Monday, July 06, 2009

Man Dies After Being Tasered

A morbidly obese man died in a hospital hours after deputies used a Taser to subdue him in Lancaster, but the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department today denied he died because of the stun gun.

The 43-year-old man, who was 6 feet tall and weighed 400 pounds, drove off Sierra Highway at Avenue J in Lancaster about 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and when deputies tried to talk to him, he began acting "aggressively" toward them and firefighters, said Deputy Bill Brauberger of the Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau.

Deputies shot him with a Taser, which had "little or no effect" on the man, he said, adding that they then physically restrained and handcuffed him.

The man was taken to a hospital and admitted for "reasons unrelated to the contact with the deputies," he said, but it was unclear what those reasons were.

About 11 hours later, the man died, he said. An autopsy and toxicology tests were pending.

Officers Josehp Szelenyi & Booby Hoover on Trial for Tasering Woman while Handcuffed

A jury will decide whether two Newburgh Heights police officers were following department protocol or abusing their power when they shocked a Cleveland woman repeatedly with a Taser while she was handcuffed.

Officers Joseph Szelenyi, 32, and Bobby Hoover, 33, stand trial this week in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, accused of holding Kim Bankhead captive for hours at their police station and torturing her with a Taser, an electroshock weapon that temporarily incapacitates its target.

Prosecutors say the officers shocked the woman at least a half-dozen times until she complained of chest pain and was taken to a hospital.

Szelenyi and Hoover are charged with felonious assault. Judge Brendan Sheehan threw out charges against a third officer, Christopher Minek, 26, because prosecutors could not produce enough evidence to suggest he participated in shocking the woman.

In opening statements Monday, defense lawyers argued that police used the Taser to control Bankhead, who was so intoxicated she could not perform the basic field sobriety test.

At her Municipal Court hearing in February 2008, Bankhead pleaded no contest to operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Charges of disorderly conduct, driving in a prohibited area, failure to yield and resisting arrest were dismissed.

But she has since filed a civil lawsuit in federal court, in which she is asking for $1.5 million in damages from each of the officers who used the Taser, saying the experience left her traumatized, anxious and chronically depressed.

Bankhead and her husband, Michael, had been drinking at the Crankshaft bar in Newburgh Heights on Nov. 25, 2007, and were on their way home around 9 p.m., when Bankhead said police lights surrounded her car.

Police ordered her out of the driver's seat, she said. And when she demanded to know why she had been pulled over, Bankhead said, Szelenyi slammed her head against the hood of his police cruiser, busting her lip and knocking her out cold. When she regained consciousness, Bankhead struggled against the officer, who had handcuffed her and was loading her into the backseat of his car. Without warning, Szelenyi shocked her in the leg, she said.

At the police station, the officers handcuffed Bankhead to a bench while they prepared to book her on charges of driving under the influence and resisting arrest. Afraid and distraught, Bankhead panicked, screaming for help and trying to wriggle free from the handcuffs, she testified.

Hoover shocked her repeatedly, she said. He even told her, in lewd language, that he was enjoying it and encouraged her to give him a reason to do it again, Bankhead told the court.

Defense lawyers countered that Bankhead was so drunk that she nearly collided head-on with a police cruiser and parked her car on a tree lawn when she finally pulled over. She could hardly walk, let alone complete a field sobriety test. And she was aggressive, yelling for her husband to attack the police who were arresting her, they said.

Attorneys for the officers also argued that Bankhead produced no evidence or documentation of injuries inflicted by the Taser and that she only experienced chest pains, a symptom of anxiety, after police tried to book her in jail.

The trial continues Tuesday.

Former Officer Louis Alvie 'Buck' Morris in Court on Rape of 15-year-old

Former Stillwater Police Officer Louis Alvie "Buck" Morris, 48, who appeared in court today on charges alleging he committed five sex acts with a 15-year-old female student in May, has resigned from the department, Stillwater Police Chief Norman McNickle said.

"This case now rests in the hands of the judicial system," McNickle said.

The preliminary hearing for Morris, who has been charged with two counts of rape by instrumentation and three counts of lewd acts with a child, was scheduled during Morris's brief court appearance today for Aug. 28.

If convicted of the five-count charge, Morris could receive as much as two life without parole sentences plus 60 years in prison, court records show.

Morris was originally represented by Oklahoma City attorney Susan Ann Knight, but now is being defended by four Oklahoma City attorneys, Joe E. White Jr., Charles C. Weddle III, Marvel E. Lewis and Blake Farris, court records show.

Morris, who was an officer with the Stillwater Police Department for 17 years, had served as a School Resource Officer for six years, McNickle said.

He was suspended without pay at the time of his June 16 arrest at his Ripley residence, McNickle said.

Morris resigned from the Stillwater Police Department on June 26, McNickle said.

"As a Police Officer and a School Resource Officer, Morris was sworn to protect and serve all the citizens of Stillwater," McNickle said in a press release when Morris was arrested by officers from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Stillwater Police Department and the Payne County Sheriff's Office.

