Monday, March 23, 2009

Did these Officers Deserve What They Got?

The deaths of four Oakland police officers gunned down in the line of duty Saturday afternoon are undisputable, immutable, irrevocable proof of the chaotic level of predatory violence on the streets of this city.

Even as crime dipped in the first three months of the year, gun violence has continued largely unabated - and now it has claimed the lives of four police officers.

The shootings of Sgt. Mark Dunakin and Officer John Hege during a seemingly routine traffic stop in East Oakland, and Sgts. Daniel Sakai and Ervin Romans two hours later as they burst into an apartment looking for the killer, will have lasting repercussions for a city already regarded as one of the most violent in the country.

It can't help but worsen already sky-high tensions between police and people who live in the city's toughest neighborhoods. Officers will be more wary than ever in dealing with everyday confrontations and routine incidents, like traffic stops - and that raises the danger level for everyone involved.

In recognition of the pressure, grief and chaos created by the shootings, every Oakland officer on duty at the time was given Sunday off to be with family and friends and come to terms with their frustration and anger.

Unfortunately, that anger is sure to be ratcheted up by anti-police rumblings that have followed the shootings.

By late afternoon Saturday, a group of about 50 people lined 73rd Avenue, a block from where Dunakin and Hege were shot. Some shouted obscenities aimed at police. Others said the officers' deaths were retribution for the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant, the unarmed Hayward man killed by a BART police officer on an Oakland train platform New Year's Day. Shouts of, "They had it comin!' " were heard in the crowd.

Uhuru House, an activist group that dates back to the 1970s, held an East Oakland rally at which some members said the killings were a foreseeable reaction to years of police brutality in disenfranchised communities.

If the members of Uhuru House and the so-called activists who took to the streets of Oakland in January to protest the Grant shooting have any real notion of what social justice means, they will surely stand with the community now in denouncing Saturday's killings.

Otherwise, nothing they have said or done to seek justice for Grant will amount to a hill of beans.
If an infinitesimal segment of the city's population lacks the maturity or compassion to mourn the loss of any human life - including those of police officers who risk their lives for ours - I say it's time for decent folks, us "99 percenters," to show them how we feel.

City officials are asking all residents to attend a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. Tuesday at 74th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard, where the first act of Saturday's tragedy played out. That's a proper sentiment, but it's not enough.

If the killings of four Oakland police officers don't evoke moral outrage in every single resident in this city, then I fear we may be too far gone to fight back.

The city should declare an official day of mourning and ask residents to wear a black armband - and put a badge on it - so everyone knows where we stand.

In the city's most troubled communities, it's clearer than ever that the fear of retaliatory violence has cowed law-abiding citizens and left the police standing alone against the bad guys.

It's time for every Oakland resident who can lift a sign, shout a slogan - or use a pair of binoculars in a neighborhood watch program - to do so. Because if we don't all come together to put an end this madness, what happened Saturday may turn out to be not just one of the worst days in Oakland's history, but a sad harbinger of its future.


This article appeared on page A - 11 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Hutchinson Police Being Investigated for Police Brutality

Allegations of police brutality lead to an investigation of the Hutchinson Police Department.

A Hutch man says he was kicked several times by an officer during an arrest. He's hoping dash cam video of the incident leads to disciplinary action.

Tony White re-enacts his arrest by Hutchinson Police after he crashed his motorcycle last year. White admits he was drunk. His blood alcohol level was .33 and he pled guilty to DUI. That's not what he's disputing. He says the officers used unnecessary force.

"The last thing I remember is an officer saying, 'choke him out, choke him out', and then I passed out," said White.

This is what the incident looks like on police dash cam video. White is in the garage on the left.

"I'm already down and out. What am I going to do? I'm not fighting back," he said.

White admits his allegations are hard to see on tape. He says one of the officers continually kicks him. Despite being intoxicated, he says he was not resisting arrest, but there's no sound on the tape to back that up. What you can see are the injuries to his face when officers lead him out of the garage to the patrol cars. White says he had a deep cut over his eye and bruising on his side.

White wants an investigation into the incident. Hutch Police say they've done a preliminary investigation and have turned it over to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

In the mean time, White says he'll keep pushing until someone admits wrong doing.

"I knew I screwed up. I'm a man. I can take it," said White. "I did my time. I paid my fines. I think they need to do the same before they hurt anyone else."

