Police Brutality and Misconduct Is Not Just a Problem, It’s Illegal!
Police News On Police Brutality and Police Misconduct In Texas
06/07/2005 – Two off-duty police supervisors have acknowledged that they had been drinking beer before they responded to a call for help Sunday evening at a home where a man had slit his wrists.
Lt. Winston Dennis, who had supervised the city’s patrol division, accepted a voluntary demotion and an $11,000 pay cut Tuesday. He told City Manager Kerry Lacy that he had had 2 1/2 beers in downtown Fort Worth before arriving at the scene of the threatened suicide.
“I’m not the type of man to sit in a position just because I can,” Dennis said Wednesday. “It was the right thing to do.”
Sgt. Bobby Parker told city officials he drank three 12-ounce Coors Light beers over about a two-hour period before he arrived at the home and acted as a hostage negotiator, trying to persuade the man to come down from an enclosed trampoline.
“In no way did that affect my ability to do my job or any decision that I made,” Parker wrote in a statement to Lacy on Wednesday. “I believe that at least in part due to my efforts and the other officers’ efforts, the suspect did not further harm himself or anybody else.”
Lacy said he won’t decide on any discipline for Parker “haphazardly,” but said he has concluded his investigation into Parker’s actions.
“These guys made a few mistakes,” the city manager said. “Disciplinary action is meant to change behavior.”
It was the most recent controversy for the troubled Watauga Department of Public Safety, whose director resigned in April less than a year after being hired to help improve employee morale and workplace conditions.
The department, which has 45 sworn officers and firefighters, made national headlines this spring after a mother called 911 for help with an uncontrollable daughter and the dispatcher jokingly asked the woman whether she wanted the agency to come over and shoot the child.
City administrators are working to correct deficiencies in the department’s management and operations identified in a November 2003 audit.
Dennis has worked for the department since February 1998. In September 2004, he was suspended for five days without pay after he admitted making a joke after another officer made a sexual comment to an 18-year-old woman.
Parker was recently promoted to sergeant and is on probation for the position. Parker joined the department in October 1996. He could not be reached to comment on Wednesday.
On Sunday evening, officers were called to a home in the 7300 block of Levitt Court, where a 27-year-old man and his mother were standing on a trampoline enclosed by a safety net. The man, holding a box cutter, had cuts on his wrists and threatened to slit his throat.
Dennis was off duty when dispatchers telephoned him about the incident. He was notified in his role as supervisor of the patrol division. He drove his motorcycle to the home and took control of the incident, the city manager said.
“He should have told the dispatcher he had been drinking,” said Lacy, who is actively searching for a new public safety director. “He didn’t follow protocol. You need to lead by example because your troops follow your lead.”
According to city policy, if an employee who is medicated or has been drinking receives an emergency callback, they are not to respond and should make other provisions, Lacy said.
“This is to protect the city and the employee, too,” Lacy said.
Over about two hours, Parker tried to calm the man while Dennis looked for a way to persuade him and his mother to come down from the trampoline, reports show.
Eventually the man stumbled and dropped the knife. His mother threw it to the ground, and officers cut through the net, grabbed the man and handcuffed him, reports said.
But he wrestled away, then dashed across driveways and lawns as Parker and other officers chased him.
Parker threw his baton at the man’s feet, then tripped and rolled onto a driveway, injuring his arm.
Dennis and Parker both stated that the alcohol did not affect their actions. But on Memorial Day, Dennis heard that his officers had been embarrassed that he had arrived at the scene with his breath smelling of alcohol.
Dennis said that when he was promoted about two years ago, he told his officers that if he ever felt he was “ineffective as a leader” and “if my people ever lost faith in me” that he would step down.
“I did my job, but I made a bad choice,” he said in an interview. Christopher Almonrode, the man who attempted to kill himself, and his mother, Mary, said Wednesday that the police were unprofessional and used inappropriate force on Christopher Almonrode. Mary Almonrode said they grabbed her son when he had already planned to come off the trampoline and knocked her off the stairs. Christopher Almonrode said officers used a knee to hold him down on the street and choked him as they loaded him into the ambulance.
Dennis said no excessive force was used.
Lacy agreed to Dennis’ demotion during a short meeting just before 8 a.m. Tuesday. Dennis is scheduled to finish an ongoing project installing laptop computers in patrol cars before he reports to the streets, the city manager said.
Lacy said the demotion is the punishment he would have recommended and said no further investigation of Dennis is planned.
“It’s been crisis management since I got here” in 2002, he said. “Hopefully, we will overcome our problems and be the professional organization I know we’re capable of being.” *** And until then?
Texas – 06/07/2005 – Dallas police Chief David Kunkle on Thursday fired an officer accused of burglary and another accused of bribery.
A third officer was placed on administrative leave after he was indicted Wednesday for allegedly pointing a gun at a man during a dispute over a parking space.
