Houston officer kills unarmed man walking with trousers down

28 March 2018

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/embed/p062lw9q/43574249

Media captionVideo shows unarmed man before fatal shooting

A US police officer shot dead an unarmed man walking in traffic with his trousers down, and his family says it looks like “premeditated murder”.

Police dashcam video shows Danny Ray Thomas, 34, walking towards the officer on a road in Houston, Texas, last Thursday before a gunshot rings out.

Deputy Cameron Brewer repeatedly shouts “get down on the ground” before firing.

Mr Thomas’ family say he suffered from depression after his children died.

His sister, Kita Thomas-Smith, attended a Houston City Council meeting on Tuesday where she tearfully urged politicians do to something about “police brutality”.

Mayor Sylvester Turner told her: “I certainly feel your pain. We are certainly sorry for any life that is taken.”

Outside city hall, Ms Thomas-Smith told the Houston Chronicle of the dashcam video. “It feels like premeditated murder.

“He was clearly walking, not running, toward the deputy not trying to hurt or harm him.”

Deputy Brewer, who had a Taser with him, has been placed on administrative leave as police investigate the shooting.

Houston Police Department said in a statement last week that Mr Thomas was found “walking in the middle of the intersection” of a busy road in the city.

Deputy Brewer noticed him with “his pants around his ankles, talking to himself and hitting vehicles as they passed by”.

“Thomas then struck a white vehicle, and the driver exited and engaged in a physical altercation with the suspect,” Houston police said.

The Harris County Sheriff’s deputy saw the fracas and stopped his car to intervene.

“Fearing for his safety, the deputy discharged his duty weapon, striking Thomas once in the chest,” said Houston police, which is leading the investigation.

In a different video taken by a bystander and published by the Chronicle last week, onlookers at a bus stop are heard laughing as they predict the officer will use a stun gun on the jaywalker.

“He’s about to get tased,” says Kaaryn Young as she films.

Gunfire rings out.

She is heard asking in disbelief: “He shot that man?

“He should have gotten tased!

“He shouldn’t have shot that man in the street.”

According to relatives, Mr Thomas’ partner murdered his two children in 2016.

She is awaiting trial for the deaths, which happened while Mr Thomas was in prison serving a three-year drug-related sentence.

28 March 2018, BBC, “Houston officer kills unarmed man walking with trousers down”, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-43574249

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20 Shots in Sacramento: Stephon Clark Killing Reignites a Furor

Hundreds of people filled Sacramento City Hall to protest the killing of Stephon Clark, who was shot by police officers who mistook his cellphone for a gun.CreditCreditMax Whittaker for The New York Times

By Jose A. Del Real, March 28, 2018

 

SACRAMENTO — Two police officers, 10 minutes, 20 bullets. Another young black man dead, this time in his grandmother’s backyard in California’s capital.

In the 10 days since Stephon Clark, 22, was fatally shot by officers investigating a vandalism complaint in his south Sacramento neighborhood, protesters have stormed City Hall and taken to the streets in anger. In a city that is mostly white and Latino, the killing, they say, is a sign of a police force that treats black residents with disdain and unfairly targets their neighborhoods.

Questions about excessive force hover over the case. A police helicopter was sent to a routine call. Officers fired 20 times at Mr. Clark. The police have also been accused of not giving Mr. Clark, who was unarmed, enough time to put his hands up and of waiting too long to call for medical help.

Adding to the scrutiny is the fact that the police muted their body cameras in the minutes after the shooting and can be seen on camera talking animatedly while Mr. Clark lay dead on the ground.

Stevante Clark, the brother of Stephon Clark, at the Sacramento district attorney’s office on Wednesday. Stephon was shot by officers responding to a vandalism call.CreditMax Whittaker for The New York Times
Image
Stevante Clark, the brother of Stephon Clark, at the Sacramento district attorney’s office on Wednesday. Stephon was shot by officers responding to a vandalism call.CreditMax Whittaker for The New York Times

The shooting has reignited the kind of protests against police killings that spread over the past several years in cities like Ferguson, Mo.; Baton Rouge, La.; and Milwaukee. Last week, protesters here shut down traffic on Interstate 5 and blocked the doors to a Sacramento Kings basketball game.

“Everybody knows that we’re getting killed regularly out here; that’s the buildup to this,” said Tanya Faison, who founded the local chapter of Black Lives Matter.

