I’m going to to pick up today where I left off last week, talking about the Corey Kanosh story. And as you can probably guess, I’ve got a lot of questions.
We live in a day when government agencies and public bodies claim increasing transparency. But during my investigation I’ve learned that despite that prevailing platitude, Millard County sought and received a protective order which the county claims prevents it from disclosing any information regarding Corey’s case. So that right there can’t help but trigger all kinds of questions. For instance, what is MCSD trying to hide? Why is MCSD determined to keep the public in the dark? What facts and details are we not supposed to learn?
We know part of the story based on what Corey’s family has said. As you will recall, on October 15, 2012, Corey and his friend Dana Harnes had been drinking at home on the Kanosh Paiute Band Reservation, and wanted to go to Corn Creek Canyon. They couldn’t take Corey’s sister Marlee’s car because she needed it. So they borrowed his mother Marlene’s car. Because Ms. Marlene Pikyavit is a good mother and a responsible person, she was concerned about their safety, as well as the safety of other people and motorists in the area. So she called the Millard County Sheriff’s Department, to alert them to the situation and encourage them to watch out for Corey and Dana. As a mother, she thought she was doing the right thing — trying to look out for the safety and well-being of her children and everyone else who might be involved. In hindsight, Ms. Pikyavit now has to face every day with the thought that she made that oh-so regrettable 9-1-1 call — the call that she would never make again if she had the chance to do things over.
Now the questions really start to pile up. First off, exactly what did Marlene Pikyavit say to the 9-1-1 operator? According to her, she just asked to have officers keep an eye out for Corey and Dana, and to try to get them off the road. She wasn’t necessarily even that concerned about her car. In response to her phone call, Officer Mike Peacock came to her house to get more information. She repeated her concerns, and asked him to keep an eye out for Corey and Dana. She said that although she wanted to get them off the road, she wasn’t really concerned about the car, but she didn’t want to see it get impounded. She said Officer Peacock seemed to understand, and acted like that is what he would try to accomplish.
One of the things Marlene Pikyavit wants to know at this point, and so do I, is how it went from one local officer who was keeping an eye out for her car, to an all-out man hunt for her son Corey? What if another white Mormon mother from Kanosh Town had called with concerns about her son or daughter drinking and taking the family car? Would it have turned into an all-out man hunt? Or would the officer have simply kept his eye out for the car, and helped the occupants get home safely, maybe without anyone else even knowing about it? How would the whole thing have turned out if it had been someone else?
But how many law enforcement officers got involved simply because it was Corey Kanosh, a young Native American man, with a history? In addition to Officer Peacock, among the other officers who were summoned to participate in the manhunt were Officer Dale Josse, who was called in from his patrol on the west side of the county, and Sgt. Scott Corry, as well as sheriff’s posse personnel.
From what I understand, an officer is supposed to have probable cause to make an arrest. Wikipedia’s definition of “probable cause” isn’t necessarily what they’d use in state or federal court, but it’s close. It says probable cause is “where the facts and circumstances within the officers’ knowledge, and of which they have reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient in themselves to warrant a belief by a man of reasonable caution that a crime has been committed, and that the person in question committed it.” What, if anything, did Ms. Pikyavit say that would have provided probable cause to make an arrest? Was there probable cause for DUI? Anything else? One thing we do know is that it was Dana, rather than Corey, who was driving. So who was the suspect? Who was the person in question, suspected of committing a crime?
It was Officer Josse who, later in the evening, finally spotted the car near the town of Kanosh. As he sought to pursue it, the car headed back to the reservation. At some point, the vehicles passed each other and Officer Josse clearly saw that Dana was driving and Corey was in the passenger seat. The car headed toward the reservation cemetery, and then off road into the surrounding foothills, where it became high centered on big rocks. As Officer Josse approached the vehicle, Corey exited and ran into the hills.
Let’s stop right here and ask some more questions. What was MCSD trying to accomplish? What were its law enforcement objectives? Were the officers involved, like Ms. Pikyavit, trying to get the car off the road to ensure the safety of everyone involved? At that point, wasn’t it basically “primary mission accomplished?” Or were they determined to arrest someone? If so, whom were they seeking to arrest, and on what basis? What, if anything, was the probable cause? If there was a reasonable belief that a crime had been committed and the person in question had committed it, what was the crime, and who was the person in question?
When Corey fled into the hills on foot, Officer Josse chose to follow him, leaving Dana and the car behind. Why did he choose to chase Corey? Was Corey endangering anyone? If so, who? Was he endangering Officer Josse? If so, how? What was the purpose of pursuing Corey into the hills? What was the reason for trying to arrest him? Why would Officer Josse attempt to do this alone? Where did Officer Josse think Corey would go? What did he think he would do? Did he think that he would disappear into the wilderness, like Claude Dallas, for the next 20 years? And if that’s exactly what Corey planned, what crime was he wanted for at that point?