Fort Worth officers arrested Dallas police officer, Senior Cpl. Brian Payne, 32, of Arlington, on April 3 after they responded to a call of a person with a gun at a parking lot in the 8400 block of Anderson Boulevard. Cpl. Payne pointed his gun at a 36-year-old Mount Pleasant man during the dispute, authorities said.
Cpl. Payne is free on $7,500 bail and has been placed on administrative leave by the department.
Chief Kunkle fired Officer James Lawrence Quaite and Senior Cpl. Jose Escamilla after hearings Thursday afternoon.
Officer Quaite, 41, was arrested May 12 after a five-month investigation that concluded he had been taking cash from motorists in exchange for letting them go despite outstanding warrants.
A motorist told police that Officer Quaite pulled him over in December, told him that he had warrants for his arrest, then allegedly said that he “normally charges drug dealers in the area $30 or $40 to let them go,” according to records. The motorist handed the policeman $40 and was allowed to go.
Officer Quaite charged another motorist $20 for her freedom, again after stopping her and saying she had warrants, according to the department.
Officer Quaite was hired in November 2001. He was allowed to become a full-fledged officer in August 2002 despite failing to meet standards. The department no longer allows this.
In 1999, before joining the Police Department, Officer Quaite was arrested on a charge of theft by check; the case was dismissed by the district attorney’s office after he paid restitution, officials said.
Cpl. Escamilla, 32, was arrested Nov. 13, 2004, in Arlington on suspicion of felony burglary and failing to give Arlington officers his true identity after officers there found him in his girlfriend’s apartment.
Arlington police said the woman wanted Cpl. Escamilla to leave after he became upset because she had another man there.
Texas – 06/07/2005 – A Pasadena police officer has been suspended and charged with official oppression. Police say a jailer reported he saw police officer Jonathan Strange push a handcuffed suspect against the wall and kick him in the chest.
Strange had arrested Robert Keane at his ex-girlfriend’s house on criminal trespassing charges.
He is suspended with pay during the investigation.
06/07/2005 – A former McKinney police officer has pleaded guilty to public lewdness, according to court records obtained Tuesday. Ian C. Hasselman, 29, admitted to engaging in sexual intercourse and sexual contact in public.
The incident happened while Mr. Hasselman was on duty. He resigned from the force in July just before he was arrested.
McKinney police declined to comment Tuesday about the case, which had been scheduled to go to trial Tuesday morning.
McKinney police initially charged Mr. Hasselman with indecency with a child, a second-degree felony, after he was accused of exposing himself to the daughter of a woman with whom he had a sexual relationship.
But a Collin County grand jury indicted him on the public lewdness charge, which is a Class A misdemeanor.
A judge suspended Mr. Hasselman’s 180-day sentence and put the former officer on probation for 18 months, records show. He will serve six days in jail on consecutive weekends, beginning this week. He must also attend counseling as recommended, fulfill 72 hours of community service and pay an $800 fine. He could have been sentenced to up to a year in county jail.
Mr. Hasselman and his attorney, Charles Philips, could not be reached for comment. Mr. Hasselman worked for the McKinney Police Department for two years.
The mother met Mr. Hasselman during spring 2003 when he answered a disturbance call at her apartment complex, court records show. He gave her his cellphone number. They saw each other again a few weeks later and then began seeing each other more frequently. Their sexual relationship began in August.
06/07/2005 – A former Patton Village Police officer is facing criminal charges after investigators say a traffic stop went too far. Former Sgt. Jeffrey Glenn Speer, 32, of Houston, was indicted on two counts of official oppression in connection with the March 8 traffic stop.
Speer was fired from the department immediately after the incident was brought to the attention of the Patton Village Police Department and investigated, officials said.
According to the indictment, Speer “did then and there intentionally subject Yusuf Bell to arrest and detention and search that (Speer) knew was unlawful.” The indictment also claims that Speer was “acting under color of his office as a public servant” when the alleged offense occurred.
The second count of the indictment states that Speer did “intentionally subject Yusuf Bell to mistreatment that (Speer) knew was unlawful, to wit; by forcing the said Yusuf Bell to fall to the ground and detaining the said Yusuf Bell.”
Speer turned himself in after the indictment was handed down, and was released on $1,250 bonds for each charge, according to court records.
Patton Village Police Chief Joe Schultea Jr. conducted the investigation into Speer’s behavior on the job after Speer and another Patton Village officer were allegedly involved in a verbal altercation at a gas station in Splendora on March 21.
A Splendora Police officer was called to the scene of that incident to bring things under control.
That incident, along with other reports regarding Speer’s behavior, prompted Schultea to start reviewing dashboard videotapes from Speer’s cruiser.
“We had several reports about his behavior, but this is the only criminal incident we discovered,” Schultea said.
