Police Brutality and Misconduct Is Not Just a Problem, It’s Illegal!
Police News On Police Brutality and Police Misconduct In Texas
12/28/2005 – An off-duty San Antonio police officer is arrested and charged with breaking into his sister-in-law’s home and assaulting her, all apparently because he didn’t like her boyfriend.
36-year old officer Shawn McGibbons, a 12-year veteran of the force, is charged with burglary with intent of assault. Investigators say McGibbons and three of his friends went to his sister-in-law’s home on langford at 3 in the morning.
Officer McGibbons is accused of fighting with her inside her bedroom, apparently over her choice of boyfriend. Her boyfriend was there, he called 9-1-1, and McGibbons was arrested. He’s now on administrative leave, and his three friends are also charged.
Officer Isabel Orellana, 31, also a former Houston Community College System police officer, will be sentenced Jan. 10 for aggravated assault. She is eligible for probation but also faces a possible sentence ranging from two to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The state will recommend a three-year sentence, said prosecutor Joe Owmby, chief of the Harris County district attorney’s police integrity division.
As part of her plea agreement, a charge accusing Orellana of driving while intoxicated will be dismissed, Owmby said.
Officer Orellana was charged after she had a minor traffic accident in the Montrose area on Sept. 26, 2004, while off duty and in her personal car. A fight ensued after she refused to exchange insurance information with the other driver, Houston police said.
After that man and a friend took Orellana’s keys, she fired nine shots at them with a 9 mm pistol but did not hit them, investigators said.
Orellana was arrested at the scene and fired from her Prairie View A&M job a month later. By pleading guilty to a felony, she will never again be able to work as a police officer, public security officer or county jailer, according to state law.
Officer Ray Hernandez, 37, was indicted on one count of theft by a public servant and one count of abuse of official capacity, according to the indictment, which is on file in the office of District Clerk Martha Mitchell.
According to the indictment information in the first count, Hernandez on Dec. 20, 2004 “. . .did then and there unlawfully appropriate property, to-wit: rims and tires of the value $500 or more but less than $1,500 with the intent to deprive the owner David Morgan of said property, and at the time of the aforesaid offense, the said Ray Hernandez was a public servant, to-wit: a peace officer with the Del Rio Police.
10/31/2005 – A San Antonio police officer has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman, the second officer charged this year with rape.
He should have been protecting her, but now a San Antonio police officer is in jail, accused of raping a woman while on the job. The San Antonio Police arrested one of their own Sunday morning, saying he broke the oath to serve and protect. Patrol Officer Ruben Saenz, 28, is accused of raping a woman after pulling her over for erratic driving early Saturday morning in her neighborhood near Lackland Air Force base.
“During that traffic stop the officer approached her,” Lt. Gabe Trevino said she had been drinking. She felt she was intoxicated. She said the officer told her she was intoxicated.”
According to police reports, the victim says instead of giving her a DWI Saenz followed her to her home. She says she thought she wasn’t in trouble until the officer followed her into her home – uninvited. It was at that point the victim says Officer Saenz sexually assaulted her against her will.
In her statement to the police the victim said, “He was telling me how bad it could be if I got a DWI. I think he said it would be in my best interest to let him do what he wanted. I let him do whatever he wanted to. I did not say no to him, but I did not want to have intercourse with him.”
She called her husband who reported the assault, Trevino said.
Saenz admits to having sex with the woman, but he claims it was consensual. Police investigators say the woman was too drunk to give consent.
“It’s very disturbing obviously to hear of a situation like this,” says Trevino. “But when it does occur we’re gonna take immediate and aggressive action against whoever the offender might be.”
Officer Saenz, who has been with the SAPD for more than three years, is charged with sexual assault and is being held on a $50,000 bond. Police plan to release more details about the case Monday morning.
This is the second officer charged this year with rape. San Antonio Police Officer Dean Gutierrez was charged in July with sexually assaulting a transsexual. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in October.
10/20/2005 – A San Antonio police officer has been arrested on a federal charge that he sexually assaulting a transsexual.
Officer Dean Gutierrez, 45, was indicted Tuesday on a charge of deprivation of civil rights by committing aggravated sexual abuse while on duty. The 16-year veteran of the police force was arrested Thursday.
Gutierrez is accused of forcing Gabriel Bernal, 22, who prefers to be called Starlight and a woman, to perform sex acts the night of June 10. Police reports and court documents allege Gutierrez forced Bernal into his police car after picking her up.
Officer Gutierrez was released on a $100,000 bond. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
Gutierrez had been on administrative duty since his arrest in July on state charges, of which he has not been indicted.
