Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Dallas Officers Mock Man While Tasering Him

Two weeks after an officer's traffic stop made national news, CBS 11 News has learned about another incident involving officers who allegedly mocked a man while he was being tasered.

The patrol car video will not be released until department officials determine whether to file criminal charges in the case.

The two sergeants have been taken off the street for an incident that some officers say could become as embarrassing for the department as traffic stop involving Ryan Moats.

It was the early morning hours of March 20 when three men were being arrested for assault along I-45.

Officers at the scene say Eric Delagarza was combative and had to be tasered by one of the officers. But it's what was said during that moment that has set off an investigation.

"Something took place out there that one officer found inappropriate," said Dallas Police Lt. Andy Harvey

The unnamed officer initiated a public integrity investigation, making allegations that while Delagarza was being tasered, one of the officers at the scene reportedly "told the suspect to take it like a man" while another shouted, "Do you want another one?"

During that time, sources say Delagarza was heard screaming on the patrol car video.

Sources say it's unclear on the video which officers were heard on the tape shouting at the suspect.

Two sergeants have been reassigned because they were supervisors and department officials are also investigating the actions of the officer who fired the taser.

It comes while the city is still reeling from the North Dallas traffic stop in which Officer Robert Powell delayed a family from reaching the bedside of a dying relative.

We were referred to an attorney when we tried to speak with the tasered suspect.

One of the two sergeants reassigned has been accused of excessive force before, but the allegations were never proven. Sources in the department say the senior officers are disturbed by what they've seen on the video.

Tasers the New Killer Weapon

As protesters descend upon London's financial district to demonstrate the G-20 summit this week, they are being met by thousands of Metropolitan police officers carrying out what has repeatedly been described as the biggest police operation ever undertaken in the capital. Pre-emptive arrests were made earlier this week and despite the mainly nonviolent protests -- overshadowed by media reports of a "seige" on the Bank of England -- by Wednesday night, more than 60 people had been arrested and one man was dead.

Police in London have been gearing up for these clashes for months, attracting press attention for the “unprecedented” security deployment and the various tools at their disposal. Among them are so-called "non-lethal weapons" of the sort that have become biquitous crowd control devices. "Scotland Yard is to deploy officers armed with 50,000-volt Taser stun guns to deal with violent demonstrators," the Times Online reported earlier this week, noting that police were gearing up for any "anarchist elements" "likely to stir up trouble."

Months after the Republican National Convention in the U.S., such sweeping security measures may seem to be par for the course. But in the UK -- where police forces have traditionally not carried guns -- it was not that long ago that Tasers were new to the streets. Since their arrival in the spring of 2003, however, their popularity has skyrocketed; last fall, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith unveiled a plan to spend £8 million on Tasers and Taser training for 30,000 police officers, providing some 10,000 new Tasers to police across England and Wales. "I am proud that we have one of the few police services around the world that do not regularly carry firearms," Smith said, "and I want to keep it that way." But an arms expert at Amnesty International UK called the move "a dangerous step in British policing," citing "numerous" taser deaths in North America as a cautionary example.

Meanwhile in the U.S., such fatalities continue. Last month, a Michigan teenager died after police tasered him, one day short of his 16th birthday.

It would be preposterous at this point for anyone with access to the news media to claim that Tasers are the safe policing tools they are marketed as. Yet Taser International, the corporation that makes them, continues to market this dangerous -- and lucrative -- myth. On March 31, the company's latest Taser model -- called the Shockwave -- hit the market; according to Taser International website, it "allows for both increased safety and stand-off capability during hostile situations, minimizing risk with a stand-off distance of up to 100 meters." But as Dalia Hashad, director of Amnesty International’s USA Program focusing on domestic human rights, wrote about the product last fall, the Shockwave "belongs in my 'You've Got to Be Kidding' file along with Taser International's leopard-print MP3 player that doubles as a taser and their employment of Playboy Bunnies for promotion." The company's literature shows it to be a powerful crowd-control weapon:

"With the push of a button at a stand-off distance of up to 100 meters, the Shockwave unit deploys multiple standard TASER® cartridges that are oriented across an area arc. Full area coverage is provided to instantaneously incapacitate multiple personnel within that region."

