Mainstream media outlets have responded to a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Pettis County Sheriff's Deputy Jordan Daniel Schutte by finally saying his name even though they have known his name since July of last year. We learned his name after the father of Hannah Fizer posted Schutte's name on his Facebook profile and people in Sedalia sent us copies before he took it down. We gave him the benefit of any doubts because to throw out a name without being sure about it would have contradicted everything else he has done in response to his daughter's murder. We made many efforts to get the media in Sedalia to say or print the name Jordan Schutte, but were always met with boiler plate responses referring to policies on naming officers. Now that his name has been printed we are posting this to say we told you so.
John Fizer's response to his daughter's death has been shocking and not in a bad way. He is a lifelong conservative Christian that does not want to be seen as anti-police despite what happened. We have had a hard time understanding how anyone can suffer a loss like this and still be supportive of law enforcement in general. The rest of the family and Sedalia for the most part are the same way, so that led to some friction with them and we decided to take a break from the case after Stephen Sokoloff refused to charge Schutte with any crimes. Some of the friction with the family included being banned from Facebook groups about the case associated with them and suggesting that such censorship could have been due to being under duress by local law enforcement (https://copblaster.com/blast/25970/hannah-fizers-family-and-friends-under-duress-in-sedalia-missouri), but at the same time we also suspected that the conflict was because they considered our methods too extreme for them. It also seems a lot of people thought we were being disrespectful for questioning their tactics and suggesting they needed to take a more anti-police stance. Still, we defend asking if they were under duress because someone needs to do that in situations like this. Even if the family is offended by the questions it is better to ask them than to just shut up because what if they were acting the way they were due to threats from local cops? We were afraid that maybe the Fizer family may have been afraid of then Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond and therefore trying to minimize the consequences for his department. In hindsight, this author thinks that at least I may have let my personal feelings towards religious conservatism negatively influence my interactions with people in Sedalia. I have never been a religious person and grew up being told I couldn't do this or that by religious relatives that drove me nuts, so seeing a group of very religious people tolerate things I find personally intolerable based on religious beliefs always irritates me. I once read a statement by John Fizer in which he said that he had forgiven Jordan Schutte for what he did and it sounded like his reasons had to do with the preaching of Jesus Christ on forgiveness. I must admit that I have never studied Christ's teachings in any great detail and certainly not enough to understand how they could convince a man in John Fizer's shoes to forgive someone like Jordan Schutte. Maybe John is just a better man than me at such things.
We followed up our exodus from Sedalia by failing to practice what we preach. While we are pleasantly surprised to see that the Fizer's are not going to let this go, we are also embarrassed not to have noticed the articles about the lawsuit until earlier tonight. We used to get frequent updates from members of the community about the case, but it seems the family managed to convince everyone in that area we were working with to stop involving us at all. That seems due to the culture clash we have observed. A number of people would say to us that they needed to have the last say on how people respond because they are the ones that lost someone. We thought that was nice thinking but not realistic. We were surprised to see how many people would give the PCSO, Kevin Bond, Stephen Sokoloff, and Jordan Schutte passes from certain non-violent forms of reprisal just because the family asked them to. A lot of times when families say stuff like that it falls on deaf ears because most people blow it off as stuff they are just saying to avoid being blamed by the cops for what happens next. Shocking as well were comments by people in Facebook groups dedicated to Hannah's case respond to comments like "we aren't cop haters here" with "amen." We have always been of the belief that protecting the public from bad cops is a job too important to be left in the hands of people like the Fizer's. By people like them we are referring to grief stricken decent vulnerable people. We think that victims' families are far too likely to denounce certain types of responses for the purpose of not wanting their loves ones to be remembered for how people reacted to their murders. In the case of John Fizer, we think he probably would have been outraged at the sight of so much as a broken window because he does not want his daughter remembered for such things. We have always felt that had Kevin Bond had to worry about "George Floyd riots" in his town that he would have been far more likely to do something about Schutte himself for the purpose of appeasing the people and that holding people like Schutte accountable prevents future Hannah's in the long run, so whatever happens in the meantime is usually a necessary evil. That is not to say that we would have supported a riot in Sedalia, but we certainly think that had Bond thought one would happen that he would have responded better. The Fizer's of course don't want their daughter remembered as the catalyst for such things and are only willing to preach responses that are far too timid for our tastes. Most communities don't listen to families the way the town of Sedalia has and with that surely comes some sort of folksy small town pride.