The department only keeps dashboard videotapes for 90 days before they are erased unless the incident on the tape is still under investigation. Schultea declined to release the tape as it is evidence in a pending court case.
Schultea also could not discuss the details of the stop except to say that it was initiated on the U.S. 59 service road because Bell had an expired inspection sticker, but Schultea called Speer’s behavior during the stop “grossly inappropriate and unlawful.”
Speer was fired from the department immediately after the incident came to light and was fully investigated, Schultea said.
“(Speer) has some extreme anger management problems that led to these incidents,” Schultea said. “That is not something we will tolerate in this department. My officers are going to do it right. They are going to be fair, compassionate and courteous to everyone they come into contact with. If they can’t live up to those standards, they don’t need to be employed here.”
Texas – 06/05/2005 -A Pasadena police officer was charged Friday with official oppression after being accused of roughing up a handcuffed man.
The Pasadena Police Department’s internal affairs division began an investigation on officer Jonathan Rayford Strange after an officer at the city’s jail reported seeing him push Robert Keane into a wall and then kick him in the chest.
Strange, 35, was called to a home in the 400 block of Fresa on March 29 to investigate a disturbance. While at the scene, Strange arrested Keane, 33, on a charge of criminal trespass and handcuffed him. The incident occurred at the home of Keane’s ex-girlfriend.
Strange is accused of roughing up Keane when the two arrived at the city’s jail. A jailer reported the incident to his supervisor, which led to the internal affairs investigation.
Strange, who has been with the department since entering the police academy in March 1998, has been suspended with pay since March 29. Bail for Strange was set at $1,000.
06/02/2005 – Livingston Texas – A Polk County Sheriff’s deputy was terminated recently following allegations of sexual misconduct with a female prisoner.
Daniel Adams, 28, was charged with violation of civil rights of a person in custody. Adams bonded out on a $5,000 bond.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Department opened an internal affairs investigation after receiving the complaint. Captains J.R. Jones and Dennis Allen and Texas Ranger Ron Duff conducted the investigation which ultimately led to the arrest and termination of Adams.
“I hold my deputies and all members of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to the same standards expected of all of society,” Sheriff Kenneth Hammack said. “We want to work aboveboard on everything we do and if the allegations are true, we will not tolerate that kind of behavior.”
Adams began employment with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department as a transport officer in January 2004 and became a patrol officer in July 2004.
Hammack said the allegation against Adams was an isolated incident, as far as he knew.
06/03/2005 – Friendswood Texas – A police officer charged with shoplifting two rings worth less than $18 from a Wal-Mart store has retired from the Friendswood Police Department.
Citing personal and family matters, Officer Judith Pree, 58, turned in her letter of retirement Wednesday, police spokeswoman Karen Peterson said. Pree, an 11-year veteran with Friendswood police, was suspended with pay May 23 pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.
The Friendswood police internal affairs investigation was separate from an investigation by the Houston Police Department regarding the alleged shoplifting at the Wal-Mart at 150 El Dorado on May 20.
According to Houston police records, a clerk at the Wal-Mart saw Pree, who was in uniform, take two rings off the jewelry counter, walk to a corner and take the tags off the $8.88 rings and then put the rings in her pocket.
Pree was cited with a theft citation that evening by Houston police.
The Friendswood Police Department’s investigation focused on whether violations of the department’s guidelines of professional conduct had occurred. The purpose of the guidelines is to define departmental expectations for personal behavior on duty and off duty, Peterson said.
The internal affairs investigation looking into Pree has not been completed, Peterson said.
05/30/2005 – The beleaguered Trinity County Sheriff’s Department was facing yet more criminal charges against one of its deputies Wednesday as a grand jury indicted a deputy sergeant on charges of official oppression.
Sgt. Scott Taylor is charged with choking a handcuffed inmate and slamming him into a door after placing the man under arrest, District Attorney Joe Ned Dean said.
Attempts to reach Taylor late Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Indictments against other deputies could be pending in the case, depending on how the investigation develops, Dean said.
“There were a whole lot of conflicting stories,” Dean said, declining to comment further on evidence presented to the grand jury.
The indictment Wednesday wasn’t the first allegation that Taylor had taken advantage of his position of authority, according to Dean. Taylor served a year on probation for official oppression in Upton County in the late 1980s, Dean said.
While Taylor was again under suspicion of official oppression in Trinity County about 10 years ago, Dean said he was no-billed by the grand jury on that charge, meaning there wasn’t enough evidence for the case to go ahead.
Taylor was suspended April 7 after Texas Ranger Pete Maskunas returned a preliminary report on allegations stemming from a March 26 incident involving a jail inmate, according to a report in the Groveton News.
Chief Deputy Sarah Miller late Wednesday refused to go into what was behind the allegations against Taylor. “It’s been a hard week. We haven’t gotten much work done,” Miller said. Taylor was earlier suspended during an investigation, but had been returned to duty, Miller said.
