When the cops killed my friend Richard Carse

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or “Florida man kills Florida man. Dateline: Jacksonville, 1991.”
A refection by Michael “I remember when sex was safe and music was dangerous”  Dean
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So, in case you’ve been living in a cave or never listened to the Freedom Feens, I used to play in a rock group called BOMB.

Before the World Wide Web and before Photoshop was common (and usable), our meme makers actually went to college for graphic arts, and did page layout with glue and a big piece of cardboard, not with a computer mouse. Their work had to be photographed and split into four color screens to be able to be printed anywhere. It was expensive, difficult, and required trained people to do it right.

The guy who did most of Bomb’s posters and two of our record covers, Richard Carse, was a graphic artist by trade. When I knew him, he worked as a well-paid long-term temp at places like Bank of America and at various high-end San Francisco  advertising agencies doing graphic art.

At some point he started doing a lot of crystal meth, lost his job, moved from San Francisco to Florida, started dating my ex-girlfriend Beth, and ended up in a domestic dispute with her where the police showed up and ended up shooting Richard and killing him.

Since this was in 1991, there’s nothing about it online except this little blurb on ancestry.com.

I don’t even have a picture of Richard, because no one had a digital camera back then, taking regular photos was expensive, and I’ve lost any pictures I had of anyone in my many moves since then.

He was handsome, tall, thin and wiry with high cheekbones and icy pale blue eyes. He often wore suits for work, and often wore suit jackets when not at work. He looked like someone who should be working at an Ivy League university, not someone who would be doing heroin and speed with bike messengers and punk rockers in the seedier parts of San Francisco. He was older than us. Last time I saw him he was 39, Tony (Tony Fag, the drummer in Bomb) and I were both 27.

I’ve always wondered if there was a newspaper report about Richard’s death, and today I got that. I’m kinda happy, it’s closure for me in some ways. Tony Fag and I actually had a theory that Richard had faked his death. Because that seems like something he’d maybe do, and because the only account of it we had was second hand, Beth had talked to Tony.

Feen fan extraordinaire Carl Lehár-Mikes was recently attending school in Jacksonville. (You may have met him at Porcfest two years ago, the year that I was there. Tall handsome European dude with long blond hair. He was hanging out with the Feens almost non-stop, but didn’t talk a lot.)

I asked Carl to do me a huge favor and go to the local library to look up any newspaper articles about Richard’s death. I said to look on microfilm at the first week of July 1991, and to send me scans of anything he found. After I explained what microfilm is and how to use it, he went, armed only with the approximate date (Tony and I never knew the exact date, and actually found out on July 4th), and names and a brief explanation of what happened, and he found it for me! It’s below. My comments, and some of Richard’s art, are below that.

carse1carse2

carse3
The article doesn’t not mention Richard’s name (they hadn’t contacted his family yet), but it’s him. They mention the town, the date, the scenario, and mention Beth by her full name.

House where this took place

^House where this took place

^House where this took place

^House where this took place

I say that from what is in the article, from what Beth told Tony, and from what I know about Richard.

(EDIT: READ THE COMMENT BELOW FROM Maurice Kern, AND MY REPLY TO HIM. TURNS OUT BETH WAS A HALF-BLOCK AWAY AND NOT IN ANY DANGER. THE COP PROBABLY MURDERED RICHARD.)

And I’m not one of those “If the police shoot you, you must have deserved it” idiots. I think that at LEAST 9 times out of 10 when cops shoot someone, it’s a cop getting away with murder. But:

I believe the police description of what happened (that’s rare, I usually don’t). But I knew Richard VERY well…..as well as he’d let someone know him. I’d spent hundreds of hours in the same room with him, had many long talks, and we were friends.

