Police Brutality and Misconduct Is Not Just a Problem, It’s Illegal!
Police News On Police Brutality and Police Misconduct In Texas
06/16/2005 – A federal judge today sentenced the former Kendleton police commissioner to more than five years in prison and ordered him to pay $567,000 in restitution for fleecing motorists and mishandling federal funds.
U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein told Sam Jimmie Mann, 64, that he imposed a sentence at the lower end of the sentencing guidelines because of his long record of good conduct before his crimes.
“I’m doing that, Mr. Mann, because you have done many good things,” Werlein said. “I hope you will take something of the good things to help some young men along the way.”
Werlein ordered Mann to repay the federal government $390,000, most of it for money improperly used to pay the salaries of Mann and other police officers. The money from the federal COPS program was intended to be used for hiring new officers.
The judge also ordered Mann and co-defendant Gerald Davis, a former police captain who pleaded guilty, to repay $177,000 missing from city accounts.
Mann and Davis ran what prosecutors called their “own private toll road,” on a section of U.S. 59 in the city limits of Kendleton, a town of about 500 about 40 miles southwest of Houston between November 1997 and May 2000.
Before he was sentenced, Mann pleaded with Werlein to take his long career in law enforcement into consideration.
“Not one time have I ever been accused of theft or mismanagement,” Mann said about his career before the 52-count federal indictment in August 2003
Mann and Davis, 42, were indicted on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, misuse of grant money and extortion.
They were accused of asking motorists for cash during traffic stops and of piling on false charges to increase the fines.
06/15/2005 – North Richland Hills, Texas – A state appeals court threw out search and arrest warrant affidavits used in a December 1999 drug raid that left the son of true-crime writer Barbara Davis dead.
The ruling, released Thursday, states that the no-knock warrants failed to show an informant was reliable, and it states that North Richland Hills police Sgt. Andy Wallace did not corroborate many of the facts passed along by the informant.
The ruling was the result of an appeal by Davis, who pleaded guilty to possession of GHB, a designer drug, found after the raid. Her plea agreement included the right to appeal.
The case could be retried or dismissed, or prosecutors could appeal.
The ruling by the three-judge Court of Appeals 2nd Judicial District of Texas in Fort Worth could also affect a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the Davis family.
The city has maintained that police had probable cause to burst into the house without knocking to search for marijuana plants because Troy Davis, the author’s son, was considered armed and dangerous. Barbara Davis was also in the house at the time.
“One judge thought it one way,” said Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Ben Leonard, one of the prosecutors in the Barbara Davis case, referring to State District Judge C.C. “Kit” Cooke’s original decision to allow the warrants into evidence. “Three other judges thought it a different way.”
But Davis’ lawyer, Bill Lane of Fort Worth, said the ruling is a huge victory for his client.
“We’ve contended all along that the raid should never have happened,” Lane said. “If I was a North Richland Hills resident, I’d go to the next City Council and demand an investigation of that [police] unit by the Texas Rangers or the DA’s office. That’s because if it happened in this case, what about bad warrants in other cases?”
City Attorney George Staples said Monday that the ruling won’t have a bearing on the city or police.
“I’d tell North Richland Hills residents to have a little patience,” he said. “We are going to try this in the courts, not in the newspaper. I’m confident of the outcome once we get to court.”
According to the ruling, Wallace stated that the informant, Chris Davis, a cousin of Troy Davis’, was familiar with marijuana because he was arrested on a “drug charge,” but the police officer did not verify any charges or convictions.
The informant identified two people at the home, Barbara and Troy Davis, as possessing marijuana, but Wallace did not state in the affidavit how the informant knew what marijuana looked like or any other details of where the marijuana was in the home.
The affidavits also lacked information on the weapons in the house, how the informant got into the house and the relationship among the informant and the suspects.
Wallace also failed to verify the identities of Barbara and Troy Davis, the ruling says.
“Officer Wallace admitted that he had no background ‘intelligence’ when he presented his affidavit to the judge. He had not verified appellant’s or her son’s involvement with drugs,” the ruling said.
The ruling also states, “It is clear that police officer Wallace’s affidavit contained several falsehoods, some that related to the background of the untested confidential informant … and still others that were made with reckless disregard of the truth or accuracy regarding the illegal activity claimed.
“We cannot agree with the State that these falsities were mere ‘mistakes’ the officer made when the evidence shows that the officer made these sworn statements with reckless disregard for their truth.”
The raid by 17 tactical-team officers occurred Dec. 15, 1999. Police said Troy Davis was pointing a loaded 9 mm pistol at officers when tactical-team member Allen Hill shot him.
A Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict Hill in the shooting. He has resigned from the Police Department.
Barbara Davis has said that her son was not armed and that police placed the gun near his body.
