Saturday, December 06, 2008

Officer Paul Ewing Indicted on 5 Counts of Indecent Liberties with Minor


A former city police officer was indicted Thursday on five counts each of indecent liberties with a minor and production of child pornography, the department reported.

Paul Alonzo Ewing, of the 600 block of Shenandoah St., was a four-year veteran when he resigned in October, shortly after being arrested and charged with raping a 16-year-old acquaintance almost two years earlier. Thursday’s indictments were in addition to the rape charge, which is still pending a court hearing, police said.

A special prosecutor will be appointed to handle the case, the city commonwealth’s attorney’s office has said.

Rookie Bryan Pour Charged with Aggravated Battery with Firearm


An off-duty St. Louis police rookie was wrong to shoot a man in a fight outside an Illinois bar, a Madison County grand jury said, and a Pontoon Beach officer was justified to shoot a different officer in the aftermath.

Bryan Pour, fired by the St. Louis police after the Nov. 9 incident, was indicted on a charge of aggravated battery with a firearm. Two of three city officers with him that night — including the one who got shot by a Pontoon Beach officer — were fired Friday.

Nobody was killed in the early morning melee outside Mac N Mick's Sports Bar & Grill, 5240 Nameoki Road in Pontoon Beach.

"Alcohol and weapons do not mix, and incidents like this will not be tolerated regardless of the fact that police officers were involved," Madison County State's Attorney William Mudge said Friday.

Pour, 26, graduated at the top of his Police Academy class in July and was assigned to the 4th District, downtown. If convicted, he could face a prison term of six to 30 years. He was arrested Friday in Edwardsville and released from jail on $100,000 bond.

"This was a difficult case to sort out due to the chaotic nature of the incident," Mudge said. Illinois State Police handled the investigation.

The charges and a statement from Mudge's office provided a clearer picture of an incident that began with four off-duty St. Louis officers celebrating a birthday and engagement.

Officials said Pour was intoxicated, got involved in a dispute outside the bar and shot Jeffrey Bladdick in the chest with a department-issued Beretta pistol as Bladdick "tried to alleviate the situation."

Officials said Pontoon Beach police were called shortly after 1 a.m. regarding a fight. They arrived to find Bladdick wounded and people in the lot.

"Attempting to secure the scene, officers observed armed individuals and ordered them to drop their weapons," Mudge's statement said. "One person, Christopher Hantak, 23, an off-duty St. Louis police officer who was not in uniform and was reportedly intoxicated, did not comply and was shot by Pontoon Beach police Officer Aaron Morgan when he pointed his weapon in the direction of Morgan. The grand jury found that Officer Morgan's actions were justified."

St. Louis police announced Friday that Hantak and Officer Philip Meyer were dismissed as a result of their involvement in the incident. Pour was fired Nov. 10.

State Police Lt. Jim Morrisey said Friday that Bladdick, 25, of Granite City, and Hantak are recovering from their wounds. He said that Bladdick is getting outpatient treatment and that Hantak is expected to be moved from a hospital to a rehabilitation center soon.

Pour's attorney, Albert Watkins, contends that his client acted in self-defense. He told a reporter after the shootings that Pour was walking across the parking lot when he was attacked by two people who struck him on the head with a metal bar and knocked him down.

As they continued to beat him, Watkins said, Pour reached for his gun in his rear waistband and fired it, mistakenly hitting Bladdick, who was trying to help him.

The prosecutor's statement Friday said Pour had no visible injuries when he was arrested at the scene but suffered a self-inflicted head injury after being placed in a police vehicle.

St. Louis police spokeswoman Erica Van Ross said Friday that the fourth city officer present that night remains on administrative duties pending completion of an internal affairs investigation. He was not carrying a weapon that night, she said.

Mudge's statement said, "I urge the St. Louis City Police Department to adopt stricter policies regarding the possession and use of department-issued weapons while its officers are off-duty."

Van Ross said Missouri law prohibits possession of a firearm while intoxicated.

Watkins said Friday that Pour's indictment was "absolutely no surprise" because the grand jury needed only a "shred of evidence" to begin the prosecution.

But he said Pour's arrest Friday was unexpected. He said his client was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury Friday but instead was arrested on a suppressed indictment handed up Thursday. Pour wanted to testify but wasn't afforded that opportunity, Watkins said.

More Information:

Deputy Alan Welch Arrested for DUI

A Lee County Sheriff's deputy was arrested early Thursday morning on a charge of DUI, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

Alan George Welch, 47, is a corrections officer at the Lee County jail facility on Ortiz Road, according to Capt. Tom Eberhardt, the jail commander.

According to a dispatch report, FHP trooper Robert Ellis stopped Welch at the 118 mile marker of Interstate 75 around 12 a.m. Friday. Welch was driving a Nissan truck, the report said. He was arrested at 12:11 a.m. and charged with DUI, and his truck was towed, the report said.

Welch was hired in February 2006 and worked at the stockade before being moved to the core facility, Eberhardt said. He worked the 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift, and was scheduled to work today.

Following his arrest, Welch was held in the downtown jail until about 9:30 a.m., when he posted bond, Eberhardt said. The arrest appears to be his first.

