On December 30, 2014, Robert Lawrence visited the Dothan City Animal Shelter in Alabama to turn in a stray cat, a final good deed before the end of the year.
But it ended up being his final deed in life.
At the animal shelter, an employee asked for Lawrence’s ID, and called the police when he provided a notarized identification card instead. Alabama law provides that a person must be reasonably suspected of committing a crime before identification may be demanded, but Lawrence decided to provide his self-created ID anyway, and the shelter employee called the police.
The precise details of what happened next are unclear. All that is known for certain is that a Dothan police officer arrived and argued with Lawrence, shot him in the midsection.
And now Lawrence is dead.
According to Dothan Police Sgt. Maurice Eggleston, “After repeatedly being told to calm down, Lawrence was advised he was being placed under arrest. A physical altercation ensued, to which Lawrence was shot in the abdomen.”
Missing from Sgt. Eggleston’s police report – besides the name of the officer who shot Lawrence – is what Lawrence did that merited deadly use of force.
There has been no report that Lawrence had a weapon. There has been no report that Lawrence struck an officer. There has been no report that Lawrence was at all belligerent or violent with the employees of the shelter. The police have only reported that Lawrence refused to calm down and a “physical altercation ensued.” The police have yet to say what Lawrence was being arrested for.
Instead of reporting what happened, the police – and the media – have reported extensively on Lawrence’s character.
Lawrence has been characterized as a “sovereign citizen” who doesn’t “prescribe to the laws of the U.S. government.” The media also reported that Lawrence served 90 days in jail earlier this year after pleading guilty to “making harassing communications.”
What the police and media did not report – what has yet to be explained at all – is what exactly led to the police shooting an unarmed man in an animal shelter.
Why are the police and media reporting that Lawrence was a “sovereign citizen” while remaining silent as to what Lawrence was being arrested for and why a police officer needed to shoot him?
Last October, PINAC discovered that our own investigative reporter Jeff Gray was being labeled by law enforcement as a “sovereign citizen,” a group considered domestic terrorists, despite Gray never being involved with any “sovereign citizen” activities.
In addition to labeling – and libeling – Robert Lawrence as a sovereign citizen, most of the media used his mug shot as a picture and called him by his full name – Robert Earl Lawrence – a form typically reserved in the press for serial killers.
Regardless of whether Lawrence was or was not a sovereign citizen – and his family has stated that he was not – the joint police/media report that Lawrence was a sovereign citizen is nothing but a smokescreen clouding the real issues.
A real journalist asks the question – did a Dothan police officer shoot and kill an unarmed man simply because he refused to allow himself to be arrested?
A footnote: Shelter employees often ask for ID “for the records of the animal” in order to find out how it got there and possibly add the person dropping off the animal to a “Do Not Adopt List,” but neither the employee nor the police had authority to demand ID unless Lawrence was suspected of committing a crime.
Alabama Code, Section 15-5-30 – Authority of peace officer to stop and question.
A sheriff or other officer acting as sheriff, his deputy or any constable, acting within their respective counties, any marshal, deputy marshal or policeman of any incorporated city or town within the limits of the county or any highway patrolman or state trooper may stop any person abroad in a public place whom he reasonably suspects is committing, has committed or is about to commit a felony or other public offense and may demand of him his name, address and an explanation of his actions.