Police found three marijuana plants, marijuana in plastic bags and equipment used for growing plants indoors. They also found bottles of GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate. An autopsy found traces of marijuana in Troy Davis’ system.
Barbara Davis is best known for her book Precious Angels, which argues that Darlie Routier of Rowlett killed her sons in 1996. Routier was convicted on one count of capital murder after a highly publicized trial. She was sentenced to death.
Davis later announced that she had changed her mind and intended to write another book arguing that Routier is innocent.
06/16/2005 – An El Paso family claims police overreacted to a loud music complaint at a high-school graduation party that escalated into violence, including using a Taser on a handcuffed man, according to multiple complaints filed with the Police Department’s Internal Affairs last week.
“What happened that night was an injustice,” Maria Ibañez, 45, said while sitting in the living room of her home in the 11400 block of Lake Ozarks. That is where a party for her daughter and son ended in the early morning of May 29 with the arrival of a dozen officers and the arrests of five people on charges of resisting arrest or assault on a peace officer.
The Ibañez family and guests claimed they were abused by Officer Salvador Parra, who was dispatched to the party with Officer Paul Shukitt, a rookie who is not in the complaints.
Police used force because they were faced with an uncooperative, interfering crowd, police spokesman Javier Sambrano said. Parra was allegedly kicked, bruised and punched as he tried to get to Isaac Hernandez, 28, who allegedly refused to show identification to be given a noise citation.
Hernandez, who is Maria Ibañez’s son-in-law, had his identification in the home where he called 911 for help as police came after him, he said. The call record was not immediately available, but Hernandez’s cell phone showed a call to 911 was made at 1:34 a.m. May 29.
Hernandez was on the phone as police entered the home and handcuffed his hands behind his back. Hernandez said Parra walked him into the back yard and told him, “You’re going down, (expletive).”
Parra then allegedly tripped him and punched him on the side, and several officers shocked him with Taser stun guns. Police said Hernandez was shocked because he was kicking at them.
“He was standing in front of me. He was saying (on his shoulder radio), ‘I just got kicked in the face. I just got assaulted.’ He was such a liar. No one assaulted him,” said Elizabeth Ibañez, 22, who said she heard Parra as she stood next to Shukitt. She allegedly got in Parra’s path as he went toward Hernandez and was charged with interference with a public servant and resisting arrest.
Shukitt was visibly uncomfortable, Elizabeth Ibañez said. When she asked if he had heard Parra, he responded, “I’m sorry, ma’am, I didn’t hear anything,” she said.
06/16/2005 – A Patton Village motorist says he was the victim of police brutality during a traffic stop. Now, the police officer in question is out of a job.
Yusuf Bell was stopped for driving with an expired inspection sticker on March 8. That’s when Bell says he was verbally and physically abused by Officer Jeffrey Glenn Speer.
That and other incidents involving Speer were brought to the attention of Patton Village police. Dash cam video of Speer validated the accusations and Speer was immediately fired.
“He went to kicking my leg, telling me to spread them farther and farther and I fell. I told him that was as far as they got and he kicked it again, and I fell,” said Bell.
“I was very embarrassed about what I saw on that tape,” said Patton Village Police Chief Joe Schultea. “Till this day, I’m embarrassed about what I saw on that tape.”
Speer faces two counts of official oppression. If convicted, he faces up to two years behind bars and a fine of up $8,000. He’ll back in court in August.
Location: Austin Texas
Officer Involved: Julie Schroeder
Citizen Killed: Daniel Rocha
06/17/2005 – Austin- Federal authorities said Wednesday that they have launched an investigation into the shooting death of a man by an Austin police officer during a drug sting operation.
FBI spokesman Rene Salinas said agents in Austin learned about the incident shortly after it occurred and that the agency often investigates fatal police shootings.
He said investigators likely will interview witnesses and review reports and other police documents concerning the June 9 shooting near Quicksilver Boulevard and Pleasant Valley Road in Southeast Austin.
Daniel Rocha, 18, was shot once in the back after the Chevrolet Suburban in which he was a passenger was stopped by officers conducting a drug investigation. The Austin American-Statesman has reported that police officer Julie Schroeder thought Rocha had taken her Taser stun gun during the altercation and was about to use it against her or her sergeant.
Rocha had no drugs in his system, according to a toxicology report released Wednesday.
The FBI’s decision to investigate is part of an increasing involvement among federal authorities in the Austin Police Department.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the shooting deaths of two African Americans, Sophia King and Jesse Lee Owens, by Austin officers in 2002 and 2003. That investigation is not complete.
In March, City Manager Toby Futrell also asked the Justice Department to review practices and procedures of the department after several officers and dispatchers exchanged joking messages, including “Burn, baby, burn,” during a fire at a nightclub that catered to African Americans.
City officials said Wednesday that they received a letter June 6 in which federal authorities said they are reviewing Futrell’s request and had not decided whether to investigate.