“We understood charges were ultimately going to be presented to a federal grand jury, and we were given the indictment today,” said one of Gutierrez’s lawyers, Ed Garcia. “We intend to review it very carefully. There are a number of inconsistencies we believe will lead to him being exonerated once the trial is over with.”
Gutierrez was placed on indefinite suspension Thursday, said Sgt. Gabe Trevino, a department spokesman. Indefinite suspension is tantamount to being fired.
10/08/2005 – The Houston police officer who headed the department’s truck enforcement unit and was under an internal affairs investigation for unknown allegations officially retired today, police officials said.
Sergeant C. J. Klausner had been under investigation since July 7, when he was officially relieved of his duties.
He was represented during the investigation by the Houston Police Officers Union – of which he is a member.
“I wish him well,” said HPOU President Hans Marticiuc.
Marticiuc, who in July called Klausner a “hard-working supervisor who takes his job very seriously,” also said then that the allegations against him were “serious.” He did not elaborate.
Klausner, who was on HPD payroll since the investigation began, joined the police force in May 1981.
In 1999 he was chosen to create the Truck Enforcement Unit. As its head, Klausner was one of the most visible members of the Houston Police Department and was often at the scene of major accidents involving tractor-trailers. The unit also held frequent spot inspections of commercial vehicles that were regularly covered by local news stations.
The officers pulled over 56 trucks during an inspection in mid-January at a Sam’s Club parking lot on Interstate 10 at Uvalde.
“We blitz an area,” Klausner said at the time. “As many commercial trucks as we can, we pull off the freeway. We turn the parking lot into a truck parking lot.”
It was unclear today whether Klausner’s retirement was connected to the investigation or whether he will seek employment elsewhere.
The conditions of his retirement make him ineligible to return to work at the Houston Police Department, an HPD spokesman said.
10/08/2005 – Before and at the height of Hurricane Rita, it was all hands on deck at the Houston Police Department.
Most of the 4,700 HPD workforce showed up for work, pulling 12 hour shifts, but about a dozen did not.
Right now, the police union confirms that they believe about 12 police officers, including possibly two captain level individuals, are being investigated for not showing up during the course of Hurricane Rita’s evacuation response efforts.
Officials are also looking at the fire department to see if there were any similar issues with employees not showing up.
Eyewitness News spoke with a firefighters union’s spokeman and as far as they know, firefighters all showed when they were supposed to.
“Most firefighters that were scheduled to work the day following the storm showed up the night before. They did it on their own,” said Houston Mayor Bill White. “They are very dedicated and highly motivated and understood the situation and a lot of them came in the night before. So there really were not any problems with firefighters not showing up.”
But the fire department and the police department are not the only departments the city is looking into. The mayor’s office is looking into the Houston Emergency Center. They believe there was a handful of employees who didn’t show up for work, either, and they are facing indefinite suspension or possible termination as part of disciplinary action.
The city of Houston has over 10,000 employees ranging from the Houston Police Department, Houston Fire Department, dispatchers, and public works and the overwhelming majority of them did show up for work.
10/06/2005 – A former Rosenberg police officer pleaded guilty to child pornography Wednesday, but a judge declared a mistrial when jurors could not reach a verdict on punishment.
Officials said Gary Stone, 58, was busted in 2001 when a Wisconsin officer posed as a 13-year-old girl to chat with him online.
“In extremely explicit terms, (Stone) talked about sex acts he would do on her and he would want her to do to him. He talked about meeting with her — how she might get out of the house — the fact that he was going to leave his wife,” prosecutor Loretta Owen said.
A search of Stone’s computer showed downloaded pornographic pictures of children — some having sex with adults. Stone was charged with 43 counts of possessing child pornography.
But he asked jurors to not send him to prison.
“Do we want to send him to some hellhole in east Texas or west Texas to room with some guy named Big Bruno who will learn that he is a sex offender and not only that, is a policeman? Ladies and gentlemen, (Stone) ain’t going to live six months,” defense attorney Charles Michulka said.
Prosecutors objected to the defense’s closing statement.
Stone took the stand and testified that he saved the pornographic pictures out of curiosity and never intended to meet with anyone.
But prosecutors argued that the former lawman hurt children by visiting those child pornography Web sites and creating a marketplace.
The defense said that Stone, a veteran, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and only experimented with porn as an escape. Stone said his mistake has already cost him his job, his family and his self-respect.
He served 28 years on the Rosenberg police force and Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department. Stone has been under house arrest for the past four years, awaiting trial.
He faced from probation to 10 years in prison.
