Police News On Police In Texas 12



News On Police Brutality and Police Misconduct in Texas

      Police Brutality and Misconduct Is Not Just a Problem, It’s Illegal! 

    Police News On Police Brutality and Police Misconduct In Texas

 

                                                                           Page 12

Hickman, 30, a six-year veteran of law enforcement, was arrested Thursday on a second-degree felony charge of arson relating to an Oct. 2, 2005, murder/arson case. Hickman joins three other people already in jail on charges relating to that case.

At the time of the incident, Hickman was employed with the Cockrell Hill Police Department, having joined that agency Sept. 7. Records obtained from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education indicate he left the employment of the Cockrell Hill Police Department on Nov. 17, 2005, about seven weeks after a Lincoln Navigator was discovered on fire at Hillcrest Cemetery. After the flames were extinguished, a body was found inside the vehicle. A subsequent autopsy determined the man had been stabbed to death prior to his body being burned.

“The allegations are that (Hickman) participated in the arson,” said Waxahachie police Lt. Cyndy Wiser, who declined to comment as to whether or not Hickman might have known whether there was a body inside the vehicle.

The three other men in custody relating to the case have each been charged with murder relating to the death of Miguel Angel Martinez, 30, of Dallas.

Abimael Sanchez, 30, of Garland and Randy Hernandez, 30, of Dallas were taken into custody Dec. 20. Besides the murder charge, each also faces charges of arson and tampering with physical evidence, with total bonds set for each at $330,000. Daniel Hernandez Jr., 23, of Fort Worth was arrested on a murder charge the first week of January. He is being held on a $550,000 bond.

A bond had not been set for Hickman as of press time.

Hickman started his career in law enforcement as a jailer for the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, working for that agency from November 1994 to June 1995 before graduating in July 1995 from the Cedar Valley College Law Enforcement Academy.

Records indicate he next served as a peace officer with the Southern Methodist University Police Department from April 1998 to December 1999, when he joined the Waxahachie Police Department.

Hickman left the Waxahachie Police Department in November 2004, saying in his exit paperwork that he intended to tattoo full-time and go to school.

“I would like to thank you and the rest of the department for the time I have had here and the many opportunities I have had,” Hickman wrote in his resignation letter, expressing his appreciation for the training and education he had received.

During his almost five years tenure with the Waxahachie Police Department, Hickman received about 13 letters and other notices of commendation, according to information in his personnel file. He also received two, three-day suspensions without pay for such behavior as failure to show up for a court date and being late to work.

Wiser has said the department cannot comment on any motives involved. Several search warrants have been conducted relating to the case; however, information as to what, if any, evidence recovered during those searches has not been released.

Wichita Falls police spokesman Joe Snyder said Foster is no longer employed by the department, but he would not say when or why Foster left.

“Allegations were made,” he said. “This department immediately investigated those allegations.”

According to the Wednesday indictment, Foster is accused of touching the genitals of a child under age 17 in July 1991 and March 1992. He is also accused of touching the breast of a child under 17 in August 1994.

Maureen O’Brien, assistant district attorney for Wichita County, said she could not discuss details of the case.

Foster joined the Wichita Falls police in May 1987, and worked in field service areas, such as patrol and traffic, city employment records showed.

Foster posted a $75,000 bond and was free from the Wichita County Jail.

Reuter’s testimony Tuesday in the trial of three people accused of human smuggling suggested that the lives of 19 illegal immigrants packed into that stifling trailer could have been saved if a police dispatcher had taken his 911 call seriously.

Seventeen bodies were found in and near the abandoned trailer the next morning at a Victoria truck stop. Two more people died at a hospital. At least 74 had been packed into the hot, airless trailer.

Reuter told jurors that, when he saw the arm waving a bandanna or rag, the truck was in Kingsville, more than 100 miles south of where it stopped.

Kingsville police dispatcher Annie Cantu testified that she thought Reuter’s call was unbelievable. Jurors heard Cantu laugh on the tape as she told her superior about the report.