The FBI’s decision to investigate Rocha’s death received praise from police leaders and community representatives.
Police Chief Stan Knee said the FBI told him about their investigation into Rocha’s death Wednesday afternoon and that the department would cooperate fully.
Mike Sheffield, president of the Austin Police Association, said, “We welcome anybody coming in and looking at our work. I have full confidence that we will withstand the scrutiny.”
Bobby Taylor, an attorney representing Rocha’s family, said he has made several requests for a state or federal investigation. He said he also asked friends and other associates to do the same.
“The chief is being asked to decide whether his people did something wrong,” Taylor said. “Do you honestly think he can make that kind of decision?”
Word of the federal investigation came hours after officials with the Travis County Medical Examiner’s office released results of toxicology tests performed on Rocha.
Rocha tested negative for cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana and several other drugs, according to the report.
Travis County Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo said Rocha was not a chronic drug user and had not ingested drugs at least six hours before his death.
Taylor said he was not surprised at the toxicology report.
“We expected that,” he said. “He was on probation, and as a condition of probation, he had to give urine samples.”
Rocha was on probation for burglarizing a house in 2004 and had been charged with marijuana possession, court records show.
Police have reported finding a plastic bag containing a leafy green substance on the ground near the vehicle in which Rocha was riding.
Seems pretty much business as usual for the A.P.D. not really surprising. Man shot in the back. “Execution” No video recording of the traffic stop. The F.B.I will come and go. “Too busy watching protesters.” The D.A. will look the other way, “too busy playing politics,” to worry about the citizens of Austin.”
08/16/2005 – Members of a Travis County grand jury announced today that they will not indict a police officer on any criminal charge in the June 9 shooting of a teen in Southeast Austin.
The 12-member panel handed up the no-bill, which concludes one of two criminal investigations into the shooting. The FBI is looking into the incident, in which Officer Julie Schroeder shot Daniel Rocha, 18, once in the back.
Her account differs from those of people who have said they saw the incident.
Lawyer Bobby Taylor, who is representing the Rocha family, said he has talked to witnesses who have said they saw police grab Rocha out of a sport-utility vehicle and throw him to the ground. One said they heard Rocha yelling, “I don’t have a weapon. I don’t have a gun.”
Officials have said they do not know when that case will be complete but that Schroeder will likely face at least minor disciplinary action for not activating a video camera in her unmarked patrol car.
06/16/2005 – A Georgetown police detective accused of drunken driving was arrested and fired Wednesday, and a Georgetown police commander was suspended without pay for having the detective driven home instead of conducting an investigation.
Assistant Police Chief Kevin Stofle said Detective Lamont Navarrette, a 10-year-veteran of the department, was charged with driving while intoxicated on Wednesday in a June 5 incident in which the off-duty detective was allegedly driving drunk.
Stofle said a Department of Public Safety trooper stopped to check on the car, which was stopped on Leander Road at the southbound exit ramp of Interstate 35 at 2:30 a.m. Trooper Chris Hughes thought Navarrette was drunk and called Georgetown police to assist.
Hughes had been en route to the hospital to pick up a suspect when he encountered the stopped car, Stofle said. When Cmdr. Wayne Hilgenberg and Sgt. Jimmy Fennell arrived, Hughes left them to deal with Navarrette and continued on to the hospital.
An internal investigation found that the two officers failed to properly discharge their duties.
Hilgenberg was suspended without pay for 40 hours, and Fennell received a written reprimand, Stofle said.
06/10/2005 – The Harris County District Attorney’s Office brought the charge against Pasadena Police Officer Jonathan Rayford Strange on Friday based on an incident that took place on March 29.
According to police records, strange answered a disturbance call March 29 at 420 Fresa, and arrested Robert Keane for criminal trespass. Strange then took Keane to the Pasadena City Jail, where a jailer says he saw the officer push the prisoner into a wall and kick him in the chest. Keane was reportedly handcuffed at the time.
After the jailer reported the incident to his supervisor, the police department’s Internal Affairs Division launched an investigation.
Since then, Strange, who began his career with the Pasadena Police Department in 1998, has been suspended with pay. Officials notified the officer of the pending charge and Strange was expected to post bond, set at $1,000.
The charge is a misdemeanor charge, but is being tried in district court because it is an official misconduct case. If convicted, Strange could face up to one year in prison and a $4,000 fine.
06/10/2005 – She never knew her father, was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriends and took her first hit of crack cocaine with her aunt.
By the time she was 16, she was turning tricks on the streets of Fort Worth to support her drug habit.
So, the teen testified Tuesday, having sex with a Fort Worth police officer in a north-side motel room didn’t seem like a big deal.
“It was just like any other trick,” she said.