Miller last weekend replaced former chief deputy John Edward Joslin, 47, who had three indictments against him in Chambers County on charges he falsified an arrest warrant. Joslin was terminated, said Miller, who declined to go into detail.
Former deputy Travis Wayne Rowe, 41, was relieved of duty after he was charged with sexual assault of a child by the Texas Rangers on Jan. 31. Rowe was accused of having sex with a 14-year-old girl, Dean has said. Evidence uncovered indicated the two had been having encounters, Dean said.
Yet another former deputy was the focus of a Texas Rangers investigation in January. The deputy was suspected of lying about what happened the night of Dec. 2, when he claimed having a shootout with a suspect who went missing, Maskunas said earlier. The deputy’s name is being withheld pending charges in the case.
A search party spent most of the night of Dec. 2 dragging the river for the missing “mystery man.” Lawmen published the man’s photo in The Lufkin Daily News and on TV news, asking the public’s help in identifying him.
An investigation confirmed evidence of a second gun having been fired, but seemed to point toward the deputy’s story being “less than truthful,” Maskunas said.
The Texas Rangers could be seeking an indictment against the unnamed deputy should they get enough information in the case, according to Maskunas. That deputy is now working as a peace officer in another East Texas police department.
05/30/2005 – Officer Todd Smithers, a former member of Sherman’s police department, filed a guilty plea Monday to child pornography charges with the federal court in Sherman.
Smithers’ attorney, Robert Jarvis, said his client filed papers Monday indicating he will plead guilty to charges of possessing child pornography. Jarvis said the plea will allow his client and the government to skip the indictment process. An indictment is a process by which regular citizens look at the government’s charges against an individual and decide if there is enough evidence to hold a person over for trial. The indictment process is not an indication of guilt or innocence.
Jarvis said his client felt that process would be a waste of time for everyone involved. Smithers, Jarvis said, will appear in court on Friday and enter a plea of guilty to the charge. “Then the judge will order a pre sentence report and set a sentencing date,” Jarvis said.
When asked if the Sherman Police Department would have a comment about the plea paper work, Chief Tom Watt said he will comment on the plea after it is entered into court on Friday.
“Todd has been ill for a long time now. I am amazed he was able to perform his job for as long as he did,” Jarvis said. He said his client has “an addiction and is currently undergoing long- term, in-patient treatment. This has been a very difficult time for him and he is struggling to cope with the situation. Todd has asked me to convey to his family, friends and fellow police officers his sincere apologies for the pain and embarrassment his actions have caused,” Jarvis said.
Texas – 05/18/2005 — A scathing tell-all lawsuit is uncovering an untold version of the Dallas Police Department’s fake-drug scandal.
The author is a demoted former assistant chief, and she’s painting a portrait of corruption and ineptitude in the department’s narcotics division.
In the heading, the lawsuit names DPD Chief David Kunkle, former acting chief Randy Hampton and the City of Dallas. But on the inside, it’s a gloves-off attack on the male-dominated world inside police headquarters.
In 1996, Dora Saucedo-Falls became the first Hispanic female to achieve the rank of deputy chief, and in 1999 ascended to assistant chief. But last year after the release of the city’s investigation into the fake-drug scandal, she was the only person to be demoted.
“Has anybody else been demoted? No, in fact some people have been promoted.”
So, Saucedo-Falls is suing the city and Kunkle, who demoted her.
But included in the suit is a 40-page affidavit that reads more like a DPD confessional. In it, Saucedo-Falls blasts the narcotics division for what she called “lax procedures as well as a practice of ignoring or overlooking misconduct.”
Her suit also stated, “supervisors turned a blind eye toward police corruption, and in many instances participated in the corruption.”
Former chief Terrell Bolton, fired in August 2003, takes the brunt of Saucedo-Falls’ fury. Her suit alleges he “had been made fully aware of the source of the developing fake-drug scandal.”
Saucedo-Falls’ attorney Doug Larson said his client, who was over the narcotics division at the time, was deliberately kept in the dark.
“The problem is she wasn’t permitted to investigate narcotics, nor was she permitted to supervise it,” Larson said. “Bolton kept her from doing that.”
The city’s investigative report into the fake-drug scandal was critical of Saucedo-Falls for not telling Bolton when she first learned of the scandal in late November 2001. However, she said when she ultimately “sought to remove five officers at the center of the scandal, Bolton repeatedly refused to remove them.”
Officers Involved: Officers Yvonne Gunnlaugsson and Ed Johnson
05/27/2005 — Austin Teaxs – It started as a routine 911 call – check the welfare of a possibly suicidal woman at a North Austin apartment complex. Less than an hour after police found nothing and drove away, it became a murder scene.
