Thursday, December 17, 2009

Father Files Lawsuit After Sons Taser Death

The father of a Bay City teen who died after police used a stun gun to subdue him has filed a federal suit in U.S. District Court Wednesday.

Brett Elder, 15, died in March after an officer fired a Taser at him.

Police said Elder was intoxicated and took an aggressive stance toward officers responding to a report of a fight inside an apartment at 210 S. Catherine St.

According to documents, when police deployed the Taser to Elder’s chest, he collapsed face first on the living room floor.

Once officers handcuffed the teen, he “began to vomit and breath heavily.” Moments later, Elder "then apparently become unresponsive."

In May, Bay County prosecutor Kurt Asbury said officers would not be charged in Elder’s death, citing that "there isn't evidence that officers committed any criminal act that caused or contributed to the death of Brett Elder."

READ: Bay County Prosecutor Issues News Release

An autopsy performed by Dr. Kanu Virani, a forensic pathologist, found a two-part cause of death for Elder: "alcohol-induced excited delirium" and "application of an electromuscular disruption device," or Taser.

The lawsuit seeks an undisclosed amount of damages in excess of $75,000 and names the city of Bay City and police Cpl. James Lyman as defendants.

Officer Reginald Jones Charged with Murder

An on-duty D.C. police officer charged with murder and accused of acting as a lookout in a street robbery gone fatally wrong also was present during the planning of the holdup and drove some of the participants to the crime scene, authorities said in a court affidavit.

Officer Reginald Jones, charged with felony murder in the Dec. 1 robbery in Southeast Washington, was parked a short distance from the shooting that night in a marked patrol car, according to an affidavit made public Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court. When shots were fired and a witness ran toward the police cruiser seeking help, Jones drove off "and left the area," the affidavit says.

The robbery victim, accused of being a drug dealer, survived a bullet wound. But police said the group of assailants included a 19-year-old man who fired an apparently errant shot that killed his father, an accomplice in the holdup.

Jones, 40, a six-year member of the force, is not accused of pulling the trigger. However, because he is accused of playing a role in the robbery, in the 4300 block of Fourth Street SE, he can be held legally culpable for the fatal result, authorities said. On Wednesday, a Superior Court judge ordered Jones, of Upper Marlboro, held without bail pending a Jan. 5 preliminary hearing.

The affidavit says Jones, a uniformed member of the department's gun-recovery unit, shooed away loiterers who might see the crime by driving the patrol car through the courtyard of a housing complex in Washington Highlands shortly before the robbery occurred there.

"The worst thing an officer can do is betray the public trust," D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said in announcing Jones's arrest Tuesday night. "In this case, the officer went far beyond that. He did so carrying our badge and wearing our uniform."

The unit to which Jones was assigned is part of the police Narcotics and Special Investigations Division. On Wednesday, reacting to Jones's arrest, Lanier transferred several supervisors in the division to less prestigious patrol commands, two police sources said.

The holdup victim, Tyrone D. Herring, 45, was charged with possessing cocaine with intent to distribute after police allegedly found 31.4 grams of crack in his pants while he was being treated at a hospital. Investigators said he told them that he was robbed of nearly $5,000.

Herring said $700 was in his pants pocket and about $4,000 was in the console of his car.

In court affidavits, police said Jones was present Nov. 30 at an auto detailing shop in Suitland when several men planned the robbery. Jones drove at least two of them to the housing complex in his cruiser on the night of the crime, police said.

They said Herring told them that he was walking along Fourth Street, near where his black Infiniti was parked, shortly before 9 p.m. when several men with guns accosted him, demanding money. As the robbers tried to force him into his car, Herring told investigators, he began to struggle because he feared he was about to be killed.

Police said one of the alleged robbers, Arvel Crawford, fired a shot that hit his father, Arvel S. Alston, 40, in the right side.

Trooper Joseph Donovan Charged with Sexual Assault

A woman testified today during a preliminary hearing that a Michigan State Police trooper she had met at a strip club repeatedly sexually assaulted her at a Lansing home where the trooper had stopped supposedly to get money and a credit card.

The trooper is charged with sexually assaulting two women. Today’s hearing in 54A District Court determines whether the case goes to trial.

The woman, who was a waitress at Cheetah’s, in south Lansing, said Trooper Joseph Donovan, 48, a regular at the club, offered to give her a ride to a diner the night of March 17, 2008.

The woman testified he made her feel comfortable, and when they arrived at the house, he asked her to go inside because he had been recently divorced and didn’t want the neighbors to see him with another woman.

Once inside, she said, Donovan eventually approached her and forced her into a bedroom, where the assaults occurred. She testified that she has blacked out some of the memories of the incident.

“I have night terrors about this over and over,” she said. The State Journal does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

She said she screamed so much that she wondered whether neighbors would call police. “All I remember is yelling,” the woman said. “I did not want to do it.”
She said she eventually stopped fighting.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be over until he said it was over. So I gave up,” she testified.
The woman had to leave the witness stand during cross examination, because she was being affected by anti-anxiety medication she had just taken. Testimony is expected to resume this afternoon.