On Tuesday, the girl, now 18, took the stand on the opening day of testimony in the trial of Jesus “Jesse” Ortega, a police officer charged with sexual assault of a child under 17.
If convicted, he would face up to 20 years in prison. Ortega, who joined the force in May 2000, is on suspension without pay pending the jury’s verdict.
For much of the day Tuesday, the teen-ager, wearing a peach dress, her strawberry-blond hair pulled back in a French braid, spoke matter-of-factly about her troubled life — and the day, she said, that a Fort Worth police officer paid her $20 for sex.
Before long, the girl testified, she was turning tricks with her aunt to support her drug habit.
“Nobody wanted her because she was older,” she said. “Everybody wanted me because I was young. I was pretty. She gave me the OK.
“By that time, I was so far gone on drugs that I would do anything for that next hit.”
At some point, the girl said, she hooked up with a pimp and another prostitute. They often turned tricks at the Buena Vista Motel on North Main Street on the north side.
On the day she had sex with Ortega, her pimp was in jail, the girl testified.
The girl, then 16, and the other prostitute were sitting in the motel room smoking crack. The other prostitute left “to find a date,” the girl said.
She returned with a uniformed police officer, the girl said. The officer later asked to have sex with her and pulled $20 and a condom out of his pocket.
“He took his gun belt or whatever that thing is called off,” the girl said. “I laid back, and he unzipped his pants and had sex with me.”
Before he left, the girl testified, the officer promised to give her “all the pictures of the undercover cops, so I would know who was a cop and who wasn’t.”
The girl testified that she didn’t think much about her encounter with the officer until she was picked up by another officer for being truant from school May 15, 2003.
The girl, believing that she was going to a juvenile-detention facility, said at the trial that she was high — and angry.
So she told officer Michael Osborn about her sexual encounter with the other police officer, whose name she did not remember.
Osborn testified that after he put the girl in back seat of his patrol car, she told him, “Not all officers are good officers; some of them are crooked.”
“She stated that, two months earlier, a Hispanic police officer on the north side had sex with her for $40,” Osborn testified.
Osborn said he took the girl to the Internal Affairs Division to be interviewed. Later, learning that the officer she said she had sex with had arrested the pimp, Osborn went to find him.
When Osborn found the pimp, he had a document that identified his arresting officer as Ortega.
Later, Detective S.J. Benjamin of the Crimes Against Children Unit interviewed the Buena Vista Motel manager. Benjamin learned that on April 14, the manager had written down the officer’s license plate number and the time he arrived and left because the manager thought it was strange for an officer to be parked outside his motel for more than a half-hour.
Benjamin testified that the manager’s information led to Ortega.
During his opening statement Tuesday, defense attorney Brian Willett, who is working with Larry Simpson, did not deny that his client was at the motel room that day. He told jurors that Ortega went there to get information from the other prostitute about drug dealers but did not have sex with the girl.
Later, he attacked the girl’s credibility, once referring to her as a “prostitute crack whore.” He also said her statements had inconsistencies, including how much she said she charged Ortega, what time of day she said the incident occurred and how long she said Ortega was in the motel room.
Prosecutors Rebecca McIntire and Alicia Cooper called witnesses who testified that the girl is honest and that they believed her.
During her opening statement, Cooper said the girl had been victimized all her life by relatives and “people who should have cared about her.”
Then, she said, she met a Fort Worth police officer.
“And, once again, she was victimized by someone who was supposed to serve and protect her,” Cooper said.
06/09/2005 – A scandal-plagued former sheriff has been charged with leading a criminal enterprise while in office that included extortion, drug trafficking and witness tampering, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
The indictment accuses former Cameron County Sheriff Conrado Cantu of receiving payments from drug traffickers in exchange for releasing sensitive law enforcement during his four years in office starting in 2001. He also is accused of using his official powers to protect and assist the drug traffickers.
“It is a blow to honest law enforcement when one of its own is accused of corrupting his office and abusing the public’s trust,” FBI Agent Patrick A. Patterson said.
Cantu was arrested Wednesday, and will remain in jail until his arraignment Monday.
“He thinks that this is a witch hunt,” Cantu’s attorney, Alberto Pullen, said Thursday. “There is just not enough evidence to convict him of all the charges.”
Four others were named in the indictment, including two who worked with Cantu at the sheriff’s department in Cameron County, located on the border with Mexico.
Cantu is charged with eight counts, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana, extortion, money laundering, obstruction and being a member of a criminal enterprise engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity. The other men face similar charges.
He was indicted last year on charges he misused authority by rallying support for his re-election bid during a mandatory jailhouse meeting. A judge dismissed the charge in March.
Cantu, a Democrat, lost the March 2004 primary election. He had been hoping to rejoin law enforcement as a deputy constable, but county commissioners postponed a vote on the appointment last week.
