Saturday, February 06, 2010

Officer Thomas Fees Suspended for Brandishing Weapon at Bar

A Tulsa police officer has been placed on paid suspension following an incident at a downtown pub during which he reportedly brandished a gun and threatened to kill a security guard.

Officer Thomas Fees, 32, was booked into the Tulsa Jail on complaints of pointing a dangerous weapon and carrying a firearm while intoxicated.

Management at Oscar’s Gastro Pub, 1738 S. Boston Ave., said Fees was drinking cocktails at the bar when, at about 1:15 a.m. Saturday, he began grabbing a woman. After being repeatedly asked by the woman’s boyfriend to stop, the officer cursed at the man and identified himself as a police officer, witnesses said.

An argument ensued between the officer and the woman’s boyfriend, management said, and security guards asked Fees to leave multiple times before forcing him out.

Once outside, the officer reportedly drew his gun and pointed it at one of the security guards, a black man.

The officer then told patrons, “If you don’t move, I’ll kill that n-----,” witnesses said.

Management said the officer then went to Mercury Lounge, a bar across the street, where he was subsequently arrested by Tulsa police.

Capt. Karen Tipler said Saturday night that Fees is on paid suspension pending further investigation.

Corrections Officer Sgt. Todd Posch Arrested for False Reports

A corrections officer at High Desert State Prison in Susanville was arrested by the Plumas County Sheriff's Office Thursday on suspicion of filing two false police reports.

The suspect, Sgt. Todd Posch, was later cited and released and the case has been forwarded to the Plumas County District Attorney.

Sheriff's investigators said claims by Posch he had been struck by a vehicle early Wednesday morning while walking in front of his Greenville home proved to be false. After calling 9-1-1, Posch was transported to a local hospital where he was treated for injuries that officials said were self-inflicted.

Under questioning, Posch also reportedly confessed to fabricating a report he made March 27, 2009, stating he had been attacked by up to three men at a highway rest stop near Canyon Dam.

Posch was on his way to work and was in uniform, but was driving his private vehicle. Investigators said Posch claimed he was jumped by between one and three men. Corrections officials said at the time Posch had received a "vicious beating."

Sheriff's investigator Bill Elliott said injuries in that incident were also self-inflicted. Posch reportedly drove himself to a hospital, where he was treated for cuts, apparent stab wounds and broken ribs.

The alleged attack touched off a manhunt in the area for possible suspects, who may have been in a brown sport utility vehicle. Retaliation by former prisoners was considered as a possible motive.

He has not returned to work, but an administrative assistant to the warden said it is the officer's decision, and is due to his medical condition.

Prison spokesman John Boitano said corrections officials plan no action against the guard until the Plumas County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney complete their investigations.

Boitano said Posch has been a corrections officer at High Desert since the late 1990s. He said everyone who knows and has worked with Posch is thoroughly surprised by the allegations.

Officer Stephen Commander Jr Charged with Breaking Into Home

Police Chief Jose Lopez Sr. said he is "disappointed" by the arrest of a Durham police officer on break-in charges, the third in a series of embarrassments for the Durham Police Department.

Wake County sheriff's deputies charged Stephen Patrick Commander Jr., 31, of Oxford, with breaking into a Wake County home and telling the people there that a person he was seeking would be dead by the end of the day if they did not reveal his whereabouts.

Commander has been charged with one felony count each of breaking and entering, and extortion, according to an arrest warrant filed at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office.

Investigators have accused Commander of breaking into a residence at 16113 New Light Road in Wake Forest on Jan. 27. Two people, Kimberly Ann Morgan and Harvey Curtis, were inside the home. They told Wake investigators that Commander announced he was looking for Nazareth Hurst and that they "better tell me where Nazareth is or he will be dead by the end of the day," according to the arrest warrant.

Commander turned himself in to Wake deputies without incident on Jan. 29, according to Phyllis Stephens, a Wake County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman. He was released from custody after posting $3,000 bail and ordered to have no contact with the people who were in the home, court records show.

