Monday, September 21, 2009

Former Officer Derrick Yancey Has Been Captured

DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown confirmed Monday that fugitive double slaying suspect Derrick Yancey has been arrested and is in custody in the central American nation of Belize.

The former sheriff's deputy escaped custody after he was accused of killing his wife and a day laborer.

Brown told Channel 2 Action News reporter Mark Winne he believes Yancey has been living in Belize for awhile. He said Yancey offered no resistance when he was arrested at a local bar and expressed surprise and shock.

The sheriff credited the U.S. Marshals Service and State Department diplomatic security service for their crucial roles in capturing Yancey.

Brown said Yancey is expected to be back in the DeKalb County Jail Wednesday.

Police said Yancey was under a $150,000 bond when he boarded a westbound Greyhound bus April 4 and disappeared somewhere between Phoenix and Los Angeles.

He is accused of the 2008 shootings of his wife, Linda Yancey, 44, and Marcial Cax Puluc, a 20-year-old Guatemalan immigrant he had hired to work at his Stone Mountain home. Yancey told investigators that Puluc had killed his wife before he killed Puluc in self-defense.
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Woman Claims Officer Mark Rojas Slammed Her Head into Plate Glass Window

A 25-year-old nursing assistant from Oxford, who claims Officer Mark A. Rojas slammed her head into a plate glass window and unjustly arrested her three years ago, has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city.

The Worcester Superior Court action, filed Sept. 3, also names Officer Kellen E. Smith and Chief Gary J. Gemme.

Katie M. Warren's lawsuit alleges that, prior to the September 2006 incident, Officer Rojas' “violent tendencies were repeatedly tolerated by supervisors, and even when supervisors such as Chief Gemme believed Rojas had acted inappropriately, he was not disciplined.”

Officer Rojas, 36, who has been out on disability with a broken ankle, has been the subject of at least 15 internal police misconduct investigations since joining the department in July 1996.

Ms. Warren, who was 22 at the time of her alleged run-in with Officers Rojas and Smith, says in her lawsuit that Officer Rojas grabbed her ponytail and jerked her head into a plate glass window as Officer Smith held her arms twisted painfully behind her back.

A certified nursing assistant at St. Camillus Health Center in Northbridge, Ms. Warren alleges that the confrontation began when she went to a gas station convenience store on Providence Street on Sept. 4, 2006, to get cash from an ATM machine inside.

She was outside the store in her nurse's uniform talking with a friend she had run into when Officers Rojas and Smith pulled up to the gas pumps in their police cruiser, according to the lawsuit.

“Officers Rojas and Smith then approached to within a short distance, looked Warren up and down and one asked, ‘Well, why don't you smile?'” according to the complaint.

It isn't clear from the complaint which officer allegedly made the comment, but the exchange quickly grew heated, and Officer Rojas allegedly told Ms. Warren's acquaintance: “You should tell your little girlfriend to shut her mouth,” according to the lawsuit.

Ms. Warren claims that she turned to walk away from the officers, saying, “You don't scare me,” when they grabbed her and twisted her arms behind her back as several bystanders looked on.

While Officer Smith held Ms. Warren's arms, Officer Rojas allegedly grabbed her hair and slammed her head into the store window. The officers then allegedly threw her to the ground and took her into custody while heaping verbal abuse on her, according to the complaint.

Copies of photographs of Ms. Warren showing bruises on her arms and legs are included in court records. She went to St. Vincent Hospital for treatment after her boyfriend posted her bail, according to the lawsuit.

Ms. Warren is listed as 5-feet, 3-inches tall and 120 pounds in police paperwork from her arrest. She was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and two counts of threatening to commit a crime for allegedly shouting that she would have the officers killed.

Police spokesman Sgt. Kerry F. Hazelhurst did not respond to messages left at his office and on his cell phone on Friday.

In a statement of facts supporting the charges, Officer Smith wrote that, “The defendant refused to place her hands behind her back and struggled violently with the officers.”