Jurors began deliberations Wednesday at 4 p.m. Hours later, the panel told the judge they could not reach a verdict and were a hung jury.
The judge declared a mistrial.
Stone will remain free on bond pending a new trial. A date has not yet been determined.
10/02/2005 – A Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy, were arrested with suspected cocaine and crack cocaine with estimated street value of $163,000 were confiscated from their vehicle on U.S. Highway 59 in southwestern Rusk County.
Brandon Charles Lavergne, 23, and Officer Carlton Darcel McFarland, 38, were arrested by Rusk County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics/K-9 Deputy Kenneth Biggs.
Bond was set at $500,000 each for both suspects earlier today. Both suspects were charged with possession of a controlled substance.
According to law enforcement reports, the two men, one driving a late-model Mitsubishi, the other a late-model Lexus, were heading for Louisiana from the Houston area.
Biggs stated that he stopped the Mitsubishi and when he stopped behind it, the Lexus pulled up behind Biggs.
During the traffic stop near Garrison, Biggs noticed both men being nervous and giving conflicting stories and inconsistencies.
“The two were real nervous and something just wasn’t right,” Biggs told the Henderson Daily News.
Biggs asked the driver if he would object to a search of the vehicle. The driver gave Biggs the OK.
At this point, Biggs retrieved his K-9, Nuva, who immediately alerted on the door of the car.
After a short time searching the inside of the car, Biggs located nearly 4.5 pounds of suspected crack cocaine and a half-pound of powdered cocaine, all with an estimated street value of more than $163,000.
When Biggs was checking the two Houston men’s identification, he learned the 38-year-old had been employed by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy for more than 10 years.
Official reports stated the illegal crack cocaine were made to resemble round sugar cookies, with each weighing one ounce.
The suspected drugs were packaged in four separate packages, each containing approximately one dozen of the “cookies.”
The suspects also went to the trouble of wrapping each package with aluminum foil, then coating each package with axle grease in an attempt to throw off the drug dogs, wrapping each in foil again then sealing each in airtight cellophane bags.
Also found during the search was a .45-caliber Ruger handgun and a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun.
RCSO officials called the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) when the two weapons were found. Carrying the combination of weapons and that large an amount of illegal narcotics changes the offense from state to federal charges.
DEA agents arrived in Henderson and took control of the case. All of the evidence, including the suspected drugs, has been seized by the DEA.
Both suspects are being held in Rusk County Jail.
10/02/2005 – AUSTIN – Prosecutors say they’ll file a motion to dismiss a drunken driving charge against Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe.
Biscoe was arrested last August after an Austin officer saw his vehicle drifting within a lane and failing to signal a lane change. The arrest affidavit said Biscoe had a faint odor of alcohol and bloodshot eyes when the officer stopped him. He was charged with driving while intoxicated.
But Special Prosecutor Allan Williams says Biscoe presented evidence — including medical records — that diabetes COULD have caused symptoms such as poor coordination and weakness in his legs.
The 58-year-old Biscoe has served on the Commissioners Court since 1988. He was elected county judge — the head of the court — a decade later. He plans to seek one more term in next year’s elections.
09/30/2005 – Houston – A former Harris County deputy constable was charged with sexual assault of a child.
Investigators said officer Eric Steven Spiller, 34, had a relationship with a teenage girl, which led to the charges and his termination.
Officials said the teenager’s mother first filed the complaint.
“She was concerned by the relationship between the officer and her 16-year-old daughter,” Precinct 4 assistant chief deputy Larry Shiflet said.
Spiller denied any wrongdoing, but an internal affairs investigation revealed the girl later admitted to sexual acts with the officer while he was on duty.
“His misconduct (occurred) while in a patrol car,” Shiflet said. “The public is outraged. The police officers themselves are very disheartened. They’re angry.”
Spiller faces three counts of sexual abuse of a child. His next court appearance is Oct. 13.
He was terminated in March. Spiller had been with the department for 10 years.
09/30/2005 – The City of Austin will pay $200,000 to settle a whistle-blower lawsuit with an Austin police officer, ending one of the department’s most notorious sagas in recent memory.
Officer Jeff White accused former Assistant Chief Jimmy Chapman of having him transferred after White told an internal affairs investigator that Chapman had interfered in aspects of a drug-trafficking investigation.
The mid-1990s investigation — code-named Mala Sangre, or Bad Blood — was led by federal agents with the help of local officers.
It turned up leads that some Austin officers might have been protecting and assisting drug dealers and using cocaine on duty. None of the officers was prosecuted.
On Thursday, the City Council unanimously agreed to settle the case for $200,000: $100,000 for White and $100,000 for his lawyer, Don Feare.
