Monday, December 16, 2019

"Betrayal in Black" by Mark M. Bello

Betrayal in Black
(Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Book 4)
by Mark M. Bello

Betrayal in Black (Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Book 4) by Mark M. Bello

Mark M. Bello stops by today to share an excerpt from Betrayal in Black, the fourth book in the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller series. Also available: Betrayal of Faith (read my blog post), Betrayal of Justice (read my blog post), and Betrayal in Blue (read my blog post).

In a fictional Michigan town, a man is pulled over by the local police. The driver wonders: “What did I do wrong?” The officer asks for I.D.; the driver casually mentions he legally carries a gun. The officer panics - confusion reigns - shots ring out - an innocent man lays bleeding to death and the incident is captured on video.
The shooting becomes the national headline - the dead man is black - the shooter is white. A community is thrown into chaos. Protestors on both sides of the racial divide take to the streets.
A widow struggles to make sense of senseless tragedy. She turns to high-profile trial lawyer, Zachary Blake. Together, they dare to fight city hall. Will police lie to protect the status quo?
Small Great Things meets The Hate U Give in Mark M. Bello's explosive new social justice legal thriller, Betrayal in Black.

Chapter One
“What do you think?”
Cedar Ridge chief of police Warren Brooks has convened a task force to conduct a special inquiry into this officer-involved shooting. The most experienced law enforcement officials from city and county are named to the task force.
The press will have a field day with this!
The chief and the task force listen to the transcript of the audio and review dash cam video. They review copies of a disturbing iPhone video the victim’s wife captured.
Officer Randy Jones is suspended pending completion of the investigation. He faces state charges and a possible federal civil rights investigation and prosecution. The victim was African-American. His name is Marcus Hayes; he resided in Detroit. Officer Jones is a veteran Cedar Ridge resident and cop.
“This is off the record, correct?” A task force veteran wonders.
“Absolutely,” assures Chief Brooks.
“Doesn’t look very good to me. I didn’t hear or see anything to suggest that the officer was in danger at any time.”
“Any time a citizen utters ‘I have a gun’ to an officer, that officer is in danger,” counters Brooks.
“True enough, I suppose, but why would the victim tell the officer he had a gun if he planned to use it? The victim did exactly what he should have done under the circumstances. We can’t go shooting every citizen who is carrying and has a legal right to carry.”
“Hayes should have complied with Jones’ orders to the letter, don’t you think?” Chief Brooks is naturally inclined to defend his officer.
“We can’t tell whether he complied or not from the audio or the angle that the video provides. Furthermore, Jones requested, at least twice, to see the guy’s license and registration. How was Hayes supposed to do that without reaching for something? At best, he was given inconsistent commands. Which ones should he have complied with? Close call.”
“You think Jones will face charges?”
“From the city or county, maybe. From the feds? Absolutely.” 
“For now, any investigation of Officer Jones will be handled in house,” Brooks orders. “Internal Affairs needs to get Officer Jones in here for a confidential interview. We need to get his statement on the record. The audio and video tell us some, but not all of what was going on out there.
“Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. We all have opinions about what we see in the video, but what was Jones seeing? What was going through his mind? What was the guy doing inside the car that caused Jones to react the way he did? We’ve got our work cut out for us. We may need to get another police department involved so that the investigation is completely independent. I don’t want any civil rights marches in our city—they are not good for our image.”
“Neither is an officer-involved shooting of an innocent black man who was pulled over for no apparent reason.”
“There was a reason, dammit. The officer thought that driver and occupant looked like the Burger King suspects.”
“Because the driver was a black man? Any other reasons come to mind?”
“Jones claimed there was a resemblance.”
“That’s absurd, Chief. The Burger King guys were much younger, and, by the way, both male. This was a male and female with young children in car seats. There was no traffic violation. Jones admits on tape that he could not see the suspects well enough to tell that one was female. This so-called robbery suspicion was hardly probable cause for the stop. 
“But, let’s assume for a second that there was probable cause. These people did nothing wrong. He pulls them over, approaches the window, and sees a man, a woman, and two children. They are some twenty years older than the Burger King suspects. Officer Jones knows, then and there, he’s made a mistake. Why not simply apologize for pulling them over, tell them it was a case of mistaken identity, and to have a nice day?”
“Because he might have smelled marijuana?”
“That’s weak, Chief. He pumps four bullets into a guy over a possible joint? This smells like a case of driving while black through a predominately white community.”
“I know; I get it. For now, we defer to Internal Affairs. Let’s reconvene once they’ve completed their investigation. Anything else?”
“Yeah, Chief. I don’t know Jones well, but this case is a powder keg. What if we have to sacrifice him, right or wrong, for the greater good of the community?”
“Not close to considering anything like that yet. We’ll cross that bridge if or when we come to it. For now, we let Internal Affairs do their thing. Anyone else? No? Okay, meeting adjourned.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

About the Author
Mark M. Bello
Mark M. Bello is an attorney and award-winning author of realistic fiction and political legal thrillers.
Retired from handling high profile legal cases, Mark now gives the public a front-row seat watching victims fight for justice in our civil and criminal justice systems. Mark's award-winning Zachary Blake Legal Thrillers mirror our times and the events that shape our country.
In addition to writing captivating legal thriller novels, Mark writes a civil justice blog and co-hosts a weekly podcast, Journey into Justice. He has written articles for numerous publications and made guest appearances on radio and talk shows.
In his spare time, Mark enjoys traveling and spending time with his family. He and his wife Tobye have four children and eight grandchildren.


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