Law & Order SVU takes many of its story lines from real life headlines, so it was only a matter of time before it used the (too) many incidents of black people being killed in police encounters as a foundation for an episode. The episode has only 42 minutes of storytelling time to try to make its statement on this issue, so it painted its picture with a very broad brush.
Benson and her team are involved in apprehending what may be a serial rapist. Some detectives from the 27th precinct get the initial call on a home invasion/rape and then bring in the SVU. The 2-7 continues to assist in the case with the SVU in apprehending the rapist. Thinking they have their man, the detectives from the 2-7 chase down and shoot a suspect multiple times, thinking he has a gun. The episode takes a predictable course of the detectives having to explain their actions to IAB and the grand jury, and with the typical arguments from the rest of law enforcement defending their actions. Benson, because she is running point on the serial rapist case, finds herself drawn into legal end of the case against the officers and defends their actions. It’s Captain Reece, however, who may have fueled the fire by telling his people - before the chase - that time, distance, and cover is their friend, adding he doesn’t care if this scumbag makes it through the night but cares if his people do. Clearly the detectives ignored the part of the message about time, distance and cover. Despite what appears to be damning video evidence of police wrongdoing, Benson, Reece, and the detectives continue to support their own.
Oddly, the legal case against the officers is given to Barba, with the explanation that it’s his last chance to get back in the good graces of City Hall. While I enjoyed Raúl Esparza’s performance immensely, I find it hard to believe that, in the real world, Barba would be given such a high profile case that had nothing to do with a special victim. If anything, had the original Law & Order series still existed, this would be a case that likely would have elevated to the level of the Executive Assistant District Attorney. I also find it unbelievable that a grand jury would be convened so quickly. Again, there are only so many minutes in the hour for them to tell the story, so events are greatly accelerated. But in this case it's almost to the point of being laughable. It’s times like these that I don’t like when they put dates on the scene cards. I simply cannot believe this case would have gotten to a grand jury and be resolved within only a few days from when the shooting occurred, high profile or not.
With the glares that Benson and Barba were giving each other at the Grand Jury, and Benson's door slamming incident afterward, things could be a little tense between them going forward. Clearly Barba was caught between a rock and a hard place and maybe Benson will eventually come to understand this.
As there have been so many tragic shootings like this over the last few years, this topic has been discussed ad nauseam. This episode added nothing new to the discussion and only continued the misconception that these cases can be solved easily and quickly.
The serial rapist case is still unsolved. I assume this is not the last we've seen of the "push-in" rapist. I would think it would be a high priority - especially after killing an innocent man in the process of working the case - that they find the real perp.
Awkwardly shoehorned into this episode – and taking time from telling the more important story of an innocent man being shot – is the big reveal of who is the father of Rollins’ baby: Declan Murphy. We last saw him working undercover in the episode “Undercover Mother” and those events took place in February, apparently around the time when Rollins and Murphy had their hookup. I admit that I have no feelings either way about this, but I still was happy to see Donal Logue in the episode, and that the speculation was finally over.
Here is the recap:
Mariska Hargitay – Lieutenant Olivia Benson
Ice-T – Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Raúl Esparza - ADA Rafael Barba
Peter Scanavino - Detective Dominick “Sonny” Carisi, Jr.
Donal Logue – Declan Murphy
Scott William Winters – Detective Joe "Doom" Dumas
Isiah Whitlock Jr. - Capt. Reece
Dashiell Eaves - Sgt. Kevin Donlan
Mary McCann – Delegate Didi Denzler
Jason Cerbone – Attorney Desappio
Jolly Abraham – Doctor
Krista Braun – Mrs. Harris
Christopher Domig – Mr. Harris
Daveed Diggs - Louis Henderson
Josh Pais - Hank Abraham
Robert John Burke - Ed Tucker
Caris Vujcec - Det. Louise Campesi
Leslie Odom Jr. - Reverend Curtis Scott
Michael Potts - Sgt. Draper
Chandra Thomas - Patricia Reynolds
Neal Lerner – Richard Wallace
Jared Kemp - Jeff
Edwin Lugo – Juan
Latifah Johnson - Leslie
Raekwon Haynes – Damian
Cristina Pitter – Alma Hernandez
Lauren Noble – Carmen
Kylie McVey – Sophie Harris
Therell Spires – Latrell
J.J. Wynder - Jahill
Maria Desimone - Weeping Widow
Storm Chambers – Old Man
Benson and Fin are called to the scene of a “push-in” rape where the wife was raped and the husband pistol-whipped. Sgt. Donlon explains there was a similar rape before but in this case the attacker stayed longer. The suspect left them tied up. The wife is still conscious.
