Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lawsuit Settled by County for Officer Shooting Unarmed Man

The family of a naked, unarmed man who was fatally shot by an Anne Arundel rookie police officer in 2005 will be paid $90,000 by the county, according to a source familiar with the settlement agreement.

Relatives of Donald E. Coates Jr., the 20-year-old Glen Burnie man who was killed, sued the county for $20 million in June, alleging that Officer Tommy Pleasant acted with "malice" and that the shooting was unjustified.

"They felt that there were a number of factors in the case that indicated that Donald Coates wasn't in a position that he could have caused any harm to this officer," said James L. Rhodes, a lawyer representing the family.

Coates was apparently high on drugs and delusional when police were called to his home May 24, 2005. He fired shots inside the house and then jumped out of a window, stripped and hid behind a utility box.

Officers ordered Coates to surrender, but he ran toward Pleasant, 22, who had been on the police force for nine months. The officer shot Coates four times.

A grand jury did not indict Pleasant on criminal charges, and he remains on the force.

County Attorney Jonathan Hodgson declined to discuss the details of the agreement but said that the settlement would be finalized next week and would bring the case to a close.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz signed off on the settlement this week, Rhodes said.

The family members who brought the lawsuit - Coates' parents and the mothers of his two children - remain "very distraught," Rhodes said.

"The emotion from the family made it seem as if it just happened yesterday," he said.

More Information:

Lieutenant Kenneth Parrish Charged with DUI for the 4th Time

A veteran Prince George's County police lieutenant was charged recently with driving under the influence of alcohol -- for the fourth time this year.

Two of the drunken driving charges against Lt. Kenneth W. Parrish were dropped by county prosecutors, one of them in a plea deal and the other when the arresting officer failed to appear for a court hearing.

Parrish, 44, was suspended with pay in February after he was charged with driving under the influence while operating a county police cruiser off-duty in Laurel. Acting county Police Chief Roberto Hylton said that police officials take Parrish's conduct seriously and that internal investigations are continuing.

"We understand this is a public safety issue," Hylton said.

In the most recent incident, Parrish was arrested Friday when Montgomery County police found him asleep behind the wheel of his Cadillac Escalade near a gas pump in Silver Spring, with the car in drive and his foot on the brake pedal, according to a charging document.

A breath test showed that Parrish had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit for driving under the influence, the document says. Parrish was unable to stand on his own and admitted to drinking a half-pint of vodka that morning, the document says.

Efforts to reach Parrish this week were unsuccessful. A lawyer who represented him in some of the previous cases did not return a phone call. The president of the county police union said fellow officers have been attempting in recent days to reach Parrish, without success.

Hylton said Parrish, a 20-year member of the police force, had an exemplary record before the recent arrests. Hylton said Parrish has had a difficult year, struggling with the death of his mother and the breakup of his marriage, events that the chief said prompted the lieutenant to drink excessively.

"He's taken a downward spiral," Hylton said. "Everybody's shocked."

Under the auspices of the police department's employee assistance program, Parrish has been treated for alcohol dependence, and police officials and the police union are trying to reach out to the lieutenant to offer support, Hylton said.

"We are not giving up," Hylton said. "We have offered all sorts of help and counseling. We are going to continue to reach out to him."

Parrish is assigned to the 6th District in Beltsville. If the internal investigations into the four incidents find no wrongdoing, Parrish would still have to be cleared by a departmental medical board before he could return to duty.

Regarding the two drunken driving charges in Prince George's that were dismissed by prosecutors, State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said in a statement that Parrish "has not received any special treatment because of his status on the police force."

Shortly after 2:30 p.m. Friday, Montgomery police were summoned to a Sunoco gas station in the 14000 block of Georgia Avenue. A paramedic tried repeatedly to wake Parrish, who was in the driver's seat, according to the charging document. Eventually, the paramedic shifted the car into park, and a police sergeant took the keys out of the ignition, the document says.

Parrish's speech was slurred and his breath smelled of alcohol, according to the charging document. An initial breath test indicated that Parrish had a blood-alcohol level of 0.29, and a second breath test, administered at a police station, indicated a blood-alcohol level of 0.24.

In addition to driving under the influence, Parrish was charged with driving with a suspended license. He is scheduled to be tried in March, according to court records.

On Feb. 13, in Laurel, Parrish was charged with leaving his vehicle -- a county police cruiser -- in an intersection and with driving while impaired by alcohol. The charges were dropped when the arresting officer did not appear for court.