White is looking for an attorney to take his case but so far hasn't been able to get one. He believes no one will represent him out of fear of taking on a police department. Other attorneys have said no because they say the video is inconclusive.


Deputy Lt. Hayes Caddou Arrested for Battery

A ranking Assumption Sheriff’s deputy was arrested Monday night on battery charges stemming from a downtown bar fight last month, police said.

Less than two weeks ago, Thibodaux Police Chief Craig Melancon said he believed Lt. Hayes Caddou had not committed any crimes during a Feb. 2 bar fight at Last Call on West Third Street, in which several people claimed they were hit with pepper spray. Caddou was off-duty at the time of the alleged incident.

A subsequent investigation performed by the Lafourche District Attorney’s Office at Melancon’s request came to a different conclusion, however.

Caddou, 27, of 101 Alida Drive, Napoleonville, surrendered to authorities at the Thibodaux Police station, after a warrant was issued for his arrest on five counts of simple battery.

He was booked on the misdemeanor charges at the police station on Canal Boulevard and later released on a $500 personal recognizance bond.

Details on the crimes Caddou is accused of committing were not immediately available.

Neither Melancon nor Lafourche District Attorney Cam Morvant II returned multiple calls this evening.

Video footage from Last Call showed Caddou did not start a fight inside the bar around closing time on Feb. 2, Melancon said March 12.

The video failed to decisively answer who shot pepper spray into the crowd, Melancon added. At least three people received medical attention from paramedics on the scene.

Police investigators were unable to locate any witnesses or victims, making the process of determining a suspect difficult, Melancon said.

Caddou told officers on the scene that he did not start the fight. At the request of his attorney, he later refused to provide a statement to police about the incident.

Caddou serves as a narcotics detective for the Assumption Sheriff’s Office. Last year, he briefly served as the assistant warden of the Assumption jail.

It is unknown what effect this arrest will have on his job, if any.

Assumption Sheriff Mike Waguespack did not return multiple calls this evening seeking comment.


Judge Allows Class Action Civil Suit Against Strip Searches

A federal judge has granted class action status to two categories of people in a civil suit that claims officers at Baltimore's Central Booking and Intake Center regularly and illegally detained certain arrestees too long and strip-searched people without cause.

The ruling, issued Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, opens the door for tens of thousands of people processed from May 2002 through April 2008 to join the suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages. Central booking processes everyone arrested within city limits.

Class action status means "everything" to the success of the case, attorney William Claiborne said.

"Most of these cases are difficult to try. It's difficult for an individual to get a lawyer, it's difficult for an individual to persuade a jury that he's telling the truth," he said. "But when you have 50 or 60 or 100,000 people coming in, it changes the balance, it really changes the balance of power. It's like having a union."

Lawyers at the Maryland attorney general's office, which represents officials at the intake facility, were reviewing the opinion Friday and were unable to comment. Central Booking officials have denied any wrongdoing in court papers.

Strip searches are supposed to take place only under certain circumstances, yet Claiborne's case is one of a growing number of federal lawsuits alleging that unconstitutional strip searches by Maryland law enforcement officials are routine. A Baltimore man recently filed a civil suit alleging that a city police officer cavity-searched him on the sidewalk without cause, and a group of young women are suing Harford County officers with similar allegations.

This month, state Sen. James Brochin of Baltimore County filed a bill that offers specific strip-search guidelines in response to a Baltimore Sun article that related the experience of Rosemary Munyiri, a nurse who was arrested and strip-searched at Central Booking after a traffic stop.

The bill would prohibit officers from conducting strip searches on people arrested under certain circumstances or for certain minor offenses, allowing exceptions "if the officer has a reasonable suspicion" that certain contraband is being concealed, as the Maryland Court of Special Appeals has deemed appropriate. The bill would also establish rules for strip-search procedure.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee tomorrow.

The suit Claiborne and his co-counsel filed began with nine people who claim they were treated improperly at Central Booking. They sought class action categories for:

•Those detained for more than 48 hours without having been brought before a commissioner, which is prohibited.

•People arrested for minor, nondrug, nonviolent offenses and strip-searched before they were brought before a commissioner.

•Those who weren't strip-searched privately.

•And male arrestees who were searched to their underwear when female detainees were not.

The latter two categories were denied class action status by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake.

Former Officer Pedro Martinez Back in Court on Rape Charges

A 20-year city police officer was ordered held on $250,000 cash or surety after he pleaded innocent Monday to 25 counts of sexual crimes involving three victims, including two of his biological daughters.