Donovan, of DeWitt, is charged with 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct. Six of the counts are first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Donovan has been placed on unpaid suspension, officials said. He is free on a $50,000 bond.

The alleged assaults happened in March and April 2008, according to court documents. Donovan met both women at Cheetah’s, authorities said.

Donovan’s attorney, Lawrence Emery, told the Lansing State Journal in October the charges are false. Emery said his client passed polygraph tests, and there is no scientific evidence connecting Donovan to any crimes.

The 21-year veteran of the state police was assigned to the Lansing post.

The Genesee County prosecutor’s office is handling the case, because Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III recused his office.

Former Deputy Michelle Stiles Accused of Identity Theft

A former Knox County sheriff's deputy was arraigned in federal court in an identity theft case.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports 38-year-old Michelle Stiles is accused of stealing the driver's license from a crime victim and using it to open two credit accounts that she used to buy more than $9,000 worth of furniture and goods.

Stiles resigned from the Knox County Sheriff's Office after she was arrested on related state charges in November. She is charged in federal court with bank fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Stiles was arrested Wednesday by agents with the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.


Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel,

Officer Keith Ashley Accused of Faking Burglary Report

A Dallas police officer is under criminal investigation after being accused of faking a burglary report to hide the fact that he was elsewhere, allegedly having sex with a woman in his patrol car, police said.

Officer Keith Ashley, who joined the department in 2001, has been placed on restricted duty. He declined to comment Tuesday.

"We do have it in public integrity," said Assistant Chief Ron Waldrop, who oversees the investigations bureau. He said he could not comment further because the investigation was under way.

Ashley came under scrutiny after a Nov. 24 incident in which teachers at the Lighthouse Christian Academy on West Illinois Avenue in west Oak Cliff reported that they had seen him engaged in sexual acts in the back of his squad car while it was parked in a school parking lot.

At the same time, he was supposed to be on a burglary call at an apartment complex on Preakness Lane. Ashley wrote in a report that he was flagged down by an apartment complex employee, who told him that a former employee was trying to break into an apartment.

Police investigators are looking into whether Ashley concocted the entire police report. He had worked off-duty security at the complex.

The woman whom Ashley reported as the apartment complex employee in the police report told WFAA-TV that she no longer worked at the complex and that she had spoken to an investigator.

Angela Russell, one of the teachers, told WFAA that she looked out the window of the school and saw a squad car with the back driver's side door open.

"I saw a leg hanging out of the door, and me and another teacher observed a police officer in the vehicle, and when we looked closer we realized they were engaging in improper conduct," she said.

She said the children saw what was going on, too. She approached the officer as the woman was leaving.

"I asked him, 'What's going on here? Do you know there are children in this building and this is a school and there are children here?' " she said. "Oh, and he gave us a story as to why it was going on, and then he left, and I immediately called and complained about it."

Ashley told commanders that the woman in the car with him was his wife and that they were having marital problems and he was consoling her.

Russell, who said she spoke with two police investigators last week, said she was infuriated and unsettled by the incident.

"Our children want to be police officers," she said. "We have a wall inside our school that if your father or mother or anybody in your family that's a police officer are put up on this wall, we say a prayer for you."

Ashley was previously in the news after he lost control of his squad car and struck a fence in May 2008. An iron rod from the fence broke the windshield and struck his chest.
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Former Officer Lt. Rockey Kummer Arrested for Child Molestation

Sheriff’s deputies arrested a former veteran police officer Wednesday on child molestation charges.

Former Parker Police Lt. Rockey Kummer, 52, of Swan Road, was taken into custody when he arrived at the local airport Wednesday, according to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s Maj. Tommy Ford said investigators “do believe that he was an officer during a portion of these incidents,” which are alleged to have occurred several times between 2000 and 2008.

He served 28 years in law enforcement in Bay County before heading overseas in May 2006, nearly tripling his salary to train border officers and Afghani police for U.S. government subcontractor DynCorp International.

Ford said Parker police came to sheriff’s investigators with the allegations in October, and over the next two months, interviews with the victim and witnesses “verified the original information.”

The victim was not someone Parker arrested, detained or encountered in his capacity as a police officer, Ford said.

Parker police declined to immediately release further details pending an internal investigation.

Kummer frequently served as a police media spokesman over the years. All the cases he worked as an officer are listed in Bay County’s online court records as traffic incidents.

In 2005, the city cut ties with a volunteer firefighter who was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after an argument with Kummer at the scene of a car crash. Those charges later were dropped.

Pennsylvania Officers Accused of Cover-up Face Lawsuit

A police chief charged with trying to cover up the fatal beating of a Mexican immigrant by white teenagers was named in a 2006 civil suit that made a startling claim: Borough police beat to death a Hispanic teenager, then hung him from the bars of his holding cell to make it appear a suicide.