Laurel police officer Mark Schmidt, who made the arrest, was not aware of the court hearing until after he had missed it, Laurel police spokesman Jimmy Collins said.

Collins said the paperwork alerting Schmidt to the hearing was sent to the Laurel police station on a Saturday for a Monday court date. Schmidt was not in the office and did not get the paperwork until Tuesday, he said.

On July 27, also in Laurel, Parrish was charged with driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license, reckless driving and other traffic offenses.

He pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended license and was fined $142.50, according to court records. The other charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

On Sept. 9, also in Laurel, Parrish was charged with driving under the influence and failing to stop after a motor vehicle accident. That case is scheduled to go to trial in February.

Corrections Officer Arrested for Unlawful Surveillance


A state corrections officer is arrested after installing a camera in his bathroom.

Police say Dennis Koerick Jr., 43, of Antwerp installed a remote control camera in a bathroom at his home to watch guests. Koerick is also accused of then destroying the evidence before State Police arrived.

Koerick is charged with two counts of unlawful surveillance and one count of tampering with physical evidence.

Koerick is an officer at the Gouverneur correctional facility. He is the fourth employee to be arrested since November.

Three civilian employees are accused of having sexual relations with inmates.

Former Sergeant Michelle Wagner Arrested for Stealing from Police Explorers


Newly released reports accuse a former Manchester police sergeant of gambling away nearly all the $19,000 she stole from department youth programs.

The arrest warrant affidavit for 34-year-old Michelle Wagner says she took the money from Police Explorers and child safety seat accounts and spent most of it at the two casinos in eastern Connecticut.

Wagner, who resigned last month, was arraigned Wednesday in Manchester Superior Court on three counts of first-degree larceny and one count of second-degree larceny.

She has not entered a plea.

A call to a number listed in her name in Manchester went unanswered yesterday (Wednesday).

Judge Bradford Ward ordered her to stay away from casinos and seek treatment for gambling.

She is free on a promise to return to court Jan. 15.

Officer Johathan Hammons Arrested for Perjury & Filing False Report

A Cleveland police officer has been arrested and charged with perjury and filing a false report in connection with the shooting of one police officer by another last month.

Officer Jonathan Hammons was arrested Wednesday at the Cleveland Police Department, according to court records.

Hammons was released shortly after his arrest and after posting a $5,000 bond.

The arrest came as the result of an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

TBI Public Information Officer Kristin Helm said she could not release additional information this morning because the investigation is continuing.

A separate internal investigation by the Cleveland Police Department has resulted in two officers being suspended and a third resigning.

A fourth officer, Chris Mason, remains on leave because of the gunshot wound to his hand.

According to Cleveland Police Chief Wes Snyder, officers Hammons and Nathan Thomas were suspended Friday, without pay, pending the results of the investigation.

Officer Dennis Hughes has resigned as a result of the incident and retained an attorney, Snyder said.

The incident was first reported as an accidental shooting.

According to initial reports, Mason and Hammons -- who were on duty -- were at the home of Hughes, who was off duty, shortly before midnight on Nov. 30.

The men were looking at a .38 caliber revolver which was possibly for sale, Snyder said the men told him after the shooting.

"During the handling of the firearm," Snyder said on Dec. 1, "it discharged and struck Mason in the hand . His injury is non-life threatening; however, he possibly will have to undergo some surgery."

Snyder said dual investigations, which do not overlap in anyway, are standard procedure when an officer is involved in a shooting.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations is looking into whether the officers involved committed any criminal act or violated any laws.

The Cleveland Police Department is conducting an internal investigation to determine whether the officers violated any policies of the police department.

Saying he could not comment on the TBI's investigation into possible criminal acts, Snyder said Thomas' involvement came to investigators' attention through the internal investigation.

The officers involved in the incident, he said, had been on the radar of the department's internal investigators for some time.

However, there had not been enough information before the shooting to proceed with a formal investigation of the men's activities.

So far, Snyder said, the internal investigation is indicating the officers falsely reported how the shooting occurred.

The investigation, which he expects to be completed within a week, also indicates the officers likely violated police department policies.

When an officer is believed to have violated the department's policies, Snyder said, the incident is assigned to an investigator in the department's Criminal Investigation Division.

An investigation, much like a criminal investigation -- except focusing on violation of policy, not violation of laws -- ensues.

During the internal investigation, Snyder said, the investigator reports only to the chief of police.

