SFPD-assisted suicide in Hallidie Plaza
“I did not die by suicide,” he said. “The complexity of my death is encoded in language. You are supposed to explain this. For me and the others.”
And I awoke exhausted, drenched in sweat and incredulity.
As has been my habit for over five years, I went directly downstairs to my grandfather’s oak roll top desk I thought he would use some day. From the glow of the computer screen, I located over 200 words that have the cide suffix, which means killing or killer.
These various Net lists are arranged into categories from the most predictable killings of animal, plant, insect, bacterial and fungal life all the way to the most extreme — a culture, an ethnic group, faith, God — even the destruction of all living things, omnicide. There are words for the killings of cats, dogs, bears, bedbugs, and head lice alike.
No single cide word exists to describe his death, though.
Bullycide comes close. A hybrid of bullying and suicide, bullycide usually describes the death of someone who takes his or her life as a result of being emotionally or physically abused. The term implies bullying that occurs over a period of extended time and is used most often to refer to the tragic deaths of children and teenagers with undeveloped strategies for coping with such maliciousness.
Bullycide does not describe an extreme and anonymous one-time bullying event ending in death, even though the cause and effect relationship definitely exists. What’s more, there is no distinction – yet – between “cyberbullycide,” which would be death as a result of bullying via electronic technology as compared to direct bullycide in person.
This is set to become an issue in Massachusetts just as it has been in recent years in Minnesota in the case of William Melchert-Dinkel, who served no jail time for “cyberbullycide,” but rather for “assisting” in the deaths of his victims via the Internet.
Since Massachusetts has no state laws on its books – yet – for “assisting, encouraging, or aiding” in another’s suicide, the Michelle Carter trial for the text messages she sent urging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to kill himself will be critical in suicide litigation, for prosecutors there have charged her with involuntary manslaughter, a kind of homicide.
Homicide, of course, can mean both the intentional and unintentional killing of another person. Intentional homicide can often be state-sanctioned and allowable by governments in cases of capital punishment executions, war and euthanasia.
As a term, euthanasia has been causing all kinds of euphemistic havoc as far back as many of us can recall from first being designated as “mercy killing” to what advocates today call “death with dignity.”
Yet no matter what word one uses to describe a suicide facilitated or helped along by someone else, it cannot just be a suicide,by virtue of definition,since sui means one – the killing of oneself.
Unintentional suicide, by the way, does occur in rare circumstances such as a death-defying stunt gone awry or in bizarre “accidental suicide” events such as sleepwalking victims who have jumped to their deaths or have shot themselves. While forensic pathologists sometimes call such unintentional suicide “death by misadventure,” they still label these deaths as accidental on the NASH scale they use to identify the four manners of death – Natural, Accidental, Suicidal and Homicidal.
The detail in forensic reports is otherwise most stringent. Ask any ordinary mother who has ever read an autopsy if you doubt this. Nevertheless, the death certificate that originally classified my son’s death as “pending” from February to May of 2010 and was eventually “amended” to “suicide” as his cause of death is still shocking for two reasons.
First, an estimated crowd of a thousand had watched Dylan Yount jump to his death off a sixth floor ledge above the former Forever 21 store in Hallidie Plaza, San Francisco, February 16, 2010, the second day of Random Acts of Kindness Week 2010. Why “pending”? The word in that circumstance has always felt prophetic to me.
Second, this Physician/Coroner’s Amendment also changed the time of Dylan’s death to 1545 hours (3:45 p.m.).
Had my son been covered up before his death occurred then? This question had also troubled many witnesses who thought he was still alive.
In fact, in his police statement, SFPD Officer Sean McNamara stated that he saw Dylan’s movements, which he called “muscle spasms.” Even so, he reported that both Officer Murray P. Daggs and he had covered my son up with a blanket after he was pronounced dead at 1525 (3:25 p.m.).
What have those twenty minutes been like for me since I learned this in June 2010?
Sheer hell. Not only do I hear Officer Cezar Perez’s grandstanding with his “witty palliative” — “Get back in your apartment, YOU FOOL!” — many times each day and night, I also live with the knowledge that officers from the highest-paid police department in the state of California deliberately took a yellow sheet and covered up a living man, my only child.
And their lawyers have been trying to cover up what happened ever since.
While I have struggled almost six years to explain Dylan’s death, others nailed it the first night. Some called Dylan’s death “participatory suicide.” Others called it “manslaughter.” A few said it was “murder.”
The Lofts at One Powell where Dylan died was definitely a “crime scene,” though, just like the yellow tape the SFPD uses to advertise they are busy “at work,” on a scene. So who committed the crime on that scene?
It was not Dylan who was sick and needed help, for suicide was decriminalized in most states over half a century ago.
Only assisted suicide is still a federal crime, illegal in every United States jurisdiction unless one is a doctor practicing medicine in just four states right now. The verdict on whether assisted suicide will be legalized in California will not be known until October 7 or 8. Even so, legislative bill ABX215 is not going to allow police to assist in anyone’s suicide death.
I had hoped for a jury trial to publicly expose how citizens are paying for services the courts say the police no longer must provide. I had hoped my case would be an instrument for constructive change and better police training for their interactions with the mentally ill and suicidal. Certainly no private agency offering the kind of incompetent service and protection on display in Hallidie Plaza on February 16, 2010 would exist as a business for any length of time.
How different the outcome would have been if only Officer Perez had said instead, “Sir, please do not listen to the FOOLS who are yelling at you. We are here to help you. Everybody calm down…” How everything would have changed if even one of the lawbreakers of CA Penal Code 401 had been visibly escorted away by any one of the other twenty-three SFPD who simply watched to earn their pay that day.
Instead, lawyers and courts have forced us to live with the horror of what happened without addressing any these concerns in a courtroom – yet – for Kathy Yount et al. v. City and County of San Francisco et al. has been dismissed in federal court in July 2013, state court in July 2014 and most recently at the First District Court of Appeal, San Francisco, in August 2015.
We have been told systematically that the police do not have a duty to serve. Or protect. Or enforce law. Or stop a suicide in the context of a suicide baiting. Or act.
Why on earth would San Francisco want or need 400 more of them, if the city won’t insist on training the 2,000 they already have? How is it possible for courts to decide that a police officer cannot be liable because he has no greater duty to act on a crime scene than a civilian? Why show up on the 911 scene at all? Just – why?
Yount v. CCSF has so far been persona non grata, as unwelcome in the California justice “system” as a conscientious Crisis Intervention trainer might be at a Friday night dinner party hosted by none other than the anti-CIT, anti-police-camera, taser-loving-proponent, lawsuit-settlement-generator, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr himself.
This legal standoff is not going to shut people like me up. Like most, I am sick of helplessly watching the continual devolution of the highest principles set forth in our Constitution and the downward spiral of our nation’s core values. Unlike most, I have nothing left to lose.
I am in this fight for the remainder of my life. If cases like ours were persons with names we all recognized, we would definitely be in the Rosa Parks category of suicide litigation, for we have no intention of moving to the back of this bus.
We know the closest cide word to explain Dylan Yount’s death has a loaded adjective as its descriptor and the litigation regarding the semantics of deaths like his is already waiting on court dockets all across our nation. Dylan Yount died in an assisted suicide, unattended and alone, with no gesture of human compassion, no measure of human dignity.