Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stephen Pyles of Pasadena Talks of his Experience with Police

Stephen Pyles of Pasadena says he has lingering injuries after police investigated an April burglary at his home.

The day started badly enough for Stephen Pyles when he discovered that the home he shares with his elderly mother had been burglarized. But it only got worse when Pyles attempted to explain to police what had happened — and wound up taken from his home in handcuffs.

The 55-year-old Anne Arundel County man was accused of punching a police officer in the chest. But a paramedic who was there wrote in a report that Pyles, who is deaf and cannot speak clearly, simply pressed a note to the officer's chest and was then "violently wrestled to the ground" by the officer.

Prosecutors recently dropped charges against Pyles, citing a lack of evidence. And Anne Arundel County police say they are reviewing the incident and their policies.

"When the officer was pushing me, I couldn't breathe. I kept trying to mouth the word 'air, air, air' over and over again," Pyles, who says he had neck surgery six days before his arrest, said through a sign-language interpreter. "Every time I see the police, I get chills. If something happens to my mom, who do I call? I can't call the cops."

While it remains unclear exactly what happened at the Pasadena home that morning, the versions told by Pyles and the paramedic illustrate the difficulties that can arise in encounters between police and the hard of hearing.

"When police see someone who is blind, they know he cannot see. When they see someone in a wheelchair, they know he cannot walk. But when they see someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, the assumption is that he is not trying hard enough to hear or that he's unintelligent," says Shannon Smith Peinaldo, a New Mexico-based advocate for the deaf. "American Sign Language is a very visual language, and when you don't know it ... what is an expression of emotion can be viewed as aggression."

Some law enforcement agencies are taking steps to make officers more sensitive to the needs of the hearing impaired. The Maryland Sheriff's Association created visor cards to alert officers at a traffic stop that a driver is deaf. And the Frederick police recently learned basic sign language and took part in role play situations with students of the Maryland School for the Deaf.

"We found through this training that the police now have an understanding of deaf culture," said Frederick police spokesman Lt. Clark Pennington. "That's a big part of empathy."

The Anne Arundel County police dispatchers are equipped with TTY phones to communicate with the deaf, police spokesman Sgt. John Gilmer said. New police officers take part in a workshop on disabilities, he said. But a manual for officers, provided by the department, does not specifically address how police should handle calls involving deaf people.

Pyles says he is traumatized by his interactions with police. He lives with his mother in the same two-story home near Fort Smallwood Park where he grew up. Everyone in the immediate family was born deaf.

The house smells like wood smoke, and the walls are decorated with hand-painted bird feeders, family photos and cards that say "I love Grandma." A television with closed captioning runs in the living room, words scrolling above the heads of faces on screen.

But the tranquillity of the home is deceptive, Pyles said through an interpreter. The house has been burglarized at least six times in the past decade, he said, and he believes thieves target him and his mother because they are deaf.

When mother and son awoke April 16 to find a window smashed and 79-year-old Evelyn Pyles' purse missing, they called 911 on their TTY phone and hung up. As paramedics watched, Stephen Pyles showed police the shattered window and wrote a note expressing his frustration at feeling that his home was unsafe. At this point, the accounts of what occurred diverge.

According to court documents signed by Officer L.A. Facciponti, Pyles pointed his finger in the officer's face, pounded a table and slammed down a pen that ricocheted and nearly struck the officer. Then "he suddenly and without warning used ... his fist to punch me in the chest," the officer wrote. Facciponti, who joined the department in June 2007, tried to arrest Pyles, but the man resisted and the officer used "hand techniques to take him to the ground," according to the documents.

But Ashley Eckhardt, a paramedic with the county Fire Department, wrote a different account. Pyles apparently "frustrated from not being able to communicate with the officers, attempted to get an officer's attention by grabbing the officer's arm and placing a piece of paper with a note for the officer on the officer's chest," she wrote. "It was at this time that the officer began wrestling the patient to the ground." Pyles was "guarding himself from the officer," "pointing to his neck" and "motioning for officer to stop," she wrote.