Neither Feare nor White could be reached for comment Thursday.
The settlement does not come with any admission of guilt by city officials, who all along have said the matter was fully investigated and that the department and Chapman did nothing wrong.
Four other officers filed two lawsuits related to Mala Sangre; the city settled those cases in 2000 for $6,000 and $80,000.
“Each case was analyzed separately, and the settlement amounts are based on the unique facts and circumstances of each case,” City Attorney David Smith said.
Smith said that city officials and White, who still works for the department, have agreed not to discuss details of the case or assign any blame as part of the settlement.
White sued in 2002 after he was transferred from a job in narcotics. He said he was also blocked from other assignments.
In a deposition, Chapman testified that White was moved because of poor work performance, though work evaluations showed White received high marks.
The other four officers alleged in their lawsuits that they were transferred off the Mala Sangre task force to stymie the investigation into possible wrongdoing by fellow officers.
White became the only officer assigned to the task force when the others left. As a result, he said, he was “set up for failure” because of the large caseload.
Feare deposed several city officials, including Police Chief Stan Knee and City Manager Toby Futrell.
The city police union, often at odds with city officials, made public some of the more scintillating details of the depositions, which led, in part, to an independent investigation of Chapman.
Other officers said Chapman had demanded that phone records be removed from an internal affairs file, which Chapman denied under oath.
Chapman also testified that he wasn’t aware that White would be transferred, although another officer said Chapman knew of the move.
Chapman retired in 2003, shortly after an independent investigator ruled that the allegations against Chapman were inconclusive.
The Mala Sangre operation led to 20 arrests across the United States, include retired Austin police officer Bob Black and the man accused of running the drug operation, Roger Lopez. Black was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for buying cocaine, and Lopez got seven years for drug trafficking.
But internal affairs officers testified that they never had a chance to fully examine the matter because management-level officers quashed their efforts.
Austin Police Association President Mike Sheffield said Thursday that he is glad the lawsuit is over for White’s sake but that “city management is still in denial about Mala Sangre.”
Sheffield said the city stopped the independent investigation before all the witnesses had been interviewed and all leads examined.
“Had that been done, I think we would’ve been a lot closer to the truth than we are today,” Sheffield said.
09/30/2005 – SAN ANTONIO — Officers of the San Antonio Police Department conducting a sting operation in an area known for prostitution unknowingly stumbled across an off-duty officer Wednesday.
Police conducting the prostitution sting operation in the 2200 block of North Alamo arrested Officer Terance Tisdale.
The SAPD Vice Unit was conducting a sting operation called a reversal, meaning an undercover female patrol officer in plainclothes was on the streets in an area in which they received complaints about prostitution.
Around 10:30 p.m., police said the 27-year-old Tisdale’s truck approached the undercover female officer and police said a deal was made for sex.
“Once the deal was done, the person in the vehicle was told to drive around the corner, at which point, detectives were able to make an apprehension on that individual in the vehicle,” said Sgt. Gabe Trevino, of the SAPD. “At that point, they realized the person driving the truck was an off-duty San Antonio patrol officer.”
Police said Tisdale, who works out of the Prue Road Substation, is charged with prostitution, a Class B misdemeanor.
Tisdale has also been placed on administrative duty, pending an investigation.
Police said he could lose his job and peace officer license.
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09/26/2005 – Testimony continues Thursday in the trial of a former Fort Worth police officer, accused of beating a man after a high-speed chase.
Federal prosecutors accuse Ruben Ruiz of violating the driver’s civil rights by allegedly kicking him and stepping on his head after he was no longer a threat.
The incident was captured on video by the police helicopter, now key evidence in the trial.
The case is expected to wrap up later this week.
09/22/2005 – FORT BLISS – An Army officer and two more of his soldiers from a Cincinnati reserve unit at the center of a prisoner abuse investigation in Afghanistan have been charged in the abuse cases, the Army announced Tuesday.
Capt. Christopher M. Beiring, who led the Bond Hill-based 377th Military Police Company, was charged with dereliction of duty and making a false official statement.
He is the first officer to be charged in the investigation.
Nine other enlisted soldiers have also faced charges in the abuse cases, which primarily revolved around a detainee who died at the detention center.
According to documents released by the Army, investigators claim Beiring didn’t properly train or supervise soldiers under his command in legal uses of force.
He also is accused of not taking steps to correct the soldiers’ actions – as directed by his superior and a legal adviser – after two detainees died at a detention center at Bagram Airfield.
Investigators allege Beiring lied about training he claimed his soldiers received.