Under cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Rodriguez, Cantu said she thought Reuter was drunk. Reuter asked her to call police in the next town, but she testified that she never did.

Accused of being part of a conspiracy that led to the deaths are Victor Sanchez Rodriguez, 58; his wife, Emma Sapata Rodriguez, 59; and her half-sister, Rosa Sarrata Gonzalez, 51.

After prosecutors finished presenting their case Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore acquitted the Rodriguezes of 40 of 60 smuggling counts and Sarrata of 55 of 58 smuggling counts.

Each dismissed count was linked to a specific rider in the trailer. Gilmore said she dismissed the counts in which testimony failed to link the defendants to those riders.

Each defendant still could be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison if convicted on the remaining conspiracy charge.

Christopher McKinney, 28, pleaded guilty in July to theft by a public servant. Prosecutors said he stole $4,900 from a driver he stopped on Oct. 21, 2004 in the 6700 block of Highway 6 in southwest Houston.

The third-degree felony carries a possible sentence of two to 10 years in prison, said Sam Knight, McKinney’s attorney.

McKinney was on duty, in uniform and driving his marked Department of Public Safety cruiser when he stopped a driver at night, prosecutors said. After he took the money from the man’s wallet and left, the driver contacted Houston police.

McKinney, who had been with the DPS about two years at the time, repaid the stolen money as part of his plea agreement and quit the force.

Knight said that, as part of his plea deal, McKinney also paid a total of $500 to two other people who reported that he had stolen money from them in a similar manner. He was not prosecuted for those incidents.

He did not admit to stealing from them, but agreed to pay them in an effort to resolve the allegations, Knight said.

McKinney was arrested in January last year after investigators traced a license plate number, reported in four similar incidents, to him, prosecutors said.

Assistant Harris County District Attorney Joe Owmbysaid McKinney admitted the October 2004 theft and others. He said prosecutors could not gather sufficient evidence to prosecute him for the other thefts.

Owmby said investigators determined that McKinney stole the money because he needed cash for family expenses, but that he was not involved in drug deals or gambling.

He appeared to target people who he thought might be immigrants who would be afraid to report the thefts, Owmby said.

The motorist in the October 2004 theft had planned a trip to visit relatives in a foreign country and perhaps give them the money, Owmby added.

The main focus of the meeting was the arrest of Jeremy Williams, an African American pastor from Kirbyville, who was jailed in mid December of last year, following an apparent argument and fight between he and five other individuals over used fork truck pallets left by FEMA in a parking lot behind the Jasper High School.

Williams was reportedly tasered by patrol sergeant Jeff Coulter of the police department after he had called 911 to report that he had been assaulted by the five other people, four of them white and one Latino, who claimed that the pallets had been given to them for use in an upcoming bon fire

Williams’ father, teed Williams, who also serves as a pastor at the Believers New Life Ministries in Kirbyville, said that he wanted to know why his son was the only one arrested, and why others involved in the fight were allowed to leave the scene and never charged. He also questioned why the municipal court had refused to take charges filed by Williams against the others.

Some of those that spoke out included Billy Robinson of the NAACP, pastors Lavelle Tukes, manual land and Ray Lewis along with willies Lee Land and others.

Overall, the group called for the continued crack down on dope and those who sell and use it, but at the same time asked Jasper Police Chief Todd Hunter and his men to treat all people fairly and remember that not everyone was a criminal.

Willie Lee Land said that he supported what Hunter had done in cleaning up the community since he took the job as chief last year, but that he would not allow this town to go back to the days of R.C. Powell and Alton Wright and that he was watching the situation with concern. Powell and Wright served as sheriff and police chief in the sixties and seventies here in the Jasper area.

Another accusation made today came from the Ted Williams who claimed that his son had been denied medical treatment on the night the incident occurred even though he had requested it. However, today, a check of police records showed that an ambulance was called, and that after receiving minor checks, Williams signed a form refusing medical treatment.

Chief hunter said today that the investigation into the incident is not over, that he had turned the case over to Texas Ranger Danny Young, and that he would be releasing a full accounting of the incident and the facts surrounding the case following the completion of the investigation.