The mood was decidedly hopeful in August, when Daniel Hahn took over the Police Department as the first black police chief. Mr. Hahn defended his department in an interview on Wednesday and said that every officer had undergone training to discourage race-based discrimination, as well as de-escalation training. Though he said he could not discuss the case, he acknowledged: “Race permeates everything we do in our country. To think anything else would be naïve.”

Mr. Hahn said he had asked Xavier Becerra, the California attorney general, for help with the case. Mr. Becerra announced on Tuesday that the state’s Justice Department would join the investigation.

Local clergy and community members linked hands after a City Council meeting on Tuesday.CreditMax Whittaker for The New York Times
Image
Local clergy and community members linked hands after a City Council meeting on Tuesday.CreditMax Whittaker for The New York Times

The case began with a report of property damage. On the evening of March 18, two officers from the Sacramento Police Department were dispatched to investigate a complaint that someone was breaking vehicle windows.

A helicopter from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department was also hovering over the scene looking for a potential suspect when it identified a man with a crowbar heading toward a nearby house.

A few minutes after responding to the call, with the apparent guidance from the sheriff’s helicopter, the city police officers spotted Mr. Clark, who they said ran from them. They followed him into the backyard and ordered him to show his hands, police video shows. Seconds later, in the dark, one officer shouted, “gun, gun, gun, gun!” and they shot 20 times at Mr. Clark. The officers believed Mr. Clark had a weapon and opened fire “fearing for their lives,” according to a police statement.

The entire encounter lasted roughly 10 minutes. The officers looked for a gun but all they found was a cellphone.

2:20How Stephon Clark Was Killed by Police in His Backyard
Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed man, was shot by the police in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento on March 18. Police body camera and helicopter footage shows details of what happened.CreditCreditSacramento Police Department

Minutes later more officers arrived and the team handcuffed Mr. Clark, who lay mortally wounded.

As other officers arrived, the two involved in the shooting muted the audio feeds to their body cameras. One of the officers was black and the other was white. They are both on paid leave, Mr. Hahn said.

Timothy Davis, president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, called the event a tragedy and voiced his support for the officers involved. “No police officer ever wants to have to take a life,” Mr. Davis said. “Our officers are out there serving this community, leaving their family behind to serve this community.”

It remains unclear if the decision to mute the cameras went against official protocol, but the act alone has prompted intense suspicion. The Clark family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said that the move “reeks of impropriety” and that the Police Department was trying to cover something up. Mr. Crump represented the families of Trayvon Martin, who was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012, and Michael Brown, killed by the police in Ferguson two years later.

Mr. Hahn said that the department could not explain why the officers muted their cameras, but that the officers’s actions were under investigation. The department had been considering banning muting cameras outright before Mr. Clark was shot, he said.

Black Lives Upended by Policing: The Raw Videos Sparking Outrage

This is a collection of the viral footage that has prompted a national conversation about race and policing.

“In their training they are told a couple different instances when they can mute their body cameras. The bigger ongoing question that we are already looking into and revising our policy is: Are those reasons acceptable?” Mr. Hahn said. “Should we continue to allow people to mute those cameras for those reasons?”

Dozens attended the wake for Mr. Clark on Wednesday and hundreds are expected to attend his funeral on Thursday, including activists from outside the city and from the Black Lives Matters movement, including the Rev. Al Sharpton. More vigils and protests are planned in cities across the country in the coming days.

Anger over Mr. Clark’s death has not let up in the days since the shooting. For four hours on Tuesday night hundreds of residents gathered at a Sacramento City Council meeting to complain that Mr. Clark’s death was just the latest in a long list of injustices against the black residents.

Late last year, a young black man was punched by a county police officer repeatedly during a jaywalking stop. Video of the attack attracted widespread attention on social media and the county later settled a lawsuit in response.

On Tuesday, speakers cried as they described the poverty and increasing income inequality between wealthy parts of Sacramento and its poorer neighborhoods.

Just beyond the council chamber’s doors, angry protesters took over City Hall’s main lobby and in one instance skirmished with police officers. “You shoot us down, we shut you down!” they chanted. Later, they blocked entry to another Sacramento Kings game.

Ms. Faison said the body-camera video of Mr. Clark’s death, which the police released in the days after the shooting, painted a damning portrait of the police.

“That’s just disgusting, honestly. That video. I don’t even know. I feel like they started shooting before they even looked at him. It looked like they were coming around the corner shooting and he was walking toward them to see what the noise was,” she said. “Why would you fly a helicopter for someone breaking into cars?”

