Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Officer Lawrence Etsitty Jr Faces Sexual Assault Charges


Crownpoint-based Navajo Police Officer Lawrence Etsitty Jr. may face federal charges after he allegedly sexually assaulted a 26-year-old Gallup woman while transporting her to jail.

The FBI has launched a preliminary civil rights ‘color of law’ inquiry into Etsitty, according to New Mexico FBI spokesman Todd Hulsey.

“Color of law is when any government official is acting with some authority,” Hulsey said.

Additionally, Navajo Police Department has launched its own internal affairs investigation.

Etsitty is accused of stopping en route to Crownpoint jail, pulling the handcuffed woman from the cruiser and fondling her. After about 20 minutes, he turned around and brought her to Gallup, according to the victim, whose name was withheld to protect her identity.

The victim said she and her fiancé went out for dinner and drinks with more than 10 out-of-town relatives, including a designated driver, the evening of Jan. 24. When the bar closed at 1:15 a.m., the caravan continued toward Fire Rock Casino. They arrived around 2 a.m., and everyone went inside. The victim walked in about 30 seconds behind the rest, having lingered at the car to organize her purse.

As she approached the entrance she saw her fiancé and other family members seated near the buffet, but security stopped her at the door and told her she was too drunk to enter. Two security guards escorted the victim to her fiancé and family and everyone agreed to leave, so they walked back toward the exit.

“As we were walking out I noticed a cop at the door,” she said. “The cop stopped us and said ‘I need to arrest her.’”

“For what?”


She said the officer accused the 5-feet-3-inch, 120 pound victim of assaulting her 6-feet-3-inch, 220 pound fiancé during their walk from the buffet to the exit.

The rest of the family thought she was being charged with public intoxication and pleaded with the officer to let them take her home because they had a designated driver, according to a relative present at the time, whose name is withheld to protect the identity of the victim.

“Usually they just let you take them home if you have a driver,” the relative said. “My first thought was: ‘At least she is safe with a cop.’ You’re supposed to be able to trust them.”

After she was cuffed and placed in the cruiser and headed toward Crownpoint, the victim said Etsitty began mumbling to himself.

“... she could hear the officer talking to himself, saying ‘should I do it, should I do it, or shouldn’t I,” according to a Gallup Police report filed a few hours later.

The victim said that 20 to 30 minutes into the drive, Etsitty stopped near “the dunes.” He pulled to the side of the road and turned off all of the vehicle’s lights. He forcibly pulled the still-handcuffed victim from the back seat of the cruiser and told her to stand against the door. She said Etsitty repeatedly asked about her boyfriend and said he liked her as he kissed her on the mouth and inappropriately touched her. Throughout the ordeal the victim wept and pleaded with Etsitty to stop.

“The whole time I was like don’t do this ... this is wrong. Don’t do this,” she said. “To me it felt like forever ... standing out there, it could have been 15 minutes.”

Afterward Etsitty agreed to bring the victim home. But when they got back into Gallup, she didn’t want him to know where she lived. So she asked him to stop and let her use the bathroom. Etsitty parked beside a Dumpster at an apartment complex and let her out.

The victim said Etsitty wanted to help her get her pants down. She asked him not to help with her pants, but to remove the handcuffs, and Etsitty did. The victim went behind the Dumpster and out of sight, quietly removed her boots and started running. When she got home she called Gallup Police.

She said that same day she was visited by an FBI agent and an Internal Affairs Investigator from Navajo Police Department.

“Internal Affairs said he may get off with a short suspension because he didn’t actually rape me,” she said.

Trial for Former Officer Samuel White Continues

Prosecutors this morning are trying to show Samuel Kase White had a pattern of behavior they hope will help prove he sexually assaulted five women in fall 2007.

Fort Collins police Officer Jake Schneider testified he arrested White on Sept. 8, 2007, after a couple reported a prowler at a residence on East Plum Street. Schneider said he initially stopped White, who was on foot, because he was a black man in his 30s, which matched the description of the prowler provided to a police dispatcher.

The arrest was made at about 4:40 a.m. and Schneider said there was no one else walking in the area at the time.

