Wednesday, May 06, 2009

More Weapons Missing from the Tulsa Police Department

Lax security policies at the Tulsa Police Department led to the disappearance of 44 guns and an unknown amount of ammunition, a recent audit concluded.

The inquiry stemmed from the theft of 19 firearms and ammunition in 2007, Police Chief Ron Palmer told city councilors Tuesday. Former range instructor Buddy Visser was sent to federal prison for stealing the weapons and selling them online during an 11-month period.

"No one ever counted on the police stealing from the police," Palmer said. "But at the same time, we could have done a lot better job along the way."

The 19 stolen guns were eventually recovered. Twenty-five others, including two AR-15 assault rifles and several snub-nosed revolvers, are unaccounted for, Palmer said.

Although it's continuing to search for those weapons, the department has invested in a computer system to track ammunition by bar codes. Security is also tighter at the range, Palmer said.

The audit, which cataloged roughly 5,300 firearms that passed through the department in the last 30 years, was the first large-scale examination of the department's arsenal, Palmer said.

"A whole host of things happened during that period of time and, as we admit in our response to the range audit, we didn't do a very good job in some of that inventory control," he said.

Among the missing weapons are nine Remington 12-gauge shotguns and two Smith & Wesson .357-caliber Magnum revolvers.

All told, the guns are worth $11,864, records show.

Palmer said the audit uncovered several ways to improve security.

The new computer program will help track the department's inventory, but technical problems have delayed the project. Officials are working with the city's information technology staff to bring the system online, Palmer said.

Visser, a 17-year department veteran, sold the stolen guns and ammunition on his Web site, authorities said. None of the buyers knew that the weapons were stolen, police said.

Visser resigned from the police force before he pleaded guilty to the charges in March 2008. He is in a low-security prison in Texas, records show.

Documents: View a list of the 25 firearms that are still missing from the Tulsa Police Department

Officer Kimberly Whyley Accused of Assaulting 90-Year-Old Man

An Oakview police officer accused of assaulting a 90-year-old man during a recent traffic stop pleaded not guilty today in Clay County Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, a guardian filed a $5 million civil rights lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the driver, Phillip Joseph Forte, against the officer and Oakview.

Kimberly A. Whyley, 38, faces a third-degree assault charge, a misdemeanor. She is scheduled to appear in the Clay County court on June 4. No trial date has been set.

William Shull, an attorney for Whyley, said his client denies the allegations and looks forward to resolving the matter in court.

“We believe the incident has been badly taken out of proportion,” Shull said. “There has been a great deal of misinformation about this matter.”

Whyley has been suspended by the Oakview Police Department, the Oakview city attorney said.

According to authorities, the incident occurred Feb. 12 in a strip mall parking lot in the 6300 block of North Oak Trafficway.

The indictment alleges that Whyley struck Forte, causing physical injury. The indictment contains no other details about the incident, and investigative reports in the case are under seal.

Forte is now living in a nursing home for reasons unrelated to the incident.

According to the lawsuit, Whyley pulled Forte over after midnight. He told the officer he was lost, he did not have his driver’s license or insurance and he could not remember his Social Security number.

Instead of turning off his car and taking his keys, the lawsuit says, Whyley went to her patrol car parked four feet behind Forte’s car.

Forte apparently put his car into neutral and released the brake, causing it to roll backwards and “slightly bump” Whyley’s car, the lawsuit says.

Whyley “violently assaulted” Forte, dragging him from the vehicle, throwing him to the ground and breaking his arm, the lawsuit alleges, all while ignoring his pleas for mercy.

Forte was hospitalized for his injuries, said his wife, Theresa Forte.

She said her husband was driving to get a sandwich when his vehicle struck a curb and he was pulled over by Whyley.

“He was not speeding; he did not bother her. He just went to get a sandwich,” Theresa Forte said.

Deputy Konstandino Patzanakidis Charged with Hitting Pregnant Girlfriend

According to Jupiter Police, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy Konstandino Patzanakidis violently confronted the mother of his 5-year-old child.

Fox 29 obtained the 911 call the victim made shortly after that altercation. Here's a partial transcript:

Dispatcher: "911 emergency."

Victim: "Um, I just got slammed on the counter."

Dispatcher: "Who slammed you?"

Victim: "Um, my significant other, or my ex, or boyfriend, whatever."

Dispatcher: "Do you need medical attention?"

Victim: "Yeah".

We also obtained a copy of the police report of the incident. A closer look at the that report shows more detail about this case of domestic battery. The victim told police Patzanakidis ripped off her glasses. He then grabbed her by the back of the neck and pushed her head and face into the kitchen counter-top. Here's more from the victims call to police:

Dispatcher: "Are you bleeding?"

Victim: "A little yeah."

Dispatcher: "Did he slam you head on the counter?"

Victim: "Yeah."

During that same call, the victim told police Patzanakidis snatched the phone from her hand and told her he loved her and apologized. The sheriff's deputy then begged the victim not to call police. But the call had already been made. The victim also told police she was approximately eight weeks pregnant with Patzanakidis's child, and that he knew she was pregnant.

Paramedics and police officers were dispatched to the house.