Benson enters the apartments and sees Detectives “Doom” Dumas and Campesi on the scene. When Benson speaks with Benson, she finds out the attacker was black, tall, and that her 12 year old daughter Sophie is missing. Benson orders the detectives to lock the building down. The detectives and officers search the area and Carisi finds her in the laundry room stuffed into a washing machine. He pulls her out and takes her outside for medical attention. Benson tries to console her and decides to ride in the ambulance with her, telling the others to find this guy.
In the hospital, Benson explains the situation to Dr. Patel who is also attending to Sophie’s parents. Captain Reece arrives and Benson updates him. It is the same MO as last week. She explains she is still short staffed and he tells her whatever she needs, just ask. She asks if she can address his next roll call and she will need to borrow a couple detectives to interview the vics when they are ready to talk. He tells her she has it.
Fin and Dumas speak with Mr. Harris who recalls what he can from the attack. The attacker was big and black, late 20s, with an afro and wearing a team jersey. Dumas shows him a sketch and he say maybe, asking if that is the push-in rapist and that his brother warned him about him. His brother is on the job at the 1-2.
Benson and Carisi speak with Mrs. Harris who describes her attack. She gave him her purse and pin number and feels she should have screamed. Benson reminds her everyone survived. The doctor enters and tells them she has to do the rape kit now.
At the 27th precinct at 204 West 119th Street on Tuesday, August 18, Fin speaks with Campesi and Donlon who says some of their guys know the husband’s brother. Carisi and Dumas confer and Dumas comments god help this guy when they catch him. Rollins is leaning on the ME for DNA info and Dumas says he worked with Rollins on a case in Brooklyn a few years back and they kind of hit it off. He walks over to her to say hello and when she turns around, he sees she is pregnant. He tells her congratulations and asks who is the lucky dad, asking if it is someone he knows. She doesn’t think so. Captain Reece explains to the group about the pattern rapist and that SVU will walk through the details. Benson explains what happened to the Harrises and Reece says the victims are related to a brother officer and this is family. Rollins explains the first vic worked up a sketch and they are still waiting for last night’s DNA but one of those vics gave them details that matched the sketch. He took the wife’s credit cards so they have flagged them. Reece tells them to canvass the neighborhood and lean on their CIs and there is no problem for stop and frisk tonight. He hit the precinct twice this week so he has roots here and someone knows him. Benson reminds them he is armed and extremely dangerous and is looking at serious time. Reece adds that he knows it is hot but to wear their vests tonight. Time, distance, and cover is their friend. He doesn’t care if this scumbag makes it through the night but he cares if they do.
Later, Fin and Dumas stop two men to frisk them and asks if they’ve seen the guy. Campesi and Donlon speak with a store clerk while Benson and Carisi speak with a woman who doesn’t want to help until they explain the situation. Much later, Dumas and Fin get a lead from a guy who says the man may have been there a half hour ago wearing a pro jersey, number 23. Benson and Carisi come up with nothing but Benson finds Rollins just got a hit on the bank card.
At a store, Campesi, shows a store worker the sketch of the suspect. He has the man on video and shows it to Benson, Fin, Dumas and Campesi and says this was about 15 minutes ago. The man is wearing a number 23 jersey and a cap. He says the man took out $200; he wanted more but he told him that was the max. He thought he was going to shoot him. Donlon asks if he had a gun, and he says he saw something on his right side. Benson tells them to lock the neighborhood down. Donlon radios the instructions and Dumas says they are on it. Benson tells Carisi and Fin to have the unis lock down any ATM in their sector; he maxed out here but he could be trying others. Fin says got it and he and Carisi race off.