Hunter also said today that upon his arrival at the scene, emergency dispatchers had told Officer Coulter that Williams claimed to have a gun. A statement submitted by the dispatcher said that Williams said that he “would drop them down if he had to.” Hunter said that others at the scene also believed that Williams had a gun.

Around eighteen people attended the meeting that was held at the municipal courtroom of the police station on south Main Street. The meeting had originally been set for city hall but was moved at the last minute.

Chief hunter called on the community to wait until the full investigation is complete and asked people not to draw conclusions too early.

During the meeting, leaders called for the department to have more diversity training and courses in sensitivity. However, Hunter said that most officers in the department had already received such training.

Pastor Ray Lewis said that all police cover up for each other and that they know what is going on.

****** The story was sent in by a reader. They also comment on Jasper Texas: Sheriff’s R.C. Powell and Alton Wright we’re probably two of the dirtiest cops in East Texas. Sheriff Powell would get “prisoners” and take them out to his “pea farm” and work them. If sheriff Powell didn’t have enough “prisoners” to work out on his farm, he would send his deputies out to arrest people, on trumped up charges so that he could send them to his pea farm and work.

Jasper Texas is a very racist town, specially the police! Those of you who have forgotten, Jasper is the place where a black man was dragged down the road behind a car tied to a chain.

We just had a Chief of Police retire from the police department, Stanley Christopher. Since I was a little kid, I could always remember he had a thing for “under age girls.” How’s it going Stanley, did you ever find the perfect little girl?

Weldon Kovacevich thought he was coming to pick up some personal items.

Instead, he was placed under arrest by members of the Attorney General’s Cyber Crimes Unit.

“Mr. Kovacevich?” said someone from the AG’s office, You have a weapon on you sir?”

The AG’s office served a search warrant at Kovacevich’s Bayou Vista home earlier this month.

They say they found more than 1,000 explicit images of children involved in sexual conduct

Kovacevich was arrested for possession and promotion of child pornography.

Possession for having the images and promotion because investigators say they also have evidence that Kovacevich transmitted those images to others.

Kovacevich was used to being on the other end of an arrest. For four years in the 1990s, he was a Galveston County Sheriff’s Deputy and he spent eight years as a Bayou Vista Police Officer before leaving the department in 2003.

Now he is a mortgage loan officer and president of the Bay Area V Twins, a motorcycle club that group runs a charity event called “Bears to Share”.

Teddy bears and donations are collected by club members and delivered in person to children being cared for at the Shriner’s Hospital in Galveston-

For now, Kovacevich is free on a $150,000 bond.  

Authorities said Keith Moore, 35, got away with some cash and merchandise from the Sam’s Club in the 2800 block of Dunvale Road.

Investigators believe Moore had help from two Sam’s Club employees — Stefan John Rowlands, 26, and Rowlands’ girlfriend, Tonia Annette Valdez, 25.

Moore posted a $35,000 bond on charges of tampering or fabricating evidence and engaging organized crime.

Rowlands and Valdez were charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.

“They’re supposed to be protecting the people, not assaulting the people,” said Chapa.

Just last week, Patton Village Officer Vernon Ray Allison as accused of sexually assaulting a woman while on duty.

 Last summer, Jeffry Speer pleaded guilty to verbally and physically abusing a driver he pulled over. The police department only has 25 officers.

   01/22/2006 – A 17-year veteran Austin police officer was arrested Saturday and charged with aggravated assault after his colleagues said that while he was off duty Friday night, he threatened a man with a revolver during a disagreement about money invested in speculative stocks.

 Officer Robert Jackson, 48, remained at the Travis County Jail on Saturday night. His bail was set at $50,000.

 Officer Jackson will be placed on restricted duty at home, with pay, pending the outcome of the criminal and Internal Affairs investigations, police said.

The second-degree felony carries a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 20 years in jail. The case will be presented to a grand jury by the Travis County district attorney’s office.