“The defendant made several threats to ‘have the officers killed,' ” according to his report.

All the charges against Ms. Warren were dismissed in May 2007, and she was placed on probation for three months, according to court records.

Ms. Warren didn't return several calls to her home and the nursing home where she works. Her lawyer, Hector E. Pineiro of Worcester, was out of the state and couldn't be reached.

On March 31, 2008, the day the Telegram & Gazette published an article about Officer Rojas shooting a dog in a Vale Street apartment, Ms. Warren wrote a four-page letter to Chief Gemme complaining about her earlier run-in with Officer Rojas, according to the lawsuit.

The chief acknowledged receipt of Ms. Warren's complaint a few days later in a form letter and said her allegations would be investigated. Ms. Warren didn't hear anything else from the Police Department until 11 months later, when she got a second letter from the chief. In the February 2009 letter, the chief said investigators were having a hard time tracking down the friend with whom Ms. Warren had been speaking at the gas station when the officers walked up.

The lawsuit claims that the city and Chief Gemme were negligent in failing to control Officer Rojas after a number of similar complaints of brutality and misconduct from other people.

“Before the assault and arrest on Warren, Chief Gemme and the city were familiar with Rojas' propensities for violence,” according to the lawsuit. “…Chief Gemme and the city knew that Rojas had previously been the subject of numerous complaints alleging brutality, excessive force and violation of civil rights.”

Citing “disciplinary problems,” Chief Gemme revoked Officer Rojas' license to carry a firearm in December 2008 amid a series of articles in the T&G about allegations of misconduct against the officer.

Although the chief has said previously that the loss of his firearms license prevents Officer Rojas from serving as a police officer, he remained on the city payroll as of this past week, according to city records.

The T&G sued Chief Gemme and the city in Worcester Superior Court last year seeking the release of police internal affairs records related to allegations of misconduct against Officer Rojas. That case remains pending before Superior Court Judge C. Brian McDonald.

Meanwhile, the city agreed in late May to pay a Worcester man $48,750 to settle his federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that a police sergeant unjustly punched him in the head and struck him with a baton while he was on his knees being arrested for trespassing on railroad tracks. That settlement, which was paid by the city, came less than two months after the city paid $30,000 to settle another police brutality lawsuit filed by an Upton man.

So far this year, the city has settled at least three police brutality lawsuits at a total cost of $107,750, according to city records. Last year, the city paid $320,000 in public money to settle five police brutality lawsuits.

Denver City Council May Settle Police Brutality Lawsuit

The Denver City Council may settle a police brutality lawsuit for $225,000, city officials said Monday.

The federal lawsuit alleges Denver police brutalized and repeatedly used a Taser on Alberto Romero, 47, who died, allegedly from injuries he sustained during the incident, The Denver Post reported. The confrontation took place in front of Romero's home July 16, 2007.

In the suit, Debra Christine Romero, the personal representative of his estate, claims Romero was unarmed and posed no threat to the police.

The settlement was on the agenda of the council meeting Monday.

The autopsy report showed Romero had eight broken ribs, four puncture wounds in his back and bottom, and multiple scratches and bruises on his face, arms, shoulders, stomach, knees, back, hands, fingers and left foot. In addition, his lower lip was split and his tongue was cut, the newspaper said.

Air Force Officer James Fondren on Trial for Providing Secret Military Information to Chinese Spy

A former Air Force officer is on trial for providing secret military information to a New Orleans furniture salesman who turned out to be a Chinese spy.

Prosecutors told a jury in federal court in Alexandria on Monday that James Fondren of Annandale, Va., sold "opinion papers" containing classified information about U.S.-China military relations to Tai Shen Kuo, a New Orleans businessman.

Kuo gave those papers to an agent working with the Beijing government.

Kuo has already pleaded guilty to espionage and been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison. Kuo was the first witness Monday against Fondren.