The extortion, money laundering and racketeering charges carry a maximum punishment of 20 years in federal prison. The obstruction charge carries a maximum sentence of five years, and the drug charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
07/09/2005 – TEXAS — Former Cameron County Sheriff Conrado Cantu makes a deal with prosecutors and pleads guilty to running a criminal enterprise while in office.
The plea came after Cantu was jailed on federal charges of drug trafficking, extortion, and witness tampering. He also faced obstruction, money laundering and conspiracy counts. But prosecutors dismissed those as part of the plea agreement.
Prosecutors say Cantu’s operation netted tens of thousands of dollars by offering information about investigations and raids. They allege the operators of an illegal gambling den and drug traffickers moving loads through the Mexican border city received protection.
Sentencing was scheduled for September 27th. He faces from ten years to life in prison.
Four others were named in the ten-count indictment, including two who worked with Cantu at the sheriff’s department in Cameron County.
Cantu’s attorney says prosecutors won’t get information from him.
The 49-year-old Democrat served four years as sheriff starting in 2001.
Garry Layne Ragsdale, 34, and Tamara Michelle Ragsdale, 32, will remain free on bond until a Jan. 23 sentencing trial in Dallas.
The couple, who live in Fort Worth, each faces up to 20 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.
They were indicted in March on one count of conspiracy to mail obscene material and two counts of mailing obscene material and aiding and abetting, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas said.
Between July 1998 and April, authorities said the couple ran a business called G Rags Inc. and had an Internet site offering videotapes showing rape scenes, including the “Real Rape Video Series” and “Brutally Raped Video Series.”
Bank records revealed that the couple made more than $60,000 on video sales.
Ragsdale was a Dallas officer in the 1990s and was fired after a federal investigation into the rape videos.
06/15/2005 – The police department in Troy, just north of Temple, recovered $500,000 after Police Chief David Seward made what he at first thought was a routine traffic stop last week.
As Seward questioned the driver, he noticed the back end of the car appeared to be “heavily weighted down.”
The driver allowed Seward to search the vehicle and search turned up 44 packages of U.S. currency inside the spare tire.
The total amount of cash recovered was $537,030, police said.
The driver, the car and the cash were taken to the Troy Police Department.
Troy should receive a portion of the seized cash, which Seward said he would be used for improvements at the department as well as at City Park.
05/15/2005 —A Houston Police Department sergeant has been fired for his handling of some arrests at a Houston Texans Cheerleaders Halloween party last year, as well as his actions following the discovery of cocaine in his pocket while off duty.
Sgt. Ronald J. Borza, a 14-year HPD veteran in the Southwest patrol division, was indefinitely suspended ù tantamount to being fired by Chief Harold Hurtt on April 26 following two internal affairs investigations launched last year.
Borza is appealing the chief’s decision, said his attorney, Robert Armbruster of the Houston Police Officers Union.
Borza, 37, has been home since he was relieved of duty back in November, HPD officials said.
Hurtt concluded, based on the two investigations, that Borza failed to use sound judgment, failed to perform duties in a timely manner and was evasive and misleading during the incidents in question, according to the chief’s letter handing down the discipline.
The first investigation was prompted by a complaint made against Borza and other police officers about an altercation near Reliant Stadium Oct. 29.
According to Hurtt’s letter, a group of people who had attended the Houston Texans Cheerleaders Halloween party were forced to leave after one of them became disruptive. As the group left, they hurled derogatory remarks and shouted at Borza and other officers working security at the party.
Borza said the guests had violently resisted arrest, but they were charged with nothing more serious than public intoxication. The guests claimed Borza and the other police officers used excessive force in removing them from the stadium and during the argument that followed, Hurtt’s letter states.
The party guests were taken to jail, but a police report was not made for two days. That report, when submitted, was incomplete, Hurtt said.
Less than a month later, some cocaine was found in Borza’s pocket while he was off duty, prompting another internal affairs probe.
Borza failed to notify supervisors of the drug in a timely fashion, undermining the department’s confidence in a subsequent drug test that came back negative, according to the chief’s letter.
February 22, 2005 – ROUND ROCK – An off-duty Williamson County sheriff’s deputy stopped by police this month smelled of alcohol, but was not arrested because he refused a field sobriety test and officers could not prove he was legally drunk, according to police reports.
Deputy Craig Ferguson was driving home from Hooters in Round Rock, where he drank a “couple of pitchers” of beer and hung out with lieutenants and other “high on the hog” personnel, when Sgt. Nathan Zoss noticed him weaving in a black Toyota Tacoma on Louis Henna Boulevard, the police reports show.
The officer called the deputy’s supervisors to the scene and an internal affairs investigation into his actions is ongoing, said John Foster, a spokesman for the department. Foster said investigators will interview other department employees who were at Hooters.
Foster said Ferguson could not comment while the investigation is pending.
