Father Faces 10 Years After Altercation With Pennsylvania Officers at Scene of Son’s Car Crash

We have another case of officers arresting a distraught family members at the scene of an accident. This one involves James Rourke of Doylesburg, Pa., who had rushed to the scene after he learned that his 19-year-old son Freddy was in a serious car accident with a friend and still trapped in the car. The photos from the scene are horrific. If he thought things could not get much worse, Rourke was wrong. The arrival of two officers lmer Hertzog and James Erme would result in Rourke’s arrest and charges with a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.

Rourke had been told by emergency medical staff to give them the medical history of his son as crews waited for power to be turned off to complete the rescue. Rourke had just finished doing so in the middle of the highway when Hertzog and Erme arrived. Witnesses have said that they were extremely rude and used vulgar language in telling Rourke to move away — even further back than other onlookers. Hertzog grabbed Rourke and shoved him back. Rourke and his daughter insist that he grabbed the officer to stop from falling backwards. The officers called it a shoving match and threw him to the ground — one sitting on top of him with a knee in his back..

The officers only got off the 59-year-old man when a neighbor begged them and told them that he had a heart condition. Erme says that in the course of the take down, he was struck in the thigh and nose.

The son was in a coma for a long time and is now listed in serious condition. The father faces aggravated assault, simple assault and “failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official order.”

We have seen such arrests and even uses of tasers on distraught family members in other cases (here and here and here and here). I understand the need to move people back from an accident scene, particularly with the dangerous combination of an electrical wire and gasoline in the area. Moreover, I am even willing to assume that the father refused or was combative in being told to back up. However, witnesses insist that the officers showed no appreciation or sympathy for a father at the scene, including using vulgar language. I also fail to see why prosecutors and police did not consider such obviously mitigating circumstances in dropping these charges. We have often seen that any contact with an officer can be over-charged as assault (here and here and here and here and here). Even if there was a shoving match and resistance, this appears to be a case where a distraught father was trying to see what was happening to his son, who was dying only feet away. Rourke has no criminal history and a stellar reputation in his community. At a minimum, the police should look at how these officers handled the situation and prosecutors should seriously consider dropping the charges against Rourke and allow his family to deal with the long recovery of his son.

For the original story, click here.

19 thoughts on “Father Faces 10 Years After Altercation With Pennsylvania Officers at Scene of Son’s Car Crash”

  1. Turn fishing hats it offf though when you do not have to run to far but, we’ll
    see. Put a little red right there, and maybe we need a little chartreuse on
    this because we’re biting some chartreuse.

  2. “Yearly psychological reviews of all police department employees from the chief down to the entry level patrol officer”

    Sounds good to me.

  3. Were the officers tested for drugs? I knew a guy that took a lot of steroids and he would rage and freak out like this.

    Maybe they were war vets that haven’t had the time to adjust back to civilian life? I could see in a war how solders might behave like this.

    Either way; violent agitators looking for fights are not the people we should have as police officers whose job it is to “keep the peace”.

    It is hard to keep the peace if your picking fights with everyone you encounter.

  4. I saw this in the comments at Public Opinion Online and had to pass it along.

    A cop stops a Harley for traveling faster than the posted speed limit, so he asks the biker his name.

    ‘Fred,’ he replies.

    ‘Fred what?’ the officer asks.

    ‘Just Fred,’ the man responds.

    The officer is in a good mood and thinks he might just give the biker a break and, write him out a warning instead of a ticket. The officer then presses him for the last name.

    The man tells him that he used to have a last name but lost it. The officer thinks that he has a nut case on his hands but plays along with it.’Tell me, Fred, how did you lose your last name?’

    The biker replies,’It’s a long story, so stay with me.’ I was born Fred Johnson. I studied hard and got good grades.

    When I got older, I realized that I wanted to be a doctor. I went through college, medical school, internship, residency, and finally got my degree, so I was Fred Johnson, MD. After a while I got bored being a doctor, so I decided to go back to school.

    Dentistry was my dream! Got all the way through School, got my degree, so then I was Fred Johnson, MD, DDS.

    Got bored doing dentistry, so I started fooling around with my assistant and she gave me VD, so now I was Fred Johnson, MD, DDS, with VD.

    Well, the ADA found out about the VD, so they took away my DDS.

    Then I was Fred Johnson, MD, with VD. Then the AMA found out about the ADA taking away my DDS because of the VD, so they took away my MD leaving me as Fred Johnson with VD.

    Then the VD took away my Johnson, so now I am Just Fred.’