The questions become even harder once Officer Josse caught up to Corey. What was Corey doing when the deputy arrived? From what I understand, Corey had tripped and fallen on the ground, and was just lying there trying to catch his breath. So what happened then? Did Corey get up and attack Officer Josse, or did Officer Josse attack him? Who was the aggressor? If Officer Josse attacked Corey, why? How did the fighting begin? What was Officer Josse trying to accomplish when he caught up with Corey? Was Officer Josse attempting to arrest him? For what?
From what I understand, Corey was completely unarmed, though there may be a question about that. Specifically, he may have been running, at least for awhile, with a case of beer. No wonder Officer Josse caught up to him. So he may have been armed with a case of beer, which was apparently lying on the ground somewhere, after Corey tripped and fell down. So I can’t help but ask, is it considered a crime to run with a case of beer? Kind of like the unwritten rule about running with scissors?
Now, if Corey had been running with scissors, most mothers could see why it might be a good idea to try to stop him. But I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the potential danger posed by running with a case of beer. But from what I understand, at the point Officer Josse made contact with Corey he wasn’t running, and he wasn’t carrying the beer or anything else. He was lying on the ground, trying to catch his breath. So what did Officer Josse do? And why did he do it? Did Corey attack him, or did he attack Corey? If so, why? If he was attempting to make an arrest, what was the basis for the arrest? Or was he just trying to mix it up with Corey? Was there any history between Officer Josse and Corey? Did Officer Josse have something against Corey? What were his motives?
At this point, one of the problems we’ve got is that Officer Josse was the only surviving eye witness about what happened from that point on. He was out of range of his dash cam, and had proceeded without backup, so no other officers were on scene. But what about audio? What would the audio tell us? Unfortunately, we don’t know because MCSD doesn’t want us to know. MCSD has a protective order seeking to prevent the public (and snoopy columnists) from getting “too much” information. Oh well, that doesn’t stop me from asking questions. Unfortunately, in this, like most situations, MCSD’s primary mode of operation seems to be just to simply ignore questions, especially the hard ones. At this point the track record has become pretty clear; we’ve seen county officials ignore hard questions before. Openness and public transparency aren’t part of the picture.
So this is a question I’ve had for a long time. If an officer doesn’t have probable cause to make an arrest, but he insists on doing it anyway, what is the arrestee legally obligated to do? Is the arrestee required to submit, regardless of possible lack of probable cause, or lack of justification for the arrest? What if Officer Josse wasn’t attempting to make an arrest, but was simply attacking and assaulting Corey? Because Officer Josse was a law enforcement officer, did that mean that Corey had no right to act in self-defense? If there wasn’t any probable cause to make an arrest, wouldn’t it have been better characterized as an assault?
So, if Corey was completely unarmed (except with a case of beer), and was assaulted without cause by an armed police officer, what was he supposed to do? Is it really true that he’s just supposed to put his hands behind his back so that he can be beaten, handcuffed, and taken to jail? For what? Resisting arrest? Or, resisting assault? Or, is there no such thing as assault by a police officer? If one un-badged citizen starts hitting another unprovoked, that’s assault. If a peace officer does it, is it just another “arrest”? What if Corey felt like he was in danger of serious bodily injury or death? Would a different standard apply to him than to the officer? So, so many questions.
Sorry, but these questions only raise more questions. Even if we give Officer Josse the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was making a legitimate arrest, if other officers were on their way, why did Officer Josse attempt to make the arrest by himself? Under such circumstances, aren’t officers supposed to wait for backup to help prevent exactly what happened? Have you seen the pictures of Corey Kanosh? What officer in his right mind would try to arrest him alone? So, so many unanswered questions about why Officer Josse did what he did.
Anyway, we do know that Officer Josse says that at some point he became fearful that Corey might kill him with his bare hands. This of course isn’t entirely unbelievable; have you seen Corey? He was a big guy. But Officer Josse knew that already, so perhaps a better question would be, why would any cop put himself in a position where he was basically in mortal combat with Corey Kanosh? Really, what did Officer Josse think would happen? If he jumped on Corey and started wrestling with him, what was Corey supposed to do? Who provoked the situation? Did Corey? Who was the aggressor? Who escalated the encounter? Who was the responsible, sober, supervising adult? So was Corey responsible for putting Officer Josse in a position that he claims he ultimately feared for his life? Or was Officer Josse responsible for putting himself in that situation? Why did he do it? How could it have been prevented or avoided?
