Thursday, July 11, 2013

Andrew Mickel, still out there

Just over ten years ago Andrew Mickel shot a police officer in Red Bluff, California. Almost right up to that point Mickel had been a resident of Olympia and a student out at Evergreen. And, for the time being, his is still a resident of California's death row.

Since those years, soon after I had finished up my own education at Evergreen, Mickel had held an interest for me, especially after Rachel Corrie was killed the next fall. Mickel and Corrie seemed to the poles of Evergreen and that part of Olympia culture that revolves around Evergreen.

While Mickel was obviously criminal and reprehensible, his beliefs where parroted from anti-government, anti-government, and especially anti-police political culture that is still part of Olympia.

I've wondered about Mickel's time in Olympia. I lived here at the time, I wonder if I ever saw him (maybe on campus) and not remembered him later when his face became news.

From one of the stories that reference his time here:
Mickel chose this school, with its main gathering area called "Red Square." He ostensibly came to study creative writing. The college was not as academically rigorous as his parents would have liked and, in his freshman year - when many new college students are confined to large lecture halls and tackling basic requirements - he was allowed to do independent study.
I actually take offense to this passage, that Evegreen isn't as "rigourous" as other, more traditional schools. While Evergreen doesn't have the same set-up as large lecture hall schools, it is just as hard (or harder) to get by as a geoduck, especially for someone expecting a more traditional set-up. Evergreen is essentially sink or swim
It was during this time that Mickel's personal politics got increasingly intense.

In December 2001, he went to Israel with a pro-Palestinian activist group pushing for an end to Israeli "occupation." The following summer, he went to Colombia, South America, to study nonviolent resistance, and to Northern Ireland, another global hot spot. In the Pacific Northwest, he joined protests against the World Trade Organization and was arrested in Seattle in April 2002 for interfering with a police officer.

Tehama County District Attorney Gregg Cohen would later say in court that Mickel had reached for an officer's gun during the Seattle arrest, though Mickel would staunchly deny that in his jailhouse interview with The Bee three days before his sentencing.

But there is no denying that Andy Mickel became more political at college. He began railing about social injustice and corporate irresponsibility and capitalism run amok.

Scott Dixon, his old tutor back in Springfield, saw Mickel on a Thanksgiving visit home and heard him talk about politics - about corporations, environmentalism and the like. To him, Mickel seemed no more strident than many politically minded college students.
Late 2002 was not too late after 1999 in Puget Sound. As Fred Moody in Seattle and the Demons of Ambition, 1999 was a reckoning for the region, coming up against the limits of our self regard and economic growth. Young men like Mickel who protested violently in the streets in 1999 were the physical representation of this.

Olympia then had our own May Day protests in 2000 and 2001 and then 9/11 seems to sharpen everything.

This particular passage in the Chico News-Review feature on Mickel (in which the writer constantly refers to him by his pseudonym McCrae) is interesting in terms of his time in Olympia:

Evergreen’s reputation was again questioned after May Day protests in each of the past two years. Two years ago demonstrators—including a large contingent of Evergreen students—snarled traffic in Olympia during protests.

Coincidentally, (Mickel) who was arrested at a protest last April for obstructing a sidewalk, lived less than a half-mile from the Bayview Thriftway supermarket, where a 59-year-old man died Nov. 8 after he was subdued with a Taser stun gun following an alleged shoplifting attempt.

Activists in Olympia have charged police brutality in the case.

A spokeswoman for the Olympia Police Department said the department had no contact with  (Mickel) in the past and would be assisting California authorities in their investigation. The department would not be conducting an investigation of its own.
The incident the paper references is the death of Steven Edwards in the Bayview parking lot in early November 2002. Edwards had drawn a gun and was wrestling with a security guard who had accused him of shop lifting. After being stunned twice by the taser and handcuffed, Edwards stopped breathing and died. It might have been a coincidence, or the death of Edwards may have pushed Mickel out of Olympia to murder.

Just like Mickel, people continue to reference Edwards in Olympia, as he was the topic of a memorial protest just last year.

Currently, for Mickel, he's on California's death row. Voters rejected an initiative to ban the death penalty last year, so he's currently working his way through an automatic appeal process.

Mickel represented himself when he was convicted and sentenced to death, but he was appointed a lawyer who was as late as this spring filing briefs with the state supreme court.

Today, on one fringe Mickel is remembered and described as "profoundly moving and inspiring."

And, in Olympia he is largely forgotten, which really isn't all that surprising. He really had no roots here, made little impact beyond his circle. He more or less represents a certain type of transient Olympian who attends Evergreen, comes by himself in his early 20s  and then moves on. Usually not in such a tragic fashion though.


Anonymous said...

He was an activist with seemingly unbridled energy and potential. I thought he would go on to do important work. Sadly, his mental illness consumed him. In falling to his delusions - committing murder - he can no longer work to make the world a better place. His actions shocked his peers at Evergreen, we were stunned and in tears... and honestly we would have been a lot more impressed if he had attempted to take out Dick Cheney or then President Bush. What he did was pathetic and way beneath him.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Just another young person corrupted by Evergreen.