Police Chief Matthew Nestor was never charged, but the allegations contained in the lawsuit, in Tuesday's indictment and in other civil claims depict a police department with pervasive hostility to minorities.

The 2006 suit names Nestor and Capt. Jamie Gennarini as defendants. They have denied wrongdoing.

Nestor and two other officers were charged Tuesday with orchestrating a cover-up as the FBI investigated the fatal attack on Luis Ramirez.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SHENANDOAH, Pa. (AP) — After taking part in a fight that left a Mexican immigrant mortally wounded on the street, teenagers Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak fled. They didn't get very far before running into two police officers responding to a 911 call about the assault.

These were no ordinary officers. Patrolman Jason Hayes dated Piekarsky's mother, and Lt. William Moyer's son played with Piekarsky on the high school football team. Their commanding officer, Chief Matthew Nestor, was a friend of Piekarsky's mother and even vacationed with her.

Rather than place the popular white football players under arrest, the officers let them go — beginning a cover-up in their racially tense coal town, federal prosecutors allege.

The Department of Justice said Tuesday that Hayes, Moyer and Nestor have been indicted on obstruction charges for trying to "impede, obstruct and influence the investigation" into the July 2008 beating death of Luis Ramirez by tampering with evidence and witnesses or lying to the FBI.

The former athletes, who were acquitted of the most serious state charges against them in May, are charged with a federal hate crime for attacking Ramirez in a park as they headed home from a party, the Department of Justice said.

The police chief and his second in command, Jamie Gennarini, were charged with extortion and civil rights violations in a separate case. The two are accused of extorting cash payoffs from illegal gambling operations and demanding a $2,000 payment from a local businessman in 2007 to release him from their custody.

The arrests left the borough with only three active-duty police officers. Borough officials have asked the state police to help out "until we work through this dilemma," said Borough Manager Joseph Palubinsky, who declined to comment on the indictment.

The officers pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate in Wilkes-Barre and were being held until a bail hearing Wednesday. Donchak and Piekarsky have an initial court appearance scheduled for Dec. 22. Piekarsky's lawyer didn't return a call, and there was no lawyer listed for Donchak on the indictment.

State prosecutors who tried to win murder or ethnic intimidation convictions against the athletes had alleged that they yelled racial epithets at Ramirez and that one gripped a piece of metal to give his punches more power.

The federal indictment brought praise from those who had long argued that the case was blatantly a hate crime and were outraged when the teenagers won acquittals on the most serious charges.

"This is what our family, friends and ongoing supporters have prayed for," said Crystal Dillman, who had two children with Ramirez, in a statement released by the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund. "I truly believe in my heart that Luis can now rest a bit more peacefully knowing that these criminals and accomplices are being charged."

Barry Morrison, the Philadelphia-based regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the organization has visited the town several times and found evidence of racial divisions.

"There's nothing that we saw in the way that law enforcement conducted themselves to show that they were enlightened, progressive or separate and apart of the insularity of the community as a whole," he said.

Shenandoah, a blue-collar town of 5,000 residents about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia, is best known as the birthplace of big band musicians Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and the home of Mrs. T's Pierogies.

It also has a growing number of Hispanic residents drawn by jobs in factories and farm fields. Hispanics are believed to comprise as much as 10 percent of the population. Ramirez, a 25-year-old native of the small central Mexican town of Iramuco, was in the United States illegally working at various jobs.

The confrontation began when a half-dozen high school football players were headed home from a block party in Shenandoah. They came across Ramirez and his girlfriend in a park, and an argument broke out, then a fight. Defense attorneys called Ramirez the aggressor. Prosecutors said he was punched in the face, then was kicked in the head while unconscious.

The teens gathered at Donchak's home shortly after the attack ended, the indictment said. Piekarsky's mother showed up and told them that she had been in contact with her boyfriend, Hayes, and that they needed to "get their stories straight" because Hayes had told her that Ramirez's condition was deteriorating, it said.

Moyer separately went to the home of another teen present during the attack "and told him to talk to his friends about the version of events that would be communicated to the authorities," the indictment said.

A borough official tried to get the police department to recuse itself, but Nestor refused, the indictment said.

Donchak, Piekarsky and a third teen, Colin Walsh, were previously charged in state court with Ramirez's death. Walsh later pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the victim's civil rights and took the stand against Donchak and Piekarsky at their trial in the spring.

Piekarsky was acquitted in May by an all-white jury of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation; Donchak was acquitted of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. Both were convicted of simple assault.

Piekarsky was sentenced in June to six to 23 months in prison, and Donchak was sentenced to seven to 23 months. They are serving their sentences at the Schuylkill County jail.

A fourth teen was found delinquent in juvenile court for his role in the beating.

If convicted on the hate crime charge, Piekarsky and Donchak face maximum sentences of life in prison. The most serious count against the officers, obstruction, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.