This police report says the department of Children and Families is now involved.

Meanwhile, Patzanakidis, a sergeant with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office, is on paid administrative leave.

Deputy Travis Kiser Arrested for Trespassing

A former Valdosta police officer is facing charges for criminal trespass.

Valdosta Police arrested 25-year-old Travis Kiser on Tuesday, May 5th.

Police say around 8:30 AM at the Woodstone Apartments in Valdosta, Kiser got into an argument with his ex-girlfriend and broke a mirror off her car.

"Certainly we were upset with what happened, but our guys fully understand that we can't allow that. I mean, we're a profession just like the media is a profession. And the difference with us though is that we're in law enforcement and if we don't police ourselves, what are we telling the community?" said COMM Brian Childress of the Valdosta Police Department.

Police say Kiser was later arrested, then taken to the Lowndes County Jail.

Kiser is currently out on bond and works as a deputy for the Lanier County Sheriff's Office.


Officer Dina Hoffman Charged with Perjury

A Montgomery County Police officer faces a perjury investigation after she testified in April that she found a man arrested for driving under the influence behind the wheel of a parked car. A recording from a security camera showed he was in the back seat, lying down, with his feet out the open passenger side door when she approached him.

"We are aware of the allegation and will be conducting an investigation," Montgomery County Police spokeswoman Lucille Baur said Wednesday.

The Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office referred the case to the Howard County State's Attorney's Office because county prosecutors might be questioned, said Seth Zucker, a spokesman for the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office.

George Zaliev, 56, of Rockville, was arrested about 7:30 p.m. May 3, 2008, for DUI at the parking lot of Sarkissian Interiors at 8537 Atlas Drive in Gaithersburg. A preliminary breath test showed a blood alcohol content of 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit.

At his Montgomery County District Court trial, Officer II Dina Hoffman testified 11 times that she found Zaliev in the front driver's seat. She said shook him awake and he was not cooperative in doing field sobriety tests.

Zaliev's attorney, Paul E. Mack of Columbia, used a laptop computer to show a video from a security camera at Sarkissian that recorded the arrest.

The security tape, reviewed by The Gazette, shows Hoffman arrived and immediately walked up to Zaliev lying in the back seat.

A message left for Hoffman was not returned immediately. A three-year veteran, she continues to work while the allegation is investigated.

After Judge Dennis A. McHugh viewed the tape, he ruled the arrest lacked probable cause. The judge found Zaliev not guilty.

"I've done enough of these that I know without the video, it would have been my client's word against the officer's, and I probably wouldn't have won," Mack said in an interview.

Mack came forward after receiving a transcript of the trial.

By lying in the back seat of the car, Zaliev did nothing illegal and should not have been arrested, Mack said. Case law is clear that people in the back seat of a parked vehicle are not driving under the influence.

Zaliev, an upholsterer, was waiting in his friend's car for his friend to get off work and drive him home, Mack said.

In her testimony at the April 2 trial, Hoffman claimed she arrived and approached Zaliev on the left side of the car where he sat behind the wheel asleep. She described shaking his shoulder to wake him.

"He was just sitting in the front seat, kind of sitting there sleeping," Hoffman testified.

At several points Mack asked the officer if she was certain Zaliev was in the front and not the back.

"Do you recall him being in the back seat on the passenger side?" Mack asked on cross examination.

"No, not when I first got there, no," Hoffman replied.

"Are you absolutely sure?" Mack asked again.

"Yes," Hoffman testified. "I did have him sit there while I waited for another officer to come."

After the recording was played in the courtroom, Hoffman was asked whether she was wrong about Zaliev's position in the car.

"Yeah, I must have been," Hoffman testified. "My apologies. It's been over a year. I deal with a lot of these cases every day so my apologies."

But Hoffman then said Zaliev "must've admitted to me that he was driving the vehicle at some point."

On further questioning, Hoffman testified she had not told that to either the prosecutors or to Mack before.

"You were wrong about him giving you his license while he was in the front seat?" Mack asked.

"Yes," she said. "He gave me his license, but I guess he was in the back seat."

If Zaliev had been convicted, he would have faced a maximum sentence of $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

"If it was determined there's perjury in this case, this is the kind of case that would undermine the authority of police and the perception of good officers out there doing their job," said Christopher Heffernan, chairman of the Maryland State Bar Association's litigation committee. "This would damage the police officers who are doing a good job out there to protect us. This is disturbing to everyone who looks up to the police and relies on them to protect us from the bad guys."

Although allegations of perjury are not uncommon, it is very rare that such cases are ever brought to trial, and Heffernan said he could not remember any that involved police officers.

Mack said he sent a copy of the transcript to Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy and County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger.

Officer Damen Lowe Charged with Sexually Abusing Child


A Racine police officer has been charged with sexually abusing a child.

Damen Lowe is accused of sexually assaulting the same child for three years.

He was arrested Monday night by the Racine County Sheriff's Department Monday night.

Police have not said whether there may be other victims.

Right now Lowe is facing six counts and 135 years in prison.

Lowe is a third shift patrol officer and has been with the department for 10 years.

He is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.