Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Officer Accused of Beating Suspect


A Harrisburg police officer is off the street and relieved of duty after he is accused of beating up a suspect.

It all started with a traffic stop and DUI arrest back in May, but while waiting to see the judge the suspect says as many as three officers attacked him.

Now the judge who spotted the injuries is speaking out.

“When he was brought in it was rather noticeable he had severe injuries to his face,” says District Judge Joseph Solomon, Dauphin County.

Ryan Westover stood before District Judge Joseph Solomon the night of May 18th with crusted blood on his face and clothes, marks on his neck and a swollen nose and lips. Westover claims the injures happened at the hands of Harrisburg City Police. Images were made public after Westover’s attorney provided them to The Patriot News.

It was at Forster and Front Streets that city police stopped Westover for running a red light. He was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, aggravated harassment and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Judge Solomon set his bail, but it wasn't until later, after closely reviewing Westover’s file, that he realized the suspect’s injuries didn't match the report. "I saw no mention of an auto accident and became inquisitive as to how somebody would sustain this level of injury," says Solomon. "I then went over to the booking room and asked Mr. Westover if he had been involved in an auto accident to which he responded, ‘I did not look like this when I came in and I did not have any blood on my clothes when I came in.’"

According to Westover’s attorney, when his client was waiting to see the judge, police entered the cell. Westover stood and one of the officers punched him in the face. He fell to the ground and was punched, kicked, chocked and stomped by as many as three officers.

"Obviously I'm concerned. I don't know what led up to the incident in the cell or booking room but obviously it makes the entire Harrisburg police look bad because of the actions of one or two people," adds Solomon.

Westover identified officer Justin Wells as one of several officers that he says beat him that night.

The mayor's office released a statement Wednesday. It says in part:

“The Harrisburg Bureau of Police's internal affairs unit is currently investigating allegations of abuse by a police officer against Ryan Westover. The officer has been temporarily relieved of his duties during the investigation period, which is standard protocol for any such allegation.”

Westover's attorney said his primary concern was to get Officer Wells off the streets. He says there has been no indication by the mayor's office or Harrisburg City Police as to who those other officers are.

Officer charged with restraining, sexually assaulting woman

A north suburban police officer is in Lake County Jail on Tuesday after he was charged with restraining a woman and forcing her to perform sexual acts against her will in January.

Delatwon A. Haynes, 32, of Waukegan, was order held on $2 million bond Monday, according to a release from the Lake County Sheriff’s office. Haynes, who resigned from the Waukegan Police Dept. on Jan. 11, was charged with four counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, one count of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and eight counts of official misconduct on Monday.

The charges were filed as a result of an investigation prompted by a complaint filed on Jan. 7 by a woman reporting that an officer restrained her against her will and forced her to perform sexual acts, the release said.

The woman said that in the early morning hours of Jan. 6, an officer confronted her as she was walking in the 900 block of North Lewis Avenue in Waukegan, according to the release. The officer and the woman had a short conversation and he told her to go home.

About 30 minutes later, the officer confronted the woman again and ordered her into the back of his squad car, the release said. She got in and the officer drove her to the rear of an abandoned vehicle in the 1700 block of North Lewis. He then told the woman she was "required" to perform sexual acts with him, after which he released her near her residence.

Waukegan police and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office began investigating immediately after the complaint was filed, the release said. Haynes was stripped of his police powers and placed on leave.

Haynes resigned from the department about four days later when faced with an administrative investigation, the release said. He was a member of the department since 2001 and served in the patrol division.

In February, Haynes was named in a lawsuit filed by Denise Swinney, who claimed the officer falsely arrested and raped her about 1 a.m. Jan. 6, 2005.

The suit claims Haynes fondled her chest, forced her to engage in oral sex, then had sex with her for more than 30 minutes.

Swinney claimsed in the suit she was never charged with a crime and was released by Haynes after being raped.

Officer Christopher Van Meter Arrested for Drunk Driving

An off-duty Fort Collins police officer was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving about midnight Sunday by the Colorado State Patrol.

The officer, Christopher Van Meter, 38, remains on duty with no change in his work status, according to Fort Collins Police Services.

Van Meter was stopped on U.S. Highway 287 slightly north of Trilby, according to the Colorado State Patrol. He was initially stopped because he was driving 65 mph in a 55 mph zone, said CSP spokesman Master Trooper Ron Watkins.

“The trooper noticed indicators of possible intoxication on contact,” Watkins said.

Van Meter, a patrol officer who works the midnight shift, submitted to a blood test; the results won't be available for about two weeks. Watkins said Van Meter was released on a summons, and his vehicle towed from the scene. That's routine in such cases.

Watkins described Van Meter as “cooperative” during the stop.

City Manager Darin Atteberry said he and police Chief Dennis Harrison discussed the situation yesterday, and agreed to wait for the court process to finish before acting.

Van Meter, like anyone else, is innocent until proven guilty. FCPS will not take disciplinary action -- if any -- until his guilt or innocence is decided in court.

In Colorado, people convicted of driving drunk can lose their license, which would likely force the city to fire Van Meter. Atteberry said that's no different than if one of the city’s truck drivers lost his license.

