A Baltimore police officer, blinded by a gunman who fired two bullets into his head at point-blank range, will travel to Los Angeles today with other police representatives to confront the recording company that is selling a rap star's song about a cop killer.
"Those lyrics operate solely on hate," says Agent Eugene Cassidy, who now teaches police procedure at the Baltimore department's training academy after a 1987 shooting left him permanently blind. "I almost got sick when I heard them."
The song in question, "Cop Killer" by controversial rapper Ice T, has aroused the anger of law enforcement groups nationwide with lyrics such as: "I got my 12-gauge sawed-off/I got my headlights turned off/I'm 'bout to bust some shots off/I'm 'bout to dust some cops off."
"I have no problem with whether he can say this kind of stuff with his freedom of speech," says the 32-year-old officer. "But private concerns are not obliged to distribute this material. There's a responsibility here."
The Baltimore City chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is paying to send Agent Cassidy and a fellow officer, Vincent Moulter of the Southeastern District, as representatives to a protest to be staged at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, where the board of directors of Time Warner Inc. will be conducting a shareholders' meeting.
The rap by Ice T has drawn the criticism of police groups, other citizens' groups and Republican political leaders, all of whom are urging a boycott of Time Warner, the parent company for the rapper's label.
Agent Cassidy and Officer Moulter worked together in the Western District in October 1987, when Agent Cassidy was shot twice in the face by a man he was trying to arrest on an outstanding assault warrant.
Surgeons initially calculated the officer's chances for survival to be minimal, but he eventually came out of a coma and slowly regained his speech and motor skills. One bullet remains lodged in Agent Cassidy's brain, leaving him not only blind, but also without his senses of smell and taste.
The gunman was eventually caught, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Agent Cassidy returned to college for a teaching degree and is now the father of two children.
Time Warner has defended its release of the Ice T song by citing First Amendment freedoms and saying the company was committed to the free expression of ideas by its artists. The company also cited the song as indicative of real social ills.