The defendant's lawyer Asa Hutchinson told jurors that Fondren was one of many people who was fooled by Kuo.

Officer Michael Turcotte & Wife Convicted of Domestic Violence

An incident of alleged domestic violence in January between a former Gilbert police officer and his wife ended with convictions for both, and may ultimately cost his police certification.

The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board is investigating whether to pull Michael J. Turcotte's certification, which is required to be a police officer.

The investigation opened Wednesday and centers on a fight between Turcotte, 50, and his wife of 27 years, Linda, who accused her husband of cheating on her, AZPOST and court documents show.

Gilbert police arrested the couple Jan. 22, one day after Linda Turcotte admittedly threw an apple at her husband's back and slapped him. He then proceeded to choke and "struck" her many times, court documents state.

Michael Turcotte admitted to police that he shoved his wife to the ground, but denied striking her, court documents state.

"In addition, their 3-year-old granddaughter was present during the struggle and witnessed the event," court documents state. "The granddaughter stated during a forensic interview that 'grandpa choked grandma.'"

Both Linda and Michael Turcotte were ultimately arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. Michael Turcotte, who joined Gilbert police Dec. 24, 2007, resigned Jan. 28 before an internal investigation could begin.

In early April, Linda and Michael Turcotte each took plea agreements in which they pleaded "no contest" to disorderly conduct.

Michael Turcotte was placed on one year unsupervised probation, while his wife received three years of unsupervised probation. Both are required to complete 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling.

Under the plea agreement, if Linda and Michael Turcotte successfully complete their probation and counseling, their convictions will be wiped from their permanent record.

The incident has spurred new allegations that Michael Turcotte violated ASPOST rules barring certification of police officials who commit "physical violence" or "malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance of office," or whose conduct "tends to disrupt, diminish or otherwise jeopardize the public trust."

When interviewed by police Jan. 22, Michael Turcotte said his wife accused him of having an affair with another Gilbert police officer.

"Linda accused the Gilbert PD of causing their marital problems," Michael Turcotte's attorney, Robert Kavanagh, states in court documents. "(Michael) Turcotte steadfastly denied that he was having an affair but nonetheless has resigned from the Gilbert PD."

After confronting her husband, Linda Turcotte told investigators she hit him with an apple and slapped him. Michael Turcotte responded by slapping, kicking, choking and pushing her to the ground, she said. Michael Turcotte admitted to pushing her, but denied going anything else.

Both were treated at a local hospital for scratches to their faces then booked into the Maricopa County jail.

Because the charges were domestic violence-related, the couple was not allowed regular contact with each other. In court documents, Michael Turcotte said he was seeking marriage counseling with his wife ahead of their planned surgery and requested contact with her.

"The root of their marriage problems related to (Michael Turcotte's) career at the Gilbert PD, which is now over," Kavanagh writes.

However, the January incident wasn't the first, according to AZPOST documents. Police were called to the Turcotte home Nov. 13, but no arrests were made. Linda Turcotte received an order of protection from her husband the next day.

A judge tossed the protection order Nov. 25.

AZPOST began in July 1968 as the Arizona Law Enforcement Officer Advisory Council aimed at establishing a set of minimum standards for the state's police officers. AZPOST certification is mandatory for all police officers but not county sheriff's deputies.

The 13-member AZPOST Board oversees 170 law enforcement agencies, more than 16,000 sworn peace officers, 9,000 correctional officers and 16 police academies.

Officer J.L. Crain Arrested for DUI After Crash

Officers arrest one of their own who's accused of breaking the law.

Police say Henrico County Officer J.L. Crain was involved in an accident early Sunday morning on Interstate 64 at Gaskins Road.

Police say he rear-ended another car, and the person inside was treated for injuries and released.

Officers responding to the crash arrested Crain for DUI and court records show his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

We are told he was in his own vehicle and was not on duty.

Crain has been with the Henrico Police Department since 2001. Police there won't comment on his status, other than to say he's not working right now.