Thursday, May 11, 2006
Cop accepts prison after videotaped shooting
When Sgt. Billy Anders emerged from his prison cell in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I expected to greet a man filled with anger and resentment after a judge recently sentenced him to one year in prison for voluntary manslaughter.

For his own protection, Anders is serving this sentence in solitary confinement. He's locked in a concrete room with a small window 23 hours a day, surrounded by violent criminals, some of whom are on death row for heinous crimes.

As I greeted Anders, I found a former cop who seemed more concerned about how our crew was holding up in such a depressing place than with his own well-being. I sensed no prejudice or hatred from this cop who served 31 years on the force, just one year short of retirement.

During our two-hour interview, I looked for signs of malice in Anders' demeanor that might suggest he killed Earl Flippen, a former white supremacist, out of revenge for his partner's death. Anders shot Flippen just moments after Flippen killed his partner. They were responding to a domestic disturbance call in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.

We asked Anders to explain why he still felt threatened even after severely wounding Flippen and placing him in handcuffs. We asked him why his account differs so much from what appears in his patrol car video camera, which captured the incident.

Anders said he has little memory of his decision to pump a fatal bullet into Flippen's chest. He said he only wants the court of public opinion to consider the totality of the circumstances that led to the shooting, believing his life and that of a 3-year-old girl he was trying to save were in danger. Anders had already lost his partner. The girl's mom had been killed too.

Videotape can be a powerful witness, especially when it appears to contradict a police officer's account of an incident. In this case, it appears that Billy simply cannot justify his actions. Even his own team of investigators and the town's chief prosecutor saw a crime there. If the state didn't act, the feds were preparing to intervene.

After a distinguished career in law enforcement, and without ever firing a single shot on duty before this incident, Anders now spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, reading scripture, pondering why this all happened. He gets one hour a day to shower and shave.

Billy has accepted responsibility for his actions, and many residents in this remote corner of southern New Mexico's national forest consider him a hero.

In the meantime, he says he thinks often of that little girl's future, even as he struggles to find redemption at the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe, the very same place that Earl Flippen, the man he killed, once served hard-time.
Posted By Stan Wilson, CNN Producer: 6:49 PM ET
  34 Comments
Luckily, most people go through life without ever being in that type of situation. After a career as a police officer, I can say that there were many occasions where things could have gone south- a bad decision, bad luck, or whatever, which could have drastically changed mine or others lives forever. Everyone who isn't one expects cops to be perfect, but I firmly believe we all generally have very little understanding of trauma and its' after-effects. Mr. Anders himself has no clear explanation for what happened. I'm sure he wishes he did.
Posted By Anonymous Grant, Vancouver, Canada : 7:39 PM ET
Hi Stan,
Sometimes the actions taken in one split second can destroy so many lives..And once it happens there is no turning back, no do overs, no second chance..What a tragic story all around.Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 7:42 PM ET
I've read the account of what happened when Anders shot Flippen but have not seen the video recording. I cannot imagine the state of mind Anders must have been in when he lost his partner and knew that he was the only person that was capable of and in position to save the girl's life after her mother had been murdered. He must have been in some form of shock and it's too bad that criminals get off on much weaker defence and Anders cannot simply be regarded as a victim.

He should be pardoned and given his full retirement. He has already paid his debt to society for whatever mistaken actions he is responsible for on that night. His debt was paid by being an honest protector of his community for 31 years. Anders life should not be wasted in prison.
Posted By Anonymous William, New York : 7:58 PM ET
I hope he gets out early. He only saved the state money killing this person who would otherwise be a cinch for a death sentence.