Durham police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said Commander was not on duty, nor was his search for Hurst part of any police investigation.

Commander made his first court appearance Tuesday in Wake County District Court. His case was continued until Feb. 23.

"We have no comment at this time," Logan Howell, Commander's attorney, said Wednesday.

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez issued a statement Wednesday saying he was "deeply disappointed" by the recent arrests of Commander and a former Durham officer, Sherrod Peace. The are 496 officers total with the Durham Police Department.

Peace, a 35-year-old former UNC football player, was indicted by a federal grand jury last week on weapons and drug violations after he was charged Dec. 21 with distributing less than 5 grams of crack cocaine and possessing a .45-caliber handgun.

Michael said Commander joined the Durham department in January 2007. He works as a patrol officer and earns an annual salary of $38,850. He is still employed with the department pending an investigation by the department's professional standards and criminal investigation divisions, which is standard policy when an officer has been criminally charged. Michael declined to say whether Commander was actively on patrol.

Commander, reached by phone Wednesday, said he wanted to talk about the incident but had been advised not to comment.

"I wish I could, but I can't," he said.

Both arrests follow a high-profile overtime scandal that cost Deputy Police Chief B.J. Council her job when an officer she supervised claimed $62,000 in extra pay.

Alesha Robinson-Taylor, 39, oversaw the system that assigned officers off-duty work. She claimed 1,837 hours of overtime from September 2008 to August 31, making $62,000 in extra pay. Her salary was $52,665.90.

Robinson-Taylor was fired in October after an anonymous e-mail tipped off city officials to the overtime excess. An audit and investigation found Council not only knew about the overtime as early as last fall, but then assumed responsibility for approving Robinson-Taylor's extra hours. Council took personal leave until she retired on Dec. 31.

City officials have said they're looking to recover about $45,000 that was paid to Robinson-Taylor, who joined the department in 1997.

The investigation is now in the hands of the State Bureau of Investigation.

Homeless Man Claims Deputies Used Excessive Force

A homeless man's attorney said surveillance video shows deputies used excessive force in his arrest.

Gerald McGovern, 58, has been arrested no fewer than 69 times, but this time he insists it is different. He said on Dec. 2 when he was approached by an undercover BSO deputy, he did not attack them as charged, instead they attacked him.

The public defenders office said the surveillance video clears McGovern and implicates BSO. "I don't believe someone who was falsely accused, as the evidence is going to show with great weight, should be incarcerated just because they're homeless and they're indigent," Defense Attorney Celine Abram-Schmitt said.

A witness, Roberto Aguilara backs up McGoverns claim. "They come on top of him to beat, and they kept hitting and hitting and hitting. I think it's a long time, around two minutes," said Aguilara.

Now, McGovern wants to be released without posting $1,500 bond, which he does not have because he is homeless.

Because the public defender released the video to Channel 7, the sheriff is furious. "I know it's his job to defend the people that he represents, but it's also my job to investigate or to make sure that deputies are acting appropriately. I can't do that if I'm going to get blind-sided or a surprised attack with something like this," sheriff Al Lamberti said.

"My obligation as the public defender is to represent poor people and homeless people, and after being in the court system for over 30 years, it has become clear, to almost anybody who is in the court system, that the police can not and will not police themselves unless they know the whole community is watching," said public defender Howard Finkelstein.

In court Friday, the deputies testified that things escalated and it turned into a violent arrest.

The judge ruled that he will let the pre-trial release committee interview McGovern and decide if he should be released through that program.

Officer Maynard Richardson Charged with Attempted Sexual Assault

A Des Moines police officer was arrested and charged with attempting to sexually assault a woman in his patrol car early Friday, Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw said.

Police accused Officer Maynard Richardson, 35, of attacking the 22-year-old woman while he was on duty and in uniform.

Richardson faces charges of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse and non-felonious misconduct in office.

