Saturday, February 20, 2010

Officer Sean O'Brien Recieves Probation for Assaulting 13-year-old

A Chattanooga police officer has learned he will receive probation after a January incident in which he was accused of assaulting a 13-year-old boy.

During the 21/2-hour hearing Friday in Hamilton County General Sessions Court, Judge Bob Moon said that, while Officer Sean O'Brien had a "belligerent" child on his hands, he could not dismiss the simple assault case outright.

There were "no exigent circumstances," Judge Moon said, that would have justified Officer O'Brien's alleged hitting of the teen on Jan. 23 after arresting him on trespassing charges and taking him to the county Juvenile Detention Center.

Charged with simple assault, Officer O'Brien ultimately could have ended up going to trial in the case. Judge Moon's judicial diversion ruling means the officer will not have to admit guilt and his record will be wiped clean after a year-long probationary period, provided he engages in no more illegal behavior.

But Judge Moon also did not take pity on the juvenile, who lied on the witness stand about his criminal record and who, on the night of his arrest, was observed constantly shouting obscenities at Officer O'Brien and inciting bad behavior in other detainees, according to the testimony of more than one officer who was present at the detention center.

"I fear for your future," Judge Moon told the juvenile, noting the teen already had been convicted of theft as a 12-year-old for stealing a Vespa scooter last summer in North Chattanooga.

"I'm afraid you're either on the way to the morgue or the penitentiary," Judge Moon continued.

Looking at the child's mother, he said, "Mom, I think you know that."

The boy's grandmother, also present at the hearing, could be seen either laughing or smirking throughout the entire hearing.

At the detention center, a video camera recorded the alleged assault. On Friday, two officers testified that they could not tell from the video whether Officer O'Brien actually hit the boy, who was handcuffed the entire time and did not receive any injuries.

Officer O'Brien is on administrative leave pending a resolution in the case. It was not immediately known Friday whether the Chattanooga Police Department will allow him to go on active duty again.

Defense attorney Lee Davis argued at the hearing that the incident at most "was not criminal and should have been dealt with at the administrative level."

Corrections Officer Edward White Charged with Sexuallly Exploiting Inmates

A corrections officer who worked at the women's prison in Swanton is facing charges of allegedly sexually exploiting three inmates.

Edward White, a 40-year-old St. Albans resident, was held on $100,000 bail after he was arraigned Friday on three counts of sexually exploiting an inmate, according to the Vermont State Police.

The investigation into White began a year ago when an inmate alleged that White had inappropriate contact with her, police said. White was suspended during the investigation. But due to a lack of evidence, prosecutors dropped the case, and White was reinstated to his job at the Northwest State Correctional Center last month, police said.

After he went back to work, however, two other female inmates reported similar incidents that happened after his return, police said. Based on these new allegations White was again suspended, police said. During the second part of the investigation, state police received new information about the original accusation and have charged him with the alleged 2009 incident.

White is lodged at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Center, police said.

Sgt. James Ruland Arrested by US Marshals

A sergeant with the Port Richey Police Department was arrested Friday night by the U.S. Marshals Office and is being held in the Pinellas County Jail.

James R. Ruland, 33, is one of 12 full-time officers at the small agency. Port Richey police Chief Dave Brown would not say what crime Ruland is accused of committing.

Brown said Ruland was fired Friday after the agency learned of his arrest.

"We are in shock," Brown said Saturday night.

Brown said Ruland has been with the department for about eight years.

Ruland has been in the headlines before.

In 2003, the Times reported that Ruland was suspended for five days without pay after he took a police cruiser out of jurisdiction to investigate his girlfriend's purse being stolen at a New Port Richey nightclub.

Although Ruland was off duty, he and another deputy drove to the Hudson house of William Griffin — the man Ruland's girlfriend pegged as the thief. Griffin's mother answered the door. The deputies went inside without asking permission, arrested Griffin and refused to let him contact a lawyer.