The police reports and a video from Zoss’ patrol car obtained through the Texas Public Information Act detail what happened after Zoss pulled Ferguson into the parking lot of a Target store about 12:30 a.m. Feb. 6.
When Ferguson pulled out his driver’s license, Zoss saw his badge and discovered he was a sheriff’s deputy. Zoss could smell alcohol on Ferguson’s breath and asked him to step out of the truck and take field sobriety tests, such as standing on one leg and walking in a straight line.
The video shows Ferguson stumble as he got out of the car, and officers ask him to submit to a field sobriety test.
“I’m not going to do any of that,” Ferguson told the police officer.
Zoss later wrote in his report that without the deputy’s cooperation, he did not think he had enough proof that Ferguson was legally drunk. At that point, he called Ferguson’s supervisors.
When Sgts. Sharif Mezayek and Patrick Erickson arrived; Ferguson told them he drank “a couple of pitchers” of beer at Hooters. They told him to take the sobriety test, but he continued to refuse.
On the video, Zoss tells other officers that if Ferguson were a civilian, he could call someone to take him home, or arrest him for traffic violations. But the jail might refuse a prisoner with minor charges, Zoss said.
Police officers treated Ferguson “just like any other citizen,” said Round Rock officer Eric Poteet, a spokesman for the department.
“In fact, he was held to an even higher standard,” Poteet said. “In a case where there is not probable cause to arrest, we do not call someone’s employer.”
When law enforcement officials suspect someone is driving drunk, they must observe enough clues stumbling, slurred speech, the smell of alcohol to establish probable cause. That allows an officer to make an arrest, said Chris Heaton, president of the Texas Municipal Police Association.
“If he doesn’t have the cooperation of the person and doesn’t have enough visual, verbal and other clues to have probable cause, then it is a judgment call from the officer’s standpoint,” Heaton said.
Heaton said state law does not allow the officer to confiscate a driver’s license for refusing to take a field sobriety test. Officers can take away a license if the driver refuses a breath test, but only after probable cause has been established, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
During the traffic stop, Round Rock officers did not take Ferguson’s license. Instead, Zoss issued Ferguson two traffic citations for stopping in the wrong place and disregarding traffic control devices and allowed Ferguson’s wife to drive him home.
On the video, Zoss complains that Ferguson’s behavior put police officers in a tough spot.
“You put us in a difficult situation here,” Zoss said to Ferguson. “You’re not getting any break. Our agency doesn’t do that and yours doesn’t either. The law is the law, and we are pretty solid on all that.”
Ferguson, according to police reports, sat on the curb and lamented that his sergeant told him not to go out that night:
“I knew I shouldn’t have gone out tonight,” Ferguson said, according to police reports written by Round Rock police officers. “I’m in so much trouble. My wife is going to kill me.”
In Heaton’s opinion, calling Ferguson’s supervisors showed that Round Rock police did not give him any breaks because he is a fellow lawman.
“If he refuses to cooperate, he could end up losing his career,” Heaton said. “If he is charged with DWI, that could be career-ending as well.”
Nov. 5, 2004 – An autopsy shows that a suspected thief was shot in the side, raising questions about the incident in which a Harris County sheriff’s deputy said he fired in self-defense as the man’s van accelerated toward him.
The autopsy report, obtained by the Houston Chronicle on Thursday, appears to differ with Deputy Zachary Long’s version of the Feb. 1 incident in which he shot 31-year-old Rodolfo Gonzalez Garcia at an Humble construction site.
The autopsy report was completed March 22, six months before the Harris County District Attorney’s Office presented the case to a grand jury. The prosecutor in the case, Tommy LaFon, previously said he recommended that jurors not indict Long because the shooting was “a simple self-defense issue.”
The grand jury refused to indict Long.LaFon could not be reached for comment Thursday, but District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said he believed the grand jury would have been told how and where Garcia was wounded.
“We would have had an autopsy, and the facts from the medical examiner would surely have been presented to a grand jury making their decision,” Rosenthal said.
Although autopsy reports routinely are made public, the Harris County medical examiner has withheld the Garcia report, saying investigation into the shooting was continuing.
The 15-year veteran deputy was working an extra job when he spotted Garcia, 31, pilfering shingles from a construction site in Humble, according to Long’s statement to Sheriff’s Department investigators, which the Chronicle has obtained. As he approached Garcia, Long said, the man got into his van and tried to run him down.
“I was standing in front of the vehicle, and the driver was looking right at me,” Long said in his statement after the shooting. “I was in fear for my life and discharged my weapon.”
Long told investigators the van struck him in the leg. The autopsy report shows Garcia was killed by two bullets that entered on the left side of his body and lodged in his chest.
An expert examination of Garcia’s vehicle found that no bullet passed through the van’s windshield or the front of the car, according to the attorney for Garcia’s family, Randall Kallinen.