Captain Reece drives up to Benson and Carisi and she explains the suspect was spotted in a bodega about 15 minutes ago. Reece hears on the radio that the suspect was spotted near the Clayton Powell houses and he radios to central to get aviation up, and Benson, Fin, and Carisi race off.
Meanwhile, Dumas, Campesi, and Donlon chase the suspect, and Capt. Reece, in the car, spots the suspect and points him out to the driver and orders him to cut him off. While the others chase on foot, Benson arrives in the car that Fin is driving, as Carisi also reaches the area. They hear multiple gun shots and Benson tells Carisi to call it in. Carisi does so, saying there are shots fired at Clayton Powell houses.
At the scene of the shooting, Dumas attends to the victim who is laying on the ground, bleeding. He cuffs him. As Benson, her detectives, and Reece arrive, Campesi says he was going for his gun. Benson orders them to secure the scene and tells Carisi to get his weapon and check for vitals. A crowd forms. Carisi finds no gun, only keys. Benson says a bus is on the way. The crowd watches and Fin thinks the man tossed the gun. Dumas says he was shooting at them, he heard it. Reece warns them not to say a word. While they look around for the gun, Carisi finds the man has cash on him, no credit or ATM cards. His driver’s license says his name is Terrence Reynolds, 22, and lives there on the fifth floor. The crowd continues to gather and take video. A woman yells out a window above that they just shot an unarmed black man and they are going to leave him to die, and Campesi yells back, asking why she is worried about a man who raped a child? They others try to quiet Campesi and Fin states an ambulance is on the way. Benson tells Reece his detectives need to turn over their guns and get to the hospital. He knows the drill, they need a blood alcohol and tox screen. He asks for their guns and when Campesi says it was a good shoot, he tells her to stop talking and say nothing to anyone and wait for their delegate. Benson tells Fin to get Reynolds’ name to Real Time and see what they have, and to confiscate phones. When Fin states the crowd will not help them, she tells him to convince them otherwise. Carisi says Reynolds is slipping away, and she says the bus is coming and she will stay with him and asks him to search the building. She will call in a warrant and to just get creative; they need to tie him to those rapes ASAP.
Carisi searches Terrence’s room, with his roommate present. He says a warrant will be there any second. When the roommate asks why Terrence was shot, Carisi says it was because he ran. Carisi gets pushy about searching a dresser and the roommate says it is not his and tells him to go ahead and search it. Carisi finds pills and a few joints and says this gives him probable cause to search the whole place and ask if he gets that. When the roommate says no, Carisi yells if he is covering for him, mentioning the rape of the 12 year old. The guy tells him to look wherever he wants. He doesn’t know where Terrence was last night; he was working last night and to ask his boss. Carisi continues to look around. He asks if Terrence cut his hair recently, and the roommate says no, he always had a fade.
At the hospital while the detectives are being checked out, Benson is on the phone and finds Carisi has nothing to connect Terrence. She says the warrant is on the way and get CSU up there and look for blood, DNA and everything. She gets off the call and Tucker has arrived and she asks if he sleeps with a radio under his pillow. He says he doesn’t need one – a police shooting with a black man, word travels. Reece approaches and Tucker says he understands they have 48 hours to give their statements to IAB but if they take all 48, Reece’s precinct will be on fire. Reece says he will talk to them, but Miss Denzler arrives and says not with her they won’t. Tucker cracks that Detectives Endowments are moving quickly, and she cracks right back that if he is there, she is there. Benson tells them easy…they are all on the same team. Terrence’s parents arrive and Benson explains he is in surgery and Reece said their son led police on a foot chase. While the parents protest, Benson gets words about Terrence and must tell the parents she is so sorry. Mrs. Reynolds sobs.
At SVU, the Harrises look at photos of potential suspects and pick out Terrence but there are inconsistencies in his hair and age. After the Harrises leave, they all talk about 3 cops who thought Terrence was pulling a gun which they can’t find, and Rollins adds they are cops they’ve all worked with. Benson tells Carisi to bring in last week’s vic and show her a photo array and go over every video from the shooting to see if he tosses the gun. She asks Rollins where is the DNA, and when Rollins says it just went down to the lab, Benson orders her to follow it and to test it herself if she has to.
