Thursday, September 18, 2008

Deputy Justin Colton's Driving Record Being Questioned


A Payne County deputy's driving record is being questioned after he wrecked a law enforcement vehicle for the third time in his career, officials said.

Payne County Deputy Justin Colton totaled his car last month while responding to a call. His driving records show it's the third time he has crashed a government vehicle.

On August 19, Colton was en route to a call for help when he lost control of his unit and slammed into a tree just outside Stillwater. A report by the highway patrol stated Colton was distracted by his police radio when he crashed.

The 29-year-old was trapped for over an hour, but survived the crash.

Sheriff Noel Bagwell said the close call wasn't the first time Colton totaled a cruiser.

In April, he survived a crash near Cushing. Troopers said the deputy was on patrol when he left the road and flipped the car.

OHP said Colton fell asleep at the wheel. His wife said he suffers from sleep apnea and the sheriff said Colton was treated for it.

"Highway patrol worked that accident and we've done an investigation," Bagwell said. "He went to his doctors and things for his safety and ours as well."

In 2003, now-retired Sheriff Carl Hiner first hired Colton as a jailer, but he was fired following an arrest for drinking and driving. The case was dismissed due to a technicality in the paper work filed.

In 2005, Colton was hired by the Stroud Police Department as a patrol officer, despite having a driving record that included speeding, illegal passing and seat belt violations.

In 2006, Colton was still with the city of Stroud when he wrecked his first police car.

A year later, in 2007, Colton went back to the Payne County Sheriff's Office where then-Sheriff Hiner re-hired Colton, almost four years after he was fired for driving drunk.

In a telephone interview, Hiner said Colton was "a kid" when he was picked up for the DUI and only a jailer, and had since "changed" and wanted to give him "a second chance."

Bagwell won't comment on Colton's future with the sheriff's office, but he said he does plan to give his deputies more training behind the wheel.

"There will be some refresher driver training courses as time goes on for everybody in our department that drives a unit," Bagwell said.

Colton's wife said accidents are common among patrol officers due to the large amount of time they spend on the roads.

She also said Colton's last accident was more than likely due to a mechanical defect in the car he was driving.

Questions Emerge Over Police Conduct in St. Paul

It has been more than a week since the Republican National Convention ended, and in many ways life in St. Paul is back to normal. Tear gas no longer clouds the streets, windows shattered by protesters have been replaced, and the thousands of visitors have left town.

But questions are now emerging about the tactics that the police used to control the many rallies and marches that took place. Last Wednesday city officials appointed two former federal prosecutors to review the planning and strategies used by the police before and during the convention.

Tom Walsh, a spokesman for the St. Paul police department, said Monday that the officers had performed well in unusual conditions, sometimes facing hundreds who he said were intent on disrupting the convention or damaging property.

“No one was treated for a serious injury,” Mr. Walsh said. “You’re going to see that the amount of force used, in my view, matched the need.”

Mayor Chris Coleman said in an interview last week that the two former prosecutors looking into the incidents would conduct a broad overview without looking into specific complaints.

“Were going to look at the planning and implementation of security and public safety measures during the convention,” Mayor Coleman said. “I think we did have a safe and successful convention.”

For many St. Paul residents, the four days of the convention were turbulent ones for their tranquil and stately city overlooking the Mississippi River. There were nonviolent rallies, acts of vandalism and sporadic confusion and disorder, all taking place against the unfamiliar backdrop of streets lined with tall metal fences and patrolled by officers from more than 100 agencies, including some in riot gear or on horseback .

Although most of the demonstrations were peaceful, small groups of masked figures smashed windows, attacked a police car and knocked an officer to the ground on the first day of the convention. Ultimately, more than 800 people, including about two dozen credentialed journalists, were arrested. Dozens more were handcuffed and photographed without being accused of any crime. And police officers in some instances used pepper spray, tear gas, bullets made of plastic and foam and flash grenades that exploded with a burst of light and a sharp bang.

In a city with a history of good relations with its police, some people have found the strategies employed during the convention discomfiting, said Dave Thune, a St. Paul city councilman, who received complaints from residents arrested in police sweeps or engulfed by clouds of gas.

As a result, Mr. Thune is organizing a meeting to discuss just what took place.

“When clearly the bulk of the peaceful people weren’t joining in a riot, why did we have to go to the extent of using tear gas and percussion grenades?” he said. “People weren’t supposed to get trapped by police or forced into situations where they could be arrested.”

The last two Republican conventions, held in Philadelphia and New York, were also marked by arrests and recriminations. New York City still faces more than 500 federal court claims stemming from police tactics.

While 1,800 people were arrested at that 2004 convention, there were a proportionately high number of arrests in St. Paul, where the protests were much smaller. In addition, critics say, the use of chemicals have set this convention apart.

“It was an unprecedented show of police presence and display of force,” said Bruce Nestor, the president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which is defending many of those arrested. “Minnesota has never seen this level of militarization of local police.”

Law enforcement officials raided homes and made arrests even before the convention began. The Ramsey County Sheriff’s office, which is based in St. Paul, said the homes it searched were inhabited by people connected to an anarchist organization called the R.N.C. Welcoming Committee.