Also charged were Staff Sgt. Brian L. Doyle and Sgt. Duane M. Grubb, both from the same reserve unit Beiring commanded.
Doyle faces charges of dereliction of duty and maltreatment.
Investigators said he did not properly provide use-of-force guidance to his soldiers and ordered two lower-ranking soldiers to hit a detainee known as Habibullah, who later died.
Grubb is accused of assault, maltreatment and making a false official statement for allegedly hitting a detainee known as Zarif Khan at least once in the leg with the knee and later lying about it.
All three soldiers are expected to be brought to Fort Bliss soon, a fort spokesman said Tuesday. Hearing dates have not been scheduled.
10/22/2005 – In the fourth court of inquiry to investigate El Paso police and prosecutors, a judge sided with the plaintiffs for the first time.
State District Judge Manny Alvarez says he believes the El Paso Police Department displayed unprofessionalism. The next step moves the case forward to a grand jury.
Alvarez , a Dallas-based judge, found there was probable cause an offense had been committed in the case of an alleged assault involving three El Paso police officers.
“The judge is going to issue warrants for the arrests of Diane and Dean Kinder for perjury and aggravated perjury,” said Edward Hernandez, an attorney for Cecilio Soto who was involved in a fight with a police officer.
Dean Kinder, the vice president of the police union, is accused of assaulting Soto who is also the husband of another police officer, back in September 2002.
The court heard testimony that Soto and his wife followed Kinder’s wife Diane, also a police officer, home from a party. Soto then became involved in a fight with Dean Kinder.
After a police investigation, “Tony” Soto was arrested and prosecuted on a charge of aggravated assault. A jury found him not guilty.
On Tuesday, Judge Alvarez said he plans to issue arrests warrant for Dean Kinder and his wife Diane on charges of aggravated perjury.
“What the judge is saying there’s probable cause that perjury was committed during the trial stage of Cecilio Soto when my client was wrongly accused, charged and tried, but then exonerated by a jury of his peers,” said Hernandez.
The warrants result from allegations the El Paso Police Department and District Attorney’s Office conspired to cover up Dean Kinder’s alleged assault of Soto. Attorneys representing the Kinders say just because a judge issues warrants doesn’t make their clients guilty.
“Here you have multiple sides. It doesn’t mean anyone has done anything wrong. It just means someone else needs to look at the evidence — that’s it.” said Gerry Cichon, Dean Kinder ‘s attorney.
Soto’s attorney says it will now be up to a grand jury to determine whether an indictment should be issued. Attorneys for the Kinders say they’re confident that won’t happen.
“We don’t believe that anyone will ever find them guilty of aggravated perjury we don’t believe that anyone will find they committed a crime because they didn’t commit a crime,” said Jim Darnell, the attorney for Diana Kinder.
At this point no one really knows for sure who will take this case forward since the El Paso District Attorney’s Office is also accused of conspiring in this case.
09/12/2005 – A homicide detective with the San Antonio Police Department was arrested in Floresville on charges of public intoxication and disorderly conduct after he yelled vulgar comments at a carload of women in a McDonald’s drive-thru lane, according to police reports.
Floresville officers detained police officer James Joseph Montanio, 39, at the McDonald’s in the 500 block of 10th Street around 1:30 a.m. Sept. 4, a report stated. An employee in the fast-food restaurant phoned police after he heard the commotion, Floresville Police Chief Danny Martinez said.
A woman told officers that Montanio, who was behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Blazer, and his male passenger yelled inappropriate remarks at her and her sisters, who sat in a vehicle in front of the detective’s SUV in the drive-thru lane.
At one point, officer Montanio asked them to lift up their shirts and then grabbed his crotch, one McDonald’s worker told police.
Officer Montanio, a 12-year SAPD veteran who became a homicide detective in 2000, was not in uniform at the time of the incident, Martinez said.
Montanio and his passenger appeared glassy-eyed, and they slurred their speech, according to the report.
The detective yelled at Floresville police when they asked for his driver’s license, and he remained hostile toward the officers after he produced it, the report stated.
Both Montanio and his passenger were charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct. Montanio later was released on bond, Martinez said.
Montanio has continued his duties as a detective since he was released, SAPD spokesman Sgt. Gabe Trevino said. The department’s Internal Affairs division will investigate to determine whether SAPD administrative policies were violated.
09/12/2005 – Two Texoma police officers have been suspended without pay after the FBI launched an investigation into their possible misconduct last Thursday.
Two Healdton police officers are under investigation after they allegedly shot a 25-year-old woman around 30 times with a pellet gun.
FBI investigators have launched an investigation into Healdton police officers Jared Trotts and Rick Clayton.