Officer Craig Dennis Arrested for trying to Choke Girlfriend

A Fort Wayne police officer was arrested Wednesday outside a Roanoke bar after sheriff’s officers said he beat his girlfriend and tried to choke her.

Craig Dennis, who has been a city police officer since 2001, was taken to the Huntington County Jail on a misdemeanor battery charge. He posted a $5,000 bond.

Huntington County sheriff’s deputies were called to Lock No. 4 at 4162 E. Station Road in Roanoke early Wednesday to investigate allegations an off-duty Fort Wayne police officer was causing a disturbance, a report said.

Dennis, 30, told a sheriff’s deputy he was “sucker punched” by another bar patron after a scuffle broke out. Dennis’ girlfriend then got into another man’s car, which upset Dennis, the report said.

She told police she and Dennis had a few drinks at the bar, after which Dennis became upset and began to get physical with her in the bar.

At one point Dennis clasped his hands around her throat and threatened to kill her, she told deputies.

The woman also told deputies that Dennis, her boyfriend of two years, had become physical with her on other occasions but promised “that it will not happen again,” the report said.

Four eyewitnesses signed statements verifying they saw Dennis become abusive at the bar, court records state.

Dennis, who is a patrol officer on the city’s northwest side, was suspended twice this year.

On one occasion, he violated the department’s sick-leave policy. On a second occasion, he was absent without leave, according to department records.

In both 2003 and 2008, Dennis received letters of reprimand for police vehicle crashes.

In 2008, he received a reprimand for submission of reports, according to department records.

Dennis received an award of excellence in 2002.

Police Chief Rusty York said Dennis was placed on paid leave Thursday.

“We will be taking his status up with the board of safety at their next meeting,” York said. “We will wait and follow that investigation and pretty much base where we go from there.”

That meeting is scheduled for Jan. 5.

Dennis faces up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine if convicted of the misdemeanor battery charge.

Officer Anthony Miller Charged with Possessing Child Porn


Wisconsin prosecutors have charged a Minnesota police officer with possessing child pornography.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice says 40-year-old Anthony T. Miller is an 11-year veteran of the Police Department in Hastings, Minn.

Wisconsin Justice Department agents and local police arrested Miller at his home in New Richmond on Tuesday. The agency says Miller acknowledged downloading, possessing and trading child pornography for the past two years. He also acknowledged using his personal laptop while on duty to access unencrypted wireless networks around Hastings.

He is charged with one count of possession of child pornography and one count of sexual exploitation of a child.

Online court records did not list his case or an attorney. His home number was unlisted.

More Information:

Police Turned Predators

Here and across the county, sexual misconduct by police officers is a hidden crime, poorly investigated and often unpunished. An Inquirer review found more than 400 examples over the past five years of police turned predators. From New York to Los Angeles and in this region, from Bucks County to Burlington County, rogue police have used their badges to exploit women and extort sex.

The cases form a chilling pattern: The abusers tend to target vulnerable women such as prostitutes, drug users or those who have been drinking, knowing the victims probably won’t be believed even if they complain. Many victims never come forward at all.

Extorting sex with a badge

This article on police officers who extort sex gave an incorrect neighborhood for a police stop at Torresdale Avenue and Levick Street, which is in the Tacony section of the city.

Former Officer Samuel Anderson Charged with Official Oppression

A former Bristol Borough police officer was arrested yesterday, accused of pressuring a woman to engage in sex acts with him while he was on duty.

Samuel Anderson, 32, of Levittown, resigned from the police in September after county detectives began investigating him. He was charged yesterday with official oppression, a second-degree misdemeanor, and was released on $30,000 unsecured bail.

A criminal complaint says that Anderson performed sexual acts on a woman after she had called police for assistance on Aug. 29.

The woman told police that Anderson had "requested that they engage in sexual acts." She initially complied, the complaint said, explaining that she "did not know what to do because he was a police officer in her residence."

The woman had called police for help during a 3 a.m. argument with her ex-boyfriend at her residence.

Anderson told the man to leave, and then helped locate the woman's car keys, which the ex-boyfriend had thrown across the street.

Anderson then returned with the woman to her residence, and asked for sex. The woman allowed the officer to perform sex acts on her, the complaint says, but refused when he demanded she reciprocate.

During the encounter, Anderson stopped at one point to radio his patrol partner, the complaint says.

After the woman refused his added demands, Anderson "asked if he could come back again and [the woman] agreed." Instead, she filed a complaint against Anderson later in the day.