FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Christopher Dorner and the “Burner”

by PETER LEE

The tactics employed against Christopher Dorner by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department are attracting an awkward amount of interest since an audiotape surfaced with law enforcement officials referring to a munition as a “burner”.

As in (all quotes from the Feb. 15, 2013 LA Times report titled “As Dorner fired, tactics got toughter”):

“We’re going to go forward with the plan, with the burner,” the unidentified officer said, according to a recording of police radio transmissions reviewed by The Times.

***

“Seven burners deployed,” another officer responded several seconds later, according to the transmission which has circulated widely among law enforcement officials. “And we have a fire.”

I was interested in this issue because of an incident in Burma where Burmese police cleared an encampment of protesters trying to block expansion of a China-invested copper mine project.

The tear gas munitions fired into the protesters’ tents apparently caused severe burns to some of the protesters for reasons that are apparently not completely understood.

So I corresponded with an expert on police tactics and learned that there is indeed a munition commonly called “incendiary CS (CS standing for the inventors of the tear gas compound, Ben Corson and Roger Stoughton) gas” or, in day-to-day argot, “the burner”.

The tear gas chemical, 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, is actually a solid at room temperature, not a gas, and it doesn’t disperse quickly and thoroughly, as a gas would.  To be effective, the CS chemical has to be melted, dissolved in a solvent, or micropulverized and then mechanically dispersed.

In the burner scenario, the CS contains an explosive charge which generates intense heat in order to aerosolize the solution and evaporate the solvent, so that the CS instantaneously precipitates in a cloud of solid particles, saturates the target area, and rapidly incapacitates the subject/victim.

Intense heat is a fundamental feature of the incendiary CS gas shell.

If the shell used in the Dorner case was the similar to the munition employed in the disastrous siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco or the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia, an accurate description of the “burner” would be “thermal grenade with some tear gas added”.

With incendiary CS, fires are considered to be well-nigh inevitable if anything combustible is around.  So, the “burner” is only used as a last resort by law enforcement.

Of course, there is considerable skepticism that the circumstances of the Dorner siege—he was alone, barricaded in a cabin, and surrounded by law enforcement officers—demanded that the SBSD fire seven “burners” be fired into the  cabin instead of waiting him out.

I don’t think the arguments put forth by defenders of the operation could withstand the scrutiny of a middle school forensics team.

Here they are, courtesy of the LA Times:

“What difference does it make if one of the officers puts a … round in his head, drives the armored vehicle over his body when they are knocking the building down, or he dies in a conflagration?” said David Klinger, a use-of-force expert at the University of Missouri at St. Louis and a former LAPD officer. “If he is trying to surrender you can’t do any of those things … But if he is actively trying to murder people, there’s no doubt that deadly force is appropriate and it doesn’t matter what method is used to deliver it.”

Geoffery Alpert, a professor at the University of South Carolina who also specializes in police tactics, agreed.

“I don’t understand what the big deal is,” Alpert said. “This man had already shot two officers and was suspected of murdering other people. He wasn’t responding in a rational manner. The actions you take have to remove the threat and if it requires extreme measures, then so be it.”

I might point out that the arguments advanced by these two distinguished scholars both reference rules of war, not policing.  I guess we can chalk this up to the further militarization of US security culture post-9/11.

In wartime, any force that is not actively engaged in surrender is fair game.  This was the justification for the “turkey shoot” on the “highway of death” —the attack on Saddam Hussein’s forces as they were withdrawing from the front lines after Saddam Hussein had accepted the UN resolution and a ceasefire had been declared, and the concurrent “Battle of Rumaili”, a five-hour air and artillery bombardment carried out by General McCaffrey’s forces against helpless units of the Iraqi Republican Guard boxed in on the Rumaila Causeway on their way back to Baghdad.

It is different for accused criminals in the United States.  Some kind of trial/sentencing/due process thing is supposed to intervene before someone can be killed for not surrendering.

Mr. Alpert, while upholding the proud tradition of South Carolina higher education, is further off base.  Despite determined efforts by the United States to stretch the boundaries, under international law a pre-emptive strike is only permitted in the case of an imminent threat, not the past or potential threat represented by a guy barricaded alone in a cabin surrounded by dozens of law enforcement officers with guns.

As to the issue of who was “responding in a rational manner” that day…

The thought processes of the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department—which had lost one of their own to Dorner—are probably reflected in an alleged transcription from the radio chatter that the LA Times demurely declined to reproduce, but was reported by the no-holds barred NY Post:

“Burn this motherf–ker!” one officer shouted …Amid sounds of gunfire, voices can be heard shouting, “Burn it down!” and “Shoot the gas!”

Peter Lee edits China Matters. He can be reached at: chinamatters (at) prlee. org.

Peter Lee edits China Matters and writes about Asia for CounterPunch.  

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail