Thursday, September 10, 2009

Socorro Officer Accused of Wrongfully Giving out Citations

KFOX had reported how several people claimed a Socorro police officer had wrongfully issued them traffic citations.

KFOX reporter Monica Balderrama discovered 10 other people were complaining about the same officer.

The Socorro Police Department launched an internal investigation.

Thursday, Chief Jaime Avalos said he deemed the case to be nonsustained because it's their word against the officer's.

But Avalos also said the officer resigned this week, citing personal reasons for his resignation.

The chief said he doesn't believe his resignation is connected to the claims against him.

The drivers who were cited are still trying to find out if they need to pay tickets.

Officer Brian Kenneth Sawicki Arrested for Indecent Exposure

The Santa Barbara Police Department announced Thursday that officer Brian Kenneth Sawicki, placed on administrative leave last month after his off-duty arrest for indecent exposure at Refugio State Beach, has voluntarily resigned his position.

On Aug. 11, two teenage girls were walking along a trail when they noticed a man walking behind them, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. The girls walked back toward the campground and saw the man again, who was lying down and masturbating.

Officials said the girls alerted an on-duty state park ranger. While the girls were being interviewed, they saw the man and pointed him out to the ranger. The suspect saw the ranger approaching and ran away. After a foot pursuit, the suspect was caught and arrested.

Sheriff’s detectives arrested Sawicki, 33, on misdemeanor charges of annoying or molesting a child under 18, indecent exposure and obstructing/resisting a police officer. He was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on $2,500 bail.

Former Officer Wilson Lee Newman on Trial for Stealing Beer

Witnesses testified Wednesday in the trial of a former Mineral Wells police officer accused of abuse of official capacity and official oppression for allegedly stealing a 12-pack of beer during a traffic stop.

Wilson Lee Newman, 32, of Graford, retired from his position as a corporal in the patrol division in December after nearly five years with the Mineral Wells Police Department.

During the trial, Newman admitted to removing the beer from a vehicle while making two arrests on Dec. 6, placing it in his own vehicle when he got off his shift and later throwing it away in front of the officer who reported him. Newman said he never decided to steal the beer.

“I had no intention of taking his beer for my personal use,” Newman said.

Because Newman was acting as a police officer when the beer was taken, he is charged with the class A misdemeanors involving official conduct rather than theft.

According to testimony at the trial, Newman was responding to a disturbance call at a gas station on South Oak just after midnight on a Saturday morning when he pulled over a pickup matching the description of the vehicle involved.

A passenger who initially got out of the vehicle was arrested for public intoxication and the driver, who admitted to drinking but passed a field sobriety test, was arrested for driving without a license.

The vehicle was released by the driver to another passenger who, according to Newman, did not seem impaired from alcohol.

An in-dash recording of the stop appears to show Newman retrieving the pack of beer from the vehicle just before releasing the vehicle to the driver’s friend.

“I hate to ruin your night, but you’re not getting this back,” Newman appears to tell him.

Detective Neal Davis said the value of the sealed pack of Bud Light was believed to be less than $10.

Michael Guzman, a resident of Mineral Wells and driver of the truck that night, testified that he gave money to his friend go into the gas station and purchase the beer so they would have drinks when they got home.

Guzman said he did not give any officer permission to take his beer and did not get the beer back.

Newman told the jury he went back to the police station to help book the men and write the arrest and incident reports but forgot about the beer in the back of the patrol vehicle.

Police Chief Mike McAllester said proper procedure for dealing with evidence is to determine if the property has evidenciary value, note seized property in the report, log the property in the computer system, tag the object with a number and place the item in the evidence room.

McAllester told the jury there would usually not be an occasion to take a sealed pack of beer during an arrest for driving while intoxicated.

Newman told the jury that he did not want the man, who had admitted to drinking earlier in the evening, to have the beer in the car when he drove off and he wanted to use the beer as evidence in the public intoxication arrest.

Any seized property is also required to be noted in the report but was not on the reports signed by Newman, McAllester said.

The beer remained in the bed of the patrol pickup until he got off work, according to Newman.

Patrol officer Kody Acuff said Newman asked to borrow his collapsible baton around 6 a.m. during shift change that morning move the beer from the middle of the truck.

“[He] said ‘I got to get my beer out of the truck,’” Acuff said.

Acuff said he initially assumed Newman had purchased beer while on duty, a violation of department policy.

“During conversation it was mentioned that he dealt with intoxicated subjects during the night,” Acuff said.

Acuff said he then reported the incident to his immediate supervisor.

When asked why he placed the drinks in his own truck, Newman said, “You know I’ve been thinking about it for nine months and I still don’t have an answer.”

Newman said he did not call the beer his own during his interaction with Acuff.

“I was on my way home … when it popped into my head that I put that beer in the back of my truck,” Newman said. “I decided to come back early and take care of the beer.”

“I was almost to Graford and was tired,” Newman said. “I should have [turned around and dealt with it], yes.”

When he returned for work that evening, Newman said he met a supervisor in the hall, who Newman claimed initially tried to cover for him by saying loudly, “‘If anyone asks, I bought the beer for Newman.’”

“[He] said, ‘Look, Kody’s throwing a fit about that beer,’” Newman said. “I was trying to act surprised but I wasn’t because I know Kody.”

Newman then met Acuff, who was coming off his shift.

“He said ‘Hey, can I talk to you for a second,’” Acuff said.

Acuff said Newman told him if he had a problem with something, he wouldn’t do it around him.

“‘I’m not going to go out on a limb and say we’ve all done it, but most of us have,’” Acuff quoted Newman as saying to him during their second conversation.

Newman then threw the beer in a trash can in front of him.

“It kind of infuriated me because I’d never done anything like that and I’d never seen anyone do that,” Acuff said.

Both Burns and Newman’s attorney, Jim Lane, rested after presenting evidence and are expected to continue with closing remarks Thursday morning.

Officer Walter Finley Jr Arrested for Rape

A former North Carolina police officer has been charged with four sexual offenses, and authorities say some of the events occurred while he was still on the force.

Walter Finley Jr. was arrested Thursday on one count of first-degree rape and three counts of first-degree sexual offenses. The Goldsboro Police Department said the events occurred from 1995 through 2000. Finley worked at the police department from 1993 until he resigned in 1999.

Authorities said all of Finley's victims are acquaintances and there's no sign he committed the acts while on duty. Finley was being held on $1 million bond. Jail officials declined to say whether he had an attorney.