"Development of weapons that allow police to tase en mass is not good news," says Hashad. " ... Would you be willing to go to a protest knowing that police on the scene were armed with Taser Shockwave? I wouldn't bring my daughter, which means that I might have to stay home. Maybe that's the point."

It is not clear what model of Taser London police are using at the G20 summit. But with the UK embracing Taser technology, it is only a matter of time before the kinds of fatalities seen regularly in North America start showing up across the Atlantic. The company doesn’t seem concerned, though. The British version of Taser International's website,, boasts: "0% long term injury. 94% success rate."

Taser use is down in Canada

One place where the Taser trend actually appears to be changing is Canada, where high-profile taser deaths, along with a recent study on the dangers of Tasers, are leading to a serious rethinking of the weapon. Four months after a Canadian report found that the type of Taser model most often used by police officers can significantly raise the risk of cardiac arrest -- prompting Canadian officials to say they were pulling the model from its police ranks -- Taser use in Canada has decreased dramatically. Last week Reuters reported that the "use of Taser stun guns by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) dropped by almost a third last year, possibly because of a high-profile controversy about the weapon's safety and accusations the gun was being over-used."

The official who released the numbers, who heads the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, told reporters in a press conference that Canadian authorities are showing more "self-restraint" when it comes to deploying tasers -- while also suggesting that suspects are less likely to resist police officers for fear of being tasered to death. "People now recognize that the Taser is painful and that Taser -- maybe they're thinking -- may kill me, and they're co-operating too," said Paul Kennedy of the RCMP, a government agency that, according to Reuters, "is expected to issue a more comprehensive report on Taser use" in coming days.

This is pretty unsatisfying for people who would like to see a ban on Tasers -- or at least a moratorium until their safety can be guaranteed (a dubious prospect). More importantly, in the meantime, allowing Tasers to occupy a gray area -- not lethal except when they are -- will make it that much harder for police to be held accountable for excessive force and homicide. Cops already get away with shooting suspects dead with little to no consequences. Arming them with Tasers under the pretense that they are safe will only perpetuate this trend as inevitable deaths occur.

Like "pre-emptive" arrests, the 50,000-volt Tasers that London police are carrying as they stand off with G20 protesters this week may be seen as a necessary precaution. But the past several years have shown the slippery slope governments create in the name of security. Any Taser deaths in London this week will be treated as a tragic accident, to be sure. But they should not be treated as a surprise.

Former Detective Kris Ledford Sentenced to 4 years in Prison


A former Muskogee police detective has been sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing and selling guns taken from a police evidence room.

Kris Ledford of Broken Arrow was charged last year after an investigation by federal and local authorities. He was accused of stealing and selling at least nine guns between June 2007 and May 2008.

Ledford was also charged with one count of 'Stolen Valor' for claiming to have won a Purple Heart and Bronze Star when he in fact had not. Ledford attempted to claim trauma from combat explained his criminal behavior.

"Police officers are given the public trust by the citizen of their community," U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling said in November after Ledford's guilty plea. "Kris Ledford betrayed that trust and brought dishonor to the Muskogee Police Department by committing crimes against the same citizens and police department that hired him and gave him this trust."

Ledford also faces related charges in Cherokee, Tulsa and Wagoner counties.

In Tulsa County, Ledford is charged with impersonating a police officer and larceny of merchandise from a retailer.

Ledford was a five-year veteran of the Muskogee Police Department.

Police Brutality Continues Unabated

On TV and in the movies, we often see the internal affairs division as no nonsense, hard noses willing to take down even good cops when they cross the line. But unlike TV and movies, in Fort Lauderdale the internal affairs division can look at something like the Joshua Ortiz tape, where after being pushed into a corner, a second cop comes from outside the action with a punch to the face and say this was not excessive force.

In this day and age where many police carry Tasers and or mace, I really don't see a haymaker to a smaller guy that's already pinned to the corner as acceptable. It's completely reprehensible that this type of behavior is not only not punished, it's condoned.

When people see that an innocent person can be savagely beaten by multiple police and then arrested for being beaten, you lead to an environment where people lose respect for the badge or the police officer wearing it.

Too often the rally cry is sent out, "Oh it's a dangerous job" or "They have to deal with crazy people all the time."