That Sunday afternoon, Shawn Barnard told the 911 operator that he had recently broken up with Staci Bovill and that she was depressed and suicidal, according to department records. She had tried to kill herself before, he claimed.
Police officers Yvonne Gunnlaugsson and Ed Johnson took the Aug. 1 call. When they arrived at unit 1428 at the Salado at Walnut Creek Apartments on East Anderson Lane, they kicked in the door. Bovill was nowhere to be found, so the officers left as Barnard stayed behind, appearing to be trying to fix the lock, according to the records.
About 45 minutes later, Barnard ambushed Bovill, 24, and her new boyfriend, Alex Hopgood, 28, as they walked into the apartment. He shot Hopgood to death, then turned the gun and killed himself.
The case highlights a police policy most people probably don’t know about: When someone reports a possible emergency, officers can and will break a door or window to check it out, and they may leave the property in the care of someone they know little about.
Hopgood’s parents and Bovill see that policy as a fatal mistake.
“We didn’t stand a chance,” said Bovill, a University of Texas student. “It is unconscionable how they could leave the apartment in the hands of someone who admitted to being an ex-boyfriend.”
Diane Hopgood said the officers gave Barnard, 26, an opportunity to get into a “perfect firing position” to kill her only son.
Bovill said she was never suicidal. And both she and Diane Hopgood said police didn’t tell them after the shooting about the earlier 911 call. Department officials say standard procedure was followed by Johnson and Gunnlaugsson, who recently retired after a career that included six suspensions for violations ranging from wrecking a patrol car after falling asleep to failing to interview a robbery suspect identified by the victim. Assistant Police Chief Robert Dahlstrom said Barnard could have just as easily hidden in a car or in the bushes until the couple returned.
“The police did not contribute to this murder by giving him access,” he said.
Police try to contact the resident when they make a forced entry and find no one home. Waiting until residents get home is neither possible nor practical, Dahlstrom said.
“They may be back in five minutes, or they may be back in a year,” he said. “You try to leave it with someone you trust, someone who shows legitimate concern for what is going on there. That’s what they had in this case.”
The call at Bovill’s apartment was one of 1,857 “check welfare” calls officers worked in 2004. The department does not track how many of those resulted in forced entry, but Dahlstrom said it was probably 20 percent to 30 percent of the calls.
William Gaut, a former police officer and nationally known police expert who often testifies in lawsuits involving law enforcement, said officers should rarely use forced entries to check a person’s welfare and should have a compelling reason to do so. Police have an obligation to secure businesses, homes and apartments after breaking in to check on a person, he said.
“The officers simply can’t walk away from it at that point, and they especially can’t walk away from it and turn it over to an ex-boyfriend,” Gaut said. “You secure the premise.”
Police officials in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio said they also force entry into businesses, home and apartments for check-welfare calls as a last resort. When they do, each department said, their practice is to call the owner or a family member. If that fails, they try to secure the property and may hire a locksmith or pay a company to board up the door. In Houston, the owner is billed the cost of securing the property.
“Depending on the circumstances, we may even leave an officer in custody of the premise,” said Dallas police spokesman Max Geron.
More than 40 pages of police investigative reports describe in detail what happened that day:
Hopgood, who worked as a project engineer for Motorola, had been dating Bovill since May 2004 — the month, she later told police, that she had broken off her engagement with Barnard.
She said she ended the relationship because Barnard was antisocial. He had told her he wanted to kill people but didn’t because it’s against the law.
Bovill said in an interview that Barnard, whom she met through an online dating service, followed a friend to Austin from his native California to work for Apple Computer.
Bovill and Barnard had been living together in apartment 1231, but Bovill had moved to unit 1428. Barnard’s name wasn’t on the lease, and he didn’t have a key, she said.
Bovill would later tell police that she knew Barnard had a .45-caliber handgun.
“I tried to get him to sell it before we broke up, but he refused because he said he needed it for protection,” she said.
Bovill said Barnard repeatedly asked her to get back together with him — although she didn’t feel harassed. She told police she had again rebuffed him the previous Thursday, the last time she had seen him before that Sunday afternoon.
Hopgood, who lived in San Marcos and worked in Seguin, had spent Saturday night with his new girlfriend. They woke up around noon and went to lunch at La Madeline about two hours later, stopping at a hardware store before heading back to Bovill’s apartment.
While they were gone, Barnard made his 911 call.
Police reports said Barnard looked frantic when he waved Johnson and Gunnlaugsson to the apartment.
Johnson asked Barnard why he thought Bovill was inside. Her car was in the parking lot and hadn’t moved all day, Barnard told him. Gunnlaugsson asked whether the apartment manager lived on site and had a key. Barnard said the manager probably wasn’t in her office because it was Sunday.
The apartment complex does not have a live-in manager but has an emergency maintenance number for residents, an apartment official said.