White is not facing charges for the Sept. 8 case, but prosecutors are trying to show White had a pattern of behavior related to the assaults. The jury has been instructed by Larimer District Court Judge Terence Gilmore to consider the testimony and presentation of evidence solely for that purpose.

A Fort Collins police computer forensics analyst is also testifying this morning that he found Internet searches on White’s CSU work computer using Yahoo maps for directions from White’s home to addresses near the campus.

White is accused of sexually assaulting four women at their homes near the CSU campus and another woman in Loveland. Three of the women were CSU students at the time and said they did not know White. Two of the women said they knew White through a friend or relative.

All five women have testified against White. Prosecutors Emily Humphrey and Michelle Brinegar say they expect to wrap up their case by Thursday, while public defenders Erin Richmond and Norm Townsend say they expect to rest their case by Monday.

White is charged with five counts of felony sexual assault, five counts of burglary, one count of trespassing, one count of harassment and one count of unlawful contact.

See for more.

Officer Mark Gore Suspended for Taking Home Patrol Car

A Philadelphia police officer who was the subject of an intense, hour-long search last Wednesday after he failed to return to the station at the end of his shift was suspended for five days without pay.

The officer, Mark Gore, 45, apparently took his patrol car home to the Stallo community because his personal vehicle was broken down, said Police Chief Dickie Sistrunk.

When Gore, a drug enforcement officer, did not return to the station at the end of his shift, police began an all-out search that eventually involved the Sheriff's Office.

Sistrunk said he initially feared for Gore's safety.

Gore went off duty in his patrol car without following proper procedures, Sistrunk said.

Gore was supposed to conclude his shift about 6 p.m. but he never radioed he was going off duty nor did he return his patrol to the station, Sistrunk said.

Others became concerned when Gore could not be reached by radio or his cellular telephone.

"I started calling him myself on his cell phone and then on my radio," Sistrunk said.

As concern for Gore's safety mounted, the police chief called for assistance from the Sheriff and one of his deputies to help search for the officer.

Gore was found along with his patrol car at his home in the Stallo community shortly after 7 p.m.

"His personal car had broken down," Sistrunk said, "so he took the patrol unit home."

Officer Johnnie T Keyes Charged with Stealing Radar Detector

A Philadelphia police officer was placed on administrative leave last week and resigned Tuesday after he admitted taking a radar detector from a vehicle he pulled over.

Patrolmen Johnnie T. Keyes was charged in an affidavit with taking a Cobra radar detector from the vehicle following a traffic stop on Valley View Drive on Monday, Jan. 26.

Keyes has not been arrested pending a hearing before a circuit judge to establish probable cause, said Police Chief Dickie Sistrunk.

The hearing is set for Friday at 9 a.m.

The driver of the vehicle was arrested on an outstanding warrant for simple assault and taken to jail by another officer while Keyes remained behind waiting for a wrecker, Sistrunk said.

The man realized that the radar detector was missing after he got out of jail and reported the theft to police, Sistrunk said.

The man talked with the wrecker driver and was told there was no radar detector inside when the vehicle was towed.

Sistrunk said police filed a report on the missing radar detector and in the mean time the man, Derrick Henley, signed an affidavit accusing another officer.

After an internal investigation, Keyes admitted to having the radar detector which police later retrieved at his residence, Sistrunk said.

"The law says you cannot arrest a police officer until he has had a hearing before a circuit court judge to establish probably cause," Sistrunk said.

Sistrunk was to bring the incident before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night.

David Brackett, the other officer involved in the traffic stop, was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Keyes was hired as a patrolman with the police department on April 16, 2008.

Sistrunk expressed concern about the officer's actions.

"People entrust my officers to serve and protect them," he said. "This shows that my officers are no better than anybody else. Our department will investigate and take corrective action which something like this occurs."

Another officer resigned last year after he admitted to shoplifting while on duty.

Sgt. Toby Wilson, 59, of 527 John C. Stennis Dr., Louisville, resigned last August after he was caught on surveillance tape taking a can of Pepsi from a convenience store without paying for it.

No charges were filed.

