Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brooklyn Police Accused of Using Excessive Force on BiPolar/Schizophrenic Man

A family in Brooklyn is claiming police used excessive force on a man.
NYPD officers were called to the home to help a man who is bipolar and schizophrenic. They were asked to take him to the hospital.

The family claims 26-year-old Gamalier Reyes was beaten by officers. But police claim he attacked them first and may also have suffered injuries elsewhere.

It happened inside one apartment, with the alleged victim's family in another. They could hear what was going on, but could do nothing to help.

"I saw my brother," Zully DelaCruz said. "He was already handcuffed, and I could see the blood."
DelaCruz says she called 911 for paramedics, not for what she claims was police brutality.

Her brother needed a doctor Saturday because he didn't take his medication for his schizophrenia. She says minutes later, eight officers crammed into the hallway of their Bushwick apartment building and shoved her family into a next door apartment, leaving her mentally ill brother alone with police.

"He only demanded to be left alone," she said. "Instead, he was attacked by the police officers."

"Just imagine yourself on the other side of a door, while your loved one is screaming and begging for help while they hit them," sister Indhira Reyes said.
In front of the 83rd Police Precinct Tuesday morning, the family demanded the officers be held accountable.

But police tell a very different story about what happened inside the Irving Avenue apartment.

Officers say Gamalier told them, "You're going to have to kill me. I'm not going."
And they say that when they tried to restrain him, he punched one in the face and hurt another officer's leg.

Also, 911 transcripts show an emergency operator saying, "Alright, so he's threatening. Irrational. And he's restless, he won't go to sleep, right?"

Then, the family's social worker says, "No, they just came back from the Dominican Republic. They had to come back early because he got in a fight; he was very aggressive over there; he got in a fight over there; he got his head cracked open and they just came back."

Gamalier's sister admits her brother was in a fight. But she claims the multiple surgeries her brother now needs were caused by police.

"When he arrived to the United States, he was fine," she said. "He was not injured. All those bruises and broken bones, the police department did that to him."

The family put in a complaint to the precinct. They have met with an attorney and plans to fill a lawsuit.

Officer Bryan Carter Reprimanded Twice Before

A Kingsport police officer recently investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was reprimanded on two previous occasions for improper handling of seized items.

In February 2003, Kingsport Police Department Officer Bryan Carter’s superiors discovered he had not turned in a gun, three ammunition clips and a bottle of Absolut vodka to the evidence unit. The items were seized 11 months prior, in March 2002, while Carter was moonlighting as a security officer at Coconuts nightclub.

And in April 2005, police called Carter at his home because he had failed to turn in money seized during an arrest the previous evening.

For each incident, Carter was suspended for eight hours without pay. He was not placed on probation.

This February, following a TBI investigation of a traffic stop Carter effected on two Mexican citizens in October, Carter was suspended three days without pay. He was also suspended from working the interstate for 90 days and issued remedial training on the preservation and handling of evidence.

During that Interstate 81 stop, $2,675 was seized from the subjects, who were then allowed to drive away despite the fact that neither had a valid driver’s license and they were in possession of drug paraphernalia: a pill crusher, marijuana grinder and clear baggies.

Carter provided the driver a Tennessee Notice of Property Seizure detailing the seizure of $2,675. However, he did not identify himself as the officer effecting the seizure, or even the law enforcement agency. And no incident report on the stop was filed at the police station.

The Mexican citizens contacted Johnson City attorney Don Spurrell, claiming Carter seized about $4,500. According to Sullivan County District Attorney Greeley Wells, who requested that the TBI investigate the October incident, Carter’s actions would have been presented to the grand jury under the official misconduct statute except that the car’s occupants have returned to Mexico and will not return as witnesses.

Kingsport Police Chief Gale Osborne wrote in a February memo to Carter that “I believe we handled this particular case in a very poor manner.” Osborne also noted that Carter had been counseled twice previously on the proper handling of evidence, and has “brought questions as to the integrity and professionalism of the Kingsport Police Department.”