Pyles said he was terrified and suffering intense pain as he lay on the floor with his hands bound behind his back. "I really thought my throat was going to close up," he said. "I couldn't breathe. I thought I was going to die."

According to the paramedic's report, Evelyn Pyles wrote a note explaining that her son was recovering from neck surgery and was in pain. A hearing brother-in-law, who had arrived to interpret, asked police to cuff Stephen Pyles' hands in front of him to alleviate the neck pain and to allow him to sign, but the officers refused several times. They also declined Pyles' request to be examined by paramedics before leaving the home, according to the report.

In the officer's account, the first mention of Pyles' medical condition occurs when he is at the police station. Paramedics examined him then and took him to the hospital for treatment.

It was at this time that the officers were "able to ascertain" that a purse had been stolen from Pyles' home. Pyles wrote up a list of things that had been taken. He was charged with second-degree assault and resisting arrest and was released.

Pyles said that he still suffers neck and back pain. And he says there still has not been an arrest in the burglary that started the chain of events.

His emphatic signing might have been interpreted by the officer as aggression, said Leo Yates Jr., the pastor of Magothy United Methodist Church of the Deaf, where Pyles is a member. As people grow more emotional, they sign with larger and more dramatic gestures, he said.

"When you're trying to express yourself, you're going to need to flap your arms and use parts of your body to express yourself," he said.

When the case came to Anne Arundel Circuit Court Feb. 25 assistant state's attorney Karen Anderson-Scott asked that charges be dropped due to lack of evidence.

Heather Tierney, Pyles' attorney from the public defender's office, said after the hearing that the police need more training in dealing with the deaf.

"The public and the police need to be made aware that this can't happen again," she said.

Former Officer Charles Coughlin on Trial for Faking Injuries to Get 9/11 Money


A former naval commander cited for his service during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is standing trial on charges that he faked injuries to get money from the victims' compensation fund.

In opening arguments Tuesday, a federal prosecutor accused Charles Coughlin and his wife, Sabrina, of stealing $331,000 from the fund by filing a false claim.

Attorneys for the Coughlins said the claim was legitimate. They said Charles Coughlin injured his neck when a plane crashed into the Pentagon about 75 feet from his office and pieces of the ceiling hit his head. They said he was hurt again when he went back into the burning building to rescue others and ran into a door jam.

Prosecutors contend his symptoms are from a 1998 injury that he suffered while doing home repairs.



Corrections Officer Deandra McNeill Accused of having Sex with Inmate


A Cibola County Detention Center corrections officer is accused of having sex with an inmate.

Deandra McNeill, 20, was arrested and charged with one count of criminal sexual penetration, according to a New Mexico State Police news release.

According to the release, McNeill and the inmate had an ongoing sexual relationship since early last month. She was fired on March 4.

McNeill is being held on a no-bond warrant at the McKinley County jail.


Sgt. Michael Marcucilli Accused of Brutalizing 12-year-old


A city police sergeant who was stripped of his gun and badge after he was accused of brutalizing a 12-year-old burglary suspect has been identified by a spokesman for the boy's family.

Sgt. Michael Marcucilli's name was announced yesterday by Damon K. Jones, executive director of the Westchester County chapter of the National Black Police Association.

Marcucilli is a patrol sergeant with 14 years on the force and an unblemished record.

Police Commissioner David Chong was annoyed that Jones released the sergeant's name - as well as the names of other officers associated with the investigation.

"This is an open investigation," Chong said. "We have been investigating it for one week. We are investigating it with the district attorney's Public Integrity Unit.

"Damon Jones has my telephone number, and I have yet to receive a telephone call from him regarding this incident," added Chong. "We are not going to be forced into making rash accusations."

The case is being investigated by police Capt. Edward Adinaro and Lt. Dante Barrera, along with the county District Attorney's Office.

Jones yesterday called for an outside agency to probe the incident, which involved three boys: a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old from Mount Vernon and a 14-year-old from New Rochelle.

