Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Officer Ronald Debello Accused of Puncturing Tires

Shreveport Police Chief Henry Whitehorn has fired an officer accused of puncturing a tire on a vehicle parked May 2 in the 9000 block of Youree Drive in Shreveport.

Ronald Debello, 34, was dismissed late last week, police Cpl. Bill Goodin said.

Debello, a three-year member of the Police Department, had been on paid administrative leave since May 28, when he was issued a summons to appear in court on a charge of simple criminal property damage — a misdemeanor — and put on paid administrative leave, according to a police news release today.

A citizen reported seeing a uniformed officer get out of a marked patrol unit and puncture a vehicle tire.

Mother Watches Son Tasered to Death

It was a mother’s worst nightmare; her son tasered to death before her eyes. And the culprits, says a lawsuit, were the police.

The case came to a head last week, when a northeast Missouri city agreed to an indefinite moratorium on the use of stun guns and will pay $2.4 million to the man’s family.

Taser International, which makes the weapon, says Tasers are "incapable of causing death." The Department of Justice said Taser shock contributed to 36 deaths during arrests in 2003. Amnesty International documented 50 cases.

In August 2008, Athena Bachtel, watched as her son was tasered after arguing with Moberly police during a traffic stop. Stanley Harlan, 23, was stunned three times for a total of 31 seconds. He collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. For 14 minutes he received no medical attention. By the time paramedics arrived, it was too late.

Authorities have said Harlan was suspected of drunken driving. A statement from his family's lawyers said he was accused of speeding.

Bachtel sought the moratorium as a way to prevent other deaths, said the family's lead attorney, Stephen M. Ryals.

“The pursuit of justice for her son and specifically reforms of the behavior of Moberly police was paramount,” Ryals said. “The monetary settlement was really unimportant to her.”

Bachtel, along with Stanley Harlan's father and his 1-year-old son will share in the settlement.

The readout on the officers' Taser indicated Harlan was stunned three times, Ryals said. Harlan lost consciousness and died a short time later.

Calls to attorneys for the city Monday night were not immediately returned. But the city said in a news release that no fault was admitted in the settlement and its insurance company will pay the entire settlement.

“It is never the goal or desire of any police officer to cause or contribute to the death of any person,” the release said. “Mr. Harlan's death was certainly unanticipated and unintentional.”

The release from the city noted that the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the FBI investigated the death and found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. No criminal charges were filed.

But Ryals said his clients haven't given up on the possibility of a criminal prosecution.

He said he also is considering a lawsuit against the maker of the stun gun, Taser International Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz.

The stun gun moratorium in Moberly will continue until two town hall meetings have been held, and the police department has issued a revised Taser policy. The city also has agreed to assign at least one automatic external defibrillator to an on-duty patrol unit and require additional training on topics including recognizing and responding to medical distress.

Officer Phillip Devers Arrested for Dousing Girlfriend with Gasoline

A Bartlett police officer was arrested Friday for assaulting his girlfriend by allegedly dousing her with gasoline and threatening to light her and the house on fire.

44-year old Master Patrolman, Phillip Devers, is now charged with domestic aggravated assault. Devers was arrested at his Bartlett home after allegedly forcing his way into his girlfriends Tipton county home, spitting in her girlfriends face and threatening to set her on fire.

Tipton County Deputy Chief Donna Turner says, "He did forcefully drag her from the residence to the porch area, poured gasoline on her and the house and threatened to burn her and the residence".

But the Bartlett police officers girlfriend was able to get to a phone and call for help. Deputies say Devers was not there when they arrived.

Turner says, "We did confirm he lived in Shelby County, he was located and arrested".

The Bartlett police chief says Devers is on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation. Devers has been in the police department since 1994. The chief says he's been on a combination of departmental and medical leave since last year, but wouldn't expand further.

Devers recently testified about finding the bodies of Lillian and Clarence James during the Henry Lee Jones capital murder trial.

He also testified during the 2004 John Britt trial, the former head of security for Memphis City Schools, convicted for trying to hire a hit man to kill his estranged wife. At the time, Devers testified his wife was having an affair with Britt but that he was not involved in the investigation.

The Bartlett Police Chief says Dever's duty weapon has been taken away.

Devers is out of jail after posting a $1,500 bond on Saturday.
His girlfriend has filed an order of protection.

Tipton County could find no other record of domestic violence between Devers and his girlfriend.