“He said the van was coming at him when he shot, but clearly the van had already passed because he fired from the side,” Kallinen said.
“His life could not have been in danger.”
Garcia’s shooting is one of at least 22 since 1999 in which sheriff’s deputies have killed or wounded people by firing into vehicles in contradiction of their training. In several incidents, deputies claimed self-defense and fired after they deliberately placed themselves in front of vehicles, in violation of what Sheriff Tommy Thomas has called “common sense.”
In many of the incidents, people were shot after committing minor property crimes, such as stealing from parked cars, shoplifting or, in the case of Garcia, stealing 14 packages of shingles from a construction site.
“They were not worth more than $14 a box,” Kallinen said. In July, Thomas adopted a strict policy that forbids officers from firing into cars or trucks unless someone inside is pointing a gun or using some type of deadly force other than the vehicle itself.
Long has not been disciplined in the Garcia shooting, but the internal investigation into the incident remains open, said Capt.
Robert Van Pelt, sheriff’s spokesman.
The fact-gathering is complete, Van Pelt said, but the internal affairs report needs to be reviewed by administrators before the investigation is closed.
Sheriff’s Department officials declined to discuss why the autopsy report was being withheld by the Medical Examiner’s Office.
March 22, 2005 -City Manager Toby Futrell and Police Chief Stan Knee asked the federal agency to review the department’s policies, procedures and practices.
The letter to U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton cites the “unprofessional messages” sent over the department’s mobile data computer system during the recent club fire and a series of articles last year in the Austin American-Statesman that showed officers used force against minorities at higher rates than they did against white people.
During a Feb. 18 fire at the Midtown Live nightclub, popular among Austin’s black community, 10 police officers and dispatchers traded e-mail that said, among other things, “burn baby, burn” and “I got some extra gasoline if they need it.”
Witnesses at the club saw the “burn baby burn” message on the computer screen inside an officer’s patrol car during the fire.
“As you know, trust is the cornerstone of building a solid community policing program,” the letter states. “These incidents have created tension, and in some instances have eroded our trust within the community. … An independent review of the Austin Police Department would help the department continue to improve while rebuilding community trust.”
Sutton said his office has turned the request over to the Justice Department’s civil rights division and that he had no further comment.
The fire sparked by an electrical short in a restroom ventilator fan caused $1.1 million worth of damage to the club.
2003 – The Office of the Police Monitor’s city-appointed Citizen Review Panel on Monday heard testimony regarding an allegation of “official oppression” more than a decade ago by an APD veteran. Complainant Lucy Neyens, herself a local law-enforcement officer and the wife of an Austin police officer, told the panel about her charge that veteran Austin Police Detective Howard Staha forced her to perform oral sex on him in return for protecting her teenage son, who was at the time an APD confidential informant.
Neyens believes APD has never conducted a thorough investigation into her allegations after she filed a formal complaint in January 2002. “Staha has been given preferential treatment by the department,” she told the panel.
“There was no restricted duty — it was business as usual [as they investigated the complaint].” While officers under investigation by APD’s Internal Affairs Division are often placed on administrative leave, Staha was not only not suspended but was indeed transferred into the same division as Neyens’ husband. It wasn’t until this past January, a year after filing her complaint, that Neyens was notified of the case disposition: Investigators apparently came up empty-handed, calling the investigation “inconclusive” — which Neyens believes is because they failed to pursue several leads. In March, she filed a complaint with Police Monitor Iris Jones, who put the case on the review panel’s May 19 agenda.
Neyens told the panel members that her son had been working as an APD confidential informant in the early Nineties, but his life had been threatened after his informant status was leaked to some of the criminals he was trying to help nab. She said her son became suicidal, and when she reached out to Staha, for whom her son had been working, the veteran officer took advantage of her. According to Neyens, she met Staha at a bar on Ben White while he was on duty, and he forced her to perform oral sex on him in his car after repeatedly telling her that he didn’t think he could protect her son any longer. “I feared for my son’s safety and feared that if I didn’t comply that some harm would come to him,” an emotional Neyens told the panel.
Neyens kept her story secret until late 2001, when Staha’s name came up in a conversation during a lunch she attended with several other APD officers. Upon hearing his name, she said, she just “blurted” her story.
The officers told her that, according to APD policy, they would have to report the allegations to Internal Affairs; Neyens said she told IAD investigators she would cooperate with their investigation. But that investigation didn’t amount to much, Neyens claims. She told the review panel that friends to whom she had told the story at the time were never contacted by IAD detectives and that she was never given a polygraph examination even though investigators asked her to take one.
