A San Luis Obispo police officer, currently under a criminal investigation for attempting to bring contraband across the border from Mexico, has faced allegations of elderly abuse in the past, CalCoastNews has learned.
Interviews with sources in the know say San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deborah Linden has either mishandled or ignored reports that officer Dan McDow, one of two San Luis Obispo officers suspended as a result of the border investigation, had attempted to take advantage of an elderly woman suffering from dementia.
In early 2007, 87-year-old Margaret Bazzani, known to suffer from dementia and auditory delusions, called police to her home in San Luis Obispo repeatedly for various reasons, including hearing strange noises outside the residence.
McDow responded on one occasion and subsequently began making regular visits to her home.
Following a call from a Bank of America employee concerned when McDow brought the wheelchair-bound woman to the bank to look into the contents of her safety deposit box, Bazzani’s children started to question the officer’s intentions, her son said.
Shortly afterwards, the widow’s son, Leonard Bazzani, discovered a gold coin worth about $1,000 had disappeared from his mother’s safety deposit box.
Family members began asking questions and learned that the patient’s caregivers had called county Adult Protective Services officials at least three times to report that McDow appeared to be taking advantage of the elderly Bazzani.
Leonard Bazzani then took his concerns to Linden, who had police administrators look into the son’s allegations.
“They said it was his business what he (McDow) does after hours,” Leonard Bazzani said. “We than hired (San Luis Obispo) attorney Hank Mott, who said it sounded like elder abuse.”
On July 30, 2007, Mott sent the following report of possible elder abuse to Linden:
“Dear Chief Linden,
“I represent the adult children of Margaret Kelly Bazzani, a widow age 87 years.
“Mrs. Bazzani suffers from dementia and is under medical treatment. She is receiving around the clock assistance from caregivers….
“A member of your department, officer Dan McDow, has been visiting with my client’s mother. Mrs. Bazzani has advised my clients that McDow brought a person to her home to prepare a will for her, to handle her finances, and do her taxes.
“Mrs. Bazzani has told numerous persons that officer McDow has proposed marriage to her. McDow is approximately 50 years younger than her. Adult Protective Services has been called numerous times by Mrs. Bazzani’s caregivers due to their concerns that McDow is taking advantage of her.
“McDow was recently overheard by her caregivers, on Mrs. Bazzani’s speaker phone, advising Mrs. Bazzani she should not have a CAT Scan because her family was trying to prove she was crazy and not to allow Adult Protective Services in her home in the future.
“Mrs. Bazanni is easily taken advantage of and I request that you immediately investigate the actions of McDow so that an 87 year old widow suffering from dementia is not taken advantage of by one of your own officers.”
In response to the letter, Linden ordered McDow to stay away from the elderly woman, adding that she would look into the allegations of elderly abuse.
But since the 2007 order to stay away from the woman, Linden has refused to make public the department’s inquiries into McDow’s relationship with Margaret Bazzani.
“Linden said they had conducted an investigation, but it was a personnel issue, and as such, it was not public information,” Leonard Bazzani said. “She said McDow would be fired if he contacted my mother again.”
In late 2007, a few days after Margaret Bazzani passed away, someone broke into her home by kicking in the door. However, once inside, the thief was able to open, with a key, a locked cabinet in which the elderly woman kept thousands of dollars in a vase.
Aside from the contents of the vase, and a picture of Leonard Bazzani, removed from a frame, nothing else was taken from the home during the burglary, the son said.
City officials did not respond when asked why it took a letter from an attorney to get Linden to keep her officer away from Margaret Bazzani. In addition, city officials have not yet responded to a FOIA request for information about the department’s investigation into the allegations of possible elderly abuse.
On Sept. 15, immigration officials detained McDow and fellow officer Armando Limon at the San Ysidro port of entry because of suspicions that the officers were attempting to transport contraband into the United States.
Authorities at the San Ysidro port of entry have not said what kind of contraband was involved and what prompted U.S. border inspectors to inspect the officers and the vehicle they were in.
"Officers Limon and McDow are on paid administrative leave and have been since September 16, 2009, the day the City learned of their detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” city attorney Jonathan Lowell told CalCoastNews in an e-mail.