Eight people described by the authorities as members of the group were accused of conspiracy to commit riot in furtherance of terrorism based on statements by confidential informants who told investigators that the group had discussed kidnapping delegates and sabotaging an airport.

Lawyers for the defendants say the charges are baseless and have questioned the reliability of statements made by the informants, including one who the authorities say was paid by law enforcement.

During the convention, hundreds of officers wearing helmets with visors and armored vests and carrying long wooden sticks monitored large marches, some of which took place without a city permit. On at least three occasions the police fired 40-millimeter projectiles while dispersing or arresting the groups. Tear gas and pepper spray were used more frequently.

Some of those arrested said they were not participating in demonstrations, but were simply onlookers or journalists.

On the final night of the convention, as Senator John McCain was preparing to address delegates inside the Xcel Energy Center, the police prevented marchers who did not have a permit from crossing two bridges that led to the convention center. Later, as demonstrators took to the streets near the state capitol, the police lobbed flash grenades into the crowd while thick plumes of tear gas clouded the air. Then, several hundred demonstrators and more than a dozen journalists were directed onto a third bridge, where they were ordered to sit and place their hands on their heads.

Those trapped on the bridge included two reporters for The Associated Press, a photographer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and two Fox News editors.

“At some point even a journalist has to recognize that they are in violation of the law,” Tom Walsh, a St. Paul Police spokesman, said as the arrests were taking place. “Are they going to get arrested or are they going to cover it from a distance?”

Officer Warren K Rivers Caught Stealing Gas

A Sahuarita police officer accused of stealing gasoline from a Pima County pump had his peace officer certification revoked Wednesday.

Warren K. Rivers, 44, resigned last October from the department after working there for nearly 15 months. Prior to working in Sahuarita, Rivers was employed by the Pima Community College Department of Public Safety for seven years.

His certification was revoked as a result of an incident that occurred last September, according to a document from the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training board.

On Sept. 18, 2007, Sahuarita Police Officer Belinda Roach approached gas pumps that are shared by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office.

As she drove up, she saw Rivers putting gas into his personal vehicle, the document said.

When Rivers saw Roach, he quickly replaced the hose and left the area without turning the lights on to his vehicle, the document stated.

Roach reported the incident to her chain of command and an internal investigation was launched.

Rivers who was on duty at the time admitted to pumping gas into his own personal vehicle. He was placed on suspension with pay before he resigned.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department took care of the criminal investigation, which resulted in Rivers completing a court ordered diversion program and the theft charges were dismissed.

Because the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training board revoked his certification, Rivers can no longer work as a peace officer in Arizona.

Former Officer Ronald Whitworth Jr Arrested for Sexual Abuse of Child


A former Anniston police officer is in jail in Shelby County without bond on charges including rape, sexual abuse and child endangerment.

Sheriff's Capt. Eric Burchfield said Ronald Loyd Whitworth Jr. was arrested May 4, following reports of sexual abuse, and also charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Anniston Police Chief John Dryden said Whitworth worked for the police several years ago, before leaving for a job near Birmingham.

Whitworth failed to appear in court on Aug. 19 and was later arrested in Washington.

Officer Matthew Chambers Arrested for Selling Roxicodone


A University of Tennessee-Knoxville police officer has been charged with selling prescription drugs.

WBIR-TV reports that Officer Matthew Chambers was arrested Wednesday at UT Police Department headquarters on charges he sold the drug Roxicodone to an undercover Knoxville police officer.

Knoxville police were not saying when or where the sale took place.

The investigation began when Knoxville police received a tip from an informant in early August.

Chambers has been a UT-Knoxville police officer for less than two years. He was placed on paid leave, his police powers were suspended and he turned in his badge and firearm.

Information from WBIR-TV, Knoxville,

Former Officer John Leggett Accused of Burying 8 Puppies Alive

Fayetteville, N.C.

A Superior Court judge says that a former city police officer accused of burying eight puppies alive must face trial on felony animal cruelty charges despite having paid fines to Cumberland County for violating a county animal cruelty ordinance.

John Leggett's attorney, Bruce Cunningham, had argued that because Leggett paid $800 in fines for county ordinance violations, prosecution on the charges that a grand jury brought in October would be double jeopardy.

Judge Jack Thomas rejected the argument in a ruling Monday.

County animal control agents accused Leggett, who breeds hunting dogs, of burying the puppies on his property in Cedar Creek. Two died. The other six and their mother were seized so they could be put up for adoption.

More Information on Officer Dannie Marchan


Officer Dannie Marchan, 29, was trying to get his wife back, family members told the Chicago Tribune this week.

The off-duty Chicago police officer shot and killed himself Monday after shooting his two children, killing one.

Police believe Marchan was having a domestic dispute with his ex-wife when the shooting occured. The officer divorced in 2005 and shared custody of his two children, according to court records.

Police surmised that he shot his son and daughter, and then turned the gun on himself Monday.

His daughter, 7-year-old Alizay, died from a gunshot wound to her head. Her 9-year-old brother was recovering Tuesday at a hospital.