Another officer was suspended for five days without pay for unauthorized use of a patrol car. (SEE Other Post)

Roney Wilson Dies Aftrer Being Tasered Three Times


A man who was Tasered by deputies three times died due to "delirium with agitation due to schizoaffective disorder," Hillsborough Associate Medical Examiner Leszek Chrostowski said this morning.

Roney Wilson, 46, died Sept. 11 after his family called on deputies to help them. Wilson had become upset, climbed inside his mother's Nissan Frontier, smashed out the windshield with his fist and refused to budge.

Chrostowski said he can't say whether the use of the Taser itself contributed to Wilson's death. But he did determine that one contributing cause was "physical stress" and he called the manner of death "homicide," citing Wilson's "physical resistence to attempted restraint by police."

Wilson, Chrostowski said, was already in state of delirium when deputies arrived. He had a small amount of alcohol in his blood, as well as prescription antidepressants cyclobenzaprine, doxapine and mirtazapine. Chrostowski said one of those three medications was found in a slightly higher amount than would be expected in a clinical dose.

"All of these medications can cause agitation themselves," he said. "If you put stress of apprehension on top of this, this . . . causes physiological collapse and people die. There's nothing completely unusual about that."

Chrostowski explained that the word homicide when used by the medical examiner does nothing to suggest intent to kill, but does indicate that a contributing factor in his death was "the hands of others."

"It doesn't matter how much it is contributory - 1 percent, 50 percent or 90 percent," Chrostowski said. He said there was a lot of discussion at his office about his decision to call the manner of death a homicide. For example, even in the case in which a person dies by lethal injection under order of law, a medical examiner refers to the manner of death as homicide.

"I cannot change how the definition works only because it's a police officer," he said. "I think that for the sake of consistency, we have to call it a homicide. It doesn't mean they intended to kill."

Dick Bailey, public information officer for the medical examiner, said it would be a while before the actual report is made public. For now, Chrostowski's findings will be sent to the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office for review. Bailey said that's a matter of course any time the manner of death is homicide.

Hillsborough Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said a preliminary investigation into the use of force found no fault with the deputies' actions. Deputies Mary Angelo, Jessica Guthrie and Dustin Hartline returned to work shortly after the incident, she said. (Angelo, who used the Taser, is married to St. Petersburg Times researcher John Martin.)

The Sheriff's Office has not seen the report, but will review it with the State Attorney's Office when it becomes available, Carter said.

Click on these links to read more about Wilson's death and Taser International's interest in medical examiner findings.

Judge Bill Atchinson Arrested on Drug Charges


Gulfport Municipal Judge Bill Atchison has been arrested on drug charges.

Atchison is charged with nine counts of prescription drug fraud. He was released on a $90,000 bond.

John Kelly, the city of Gulfport's chief administrative officer and former municipal court administrator, issued the following statement:

"We have been notified by state authorities regarding the accusations involving Municipal Judge Bill Atchison and they are upsetting to all of us. We are keeping Bill and his family in our prayers.

Judge Atchison is on administrative leave and the city has several other judges assigned to municipal court who will continue to hear cases on a daily basis.

In recent years we have made tremendous strides to assure that our court runs smoothly and honorably. The court recently installed a new filing system and doubled the budget for public defenders. The court has also adopted a new set of court rules that are currently being reviewed by the Mississippi Supreme Court as rules that could be used by all municipal courts throughout the state.

The city is building a 65,000-square-foot facility at the corner of 23rd Avenue and 15th Street in downtown. The plan is to relocate the city's police department headquarters, municipal court and other services to the new Rob Curry Municipal Complex sometime next year.

Our court is making significant progress every day and we must continue to move forward.

Again, we wish Judge Atchison and his family all the best in the coming weeks and months.

John Kelly
Chief Administrative Officer


Video Shows Officer Forcefully Punching Woman in Face

A video released as part of a lawsuit against police in Millville, Philadelphia, shows an officer forcefully punching a woman in the face four times after he bungled an attempt to arrest her for riding a bike on the sidewalk.

As reported by NBC news, Sheila Stevenson, 42, has filed a civil suit alleging police used excessive force, after then-Millville Police Officer Carlo Drogo stopped her one year ago on February 3 2008.

The newly released video shows Drogo attempting to use pepper spray on Stevenson while she is still on the bike, but instead spraying himself in the face.