After laying out her complaint, Neyens answered “clarifying” questions posed by members of the review panel — including how she knew Staha was on duty during the alleged incident, whether she had contact with him afterward, and whether she would still be willing to take a polygraph exam. Neyens stated firmly that she would be open to clearing any remaining investigative channels — including taking a polygraph. She said she was frustrated by the department’s seemingly sluggish investigation of her claims. She told them that after nearly a year of “investigation,” she was still trying to get APD to respond to her inquiries about the case disposition. After finally hearing on Jan. 14 that the department considered the complaint inconclusive, Neyens asked for a review by APD’s assistant chiefs; as of press time, she has yet to hear anything further from the department.
After panelists finished questioning Neyens, Jones asked if anyone from APD wanted to make a statement — although she firmly reminded the panel that neither Staha nor the department was required to respond. Although four assistant chiefs — Rudy Landeros, Jimmy Chapman, Robert Dahlstrom, and Rick Coy — and Staha’s attorney Tom Stribling were all present, none chose to respond publicly to Neyens’ allegations. Coy told the panel that he was prepared to offer a statement in private, but Jones noted that, according to Austin’s police-oversight process, the review panel could not hear such confidential statements. After reviewing the department’s investigative documents, the panel might choose to ask Coy specific questions regarding the detectives’ work. Both the review of documents and any follow-up inquiries take place in private to protect the confidentiality of the IAD documents and privacy of APD officers.
The panel is now charged with deciding whether Neyens’ complaint warrants any further action, either by APD or by an independent investigator. Any panel recommendations will first be presented to APD Chief Stan Knee before they are released to the public. According to Assistant Police Monitor Al Jenkins, the panel began reviewing the department’s investigative file on Neyens’ complaint during executive session after the Monday night public hearing but has not made any decisions. He said the panel would either decide the case in June during its regular monthly meeting, or could choose to hold an interim session to decide the matter.
04/04/2003 -Police in San Antonio, Texas, raided the wrong home looking for “drugs and guns” in November 2002. During the raid officers beat the innocent residents, putting one man in the hospital and knocking the teeth from another.
Three men aged between 17 and 20 were sitting and watching TV in their apartment when police shattered the back glass door. A dozen police officers entered the apartment, screaming profanities and pointing guns, while tear gas filled the room.
The men told the media they thought they were being robbed as officers beat them. “We were kicked and punched at least 20 times,” said one. “I couldn’t talk. I was good and scared.”
After handcuffing the beaten men and searching the apartment, police officers realized they had gone to the wrong address. Police then apologized to their bleeding victims, went five apartments down, and arrested two other people.
A Texas trooper assigned to find missing Democrats sought help from a federal agency that tracks smugglers and terrorists by implying that a planeload of state legislators may have crashed, the federal agency said Thursday.
Democrats said the “subterfuge” was an abuse of power that stemmed from Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick’s order to arrest those who fled Austin to block a vote on a GOP bill to redraw congressional districts.
They demanded formal investigations into what steps were taken to track former House Speaker Pete Laney’s light plane to Ardmore, Okla., where he and 50 other Democrats were holed from Monday through Thursday out of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s reach.
Involvement in search Here, from a statement by the Federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is how its Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center not involved in the search for a plane carrying the Texas House Democrats: The bureau says one of its officers at the center in Riverside, Calif., received “an urgent phone call from a concerned Texas Department of Public Safety officer” on Monday who stated: “We got a problem, and I hope you can help me out. We had a plane that was supposed to be going from Ardmore, Oklahoma, to Georgetown, Texas. It had state representatives in it, and we cannot find this plane.”
The bureau says the DPS officer “expressed concern that the plane had not arrived at its intended destination.” The DPS officer provided the tail number of the aircraft to the center and asked for help. The bureau says “from all indications, this request from the Texas DPS was an urgent plea for assistance from a law enforcement agency.”
“Believing the aircraft may have crashed or be lost,” the center contacted the FAA and others but was unable to locate the plane. The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement released details of the DPS call after pressure from Democrats who wanted to know whether federal resources were used inappropriately in the search. The bureau defended its actions and suggested it was misled.
“From all indications, this request from the Texas DPS was an urgent plea for assistance from a law enforcement agency trying to locate a missing, lost or possibly crashed aircraft,” said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the bureau, which is part of the new Homeland Security Department.
According to a partial transcript the customs bureau released late Thursday, the DPS officer told the bureau’s tracking center, “We got a problem, and I hope you can help me out. We had a plane that was supposed to be going from Ardmore, Oklahoma, to Georgetown, Texas. It had state representatives in it, and we cannot find this plane.”
In Washington, Rep. Jim Turner of Crockett, the ranking Democrat on the House committee that oversees homeland security, denounced the effort to use the nation’s security apparatus in such a manner.
Many Democrats blame the chain of events on U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, who has pushed for redistricting.
“That domestic intelligence capabilities would be used for partisan political purposes should be deeply disturbing to this committee and to all Americans,” Mr. Turner said.