    The officer walked away in tears, laughing.

  5. @ Tootie –

    You said, “I think your suspicions are insightful? (geeze, does that makes sense?)”

    Haha – are you saying that it may not make sense that I could be insightful?

    Seriously though, in just a quick look at the NYPD and the LAPD recruitment websites, both actively and openly recruit directly from the military giving special incentives and preferance above and beyond for military experience.

    http://www.recruitmilitary.com/nypd/nypd8.asp

    http://www.joinlapd.com/military.html

    Again, I love all that our military does for our country… I have several close relatives who are actively serving including one currently in Afghanistan. I am greatful every day for thier service and hold them in the highest regard. The concern I have is the kind of mentality that is required to survive and be a successful combat marine in a violent war-zone is not necessarily the same mentality that I want our local law enforcement walking around having towards the citizenary. I think your sentiments about the ‘war on terror’ and the over-militarization of our law enforcement are spot-on.

  6. AJ:

    I think your suspicions are insightful? (geeze, does that makes sense?)

    Anyway, I agree. I work in a facility (non-government) that hires private security guards who carry no weapons. Most of them are ex-military.

    One of the worst characteristics of these guys is their contempt for others who are not part of security. Surprisingly, much of their contempt is for their fellow employees.

    We learned last century that it is absolute power which corrupts. And I think we have make sure that at every juncture along the way absolute power among those in authority is prevented.

    For example. I understand that at the border, guards are raping some women who are detained. That can only happen as a result of absolute power.

    No male or males should have the power to be alone with a woman who is unable to leave. There should not only be women supervising women and even with that there should always be a buddy system. No one in power should be alone with a detained person (no witnesses). It leads to abuse.

    The phony war on terror has brought on the militarization of our local police who now even have tank-like vehicles/weapons to use against US citizens!

    Goodbye Barney Fife!

    The only solution I see is defunding police. To do that we have to get rid of traffic cameras: they are bringing bucket loads of money to the cops who will do nothing now but torment the innocent in order to live like kings.

    If the police cannot scare us into voting for higher taxes, they will have to make money by surveillance. We cannot let that happen. Cops and lawmakers promote making everything we do illegal mainly to guarantee their own job security.

    This is criminal.

    They have gone to far in their abuse of power and need to be neutered.

  7. carol asked:

    “Are the instances of police abuse increasing or are we just hearing more about them now?”

    From my vantage point, they’ve increased dramatically over the past 10 years. I’m sickened and distressed by what I’m seeing.

    Here’s a tragic story, unrelated to my own particular observations:

    02/14/2010
    SPLC Seeks Justice in Police Shooting of Elderly Louisiana Man

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/news/splc-suit-seeks-justice-in-police-shooting-of-elderly-louisiana-man

    “These officers were out of control when they stormed onto Mr. Monroe’s property,” said Morris Dees, chief trial counsel for the SPLC. “It ended in a devastating tragedy for the Monroe family.”

    The shooting occured on February 20, 2009.

  8. @ Tootie – And it’s also worth questioning what percentage of newer cops come from a combat-military background after 8+ years (and counting) of churning out war/survival-experienced soldiers back in to civillian life – while I love the military and all the sacrifice that is made for our country, I do not necessarily want my local law enforcement ‘serving the public’ having the mindset of us-versus-them from a militaristic ‘secure the situation at all costs’ approach.

  9. I still suggest JT start using a “Police State” tag, especially since “Bizarre” doesn’t really capture what now is commonplace.

  10. Mr. Turley I cannot thank you enough for posting this story. We are a small town and this type of thing can get swept under the rug through a well established good ole boys network.

  11. Officers reflect the leadership at the top of the chain of command … if we really want to stop these abuses, we need to start real psychological testing and yearly psychological reviews of all police department employees from the chief down to the entry level patrol officer.

  12. This is more common than what you may think.having someone near and dear to me involved in an altercation and coming upon the scene you lose it,and officers become irrate even though some may know your relationship to an injured party.

  13. The reason cops arrest everyone in sight and indiscriminately is because they are generally low intelligence and low skill people who have little understanding of the human condition.

    If cops cannot operate under pressure without behaving like neanderthals, then they need to find new work.

    Thanks to Mr. Turley for exposing another case of abuse by our newest criminal class: cops.

  14. disrespect for the police, let’s home the 59 year old $%#*)_ gets the full ten years.

  15. Control is the key. I am sure a self respecting officer will admit when they are wrong and move on. Here, I am not so sure.

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