Police said Marchan had been with the department about four years. He was off-duty when the shootings happened Monday morning.

The Tribune reported Wednesday that the 29-year-old was the youngest of eight children, raised in Pilsen. His family was stunned by Monday's events, saying there had been no indication that their youngest sibling would become violent.

"I know he wanted to get back together (with his wife) for the kids' sake. He really loved her a lot," the shooter's brother, Javier Marchan, said. But a a reunion didn't appear likely, he added.

Javier Marchan told the Tribune that his brother had wanted to be a police officer since he was a kid.

On Monday, ofiicers and a SWAT team responded to a "shots fired" call at the officer's home in the Brighton Park neighborhood at about 10:45 a.m., department spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

When officers arrived, a woman outside told them that there were children in the one-story brick house and that she'd heard shots.

"You could hear moans from within the residence," First Deputy Superintendent James Jackson said.

SWAT officers rushed into the house, finding the dead officer with an apparent self-inflicted shot to his head. The two children were found in separate area of the home. Bond said it appeared that all had been shot with the same handgun.

The children were taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where the boy remained in critical condition Tuesday.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said Alizay Marchan was pronounced dead at 11:52 a.m. Monday.

Police said the officer who took his own life lived at the house, but they did not know if the two children lived there as well. Officials with the city's Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates all police shootings, also were on scene.

Jonathan Arenas, 26, who lives two blocks away, said he was walking by the residence when he saw SWAT officers rush into the building. He said he also saw blood on the two children as paramedics brought them out on stretchers.

"All the cops were running back and forth," Arenas said. "That's when they took the two children."

The officer's estranged wife was not in the home at the time of the shooting.

More Information:

Officer Jacob Pfeffer Charged with Communicating Threats

(Pfeffer on right)


A Hope Mills police officer has been placed on administrative leave without pay after being charged with communicating threats.

The officer, Jacob Pfeffer, was placed on leave Aug. 22, said Kim Lockamy, human resources director for the town.

Pfeffer, 27, has been with the department since August 2004.

The town became aware of a complaint that had been filed against him Aug. 26.

“If there is any type of criminal summons, then it would be a normal procedure to suspend this person with administrative leave without pay pending an investigation and the outcome of the proceedings,” Lockamy said.

An internal investigation is being done, Lockamy said. That investigation is being conducted by Police Chief John Hodges.

Hodges could not be reached for comment, but Capt. John Smith said it was a personnel matter that could not be discussed.

Robert Ellis filed the complaint with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. It was not clear what his relationship is to Pfeffer.

Pfeffer is scheduled to appear in Cumberland County District Court Oct. 6.

UpDate: Officer Cpl. Cosby Fired for Choking Man


A police officer accused choking a man during a traffic stop is out of a job tonight.

The Mount Juliet Police Department fired Cpl. William Cosby Wednesday.

Mount Juliet Police Chief Andy Garrett finished his internal investigation earlier this week.

On Wednesday morning, he met with Cosby, handed him a termination letter and fired him.

During a traffic stop in April, Cosby believed James Anders, Jr. tried to hide marijuana in his mouth. The officer used a choke hold to get Anders to spit it out. Anders eventually lost consciousness.

No marijuana was found in his mouth and a blood test for the drug was negative.

"He was terminated and one of the policies he was terminated was with handling of citizens and prisoners," Garrett said.

Garrett said he fired Cosby during a morning meeting.

"He was professional. He stated he understood," Garrett said. "He was presented with a letter from the city manager that concurred with my findings."

Cosby still faces criminal charges in the case.

Two weeks ago, a Wilson County grand jury indicted him on two counts of aggravated assault and one count of perjury.

Cosby is also being sued by Anders in federal court for $1 million for violating his civil rights.

His attorney believes the tape says it all.

"This video should be shown to trainees. This ain't how things are done," said Anders' attorney Gary Vandever.

Garrett said part of his investigation included new training for his officers.

"We went ahead and took care of retraining the whole department including Officer Cosby in other techniques to use to prevent the ingestion of evidence," he said.

Cosby is not a civil service employee so there is not an appeals process.

However, he is entitled to a hearing with City Manager Randy Robertson within 10 days.

Cosby has been in Louisiana for the last couple of weeks serving with the Tennessee National Guard.

When he returned earlier this week, he turned himself in at the Wilson County jail. He is free on a $5,000 bond.

Correctional Officer Michael Clark Arrested for Sexual Assault


A correctional officer for a state prison facility in Las Cruces was arrested Wednesday, accused of sexual assault.

Michael Clark, 42, an officer at Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility, was charged with one count of third-degree criminal sexual penetration, Mesilla Marshal Angelo Vega said.

Clark is accused of assaulting a woman with whom he a previous relationship early Monday in Mesilla.

Clark was booked into the Doña Ana County Detention Center on $10,000 bond.

Tia Bland, spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Corrections, said Clark has been an officer since 1988. He will likely be placed on administrative leave from his job, a standard practice when an officer faces felony charges.

Bland said the Department of Corrections will also conduct its own internal investigation.