A 25-year-old woman claims that the men assaulted her using pellet guns.
The incident occurred at the City of Healdton Municipal Lake. The two officers were responding to a shots fired call.
After searching the lake, the officers interviewed two young women who supposedly heard the shots.
Officers ran a warrant check and found an outstanding warrant against one of the women.
”At that time, they told her you have two choices,” said David Pyle, the victim’s attorney. “One is we’ll arrest you and take you to jail, or your second choice is you can let us shoot you with these pellet guns. She took the second choice.”
The unidentified woman claims an officer then chased her around the car as he fired shots. The other officer fired his gun from the car window.
”I would be appalled that police officers would conduct themselves in that manner,” Pyle said.
The victim’s attorney David Pyle plans on filing a lawsuit against the city on behalf on his client after she produced several police reports.
In the meantime, he says his client is worried about the repercussions.
”She was living in fear, first of all of going to jail and second of all of being picked on by police.”
Police Chief Brian Huckabee turned down an on camera interview but says if the allegations are true, the city of Healdton and the police department will not condone the actions.
09/12/2005 – The city of Dallas may pay $800,000 – possibly a record-setting settlement – to the family of a 23-year-old man killed after two police officers used a controversial neck hold on him.
A Dallas County grand jury cleared both officers of criminal charges in the December 2003 death of Allen Simpson, but the department has banned the neck hold. On Wednesday, the city’s legal team advised the Dallas City Council to approve the payment to Mr. Simpson’s family, citing several factors:
•The arresting officers didn’t attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Mr. Simpson when he lost consciousnesses after a struggle. They told investigators that it was because they had no mouth mask and that Mr. Simpson coughed up blood and saliva.
•One of the officers, Seth Rosenberg, failed his state police exam three times after being hired by the department in 2001 but was allowed to become an officer anyway. Police have since firmed up their hiring practices.
•In July 2004, the department banned the hold used in the incident, in part because a storm of controversy after Mr. Simpson’s death led to the discovery that the lateral vascular neck restraint, or LVNR, had already been widely banned by many other major U.S. police departments where it was deemed too dangerous.
“I thought it was in the best interest of the city to resolve this case in a settlement rather than let it go to trial,” said City Attorney Tom Perkins. “You never know what a jury could conclude.”
Council members are expected to vote on the settlement proposal within a week or so.
“It’s a big settlement,” Mayor Laura Miller said. “The problem is when you have an officer involved who has this kind of background, it’s kind of hard. When the guy was on the ground and wasn’t breathing, our rules say they have to do something about it.”
The proposed settlement eclipses the amount Dallas paid the family of another man who died in 1998 after officers put him in a LVNR neck hold. That family received $575,000.
State damage caps that normally limit the amount that someone can sue the government for do not apply in this case because it is a federal civil rights lawsuit and there is no cap on such suits, Mr. Perkins said.
Jim Skinner, the attorney for Mr. Simpson’s family, said Thursday that he could not comment on the proposed settlement. “I’m just not in a position right now because we’re still in the process of trying to get this wrapped up,” he said.
The officers’ attorney did not return phone calls. Police Chief David Kunkle also declined to comment Thursday.
Allen Simpson died Dec. 29, 2003, after being placed in the LVNR during a fight with Officer Rosenberg and Officer Lonnie Howard. Both men were investigating a drug complaint in Pleasant Grove when they spotted a car fitting a witness’ description and tried to pull it over.
Mr. Simpson, the driver, raced away. He had a criminal record that included several drug charges.
He eventually stopped at a dead end in the 2500 block of Earlcove Drive and jumped out of the vehicle. After a struggle, Officer Rosenberg applied the neck restraint, and Mr. Simpson lost consciousness.
No attempt was made to revive the man until paramedics arrived 11 minutes later.
The Dallas County medical examiner’s office ruled the death a homicide, specifically asphyxia caused by neck compression.
An internal police inquiry was inconclusive on whether officers violated department policies.
Officer Rosenberg, 27, who joined the department in 2001, was allowed to become a police officer even though he failed his state police test three times and then was “recycled” into another academy class. The department no longer permits that practice.
Officer Rosenberg also twice applied to the Corpus Christi Police Department, in 1999 and 2000, but was rejected.
Officer Howard, 32, was hired in 1999. He has been disciplined three times for violating department policies, including missing court appearances twice and for violation of sick leave policy. He also was involved in a 2002 shooting but was cleared of wrongdoing.
After Chief Kunkle banned the neck restraint, he asked the city to buy Tasers, which are used to immobilize combative suspects.
