Monday, December 21, 2009

Michael Hawkins Dies After Being Tasered

Springfield Police Department news release:

The Springfield Police Department is investigating the death of a suspect who was arrested Sunday morning just before 10:00 a.m. for burglary. Michael D. Hawkins, 39, of Springfield was arrested at the Eagles Lodge Motel, 2611 N. Glenstone, after police were called there reference a person hiding in a storage room and refusing to come out.

After police arrived they found Hawkins hiding in a crawl space just above the storage room. Police attempted to talk Hawkins down, but he refused to leave the crawl space. Officers entered the crawl space, along with a police service dog. The dog engaged the suspect in the crawl space. During the engagement the dog broke through the ceiling and fell on to the balcony. The suspect was able to hold on to a rafter and climb back into the crawl space.

After Hawkins got back into the crawl space officers located him, and after he refused to obey several police commands to surrender a Taser was deployed. Hawkins then was taken into custody.

Once in custody police had Hawkins transported by ambulance to the hospital for the dog bite that he received on his upper thigh. After arriving at the hospital Hawkins died.

An autopsy is pending to determine the cause of death.

9 p.m. Update:

Motel guests say they could hear someone crawling through their ceilings just before the confrontation with police. "From what I gathered he was hopped up on drugs," motel tenant Rob Perakis said. "He was on a no-rent list he had been here before."

Hawkins family says he was not an angel but he did just as much good as he did wrong. "I'm sure a lot of these days I’ll look over my shoulder and not see him, wishing he was there," said Greg Hawkins, the dead man's brother.

He says he wishes police just would have waited for his brother to come out. He says he saw the spot his brother's body was Tasered at the hospital. "It was about two inches below the heart," Hawkins says.

According to a training bulletin from the company, Taser International, officers should avoid chest shots to avoid controversy about whether or not the Taser caused a cardiac event.

In the same bulletin the company says those events are rare. “The available research does not support the idea that a TASER ECD can cause ventricular Fibrillation (VF) and demonstrates that while it may not be possible to say that an ECD could never affect the heart under any circumstances, the risk of VF is extremely rare and would be rounded to near zero,” according to the bulletin. It also states in changing situations an officer isn't always able to hit the preferred stomach and leg target areas.

"I just question the location I'm sure with all that voltage it caused his heart to beat irregular," Hawkins says. Police haven't confirmed where Hawkins was Tasered or details leading up to the deployment of the device. They aren't releasing more information until the autopsy is complete. "Whatever crime he was committing was it causing the officers a life and death situation, the dog a life and death,” Hawkins says. “The thing is he had no where to go."

The family says Hawkins did have some drugs in his system. They say they don't know how much. They, too, are waiting on autopsy results to know the exact cause of death.

Officer Draws Gun During Snow Ball Fight

A senior police official in Washington DC has said an off-duty officer who drew a gun at a snowball fight behaved in a "totally inappropriate" way.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said video footage left "no doubt" the officer drew his gun after his vehicle, a Hummer, was pelted with snowballs.

The footage showed an angry crowd gathering, chanting: "You don't bring a gun to a snowball fight".

Ms Lanier said the officer had been placed on desk duty.

She said he had not denied the allegations.

Is a statement, Ms Lanier said she had reviewed all the video footage of the incident taken by the public and it was "very obvious" the officer had drawn his police-issue gun "in response to the snowballs hitting his vehicle".

"I have no doubt about this, nor has the officer denied the accusations," she said.

"Let me be very clear in stating that I believe the actions of the officer were totally inappropriate!

"In no way, should he have handled the situation in this manner."

Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham told reporters the detective, who has not been officially named, had more than 25 years of experience.

"He has a very good reputation," he told the Associated Press.


The incident took place on Saturday, as a large crowd of people were taking part in a mass snowball fight in the US capital during a blizzard.
Snow in Washington DC, US (19 December 2009)
Washington DC has been hit by the worst snow storms in years

Snowballs were thrown at the man's car and as he got out he exposed his gun briefly, always pointing towards the snow on the ground.

Panicked residents can be heard shouting, "He's got a gun," but others continue to throw snowballs his way.

At one point on the video - shown on YouTube - the man identifies himself as a "detective", but refuses to give his full name.

Then he proceeds to admit to pulling his gun.

"Yes I did because I got hit by snowballs," he tells angry residents who demand to know his badge number.

He challenges them to "throw another snowball".

The confrontation ended only when other policemen were despatched to the scene, and managed to calm everyone down.

Ms Lanier said the officer's actions "in no way, reflects the training and the standards" of the Washington DC Police Department.

She said it was disturbing that the "negative actions of one officer" had eclipsed the work of the police force during the blizzard

Officer Jesus Cisneros Accused of Fatal Crash was Speeding

In addition to being intoxicated, a Fort Worth police officer was speeding when he collided with a car earlier this month, killing its 27-year-old driver, according to an arrest warrant affidavit released Tuesday.

Jesus Cisneros is believed to have been traveling at least twice the posted speed limit when his unmarked city vehicle struck Sonia Baker’s PT Cruiser at the intersection of Columbus Trail and Evening Star, according to the affidavit, written by traffic investigator R.L. Wangler.

“The collision was of such a violent nature that the vehicles traveled at least 100 feet to rest,” the affidavit states.

The posted speed limit, according to an accident report, is 35 mph.

Cisneros surrendered Monday to the Tarrant County Jail on an arrest warrant for intoxication manslaughter. He was released after posting a $25,000 bond.

As conditions of his bail, he will be required to install a Breathalyzer in his vehicle within 30 days, cannot drive without the device and is prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages, according to Tarrant County probation department records.

Cisneros, 37, who police say has submitted his resignation, is accused of driving intoxicated in his unmarked patrol car on Dec. 11 before the crash that killed Sonia Baker. Fort Worth police said Cisneros’ blood-alcohol content was 0.17.

Jail records show a warrant was issued for Cisneros’ arrest on suspicion of intoxication manslaughter, a felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Lt. Paul Henderson, a Fort Worth police spokesman, said the department will issue a statement today about Cisneros’ case.

"Regardless of who you are or who you work for, DWI is a crime and we will pursue it," he said.

Baker’s husband, Demond Baker, said Monday night that he was unaware Cisneros is facing charges.

"Of course I want him to be prosecuted to the fullest," Baker said. "I will leave it in God’s hands."

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead issued a statement last week saying the department was "embarrassed by this tragic incident." Mayor Mike Moncrief was also critical of the incident.

Baker was driving to a fast-food restaurant near her southwest Fort Worth home about 2:30 a.m. when she turned in front of Cisneros’ Toyota Highlander. Baker had two sons, ages 4 and 5.

Police, who consulted a private accident reconstruction company that works with the Tarrant County district attorney, have not said whether speed was a factor or whether Baker was at fault in the crash. Police have also not released the findings of an internal affairs investigation, which is examining what Cisneros was doing before the crash.