Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Cpl Antonio Lopez Likely to be Fired After Pepper Spraying Man

A Dallas police officer is likely to be fired as soon as next week after an internal investigation concluded that he repeatedly lied about an incident in which a man was taken to West Dallas, doused with pepper spray and then left there.

A rookie police officer also is facing discipline over not immediately reporting the August 2008 incident to supervisors. The rookie, Officer John Hoover, later told detectives that a third officer had intentionally used pepper spray on the man and they concocted a story that the canister had malfunctioned.

Senior Cpl. Antonio Lopez, the 36-year-old officer who may be fired, declined to comment Tuesday, but wrote in a statement to internal investigators: "I was not untruthful while conducting official police business."

Senior Cpl. Michael Loeb, the 31-year-old officer accused of dousing 19-year-old Michael Reyes with pepper spray, could not be reached for comment. His internal affairs case is pending.

Responding to call

Early on Aug. 26, 2008, Loeb in his patrol car, and Lopez and Hoover in their car responded to a call on Walnut Hill Lane in northwest Dallas in which an elderly man reported that a stranger knocked on his door and demanded money.

The officers found Reyes in the area but decided they didn't have evidence of a crime and released him.

George Gaytan, a neighbor, wrote in a statement to investigators that Lopez told Reyes, " 'If y'all hurt this man or this old man, I'm going to come back and kill you and kill your gang members.' "

Lopez wrote that they agreed to give Reyes a ride in the car driven by Hoover. Loeb followed in his patrol car.

Lopez told investigators that Reyes requested that they drop him off at a West Dallas carwash. Once there, Lopez and Loeb told investigators, Loeb's paper spray canister malfunctioned, and the officers and Reyes were sprayed.

Different account

But Hoover and Reyes gave a different account: Lopez ordered Reyes out of their squad car and threw Reyes' cellphone and wallet to the ground.

As Lopez and Hoover were leaving, Lopez asked Reyes if he wanted a ride, Hoover said. Reyes responded with an obscene hand gesture. Hoover, the rookie who initially backed up the veteran officers' account, later told police investigators that as he and Lopez left, he saw Loeb get out of his car.

Hoover told investigators that the other officers turned around and that he then saw Loeb intentionally spray Reyes without provocation.

"I saw the suspect on the ground and Mike with his pepper spray out and a cloud of pepper spray near the suspect," he wrote. "As we pulled up, the suspect was able to get up and move a few feet before falling back to the ground with Loeb right next to him. Loeb then gave him another spray of pepper spray."

Loeb then threw the canister at Reyes, Hoover told investigators. Hoover said the officers then left. Reyes walked to a nearby gas station and called 911.

The officers later met up at a convenience store where Loeb and Lopez came up with their account, Hoover said.

"I did not notify a Sgt. of this incident because I was scared and I feared retaliation," he wrote.

In a written statement, Lopez attributed the difference in the accounts to Hoover's rookie status: "Rookie officers interpret and see things differently than more mature veteran officers."

In February, a grand jury declined to indict Loeb and Lopez after Reyes refused to cooperate further.

Detroit Officer Arrested for Stealing Reward Money

A Detroit police officer has been arrested, accused of stealing reward money from a program designed to stop auto theft.

The name of the 14-year police veteran is not being released until he's formally charged.

Police said the officer worked the car theft beat for DPD and used insider knowledge to defraud the HEAT reward program.

HEAT stands for Help Eliminate Auto Thefts and is based in Livonia. The program is funded by insurance agencies and rewards residents for turning in car thieves.

Investigators said the officer would create a fictitious tipster and report information to HEAT, on cases that he oversaw, to collect cash.

Rescue 4 spoke to Detroiters who were angry that a police officer is accused of using his job as a tool to make extra money.

“That most definitely would bother me because that’s doing the wrong thing. Let’s try to build Detroit up not tear it down,” said Amy Tillman.

“It’s not surprising but it’s disappointing. You hope the right person does the right thing but I guess you don’t get that all the time,” said Sean Mayfield.

DPD’s Internal Affairs got a tip of their own that the officer was using his position to steal money from HEAT.

After an investigation, internal affairs arrested the officer. The officer’s identity will be revealed Wednesday morning in a Livonia courtroom.

Officer Thurman Hathaway Arrested for Unauthorized Use of Database

Police and city officials in Cochran are scheduled to meet today to discuss the employment of a Cochran police officer charged with criminal trespass and violating the rules and regulations associated with the Georgia Crime Information Center database.

Thurman Hathaway, 38, of Cochran, was arrested Wednesday following a GBI investigation, said Todd Lowery, assistant special agent in charge of the GBI’s Eastman office. Authorities say Hathaway is accused of calling in the tag number of a male friend of a former female friend for personal reasons and checking the number against the GCIC database.

Lowery said the database contains vehicle registration information, information about wanted individuals and other information used by law enforcement during criminal investigations.

It’s illegal to access the database without a legitimate law enforcement purpose, he said.

The criminal trespass charge is based on Hathaway calling in the tag number from the woman’s residence, Lowery said.

Bleckley County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Daniel Cape said the case was forwarded to the GBI after someone reported Hathaway’s actions by calling dispatchers.

Cochran Police Chief Jon Thrower said Hathaway was placed on leave without pay following his arrest. He described Hathaway as having a “lifelong” career in corrections and law enforcement. Hathaway has been a Cochran police officer for about three and a half years, Thrower said.

“We were shocked when this happened,” Thrower said. He’s always done a good job as a police officer.”