About 8:40 p.m. Friday, Jackson confronted Edward Karaback, 62, inside Karaback’s apartment at 3816 S. Lamar Blvd., Assistant Police Chief Cathy Ellison said. Jackson believed Karaback owed him money from stock investments, according to police spokeswoman Laura Albrecht.

Ellison said Jackson was investing in “penny stocks” with Karaback. The term refers to small-market-value stocks that trade for less than $5 a share. These stocks are often traded on the lightly regulated over-the-counter market and are much more volatile than large- company stocks.

The stock investments — at least $25,000 worth — apparently sparked the incident Friday night. Karaback said Jackson loaned the money to him for investments.

Officer Jackson pointed a revolver in Karaback’s direction, Ellison said.

Karaback “felt threatened,” she said. “He felt he was going to be shot.”

Late Saturday, Karaback gave this account of the incident:

He said he opened his apartment door, and Jackson emerged from behind a mutual friend who had accompanied Jackson. Neither Karaback nor the police would identify the friend.

Karaback said Jackson came through the door and pulled a gun out of the right side of his sweatshirt pocket. Jackson pointed the gun toward the ceiling, and bullets spilled from the weapon, Karaback said.

“I can’t use those; those are Austin police issued,” Karaback recalled Jackson saying. Then, according to Karaback, Jackson said, “but I can use this one,” and pulled one bullet from his left sweatshirt pocket.

“Have you ever played Russian roulette?” Karaback said officer Jackson asked as he spun the cylinder.

Karaback said their mutual friend intervened and persuaded Jackson to leave. Karaback, who filed for personal bankruptcy Jan. 10, said he gave a copy of his court filing to the friend.

The friend then picked up the bullets Jackson had spilled on the floor and started to leave the apartment. When he opened the door, Jackson re-entered and demanded repayment of his loan.

Karaback said Jackson said he wanted money by the end of the month and a total of $35,000 by the end of the year.

Karaback said he told Jackson, “That’s basically impossible; I have no money.”

Jackson then said, “I don’t care how you get it,” according to Karaback.

Minutes later, Karaback said, the two men left.

Bankruptcy court records in Austin show that Karaback owes $35,000 to Jackson. The debt is listed as a personal loan.

Karaback confirmed the details of the bankruptcy filing regarding his debt to Jackson.

In his filing, Karaback listed about $153,000 in debts, mostly to credit card companies, and less than $50,000 in assets. Jackson is listed as his largest creditor.

Karaback once ran an illegal investment service called Penny Stock Management Program in Austin, according to the Texas State Securities Board. The board issued a cease-and-desist order on April 27, 2004, against Karaback, who consented to the order.

According to the order, Karaback managed funds for investors by purchasing penny stocks and offered to split any profits equally. Because Karaback wasn’t a registered securities dealer, the board ruled that his scheme violated state law.

Karaback said Saturday that he has also been a vitamin and health-products distributor. Filings with the Texas secretary of state show that he also registered two jewelry companies during the 1970s and 1980s.

Karaback said he is currently a contract driver with Noble Logistic Services Inc. in Austin. Karaback said he and Jackson met in 2001 through the mutual friend.

Officer Jackson invested with Karaback from 2001 to 2003, Ellison said. From 2003 to 2005, Jackson was getting a return on his investments.

Jackson “does have some discipline history,” Ellison said, but she declined to elaborate Saturday.

The previous incidents were “nothing of this magnitude,” she said.

“It’s unfortunate. It’s disappointing,” she said. “We’re here to protect folks, not cause harm.”

Officer Robert Jackson, 48, remained at the Travis County Jail on Saturday night. His bail was set at $50,000. 

 Officer Jackson will be placed on restricted duty at home, with pay, pending the outcome of the criminal and Internal Affairs investigations, police said.

The second-degree felony carries a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 20 years in jail. The case will be presented to a grand jury by the Travis County district attorney’s office.