Mayor Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, who has received the brunt of the criticism and led the council meeting, said in an interview Wednesday that he was sympathetic to the complaints and that people of color in Sacramento have genuine grievances about the police.

“Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, which will be based on the current laws and the current policies and the current training, what happened here, the outcome, was plain wrong,” he said. “A 22-year-old man should not have died in this way.”

Jose A. Del Real, March 28, 2018, NYTimes, 20 Shots in Sacramento: Stephon Clark Killing Reignites a Furor”, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/28/us/sacramento-stephon-clark.html

Phoenix man paralyzed by police shooting makes claim of brutality

Attorney Tom Horne speaks during a Sept. 24, 2018, press conference with client Edward Brown, who was was left paralyzed after being shot by a Phoenix Police officer Aug. 5, 2018. (KTAR Photo/Ali Vetnar)

https://omny.fm/shows/ktar-reporter-audio/edward-brown-shooting/embed?style=cover

PHOENIX — On Aug. 5, 36-year-old Edward Brown was shot in the back by a Phoenix Police officer, leaving him paralyzed.

At a press conference Monday, Brown, who is black, claimed he was a victim of police brutality and excessive force because of his race.

Brown was joined by his attorney, former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, and Phoenix civil rights activist Rev. Jarrett Maupin.

The police report on the incident indicated that Brown was shot after attempting to grab an officer’s gun near Glenrosa and 22nd avenues after police attempted to stop him when they received a call for suspicious activity involving drugs.

Brown and his representatives said there are errors and inconsistencies in the police description of the shooting.

The report said Brown ran through the yards of several homes before reaching a fence he couldn’t hop over. When the officer drew his gun from about 20 feet away, the report said, Brown ran at the officer.

The report said as Brown approached the officer he “swiped” at the gun, and the officer indicated he felt the tip of his gun get hit. That is when he stepped back and fired, striking Brown one time.

Brown admitted to running from police because he has a felony warrant, according to the report. However, the report said, Brown denied running toward the officer or attempting to grab his gun. He also indicated the marijuana was planted by the officer.

“If Edward had been trying to take a gun from the police officer as has been alleged in the publicity that has come from the police department, he would have been shot in the front, not in the back,” Horne said during the press conference.

He was charged with aggravated assault on an officer and possession of marijuana.

Maupin displayed a medical marijuana card that he said belonged to Brown and was in effect at the time of the shooting.

Brown’s family plans to hold a protest outside City Hall on Friday night. Brown wants all charges dropped and is planning a lawsuit.

When reached, the Phoenix Police Department said it does not comment on cases pending litigation.

ALI VETNAR, SEPTEMBER 24, 2018, “Phoenix man paralyzed by police shooting makes claim of brutality”, http://ktar.com/story/2232585/phoenix-man-paralyzed-by-police-shooting-makes-claim-of-brutality/

Dallas Police shooting illustrates dangers of police brutality and victim blaming

Guyger+was+charged+with+manslaughter+and+was+later+released+on+bond.

Guyger was charged with manslaughter and was later released on bond.

Carrie Pommerening,

 

Dallas police officer Amber Guyger’s story sounds like a dark plot of a Saturday Night Live skit, and it contradicts what the neighbors claimed to have heard.

On Sept. 6, Guyger, 30, shot and killed Botham Jean, 26, in his own apartment at South Side Flats.

Guyger claims to have mistaken his apartment for her own, and that the door to the apartment was already open when she tried to insert the key. This made her suspicious. According to Guyger, she didn’t know she was in the wrong apartment until she turned the lights on after shooting Jean from across the room.

According to Lee Merritt, the attorney for Jean’s family, two neighbors heard someone knocking on the door before the shooting. One witness says they heard someone shout “Let me in! Let me in!” Another claims to have heard Jean yell out “Oh my God! Why did you do that?” after hearing shots fired.

It’s sickening to think of the possible reasons why Guyger would want to kill Jean. Family and friends of Jean have spoken highly of his character to the news. Alyssa Kinsey, a neighbor of Jean’s, told CNN that he was a “quiet, friendly and super chill” neighbor. She also said they would “talk about life together, smiling and laughing. He had a huge smile.”