Hathaway was released on $5,100 bond Wednesday, Cape said.

Officer Keith Buckley Indicted for Failing to Perform his Duties


A grand jury in Middlesex County has indicted a North Brunswick police lieutenant on official misconduct charges in a car crash that claimed the life of a fellow officer.

Tuesday's indictment charges Keith Buckley with failing to perform his duties while behind the wheel of a rented 2006 Dodge Viper that crashed into a utility pole at high speed, killing Lt. Christopher Zerby.

It also alleges that he took off his gun and handcuffs before getting in the car, leaving him unable to perform his job.

Buckley earlier was indicted on a charge of vehicular homicide. He has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer, Robert Gluck, says he is also innocent of the new charges.

The crash occurred on Aug. 12, 2008. Buckley escaped serious injury.

Officer David Robida Could Lose Job for Sending Threatening Text Messages

A Cheektowaga police officer could lose his job for allegedly threatening a former girlfriend last summer with “vulgar” text messages and arranging to have her removed from the Sunset Bay Beach Club in Irving on July 4 last year.

“This is pretty serious,” Town Supervisor Mary Holtz told The Buffalo News of the accusations against patrolman David Robida. “We have a police chief that’s very concerned.”

The Erie County district attorney’s office has been informed, Holtz said, although town police Capt. John Glascott said there are no criminal charges pending.

The Town Board voted unanimously Monday night after a closed-door discussion that they would move forward with a disciplinary process that could cost Robida his job.

A resolution Town Board members considered said the officer “has brought discredit upon the Cheektowaga Police Department” for failing to treat his girlfriend respectfully, violating Police Chief Christine Ziemba’s order that he have no contact with the woman and making a false report to the department.

Robida, who has hired an attorney, declined to discuss the charges when reached by phone late Monday. “I can’t comment on anything,” he said.

Alleged incidents that led to the Monday vote were detailed in the resolution. They included “vulgar, threatening and insulting” text messages Robida is accused of sending to his ex-girlfriend and her family. The messages related to a visit by the former girlfriend to the Sunset Bay Beach Club in Irving on July 4, 2008. The resolution alleged Robida threatened to “ruin” his ex-girlfriend’s summer by excluding her and her family from the club “and other bars and public establishments owned or operated by his friends.”

The resolution continues to say that three of Robida’s friends and associates communicated with each other and, during the early afternoon that day, arranged to remove his exgirlfriend shortly after she arrived at the bar.

The resolution approved by the board also says:

• “Any police officer who makes a false statement during the course of an Internal Affairs investigation undermines the integrity and purpose of such investigation.”

• Robida’s false statements were about whether he gave a friend and associate a “heads up” that his ex-girlfriend would be at the Sunset.

• Robida went to the Sunset knowing his ex-girlfriend would be there and he was told to stay away from her. Robida’s actions led to his ex-girlfriend’s removal from the club “in a way that could not have been more aggressive, abrupt, embarrassing and predicable. [sic]”

Later this month, a hearing officer and Deputy Town Attorney Jeffrey Whiting will suggest a punishment — possibly dismissal. The Town Board will make the final decision.

Officer Janine England Caught on Camera Kissing Chief Timothy Escola

A Perry Township police officer caught on camera kissing her chief is out of a job.

Dash camera video showed Officer Janine England and Police Chief Timothy Escola cuddling and kissing while transporting a prisoner.

Escola retired last week. England tried to resign, but township trustees declined her resignation and instead fired her for an affair unbecoming of an officer.

Both England and Escola are married.

Jesus Manuel Sanchez Arrested on Sex Offenses

The Monterey County Sheriff's Office has confirmed that Salinas police Officer Jesus Manuel Sanchez was arrested Monday night.

Sanchez, 34, was arrested by the Salinas Police Department about 8 p.m on suspicion of assault with the intent to commit mayhem or a specified sex offense including rape, sodomy or oral copulation.

The Sheriff's Office said Sanchez has since posted the $300,000 bail.

He is scheduled to appear in court on July 15.

Sanchez worked for the Sheriff's Office as a deputy in 1998.

Salinas police said they will release additional information at a press conference at 2 p.m. at the City Hall Rotunda.

Sanchez stepped down as the Alisal boys soccer coach after five seasons in 2008.

While coaching the Trojans, he won four league championships (three straight in the Monterey Bay League) and the school’s first Tri-County Athletic League title in 2008) — all with unbeaten records — and took his team to three CCS Division I semifinals and one final.

In 56 league matches, which included three years in the MBL and two in the T-CAL, the Trojans lost just once under Sanchez’s guidance.

He was The Salinas Californian’s All-County Boys Coach of the Year four times.

Officer Dirk Piggott Arrested for Drunk Driving

Dirk Piggott has returned to work as an Aurora police officer after being arrested for drunken driving.

Piggott, 52, of Ravenna, pleaded guilty to being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in Morrow County, just north of Columbus, where he was arrested by a trooper March 13.

The "physical control" violation is a lesser charge in the state's DUI law. He was found guilty May 16, fined $499, required to attend a 3-day alcohol seminar and placed on probation for two years. His driver's license was suspended for six months, but he can drive for work.

Aurora Mayor Lynn McGill removed Piggott from unpaid leave, acknowledging his otherwise unblemished 24 years with the department. The mayor disciplined him for improper conduct.

Piggott was demoted from sergeant to patrolman and he was suspended without pay from May 11 through June 12. The disciplinary record will remain in his file for five years and he will be fired if he violates a department rule within that time, McGill said.