Assistant District Attorney John Compton had asked for bail of $250,000 cash, with no surety option, saying Pedro J. Martinez faces such long sentences if convicted that he has an incentive to flee.

Raipher D. Pellegrino, Martinez's lawyer, asked that he remain free on the $25,000 bail set in District Court when Martinez was arraigned on three counts of forcible rape of a child and three counts of incest.

"He maintains his innocence," Pellegrino said.

Hampden Superior Court Judge Bertha D. Josephson said that the court must make bail decisions on the likelihood of a defendant to appear in court if released on bail, and added the surety option to Compton's request.

If Martinez is released he will be on electronic monitoring with a zero curfew as he has been since release on bail on the District Court charges, and he must have no contact with the victims.

A pre-trial hearing will be held July 21.

Outside the courtroom after the arraignment, Springfield police Special Victims Unit Lt. Cheryl C. Clapprood said the investigation was very difficult in part because "we have known him for so long."

She said that the man before the court Monday is not the man fellow officers thought they knew.
Clapprood said she was not sure whether there would be any more victims coming forward, but she expects there will be more evidence. The third victim is a female who lived in Martinez' house for a time, she said.

She said the investigation encompasses events as far back as 1985.


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Trial Begins for Former Officer Malik Snell Accused of Robbery

He drove a Dodge Intrepid tricked out like a police narcotics unit undercover car, with tinted windows, lights, sirens, a police radio console, and a screen that separated the front and back seats.

He had his gun.

And, more important, he had his badge.

Those, federal prosecutors say, were the tools of the trade for rogue Philadelphia cop Malik Snell as he targeted suspected narcotics dealers, pulled them over, and stole their cash or their drugs.

Snell, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, robbery, and witness retaliation, is to go on trial today in U.S. District Court. In October, a trial on some of the charges ended with a hung jury.

An 11-year veteran of the Police Department who was assigned to the 18th District in West Philadelphia, Snell, 36, was fired last year after his arrest in a Pottstown home-invasion case. Two superseding federal indictments have expanded the charges against him.

Among other things, he is now accused of robbing one of the biggest drug kingpins in South Philadelphia and later threatening to kill him because he was cooperating.

The kingpin, Ricardo McKendrick Jr., is expected to be called as a witness for the prosecution.

McKendrick, according to motions filed in the case, has alleged that he was stopped by Snell on Dec. 14, 2007, near Water and Dickinson Streets in South Philadelphia.

Snell, driving the Dodge Intrepid, flashed the car's lights and signaled for McKendrick, who was driving a minivan, to pull over.

Federal prosecutors allege that Snell "removed him from the [minivan] and placed him in handcuffs. . . . Snell then searched the [minivan] and took a diaper bag from the back of the van which contained $40,000 in drug proceeds.

"He put the diaper bag in the trunk of the Intrepid and left [McKendrick] handcuffed and unable to leave," according to a motion filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathy A. Stark and Leo R. Tsao, the prosecutors in the case.

Snell was arrested three days later in connection with an unrelated home invasion in Pottstown. Two men, including his brother-in-law, were charged with breaking into a house where they believed drug money was stashed.

Authorities allege that Snell drove the men to Pottstown and waited outside during the break-in. He and his brother-in-law were arrested after a high-speed police chase, just outside the Montgomery County borough.

Both the brother-in-law, Tyree Aimes, and a second defendant pleaded guilty before trial. Snell's trial ended with a hung jury.

Federal prosecutors, apparently using information supplied by McKendrick and others, have since expanded the charges against Snell. He is being held without bail in the Federal Detention Center on Arch Street.

In the new trial, prosecutors hope to use Aimes' account of other incidents to undermine Snell's assertion that he was an unwitting accomplice, unaware that a robbery was planned on the night of the home invasion.

Snell's attorney, John McMahon of Norristown, has declined to comment about specifics of the case. He is expected to attack the credibility of several government witnesses who come from the drug underworld.

Aimes, according to one prosecution document, has talked about other encounters in which, he says, Snell targeted drug dealers.

Aimes has said that before the Pottstown home invasion, Snell used him to stake out two houses in Philadelphia where narcotics trafficking was allegedly taking place.

After showing him the Intrepid, which Snell allegedly said came from "a friend in the narcotics unit," Aimes said, Snell told him, "I have a job to do" at one of the suspected drug houses.