About 8:40 p.m. Friday, Jackson confronted Edward Karaback, 62, inside Karaback’s apartment at 3816 S. Lamar Blvd., Assistant Police Chief Cathy Ellison said. Jackson believed Karaback owed him money from stock investments, according to police spokeswoman Laura Albrecht.

Ellison said Jackson was investing in “penny stocks” with Karaback. The term refers to small-market-value stocks that trade for less than $5 a share. These stocks are often traded on the lightly regulated over-the-counter market and are much more volatile than large- company stocks.

The stock investments — at least $25,000 worth — apparently sparked the incident Friday night. Karaback said Jackson loaned the money to him for investments.

 Officer Jackson pointed a revolver in Karaback’s direction, Ellison said.

Karaback “felt threatened,” she said. “He felt he was going to be shot.”

Late Saturday, Karaback gave this account of the incident:

He said he opened his apartment door, and Jackson emerged from behind a mutual friend who had accompanied Jackson. Neither Karaback nor the police would identify the friend.

Karaback said Jackson came through the door and pulled a gun out of the right side of his sweatshirt pocket. Jackson pointed the gun toward the ceiling, and bullets spilled from the weapon, Karaback said.

“I can’t use those; those are Austin police issued,” Karaback recalled Jackson saying. Then, according to Karaback, Jackson said, “but I can use this one,” and pulled one bullet from his left sweatshirt pocket.

“Have you ever played Russian roulette?” Karaback said officer Jackson asked as he spun the cylinder.

Karaback said their mutual friend intervened and persuaded Jackson to leave. Karaback, who filed for personal bankruptcy Jan. 10, said he gave a copy of his court filing to the friend.

The friend then picked up the bullets Jackson had spilled on the floor and started to leave the apartment. When he opened the door, Jackson re-entered and demanded repayment of his loan.

Karaback said Jackson said he wanted money by the end of the month and a total of $35,000 by the end of the year.

Karaback said he told Jackson, “That’s basically impossible; I have no money.”

Jackson then said, “I don’t care how you get it,” according to Karaback.

Minutes later, Karaback said, the two men left.

Bankruptcy court records in Austin show that Karaback owes $35,000 to Jackson. The debt is listed as a personal loan.

Karaback confirmed the details of the bankruptcy filing regarding his debt to Jackson.

In his filing, Karaback listed about $153,000 in debts, mostly to credit card companies, and less than $50,000 in assets. Jackson is listed as his largest creditor.

Karaback once ran an illegal investment service called Penny Stock Management Program in Austin, according to the Texas State Securities Board. The board issued a cease-and-desist order on April 27, 2004, against Karaback, who consented to the order.

According to the order, Karaback managed funds for investors by purchasing penny stocks and offered to split any profits equally. Because Karaback wasn’t a registered securities dealer, the board ruled that his scheme violated state law.

Karaback said Saturday that he has also been a vitamin and health-products distributor. Filings with the Texas secretary of state show that he also registered two jewelry companies during the 1970s and 1980s.

Karaback said he is currently a contract driver with Noble Logistic Services Inc. in Austin. Karaback said he and Jackson met in 2001 through the mutual friend.

 Officer Jackson invested with Karaback from 2001 to 2003, Ellison said. From 2003 to 2005, Jackson was getting a return on his investments.

Jackson “does have some discipline history,” Ellison said, but she declined to elaborate Saturday.

The previous incidents were “nothing of this magnitude,” she said.

“It’s unfortunate. It’s disappointing,” she said. “We’re here to protect folks, not cause harm.”

 Officer Carlos Campos, a two-year veteran of the department, was arrested Tuesday on a charge of indecency with a child and booked into the El Paso County jail on $100,000 bond.

 Investigators said Campos touched the girl inappropriately in December while interviewing her about an incident at a mobile home park.

Campos had been on administrative duty since the investigation started Dec. 30.

“Not at one time did he ever mention to me about any of these grievances.”

Chief Don Garcia has been at the helm of the police department five of the last 17 years with the city. Never once, he says, has any of his 13 person staff made a complaint to him or city management about the way he runs the show.

That is until now.

“It surprised the heck out of me when he came up from zero to 21, 22 grievances.”

