Listen to the phone conversation between Houle and Officer Jones
Also, below are screenshots of a portion of the public Facebook post by Jones that escalated into a bizarre confrontation and a copy of the private email Houle sent jones.
Here is my column from Thursday's paper talking about the bizare incident:
A Facebook post? Really?
How much trouble can a post on Facebook really cause? In Troy, I guess, a bunch. One kicked off a chain of events that will likely lead to a cop getting into a slew of trouble — including possible criminal charges for beating a civilian — and will probably eventually cost the city a ton of money.
And it’s all because of a Facebook debate over whether or not a car caught fire after it smacked into a house.
I don’t know the cop, Kyle Jones, who allegedly did the beating, but I’ve known the recipient of the beating, freelance photographer Brian Houle, for years. I know he can be a bug. He’ll call anytime day or night to hawk photos of crime scenes or fires regardless of how small or unexciting. He’s relentless. I have to give the guy credit for his tenacity, even though I’ve more than once wanted to smack him myself.
Houle also doesn’t play too well with others. In 2006, he picketed the Speigletown Fire Department for days after he got thrown out at a time when volunteer fire departments across the country are hurting for members. Most recently, he got into a snit with the City of Troy over renovation work in front of his First Street home. He claims the city is responsible for flooding his basement and unjustly ripped down his fence. As a form of protest — what form I’m not sure — he proceeded to rip off some of his siding and board up some of his windows.
As I said, I don’t know the cop. Never heard of him. All I could find out from a quick Google search is he graduated from Hudson Valley Community College in 2005 with grades good enough to earn him an award from the Sheriff’s Association. Doesn’t sound like a a dumb guy. But, I’m not sure how else to describe what happened except to call it dumb.
A brief rundown: A car smacks into a building last Friday at about 5 a.m. Houle hears the call on his scanner and heads over. He gets to the scene and the vehicle is on fire. Rather than grab his camera, he grabs his fire extinguisher and puts out the fire.
Proud of himself, he posted it on Facebook and patted himself on the back for being a hero. Jones took exception to Houle describing himself as such and responded to Houle’s post with a pointed rebuke: “There was no fire … no hero … It was steam from the radiator and minimal smoke from the air bag deployment … but I guess we all can dream.”
Houle in turn took exception to that, and posted some not too kind things about Jones in the public forum and then sent a more pointed, private email elaborating on his belief that Jones is a liar.
The fire and posts happened last Friday, over the weekend, Jones and Houle have a nearly 40-minute phone conversation debating what it means to be a hero, the responsibilities of a Facebook page administrator and other worldly topics worthy of fighting over.
During the course of the conversation — which Houle recorded and played for me — Jones made it all too clear of the fact he doesn’t like Houle publicly criticizing him, telling him how “it’s not a good idea.” More of the conversation includes Jones telling Houle about how his vehicles aren’t up to snuff.
Fast forward to about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. Houle is hanging out across First Street from his house talking to a neighbor when he sees Jones pull up to one of his cars and shine a light on the windshield.
Houle claims he walked toward the police car to ask what he was looking for at 1:30 a.m. Jones, in his report, claims Houle jumped out in front of the car. Either way, Jones then got out of his patrol car and told Houle he was under arrest for disorderly conduct.
Houle claims he backed up to his front porch before falling but Jones claims he ran up the stairs and was forced to chase him down. Houle ended up somewhere near his front porch when Jones allegedly jumped on him and started beating him with a flashlight. I know police are allowed to use reasonable force in the apprehension of a fleeing suspect so we’ll have to see how that part of the investigation shakes out.
Meanwhile, as Jones was beating on Houle, Houle and a witness claim he was yelling at Houle to “stop resisting arrest,” and only when a neighbor popped her head out did Jones call for backup. Another cop showed up, but rather than stop the onslaught, started taking some shots at Houle too, according to Houle and a witness.
Houle claims there were as many as 10 cops there and at least three took some shots at him. A neighbor claims he saw six officers at the scene. I’m hearing that while the officers initially backed up Jones, they’ve since changed their story. It will be interesting to see how that end of the investigation turns out.
As I said, given the Facebook exchange and the phone conversation just days before the beating, my guess is the cop is in a bunch of trouble. I’d also say that Houle will probably sue the city and will probably win. He can be a bug, but that doesn’t make him a bad person and certainly doesn’t mean he deserves to get beaten up.
And all this over a post on Facebook. Amazing, really.
James V. Franco is The Record city editor. He can be reached at 478-5343, email@example.com or on Twitter @francorecord