  1. Richard was suicidal. I saw him do things and say things that made it clear he had a death wish. Including one time saying if anyone ever pulled a gun on him he’d say “Go ahead and shoot me, motherfucker.” i.e. basically saying “I’ll probably commit suicide by cop (or suicide by mugger).” He also got a tattoo while I knew him of a skeletal hand on his shoulder. He said it symbolized that “Death is always near and always right behind you.”
  2. Richard couldn’t handle his drink. And was worse on speed. Nutty. Crazy. Violent. He once went from talking calmly to tackling me with no provocation at all. He held me down in a choke hold until people pulled him off me. (By the way, I have friends these days who are not insane, but you know, punk rock.) After people pulled him off of me, he sat in the corner laughing to himself for many minutes after. This newspaper article doesn’t mention meth, but Beth told Tony that Richard had been drinking heavily and doing meth for several days when this happened. Richard liked to snort meth, he also liked to shoot it. Don’t know which was the case here, but he likely hadn’t slept for several days. He was a binge user and that was his MO, to not sleep for several days.
  3. The police description sounds like Richard. Especially “…he growled a little and said ‘do it, do it’.”
  4. If a citizen, not a cop, had done the shooting, under the same circumstances, I’d say it was justified, and I think most gun owners reading this would say that too.
  5. You could say “Yeah, but the cops show up where they’re not wanted.” And they do. Often. But this was Beth’s house, where Richard was a guest, Beth had kicked him out, he wouldn’t leave, he’d cut himself (this is all true from her account to Tony also), and she called the police herself, to get him off her property. So basically, she’d voluntarily contracted the police to remove an aggressor who would not leave her property when told to. From there on out I treat this morally about the same as I’d treat it if Beth had called a private enforcer.

It’s good to finally get this newspaper article. I’ve wanted it since this happened, but didn’t know how to get it. If nothing else, I now know Richard is really dead, he didn’t fake his death.

I may try to track down the friend / neighbor mentioned in the article, though his account seems to reflect what Beth told Tony.

There are several reasons I’m discussing this instead of just letting it be. One is that Richard lived the kind of life where nothing I’ve written here would likely feel like a disgrace to him. He’d probably be happy to still be remembered, even for bad things. He’d think it was better than being forgotten.

Another reason is so you know that when I do describe the police shooting someone as murder, you’ll know that I’m not using that term lightly.

Fun facts: The Bomb song title “All My References are Dead” is a reference to Richard Carse, because I used to use him as a job reference. I did that because at the time he was one of my only friends with a “straight” job and a telephone. Also, the Bomb song “Hey Richard” is Tony’s advice to Richard to get him to embrace life instead of being preoccupied with death.

Richard didn’t take advice well.

Some art by Richard Carse:

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bigger-hits-of-acid

bomb-to-elvis-in-hell-vinyl-lp-boogadigga-records-86-87_2775562

bomb-to-elvis-in-hell-vinyl-lp-boogadigga-records-86-87_2775566bombknifeart

Carl’s pictures of using Microfilm at the 4th floor of the Jacksonville Main Public Library:

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23

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7 Responses to When the cops killed my friend Richard Carse

  1. Maurice Kern says:

    Hi Michael
    Thanks for your reply. I don’t claim ownership of Richard’s story, I don’t want you to stop talking about it, and I don’t want you to stop using Beth’s name, since she seems ok with it. I was a little fired up after reading the post, and perhaps I let that affect my language. The most important thing is that you know that his death was not justified, or just. Peace