The officers asked a final question: whether Bovill had family in the area. Barnard told them that they were all out of state. Nebraska, he thought.
Gunnlaugsson and Johnson decided to call their supervisor. Sgt. Erin Zumwalt gave them the go-ahead to make a forced entry.
At first, the officers tried to pry open a window near the front door. It wouldn’t budge. Gunnlaugsson pulled out her nightstick and was going to shatter it. Johnson said he’d rather kick open the door.
Barnard followed them inside. When they didn’t find Bovill, Johnson said he would have to write a report because they had damaged the front door; the officers couldn’t get it securely closed. Johnson said he’d give Barnard the case number in case Bovill doubted his story about police kicking in the door.
Hopgood and Bovill returned to the apartment around 4 p.m., according to the police reports. Bovill stuck her key in the door and noticed it was unlocked.
The door swung open, Bovill said in her statement. Inside, she saw Barnard. And she saw the gun.
“He stepped outside and I jumped back,” she told police. “Shawn was yelling obscenities, but I don’t know exactly what he was saying.”
Hopgood jumped in front of her and tried to grab the gun.
A child who was in the swimming pool nearby later told a victim services counselor that she thought she heard balloons popping. Barnard shot Hopgood in the head and back.
Barnard then looked at Bovill.
“Now I’m going to kill myself,” he told her, turning the gun around and pointing it at his chest.
After paramedics declared Barnard and Hopgood dead, detectives went to Barnard’s apartment. Stacks of paper and pizza boxes were scattered about. A box of bullets lay on top of a DVD player on the floor.
A black and white cat inside the apartment had been shaved from the neck down.
And they found an identification badge: “Alex Hopgood, Quality Assurance Department, Motorola.”
Alex Hopgood had moved to Austin shortly after his family moved to Missouri City, outside Houston, from Southern California a decade ago.
His mother said he was an inquisitive type who began tinkering in the family’s garage with any tools he could get his hands on. As a teen, he bought and rebuilt a 1972 Porsche.
He left high school early and enrolled in junior college at age 16, then continued college at the University of Texas, where he was president of the scuba club and often dived at Lake Travis.
The Hopgoods had never met Bovill before their son’s funeral, and Diane Hopgood said several weeks passed before they started learning the details of his death through open records requests for police reports.
Diane Hopgood said she was stunned and angry when she learned the officers kicked open Bovill’s door, then left the apartment in the care of her ex-boyfriend. She said she and her husband hired a lawyer, who recently told them he would not file a lawsuit because of laws that protect officers acting in the line of duty.
Bovill said she has also hired a lawyer. And Diane Hopgood said she plans to keep trying.
“To me, it was enabling a crime to happen,” she said. “This was a female, young girl who should have been protected.”
Police policies on forced entries
Austin: Officers must first try to make contact with the person whose welfare is in question. If they have a reasonable belief that a person’s life is in danger, they may make a forced entry with a supervisor’s approval. Assistant Police Chief Robert Dahlstrom said officers generally try to find an alternative means for entering, such as an unlocked door or window. They may then leave the property in the care of a neighbor, friend or family member.
Dallas: Officers must try to locate the dwelling’s owner before making a forced entry. If they can’t, they must secure the property as much as possible. Police Sgt. Max Geron said the property could be left in the care of a friend or neighbor if the person’s identification were documented. In some circumstances, the department may leave an officer at the home to watch over it.
Houston: Officers must have a compelling reason to force their entry into a home, such as hearing screaming or seeing signs of a struggle, department spokesman Capt. Dwayne Ready said. If they find no one inside, they must secure the premises ‘the best they can,’ he said, which could include hiring a locksmith or a company to board up broken windows or doors.
San Antonio: Spokesman Sgt. Gabe Trevino said the department has no set policy on handling ‘check welfare’ calls. If police force an entry, they try to secure the property but may also leave it with a family member or friend. ‘We expect the officers to make the right decision based on the circumstance,’ he said.
Dallas police arrested one of their own Thursday morning. Officer James Quaite, a three-year veteran of the department, was accused of extortion. The charges allege that Quaite would release suspects in exchange for cash.
The alleged criminal activity would occur after Quaite made a traffic stop. During the stop, Quaite would run a warrant check on the stepped driver. If the driver had an outstanding warrant for his or her arrest, Quaite would offer to release the person if he were paid in cash, according to police.
“James Quaite had been stopping individuals for traffic violations, and when he found they had outstanding warrants — felony or misdemeanor — he would indicate they could give him cash in lieu of going to jail,”
Deputy Chief Calvin Cunigan said. “In two documented instances, cash was actually provided by wanted individuals to Officer Quaite to avoid being taken into custody.”
Quaite now is on paid administrative leave. He could face additional charges.