"We began an immediate criminal investigation as soon as the allegations were brought to us," Bradshaw said Friday afternoon. "We partnered with the Polk County attorney's office, who was present throughout the investigation."

Richardson, who is paid $52,166 per year, was placed on paid administrative leave pending completion of an internal review of the case.

Richardson posted $3,000 bond and was released from the Polk County Jail Friday night.

Police said the woman was not physically injured.

Police released few details about the incident. Bradshaw declined to describe the type of contact the officer had with the woman.

She would only say that the incident occurred within the Des Moines city limits and that Richardson had contact with the woman as part of his duties as an officer.

The woman called police to file the complaint at about 6:30 a.m., police said, just as Richardson's patrol shift was ending.

Richardson was detained while authorities looked into the complaint. They eventually arrested him and took him to jail, where he was booked at 5:55 p.m. Friday.

The incident occurred sometime between midnight and 6:30 a.m., said Sgt. Lori Lavorato, a Des Moines police spokeswoman.

The woman is not believed to have been involved in a crime and was not on a supervised ride-along with the officer, Lavorato said.

Police believe Richardson did not know the woman before Friday's incident, Bradshaw said.

Police initially released her age as 19 but later revised it to 22. The reason for the discrepancy was not clear.

Richardson served a two-day suspension for inappropriate comments and conduct in 2009, but Bradshaw declined to offer details, citing the privacy of employee records.

Bradshaw emphasized that Richardson's alleged conduct in the incident Friday should not besmirch the reputation of Des Moines police.

"This is an anomaly," Bradshaw said. "In the 30 plus years I have been with this department, we've never seen anything like this. It's not reflective of the extraordinary police work that are out there working ... for the citizens of Des Moines trying to do the right thing."

Beyond the criminal charges, Richardson will face review by police administrators that could result in his termination from the department. Bradshaw said the department's professional standards team will begin its investigation next week.

Richardson's 2006 application for a military tax credit on his Johnston home states he served in the military from March 1994 to December 2000.

He applied for a marriage license with Heather Kephart in November 2004, according to Polk County records.

Richardson graduated from the Des Moines police academy on July 14, 2008, and joined the state's largest police force in December 2008.

A Polk County court determined Richardson was the father of a child born in February 1997 to another woman.

Richardson was ordered to pay $408 per month in child support in September 2008, shortly before he started with the Des Moines police, Iowa court records show.

Cpl John Quigg Jr Accused of Drunk Driving

A Pennsylvania State Police accident investigator accused of drunken driving had a nearly empty bottle of vodka between his knees when he was found slumped over his car's steering wheel in December, according to court documents.

Officers said Cpl. John Quigg Jr. was off duty when found in a Honda that had coasted to a stop against the guard rail along Route 422 in Upper Merion just after 9 p.m. Dec. 17. Quigg was not injured and damage to the car was minor, court records said.

Quigg's attorney, Timothy Woodward Sr., said yesterday that the officer's blood-alcohol level was 0.30. A person is considered legally drunk in Pennsylvania when blood alcohol is 0.08 or greater.

District Judge William Maruszczak said Quigg appeared in his King of Prussia court in an unscheduled hearing Wednesday to waive a hearing, and will stand trial. The appearance had been set for yesterday.

Quigg, 48, of Wyndmoor, who helped supervise sobriety checkpoints in the Philadelphia area, was charged with drunken driving, reckless driving, and violating the open-container law.

In an interview yesterday, Woodward portrayed Quigg as a "dedicated, hard-working police officer who made a mistake and deeply regrets it. He's remorseful, and he's doing everything he can to address it."

Woodward said Quigg had completed a 30-day inpatient program at the Caron Treatment Center in Wernersville, Pa.

He said, "I think he should be made to answer like any other citizen for what he's done, but I don't think he should be held to a higher standard, either, just because he's a police officer."

Quigg has spent more than 20 years doing crash reconstruction and investigations from his office at the Belmont Barracks. He is also trained to assess the behavior of drivers under the influence of drugs.