One house was off the corner of D Street and Allegheny Avenue, and the other was on Callowhill Street between 63d and 64th Streets, according to documents.

Aimes said Snell told him the house on Callowhill was frequently used by a Jamaican marijuana dealer. Aimes said he was watching when Snell, driving the Intrepid, pulled over a woman who had come from the house carrying a bag. The woman was driving a Chevy Malibu, he said.

"Snell pulled the Intrepid out behind her, activated the police lights and pulled the Malibu over," according to a prosecution motion that outlines Aimes' account.

About two hours later, Aimes said, Snell came to his home and gave him a pound of marijuana.

"He told him he had gotten ten pounds of weed from the car stop," according to the motion.

Aimes told authorities that he staked out the house off Allegheny Avenue several times for Snell, but that nothing occurred there.

About the same time, Aimes said, he learned about drug money being stashed in a house in Pottstown and told Snell he "had a job" there.

Snell, he said, agreed to participate.

The Callowhill Street incident is not part of the current indictment, but prosecutors hope to use testimony about it to establish a pattern of criminal activity by Snell.

The charges in the case include the Pottstown home invasion, the robbery of $40,000 from McKendrick, and allegations that Snell later threatened to kill McKendrick and another suspected witness.

McKendrick's father, Ricardo McKendrick Sr., is a former member of the Black Mafia and a longtime Philadelphia drug trafficker, according to investigators who have described the duo as "suppliers to the suppliers" and key players in the Philadelphia drug underworld.

The McKendricks were arrested in April after members of an FBI-Philadelphia Police Department Violent Gang and Drug Task Force raided their South Philadelphia rowhouse.

Authorities found more than 600 pounds of cocaine valued at more than $28 million in the house, in Grays Ferry. It was one of the biggest drug seizures in city history.

The FBI also found nearly $1 million in cash in the trunk of the younger McKendrick's Mercedes, which was parked in the garage of his South Jersey home.

Both McKendricks entered guilty pleas to drug charges in December. Most of the documents in the younger McKendrick's court file relating to his plea have been placed under seal.

McKendrick's decision to cooperate could have ramifications far beyond the current case against Snell. McKendrick's potential debut as a government witness has created a stir in both law enforcement and underworld circles.

Snell allegedly made the threat to "inflict bodily harm" on McKendrick on Jan. 30, shortly after news accounts raised the possibility that he might be cooperating.

Retired Judge James Weaver Arrested Again for Drunk Driving


A retired Muscatine County judge was arrested for a third time over the weekend on a drunken driving charge.

According to Iowa State Patrol officials, 56-year-old James Weaver of Blue Grass was arrested Saturday afternoon in Scott County on charges of operating while intoxicated, speeding, seat belt violation and disobeying a traffic-control device.

Weaver, who served as an associate judge from 1982 to 2004, posted $5,900 bond and was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday morning.

If convicted of a third drunken driving offense, he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $7,500.

An attempt to reach Weaver on Monday morning at a number listed for the Weaver Law Office in Muscatine wasn't immediately returned.

According to the state patrol, Weaver was southbound on Highway 61 on Saturday afternoon when a trooper clocked him for speeding, saw that he failed to stop at a traffic-control device and wasn't wearing a seat belt.

The trooper caught up with Weaver at the Blue Grass exit and detected a strong odor of alcohol on the former judge's breath as well as bloodshot eyes.

Weaver failed a field sobriety test, and when he arrived at the Scott County Jail a breath test showed his blood alcohol content was 0.166, more than twice the legal limit for driving of 0.08, the patrol said.

Weaver pleaded guilty to his first drunken driving offense in November 2002 after a Scott County deputy saw his car hit a utility pole. In December 2004, he was charged with second offense drunken driving after his arrest a month earlier. In that incident, police said a caller complained that a "reckless driver" had almost caused an accident.

Around the same time, Weaver was allowed to retire from the court system with a permanent disability because he was found to suffer from major depression and alcohol abuse.

In April 2005, Weaver was sentenced on the second offense drunken driving charge. He was committed to the Iowa Department of Corrections for two years to be served at a work release center and ordered to participate in alcohol treatment.

Weaver appealed his judgment and sentence to the Iowa Court of Appeals, saying the judge in his case abused his discretion. The appeals court rejected the argument.

