…” I beleive that law enforcement has too much power!!

  14. #14 |  neil | 

    Its a stupid dangerous game,respect others and their property. My reaction would be report them to juvenile authorities.

  15. #15 |  Ron | 

    Different standards for different folks. Cops are cowards and we have special rules to protect them. It’s part of the price we pay for their “service,” as they remind us often.

  16. #16 |  Lt Col Tom Molloy | 

    WTF is a grown man (with a prior conviction for DUI) doing playing ‘Ding Dong Ditch’ like a 10 year old? Was he mentally retarded? If not, was the “game” a cover for a more serious asault on the police officer?

  17. #17 |  Morning Links | The Agitator | 

    […] remember the off-duty cop who got off after killing a guy who “ding-dong ditched” his house? Turns out, regular citizens don’t get the same […]

  18. #18 |  V | 

    I don’t know. Was it? Unless you plan on introducing some kind of evidence, there’s no point in throwing out scenarios, regardless of plausibility or implausibility.

    Look at the situation as it is: a 20-year old person who consumed a small quantity of beer banged on the door of a police officer and ran off, was chased down by a police officer in a squad car who, despite not indicating a lethal threat to himself or the general public was present, had a firearm with him, even though he wasn’t on duty.

  19. #19 |  neil | 

    Thank you LT COL Molloy,glad someone noticed this was a man not a child we don’t know the full story but it reads like he nearly over powered the cop. seems the bad guys have all the rights these days.

  20. #20 |  Tears of America | 

    At ease Lt. Col Tom Molloy and maintain a civil tongue. ( You also ill neil) This was not a grown man but rather a young man, a very young man. A very young man who is now dead over a petty offense. Your comments are pure conjecture and speculation. The fact is that a person lost his life because an off duty police officer lost his cool. What if it were your son or brother who was killed over a stupid prank? The police department closed ranks so quickly that fairness and impartiality were immediately aborted. Why couldn’t the off duty cop call officers who were on duty? Also, since he was off duty, why isn’t he subjected the same RULE of LAW enforcement that every other citizen is subjected to, ” guilty until proven innocent “. This officer’s actions were premeditated and therefore the outcome was MURDER. If a cardiologist makes a mistake during a surgical proceedure and the patient dies; is the patient’s fault? Proffessionals don’t have the luxury of making mistakes that could cause a person his life or freedom.

  21. #21 |  Ron | 

    Different standards for different folks. If a Firefighter had done it, we’d be amazed and disappointed. If a soldier did it, he/she would be court martialed. If another citizen did it, they’d be prosecuted for murder. If a doctor or lawyer did it they’d lose their professional license and be prosecuted. But because we accept cop cowardice as part of the deal, because of years of conditioning to their cowardly whining about “protecting the public,” we’re talking about it as though it is a special problem of “good guys” and “bad guys” for which there is some special answer, different than common sense would normally dictate.

  22. #22 |  Jeff Charles | 

    Boyd @#16 has it exactly – the training today is to escalate in the face of anything other than abject submission by the citizen. Hence the shouted, repeated orders, there is no backing down. ANY encounter with a cop of any stripe today results in either surrender or death. We, the American People, need to put these professional thugs in their place.

  23. #23 |  Cops Get Away With Murder, Mundanes Don’t And Firemen Lose Their Jobs | Hoogly Boogly | 

    […] April if you recall Radley Balko wrote about a guy who played ding-dong-ditch on the wrong house. The homeowner happened to be a cop who was off duty. You know the rest, the cop chased him down […]