As Stevenson struggles, a reeling Drogo knocks her off the bike and onto the ground.

Two more cops then arrive and haul Stevenson to the curb, one of them seemingly applying the full force of his upper arm onto her neck and head.

The same cop then thrusts his knee into her back twice, with full force, whilst attempting to handcuff her.

“I am not doing nothing,” Stevenson screams.

“Put your hands behind your back,” one of the other officers orders.

“Can you not do this? I’m not doing nothing! I’m not doing nothing,” she wails.

Drogo, clearly in great discomfort from using his own pepper spray on himself, then approaches Stevenson after the other officers have restrained her and aggressively punches her in the face and head four times.

“Why are you hitting me? You’re hitting me! Why are you hitting me?” Stevenson cries out. “Why did you hit me and I’m handcuffed?”

Stevenson was later convicted of resisting arrest.

Watch the raw video:

Agueda Dominguez Alleges Police Brutality


Agueda Dominguez says her battered face and bruised arms are the result of police brutality. The 38-year-old El Salvadoran immigrant is alleging a Manassas Park Police officer beat her during a routine traffic stop Monday night.

"As he was pulling me against his car he pulled my the same time I banged my head a couple of times against his car. He threw me on the ground and banged me against the ground," Dominguez said.

Dominquez was stopped in the parking lot of the Apex Mart for having a broken headlight. She did not have her driver's license, but said she did provide Lt. Rupert Prinz with other documentation, including her social security card and work permit.

Dominquez said she refused to sign the ticket because she doesn't understand English. That is when she says she was sprayed with pepper spray and thrown on the ground.

Her brother describes what he saw as he pulled up to the scene:

"The floor...she hit the floor like an animal...she's not an animal, she's human. It's hard for me when I see he hit my sister on the floor," said Jose Dominguez, victim's brother.

Store manager, Warner Portillo, walked up just after the alleged brutality took place. "As I'm leaving, I see this lady bleeding really really bad and she was actually a little bit unconscious...I saw two police officers carrying her to an ambulance," Portillo added.

Cuts and bruises are visible on Dominguez's arms, leg and face. A cell phone picture shows her as she arrived to the hospital. Dominguez says she wasn't resisting police arrest. She says she just didn't want to sign a document she didn't understand.

"It hurts a come to the United States to pursue a dream and this type of stuff happens...especially in the Hispanic community. Most people are scared and so I just decided to step up and show everybody that we can stand up and defend ourselves," Dominguez added.


Los Angeles Pays $12.85 million for Police Brutality Lawsuit


The Los Angeles City Council approved a $12.85 million payout Wednesday for demonstrators and bystanders who were beaten by police at a pro-immigration rally in one of the largest settlements ever for Police Department misconduct.

The payout will settle nine lawsuits filed on behalf of nearly 300 people after the May 1, 2007, rally at MacArthur Park, where police dispersed crowds by beating people with batons and firing at them with beanbag rounds and rubber bullets. Forty-two people were injured, including nine journalists.

Carol Sobel, an attorney who represented some of the injured parties, said the payout is the largest single settlement in a demonstration case in the country.

"It means that for everybody who was in MacArthur Park that day, they can now feel that their injuries were recognized by the city," Sobel said.

The council faces other legal troubles stemming from the rally: There were 27 pending cases related to the demonstration before the settlement. City officials, however, said the payout covers most of the people who have filed lawsuits, including a class-action lawsuit that involved the approximately 5,000 people at the rally.

Nick Velasquez, a spokesman for the city attorney's office, said the settlement also calls for more police training on handling rallies and protests.

The May Day rally turned violent when about 30 protesters threw rocks at officers, who responded with force. A massive investigation was launched after widespread criticisms that police used excessive force and violated civil rights.

Police later concluded that a lack of planning, training and orderly supervision hindered officers at the rally. Police Chief William Bratton took responsibility for the department's response and called the officers' decision to use force a "command and control breakdown." Four officers were fired and 11 were disciplined.

Former Deputy Marc Javier Diaz Arrested for Rape


A former Riverside County sheriff's deputy was arrested today on suspicion of raping a woman in La Quinta, authorities said.