“I will not tolerate this type of sloppy police work in the future,” Osborne wrote.

Carter’s personnel file indicates he was hired as a jailer in 1998 and promoted to police officer in 2001. His first reprimand in regard to handling evidence came in 2003.

According to a KPD memo from April of that year, Capt. Ed Swayze discovered a Smith & Wesson gun, three ammunition clips and bottle of vodka were missing from the evidence unit. All the items had been seized as evidence more than a year earlier in an arrest initiated by Carter.

The memo says Carter was moonlighting at Coconuts nightclub on March 22, 2002. While there he arrested a man for driving while intoxicated, two counts of aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm by an intoxicated person.

City records state that Officer Terry Christian, who was on duty at the time, filled out most of the incident report. The narrative, explaining what happened in the incident, was completed by Carter. Christian then listed the vodka, guns and clips as seized evidence.

However, according to the police memo from 2003, it was about 11 months after the arrest before it was discovered that none of the items had been turned in to the evidence unit. When asked about the items, Carter told his supervisors he obtained a “destruction order” for the evidence. Carter claimed he turned the order into the evidence unit and retained a copy for himself.

“No destruction order has been produced by you or located in the evidence unit,” reads the memo from Mark Addington, chief of Kingsport police at the time.

Carter was suspended eight hours without pay for his handling of the incident. He was also issued a refresher course on “remedial training on the handling of Evidence/Found Property and the Code of Conduct,” according to the memo.

According to a police memo dated June 10, 2005, another disciplinary action against Carter was initiated by complaints from the mother of a man he arrested. The amount of money seized and the reason the suspect was arrested are not addressed in the memo. It states that the suspect was released the following day, but his money had not been entered as evidence.

“There was no record in the evidence unit of the cash having been turned in to the evidence unit,” reads the memo from Chief Addington. “Subsequently, an inquiry with you that morning after being called at home determined that you had, in fact, seized money during the arrest in accordance with state law. However, you had kept the money and other paperwork in your car as opposed to turning it in to the evidence unit before you went home from work.”

The memo states that general orders for filing evidence had been discussed with Carter before; that all paperwork and seized items are to be submitted as evidence at the end of a shift.

“This office recognizes that you have excellent skills in performing your police duties and I appreciate that, however, it is paramount that for the benefit of maintaining your integrity as well as the department’s and criminal justice system as a whole by following the evidence procedures,” Addington wrote. “I strongly urge you to make a better effort in following the rules.”

In this incident, Carter was again suspended eight hours without pay. He was also again ordered to be retrained on the handling of evidence and was “transferred from the Community Policing Unit to a patrol platoon for closer supervision.”

Tim Whaley, the city’s public relations director, said Osborne had no comment on Carter’s previous reprimands, as they were issued under a previous police chief.

The Times-News has attempted to acquire a copy of the TBI’s recent probe of Carter. After learning of his October traffic stop of two Mexican citizens, a request was filed with the city on April 3.

The city has denied that request, claiming that under Tennessee Code, TBI records are confidential. The Times-News has asked its attorney to review the matter.

According to Nashville attorney Frank Gibson, executive director for the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, the city’s stance would be correct only if the incident were still under investigation. Since the case has been closed and no criminal charges are pending, “There’s no need to keep it secret.”

Previous articles:
Kingsport officials awaiting information on TBI report involving officer
TBI investigates Kingsport officer for taking money during traffic stop, letting suspects go free with no charges
District attorney holding Kingsport Police Department to higher standard
Kingsport denies FOIA request for TBI investigation of police officer

Deputy Melissa McKissick Arrested for Battery

Floyd County Sheriff’s Deputy Melissa McKissick has been arrested and charged with battery, affray and public disturbance of a public school following a fight at Rome High School.

According to the affidavits for arrest McKissick was involved in a fight with a student inside Rome High. The affidavit for the battery charge said: McKissick “did commit the offense of battery when she caused substantial visible bodily harm to (a student) at Rome High School.” The name of the student had been marked out.