At the internal Affairs Bureau at 317 Hudson Street on Wednesday, August 19, Donlon, Dumas, and Campesi all give too similar statements to Tucker and Draper, each saying that at the moment, they felt that their life, and the lives of their fellow officers, were in danger. Dumas was the only one that fired only three times while the others emptied their clips. During Dumas’s questioning,. Tucker has the video turned off and says Dumas' story is remarkably consistent with his fellow officers, and Denzler says the truth is consistent. Tucker replies maybe, but usually it is not verbatim. Draper says the next time they should tell their people to use their own words. Tucker leaves the room and sees Benson waiting there who tells him that the DNA came back; the two push-ins are a match but the perp isn’t Terrence Reynolds. The rapist is still out there, and Tucker states these three officers killed an innocent man.
In Barba’s office, he, along with Benson, watch TV coverage of a protest led by Reverend Scott. Benson comments the whole city is on boil, and Barba says the DA says he has to convene a grand jury. He adds he was told it is his last chance to work his way back into the good graces of City Hall. If he fails to get an indictment it is on him. Benson asks if he will push for one, even though those officers were just doing their job? Barba questions that, stating their fired on an unarmed college student 35 times. Benson raises her voice, saying they were in pursuit of a rapist and he matched the BOLO, down to his jersey, and he ran. Barba fires back that a black man in a basketball jersey runs when he gets stopped by the police, saying, ” You’re right, he deserves the death penalty.” When Benson states that is not what she is saying, he questions that it’s not? There is a knock on the door and Hank Abraham walks in and comments she trusts Benson is there to convince Barba this was a good shooting, or does this relate to the serial rapist she hasn’t caught yet? Benson sounds like she is going to reply but then wisely says she was just leaving, and she does so. Abraham says what they want and what the city needs is clarity. He tells Barba to get ahead of it, and explain why new York is not Ferguson or Baltimore, and Barba adds or Cleveland or Los Angeles or Staten Island. Barba asks if he sees the problem, this pattern. Abraham says this wasn’t part of it, and the sooner the grand jury clears these three, the sooner the city can begin to heal. Barba scoffs, saying it used to be a rush to judgment, now it is a rush to heal. There is another knock on the door – Reverend Curtis wants to speak with Barba and Scott barges in, along with Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds and Counselor Henderson. Abraham makes the standard condolences to the Reynolds’s and that the commission wants a full investigation to be sure justice is served. He adds the NYPD is suspending the officers involved, and when Scott asks if it is without pay, Abraham says it is a union issue. He says he will leave them in the very capable hands of the ADA, and he exits.
Henderson tells Barba they put Barba in the hot seat, and Barba replies he just wants to get to the truth. Rev. Scott says they all do, but adds that recent grand juries have been rigged so their community has lost faith in the process. Barba counters that this process is going to be different. Henderson states they are here to insure that; they are going to be proactive. Barba says that inciting the public will not help. Mr. Reynolds states that is not their intention, and Mrs. Reynolds adds the last thing they want is more violence. Henderson informs Barba they are going to conduct a parallel investigation, and independent autopsy. They want to offer another avenue for people who might not feel comfortable talking with law enforcement. Barba appreciates that but would also appreciate any evidence they find coming directly to him. He asks they not play this out in the press. Henderson says his job is to advocate for the family and he will do whatever is in their best interests. Scott adds that that interest – for all of them – is justice. Barba adds it is for all of them too and thanks them for coming in. He tells Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds they are all very sorry for their loss, and Mr. Reynolds thanks him as they both move to leave. Scott says he knows Barba is tired of this Kabuki and so is he; this year alone, almost 700 people have been shot and killed by the police and that won’t stop until cities start to send a message. Barba stares and says nothing, and Scott adds that he can’t imagine the pressure that he is under, and holding out his hand to shake Barba’s, he asks him to do the right thing here. They shake hands and Barba says nothing as Scott leaves.