Ruland drove Griffin to the Police Department — with his girlfriend riding in the front seat. But Griffin was driven back to his house soon after he arrived, because the other deputy involved, Ronald Heinemann, "determined that without stolen property, he could not make a case against Griffin."

Also in that year, Ruland was accused of abusing his power by arresting a woman because she threw her identification in his face and yelled at him after he determined her car was improperly parked.

At the time, then police Chief Bill Downs "defended Ruland as a young but hard-working and honest officer," a Times story about the 2003 incidents stated.

In 2006, Ruland won the agency's Exceptional Service Award for helping to track down a Colorado prisoner who escaped and had been on the lam for 35 years.

Ruland has no criminal record in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Late Saturday, no charges against Ruland appeared in federal court records.

Brown said the Port Richey department will issue a news release Monday.

Corrections Officer Mary Lyon Charged with DWI

A state correction officer from Little Falls was arrested Friday evening after authorities said she drove drunk.

Mary Lyon, 44, was charged with driving while intoxicated and refusal to submit to a chemical test, town of Frankfort police said.

Frankfort officers said they stopped Lyon at about 7 p.m. on state Route 5S after receiving a complaint from state Department of Environmental Conservation police.

Lyon did not cooperate with officers, police said.

Lyon works in Marcy where there are two state prisons. Police did not say whether Lyon is assigned to Marcy Correctional Facility or Mid-State Correctional Facility.

Judge James Wright ordered Lyon to be held at the Herkimer County jail on $500 cash bail or $1,000 bond, police said.

She is scheduled to appear in town court Tuesday, March 16.

David Gardner Shot by Diabetic Cop Files Lawsuit

A former QuikTrip driver who was shot by a police officer in 2007 said his life hasn't been the same since the shooting.

It happened on Sept. 24, 2007, at St. John Avenue and Belmont Boulevard in northeast Kansas City.

David Gardner, who drove semi-trailers for QuikTrip, said he was backing up his big rig when gunfire ripped through him and his truck, forcing him out of the cab and onto the ground.

"Just out of the blue -- shot. I started hearing shot after shot. The very first shot went through my driver's side window," Gardner told KMBC's Peggy Breit. "I remember looking up and just seeing people running, ducking, hiding. I could hear shots behind me."

Gardner was hit in the side and the back. Kansas City police officers came to his aid.

Gardner said he later learned that the officer who had shot him had diabetes and was suffering from a hypoglycemic, or low blood sugar, episode.

"I've kind of lost that trust in, 'They're here to protect and serve.' For me, it's hard to believe anymore," Gardner said.

Gardner said he's recovered physically but not mentally. He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Gardner still works for QuikTrip, only now it's in the warehouse in Belton. He said his salary is much lower than his driver pay was.

Gardner said it was his choice to work in the warehouse, because he said he feels unsafe to drive a big rig again. He said he's still too jumpy, especially around police.

"I don't want to be behind an 80,000-pound vehicle and have an officer come up beside me. I don't know for sure what would happen, but I don't want to put other people's lives at stake," Gardner said.

Gardner has filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City Police Department, claiming the department knew that Officer Joel Ritchie could be a danger to himself or others.

Ritchie had had two previous diabetic-related incidents on the job. Both were serious enough that responding officers removed his weapon and called for an ambulance.

Gardner said living with the fallout from the shooting has put tremendous strain on him and his family, especially financially.

"It just gets more and more difficult," Gardner said. "It's like a movie -- you can try and pause it or stop it or, but it's always there to replay."

After the shooting, Ritchie worked in police dispatch but has since left the police department.

In response to the lawsuit, the department said neither they nor Ritchie should be held responsible for the shooting. They said no one knew Ritchie's diabetes could trigger such an incident.

Gardner's attorney said officers are trained in the police academy to prepare for a wide range of behaviors from diabetics.

The police department has no policy regarding officers who are diabetic.

Gardner said he knows QuikTrip has a policy for employees who are diabetic because he has diabetes.