Rome City Police are investigating the incident. Attempts to contact the detective in charge of the case have not yet been successful.

Chief Deputy Tom Caldwell said that McKissick works in operations at the Floyd County jail. He said she is on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation. He couldn’t comment further because the investigation is ongoing.


Officer Gino G Payne Quits Amid Allegations he Sexually Assaulted Woman

The Atlanta police officer who quit amid allegations he sexually assaulted a woman while on duty has been identified as Gino G. Payne, 24, of Atlanta, police said.

Payne resigned on Feb. 19, almost two weeks after a Marietta woman accused Payne and another officer of assaulting her while they were supposed to be giving her a ride home.

Both officers were put on desk duty when the allegations surfaced. The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office is handling the criminal investigation, which is ongoing, according to Atlanta police.

Payne began working for the department on Sept. 4, 2007.

On the night of the incident, the woman and a female friend left a bar and were heading home when they were involved in a wreck in East Atlanta.

Atlanta police arrested the driver and offered the passenger a ride home.

The passenger later called police from a hospital in north Cobb County and reported the allegations.

Other information:

Robert Mitchells Family Vents Anger Over Taser Death


Relatives of a Detroit high school student who died Friday after Warren Police zapped him with a Taser are vowing legal action against the city and have joined forces with an anti-police brutality group to speak out against the devices.

Family members of Robert Mitchell say the 16-year-old was a quiet kid with a learning disability who loved sports and stayed out of trouble. They say they don't understand why Warren officers felt the unarmed teen, who took medication for attention-deficit disorder, posed a threat after a foot chase that ended in an abandoned home in Detroit.

"I want some answers," said Mitchell's grandmother, Charlotte McGlory of St. Clair Shores. "This doesn't make sense. Is this how we deal with our youth? Is this the behavior of those sworn to protect them?"

According to police, the Detroit Kettering High School sophomore bailed out of the Dodge Stratus he was riding in during a traffic stop for an expired license plate on Eight Mile near Schoenherr. He discarded his jacket before leading officers on a half-block chase to a home on Pelkey.

Police said Mitchell complied at first, but when officers tried to pat him down, he resisted and was stunned one time with a Taser. Shortly after, he became unresponsive and died. He was the second Michigan teen to die after being hit with a Taser in the past month; a 15-year-old from Bay City died March 22.

The results of an autopsy conducted Saturday are pending, but police said the medical examiner found no signs of trauma to the body.

Paul Broschay, a Southfield attorney retained by the family, said his firm is investigating the incident and plans to file a lawsuit on the family's behalf.

"It's becoming more and more common for police officers to resort to the use of these dangerous weapons for no justifiable reason," he said. "Especially when we have a 16-year-old boy who is unarmed and terrified and police officers on the scene have overwhelming force."

But Warren Police maintain the actions of both officers involved were justified. The two were placed on paid leave Friday and are expected to return to work today.

"We're confident our officers were within guidelines and policies and their actions were appropriate," Warren Deputy Police Commissioner Jere Green said. "This person was bolting from the vehicle and it certainly raises the level of suspicion."

Mitchell's family has partnered with the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and plans to go before Warren City Council to argue against Taser use by its police force.

"I am going to do everything I can to make sure this doesn't happen to another family," McGlory said. Mitchell's funeral is being planned for this weekend.

Other information:

Attorney Billy Spruell Sues Troopers who Threw Him Against Wall

Originally accused of obstructing officers, attorney sues troopers who witnesses said threw him against a wall after he was told to turn off his phone outside courtroom.

More than two years after he was thrown to the ground and arrested after being warned to put away his cell phone as he waited to plead a client's DUI case, charges against Marietta, Ga., attorney Billy L. Spruell have been dropped by the Fulton County district attorney.