At the time of the incident, Quigg was assigned to the Collision Accident Reconstruction Specialist Unit. The unit reconstructs crashes on major highways and in some municipalities.

Quigg was assigned to a desk job after the December accident and "won't be on the road," a state police spokesperson said.

Ottawa Officer Charged with Harassment

Ottawa police have charged one of their own with criminal harassment in connection with a series of incidents that happened over a four month period.

Police say the 43-year-old officer has been charged with three counts of criminal harassment for events that occurred between Nov. 1, 2009 and Feb. 5, 2010.

The name of the officer will not be released in order to protect the victim's privacy.

According to Supt. Mike Flanagan, there was a personal relationship between the officer and the victim.

Police are still investigating to see whether charges will also be laid under the Police Services Act.

The officer has been suspended with strict conditions, and he will appear in court on Sunday.

Detroit Officer Charged with Overtime Fraud

Another Detroit police officer has been suspended on accusations that he bilked the city of $15,000 in overtime pay, the Free Press has learned.

Police spokesman John Roach confirmed that a 23-year veteran of the department's 10th precinct is suspended with pay after an internal investigation determined the officer regularly signed in at courthouses on his off days when he had no court business, then put in for overtime pay.

"Of 73 cases he had signed in for in 2009, we found that 55 were fraud and he had no business being there," said Roach, who cited personnel issues in declining to release the officer's name for a story first reported Friday on

The department is investigating whether the officer had been signing in fraudulently for court business before last year as well, Roach said. The department began the investigation after a commander within the precinct noticed the officer was going to court too often, given his job assignment.

The officer marks the fourth suspension in recent weeks. Last month, an Eastern District officer was suspended without pay on accusations that he regularly left his police job early to moonlight as a security guard at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit. His reported ruse also is believed to have cost the city about $15,000.

Another Eastern District officer was accused of submitting fraudulent activity logs while on vacation out of the country, meaning she got paid her normal salary for what should have been vacation days. A sergeant with the Eastern District also has been suspended for approving both of his subordinates' fraudulent logs, Roach said.

Next week, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners is to weigh Chief Warren Evans' recommendation that the two officers and sergeant currently suspended with pay also be stripped of their pay.

Officer Michael Lourenso Arrested for Forging Prescription

Ramapo police have arrested a village police officer on allegations he forged a medical prescription to illegally obtain pain killers from a pharmacist.

Michael Lourenso, 35, who has been out on disability since December , was arrested Friday afternoon on two felony counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Following his arrest, Lourenso was placed on administrative leave with pay pending further action by Suffern village officials, Suffern Police Chief Clarke Osborn said Saturday.

Lourenso is accused of taking blank prescription pads from a Haverstraw doctor and filling slips out, including writing the name of the doctor on the request, Ramapo Police Detective Lt. Brad Weidel said today.

He then used the paperwork to obtain pain killers from a CVS pharmacy in Montebello, Weidel said.

The pharmacist who supplied the narcotics called the doctor's whose name was written on the prescription, Weidel said. The doctor denied filling out the prescription, he said.

"The doctor indicated he didn't provide a prescription for Mr. Lourenso," Weidel said. "That set in motion law enforcement getting involved."

Following an investigation, Ramapo police arrested Lourenso at 12:30 p.m. Friday. Lourenso, an officer for nearly four years, lives in Monroe, Orange County.

Ramapo Justice Rhoda Schoenberger released Lourenso without bail pending future court hearings.

Weidel said detectives plan to discuss the case with the Rockland District Attorney's Office on Monday.

Detective Jose Valencia Caught by FBI Promising Gun to Drug Dealer

A Santa Fe cop may end up losing his badge after he was caught on an FBI tape promising a gun to a drug dealer "who clearly conveyed his intent to commit murder," according to police documents. Santa Fe police Detective Jose Valencia - who was the police union president at the time the conversation was caught on tape two years ago - was recommended for termination by Chief Aric Wheeler last week, the Journal has learned. The alleged drug dealer is Maximiliano Gonzales of Pecos, whom Valencia has known on some level for years.