The New Rochelle boy's mother, who is a Mount Vernon teacher, was recently arrested in Mount Vernon after a traffic stop and faces a resisting arrest charge. During that incident, police said she fought with an officer and was struck on the legs with a retractable nightstick as she was subdued.

Police said the three boys either broke into A.B. Davis Middle School at 350 Gramatan Ave. about 8:30 p.m. Feb. 28 or were trespassing. They set off an alarm and police responded, surrounding the school and requesting a Yonkers K-9 unit because they did not have one available.

Jones said the parents of the 12-year-old said he was beaten by two police officers when he ran out of the school. He said Marcucilli hit the boy in the head with a retractable nightstick while he was handcuffed, causing a wound that required 19 stitches to the side of the child's head.

The officers told the boy to tell his parents he fell, Jones said, or they would sic the police dog on him.

The 14-year-old boy was bitten several times by the dog on the left leg, Jones said, and was also choked by a police officer.

His mother has filed a complaint against the officers.

The third boy had not filed a complaint. Jones said that a Mount Vernon detective who knows him has urged him not to.

After the incident, the youngest boy's parents tried to file a complaint, but Jones charged that Officer Neil Rosenberg, who works at the desk window, told them they couldn't without a lawyer.

Detectives Martin Bailey and Wayne Vanderpool later went to their house and brought the family back to file the complaint.

Jones said they were forced to wait 45 minutes before they were allowed to file it.

Jones added that Bailey was called "a whistle blower" by other members of the department for facilitating the family's complaint.

"The lone detective who has stood up and said 'enough is enough' cannot stand alone," Jones said in a statement.

The incident came to light after Bailey reported it to the Police Department's Internal Affairs Unit on March 4.



Detective Jerry Saldivar Arrested for Rape

Madera, CA

A Madera County Sheriff's Detective has been arrested for raping a woman and then, trying to keep her from calling for help.

37 year old Jerry Saldivar was booked into jail by Clovis Police on several felony charges. He has since bailed out.

Jerry Saldivar knew the woman who he is accused of raping. According to jail records, she was asleep or unconscious at some point when the crimes took place.
Police responded to a 9-1-1 call at the East Clovis home where Detective Jerry Saldivar lives. Only this time he became the subject of the investigation.

Action News has learned there is a videotape of the rape that has now been turned over to the District Attorney's Office.

Investigators are recommending prosecutors file three felony charges including rape, false imprisonment and a misdemeanor of preventing a 9-1-1 call from being made.
This is not the first time Saldivar has had brushes with the law.

In early 2007, he was charged with domestic violence and ordered to attend Anger Management and Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous.

Once he completed them, the charges were dropped.

The Madera County Sheriff's Department would only say once they heard about the arrest, Saldivar was immediately put on paid administrative leave. He's also now under an Internal Affairs Investigation.

The 37 year old was hired in 2002 initially as a deputy but later promoted to a detective.

The district attorney is reviewing the case. They have up to 30 days to file charges.

Saldivar is out of jail after posting a 161 thousand dollar bail.

Hot Spring's Deputy Accused of Rape

A Hot Spring County Sheriff's deputy is accused of rape and state police are now investigating.

Most details are under wraps, but we do know the deputy was accused of rape very early Tuesday morning, about 2 am.

Because this is under investigation, we don't know who the deputy is, but we do know he's been placed on administrative leave with pay.

The deputy has been with the sheriff's office for about five years.

Sheriff Ryan Burris says when the rape accusation was made, the deputy was off duty.

At this point, no charges have been filed.

Officials with the sheriff's office say it was important to them to involve state police as quickly as possible.

"It's a departmental issue, I don't want people looking at me like, oh well, he's trying to cover up something. I wanted that completely out of the question, so I turned it over to state police just as soon as possible,” says Sheriff Ryan Burris.

Sheriff Burris says he isn't personally worried about this incident and thinks it will turn out ok.

Burris says during his tenure, the deputy involved hasn't had other disciplinary problems.



San Francisco Man Suing for Police Brutality

A 26-year-old San Francisco man who says police swooped in while he was in an early-morning argument with his girlfriend has sued the city, alleging that while being handcuffed, an officer smashed him in the face with his baton so fiercely that it shattered the man's jaw and broke his teeth.

