Michael Brown and Matthew Berg: Two Victims of Excessive Police Force
With all the media coverage and publicity regarding the death of Michael Brown and police brutality across the nation, I feel compelled to share a somewhat similar story.
On July 2, 2012, my brother, Matthew Berg, was shot to death by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Rogers. That day Matt had committed a crime, however, at the time of the shooting, the video cam in the deputy’s car shows that Matt, like Brown, was raising his arms in surrender. However, Deputy Rogers continued to shoot Matt until he was certain he was dead.
I do not believe that police shootings is purely a racial problem. Rather, I would argue that it is a people problem. Somehow, our society has allowed our police to become so powerful that they can murder whomever they choose without consequence. The evidence is all over the media to argue that the police are becoming licensed serial killers. For instance, Deputy Rogers was partly responsible for the killing of two others aside from Matt: Donald George and Marcos Arredondo. Matt and Donald George were both shot to death; Marcos Arredondo was the victim of a terrible highway accident partly as a result of the deputy’s negligent actions. Yet, Rogers still carries a gun and is still out there “Protecting and Serving.” It is nothing less than frightening to think that a walking time bomb like Rogers is out there on the force ready and willing to kill without just cause. It is also worth noting that immunity is almost always given to police who commit these types of unjustified crimes.
Adding to this, I believe the entire Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is corrupt. After Matt was killed, then-county-undersheriff Jim Peterson began going into Matt’s wife’s workplace to purposely, yet discreetly, harass her. Matt’s wife knew he was affiliated with the Sheriff’s Department because he always sat with the other sheriff’s deputies, but she did not know exactly who he was until his face was all over the local news for his sexual indiscretions and “early retirement.” The woman involved with him ended up losing her job; Peterson retired instead of being fired. This suggests that they all lie to cover for each other.
Concerning Matt’s murder, I have seen the video recorded by Rogers’s patrol car which shows my brother’s death. The story spread by law enforcement and media was that Matt was trying to ram and kill Deputy Rogers with his vehicle. However, the fact remains that all Matt was trying to do was drive around Rogers’s car, but he never had a chance. Rogers exited his vehicle with his gun in hand and instantly began shooting. Matt raised his arms as if to surrender, yet Rogers continued shooting until he knew Matt was dead. It is also worth noting that Matt was unarmed and nonviolent, but he never had a chance, for by the end of this, Rogers had shot him eight times.
What shocked me the most after viewing the video was the complete lack of regard for human life by the Sheriff’s deputies involved in this crime. The other officers at the scene were clearly happy with Rogers’s performance. They are seen slapping Rogers on the back for a job well done, and Rogers is seen strutting with pride over his kill. Even more shocking, none of them made any effort to try and save Matt’s life. CPR was never performed, nor did any of the officers even speak to Matt to show any compassion for a dying human being. At one point, one of the officers told Matt he had been shot and then simply walked away. That was it. Nothing more was said or done for him until the paramedics arrived, and by then he was dead.
The video shows Rogers gloating while Matt lies on the ground bleeding out. Matt appeared to be a meaningless heap of nothingness, while Rogers collected kudos from other officers. Is there any other word for this than despicable? This brings to mind former L.A. police officer Christopher Dorner’s statement about “not feeling bad for police officers when they get shot, because they do not feel anything but contempt for the public when they shoot us.” Dorner believed that the police force thinks of us as “trophies.” While many may have mixed feelings toward him, I believe Dorner was correct in his assessments of the police force.
I am glad people are angry about Michael Brown’s death. They should be, and I am angry as well. I only wish people had been angry about my brother’s murder as well. Matt did not deserve to die. The repercussions of his death are never ending. I share the grief of losing someone I loved to injustice. Matt’s wife and his four children suffer daily, not to mention my other brother and both my parents. The devastation caused by Rogers’s impulsive actions runs deep.
There were no riots, candlelight vigils, protests, or anything for Matt’s death. He was simply a white criminal slain by a police officer. The truth never got told to the public. Our family was represented by Sanger, Swysen & Dunkle for 14 months. The law firm told us we had a case, and it also represented the family of Donald George, who was the first man Deputy Rogers killed. The firm said our case would follow the George case; yet, for 14 months, our case remained unfiled. Meanwhile, the statute of limitations ran out. I do not know what the firm’s motive was for leading my family on as it did, but this process led from the tragic loss of Matt, to false hope of some type of justice, to hopelessness for any kind of justice for this arguably trigger-happy deputy. I am left wondering: What will it take to hold law officers responsible for their actions? What happened to our society to allow this to happen? As of now, the police have the freedom to do as they please without fear of consequence.
They, the police, show no remorse for the destruction they leave. All one need do is look at the officer involved in Brown’s murder to see that this is a fact. It is no different for Matt’s murder. I am certain that there are good officers on the force, but all I can see is the disease of corruption.