"It is apparent to me and the personnel of the Stillwater Police Department that the sacred trust in the Oath of Office was violated." McNickle said.

"Department members are deeply disappointed and disgusted in the actions of a veteran officer.

"Members of the department take their oath seriously and will continue to seek out those who violate the public trust and where appropriate, seek prosecution and removal from office," McNickle said.

An investigation began on May 20 when a citizen reported a concern to police that Morris was engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old girl, McNickle said in his press release.

"The original information supplied by the citizen had no evidence of criminal activity by Morris.

"Two investigators were immediately assigned to determine if Morris had violated any policies of the Stillwater Police Department Standard Operating Procedures.

"The internal investigation continued until June 1, 2009, when information was discovered that Morris had possibly violated state law in his conduct with the 15-year-old victim.

"Based on this information, I immediately asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) to assist the Stillwater Police Department in conducting a criminal investigation into Morris' conduct," McNickle said.

"On June 2, 2009, the criminal investigation determined probable cause existed that Morris committed a felony. Also on June 2, 2009, Morris was suspended from duty and his powers to act as a police officer were revoked," McNickle said.

"On June 10, 2009, two investigators were dispatched on an out-of-state trip to interview potential witnesses in the criminal investigation. The trip continued through Monday, June 15, 2009," McNickle said.

The following day, charges were filed against Morris by Payne County First Assistant District Attorney Tom Lee.

Morris was booked into the Payne County Jail and released after posting a $25,000 property bond, court records show.

According to an affidavit by OSBI agent Richard Brown, the girl knew Morris for the two years she attended Stillwater Junior High School. She said that she talked with Morris every morning at school, the affidavit said.

"She and Morris exchanged phone numbers and would text each other. She felt Morris knew she liked him and that he liked her.

"She became close to Morris. Morris would text her saying he loved her and would be able to show her how much he loved her," the affidavit alleged.

She told the OSBI agent that Morris fondled her while they were alone in his home and that while he was driving her back to her house, Morris put his finger in her genital area, the affidavit alleged.

In May two days before she was to leave Oklahoma for the summer, Morris came by her house while her father was at work and they performed manual sex acts on each other, the affidavit alleged.

Morris subsequently talked to Stillwater Police Officer Guy Palladino, who was a School Resource Officer assigned to Stillwater's Sangre Ridge Elementary and Middle Schools, as well as Westwood Elementary School. Palladino also was a Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) representative for any officer at the Stillwater Police Department, according to the affidavit.

Morris told Palladino that they had sexual contact, but denied having oral or vaginal sex with the girl, the affidavit alleged.

Morris knew his job was gone and he hoped he did not have to go to prison, but that he had done this to himself," the affidavit alleged.

Officer Alex Alvarez Arrested for DWI

A McAllen police officer found himself on the other side of the law after being arrested for an alleged DWI wreck over the weekend.

Officer Alex Alvarez was arrested on DWI charges after he was allegedly involved in an accident in the parking lot of the Chili’s restaurant on Nolana Avenue.

The 39-year-old police officer appeared before a judge where he was given a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.

Reserve Officer Adam Goldstein Arrested for Being Drunk in Squad Car

A Lawrence Township school board member has been dismissed as a Fortville reserve police officer after driving a squad car in full uniform while allegedly drunk.

Adam Goldstein, 39, of Geist, an unpaid officer in training in Fortville, was charged with public intoxication at the Geist Marina early Sunday morning and later charged preliminarily with drunk driving, police and the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office said today.

Goldtstein and his wife, Karen, were stopped by an Indiana Department of Natural Resources officer while boating on the reservoir at 11 p.m. Saturday and cited for failing to have working navigational lights, said Conservation Officer Dave Dungan.

Apparently angry at the citation, Goldstein drove home, put on his police uniform and gun, then drove to the Fortville police station, where he took a squad car, Fortville Police Sgt. Derek Shelley said. No one else was at the station at the time.

He drove the car to the Geist Marina to confront the DNR officer who ticketed him, became unruly and was arrested for public intoxication, Shelley said.

Dungan said he gave Goldstein a breathalyzer test, which he failed, and he was later charged with drunk driving.

Goldstein was elected to his first term on the school board in 2008. He is also the former owner of Automotive Service Group in Lawrence. He began his reserve officer training Feb. 28 and was in the field training segment, in which he rode around with a full-time officer on patrol.

Training officers have keys to the squad cars, Shelley said.

Former Officer Jerry Bristow Pleads Guilty to Stealing Weapons from Evidence Room

A former Clinton police officer has pleaded guilty to taking two pistols and a shotgun from the police evidence room and selling them to a pawnbroker.

The former officer, 56-year-old Jerry Bristow, remains free on bond until a pre-sentence hearing on Sept. 11.

Bristow, who supervised the evidence room, left the force Jan. 1.