Officer Amparo Sierra Pena Senteced to Just 10 Years PROBATION for Shooting Husband

A certified peace officer has now received 10 years probation for shooting her common law husband in the back.

Amparo Sierra Pena was sentenced in the 406th district court this morning during which the defense told a judge "it was only one shot."

Pena, who is a certified peace officer shot her common law husband in the back in may of last year after he decided to move out.

During her 10-year probation, she will not be allowed to carry, posses or use any firearm and must attend anger management.

She could have gotten jail time but her husband, who still lives with Pena, refused to testify in the case.

Corrections Officer Eric Colon Charged with Bringing Inmate Illegal Items

Prosecutors in Milwaukee County are charging a former corrections officer with two felonies for allegedly bringing an inmate illegal items.

Eric Colon is charged with delivering those items to an inmate as well as misconduct in public office. He faces up to 7 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.

The criminal complaint states Colon started a friendship with inmate Bernard Burgess, and at one point bought a Cadillac from Burgess' family. According to prosecutors, he got a discount on the car and in return he delivered several items to Burgess while he was behind bars.

Those items "Included deodorant, a hairbrush, matchsticks, two packs of Newport cigarettes, two marijuana cigarettes hidden inside a deodorant container, crushed tobacco, a container of hair grease, a fabric hair net, a Mini Bic cigarette lighter, two ink pens, 14 pornographic photographs and 20 Duracell batteries."

Officer Sean O'Brien Placed Charged with Assaulting Teen Placed on Judicial Diversion

General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon on Friday placed a Chattanooga Police officer charged with assaulting a handcuffed teen on judicial diversion.

He directed that Officer Sean O'Brien undergo 26 weeks of anger management under the AILS program. He will be on probation for up to one year, but the judge said that could be shortened if he does well on the AILS program.

Officer O'Brien said he had "taken control" of the 13-year-old after he continually cursed him and tried to incite three other teens who were arrested at the same time.

Judge Moon admonished the teen, having him stand up and telling him, "You are on the interstate to either the morgue or the penitentiary unless something changes and changes right now."

Judge Moon said the officer was within a secure facility and the teens were handcuffed and he did not feel the forceful actions he took were necessary.

A video shows the officer put his hand toward the back of the teen's head and then pressed him against a wall with his body.

The teen, Timothy Rawlings, was placed in a Baptist halfway house at Greeneville, Tn., after the Jan. 23 incident and was brought to Chattanooga for the hearing.

He testified first, saying he was laughing and not cursing the officer when he said Officer O'Brien "hit me in the head and grabbed me and threw me against a wall."

On cross-examination by attorney Lee Davis, he admitted he had incidents at Orchard Knob Middle School where he was yelling,screaming,causing fights and had been moved to the Washington Alternative School.

Rawlings also acknowledged he was on probation for stealing a Vespa scooter in North Chattanooga last June.

He denied trespassing at Memorial Hospital the night of his arrest, though several officers said he admitted he had been with a group of teens there.

He said he was at some apartments on Dodson Avenue when some other teens came up. He said he was arrested along with them.

Homicide detective Michael Wenger said Officer O'Brien told him he took the actions because he felt threatened being along with the four teens.

He said he had watched the video numerous times "and it is still not clear if he touched his head or not."

Memorial Hospital security guard Maurice Watson said he was driving near the hospital when he saw four teens in the street. He said he later pursued them after spotting them running.

He said they ran into a parking garage up toward the Mary Ellen Locher Breast Cancer Center, which was closed for the weekend. He said there had been a recent incident of vending machines being tampered with there.

He said he put out a radio message that was also heard by city officers.

Officer O'Brien said he was a state trooper in New Jersey for seven years before moving to Cleveland, Tn., to operate a business there. He said he was hired by the Chattanooga Police Department after the business was sold and he has been there for two and a half years.