Marc Javier Diaz, 35, of Indio, was taken into custody around 10:30 a.m. during a traffic stop near Avenue 50 and Jackson Street in La Quinta, said sheriff's Deputy Herlinda Valenzuela.

Diaz resigned in July 2004 from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, where he was a deputy in the Indio courthouse, after nine years on the force, Valenzuela said.

La Quinta police received a call at 8:15 p.m. Saturday about a woman being abducted from a business in the 78000 block of Highway 111 and sexually assaulted, Valenzuela said.

A man had entered the unidentified business displaying a law enforcement badge and demanded identification from employees inside, Valenzuela said.

The victim, whose name was withheld, was unable to provide identification. The suspect escorted her out of the business to his pick-up truck, which was parked in a nearby lot, according to Valenzuela.

He drove her to a secluded location near Washington Street and Country Club Drive, where he raped her, Valenzuela said.

Diaz was being held in lieu of $1 million in the sheriff's jail in Banning.


Corporal Mario Chavez In Trouble Again

A Prince George's County police officer who was off duty and traveling at twice the speed limit in a county cruiser in 2007 when he collided with a car, killing a University of Maryland student, has been suspended after allegations that he was intoxicated in public and might have inappropriately displayed a handgun, sources said yesterday.

County police officers received an internal e-mail at 11:32 p.m. Monday saying that "effective immediately, the police powers of Corporal Mario Chavez . . . have been suspended." The e-mail resembles standard notices distributed when officers are involved in departmental shootings or other events that require them to be placed on administrative leave. The e-mails direct that those who are suspended be prohibited from entering police facilities.

Chavez "was suspended, but it was unrelated to the prior event," said Officer Henry Tippett, a police spokesman, adding that the department could not disclose details of the suspension.

Sources familiar with Chavez's situation, however, said he is under investigation for an episode last month in which it's alleged he was intoxicated and perhaps displayed a handgun. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because the incident remains under investigation.

Attempts to identify a phone number for Chavez, 31, were unsuccessful, and a county attorney representing him in a civil case stemming from the accident did not return a phone call seeking comment.

In December 2007, Chavez struck a car driven by Brian Gray, 20, who had pulled out in front of him at a Bowie intersection. In a sworn deposition, Chavez later acknowledged drinking "three, four" beers the night before the early-morning accident and sleeping on a friend's couch.

Last month, he was issued a speeding ticket after State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said there was not enough evidence to charge Chavez with vehicular manslaughter, which in Maryland requires proving that a driver acted with "gross negligence," one of the highest such standards in the country. An internal police investigation that could result in administrative action against Chavez began after Ivey completed his criminal review.

Officer Kenneth Freeman Accused of Assaulting 71-year old Seeks Appeal

The Chattanooga City Council will hear an appeal from the city police officer accused of assaulting a 71-year-old Wal-Mart greeter on Christmas Eve.

Officer Kenneth Freeman was demoted from detective to a patrol position and suspended for 28 days without pay late last month after an internal affairs investigation found he used excessive force, engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer and followed improper procedures.

The greeter, Bill Walker, touched Officer Freeman on the arm after asking to see his receipt and not getting a response, according to reports. Officer Freeman, who was shopping while on duty Christmas Eve, is accused of pushing Mr. Walker to the ground, then standing over him and shouting at him.

The City Council hearing will be held March 9, and the officer is expected to seek relief from the demotion and loss of pay.

On Monday, Mr. Walker filed a $21 million federal lawsuit against Mr. Freeman and the city of Chattanooga.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is conducting a criminal probe into the matter.


Feds Investigate old Allegations that Chicago Police Tortured Murder Suspects

Federal prosecutors continue to investigate decades-old allegations that Chicago police routinely tortured murder suspects, focusing on a half-dozen detectives following the recent indictment of former Cmdr. Jon Burge, the alleged ringleader, sources said.

Subpoenas served on the city show that prosecutors are looking at detectives long linked to Burge and the South Side precincts where he worked mostly during the 1980s. Among them: former Sgt. John Byrne, considered Burge's right-hand man, and former detective Peter Dignan.