While praised by most police officers around the country as an effective alternative to using guns, batons or other violent takedown techniques, some critics say the Tasers cause heart failure and want their use suspended until more research is done.
Dallas has had no Taser-related deaths. Fort Worth has had four people die after police used the device on them, but the medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was cocaine intoxication in three of the four cases. The fourth case is pending.
09/07/2005 – The Tyler police officer who became the focus of a departmental internal investigation for alleged use of excessive force against two illegal immigrants has been suspended from active duty without pay for 16 days.
Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle said the suspension of veteran officer Dale Feuquay was a statement to officers that they too must follow the law.
Officer Feuquay, who was named Officer of the Year by the Tyler Patrolman’s Association at an April ceremony, was found by the Internal Affairs department and his peers to have violated policy in regards to dereliction of duty, excessive force, engaging in conduct that adversely affected the department and mistreating a fellow citizen.
“I think it is a substantial statement to our officers that they are not above the law and that they must follow policies and procedures,” Swindle said.
Officers responding to a July 15 shooting call at Line Street and South Beckham Avenue spotted Ramone Gomez and Jose Romero in Gomez’s blue-green pickup and – based on information from bystanders that it was possibly the shooter’s vehicle – attempted to stop it.
However, Gomez, 33, did not stop but returned to his home, pursued by officers, who said the man was driving erratically and putting other motorists in danger as he ran through stop lights and stop signs at excessive speeds and drove the wrong way up an access ramp.
Romero, 68, and Elisama Resendez, Gomez’s common-law wife, told the newspaper in July that officers beat and kicked the two men and used pepper spray on the elder man.
The alleged use of excessive force was discovered on Feuquay’s in-car video the following week by a Tyler police supervisor and reported to Swindle.
Feuquay was immediately placed on administrative leave with pay, and the district attorney and the FBI were contacted.
A Smith County grand jury no-billed Feuquay of any criminal charges in early August but indicted Gomez on the third-degree felony charge of evading with a vehicle.
Jeff Millslagle, supervisory agent in charge of the Tyler FBI office, said in an earlier report his office was conducting a review of the case and would forward its findings to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Swindle said the review of Feuquay’s conduct and the resulting punishment was separate from the criminal side of the investigation.
“The grand jury did not find any criminal wrongdoing, but we have policies and procedures which must be followed. When we reviewed the videotape from the in-car video, there were at least two areas we were concerned about where we felt greater force was used than was needed,” he said.
The IA investigation found Feuquay violated policies under the department’s professional conduct and personal bearing policy, which states the dereliction of duty on the part of any employee is cause for disciplinary action.
The policy also states the offender will be punished according to the degree of severity of the violation, the results brought about by the dereliction and the affect it has upon the discipline, good order and best interest of the department.
The policy states all officers shall protect the rights of any person held in custody and no officer shall verbally abuse or use any excessive force or violence against any person.
It also states no officer shall willfully mistreat or give inhumane treatment to any person held in custody.
Swindle said he was pleased with the investigation and felt the suspension was a “costly lesson” for Feuquay.
“This is a substantial hit on his salary. No matter who you are, everyone should be treated fairly and in accordance with this department’s policies and procedures,” he said. I do not discipline my officers for punishment. I discipline them to correct their behavior.”
The Tyler Morning Telegraph has twice requested a copy of the in-car video from the incident, but has been told it is part of an ongoing investigation.
Don Martin, Tyler Police Department public information officer, said Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham is requesting the video not be released.
“It is now part of the evidence in the felony case against Gomez and we have been asked by the DA’s office to not release it,” Martin said in an earlier report.
In the department’s press release sent to media Tuesday the statement was reiterated.
The newspaper will continue to ask for the video and will ask the Texas Attorney General’s Office for an opinion in the matter, said Executive Editor Jim Giametta. “Two investigations, one by the police department and the other by the grand jury, have been concluded, meeting the standard under the Open Records Act that allows release of the requested materials once disposition is rendered in the case,” Giametta said.
In other cases, such as Johnny Lee Williams Jr., who was sentenced to life in prison for the abduction and death of Megan Holden earlier this year, the police released videos immediately to the media.
Swindle said at the end of Feuquay’s suspension, which begins Wednesday, the officer would be reinstated to the position of senior patrol officer and be back on the streets.
“I believe the other officers will treat him fairly and I don’t anticipate any problems,” the chief said when asked if Feuquay’s return would cause conflict in the department.
09/07/2005 – Beverly Hills police officer was shot with a Taser and arrested early Sunday morning after a fight at Westfest.
Officer Thomas E. Schmidt, 37, was fighting with a 29-year-old man shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday morning, said Chief Deputy Randy Plemons of the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office.