Officer Francis Estrada Admits to Drunk Driving to Years Earlier

Francis J. Estrada was so drunk one night three years ago that he blacked out and drove the wrong way down Interstate 5. He smashed into a pickup and sideswiped two more vehicles before driving away.

Witnesses caught his license plate, and although a warrant was issued, Estrada didn't surrender until nearly two years later.

Until then, he continued his work as a Seattle police officer. And it wasn't until his superiors discovered the warrant through a routine review of employee records that Estrada appeared in court and answered the charges against him.

Estrada, 36, said Wednesday that he has agreed to resign in lieu of termination this month amid a lengthy internal investigation into why he never reported the incident. His resignation, effective Dec. 16, ends a 14-year career that was once regarded as exceptional.

Estrada faced no felony charges because no one was seriously hurt in the collisions on Oct. 22, 2005. Last May, Estrada entered a deferred prosecution on charges of reckless driving and hit-and-run, both gross misdemeanors. As part of the deal, he agreed to attend alcohol counseling, pay a $1,500 fine and stay clean for two years. The Seattle Police Officers' Guild also agreed to forgo an appeal of disciplinary charges.

In an interview on Wednesday, Estrada said that he was drunk and blacked out, and that he didn't know he'd been charged because a summons from Snohomish County was mailed to his old address. The prosecutor and Seattle police officials say his explanation is plausible.

"I'm thankful every day that I didn't kill or hurt somebody," Estrada told the Seattle P-I. "Trust me, there were some dark days there. This has been a life-changing experience for me."

Kathryn Olson, who heads the Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability, declined to comment because of an open internal investigation.

"It's just one of those things where something was sent to the wrong address and he had never been made aware of it," said Sgt. Rich O'Neill, the police guild president.

The first collision happened after 10:15 p.m. on a Saturday. Estrada was near Marysville on his way home from a wedding reception, and state troopers had just been dispatched to reports of a driver heading south in the northbound lanes of I-5.

Estrada had apparently sideswiped a pickup heading north. In his statement, the driver, Michael Dean of Marysville, said that "the car in front of me swerved hard right and I saw headlights heading right at me."

Dean jerked hard to the left and at the last second, Estrada pulled right. But Estrada's Toyota 4Runner clipped Dean's side mirror and shattered his window, according to a State Patrol report.

The wrong-way driver continued south, slamming into a silver Dodge Dakota and smashing its front end. The vehicle's air bags blew out. A woman and a toddler were taken to Everett Providence Medical Center as a precaution.

The wrong-way driver then turned onto state Route 529, north of Everett. About a half-mile later, on a narrow bridge over the Steamboat Slough, he sideswiped another pickup.

Estrada was momentarily blocked in by other traffic. As Estrada turned around, witnesses copied down his license plate number. A passenger in the second pickup also got a good look at the driver and later picked Estrada's face from a montage of state licensing photos, according to the trooper's report.

The investigating trooper wasn't able to find a working phone number for Estrada, and had to cancel a trip to Seattle a few days later after arresting another drunken driver on the way, said Trooper Keith Leary, an agency spokesman.

The investigator believed he had sufficient evidence for charges without having to personally contact the suspect.

The case wasn't forwarded to detectives because no one was seriously hurt and the property damage was low, Leary said.

"We'll go to the ends of the Earth to try and solve these things. If we can't find them and we have the necessary information to file a charge, we'll go forth and file that charge," Leary said.

Estrada said he doesn't know how he made it home to Seattle that night. About two blocks from his house, he jumped the curb and struck a guardrail and telephone pole, which blew out two tires and broke his mirror, he said. He presumed that's when he did all the damage to his sport utility vehicle.

Charges were filed almost a year later. The Seattle Police Department didn't find out until June 2007, when the warrant was flagged during an annual background review -- standard for all employees. Then, Estrada was restricted to office duty as his superiors launched an inquiry into whether he tried to cover it up. He's been off for the last two months, collecting sick and vacation time.

He never had a reason to run his own name in the system, Estrada said. "Once I found out about it, I took full responsibility," he said, noting that he's been in counseling since March. "I was as shocked as anybody when I found out I had a warrant for so long."

Estrada said he didn't drink frequently, but in retrospect, he sees he had a worsening problem with how much he drank during social occasions.

His drinking was exacerbated by personal and financial stress, much of it related to a high-profile shooting he'd been involved in a month before, he said. He and Officer Greg Neubert returned fire after a man shot into a Belltown crowd from a passing motorcycle. The gunman was hit as well as a bystander caught in the crossfire. Both survived their injuries.

O'Neill, the guild president, said most officers with a first-time DUI usually get suspended with a second chance at keeping their job. He said Estrada's only gain by resigning is that his record won't show he was fired.

"Unfortunately, it's still a fact that police work is very stressful and that some people deal with the stress in unhealthy ways," O'Neill said.

For now, Estrada keeps his state law enforcement certification but his disciplinary records would be available to other agencies, should he seek police work elsewhere.

Estrada, a former Army Ranger, said he thinks he got into police work for the "right reasons," but knows now it is time to move on.

"There are no excuses for what I did. I knew better. But I have nothing to hide. I made a mistake and I owned up to it."