  2. Maurice Kern says:

    Hi. I’m Mack Kern, Beth’s brother. I arrived at Beth’s apartment about 15 minutes after D G Castilleja murdered Richard Carse. You probably knew Richard better than I did, and perhaps this is a convenient antecdote for whatever point or position you are trying to espouse, but as for the events of that tragic night, you are way off base, and I feel impelled to let you know that you haven’t a fucking clue what you are talking about.
    I was twenty one that summer. Beth called me to tell me that she and Richard were fighting, but bad, and that he had taken a knife and started cutting himself. I told her to get out of the house and call the police. When I arrived 30 minutes later, with a loaded handgun under the seat of my truck, and after breaking every traffic law on the 40 mile drive from my parent’s house to her apartment downtown, he was dead and my sister was hysterical in the back of a police cruiser.
    Beth was 24 that summer. She had moved to northern Florida after a few years in San Francisco to get her life together and try to repair her strained relationship with my father.
    Richard was 40. He had followed my sister east because they were deeply in love, and he too had things he wanted to leave behind. He was one of the kindest, most sensitive, intelligent people I’ve ever met. We spent the weekend before his death at the beach ( my folks were out of town), playing chess, bodysurfing, and listening to music. I remember a lot of beer, a lot of weed, a lot of Willie Nelson, but I’ve never seen crystal meth in my life. Your assumption that he was on a speed binge is just false. Beth and Richard had come to Florida , in part, to get away from that.
    And so the fuck what if he had been gacked out of his mind? Does that give the cops the right to blow him away?
    I was present during the cops’ 3 hour interrogation of my traumatized sister, and I saw them visibly relax when she honestly answered their repeated questions about drug use.
    The newspaper and the cops seized on every white trash trope you can imagine, and the tragic murder of a unique and creative human being was reduced to another page four story about another unemployed fuck up domestic abuser getting what he deserved.
    But the two feet part of the story was pure bullshit. Castillejas was at the bottom of the back staircase. Richard was at the top. That’s at least 15 feet. He was covered in blood, but it was his own. He never attacked Beth, and he had never been physically violent with her before. He nicked Beth’s finger when they tussled for the phone, but she called the police from a pay phone around the corner, and by the time she walked home, he had been shot in the heart three times.
    Suicide by cop? Sure. But if you beg me to shoot you and I do it, I’m still going to jail. The point is that at the time of his death, Richard was not a threat to my sister, who was half a block away, he was not a threat to the cop, who was at the bottom of the stairs and surrounded by other policemen. They could’ve tased him. They could have tried to talk him down. They could have waited . But they put 3 .45 caliber slugs in his chest after being on the scene for 90 seconds.
    He was only a threat to himself. Was he sad? Yes. Desperate. Yes. Crazy? Maybe. A fucked up loser? Sure, but is that a capital crime? Subject to summary execution? Not in any world I want to live in.
    Officer Castillejas was back on the beat within two weeks. The Jax police never apologized to my sister or Richard’s family, and they left us to clean up the blood and pieces of Richard that were splattered all over those back stairs. The scene and the smell of that back hallway the next morning is something I’ve carried with me for 26 years.
    How many people have the Jacksonville police killed in those 26 years? How many of those people deserved it?
    I’m sure you miss your friend. And I’m sorry for your, and the world’s loss. But I find your use of Richard’s story facetious and self serving. He and my sister are not characters that serve to enforce a narrative, be it yours or the cops or one side’s or the other’s.
    His death was not faked, and he is remembered.

    • MichaelWDean says:

      Mack Kern –

      Thank you for the additional details.

      I’m not glorifying cops. I do not like cops. Whenever I hear of a cop shooting someone my first thought is not “the person probably deserved it.” My first thought is “the cop probably murdered someone and will probably get away with it.”

      I’m not going to edit my story here, but I approved your comment so people can see it, and will change the story to reflect your updates if I mention it in the future.

      As for “He and my sister are not characters that serve to enforce a narrative”, I know you and Beth were harmed by this, immensely. But it’s not really anyone’s right to say they have more right to the story of someone who has passed. Richard and I were immensely close, worked on art together, did a lot, spent many hours together, more back when things were good. But I also saw his dark side from time to time.

      Whenever someone dies in a violent way, people close to the story try to attach themselves to it. You’re doing it as much here as I was in my post. It’s not self-serving on either or our parts….I think it’s more trying to make sense of an insanely unbelievably thing that actually happened to someone we both knew and loved. And in a bigger sense, trying to make sense of the mystery that is life, and death.

      You can’t claim ownership on history. But thank you for clarifying some of the details.

      If you want, you actually CAN claim ownership on history, as you’re doing, I don’t care. But you can’t take away my claim to tell how things affected me. My feelings are my property, as yours are your property.

      I don’t know you, but Beth speaks highly of you, so I’ll give you the benefit of a doubt. But you can’t expect to tell me to stop talking about something shocking that affected me deeply, something I still think of often.

      Also, if there’s one thing I do know about Richard, it’s that he wanted to be remembered. I talk about him semi-regularly on my radio show. Can you be sure he wouldn’t approve?

      One thing I will do, if Beth asks me to, I will remove her name from my post, and not use her name if I tell the story again in the future. That’s up to her. She recently wrote me a long email about this post, and about that night, and didn’t seem harmed by reading any of this post. But if she wants her name out of this, I will respect that.

    • MichaelWDean says:

      Mack, I added this in my post:

      (EDIT: READ THE COMMENT BELOW FROM Maurice Kern, AND MY REPLY TO HIM. TURNS OUT BETH WAS A HALF-BLOCK AWAY AND NOT IN ANY DANGER. THE COP PROBABLY MURDERED RICHARD.)

  3. EB Kern says:

    I have a couple photos I could share.
    Richard is remembered and I was never afraid of him before that night.

  4. Pingback: Freedom Feens 1000th episode! Freedom Feens radio | FREEDOM FEENS talk radio show

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