Corrections officials have said that Weaver was released from the work release center in the spring of 2007 after serving only 25 days. He was resentenced to one year of unsupervised probation after a district court judge heard arguments on a motion to reconsider his sentence.

Last March, the Iowa Supreme Court suspended Weaver's license to practice law based on the second drunken driving arrest and critical comments he made to the media about the judge overseeing his case. The license has been reinstated, court records showed.


Undercover Officer Richard Ramsdale Arrested for Having Cocaine in Police Car


An undercover Alamogordo Department of Public Safety officer has been arrested after officers allegedly found 1.3 pounds of cocaine in his police unit.

Richard Ramsdale has served as an undercover police officer for the Alamogordo Department of Public Safety since last month, a year after he joined the department.

Before that, he served in the narcotics unit in the Otero County Sheriff's Department.

Investigators said the arrest doesn't appear to have compromised any criminal cases.


Three Aurora Officers Charged with Drunk Driving


Three police officers in three years, charged with drunk driving, all from the same department.

Sgt. Dirk Piggot, a 24 year veteran of the Aurora Police Department was pulled over for weaving by the State Highway Patrol on March 13th. It happened just north of Columbus.

The Mayor of Aurora, Lynn McGill, told FOX 8's Kristy Steeves that Piggot refused a breathalizer test so his driver's license was immediately suspended.

Residents in Aurora were shocked and disappointed when they heard the news. "I think it's appalling. Obviously a bad example for the citizens of the community which they serve and endangers the citizens of the community in which they serve," said Walter Crate, an Aurora resident.

Mary Allard reacted to the news by saying, "I think he should be removed from the job. He's in charge of everybody and he's supposed to make our streets safe but if he isn't doing his job".

Piggot, who was off duty at the time of his arrest, is the second Aurora police officer in three months to get stopped for an OVI.

In December 41-year-old Scott Garan was pulled over in Kent for erratic driving. Records show he refused all of the sobriety tests and was charged with OVI and criminal damaging.

Those charges came on the heels of him being named Aurora's Top OVI Enforcer at the Portage County MADD banquet in October.

The mayor says Garan ended up resigning from the police department. As for Sgt. Piggot, the mayor says right now, he's on unpaid leave.

Nadine Kotcz, who lives in Aurora, had this to say: "You can't make exceptions whether someone is a police officer or not. I think if it's something that's not right they should be treated like everyone else."

Three years ago a lieutentant was arrested for drunk driving. He's now back on basic patrol. As for Piggot, the mayor says he's just one year shy of retiring. The mayor says if Sgt. Piggot is convicted, he will be disciplined. "We don't coddle people here," said McGill.

Mayor McGill says the drunk driving arrests "gives the city, the department, and the mayor a black eye."

Mayor McGill told FOX 8 that the police officers are cautioned every day about not drinking and driving. "They know better," he said, adding, "There's no excuse, but to be a police officer, you're impared, you don't drive."


Other Information:

Officer Amanda Perry Now Being Investigated for Embezzlement


Fairfax County police say an officer who was involved in a fatal crash is now under investigation for embezzlement and has resigned from the department.

Officials say 23-year-old Amanda Perry has been accused of falsifying her work time and attendance reports. Police say she had been placed on administrative duty after the February 2008 crash.

Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond Morrogh says he has not decided whether to charge Perry.

Fairfax prosecutors had charged Perry last year with reckless driving in the crash, which killed a 33-year-old teacher's assistant. Perry was found not guilty after a September trial.

Information from: The Washington Post,

Officer Scott Moss Accused of Assaulting Wife


A Seattle police officer was accused of assaulting his wife was ordered Monday to have no contact with her.

Officer Scott Moss was booked into jail early Saturday morning for investigation of second-degree assault.

According to a police report, deputies were dispatched to the couple's Sammamish home where Moss' wife told them Moss had held her wrists during an argument and cut her hand with a kitchen knife.

Moss, who previously served as one of the department's public information officers, was also arrested in 2005 for investigation of driving under the influence.

Moss has been with the department for 15 years and was most recently assigned to the Office of Professional Accountability, but Seattle police officials said in a statement that Moss was not responsible for conducting internal investigations.

At his bail hearing Monday afternoon, a judge issued a no-contact order against Moss and instructed him not to consume alcohol.

Seattle police officials say Moss' badge and gun will be seized upon his release from jail, and he will relieved of duty and then administratively reassigned.