Ventura County, California Sheriff’s Department photo of the beginning of the confrontation between Obamacare opponent William Rice, in the khaki shirt and olive shorts, and an unidentified Obamacare supporter wearing black, who authorities say bit off Rice’s little finger.
Here’s an account from the influential left Blogosphere Talking Points Memo quoting Karoli Kuns, a self-described eyewitness to the Thousand Oaks, California biting incident, who testifies that the leftwinger who bit off a 65-year-old’s finger had been immediately previously been assaulted by him.
So the biting incident becomes a somewhat bizarre, regrettable incident of justified retaliation for unprovoked violence.
The man in the orange shirt hit the pro-reform guy (Iâ€™m going to call him PR Guy just to keep the players straight). Hard. ( tweeted in real time) He punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and into that thruway. As you can see from the photo, cars drive straight through that without stopping. The pro-reform guy could have been run over. He got up, tried to get back up on the curb, but Orange Shirt guy was in his face. Finger in his face, PR Guy standing, steps up to the curb, and thereâ€™s a scuffle. Orange shirt seemed to have PR Guy in a hold, but again, I was across the street, so wonâ€™t state that as absolute fact. Next thing I see is PR Guyâ€™s hat being tossed into the street, both yelling at one another, then Orange shirt walks away, PR Guy picks up hat and crosses to our side.
When he gets to our side, he tells a story in one sentence: â€œHe punched me hard, straight in the face, so I bit his finger off.â€
Kuns obviously misidentified the biting victim. This Fox News 7:31 video demonstrates that the Ventura Counry Sheriff’s Department photo identification was correct and Kuns wrong.
Mary Katherine Hamm quotes an Obamacare opponent witness, who depicts the biter as the aggressor.
Scott Bush, an Obama critic who was standing next to Rice when the incident happened, said critics and supporters of Obama had had face-to-face, calm debates throughout the night without incident until the suspect in the biting crossed the street to confront critics. Of Rice’s behavior, he said:
“He didn’t even have a sign. He was just there to be a part of things. He’s a nice man.”
The suspect yelled at the group, “Are you for the public option?” When the crowd answered, “no,” Bush said he singled out Rice, one of the smaller men in the group, coming at him and yelling, “You’re an idiot, you’re an idiot!”
“I donâ€™t think he had any intentions whatsoever of talking,” said Rice, who “popped him in the nose” when he got close to his face.
Bush called Rice’s move “defensive.” Bush said the incident became a scuffle, the public-option supporter pulled Rice into the street, and it was over very quickly after that. During the struggle, Rice said his finger ended up in the suspect’s mouth, and it was bitten off.
“William grabbed his hand and said, ‘Oh, he bit my finger off,” Bush said. “It was clear that the end of his finger was bitten off. It was a stump.”
Rice left for the hospital and the assailant ran away before police arrived. Bush looked for Rice’s fingertip and found it about 20 feet away from the scuffle, in the street.
“I got in my car and I took his finger to Los Robles and I found him, and I gave him back his finger,” Bush said, who carried the digit wrapped in a napkin.
Unfortunately, “it was of no use,” Rice said.
Mr. Rice, by his own account, evidently did strike the first blow, but “PR guy” clearly did advance upon Rice and confront him with close range verbal abuse. Traditional standards of self defense recognize the existence of fighting words, verbal insults seriously provocative enough to justify a physical response. If PR Guy really did grossly insult Mr. Rice, a punch in the nose could very well be a legitimate response. I’d consider a poke in the snout justification, too, for PR guy poking back, but the amputation of a finger is obviously a significantly greater escalation of violence, and there can be little doubt that PR guy is going to be prosecuted when the Ventura County authorities catch him.