Elsewhere, Dumas, Campesi, and Donlon are commiserating at a bar. They heard about the suspension on the news. Rollins arrives and they find Rollins came to meet Dumas so the others leave. Dumas is worried where Barba is going on this and asks if SVU has their backs. She says they know they are good cops. Dumas explained he was cornered and his hand went to his waist, that is when you use deadly force. He was guilty of something, why else would he run? Rollins suggests maybe it is best not to talk about this in a public place. She suggests she give him a lift home, and when he asks if she thinks he is drunk, she motions she might be and he agrees to go. He says what difference does it make, they are going to hang them anyway.
At IAB, Barba is there to see Tucker and Draper. Barba read their report and Tucker comments he knows this is a tragic situation but the cops are not bad apples and there is no charges of excessive force and no accusations of racism. Draper mentions commendations for integrity, and Barba dryly states so even their best and brightest are gunning down innocents. Draper counters they believed the suspect had a weapon and was a threat to themselves and civilians. Barba said he watched the deposition and questions the gap in the recording. Tucker admits they thought they sounded over coached. Barba wonders if they were coached to lie, but Tucker says no, they quoted verbatim the legal definition of the use of force. Draper quips they hear this a lot – lawyers. Draper states in their shoes he would have fired too, and Barba asks 35 times? Tucker and Draper are silent.
Outside the precinct, a surprised Rollins runs into Declan Murphy who asks how far along is she? He says he is 4,000 miles away in Serbia trying to take down a sex trafficking ring and he still heard about it. She says 7 months, and he says so that weekend back in February in the blizzard, and she says yeah. He asks if it is his, and she nods yes. He asks when was she going to tell him, and she said he was 4,000 miles away and didn’t know how to get a hold of him. He replies fair enough, but he is here now. She asks for how long, and he can’t say. She says he does not have time to worry about it, and he says he is not worried. She adds it is going to be okay; her mom is coming up and it is her decision and not his responsibility. He says it is, and they have to talk, he is not just going to walk away. She agrees they will talk but now she has to get upstairs. She is fine but there is a lot going on that she has to deal with. Her phone buzzes and he says that is his phone, if she calls, he in on a plane in an hour. She smiles and walks into the building.
Later, in Barba’s office, he explains to Benson and Reece about the grand jury starting tomorrow and to make sure their guys tell the truth in their own words. Reece says they will do fine, it is a tragedy, and Benson reinforces it was a good shoot. Barba wisecracks that Tom Wolfe is right, sooner or later, all cops become Irish. He reminds them he doesn’t get to voire dire a jury so the first 23 through the door and everyone on the jury would have heard about this case. Barba worries about biased opinions and when Reece thinks this is difference, Barba says they just need 12 votes to indict. His assistant enters and he reminds her he said no interruptions, but she says she knows, turning on the TV. Henderson is on screen saying they have a cell phone video of the shooting and it is played, showing the shooting. Terrence tries to open a locked door and reaches for his keys, and appears to be trying to comply to put his hands up. The police fire on him repeatedly even after he hit the ground. Barba says this changes things, but Reece says it does not. Barba says it does because it is out there. Benson says she knows this looks bad but this is not the angle that they had. If they had, they would not have shot. She mentions the heat of the chase, it was dark and they were in the projects. Reece adds they were following procedure. Benson goes on to say they did what any cop would do in that situation. But Barba asks and cop – even Benson? She gives him a strange look and does not reply.
At a later date, Henderson and Reverend Scott give a press conference on the courthouse steps as does Denzler .
