EDITOR’S DESK: Differentiating between fact and the court of public of opinion

Published: Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 09:09 PM.

The State Attorney's Office has cleared two Crestview Police Department officers for their actions during a Jan. 2 shootout that resulted in a man's death.

Aphrey Collis, once charged with seven counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, also was cleared following a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation.

Forensic enhancement of video from an officer's helmet-mounted camera helped investigators determine that Collis did not shoot at SWAT team members who raided a Crestview residence. Rasheik  Calhoun, whom officers fatally shot, was the one who opened fire on the SWAT team, according to the final report.

Crestview police had arrest warrants for Rasheik and Yoni Calhoun — wanted on charges of armed robbery, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and firing a deadly missile into a vehicle — and believed the men were heavily armed and staying at 462 Savage St., according to reports.

SWAT team members rammed the house's door open before it slammed shut, and kicked it open to reveal a man, since identified as Rasheik Calhoun, who opened fire and struck two officers, according to the review. 

Officers initially misidentified the man who fired at them, describing him as a black male "who appeared to have long dreadlocks," according to a court order releasing Collis.

“What officers believed to be long dreadlocks was in fact a camouflage jacket with a hood pulled up over the suspect’s head (as video revealed)," it said.  

There's a presumption of innocence in this country, and too often we forget that an arrest doesn't automatically mean guilty.

Ryan Massengill's cartoon this week, pictured above, illustrates how the court of public opinion sometimes gets it wrong. Often, we hear that someone is arrested and it's a social media field day. I won't repeat some of the things I've heard pertaining to an unrelated case that hasn't come to court yet, but saw no less rage. 

It's the court of public opinion that precedes the court of law in this country. And in light of Collis' being cleared of wrongdoing, it seemed like a fitting time to point that out. And suggest a change.

Let's rethink what we say about people in that time between their arrest and their day in court. 

In other news, can we take a moment to admire Crestview arts enthusiasts' recent accomplishments?

Crestview High School's band took an unforgettable spring break trip to Washington, D.C. and New York, where they performed on the famed Carnegie Hall stage. Not to mention the high school's chorus members who performed last week on the Grand Ole Opry stage. How many people get to do that?

Antioch Elementary School student Lucas Kornegay, along with other Sinfonietta Strings members, opened for — no joke — Broadway legend Patti LuPone. 

And we're sure that View From the Stage's cast will put on a great show as Crestview's community theatre troupe steps into serious drama territory, tackling "The Miracle Worker."

Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce Arts and Culture Chair Rae Schwartz's message about the importance of local business and community leaders supporting the arts is not lost here.

I have company in town this weekend, and we have tickets to the Old Spanish Trail Pro Rodeo. And I have some regional community benefits to attend; it's a packed weekend, but I hope to see our local actors' interpretation of the production. (If I don't make it, believe me, it's not for lack of trying.)

Upon seeing photos, I told Arts and Entertainment Editor Brian Hughes, "That looks cinematic."

It looks like it'll be a great show.

What's your view? Write a letter to the editor or tweet News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni @cnbeditor.

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