Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chief West Resigns and Capt. Stewart Arrested


Indicted on two perjury counts, Haines City police Capt. Mervin Stewart, left, is escorted by Polk County sheriff's Deputy Bryan Mixon to central booking at the Polk County Sheriff's Office in Bartow late this afternoon.

Haines City Police Chief Morris West resigned Wednesday and Capt. Mervin Stewart, the department’s second in command, was indicted Thursday as a lengthy investigation into the department came to a close.

Stewart was indicted and arrested Thursday afternoon on perjury charges stemming from statements he made denying claims of sexual harassment by a female officer as well as not admitting to having had a sexual relationship with a different female officer.

West, who was indicted Oct. 24 on two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution, was given an offer by the State Attorney’s Office to avoid prosecution if he resigned and gave up his police standards. That means he will not be able to serve as a certified law enforcement officer, said Chip Thullbery, a spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office in Bartow.

West’s charges were unrelated to those of Stewart.

Under the agreement, West must notify the State Attorney’s Office of any address change and not violate any federal, state or local law.

The Haines City Police Department has been under the direction of Maj. Mike Pruitt of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, who was appointed by City Manager Ann Toney-Deal after West’s indictment two weeks ago.

Stewart, 43, was arrested around 4 p.m. Thursday after receiving a grand jury indictment on two counts of perjury related to testimony made Nov. 6 before the grand jury. He had been suspended with pay on Nov. 7.

According to the indictment, the first count refers to false statements Stewart made before the grand jury about a sexual harassment complaint filed by Haines City police Officer Nicole Gusaeff. Stewart told the grand jury that he did not, during the evening of April 12, put his arm around Gusaeff at a local bar following the Policeman’s Ball.

In the second count, Stewart is accused of lying under oath about an alleged sexual relationship with Officer Emelynda Hernandez, the indictment states. Hernandez also was suspended with pay on Nov. 7 but she resigned Monday.

Stewart had been with the Haines City Police Department since 1991. Hernandez joined the department in 2003.

Though the indictments for West and Stewart are unrelated, they stemmed from the same investigation the State Attorney’s Office began in August, Thullbery said.

West’s indictment alleges that he solicited 31-year old Kimberly Latrice Willis Ambrose to commit prostitution three times in 2007 between Nov. 22 and Dec. 25. He was not arrested because the charges were misdemeanors.

West had been with the Haines City Police Department since 1985 when he was hired as a patrolman. He served as detective, sergeant and lieutenant before being appointed interim police chief when former Police Chief Tom Wheeler retired. West, a Haines City native, became police chief in August 2003. At the time of his resignation, he was paid an annual salary of $72,519.07.

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Officer Glenn Mearls Arrested for DWI


An off-duty Farmington Police officer apparently impaired by sleep medications was arrested Wednesday after crashing his truck into two city vehicles parked at the police station, authorities said.

Officer Glenn Mearls, a bomb squad officer and 14-year department veteran, was charged with DWI after the crash, which occurred around 8 a.m., state police Lt. Dan Becker said.

New Mexico State Police officers determined the 43-year-old officer was impaired on prescription medication after conducting field sobriety tests. State police investigated the crash to ensure no conflict of interest between the officer and Farmington Police.

Police are waiting on lab tests to confirm what medication Mearls had taken, but the drug is believed to be a sleep aid, Becker said.

"He was cooperative throughout the whole thing," the state police lieutenant said.

The crash caused moderate damage to a city-owned code compliance officer truck and minor damage to an information technology department vehicle, Assistant City Manager Bob Campbell said.

Damage to the code compliance truck was serious enough that the vehicle had to be taken out of service.

"It's not street worthy any longer," Campbell said. "We will submit those damage claims to the officer's personal vehicle insurer for reimbursement to the city."

Farmington Police have initiated an internal investigation of the impaired-driving crash. In addition to department policy violations, Farmington officials are investigating why Mearls was at the police station parking lot while off-duty.
Farmington Police Chief Jim Runnels said Mearls was scheduled to work an overnight shift Tuesday night before the crash, but Mearls may have taken the day off.

"He should have been at work, but I didn't see him (Tuesday)," Runnels said. "I don't know if he took a vacation day or something like that."

Mearls was scheduled to go back on duty at 4 p.m.Wednesday, but was placed on administrative leave with pay following his arrest.

He was released from custody at the San Juan County Detention Center on $1,000 bond Wednesday.

Mearls was not available for comment. Contact information for the officer is not publicly listed.

The drug-influenced crash is the third DWI-related incident involving a Farmington Police officer in less than a year.

"Even though police officers are held to a higher standard, they are human," Runnels said. "We've got almost 130 officers, so are we any different than any other company that has 130 people as far as employees that have been arrested for DWI? I don't know.

"But I can tell you we're going to certainly take a hard look at it now."

Officer Ricardo Morrison Charged with Murder Released on Bail

A West Midlands police officer arrested after the murder of a teenage model has been released on bail.