Many police departments like to tout themselves as "professionals." I don't see assault as professional behavior, nor do I accept that those that allow it to go unpunished can be called professional, either. I think the easiest way to let the public know what they're really in store for is to change the popular logo "To serve and protect" to something a little more honest like "To harass and batter."

Former Deputy Marc Diaz Must Stand Trial for Kidnapping & Rape

A judge ruled Wednesday that a former Riverside County Sheriff's deputy must stand trial on charges of kidnapping and raping a woman in La Quinta. Marc Javier Diaz, 35, was arrested in February.

The Indio man is charged with kidnapping to commit rape and two counts of rape under the threat of authority of a public official. He could face life without the possibility of parole if convicted on the kidnap- to-rape charge.

Diaz, who is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, was arrested in February during a traffic stop near Avenue 50 and Jackson Street in La Quinta, said sheriff's Deputy Herlinda Valenzuela.

He is accused of walking into Point Happy Massage Therapy at 78370 Highway 111 in La Quinta on Jan. 31, displaying a law enforcement badge and demanding identification from employees and others in the establishment.

He then allegedly ordered a friend of an employee who had no identification into his pickup truck, drove her to a secluded location near Washington Street and Country Club Drive and raped her.

Diaz worked for the Coachella Valley Unified School District for 16 months before his arrest. Officials at the Coachella Valley superintendent's office have refused to comment on his employment history on grounds that it is a "personnel matter."

Diaz was a Riverside County sheriff's deputy for nine years before he resigned in 2004.

He was arrested on June 25, 2004, on suspicion of soliciting and engaging in prostitution in the area of Bliss and Oasis streets in Indio, according to Indio police. At the time, he was working in the Indio courthouse, but the next month he resigned, Valenzuela said.

The District Attorney's Office never filed charges against Diaz for the prostitution allegation because of insufficient evidence, a spokesman for the office has said.


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Dallas Police Investigating Officers for Excessive Force

Dallas police are investigating whether officers used improper force when subduing three suspects and using a Taser on one as he was placed in a police car.

Much of the March 20 incident that followed the arrest of three men on a downtown freeway interchange was captured on dashboard camera video and audio.

"Take it, take it," yells a Dallas police sergeant as another officer jolts a handcuffed suspect with a stun gun, according to senior police officials who reviewed the dash-cam recordings.

The arrested man begs for police to stop even as another officer is heard taunting the suspect by asking him if he's had enough, the officials said.

All three suspects face assault and other charges after police said they attacked a man outside a downtown nightclub. Police declined to release the video pending a review by the district attorney's office which will determine whether criminal charges may be appropriate against the officers.

Dallas police are still reeling from a flood of anger that erupted over a dash-cam video released last week that showed an officer's insensitivity to a national audience when he berated NFL running back Ryan Moats and delayed him for 13 minutes as he tried to get to his mother-in-law's death bed.

After police reviewed the recordings of the March 20 incident, two patrol sergeants, Elisa Martinez and Elliott Forge, were transferred off the streets pending the outcome of an investigation. Senior Cpl. Armando Dominguez, who fired the Taser, remains on patrol.

"This came to our attention by way of one of our officers, and an internal investigation has been initiated, as well as looking into any possible criminal violations," said Lt. Andy Harvey, Dallas police spokesman.

Phil Burleson, who is representing Forge and Dominguez, said his clients deny that they did anything improper. "They don't recall doing anything inappropriate," he said.

Dominguez said he has done nothing wrong. "I have nothing to hide and it will all come out," Dominguez said.

Senior police officials, who asked that their names not be used because of the possible criminal inquiry, said the video captured by in-car cameras on several patrol cars shows what happened shortly after a fight outside a downtown nightclub.

About 2:30 a.m., a man was attacked by three men in the middle of the Pearl Expressway near Commerce Street after he intervened to stop them from harassing women as they left the club, according to police records.

After bystanders intervened and the attackers fled, the beaten man flagged down a police officer and said he saw them leaving in a silver Honda, according to the police report.

As officers approached the Honda, the driver backed up and struck Forge in the legs, nearly knocking him to the ground, according to the arrest report. Forge, who wasn't seriously injured, ran after the car as it sped away at high speeds on the wrong side of the road.