But the trial was necessary, otherwise other cops will kill for their own reasons, which may not be as good as this case. All the same - for this case, he is a hero!
Posted By Anonymous Lisa Henderson, Bothell, WA : 8:20 PM ET
I guess this is proof that good people (cops) can make fatal mistakes in the heat of the moment. I am a true believer in this fact - anyone can be driven to murder. Should this crime (because he was an excellent officer for years) be considered less of a crime? NO! Any good man would and should struggle with the realization that he took a life. Murder is murder - hero or not.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl, Raleigh NC : 8:55 PM ET
Set the man free. He's my hero.
Posted By Anonymous Harvey Ghesser, Falls Church VA : 9:18 PM ET
It is hard to believe that someone like him has no anger toward the judge who sentenced him to serve time in jail. To me, this shows that the man has no intent to harm anyone in anyway.
Posted By Anonymous Jeremy Long, Elkton, Kenutcky : 10:32 PM ET
3 cheers for the sarg. he deserves a medal not jail. he got rid of another wife beater
Posted By Anonymous tim allen fort pierce fl : 11:32 PM ET
The man deserves a medal, not a jail cell! Why do only criminals have rights? This man deserves a pardon, and an apology.
Posted By Anonymous R. Jackson, Rialto, Ca. : 12:27 AM ET
I myself was in a situation parallel to that of Anders. It is a cliche, but it is very true: "You had to be there".
What any dash-cam fails to capture is the emotion, fear and biological fight for survival that Anders surely felt. Instead, it shows a series of images without tapping into the thoughts and feelings of a police officer under attack.
Posted By Anonymous Frank Hall, Fresno CA : 12:40 AM ET
This program and Primetime aired similar programs the same night back to back. In my opinion, yours was more informative of the facts whereas your competition left avenues open for suspicion and conspiracy. Yours dealt with the facts. Thank you.
Posted By Anonymous Erich Wuersching, Cloudcroft NM : 1:07 AM ET
No one is above the law. But I can not help but be impressed by the man's attitude.
Posted By Anonymous Natasha, Vancouver, Canada : 2:14 AM ET
Many people, who have done worst than this heroic police officer, are walking the streets. Something is missing in this story. He deserves a medal, not jail.
Posted By Anonymous Bobby Jarrett, North Augusta, SC : 2:20 AM ET
This man should have never been charged. When Earl Flippen killed a human being he lost his rights. That is what is wrong with this country. Punishment should match the crime. This man is a "Hero" in my eyes.
Posted By Anonymous Randy, St Louis Park, MN : 5:40 AM ET
This police officer committed a crime and should be held accountable just as he, as a police officer, would have held any one of us accountable had we committed the same crime. This officer executed a bound man in cold blood after he discoverd that this man had killed his friend and partner. That makes him no better then the criminal who killed his partner. The laws in this country should apply to everyone including the police. I don't understand why people would even question him going to jail. Jail is where murders should be. That killing was clearly in retribution and not in self defense.
Posted By Anonymous Mary, Bethesda, MD : 8:22 AM ET
When I looked at that mans face it tells me he honestly belive's what he saying with protecting himself and that young girl I dont know if its the truth or not but I do feel he is being punished enough he not hideing a thing in my view I hope the year goes fast and he gets to go on with the rest of his life because in the heat of the moment I have no idea what I would have done either
Posted By Anonymous Anthony,charlestown ,indiana : 11:31 AM ET
As much as I applaud this "Hollywood" justice, I can't condone it - all emotions aside. Our laws are not perfect, but they are the glue which holds this diverse society together. A law enforcement official is tasked to uphold the law - not mete out their personal interpretation of right and wrong, that job falls upon citizens (juries)& elected officials (judges).
I'm sorry, but as Americans we MUST not let movie-justice-fantasy and raw emotion overwhelm the common laws set forth by our state, federal and local justice systems. Individuals, whomever they are, circumvent these laws at their peril.
1-year in jail is light when compared to what COULD have happened to this former officer.
Posted By Anonymous MSgt (ret.) Garrett, USAF St. Paul, MN : 11:35 AM ET
While it's hard to not be sympathetic to Mr. Anders situation, I think the sentence is appropriate. Cops should not be above the law at any time. There are too many police who have committed murders like this that are still out on the streets.
Posted By Anonymous Stan M, Baton Rouge, LA : 1:05 PM ET
I have tons of compassion for this cop. He seems to have enjoyed an exemplary career. Cops have a really tough job. I'm glad there are folks willing to do it. However, his conviction was necessary to prevent a police state that everyone fears, our constitutional forefathers worked to avoid, and all would decry if it became a reality. Sometimes hard decisions have tough outcomes.
Posted By Anonymous Susan R. Charlotte, NC : 1:10 PM ET
I have to admit after viewing the tape, it appears that what Mr. Anders did was wrong; however, I think that the punishment in this instance was too harsh considering the circumstances surrounding the events. He should have spent about a week in jail and/or probation for about 3 years if it was up to me. Personally, if I were to meet him, I would be honored to shake his hand for getting rid of such slime. He actually did us all a favor.
Posted By Anonymous Angie, St.Louis, MO : 2:06 PM ET
I live in New Mexico and remember this story well. Not to many people seen what Sgt. Billy Anders was wrong. I have heard that it was out of malice the shooting (personal accounts). But, he is doing the time. It's just sad that cops have to do jail time for doing there JOB!
Posted By Anonymous Ernestine Ramon, Grants, NM : 2:40 PM ET
Sometimes justice has very little to do with the law.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Youngstown, OH : 2:41 PM ET
It's hard to know what a situation is like until you've walked in someone's shoes. I think all things considered, Mr. Anders serving a year in jail is probably appropriate. He did kill someone, but the rest of his life and career indicate he's not a threat to society. I guess I can only wish him and the little girl the best.
Posted By Anonymous SE, Glendale Heights, IL : 2:52 PM ET
If he shot my partner I would have exterminated him...but BEHIND my patrol car where there were not any cameras. The slime ball got what he deserved and another good cop goes down for being human. What a shame!
Posted By Anonymous David Jones., Abilene, TX : 3:18 PM ET
What an interesting story. Mr. Anders is a man whose actions can be admired. I'm not supporting the death of another human being, but instead his actions before and after the shooting. This man served for 31 years without firing a single shot on duty before this tragic incident. He did not cry temporary insanity to get out of the sentence. He has accepted the situation as it is, and his punishment with dignity. We have all done things due to emotions (fear, pride, revenge) that we are not proud of. To be able to say, "yes I did this and I accept the sentence you have passed on me" (even if he doesn't remember what happened) is to be admired.
Posted By Anonymous Betsy, Lake Crystal MN : 3:58 PM ET
i have said for quite a while you cant trust any policeperson anywhere at any time. they'll shoot you for blinking an eye. but all hell breaks loose if you fight back. DONT TRUST A COP. And dont turn your back on them either. Because who knows what will happen.
Posted By Anonymous robert buss eugene or. : 6:28 PM ET
Working in Law Enforcement I have yet to discharge my firearm in the line of duty, but know someday it may happen. As Law Enforcement officers we receive all types of firearms training including training on what is called an active shooter situation. This training came about as a response to the past school shootings. End result is that Law Enforcement no longer " Waits " for backup when shots are being fired they take the suspect out... Period.... No Exceptions.... SGT Anders although may have not made the right decision that fateful day, he did what he was trained to do. Protect and Serve..... The girls Mother, and Sgt Anders Partner paid the ultimate price for the little girls freedom with their lives. After watching the interview, I came away with a man who has good morals, integrity and a high reguard for others than himself. For those who chose to prosecute him... Thank god for elections....
Posted By Anonymous Deputy Sheriff, Michigan : 2:46 PM ET
I feel for him and his family but those we choose to enforce our laws must be the first to uphold them as well.