Pieces of broken teeth had to be surgically extracted from Chen Ming's gums and mouth after the blows, according to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court.

The lawsuit contends Officer Sean Frost engaged in a racially motivated attack on Ming, who is Asian, allegations an attorney for the city rejected as simply "false."

"The officer did not do anything wrong," Deputy City Attorney Scott Wiener said.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office in August denied a claim that Ming filed seeking more than $25,000 from the city.

The incident began at about 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 27, 2008, when Ming, also know as Xia Li, was walking with his girlfriend and a group of friends in the 800 block of Folsom Street in the South of Market area, according to documents Ming filed with the city.

Ming had been arguing with his girlfriend, and his friends attempted to separate them, according to Ming's account. Police responding to a report of three or four men assaulting a woman tried to detain Ming and his friends.

Ming ran from officers, leading them on a chase for several blocks before being caught, according to his account. While one officer slammed Ming to the ground and tried to handcuff him, Frost hit Ming in the face with his baton, according to the lawsuit.

The blows smashed Ming's jaw and teeth, the lawsuit said. Frost actually struck the other officer at one point, injuring that officer's hand, the suit said.

Wiener declined to discuss specifics, but disputed Ming's account. He also suggested Ming's attorney was "judge shopping." Ming originally sued the city in U.S. District Court on Feb. 10, alleging his federal civil rights were violated.

A week later, Ming filed suit in state court and then dropped the federal case, records show.

"The plaintiff appears to be playing games," Wiener said. "The case was assigned to a federal judge that the plaintiff apparently did not like, so the plaintiff then dismisses the lawsuit and then re-files it in state court. These actions speak volumes about the weakness of their case."

Ming's attorney, John Scott, said the case was about "unnecessary, reckless" police behavior and "gratuitous violence."

"But other than that," Scott said sarcastically, "it's a very weak case."

Officer Joseph Gray Charged with DUI & Knocking out Window of Squad Car


A Peoria police officer is on paid leave following charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and knocking out the window of a Metamora squad car Sunday morning.

Joseph Gray, 33, a "patrol-level" officer who was hired by the Peoria Police Department in September 1999, was arrested after a single-vehicle accident on Hickory Point Road near Santa Fe Trail in Metamora.

According to a news release issued by Woodford County State's Attorney Michael Stroh, Gray has been charged with DUI, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and criminal damage to government supported property. The latter charge is a Class 4 felony, according to Stroh's release.

If Gray were to be convicted of a felony, he would be unable to serve as a police officer.

Woodford County Sheriff Jim Pierceall said Stroh was not allowing the accident report to be released to media because the crash remained under investigation Tuesday.

Stroh and Pierceall would not disclose Gray's blood-alcohol content, or confirm if tests had been conducted. They also would not say what Gray's vehicle crashed into.

Gray, who lives in Metamora, is next scheduled to appear in court April 2. According to the Woodford County Jail, Gray was arrested about 6:30 a.m. Sunday and bailed out Monday by posting $1,200 cash.

Peoria Police Chief Steven Settingsgaard said Gray is "on paid leave until we can obtain all the documentation and determine for certain what charges will be pursued."

Settingsgaard said an officer with pending criminal charges typically is placed on paid leave until the case, or the department's related internal investigation, is resolved. Discipline is determined at the conclusion of an internal investigation. An officer charged with a felony is placed on unpaid leave, and a felony conviction prevents employment as an officer.

According to Stroh's release, police found Gray alone in his car after the crash and arrested him for DUI based on their observations.

While being transported to the county jail, an agitated Gray reportedly began hitting and kicking the rear passenger-side window of the Metamora squad car, while also yelling to let him out. Glass in the window broke out, and window trim also was broken.

At that point, other officers assisted in restraining Gray and bringing him to jail, Stroh indicated.

Pierceall said his office provided a report to the state's attorney.

The monetary damage to the police car was not known. Metamora Police Chief Mike Todd did not return a phone call.