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Gun violence in the US

White suspect in ambush killings of two Iowa police officers has history of racial provocation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 November, 2016, 10:20am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 November, 2016, 10:20am

A white man with a history of racial provocations and confrontations with police ambushed and fatally shot two white officers Wednesday in separate attacks as they sat in their patrol cars, authorities said.

Police took 46-year-old Scott Michael Greene into custody hours after the killings and less than three weeks after he argued with officers who removed him from a high school football game where he had unfurled a Confederate flag near black spectators.

Greene flagged down an Iowa Department of Natural Resources employee in a rural area west of Des Moines, identified himself and asked that the employee call 911. Sheriff’s deputies and state patrol officers took him into custody.

He’s suspected in the early morning slayings of 24-year-old Justin Martin, who had been with the force in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale since 2015, and 38-year-old Sergeant Anthony Beminio, who joined the Des Moines department in 2005.

Greene was taken to a hospital for treatment of unknown health issues and was to be questioned later at Des Moines police headquarters, Sergeant Paul Parizek said.

Police responded to a report of shots fired shortly after 1am and found Martin. Authorities from several agencies soon saturated the area. About 20 minutes later, they discovered Beminio, who had responded to the first shooting, Parizek said.

The shootings happened less than 3km apart, and both took place along main streets that cut through residential areas.

In the first shooting, investigators believe the gunman walked up to the officer’s car and fired more than two dozen rounds.

Watch: Video uploaded by suspected cop killer Scott Greene

“I wouldn’t call it a confrontation,” Urbandale Police Chief Ross McCarty said. “I don’t think he may have even been aware that there was a gunman next to him.”

The shootings follow a spate of police killings in recent months, including ambushes of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Five officers were killed July 7 in Dallas. Three more were killed later that month in Baton Rouge.

Race was an issue in those cases and others involving unarmed black men killed by officers. Greene is white, as were the officers.

Greene appeared to have issues with people of other races.

In the confrontation at the October 14 Urbandale High School football game, which Greene videotaped and posted on social media, he appeared to be trying to antagonise African-American fans when he shook a Confederate flag in front of them during the national anthem, McCarty said.

In the video, officers can be seen asking Greene to leave school property while he insists he was assaulted and his flag stolen. He demands officers file theft and assault charges, saying someone hit his head and grabbed the flag.

In a back-and-forth with officers that lasts for nearly 11 minutes, officers said they could take a report but they cannot let Greene back inside the stadium because the school has banned him from the property. They also note they were returning his flag and ask if he purposely wanted to create a conflict by displaying it near African Americans.

“I was peacefully protesting,” he responds. “That’s my constitutional right.”

The video ends with Greene promising not to “set foot on” school property and officers saying they will take down his information.

After the video was posted on YouTube, someone identifying himself as Scott Greene commented, “I was offended by the blacks sitting through our anthem. Thousands more whites fought and died for their freedom. However this is not about the Armed forces, they are cop haters.”

In other incidents, court records show Greene was jailed and charged with interfering with official acts after resisting Urbandale police officers who tried to pat him down for a weapon on April 10, 2014. He entered a guilty plea and was fined.

Two days later, Urbandale police were called to answer a complaint of harassment at the apartment complex where Greene lived. The complaint said he threatened to kill another man during a confrontation in the parking lot and yelled a racial slur used against blacks. Greene was charged with harassment.

He pleaded guilty and received a suspended jail sentence and a year of probation. An officer wrote that Greene had complied with the terms of his probation, noting that he had obtained a mental health evaluation and “reports to have complied with the medication recommendations.”

Soon after the football game incident, on October 17, a criminal complaint indicates Greene was involved in an altercation with his 66-year-old mother. Greene accused her of scratching and hitting his face. He captured the fight on cellphone video, which he used as evidence of the assault. A judge ordered Greene’s mother to stay away from her son, and she was released on US$1,000 cash bond.

The Urbandale police chief said Greene was well-known to officers.

Most officers in the city “have some understanding of Mr. Greene,” McCarty said. “They’ve taken trips to his house, delivered service to him — never anything to this extent.”