Citizen Journalist Broadcasts Own Police Standoff
In the morning, it was all bluster. “Anyone trying to capture me, ur gonna have to kill me, before I kill you,” Frank James MacArthur, whose Twitter handle is @BaltoSpectator, tweeted at 8:21 a.m. on Dec. 1. “I’m a nice guy, but I’m a bad, bad man. Dangerous us, so don’t try.”
Then: “Think it’s idle chatter. Step closer. Try to tread on me. See what happens. See who’s right and who’s wrong. See who knows how to fight.”
At 8:24: “Finally. Let’s be clear. There’s some peeps who’ve stepped on my toes before. Guess what? They’re no longer here! So who’s next? #serious.”
As he had been for more than a week, MacArthur was taunting the Baltimore Police, threatening to kill any who would dare try to touch him while bragging about his superior intellect and his ability to stay ahead of them, hidden, but all-seeing and in-control.
By 6 p.m. it was clear that the police were taking MacArthur “#serious.” They surrounded his home, and the blogger was tweeting that he had predicted this scenario: “took long enough, but knew theyd find me. wanted to see how hard theyd try so i can expose to you whats really happening.”
Claiming to be “an early casualty on the new world order about to take over,” MacArthur was still saying they would never take him alive (“remember my funeral wishes”) and mused about taking some police out–but soon the six-foot-four, 250-pound citizen journalist (he volunteered for the online Investigative Voice for a time and has become a fixture at crime scenes around town over the past four years) was toning down the threats to fight back, promising to “exit peacefully with sufficient witness and safeguards in place. cameras a must.”
By 10 p.m., thousands of people were listening to MacArthur’s live broadcast of his own negotiation with the Baltimore Police Lieutennant, Jason Yerg, who was tasked with talking the 47-year-old blogger out of his home. MacArthur gained 2,500 twitter followers (he had 4,666 as of 11 a.m. Sunday) and reportedly some 20,000 people tuned into the internet radio stream on Spreaker.com, embedded at MacArthur’s blog.
The drama played out at a pace befitting the original Dark Shadows TV series.
MacArthur says he does not trust the police—and expected them to kill him outright—because he has several times been abused by officers. Long ago during a divorce case he says he was choked unconscious by a cop. He says he has been harassed repeatedly, jailed once without charge for 40 days and that, when he called 911 after scaring off a couple of home-robbers with what he describes as a legally-owned firearm, police arrested him and charged him for a gun crime—”14” Barrel Gun,” according to online court records.
That case, reported by the Sun’s Justin Fenton in April of 2010, resulted in the three-year’s probation that MacArthur allegedly violated.
A source at he Division of Parole and Probation said that MacArthur’s warrant, dated June 21, was issued after parole officers checked his residence and found he had vacated. On Saturday, a few hours before the standoff started, MacArthur claimed the parole office was lying. “I own my home in the city. Deed recorded in my name. Was never hiding till now. That’s bull,” he tweeted in a direct message to a City Paper reporter. “Plus probation supposed to over now.”
Indeed, case search indicates that MacArthur’s probation was supposed to conclude in September. But the alleged violation predated that. The residence of record in the case file—506 E. 43rd St.—is not the house where the standoff occured, 641McKewin, which MacArthur bought in 2010. The name on this case file is Frank McArther, a spelling so far out that this reporter searched repeatedly before finding it.
“i couldn’t find period,” former Baltimore police Sargeant and author Michael A. Wood Jr. tweeted during the standoff. Wood has appeared on MacArthur’s show and was trying to help him surrender safely.
In his negotiation with MacArthur, Lt. Yerg allowed that a mistake may have happened. But the police negotiator kept circling back to the fact—which MacArthur acknowledged—that he was aware of the warrant long before the SWAT team arrived.
“I returned to Baltimore a little while back to start preparing to deal with this properly,” MacArthur told Yerg. “I wanted to surrender to you guys before this happened. But you guys didn’t let me assemble my team, my witnesses, my observers, and now you have me surrounded by SWAT. So again, that’s kind of offensive, because I run a business, I own a home, I’m really not a flight risk…. for me as a taxpayer in this city, knowing what I know about the crime rate and everything, I’m personnally offended that so many resources have been wasted on this situation which really, really really truly could have been handled in a much more genteel manner.”
Those monitoring his Twitter feed over the past week, with its boasts and taunts, pictures of guns and appeals to martydom, would not have got that idea.
MacArthur signed off his radio show with Ron Paul’s farewell address to congress, the libertarian Texas congressman who quit the House of Representatives to focus on his Presidential perma-candidacy. MacArthur surrendered at 11 p.m. and was loaded into a police van and driven away.