Now, back to the title of this article. The mainstream media finally being willing to say the name Jordan Schutte. We want to know what their sudden change of heart was. It certainly was not screenshots and copies of John Fizer's Facebook post last summer, and it was not due to them finally finding out who he is from a "reliable" source. Just this past October, KRCG reporter Gladys Bautista blurred Schutte's image out of surveillance footage and redacted it from documents turned over to the station pursuant to public records requests (https://copblaster.com/blast/26016/krcg-tvs-gladys-bautista-protects-hannah-fizers-killer). Bautista explained "we blurred some of the video because he is not facing charges." She was obviously lying since KRCG is one of the media outlets now reporting his name. He still is not facing charges. The only things that have changed besides him being sued was the election of Brad Anders as Sheriff and Anders deciding not to employ Schutte anymore. Schutte had been put back on duty by Kevin Bond before Anders took office. So, what was it? Was it being sued, losing his job, or both? We really want to figure out the answer to this because we have been arguing with journalists all over the country for almost a year in multiple cases in which we have identified bad officers in high profile cases before their names were released by any "official" source, the press has refused to say their names, and we ended up saying we told them so. Cases such as the identification of a detective in Florissant, Missouri (https://copblaster.com/blast/25767/florissant-police-detective-joshua-smith-suspected-in-vehicle-assault) that ran over an unarmed black man with a SUV last year less than two weeks before Hannah Fizer's murder, police officers in Rochester, New York that pepper sprayed a 9 year old girl in January (https://copblaster.com/blast/34412/what-are-the-names-of-the-rochester-cops-that-pepper-sprayed-a-child), and more Rochester officers that body slammed a mother as she held her 3 year old daughter's hand (https://copblaster.com/blast/34453/who-are-the-rochester-cops-that-body-slammed-a-black-lady-with-child). In those incidents we would send links to our findings to local journalists in those areas and were always fed boiler plate responses like the one used by KRCG in Hannah's case. Those responses typically said they do not identify officers unless they are charged with a crime or the department releases their names. There are of course obvious exceptions to that rule on a case by case basis which has resulted in officers being named when not charged with crimes and their departments still refusing to release names, but they are few and far between. What is it about the Fizer case that made the mainstream press change their minds? Is it simply that a member of the bar filed paperwork naming Schutte as the defendant in a lawsuit or is there more to it?
Speaking of the lawsuit, we cannot find any reports of Pettis County being named as a defendant. We also checked the announcement on the website of the law firm representing the Fizer's (https://wgbclaw.com/team-represents-family-of-hannah-fizer-in-wrongful-death-case/) and they only name Jordan Schutte. Why isn't John Fizer suing Pettis County? That is the question we would most like to find the answer to. It is rare for a municipality like Pettis County not to be sued along with any officers involved in murders such as this one. It looks like the suit is accusing Schutte alone of "using willful excessive force, violating recognized police training procedures and protocols, and causing the avoidable death of Hannah Fizer." That statement seems to absolve the county of liability by saying that Schutte violated procedures and protocols on his own. If sued with that language the county could turn around and say that Schutte alone violated procedures. In order for a municipality to be held liable under federal law the plaintiff usually has to prove that a policy or custom of the organization caused damage. That would require that the Fizer's find something in the written policies of the county that contributed to Hannah's death or that some custom was so widespread within the PCSO that it amounted to an unwritten policy and that custom contributed to her death. Policies and customs can include things like failure to properly train or supervise employees. If we were the Fizer's we would argue that Pettis County's failure to hire competent deputies, failure to competently train deputies, and failure to hold deputies accountable created an environment where deputies were not sufficiently deterred from using excessive force, not sufficiently trained to use less than lethal force in situations like Hannah's traffic stop, and the culture made deputies feel safe to screw up knowing that Kevin Bond had their backs. That would give rise to a cause of action in federal court under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for deprivation of civil rights under color of state law. This in not a federal lawsuit however. It was filed in the Circuit Court of Pettis County, Missouri, so there could be some difference between state and federal law that we do not know about. We think that a federal case would have allowed a better forum. The case would have been heard in another city where the judge is not part of the same good old boy network as the defendant, jurors would not have to worry about pissing off local law enforcement, and monetary awards are typically higher. Municipalities are also more likely to settle for larger amounts than individuals are, but that might not matter because Schutte is likely covered by the county's insurance anyway. When an officer is found liable compensation is usually paid from the same judgment fund as the municipality they were working for even if sued in their individual capacity.
We wish the Fizer's the best of luck with this lawsuit. We are glad to see that our faith in Mr. Fizer as a reliable source of information was well placed. We still have questions about why the press finally named Jordan Schutte and why Pettis County is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.