"I'd like to take a pig out into the parking lot," singer Ice T chants on his controversial "Cop Killer" rap, "and shoot him in his m face."
It's a line particularly upsetting to Police Agent Eugene Cassidy, a Baltimore officer who has been shot twice in the face while trying to arrest a wanted man. He's permanently blind, with a bullet still lodged in his brain.
And last week, Ice T actually encountered Gene Cassidy, who was standing with his seeing-eye dog at the corner of Beverly and Wilshire in Los Angeles.
The singer pulled up in a Rolls Royce sedan, rolled down the tinted driver's side window, and offered Agent Cassidy and three friends an obscene hand gesture when one officer raised a camera to take a photo. Then he drove away.
Defending their release of the controversial rap against calls for a boycott by national police groups, officials of Time Warner Inc. have cited free speech issues and contended that the song reflects the view of alienated, inner-city youth. Those officials say the singer "is not speaking for himself. Instead he is adopting the persona of a fictional character."
But the character in the Rolls at Beverly and Wilshire did not seem so fictional to the officers involved.
"It was amazing," said Vincent Moulter, a Baltimore officer who was with Agent Cassidy during the July 16 encounter that occurred two blocks from a protest against the rap song by police groups.
"We didn't go up to his car. We didn't say anything. No words were exchanged at all. He just rolled down the window and gave us the finger."
The officers were wearing police association T-shirts and hats, walking to a restaurant when the singer stopped at an intersection. One officer suggested they take a photograph because no one at the demonstration would believe it otherwise. Another officer raised his camera, provoking the gesture from Ice T.
The group found a one-hour developing shop and rushed a print of the gesturing rapper into a Time Warner Inc. stockholders meeting. They got no response, although yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that the corporation is considering a policy that might bar distribution of some music products based on content.
In an interview on the Arsenio Hall Show, the rap singer confirmed the encounter:
"I was minding my business," he told the talk show host. "I was out on Beverly handling my business, you know, and the cops walked by me and they budged each other. They were plainclothes and they were looking at me and they mumbled something, then they walked to the side and one looks at me, and he decided he was going to take a picture. Now if you take a picture of me and I didn't say you could, I'm going to throw the finger up, you know what I'm saying?"
Mr. Hall asked the rapper if he was bothered when he saw the widows of officers on the news, or blind officers who had been shot in the line of duty.
Ice T replied: "If the cop was doing the right things, I care for him the same way I care for one of my homeys, you know what I'm saying? I know there are cops out there if they got killed, I'd be crying, you know. . . . But if the cop was out of
line, then you know it's either you or me. That's what my record is."
In October 1987, Gene Cassidy was to serve a warrant for a West Baltimore man who had been charged with beating an elderly neighbor.
The officer tried to arrest the man at Appleton and Mosher streets, and was shot twice in the face during a struggle over the suspect's revolver.
Agent Cassidy was 27 at the time. He had no history of citizen complaints or brutality charges.
When told of the rapper's comments on the television program, the officers wondered dryly whether Ice T would, as he told Mr. Hall, be moved to tears by the story of this particular shooting.
"I'll be happy to send him a box of Kleenex," said Agent Cassidy. "He could have looked the other way and driven on, but what he chose to do is roll down the window and give us the finger. That's wrong. Just like his songs are wrong. You look at that photo and all you see is contempt and hate."