He may have led a good life up to that fatal moment but for a few seconds he became a cold blooded murderer who took the law into his own hands. If you skip due process and take justice into your own hands you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 2:57 AM ET
I feel for him and his family but those we choose to enforce our laws must be the first to uphold them as well.

He may have led a good life up to that fatal moment but for a few seconds he became a cold blooded murderer who took the law into his own hands. If you skip due process and take justice into your own hands you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 2:57 AM ET
I feel for him and his family but those we choose to enforce our laws must be the first to uphold them as well.

He may have led a good life up to that fatal moment but for a few seconds he became a cold blooded murderer who took the law into his own hands. If you skip due process and take justice into your own hands you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 2:57 AM ET
I feel for him and his family but those we choose to enforce our laws must be the first to uphold them as well.

He may have led a good life up to that fatal moment but for a few seconds he became a cold blooded murderer who took the law into his own hands. If you skip due process and take justice into your own hands you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 2:57 AM ET
I feel for him and his family but those we choose to enforce our laws must be the first to uphold them as well.

He may have led a good life up to that fatal moment but for a few seconds he became a cold blooded murderer who took the law into his own hands. If you skip due process and take justice into your own hands you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 2:57 AM ET
I feel for him and his family but those we choose to enforce our laws must be the first to uphold them as well.

He may have led a good life up to that fatal moment but for a few seconds he became a cold blooded murderer who took the law into his own hands. If you skip due process and take justice into your own hands you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 2:57 AM ET
Such a sad story. My heart goes out to all involved. Personally, I could not be a law enforcement officer. I don't know how they do it. Especially when you consider how hard they work to put slime away and then the slime gets out without serving their full sentence. I wish the best for this man. Sounds like he led an exemplary life - but for one brief emotional lapse.
Posted By Anonymous Cindi, St. Louis, MO : 4:42 PM ET
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