Plemons said that Schmidt “had difficulty complying” with officers’ requests to stop fighting, which necessitated the subduing.
Plemons said the Taser used was not the model that shoots wires into a person, but was a “stun gun” which is held directly to the person’s body.
Schmidt has been a police officer for eight years, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.
A spokeswoman for the Beverly Hills Police Department would not comment on the matter and calls to Beverly Hills police chief Debra Bruce were not returned Tuesday.
Both men were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, a Class C misdemeanor. Schmidt was released from the McLennan County jail at 3:25 a.m. Sunday. The other man was also released that day
08/30/2005 – A nine year veteran of the Midland Police Department has been arrested for allegedly striking his domestic partner and firing his department issued weapon while threatening to kill her, court documents and police confirmed Monday.
Officer Jesse Ortiz, 34, has been charged with aggravated assault with intent to cause serious bodily injury.
Midland Police Chief John Urby said Ortiz has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of an administrative investigation by the department.
“Our investigation is separate from the county’s criminal investigation,” Urby said. “The county has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt an offense has been committed. Our burden of proof is much smaller.”
According to a Midland County affidavit, Midland County deputies responded to Ortiz’s residence in the 6500 block of South County Road 1160 about 3:45 a.m. on a report of gunfire.
The female victim told deputies she and Ortiz had argued at a club before coming home and continuing their dispute, according to the court document.
According to the document, victim called 911 after Ortiz allegedly hit her in the legs and buttocks and that he “fired one round into the bedroom wall threatening to kill her.”
The victim refused to let deputies photograph her injuries and told them to leave the residence, the affidavit states.
08/29/2005 – A former Longview police officer was arrested Friday on charges of drug trafficking, possessing illegal weapons and allegations of child pornography.
Johnny Floyd Crocker, 45, was arrested in Upshur County Friday morning and brought to federal court in Tyler along with David Mitchell Gross, 46, both of Gilmer.
Crocker, who wore a facemask and coughed sporadically, notified authorities that he had tuberculosis. As they began making calls to find out whether the disease was contagious, the man was taken out of the courtroom. After speculating whether they would have to be quarantined and need treatment, authorities were told Crocker was not contagious and moved forward with the brief initial appearance proceeding.
Crocker was a patrol officer for the Longview Police Department from an unknown date until 1984.
Crocker and Gross are charged with conspiracy to manufacture and possess methamphetamine and cocaine with the intent to distribute, as well as firearm violations.
A complaint affidavit by the FBI also states probable cause to believe the men were in possession of child pornography.
They have not yet been indicted on any charges.
Gross and Crocker appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Harry McKee, who advised them of their rights and appointed attorneys to represent them. He set probable cause and detention hearings for both men on Wednesday.
Both men said they have been unemployed for at least a year. Crocker said he has filed for disability but is not currently receiving it.
On July 21, a cooperating witness for the FBI met with Gross inside his recreational vehicle where Gross said he lives. After Gross smoked crack cocaine with another person, he sold the witness some of the drug for $275, according to a FBI complaint affidavit.
On July 26, Gross and the witness traveled to Crocker’s residence, where Gross retrieved a short barrel 20-gauge shotgun to sell the witness for $100 and meth for himself, the affidavit states.
On four additional occasions from July 29 to Aug. 12, the witness bought meth, a .99 mm handgun and a M-38 semiautomatic handgun for $2,100 from Gross and Crocker at the suspects’ residences, the affidavit states.
A Kilgore police detective obtained two computer discs containing child porn from a man who claimed he got the images off of Crocker’s personal computer. The man told authorities that the discs contained a 12-year-old girl being sexually assaulted, according to the affidavit.
The FBI agent stated there was probable cause for both search and arrest warrants to be issued against Gross and Crocker for the allegations of conspiracy to manufacture, possess and distribute meth, possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm and possession of an unregistered gun.
Gross was sentenced to three years deferred adjudication probation on June 3, 2005 for hindering a secured creditor, a state jail felony, in Upshur County. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for three counts of delivery of a methamphetamine in 1996 in Smith County.
08/28/2005 – Houston Police Seong Kim is accused of using his Taser for intimidation has been suspended indefinitely, anothers words fired. Officer Kim had worked an extra job at a Wal-Mart in Houston. It was there, according to police records, Kim used his Taser to intimidate three customers.
Officer Kim allegedly would remove the cartridge from the Taser amd aim at the complainants, causing the weapon to make a loud popping noise. The Taser never actually fired at the customers.
Kim is appealing the chief’s decision. He’s been on the force three years.