A pursuing squad car stopped the Honda a short distance away on Interstate 45 in South Dallas.

Police officials say dash-cam video captured events a few minutes later as the men were being taken into custody. One officer, whose identity is unclear, dragged one of the men, already handcuffed, across the pavement.

Then Forge and Martinez arrived at the scene.

Forge stormed up, screaming at the suspects, by then all handcuffed, according to what police officials said they saw in the video. Forge yelled profanities at one of the suspects before grabbing him.

One police official said video footage then shows Forge pressing a flashlight to his throat. Forge is also seen putting a knee in a suspect's back, another police official who reviewed the tape said.

Those who viewed the tape said the suspects did not appear to be resisting arrest.

Forge declined to comment, except to say, "The knee thing is brand-new to me. I find that amusing, but I can't say anything."

Burleson, who said he has not yet reviewed the video footage, said Forge wasn't using the flashlight.

"It was just in his hand as he had a hold of the suspect's shirt," he said. "He says he never uses the flashlight as a blunt object to enforce anything."

The Taser incident took place off-camera, but was captured on audio.

"Take it like a man," Martinez yells as Eric De La Garza is stunned by a Taser as he was being placed in a squad car, according to a report filed because the stun gun was used. The report was written by another officer, rookie Officer Mark Dewald, who had arrived after the suspects were handcuffed.

"Everything that was done to me was done while I was in handcuffs," De La Garza told The Dallas Morning News. He declined further comment under advice from his lawyer.

In Dewald's report, he says that his Taser device had fallen off his belt as he and Dominguez tried to put De La Garza in the squad car. He said Dominguez picked up the Taser and used it on De La Garza as Martinez yelled at the suspect.

An officer is also heard on the audio of a dash-cam recording asking the screaming De La Garza if he's had enough, police officials said.

Yet another officer who arrived at the scene wrote the arrest report for De La Garza. In it, Officer Tomas Urena says De La Garza had kicked Dominguez in the leg and began to "kick and thrust violently."

The report describes De La Garza as being "extremely uncooperative" and says that "he would contaminate officers' food when any police ate" at the restaurant where he works.

"This guy was struggling with the cops," Dominguez told The Dallas Morning News. "Hopefully, you guys can see the whole video and what he's saying and commenting to us."

Dewald's report gives no indication that De La Garza struggled with police before being stunned.

Police officials said on the video they could hear the sound of the stun gun being used, and officers yelling and De La Garza screaming. The police investigation will seek to determine whether the Taser was improperly used.

De La Garza, 21, was arrested on suspicion of third-degree felony assault on a public servant, evading arrest and resisting arrest. Alejandro Rivera, 20, was arrested on a public intoxication and assault charges. Morgan Brito, 21, was arrested on an assault charge and for outstanding warrants.

Officer Lance Bennett Resigns After being Accused of Peeping into Womans Window

A Nebraska City police officer accused of peeping into a window to watch a woman take a bath has resigned from the force.

Lance Bennett submitted his resignation last week, days after he entered a written not guilty plea in Otoe County Court to a charge of second-degree criminal trespass, a misdemeanor. According to the criminal complaint, Bennett improperly went onto the property of Erik and Brenda Cunningham sometime around 10 p.m. on Aug. 6, 2008.

That night, Erik Cunningham went outside and found Bennett crouched on his back porch, wearing his police uniform. The officer had parked his police cruiser more than a block from the couple's house.

A next-door neighbor later told the Cunninghams that he had seen a man looking through a lighted window at the back of the couple's house. Brenda Cunningham, 32, was in the couple's bathroom taking a bath at the time.

Attempts to reach Bennett have been unsuccessful. His attorney, John Voelker of Nebraska City, did not return calls seeking comment.

Bennett, 29, had worked as a Nebraska City police officer since 2006.

On March 12, the city put Bennett on unpaid suspension after the Nebraska Attorney General's Office charged him with trespassing. He had spent more five months on paid administrative leave while the matter was under investigation, Police Chief David Lacy said Tuesday.

Baby Dies After Woman Gives Birth At Racine Jail


A 20-year-old woman gave birth Wednesday morning in the Racine County Jail.