05/26/2005 – Demonstrators at the Four Seasons were already drenched in sweat by mid-morning. Wearing pig snouts and Dick Cheney masks, they pounded out a discordant complaint of banjo, whistle and drum while Halliburton shareholders were meeting inside. A cadre of police horses on the asphalt pranced nervous circles, their eyes wild behind Plexiglas riot face shields. A splinter group of demonstrators began marching around The Park Shops, across the street from the hotel, followed by a retinue of horses. When the group got three-fourths of the way around, it rested in front of the entrance to a parking garage.
“Back it up!” yelled a mustachioed officer to the crowd, using his heels to make his horse rear up.
“Calm down,” pleaded a protester in front, realizing there was nowhere to go. The demonstrators were pinned in, caught between a brick wall, a mass of people and a phalanx of hooves.
Spurred on by police, the horses marched forward, plowing into people. The protesters began pushing back; a slim pole that once held a communal sign now became a makeshift roadblock. It couldn’t bear the equine rush, and the people began falling over and running into one another. A lone protester ran up to a horse and began banging a drum in its ear, trying to make it retreat from the crowd.
But the horses kept coming. A week after the May 18 demonstration, 17 protesters are charged with offenses ranging up to three felonies, including assault on police officers. The Houston Police Department issued a brief announcement that officers or their horses had been attacked and even kicked by an unruly mob. The news media ran the obligatory statements and has moved on to other coverage. Eyewitness accounts of Houston Press writers covering the event and the available videos from the protest, however, show one problem with that official position: The crowd was unruly at times, but there are no indications that protesters did anything illegal to provoke the mounted charge by the police.
The protest started peacefully. Early in the morning of the demonstration, the granite corporate office building of Halliburton was quiet and seemingly empty as the crowd gathered across the street.
Holding to the rules of public protest, the demonstrators waited for a green light and stepped into the crosswalk on their way toward the building.
The bravest of them had made it halfway into the street when the mounted police began to move, ramming the crowd sideways across the intersection and into an adjacent park.
Pierced teenagers and graying activists stumbled beneath the trees and faced a wall of horses from the curb. They chanted and waved placards, such as plastic stop signs that said “Stop War Profiteering.” It was a peaceful, if noisy, standoff. Then two of the horses charged at them.
The woman, who would give only her first name of Christina, brushed grass off her soiled shirt and was handed a cell phone to report the problem to Copwatch, a police monitoring group. “I didn’t see anything; I was facing the other way,” she said.
Clashes of man and horse had become increasingly forceful by the time the crowd was positioned outside the shareholders’ meeting. Protesters sought to depict the company as a cash cow but sometimes ended up being violently walloped by officers and their mounts like unwitting steers at a rodeo.
The physical confrontations surprised several in the crowd, which had grown accustomed to more laid-back HPD procedures during demonstrations in recent years. Officers handled a slightly larger demonstration at last year’s protest of the Halliburton shareholders’ meeting, without any major incidents. They’ve managed some of the same crowds protesting Dow Chemical, the war in Iraq and Maxxam, owner of Pacific Lumber.
Police and other media reports blamed scuffles on the activists. HPD Lieutenant Robert Manzo said that in addition to attacks by feet and fists, one officer was even thrown to the ground. One of those arrested had allegedly punched a horse.
However, the Press reporters observed a different scene, one that was supported by available videotape of the incidents.
By late morning, a group of young “black block” anarchists had paused near an entrance to a parking garage on Austin Street. They held a banner that read, “Greed Kills. Stop Halliburton.” While they were loud and boisterous, they also appeared to be obeying police commands to stay out of the street.
When the horses moved in, one officer was still shouting for them to “move back,” although there was no place to move to — at their backs was the building’s brick wall. Then the mounted police moved in, wedging the crowd even more tightly along the sidewalk and behind a small tree.
An officer on horseback pierced the crowd, and several cops started grabbing protesters by the shirt or hair and dragging them. Some of the demonstrators pushed back against the horses, but none was observed to throw punches or bottles, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.
The horses appeared spooked by the drums, and several reared into the air. One horse landed on Katt Perry’s foot. “Yes, we were a little out of bounds,” says Perry, 18, who lives in Austin, “but we were still being peaceful about it. What they did was totally uncalled for.”
A man carried Perry away from the garage entrance to a sidewalk on a nearby street corner, where she was tended to by Cindy Daly, a 47-year-old financial analyst from Mesquite. Daly was dialing her phone for an ambulance when a mounted officer charged the corner and pinned her against a sidewalk barricade and a wall.
“I literally begged him; I said ‘Stop! This woman is hurt! I am trying to help her!’ and he just ran over me,” she said, fighting back tears. “And then he looked me straight in the eye. It was so intentional. It’s pure meanness.”