Amy Leigh Barnes, 19, was found stabbed at her home in Farnworth, Bolton, Greater Manchester, on Saturday. She was taken to hospital but later died.

Ricardo Morrison, 21, originally from Birmingham, has been charged with her murder and remanded in custody.

A 49-year-old woman officer arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender has now been bailed until 6 January.

She serves with the West Midlands force.

A post-mortem examination concluded that Ms Barnes died as a result of stab wounds.

She had modelled for Cosmopolitan and Nuts Magazine and had appeared in Channel 4 teen soap, Hollyoaks.

More than 2,500 people have joined a Facebook group in tribute to the model and actress.

Officer Ron Jones is Under Investigation for Assault and Battery


A city police officer is under investigation for an alleged assault and battery while off duty at a Halloween weekend party west of Sand Springs.

The officer, identified as Ron Jones, an eight-year veteran of the Sand Springs Police Department, is now on paid suspension while the city conducts an internal affairs investigation.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, meanwhile, is doing its own criminal investigation into the case and may soon forward its report to the prosecutor’s office for possible action.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Jeffrey Scott Youngblood, 37, of Sand Springs suffered a concussion and a broken nose during the party and required hospitalization for two days.

The incident occurred around 1 a.m. Nov. 2 at the 220th W. Avenue home of Joseph Christensen, another Sand Springs police officer.

There were other police officers at the party, and some of them have come forward as witnesses, officials said.

Authorities said there were indications that Youngblood may have been intoxicated at the party and may have have displayed some inappropriate conduct toward Jones’ girlfriend and the wife of another Sand Springs police officer.

When Jones interceded, a scuffle ensued, and Youngblood was apparently knocked to the floor. He was taken by private car to St. John Medical Center in Tulsa.

Sheriff’s Capt. John Bowman said detectives tried questioning Youngblood a few days later, but Youngblood was unable to remember what happened.

Youngblood could not be reached by the Tulsa World for his version of the events. Jones has yet to be questioned by the Sheriff’s Office.

However, once he is questioned, the report on the incident will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office, Bowman said.

Jones’ attorney, Scott Wood of Tulsa, said his client “was acting in self-defense in the altercation with Mr. Youngblood.”

“Mr. Jones regrets the incident, but feels justified in taking the action he did,” Wood said, adding that he expects the officer to be completely exonerated once the investigation is complete.

Assistant Police Chief Mike Carter said the complaint against the officer was filed on Nov. 2 and he was put on suspension with pay, which is a normal routine.

Deputy Stacy Braun Arrested for Drunk Driving

A Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputy is on paid administrative leave after he arrested for suspicion of drunk driving.

According to Wright County officials, Stacy Donald Braun was arrested shortly before 11 p.m. on Tuesday near the intersection of County Road 29 and Parish Avenue Northeast in Otsego.

Officers say a motorist notified them about Braun driving erratically in the area.

Braun was subsequently arrested and booked into the Wright County Jail. After taking a blood sample, he was then released. His blood-alcohol level has not been released.

Braun has not been formally charged.

According to Lisa Kiava with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, Braun has been working for the county since 1993. He is currently on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

Five Jailers Charged with Forcing Inmates to Fight


Five jailers at the Grant County Detention Center have been charged with forcing eight inmates to fight in video-recorded boxing matches.

According to a copyright story in Wednesday's Albuquerque Journal that cited Magistrate Court affidavits, one inmate was knocked out and another suffered a broken hand during the fights on Sept. 13 and 14.

Charged in the case were: Tobias Rodriguez, 30, of Bayard; Casey Young, 29, of Hurley; Erika Jimenez, 28, of Hurley; Gabriel Flores, 20, of Silver City; and John Paul Amador, 32, of Silver City.

Each was charged with eight counts of kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and four counts of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, a second-degree felony.

The five were arraigned Nov. 5 in Magistrate Court. Each was released on an unsecured $60,000 bond.

County Manager Jon Saari said the sheriff's office did an internal investigation into the case. Four of the accused officers are no longer employed by the county, Saari said, and a fifth is on administrative leave.

The inmates were told to fight with boxing gloves in the detention center's sally port but they were not given headgear or mouth guards, according to an affidavit filed by an investigator.

The inmate who suffered a broken hand said he was denied medical attention because officers didn't want anyone to find out how he was injured.

Another inmate told District Attorney's investigator he was forced to fight at least six times on a Saturday night and three more times the next day.

The guards laughed and joked during the matches, then told the inmates not to tell anyone about what had occurred, according to an affidavit.

One inmate reported seeing officers exchange cash before a fight, and another officer told an inmate, "You made me a lot of money."

After the fights, inmates were rewarded with a cigarette.

One of the officers, Jimenez, video-recorded the fights using her cell phone camera, according to court documents. Seventeen video clips of the fights were recovered on her cell phone, a police affidavit says.