The police wasted no time in trying to find ways to smear this friendly character. According to an article from Fox News, within hours of Jean getting shot, the police asked a judge for a search warrant to search his apartment for drugs and other things. On Thursday, Sept. 13, the results of the search warrant were released. Investigators had found 10.4 grams of marijuana and a marijuana grinder.

Seems like the new way to investigate murder is to criminalize the victim.

This trend of victim-blaming has plagued the justice system. Most of the black men killed by police officers have been criminalized in some way. Back in 2014, the Ferguson police tried to criminalize Michael Brown after he was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson. According to the New York Times, they claimed that he had stolen cigarettes, and even punched Wilson before being shot. The reports from witnesses say otherwise. How dare victims like Michael Brown get shot? Police only protect and serve, and they never do anything wrong.

How dare Jean get shot in his own home.

The only right thing the police have done in this case was arrest Guyger. If only this didn’t happen three days after the shooting or in another county. This is probably why we haven’t heard about the investigation of claims that Guyger and Jean were previously in a relationship. Even if they start investigating that, they’ll likely point the finger at Jean somehow. Until then, Jean’s family does not know what happened that night, or why Guyger killed their loved one.

Carrie Pommerening, “Dallas Police shooting illustrates dangers of police brutality and victim blaming”, https://www.hilltopviewsonline.com/16205/viewpoints/dallas-police-shooting-illustrates-dangers-of-police-brutality-and-victim-blaming/

 

Elkhart cops to be charged after video shows them beating handcuffed man

Elkhart Police
A still frame from security camera footage of Elkhart Police officers punching a handcuffed man while in their custody.

Two Elkhart police officers who punched a handcuffed man in the face more than 10 times will face criminal charges — 11 months after the fact, and only after the South Bend Tribune requested video of the incident as part of an ongoing investigation with ProPublica.

The two officers, Cory Newland and Joshua Titus, will be charged with misdemeanor counts of battery, the police department announced Friday. Both have been placed on administrative leave pending the case’s outcome, department spokesman Sgt. Travis Snider said.

The department also released video of the beating after 5 p.m. Friday — more than three weeks after The Tribune requested a copy.

Five months ago, the two officers were disciplined for this incident. But they received only reprimands rather than suspensions or possible termination.

Speaking to the city’s civilian oversight commission in June, Police Chief Ed Windbigler said the officers used “a little more force than needed” with a suspect in custody, and “just went a little overboard when they took him to the ground.” But Windbigler offered no other details, saying nothing of the two officers punching the man in the face.

The video was recorded in the police station’s detention area after the Jan. 12 arrest of Mario Guerrero Ledesma, who was 28 at the time. The footage shows Ledesma, in handcuffs, sitting in a chair while Newland, Titus and two other officers stand nearby. At one point, Ledesma prepares to spit at Newland, and the officer warns him not to.

As Ledesma spits, Newland and Titus immediately tackle him, and the back of his head strikes the concrete floor. The two officers then jump on him and punch him in the face repeatedly while one calls him an expletive.

Video: Video: Elkhart cops repeatedly punch handcuffed man in station

The two other officers walk up casually as the punches are being thrown. “Stop,” one can be heard saying, as the beating ends.

Ledesma pleaded guilty in July to charges of domestic battery and resisting law enforcement, and he was sentenced to a year in jail, with 133 days suspended.

The Tribune and the nonprofit news organization ProPublica have been investigating criminal justice in Elkhart County, looking at police accountability, among other issues.

A Tribune reporter requested the Ledesma video after noting a disparity between Windbigler’s public description to the Police Merit Commission — the city panel that exercises civilian oversight — and what the chief wrote in personnel records.

In a June 12 letter of reprimand to Newland, Windbigler wrote: “I completely understand defending yourself during an altercation. However, striking a handcuffed subject in the face is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. We cannot let our emotions direct our reactions or over-reactions to situations such as this.”

Windbigler ended his disciplinary letters, to both Newland and Titus, on an upbeat note: “I consider this matter closed!”

At the June 25 meeting of the Police Merit Commission, chairman James Rieckhoff asked Windbigler if anyone had been injured in this incident.

“No,” Windbigler said.

Windbigler, explaining why he opted for only reprimands, told the commission that Titus “had no previous complaints.” He said of Newland: “Here, again, he had no other incidents in his file, so this is his first incident of any type of force.”

“Any questions on this one?” Rieckhoff asked the commission’s other members.

“Just a comment,” commissioner Thomas Barber said. “I like how you police your own.”