It is not surprising that the investigation has widened beyond Burge. Last October, when prosecutors announced Burge's indictment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said the charges "should serve as a warning" to those officers who worked for him and took part in alleged brutality.

"If their lifeline is to hang on a perceived code of silence, they may be hanging on air," said Fitzgerald, cautioning other officers could be hit with similar charges.

Now a clearer picture is emerging of where the investigation is heading. Prosecutors are looking for medical records or testimony by a doctor to corroborate claims of brutality, the sources said, and want to avoid pitting the testimony of a former inmate against that of an officer.

A case in point is Andrew Wilson, who was convicted of killing two police officers after giving a confession that Burge and his men allegedly coerced. Wilson contended he was beaten and shocked and forced to press his chest and abdomen to a hot radiator. He died in prison in 2007.

Last month prosecutors asked a judge to allow them to use Wilson's testimony from previous hearings and civil proceedings at Burge's upcoming trial.

The Chicago Police Board found Burge guilty in 1983 of violating department rules, a determination that ultimately led to his firing a decade later. Wilson's facial injuries and burn marks had been photographed by jail personnel and doctors following his 1982 arrest. The supervising physician at the Cook County Jail, John Raba, even wrote the police superintendent asking for an investigation.

"Dr. Raba and other witnesses who participated in the examination and/or treatment of Wilson have been located and are available to testify at trial," said last month's filing.

Federal authorities have also interviewed Gregory Banks, who says Byrne and Dignan and other detectives placed a plastic bag over his head to force him to confess in 1983 to a murder.

The Illinois Appellate Court ruled that his confession had been obtained through brutality and awarded him a new trial after Banks had spent 7 years in prison.

Banks later won $92,000 from the city after filing a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Lawyer Flint Taylor, who represents Banks as well as other alleged torture victims, said prosecutors have interviewed a number of his clients.

"We've had contact with the U.S. attorney and presented several of our clients for interviews," he said. "It's my sense that they're doing a very aggressive and a thorough investigation with regard to some of Burge's midnight crew."

"We're hopeful there will be indictments brought against them and others," he added.

Dignan could not be reached Tuesday for comment. Byrne, who is a private detective in the south suburbs, said he was not surprised that federal prosecutors would focus on Burge's midnight shift officers.

"They're going to do what they feel is necessary," said Byrne, who indicated he has not been contacted by authorities. "They're going to be looking at everyone who was working then."


Officer Linda Coulimore Arrest Doesn't Shock Neighbors

MEAD, Colo.

Neighbors of a former Longmont police officer accused of stealing a pain medication pump from the hospital room of an Iraq war vet said they're not surprised.

They said officers have been called to the woman's house several times.

None of those neighbors wanted to talk on camera because of fear of retribution from the suspect's sons.

But several people have said that Linda Coulimore is a single mom with two teenage boys who have been accused of causing problems in the neighborhood.

When asked what kinds of problems, one neighbor responded, "Car vandalism and just torment. I know they've tormented other children."

Another neighbor said Coulimore was setting a bad example for her children.

Coulimore is accused of walking into a patient's room at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver and taking a pain medication pump that was being used by an Iraq war vet who had just undergone surgery.

Denver police distributed photographs of the alleged thief which were captured by the hospital's security camera system.

Police department spokesman Sonny Jackson said that after Coulimore was identified as a possible suspect, authorities issued an arrest warrant. Weld County deputies executed the warrant and arrested Coulimore at her home in Mead on Friday.

"We've seen police cars at that house numerous times," said one neighbor. "The only surprise is that it was for her this time and not her sons."

Coulimore has since bonded out of jail.

A spokeswoman for the Denver district attorney said formal charges will likely be filed against the suspect later this week.

An individual inside Coulimore's house declined to answer the door when I rang the doorbell seeking comment.

One of the woman's sons told 7NEWS, Saturday, that the image of a woman captured by the hospital's security camera was not his mom's.

Long time Mead resident Gerald Boos told 7NEWS, "I think it's terrible," that someone stole much needed pain medication from a veteran.

Boos said it's hard to understand that a former police officer is accused.

"That makes it even worse in my estimation," Boos said.

Coulimore was an officer at the Longmont police department from 1981 to 1995.