But the case is not over: Spruell has filed suit in federal court in Atlanta against the two state troopers who hauled him, bleeding and in handcuffs, out of a waiting area at the Office of State Administrative Hearings in downtown Atlanta and charged him with obstructing an officer.

According to witnesses who spoke to the Daily Report at the time, Spruell was among several attorneys waiting outside the administrative courtroom in the Peachtree Street building housing OSAH on Feb. 13, 2007, when State Patrol Cpl. George R. Harper approached and told them to either put away their phones or leave the court offices.

Attorney David M. Zagoria said Spruell continued to talk on his phone, but walked out past a security checkpoint to "a little alcove where the stairs are."

Harper again told Spruell to leave the suite or hang up and, according to a State Patrol spokesman at the time, Spruell "became uncooperative" and cursed the officer. Harper, who was working off-duty at the court, attempted to arrest him. Trooper Stacey A. Forrest, who was attending court to testify in an unrelated case, pitched in to subdue Spruell, wrestling the then-68-year-old lawyer to the ground.

In the process, said Zagoria, Spruell was pushed into a wall, "and his head just made this sickening crunch."

The troopers, said attorney Gregory A. Willis, who was also on hand, "slammed Billy's head into the wall, into this black metal frame. I saw hair and blood there afterward."

Spruell's Feb. 10 suit accuses the troopers of excessive force and battery and essentially reiterates that version of events. It says that Harper followed Spruell into the hallway after ordering him from the waiting area "whereupon, suddenly and without warning, assaulted him, following which Defendant Forrest joined Defendant Harper and 'took him down,' which they did in such a violent way as to cause serious physical injuries."

Among those injuries, says the suit, were a concussion and contusions and lacerations to his lip, face and head. His teeth were also damaged, and his wrist and shoulder were strained, it says.

Spruell referred questions to his attorney, James A. Eidson of Hapeville, who said he had numerous witnesses to the arrest who could corroborate Spruell's version.

"They charged him with obstruction, but they never even told him he was under arrest until after they tackled him," said Eidson. "What was he obstructing?"

In fighting that charge, Spruell sought the help of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' "Strike Force," which provides representation to member attorneys charged with contempt or other offenses during their representation of a client. He requested that Lawrenceville, Ga., attorney Christine A. Koehler, who was recently named president of the organization, take his case.

On April 1 she received a letter from Fulton County Senior Assistant District Attorney Kellie S. Hill of the office's Public Integrity Unit saying the charges had been dropped.

Her office had "exhaustively investigated" the allegations surrounding the incident, wrote Hill, "and our findings indicate that there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution against your client, Mr. Spruell, or any other party involved."

Eidson said that, as a result of that letter, he also will be adding a charge of false arrest to his complaint.

On April 4, the office of Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker filed a motion to dismiss, citing sovereign immunity. Baker spokeswoman Kelley Jackson declined further comment on the case.

A Georgia State Patrol public information officer, Lt. Paul L. Cosper, said he was unfamiliar with Spruell's suit and unaware of any related investigations conducted by his department.

I don't know Mr. Spruell or what his intentions are," said Coster. "These troopers were doing their job."

Colby Students Rally Against Excessive Force

An Easter Sunday encounter between students at Colby College and campus security has thrown the campus into turmoil. College officials say that security was trying to restrain students who were interfering with their task of helping another student who was ill. But a student-made video of the incident now widely viewed on campus has drawn cries of excessive force from the student body, who turned out by the hundreds this afternoon for a rally.

At noon, about 800 Colby students, roughly half the student body, stopped what they were doing and converged on the campus center to protest a Sunday incident at the Pugh student center that resulted in the arrest of two students. They wore red shirts in solidarity.

"So on the night in question I also was there in the Pugh Center," said Cynia Barnwell, one of about 10 students who shared eyewitness accounts with the crowd from under a towering flagpole. "The security officers knees was on the back of student A's neck and I began to cry and I questioned why this was happening, I questioned why they were using such force, what did he do, things of that nature."