On Monday, Assistant DeWitt County State's Attorney Darrell Price said Clinton Police Chief Mike Reidy called for an investigation in January after he was told guns were missing from the evidence room.

Price told Circuit Court Judge Garry Bryan that the DeWitt County Sheriff's Department discovered that Bristow had taken the guns and sold them for his own profit at a Bloomington pawn shop.


Information from: The Pantagraph,

Officer Matthew Leavitt Pleads Guilty to Beating Twan Reynolds

Kaleigha Reynolds was just 4 years old, sitting in her car seat and drinking some juice, when a police car with lights flashing pulled in front of her parents' car in Montgomery.

She didn't understand what was happening as Montgomery Police Officer Matthew Leavitt pulled her parents from the car and then started beating her dad on Sept. 26.

Leavitt pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor civil-rights violations in federal court on Monday. Leavitt pleaded to beating Twan Reynolds with a slap jack and illegally charging his wife, Lauren Reynolds, with driving under the influence.

Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin accepted the plea.

After watching Leavitt plead guilty, Twan Reynolds said Monday he remembered hearing his daughter's screams that night. He said Kaleigha was terrified by what happened.

Lauren Reynolds said she first saw Leavitt that day as she was in line at a concession stand at a football game.

"He was standing behind me, looking at me," she said. "He kept rocking back and forth. ... I got an eerie feeling from it. It was chilling."

When they left the football game, the Reynolds family stopped at the local Go-Mart to put air in a car tire. The machine was broken, and they drove to the 7-Eleven.

There Leavitt and Officer Shawn Hutchinson pulled Lauren Reynolds from the car, telling her it sounded like she was slurring her words. They looked at her license, which had a St. Albans address.

"They said, 'You're a little St. Albans girl. You haven't had the privilege of being introduced to the Montgomery police yet," Lauren Reynolds said.

Twan Reynolds started talking to the two officers as he also tried to calm his daughter.

"She was crying and I was trying to look back at her," he said. "From that point it just got out of hand."

'This ain't no rap movie'

Leavitt and Hutchinson pulled Twan Reynolds out of his car and tried to handcuff him. When Reynolds told the men he hadn't done anything that justified arrest, Leavitt pulled out a slap jack -- a small weapon with a weight at the end -- and hit him in the face with it, according to Montgomery Police Lt. J.D. Burrow.

In December, Burrow told the Gazette that Leavitt and Hutchinson threatened to arrest him when he tried to stop them from attacking Reynolds.

"These guys were on their own. They felt like they could do what they want," Burrow said at the time. "It seemed like they always had that little leeway to do what they wanted to, to me."

Chuck Miller, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, handled the case himself. He pointed out in the courtroom that slap jacks have been outlawed for police use because they can kill.

Two Officer & Dispatcher on Trial for Brutalizing Woman with Taser

Two Newburgh Heights police officers and a dispatcher are standing trial on charges they used tasers to brutalize a woman they arrested.

Kim Bankhead was pulled over by the two officers in november 2007 on suspicion of drunk driving. During her testimony on Monday, Bankhead admitted that she did not cooperate with Officer Joseph Szelenyi, but claims he used excessive force.

Bankhead told the jury, "he forced me around, slammed my head on the car to handcuff me." On the opening day of the felonious assault trial of Patrolman Szeleyni, fellow officer Bobby Hoover and Newburgh Heights dispatcher Christopher Minek, Bankhead testified that Officer Szelenyi tasered her multiple times after she was handcuffed.

When asked by assistant county prosecutor David Zimmerman why she was screaming "help me", Bankhead said "they were hurting me, I was scared to death and I was hurt."

Bankhead says after she was taken to the Newburgh Heights police station, she was chained to a bench and then tasered by Officer Bobby Hoover following an angry exchange of words.

When asked by Zimmerman how many time she was tasered while she was on the floor handcuffed, Bankhead said "it was just one after another."

But on cross examination, defense attorneys pointed out that Kim Bankhead later pleaded no contest to driving while intoxicated, and on the night she was arrested, was confrontational with the officers.

Attorney Mike Conway asked Bankhead "you're asked to get out of the vehicle and you said 'I'm not (bleep) going with you guys anywhere', right? Bankhead responded "I did say that."

Conway got Bankhead to admit that after she was taken to the police station, she tried to get away. Conway asked "you did escape from a handcuff, and what are the police officers supposed to do when you escape from a handcuff, just let you walk away?"

After prosecutors wrapped up their case Monday, the defense asked the judge to immediately find the three men not guilty, and in the case of the dispatcher, the judge granted their request.

Judge Brendan Sheehan ruled that there was no evidence or testimony that Christopher Minek had done anything wrong.

The dismissal of the charges lifts a cloud of suspicion that has followed Minek for the past year and a half.

Minek says "rough, we lost almost everything, now I can continue my career and go on, proves that we were right and we did the best that we can do."

Judge Sheehan will decide on Tuesday if Joseph Szelenyi and Bobby Hoover should be exonerated as well, or if their trial should continue.