“Yes, sir,” Windbigler said.

On Friday, The Tribune requested an interview with the chief. But Snider, the police spokesman, said the department would have no further comment beyond its announcement of the pending charges. Neither Newland nor Titus immediately returned messages left at their department phone lines. Attempts to reach them at other phone numbers were unsuccessful.

History of misconduct

For Newland, the reprimand was not his first disciplinary incident. It was his ninth, according to personnel records gathered by The Tribune and ProPublica.

After being hired in 2008, Newland was suspended six times and reprimanded twice in his first five years.

In 2009, Newland was “very rude and unprofessional,” using profanity toward a member of the public while responding to a call, personnel records say. The police chief at the time, Dale Pflibsen, suspended Newland for one day. “You have been employed for just over one year and this is not the first allegation of you verbally loosing (sic) control towards the public,” Pflibsen wrote to Newland.

“I want to emphasize we will not tolerate this behavior from you towards anyone,” Pflibsen added. “If you plan on continuing your career at the Elkhart Police Department I suggest you seek counseling for anger management.”

The next year, in 2010, Newland was suspended one day for causing a car crash.

In 2011, Newland received a three-day suspension for conduct unbecoming an officer. After arresting a woman for public nudity — she and her boyfriend were having sex in their car, in

Elkhart’s McNaughton park — Newland sent her a friend request on Facebook and seven text messages, asking to “hang out.”

“Needless to say you attempting to establish a relationship with this female, a defendant in a criminal case, is unprofessional,” Pflibsen wrote to Newland. “This type of conduct will not be tolerated by you or anyone else.”

One year later, in February 2012, Newland was suspended again, this time for one day. Newland, while off duty, flipped off another driver — who, it turned out, was a jail officer in St. Joseph County, according to a disciplinary letter. Newland also drove recklessly, “brake checking” the other driver, according to disciplinary records.

“Should there be another sustained allegation of this type of misconduct on or off duty I will seriously consider your termination from the Elkhart Police Department,” Chief Pflibsen wrote to Newland.

Exactly one week later, still in February, Newland received a three-day suspension for not turning on his video-audio recording equipment “while on numerous calls and traffic stops,” a disciplinary notice says.

Newland’s last suspension — and his longest, for 35 days — came in the summer of 2013. Newland failed to investigate a woman’s complaint of domestic violence, then lied about it to his superiors, according to disciplinary records.

When asked directly by supervisors if the woman had said her husband hit her, Newland “indicated that she had not made any such statement, and only that there was some pushing involved,” a disciplinary letter said. But “within minutes of the end of the interview,” Newland “returned and informed his supervisors that the victim had, in fact, reported being hit by her husband.”

An audio recording captured the woman telling Newland she had been hit, and that her husband did so in front of her children, a disciplinary letter says.

Newland’s failure to be truthful did more than violate department policy, Chief Pflibsen wrote to the civilian oversight board. If a police officer testifies as a witness, authorities must disclose if the officer “has been dishonest in his or her official capacity,” Pflibsen wrote, adding: “This incident has been referred to the Prosecutor’s Office and may have a significant detrimental impact on their ability to prosecute this case.”

“Elkhart cops to be charged after video shows them beating handcuffed man”,  https://www.southbendtribune.com/news/publicsafety/elkhartjustice/elkhart-cops-to-be-charged-after-video-shows-them-beating/article_401f6756-613b-53b0-91ad-b15b6276489a.html

Six California officers shot man as he woke in his car

13 February 2019

Willie McCoy pictured with another music artist and his cousinImage copyrightDAVID HARRISON/FACEBOOK
Image captionWillie McCoy (right) in an image shared by his cousin David Harrison (centre)

California police have said a 20-year-old black man who was shot and killed in his car by six officers last week had reached for a gun first.

But Willie McCoy’s family has pushed back, saying the aspiring rapper was not a threat to the officers as he was just waking up.

Vallejo police had been called for a wellness check when a driver was spotted slumped over in his vehicle.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene on 9 February.

“Any loss of life is a tragedy,” police chief Andrew Bidou said in an updated report of the incident on Tuesday.

The police report does not name Mr McCoy as the driver, citing the ongoing investigation, but local media identified him after speaking with family members.

Vallejo is a city near San Francisco that has been the site of several alleged cases of police brutality against black residents.

What do Vallejo police say?

According to the police department, officers received a call from employees at a Taco Bell fast food restaurant on Saturday night, requesting a check-up on a driver in the parking lot.