Action 4 News obtained an exclusive copy of the grievance letter, the chief says, is written by Manuel Castillo, III. The sergeant has been with La Feria police for four years currently working as juvenile investigator.

His grievance to the city manager outlines a laundry list of violations against his boss from the procedural: like this one about units not checked for wear and usage to favoritism and leniency claims Sergeant Castillo says creates a downward spiral in moral.

There’s even accusations the chief demoralizes and embarrasses officers on the job.

“All of them are outrageous… there is no facts here.”

Sgt. Castillo would not speak to us about his personal grievances saying quote “he does not want to hurt his standings.”

It’s a comment only highlighting concerns the chief has about who’s truly behind these lengthy accusations.

“The mayor has launched this campaign strictly on the first person he is going to terminate is the chief of police.”

Chief Garcia believes recently-elect Mayor Lalo Sosa is playing an underhand role with the claims made by Sgt. Castillo.

“This is nothing but harassment and retaliation on his part.”

It’s a claim the mayor vehemently denies calling it outrageous and not worth a response.

City Manager Sunny K. Philip is responding though at least to the grievance complaints.

An intra-office document we also obtained shows the outcome of his investigation into the 21 grievances filed against the chief.

Philip writes in part: “I have not found any wrongdoing or violations by Chief Don Garcia. The city manager goes on to write in his report, Sgt. Castillo failed to follow the chain of command required by city policy.”

He also writes that Castillo’s claim of retaliation is unfounded and that Castillo is required to follow all instructions and responsibilities set forth by the chief.

=============

  01/24/2006 – The Houston Police Department’s “Chicano Squad,” a highly decorated homicide investigative team, has been subjected to ethnic slurs, disparate pay and heavier workloads than their counterparts for more than 20 years, a job discrimination complaint alleges. 

Twenty-three unnamed former and current members of the squad filed the complaint Nov. 29 against the city of Houston alleging that high-ranking homicide officers frequently have used such slurs to create an “atmosphere of inferiority, isolation and intimidation.”

“The most important thing they want is equity so future Hispanic officers do not have to face what they’ve had to face,” said Sam T. Alvarado, an arbitrator who filed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.

The Hispanic officers, who also belong to the Houston Police Organization of Spanish Speaking Officers, did not raise any of the issues earlier for fear of retaliation, Alvarado said.

Craig Ferrell, HPD’s deputy director of legal services, said the complaint was “broad-brushed” and does not offer specific instances of discrimination or identify any particular officer or supervisors behind the allegations made.

“The problem with the complaint for us, as far as responding to it, was there were no names given about who was called (what) by whom and on what date,” Ferrell said. “At this point, we are only able to give a general denial,” Ferrell said.

Ferrell added that HPD policy prohibits the use of “racially charged statements in the workplace.”

Officers who use such language are disciplined by losing days of pay, Ferrell said.

The Chicano Squad, created 25 years ago to investigate crime in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods, has recently been required to work extra hours to combat the city’s rise in violent crimes, Ferrell said. Squad members called in for additional duty were compensated either with overtime pay or time off, he said.

The Hispanic officers complain they rarely are allowed days off and are unable to prepare for promotional exams because of the heavy caseload. Non-Hispanic officers meanwhile are granted time off to study, Alvarado said.

“The Chicano Squad has got a better average of closed cases than anybody,” he said. “National and state organizations have honored them, but not by the Houston Police Department.”

In 1979, black and Spanish-speaking police officers filed a federal class-action lawsuit against HPD and the city, alleging widespread racial discrimination in the promotion and advancement of minority officers.

That lawsuit was initially settled in 1992, with an agreement that HPD would promote 107 minority officers who had earlier been denied promotions. The lawsuit was settled in 1997. A court monitor will continue to oversee HPD’s hiring and promotions through 2007, Ferrell said.

HPD has continued to aggressively recruit Hispanic police officers, Ferrell said. He noted that 20.64 percent of HPD’s officers are Hispanic.

                                                                        More to come.