Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Details on Officer Patrick Luckett

There are new developments in the case involving a Mobile Police officer accused of beating a suspect. FOX10 first told you about the video that emerged on the Internet showing an officer throwing punches after a high speed chase. That internal investigation has now come to an end.

The incident was first reported two weeks ago, after video emerged on the internet showing the officer throwing punches after a high speed chase.

The Officer in question is Patrick Luckett. Mobile Police Chief Phillip Garrett said Luckett has been on the force for about four years, and he's never had any other disciplinary problems before.

Garrett said everything regarding the pursuit and the arrest of the suspect was fine, because he was a danger to the public. But Garrett did have an issue with the force used by Officer Luckett, after the suspect was taken from the car. Garrett called it "unnecessary."

Police pulled the suspect, David Pate, from a car. After the arrest, Officer Patrick Luckett was videotaped swinging at the suspect. Wednesday, Chief Phillip Garrett said too much force was used.

"He did come forward and admit it and it was an error," said Chief Garrett. "He was upset with Mr. Pate for the actions. We certainly don't condone unnecessary force and I think this was. I think Mr. Pate certainly deserves some part of the responsibility for the position he put a lot of people in that day."

Pate is accused of hitting his wife, kidnapping her, then leading police on a high speed chase. Police were able to surround the suspect on Hillcrest Road, where they tried to get him under control.

Garrett said he only agrees with the arrest and pursuit.

"They did right by physically taking him out and literally breaking the window out of the car and pulling him out of the car. They needed to be able to stop him from being able to leave the scene again," he added.

But it's what happened next that caused Officer Luckett to also be investigated.

"We don't condone that. We're not going to condone it. Never have, and never will," said Garrett.

Since the incident, Officer Luckett has been placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of a hearing. Garrett said Luckett will have the chance to tell his side of the story in front of a panel on the trial board.

"The penalty could be minimal, it could be termination. There's a wide range. There's a lot it's based on; the officer's actions, the way he presents himself for taking responsibility for his actions," Garrett said.

The trial board will evaluate the case and present its recommendations to Chief Garrett. Garrett will then turn it over to the Mayor. That process may take a few weeks.

Officer Matthew Shelton Accused of Using Excessive Force

A Shafter police officer is accused of using inappropriate force and filing a false report.

The alleged misdeeds by Officer Matthew Shelton were discovered during an internal audit on use-of-force issues and not from an outside complaint, according to the Shafter Police Department.

Shelton, 30, was arrested earlier this month but is currently free on $50,000 bail. He's on paid administrative leave pending completion of an independent investigation.

The arrest stems from a Jan. 30 burglary call at Golden Oak Elementary School. Shelton was filmed by a camera on his Taser as he beat the suspect with a baton and stepped on the suspect's head. The suspect, Immanuel Perez, was reportedly not fighting back.

Perez was left with a 3-inch laceration on his head, chipped tooth, punctured cheek and bruised jaw after the attack.

The officer is accused of then falsifying his report, claiming that Perez was not following orders and resisting arrest.

Kern County court records show Shelton will be charged Friday with three felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, assault by a public officer and false report by a peace officer.

In an unrelated case, Shelton was one of two officers cleared for fatally shooting a woman in May. In that incident, 52-year-old Dora Luis, who had a history of mental illness, lunged at the officers with a knife.

Chief Charlie Fivecoat said Wednesday that it's "a sad day for the Shafter Police Department."

"I would hope that the public and certainly the officers in this organization understand that we have professional people doing a professional job every day, and occasionally things like this happen," Fivecoat said.

Sheriff Sue Rahr Will Decide if 2 Deputies will be Fired

King County Sheriff Sue Rahr could decide next month whether to fire two deputies accused of using excessive force , including one officer caught on video as he roughed up a 15-year-old girl.

In both cases, the officers' top-level commanders have recommended terminating them.

The most serious misconduct charges were against Deputy Paul Schene, 31, who is charged with misdemeanor assault for beating a mouthy teenager inside a holding cell. Schene is set for trial on Sept. 9 in King County Superior Court, where he could face up to a year in jail.

Another deputy, Don Griffee, was accused of slugging a handcuffed suspect in the back of his patrol car on Aug. 3, 2008. The suspect turned out to have been falsely accused of threatning a woman with a gun. Griffee, 61, was charged with misdemeanor assault in King County District Court, where a jury acquitted him. Both officers worked out of the Burien precinct.

In addition to criminal charges, both deputies were investigated for whether their conduct violated Sheriff's Office policy. The standard for proving misconduct in an internal disciplinary action is lower than the burden of proof required for a conviction in criminal court.

Schene is facing termination for a litany of policy violations, including making false or fraudulent statements, committing conduct that is criminal in nature, use of excessive or unnecessary force, inappropriate use of authority, acts in violation of Sheriff's Office rules or directives, and conduct involving discrimination, incivility and/or bigotry, according to sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart.

Schene's law enforcement certification also would be in jeopardy if the sheriff agrees that he made dishonest statements.

Schene's conduct came to light because he alleged in a report that the teenager had resisted arrest and assaulted him inside a holding cell at a SeaTac police precinct on Nov. 29, 2008. Detectives sought video evidence from the cell's security camera and instead, found footage of Schene as he punched, kicked and tossed the girl to the floor after she had kicked her shoe at him. In his report, Schene, a training officer and 8-year veteran, said the girl's shoe struck his shin, causing "injury and pain."

Schene and a second deputy, Travis Brunner, had arrested the girl, Malika Calhoun, and her 15-year-old friend, on suspicion of auto theft. Brunner assisted Schene in handcuffing Calhoun inside the holding cell, although prosecutors did not file charges against Brunner. Later, police learned the girls were driving a car that they'd taken without permission from another friend's mother. Schene wrote that he "placed" the girl in handcuffs.

"The discipline recommended to Sheriff Rahr by Schene's precinct commander was termination from the Sheriff's Office. The Chief of Field Operations concurred with the recommendation," Urquhart said in an e-mail.

Under his union protections, Schene is entitled to present mitigating evidence in what's called a "Loudermill hearing" with the sheriff. Typically, the officer is represented by a guild representative or attorney, and can present evidence to counter the findings or argue for less severe discipline. reported earlier this summer that prosecutors offered Schene a plea bargain that might have spared him a longer term in prison if he agreed to resign and give up his police certification. Schene, who has been on paid administrative leave since December, turned down the offer.

Griffee, 61, was found not guilty of fourth-degree assault. He'd been accused of striking Johnny R. Bradford, a 21-year-old Burien man who'd been falsely accused of threatening a woman with a gun.

During his trial, Griffee said that he never punched Bradford. He said he'd forcefully grabbed Bradford's chin to focus his attention while the man was in the back of his patrol car on Aug. 3, 2008. Jurors thought Bradford was truthful, but also felt Griffee's story was plausible enough to raise doubts about the state's case.

Internal investigators, however found Bradford more credible than the deputy. Griffee was found to have used excessive force and engaged in "conduct that is criminal in nature," according to the Sheriff's Office.

The officer's precinct commander, Maj. Jim Graddon, recommended that he be fired. Chief Deputy Tony Burtt, who oversees patrol operations, concurred with that decision, Urquhart said. The same two men also were Schene's superiors.

The sheriff is expected to hear from both officers in September, Urquhart said.

"Sheriff Rahr will review the file, listen to (Deputy) Griffee, and can change any of the sustained findings and/or the discipline," Urquhart said. "Therefore, the final outcome of the investigation and the final discipline will not be set until after the Loudermill hearing."