Despite Officer Josse’s best efforts, apparently he wasn’t able to keep Corey on the mat. Was Officer Josse a Millard High School wrestler? If not, maybe Corey was. Maybe that explains it. Or maybe they both were. In any event, Officer Josse has claimed that Corey stood up and started to choke him. Maybe, despite Officer Josse’s best efforts to wrestle an intoxicated Native American and keep him on the ground, Corey was still able to stand up; in that case, if you were the officer, what would you do? Keep coming back for more? Help, including a dog, was on its way. Why wouldn’t you just back off and wait for reinforcements? Was it ego? Was it determination to take Corey down alone? For what? Who was Corey endangering at that point? If, once Officer Josse figured out that he wasn’t going to win a wresting match, what if he had retreated from Corey? Who would have been endangered at that point? Was Corey endangering himself? Was he endangering anyone else?
Again, have you seen the pictures of Corey Kanosh? It’s one thing to get in a friendly high school wrestling match, with a referee present to keep things under control, etc. But why would anyone be crazy enough to engage in mortal, hand-to-hand combat with Corey Kanosh, with life and death on the line? It would probably be about like taking on a bear. Of course, I can envision scenarios where that might be justified, but was this one of them? Again, who was Corey endangering? What, if any, reason was there to set any and all potential benefits of not attempting to take on the bear, and engage him at all cost?
Once Officer Josse made all the decisions that put himself in that situation, though, I’m not going to rule out the possibility that he might have had little choice but to use lethal force to survive. Once he had made the decision to corner a bear by himself — once he had made the decision to provoke the bear and make him mad by attacking him and attempting to wrestle him; once he made the decision to stick around and fight a big, stout, cornered mad bear — at some point in order to survive the natural consequences of his own decision-making he might have had no choice but to shoot. Does that make it right? Does that make any of it right? It does not appear that the county attorney even considered, let alone cared about any of this when he found the shooting was justified. That doesn’t appear to be all the county attorney didn’t consider.
Now let’s go back to square one. At a certain point Officer Josse had succeeded in getting Marlene Pikyavit’s car, driven by Dana Harnes, off the highway and out of commission entirely, essentially removing any danger to Mr. Harnes, Corey, other motorists, and himself. The car was immobilized, high-centered on rocks in the foothills outside the Kanosh Reservation Cemetery. At that point, Officer Josse was faced with some very fundamental decisions. What should he do? At that point, most officers would undoubtedly try to have a discussion with whoever they had been pursuing. Should he attempt to do that alone? But the more fundamental question at that point was, should he attempt to address his concerns with the driver or the passenger?
Now we get down to a potentially important fact that I haven’t mentioned up to this point. Mr. Dana Harnes, the driver, was a white man. He was Corey’s friend, but he was also engaged to Corey’s sister, Marlee Kanosh, and the father of her soon to be born child. Corey, on the other hand, was a very brown, Native American, passenger. At that point, if you’re the officer, you’ve got a fundamental decision to make. Do you address the white driver, or the Native American passenger? If you choose to address the Native American passenger, instead of the white driver, what are your motivations? Where do they come from? What are you trying to accomplish? And that raises all kinds of questions about racial bias, prejudice and discrimination. Is there any other reasonable explanation for why Officer Josse would choose to pursue Corey, as the passenger, instead of Dana, as the driver? If so, what is that explanation?
Lots of people tell me there are plenty of officers on the MCSD police force who agree with the old adage often expressed in some quarters during the taming of the American West to the effect that, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” In fact, with reference to Corey Kanosh himself, it has been reported that Mr. Ed Phillips and Mr. John Kimball have both stated on multiple occasions something to the effect that, “we should have killed the black-hearted bastard in the chicken coop when we had the chance.”
Now even more questions: When the early Mormon settlers deprived Corey’s Native American ancestors of their lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness, including their lands, water, and all the resources they had relied upon for their lives, livelihoods, and survival, did those early Mormon Settlers have an arrogant racial and morally superior attitude that caused them to scoff at the very thought that they were doing anything wrong, or that they should do anything to make things right, based on what they had done and what they had taken from the Native Americans?
Does that same arrogant racial and morally superior attitude exist today? Is that what causes the current Mormons in charge to scoff at the very thought that anyone did anything wrong in depriving Corey Kanosh of his life and liberty (and his mother of her property), or that they should do anything to make things right with his family?
From what I understand, MCSD has refused to even consider returning Marlene Pikayavit’s car to her. Despite multiple inquiries and attempts to secure release of the car, neither MCSD nor the county attorney’s office have even demonstrated the respect and common courtesy to tell her what to do to get it back. Why?
At this point, one of Marlene Pikyavit’s biggest regrets in life was making that ill-fated 9-1-1 call, putting her false trust in MCSD and how they would handle the situation.
Parting thoughts and questions: What happened after Corey was shot? Why did he die? I’ll address those questions with even more questions in the next installment.