He said he was off duty, but was doing an overtime job with the federal Weed and Seed program on Jan. 23. He said he was involved in the apprehension of some of the youths, and he took Rawlings and another teen in his car.

Officer O'Brien said in the car Rawlings was saying, "This is f------- b--- s---. This ain't f------ right."

He said Rawlings continued with the same language after they were inside the Detention Center. He said he first told him it was "no big deal" to try to calm him. He said he later told him to "shut up."

The officer said he finally told Rawlings, "You need to shut the f--- up."

He testified, "You can take control of a situation, or you can let it go and have worse problems."

He said he was concerned for his safety and for the other three teens, and he said it was a tense atmosphere at the center with blood on the floor from a recent fight. He said he then took the actions against Rawlings. He said if he touched his head it was only his hair.

Corey Beals, who was the officer in charge at the detention center, said Rawlings was "belligerent and loud and verbally abusive of the officer. He was calling him obscene names like b----."

He said he did not see the alleged assault, but he said on the tape it appeared the officer was swinging his hand toward the teen's head.

Capt. Susan Blaine praised the work of Officer O'Brien, saying that was the main reason he was chosen to be in the Weed and Seed program. She said, "He does an excellent job."

Judge Moon also told the officer, "Your language needs to be cleaned up. That is unacceptable - especially to a young person."

Officer James Peters Involved in 6 Shootings

Sergeant Mark Clark, the spokesman for the Scottsdale Police department, said explaining the shooting history of one of his officers can be difficult.

"We're scratching our heads because we're absolutely amazed," said Clark.

Officer James Peters has been involved in more officer-involved shootings than any other officer on duty in the state of Arizona. A total of six. And in four of those cases, Peters fired a bullet that killed a suspect.

"As a matter of fact, there's no one at the Scottsdale police department that isn't absolutely astonished that this officer has been involved, used deadly force, so many times when a lot of officers have gone through their whole careers and not have to use deadly force," said Sgt. Clark.

In his first incident, Peters shot at a suspect in a domestic SWAT situation, but missed. That suspect recovered from other wounds, according to police.

But the officer's aim improved. In this next three shootings, he shot and killed a disbarred lawyer who was pacing a can with a shotgun, a suspect who reportedly tried to attack another officer with a pipe and a gunman holding a hostage in a supermarket.

"The suspect had the manager -- something like you might see in a movie -- had the manager around the neck with the gun pointing to his head and was backing out the door," said Clark.

In all of those cases, multiple police and county attorney investigations ruled Peters' actions were justified. He was even heralded as a hero and was the focus of an article in an industry newsletter found on

Yet, a CBS5 source who has investigated Peters before and who asked to remain anonymous, questions not only Peters' record, but also the ability of the department to remain unbiased.

In fact, the Scottsdale police department settled with a shooting victim's family out of court in the officer's fifth shooting after Peters and others cut the power to a suspect's home and then fatally shot him when he came out with a gun to investigate, according to police.

"Officers were responding to being shot at in that particular incident. It's important to note that, although you guys know that there was a settlement. There certainly was facts that were beyond the legal and certainly financial considerations of the city and their legal department," said Clark.

On Wednesday night, Peters and another officer opened fire on Jimmy Hammack, a bank robbery suspect, after they say Hammack jumped in his truck and drove right at them. Hammack is in critical condition. If the investigation into this latest shooting fits the pattern of all the others, however, Peters will be cleared within a week and back on the street.

"It's just one of those things where I don't know if we're ever going to be able to explain it. I don't know if you are ever going to be able to explain it. It happened. Every single case, this officer that the investigations were completed on, he reacted exactly the way officers are trained to react," said Clark.

Sergeant Clark said his department has reviewed it's procedures to see if there is anything Scottsdale is doing that might regularly put Peters in harms way, but said they found nothing. To date, Officer Peters has passed every psychological evaluation, and his superiors said despite his luck, he is more than fit to serve. The Wednesday night shooting is currently being investigated by Phoenix police.