“There’s a process and we’re waiting to see what happens,” Atteberry said today. “We’ll wait and see what the courts have to say, and after that, we’ll see where we go. We have to let the process take its course and (then) dealt with it at the department level.”

The Fort Collins police "Mission & Values" statement says police employees are "endowed with a special level of trust," and that "high ethical standards must prevail in all our interactions with citizens and with each other, and we must strive to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest or compromise of our standards."

DARE Officer Ray Dudley Arrested at Sobriety Checkpoint


A Delaware County sheriff deputy is in trouble after state police arrested him for drunk driving at a sobriety checkpoint.

Officer Ray Dudley, a 10-year veteran of the department, was among 11 people arrested for drunken driving at the police checkpoints. Dudley was driving his personal car early Sunday when he was arrested with a blood alcohol content of .10. The legal limit in Indiana is .08.

Ironically, Dudley is also a DARE officer for the department, who speaks in schools about the dangers of substance abuse.

The department said no one was available to comment on Dudley's arrest Tuesday. In addition to criminal charges, he could also face disciplinary action.

Tuesday, public reaction to the arrest - particularly given Dudley's role as a DARE officer - was swift.

"I'd say he needs to practice what he preaches," said Muncie resident Sandy Stewart.

"The law pertains to everybody and not just certain people. The law in Indiana says no drinking and driving. That pretty much covers itself," said retired deputy Rex McCoy.

"My child's not in school, he's four," said Amanda Harper. "Once he goes to school, I wouldn't want that kind of person saying, 'Don't do this', when they turn around and do it."

State Police say they'll continue drunk driving patrols and checkpoints through the summer. They conducted checkpoints Thursday and Saturday. Dudley was pulled over and arrested by a trooper working Saturday night.

He was released from jail on bond and has been placed on administrative duties in the department pending an investigation.

Florida Officer Fired for Lying

As expected, suspended Key West police officer Thomas Neary was fired Wednesday for telling people he was an undercover federal agent investigating corruption in the Police Department and looking into possible terrorist attacks.

The department put Neary on paid administrative leave Oct. 26 after FBI Special Agent Kevin White interviewed him about the complaints. Interim Police Chief Donie Lee recommended firing Neary in May, but Lee was waiting for consent from City Attorney Shawn Smith to draft a termination letter.

Wednesday, Lee sent the nine-page letter highlighting the department's allegations against Neary and his uncooperative behavior in an Internal Affairs investigation after his suspension.

On May 29, Capt. Frank Sauer wrote his finding of facts on the Neary case, stating "there is a preponderance of evidence that officer Thomas Neary did represent himself falsely as: an agent, associate, representative or operative of the federal government...."

Sauer's findings also stated that Neary, a Big Pine Key resident, convinced fellow and former officers and a supervisor that "this information was to be kept confidential between him and the witness officers."

For those reasons and others, Neary's behavior was deemed "unbecoming conduct" but not "unlawful conduct."

The letter also states that Neary's attorney, Michael Barnes, sent a list of "an additional 112 witnesses that he now wanted to be interviewed, including Officer Neary." Barnes has refused to discuss the case with the Keynoter.

The Neary investigation even involved bugging Lt. Kathleen Ream's office to record conversations she had with him. Transcripts from the bugging show some statements that indicate Neary told Ream he and his wife are federal agents. Barnes has questioned the validity of those transcripts, saying the department altered them.

Some of the alleged statements in the investigative summary have Neary talking about high-ranking law enforcement officers and city officials.

In a casual conversation before the investigation began, "Officer Neary told [detective Bradley Lariz] that he had [City Commissioner Mark Rossi's] plane and house bugged and that they were watching him. He also told Lariz that he was watching and doing an investigation on Sgt. Robert Allen."

It's not clear what he was inferring with Rossi, but with Allen, he allegedly accused the sergeant of transporting drugs to Cuba in a police boat.

"It's just incredible." Rossi said. "It's just incredible allegations."

Neary and Barnes didn't show up for Neary's predetermination hearing last week and refused to participate when they attended a scheduled interview for the Internal Affairs investigation in May.

The city's investigation followed one conducted by the FBI into the same claims. The FBI said the evidence against Neary didn't rise to the level of criminal.

Accused Jail Officers Plead Not Guilty

Four Fayette County Detention Center officers and one former officer pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday to charges they beat inmates and conspired to cover it up.

The FBI and the U.S. Justice Department have been investigating the jail at least since September 2006, when federal officers executed a search warrant at the jail.

Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry, who was elected after the investigation began, says the city has taken measures to provide a safe facility for employees and inmates. He says the employees with be suspended with pay, pending further investigation.

Indicted were Sgt. John McQueen, Cpl. Clarence McCoy, former Cpl. Scott Tyree, Sgt. Anthony Estep and Lt. Kristine Lafoe. Tyree no longer works at the jail, but the mayor's office says he will be suspended with pay from his job at the Town Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The indictment alleges the five conspired to assault inmates without justification and to cover it up by filing false reports and charges.