Valencia has been on administrative leave since October. He also is accused of providing the description of an undercover officer to Gonzales and with making disparaging remarks about fellow officers to the drug suspect, according to state Department of Public Safety documents. But a lawsuit against the city of Santa Fe is in the works, according to an attorney for Valencia who claims his client was the victim of entrapment on the part of "administration higher-ups." Albuquerque attorney Alvin Garcia told the Journal the actions taken against Valencia were a product of a "retaliation" against his client "for reporting corruption (within the department) and not participating in cover-ups." "He was warned that things would come back to bite him," Garcia said. "And they have."

Notice of action The allegations against Valencia are spelled out in a DPS document that calls for Valencia's certification as an officer to be revoked, which was written by state Law Enforcement Academy Board director Arthur Ortiz. Valencia is scheduled to go before the board Thursday for a formal hearing. The board is expected to determine his fate at a meeting in March.

The FBI was investigating a separate case two years ago when the agency recorded conversations between Valencia and Gonzales, according to FBI spokesman Darrin Jones. The FBI - which was not investigating Valencia - turned over the information to Santa Fe police and that ended the bureau's involvement in the matter, according to Jones. Jones, who would not say what the FBI investigation was about, said Valencia was not being wiretapped.

According to Ortiz's document, Valencia spoke with a "known criminal and drug dealer" by phone Feb. 22 and 26, 2008. During those conversations, Valencia "agreed to provide" a gun to Gonzales, who planned on using it to commit murder, the document states. The document also says Valencia "provided the criminal with a description of an undercover officer who was possibly investigating the criminal, and provided the criminal with information and advice adverse to law enforcement." Another document associated with the academy board investigation states Valencia was "degrading law enforcement by speaking negatively about his fellow officers to a known criminal." And when Santa Fe police talked to Valencia about the incident, the detective "was untruthful with investigating officers," according to Ortiz's reports. The academy board sent Valencia a notice of contemplated action in August.

The next month, the detective went before the board for an informal hearing, where Valencia "took no responsibility for his actions, saying it was a misunderstanding because he was conducting a ruse on the informant to obtain information from him," according to the report. Garcia, Valencia's attorney, said Valencia has "been labeled a dirty cop before he has an opportunity to present his side." He contends police administration higher-ups became upset with Valencia after he refused to participate in "cover-ups," but he wouldn't be more specific. Valencia's alleged wrongdoing took place under the administration of former Police Chief Eric Johnson. Current Chief Aric Wheeler was a deputy chief at the time.

Entrapment claim

Valencia was doing his job when he met Gonzales and followed all protocol, without knowing he was being set up, Garcia said. "This guy didn't just fall out of a tree and land at the doorstep and ask for a gun," Garcia said. "They were entrapping him." Garcia denies Valencia was offering to provide a weapon to Gonzales. Garcia also contends the City Attorney's Office has engaged in activity that is "unfair and perhaps illegal" by not producing to his client the Santa Fe police internal affairs documentation or the FBI recordings. Garcia said he expects to file a tort claim notice with the city this week and will spell out his allegations in a coming lawsuit. Garcia said Wheeler recommended Valencia's termination last Thursday, though Wheeler declined to comment on that, citing the case as a confidential personnel matter and the prospect of litigation.

The termination must be approved by the city manager, and Valencia will have a chance to appeal. Allan Lopez, who was elected to replace Valencia as head of the Santa Fe Police Officers Association in December, said that if the allegations are true, they would "have a big impact on our Police Department and our extended law enforcement family." Lopez said that the allegations are "serious and alarming" and that, while the union supports due process for everyone, "we can never condone or support these allegations," if they're found to be true. Lopez also said the allegations first surfaced about a year ago, and the Police Department and City Hall administration were aware of them. He said there was a union "no confidence" vote against Valencia in January 2009.