The two students arrested were identified as 22-year-old Ozzy Ramirez, of the Bronx, New York, and 21-year-old Jacob Roundtree, of St. Albans, New York. Both were charged with assault and criminal trespass.

Police, who were called to assist campus police, say the incident unfolded after a college dance, when Colby's emergency's response team was trying to help an intoxicated student.

Joseph Massey is Waterville's police chief. "It all stemmed from apparently some students not wanting another student, who was intoxicated - and medical treatment was trying to be delivered to that student by some EMTs who were also students, and for some reason this large group of students, who obviously a lot of them had been drinking, didn't want the student to receive medical treatment."

The college says one student -- a reference to Ramirez, according to student eyewitnesses -- reportedly took issue with what was going on, and intefered with what the emergency response team was doing, both verbally and physically. The second student, identified as Roundtree by students, also verbally and physically interfered. Police say both were also drunk.

But fellow students say that campus security was overreacting and they point to a video that student Reesa Kashuk captured with her digital camera. The video shows two security officers restraining a man identified as Ramierez to the ground, as a small pool of blood collects around his face. The man screams "Let me go!" as his friends alternate between screaming and urging him to calm down.

Students demanded an apology from the college administration, who were invited to speak at the rally. They didn't get one. But college President William Adams expressed his sympathy toward the students. "I hear you, I understand, and I understand the level of upset that has been expressed today and previously and will continue to be expressed, and I need you to know that I share a level of profound upset."

Adams said that the college was conducting a thorough and fair investigation into what happened. The school has not taken any action against the students who were arrested or the security officers. "I'm working on identifying somebody from outside the institution to look at all these pieces that we're putting together, an independent voice, if you will, an investigator to take stock of what we gather and what we have said and what is being said by students and others."

Adams said the college administration would also sponsor a forum with the public that would allow students to ask questions.

The fact that the two students arrested were Hispanic and African-American, respectively, has prompted student complaints of racial discrimination. Juniors Lane Phillips and Kelsey Gibbs, who are white, said they didn't think that white students would have been treated the same way. I don't think it's a coincidence they happen to be two minority students on a campus of predominantly white, odds are against it being possible. There's no doubt in my mind," Phillips says.

"At the same time, I don't think security had the intention of beating up minority students. But at a same time, I don't think, in that same situation, I don't think it would have escalated to that level if they had been white.

Waterville Police Chief Massey said there have been no charges of racial discrimination filed. He says the allegations distract from the real issue: excessive college drinking.

Other Information: http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090415/NEWS0104/904159972/-1/CITIZEN

Former Officer Michael Roberts Indicted for Selling Police Records to Gang Members

Federal officials have denied a request for some documents in the case against a former Minneapolis Police officer accused of corruption and tax fraud. However, a judge ruled elements of the case would be separated.

Former Officer Michael David Roberts has been indicted by a federal grand jury, accused of selling police records to a gang member and failing to report $100,000 in income from off-duty security jobs to the IRS, according to court documents.

Earlier this month, his attorneys had asked to throw out some internal affairs reports and sever the tax accounts against him.

According to court documents, attorneys argue that Roberts was told by internal affairs investigators to either make a statement regarding the accusations against him or risk losing his job.

Roberts’ attorneys say that threat deprived him of his constitutional protections. They also want the tax case against Roberts to be separated from the other allegations because they’re unrelated.

The prosecution filed its own motion seeking, in part, to stop the defense from alleging at trial that Roberts is being prosecuted because of racism inside the Minneapolis Police Department.

The government responded Monday, stating the internal affairs reports would not be tossed out, based on entrapment and prejudicial claims made by Roberts' attorneys. But a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the tax and bribery counts against Roberts would be explored in a separate case.

Prosecutors say Roberts has confessed to selling the records, but hasn't pleaded in the tax charges. Roberts' trial is set for May 5.
Related stories: Indicted former MPD officer asks for reports to be thrown out Mpls. Police officer reindicted, counts added