Accusations are flying that calls for help were made but that hours passed before jail staffed arrived to help the woman deliver the child.

WISN 12 News talked with the mother of the cellmate who helped the prisoner deliver the child.

She said that her daughter repeatedly called for help but no one came.

Tamara Povliot said that her daughter told her the woman started bleeding at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. She said her daughter pushed the emergency call button four times to no avail.

Povliot said that the pregnant prisoner delivered her baby in the toilet nearly four hours later.

"She took the baby out of the toilet. She let them know over the intercom that the baby was born. And the guards came in. The baby was breathing, but by the time they got the baby to the hospital the baby was dead," Povliot said. "If they would have answered at 1 a.m. and gotten her to the hospital, I believe they could have stopped that or at least done some other preventive measures.”

The Racine County Sheriff's department spokesman said jail staff responded to the woman's cell at about 5:15 a.m. and found her giving birth.

The baby was pronounced dead 39 minutes later at a hospital.

The spokesman said, “The incident is being investigated by Racine County investigators. An autopsy is scheduled to determine the cause of death."

Trooper Franklin Joseph Ryle Waves Right to Hearing


A Wyoming state trooper accused of federal civil rights violations will remain in custody.

Trooper Franklin Joseph Ryle on Tuesday waived his right to a preliminary hearing that would have forced the federal government to lay out its case against him in court. Ryle also waived his right to a detention hearing, meaning that he will remain in custody until he's arraigned later.

Ryle, 41, wore an orange jail jumpsuit and was led into the courtroom in handcuffs by officers during his appearance before U.S. Magistrate R. Michael Shickich.

Shickich told Ryle that he had a right to force the government to present evidence why the case against him should proceed. Ryle declined to do that.

Ryle also declined when Shickich asked him if he wanted a hearing on whether he should stay in custody.

"That being the case, the implication is that Mr. Ryle will remain in the custody of the United States," Shickich said.

Last week, U.S. Justice Department lawyer Edward G. Caspar filed papers in court asking that Ryle be jailed until a detention hearing could be held. Caspar indicated that Ryle faced the possibility of a life sentence in prison if convicted and indicated that there was a serious risk he would flee if allowed out of custody.

Ryle's decision to waive his preliminary and detention hearings means that details of the government's case against him remain secret to the public.

The Justice Department last week charged that Ryle, a 12-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, had violated a person's civil rights in January by kidnapping him at gunpoint and unlawfully arresting him. The complaint states that Ryle was acting "under color of law" during the incident.

In response to a request from the Justice Department, Shickich last week ordered some of the criminal complaint against Ryle and all of an FBI agent's affidavit supporting the complaint to be sealed.

Caspar declined comment on the government's case against Ryle after Tuesday's court hearing. He referred questions to a Justice Department public information officer in Washington. The public information officer said he could give no details of the government's case because the records remain sealed.

Records from the Justice Department Web site show that Caspar has been involved in several civil rights prosecutions around the country in recent years involving claims that police or correctional officers have brutalized people in custody.

Casper lawyer John Robinson represented Ryle in court. However, Robinson told Shickich that Ryle will apply for a public defender. Robinson said that once Ryle gets a public defender, Robinson will no longer be involved in the case.

Robinson declined comment after the court hearing.

State officials, including the governor's office and Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg, have declined comment on the case against Ryle.

Col. Sam Powell, administrator of the Highway Patrol, said last week that Ryle was on paid administrative leave.

Ryle was involved in an on-duty shooting in 2006 that prosecutors later determined was justified. Prosecutors

Former Officer Patrick Casey Found Guilty on 27 Counts of Sexually Assaulting Child


A Mesa County jury has convicted a former Palisade police officer accused of sexually assaulting two young girls.

Jurors reached their verdict Wednesday in the case of 51-year-old Patrick Casey of Clifton. He was found guilty of 27 counts including sexual assault on a child, sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust and in a pattern of abuse.

Casey was accused of sexually assaulting two of his former foster children between January 1997 and April 2008. The abuse allegedly began when the girls were between the ages of 3 and 4.

Casey's attorney had said the girls manufactured the allegations in an attempt to stay out of foster care.

A psychosexual evaluation has been ordered for Casey.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 5.