In the Grand Jury on Friday, August 21, Fin and Carisi give their testimony defending the officers’ actions. Mr. Reynolds also gives testimony about Terrence. He had no violent record. He thinks Terrence ran because relations with police are not good and his son didn’t do anything wrong but he knew it would not make a difference. He was just trying to go home. Reece also testifies and does not think this is reckless endangerment or criminally negligent homicide. He thinks lives were in danger. They are trained to asses a situation by experience and they were told the suspect had a weapon. Benson is testifying and Barba asks what if the suspect were white, and Benson says this is not a fair comparison. The officers were in pursuit of Mr. Reynolds because he matched the description of a dangerous rapist. Barba asks about the rape suspects she has chased in her career and how many time she felt her life was in danger, stating she only shot two such suspects. He mentions time and again she chose not to shoot yet the others did, asking why? She tersely replies that in her opinion, all police procedures were followed. Barba raises alternative scenarios and when Barba asks if they could have waited, she asks waited for what, for their partner to get shot or for their own head to get blown off? She firmly states that they followed procedure and she couldn’t say what she would have done in that situation because she was not in the line of fire. Barba counters not were any of the other officers and then says he will asks again, can she think of any option these officers had besides shooting Terrence? She glares back at him and testifies in her opinion, all police procedures were followed. They glare at each other until Benson looks away, with a stone face.
Barba has Campesi on the stand who explains her actions, as does Donlon. When Dumas is on the stand, Barba brings up that he only shot 3 times, unlike the others. Dumas explains that the situation was chaotic but they followed procedure. Barba shows the bystander video and the jury looks appalled. Dumas explains they still could not see the suspect’s hands and had reason to believe he had a gun. Barba presses on why he stopped firing, and Barba pounces, saying maybe he had second thoughts and that Dumas stopped firing because he saw no gun. Dumas says he does not know. Barba thinks if the others waited a half second longer, Terrence would be alive today. Dumas pauses, then agrees.
Back at SVU, Carisi asks a returning Benson how did it go, but she can’t talk about it and says neither can he. Carisi asks if Barba knows what he is doing, and Benson walking quickly away from him, tersely states that yeah, he does. She rushes into her office and slams the door. Carisi comments to Rollins that Benson is in a mood, and Rollins replies that they all are.
In the Grand Jury part 24 on Friday, August 21, when Barba mentions they have the charges of reckless endangerment in the first degree or criminally negligent homicide, a juror asks if they can indict on more serious charges, they think it is murder. Barba explains it is within their purview but that to prove manslaughter one and above, they must prove intent, a much higher legal standard with an increased level of mens rea – intent vs. negligence. The juror asks if Barba can explain the standards and walk them through everything. Before he does, he asks for a show of hands on how many of them would like to hear the definition of those charges. It looks like very many jurors put up their hands.
Later, Henderson is giving another press conference with Rev. Scott, saying he is gratified the grand jury decided to indict Donlon and Campesi on manslaughter one and Dumas on reckless endangerment. Barba watches on TV in his office, sipping a drink. Scott says they will continue to do everything they can to make sure these officers are held accountable. Mr. Reynolds is pleased with the indictment. Meanwhile. Reece is an a bar with Denzler, saying the city got what they wanted: blame the cops and keep the peace. Denzler says it is just an indictment, it is not going anywhere. Campesi comments to Carisi that Barba is a son of a bitch, adding good luck the next time he needs a cop. They approach a table where Rollins is already sitting with Dumas and Donlon. Carisi says it may not all be on Barba and it sounds like he had a runaway grand jury. Campesi says runaway her ass; Barba led and they followed. Rollins comments that the good thing is if it goes to trial, there is no way they can prove intent. Dumas asks with what happened today, will they trust a New York jury? Donlon asks what is Dumas worried about, asking what he set up that he only got reckless endangerment. Carisi gets a message as Donlon also yells at Rollins, asking what her Lieutenant set up too. Reece hears this and says that is enough, but Carisi gets their attention by saying this is not the time and shows them a message. All their other phones begin to buzz and ring and Rollins looks stunned.
At Mercy Hospital on 365 West 32nd Street on Friday August 21, Benson arrives to waiting area full of police and asks a waiting Rollins, Fin, and Carisi what is the status? Rollins states he was shot in the face and they couldn’t do anything for him. Fin says it was a traffic stop gone bad and they got the shooter. Benson sees a woman waiting and asks if that is the wife, and Carisi says yeah, they had two kids, he was 24, and was a rookie. Benson asks if it gets any worse, and Rollins replies it might – the mayor is on his way up. Benson moves into the hall and waits for the mayor to show, a pained look on her face as we fade to black.
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