The police horse trampled Daly’s foot, hobbling her alongside Perry. She sought treatment the next day at a doctor’s office. “We are peaceful people,” said the self-described veteran activist. “We weren’t doing anything wrong, and they just turned on us.”
The police defended the practice of herding crowds with horses, contending that the animals had been adequately trained. Told of the incidents observed by the Press, HPD spokesperson Manzo said, “Regretfully, some of the things that you have mentioned could have occurred…Does that mean that the police officer did anything inappropriate? Well, not necessarily.”
Manzo added that the department would investigate any formal complaints. Some protesters are already considering taking their case against the police to higher authorities. Daly contacted her congressman about the incident and spoke with an American Civil Liberties Union attorney. “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything,” Daly said, “and this country is falling…Nobody wants to be involved, or they are getting something out of the deal and being greedy.”
“I want to at least make the connection in the public’s mind between Halliburton, Dick Cheney, fraud and the Iraq war,” said the Cheney impersonator, Keith Koski of Houston. Cheney served as the CEO of Halliburton for five years before becoming George W. Bush’s vice president. He then talked up the illusory threat of weapons of mass destruction in support of ousting Saddam Hussein.
The Halliburton shareholders’ meeting was also confrontation-addled, although there was no direct news coverage of it because the corporation had barred the media from attending. Andrea Buffa of the justice group Global Exchange was allowed to join the proceedings after Halliburton lawyers scrutinized her paperwork and determined that, yes, her group really did own 100 shares of Halliburton stock.
Buffa and a colleague asked Halliburton CEO David Lesar 12 questions about the company’s accounting practices, business dealings in Iran (despite a U.S. trade embargo), use of a Cayman Islands subsidiary allegedly to avoid U.S. labor laws and other issues.
Buffa described Lesar’s responses as “PR mumbo jumbo.”
Halliburton responded to questions with a written statement. “Halliburton supports the rights of protesters,” it said. “Even if they don’t have the facts right, they have a right to speak up.”
But some protesters came away from the demonstration wondering if those rights were in jeopardy. Theresa Keef had been standing next to the Cash Cow when the police charged yet again. “They never gave a warning,” she said. “They never said, ‘Okay, this is the deal, you need to move somewhere.’
“Charging into a crowd on a sidewalk, there was just no call for that.”
Texas – 5/25/2005 – Prosecutors and police had a “them against us” attitude that contributed to dozens of innocent people being sent to jail after fake drugs consisting of crushed billiards chalk were planted on them, a report found.
In an investigation of the scandal that has plagued the Dallas Police Department since 2001, deputy special prosecutor Jack Zimmerman found that prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges and crime-lab technicians committed no crimes but exhibited lapses in judgment.
“The classic ‘them against us’ syndrome developed, wherein some prosecutors viewed themselves as aligned with law enforcement officers at war with defendants and defense counsel,” Zimmerman said in a report made public Monday.
Three informants who worked with former Dallas police officer Mark De La Paz admitted to a complicated scheme to fabricate fake drugs out of crushed billiards chalk or other legal substances and set up people for arrest.
Dozens of innocent people, mostly Mexican immigrants, were arrested and jailed. More than 80 cases have been dismissed as a result of the scandal.
Zimmerman’s report found that drug-court prosecutors worked too closely with police and failed to adequately review questionable work by detectives. Meanwhile, defense lawyers received blame for inadequately representing their clients.
District Attorney Bill Hill, who appointed Zimmerman to investigate, said the report “substantiates many of the findings of our internal investigation,” but said blame rests on De La Paz, the only police officer charged.
De La Paz was sentenced last month to five years in prison for lying to a judge to get a search warrant. He was acquitted at a federal trial on civil rights charges and remains free while his conviction is appealed.
05/20/2005 – A 43-year-old San Antonio police officer was suspended indefinitely from the police force Wednesday following his latest brush with the law. Officer Frank Navarijo was charged with intoxication manslaughter in connection with a crash that left a man dead and two women injured.
Police said Navarijo was allegedly driving drunk when he crashed his pickup into the rear of a Jeep at 2 a.m. at the intersection of Hot Wells Boulevard and Groos Avenue. Killed was Jerry Ornelas, 51, who was leaning into the Jeep while he was saying goodbye to his wife and a sister-in-law. According to a police report, Ornelas said “Oh, my God!” when he saw the pickup coming at him.
Navarijo was being held in the Bexar County Jail on $100,000 bond, which he later posted. But he was detained until he was fitted with an electronic monitoring device Thursday morning. According to police records, Navarijo has a lengthy disciplinary record.
In 2003, he was suspended for 45 days for hitting a parked car and then waiting several hours before reporting it. In 2002, Navarijo was suspended for two days for getting involved in an altercation with a TV reporter. In 1993, he was suspended for five days for allowing someone to use his parking permit. In 1991, the officer was suspended for five days for not responding to a police call. He was inside a strip club at the time.