Richard Sherman is in a bad spot right now, facing legal trouble and clearly fighting personal demons. The combination of the police and media are not making things much better.
Wednesday’s headlines about Sherman’s situation give the impression of a very different story than what happened and continues to unfold.
NBC News: NFL star Richard Sherman arrested on domestic violence charge
CNN: NFL star Richard Sherman arrested in domestic violence case, police say
NFL: Free-agent CB Richard Sherman arrested, booked on multiple charges
And, Deadspin, in the interest of transparency: Richard Sherman arrested on suspicion of ‘burglary domestic violence’
The arrest of one of the best defensive backs in NFL history is newsworthy, for sure, but headlines like these strongly suggest that Sherman did something heinous. It takes until the fifth paragraph of the NFL website’s story to get to a key component, Redmond police chief Darrell Lowe saying, “the domestic violence component results from Mr. Sherman’s relationship with the occupants of the residence, not due to him physically assaulting his significant other. The malicious mischief is the result of the damage he caused to the door of the residence.”
And it was deep into the Seattle Times’ story that Sherman’s wife, Ashley Moss, made it clear, “My kids were not harmed in the incident. He’s a good person and this is not his character. We’re doing all right, just trying to get him out [of jail]. I want people to know no one was injured.”
Learning the context of the incident, that Sherman — according to the 911 call Moss made — was threatening suicide and trying to get into his in-laws’ house, the story is very different. Moss’ statement that Sherman had consumed “two bottles” of liquor before driving off suggests a serious crime that should be investigated: drunk driving that caused damage in a construction zone. Aside from that, this is an incident that speaks to a need for institutional reform to give people in distress the help they need.
Lowe said police officers responding to the burglary call parked some distance away from the house and approached on foot. They talked and joked with Sherman for at least 10 minutes but once the officers announced they were arresting him, Sherman attempted to walk away from them, Lowe said.
It was at that point that a police dog was used to place Sherman under arrest; Sherman suffered a cut on his lower leg that was caused by the dog, Lowe said. One officer took Sherman to the ground, Lowe said, adding that one officer also suffered a minor injury. He said Sherman was treated at a hospital before he was booked into jail.
What kind of sense does that make, dealing with a man who you’ve been told is intoxicated and suicidal in this way? Announcing you’re going to arrest him? Siccing a dog on him and then, after the dog’s bitten him, taking him to the ground and fighting? Whom does that help? How does that make the situation better?
In fairness, it’s worth mentioning that, in the 911 call that was leaked to the media (and someone needs to look into that as well), Moss told the 911 dispatcher that Sherman was being “aggressive” and “belligerent,” that he was “wrestling” with her uncle and “trying to fight” him. She tells the dispatcher, who seems unusually short-tempered and unhelpful, that Sherman has gotten physical with people in the residence. And domestic violence victim advocates will be the first to tell you that threatening suicide is a go-to play in the abuser playbook. But we don’t have all the facts yet, and likely never will.
Still, it’s a good thing that the headlines aren’t about Sherman being shot by the police as he resisted arrest, because that happens for a lot less. And that’s what the concept of “defund the police” is really about. The first responders to an incident like this should not be focused on making an arrest, they should be helping the man who is in distress, and deal with any crimes once that situation is sorted out. A physical confrontation should be way down on the list of options, and while “talked and joked with him for at least 10 minutes” is better than a lot of cops in this country would do, it’s still not good enough, especially since it was the police who then escalated things — the opposite of what needs to be done.
This all could have been so much worse. Sherman should be held accountable for the car crash, certainly, but for now, the focus should be on this man getting the help that he needs and the good fortune that he’s still alive.
If you or someone you love is experiencing intimate partner violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).