When they arrived on scene, they saw Mr McCoy unresponsive in his vehicle with a semi-automatic handgun on his lap. More officers were called while Mr McCoy slept.

Police had planned on opening the car door and retrieving the weapon before engaging Mr McCoy, but were unable to do so as the doors were locked.

Mr McCoy then woke up and looked at the officers, who commanded him to keep his hands visible. Police then say he did not comply and “quickly moved his hands downward for the firearm”.

“Fearing for their safety, six officers fired their duty weapons at the driver,” the news release stated. Multiple rounds were fired in a span of four seconds.

“Officers continued to yell commands at the driver and ultimately reached through the broken glass of the driver’s window to unlock the vehicle.”

Police attempted medical assistance but the driver died at the scene. An official post-mortem examination is still under way.

A preliminary investigation found that the gun had been reported stolen in Oregon.

The officers have not been named and have been placed on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.

Photo of Willie McCoy and his cousin David HarrisonImage copyrightDAVID HARRISON/FACEBOOK
Image captionWillie McCoy (left) and his cousin David Harrison

What does the family say?

Mr McCoy’s family has disputed this police account.

During a vigil on Sunday, Mr McCoy’s older brother Mark said police had surprised Mr McCoy and fired too quickly.

“My little brother was just shot for no reason,” he said, according to CBS News.

“If I wake you up… if I knock on your front door and, ‘Bang bang bang!’ you’re going to jump off the bed,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you be safe while you wake him up and then [say] ‘Driver, exit the car’?”

David Harrison, Mr McCoy’s cousin, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that Mr McCoy was raised by relatives after his parents passed away when he was a child.

He said his cousin had finished up a session in a recording studio before he drove to the Taco Bell.

In an emotional Facebook video, Mr Harrison pleaded with other young people to listen to their parents and keep away from cops.

“I want no other parents, no other kid’s parents, to go through this ever again,” Mr Harrison said. “They can’t just keep killing us in the street like this. My little cousin was asleep in the car.”

Mr McCoy’s family has hired civil rights attorney John Burris – who recently took on a case where a homeless man sleeping in Oakland was killed by police – to represent them, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

13 February 2019, bbc, “Six California officers shot man as he woke in his car”, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47229247

Euclid officers named in police brutality lawsuits showed warning signs in use of force reports

Handful of cops involved in majority of incidents
Posted: 5:59 AM, Nov 01, 2018
Updated: 7:17 AM, Feb 07, 2019

Red Flags: Euclid’s Use of Force

You may have seen the viral video – a Euclid Police officer beating a man during a traffic stop. But our six-month investigation into the department goes even deeper, uncovering serious red flags related to police use of force. We found a small group of officers are involved in the most incidents, and despite police brutality lawsuits, almost all of them are still patrolling the streets.

Broken trust

Melissa Highsmith always wanted to be a police officer.

The 30-year-old Cleveland resident earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and even applied for a job at a local police department.

“You’re supposed to trust them,” Highsmith said. “You’re taught when you’re little, police officers are there to help you.

“But now, it’s like completely opposite,” she said. “That’s the last place I want to go if I need anything.”

Melissa Highsmith

On March 6, 2017, Highsmith expected a quiet night.

Around 6 p.m., she drove to Euclid to meet her friend, Shanell Gist, at Gist’s apartment.

The long-time friends planned to celebrate Gist’s final semester of graduate school.

First, they spent a few moments in the parking lot. Gist wanted to show Highsmith her new car.

Highsmith said they didn’t see or hear anyone.

“We were outside for a couple minutes,” Highsmith said. “Went back upstairs, locked her door, getting settled in.”

They opened the bottle of champagne Highsmith brought as Gist’s 2-year-old daughter played in another room.

Then, without warning, a man kicked down the front door and burst into the apartment.

Highsmith was scared. She was also confused.

The man who had used a knife to break the lock and enter the apartment was Euclid Police Officer Daniel Ferritto.

Highsmith said Ferritto screamed at her and Gist, repeatedly claiming they ran from him when they were outside.

“He said, ‘You don’t run from the f**king police,’” she said. “That’s when I started verbalizing, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. I would never run from police. I want to be a police officer.’”

The next thing she knew, she said, Ferritto grabbed both sides of her shirt and dragged her to the cement patio outside the apartment.

“He picked me up and just slammed me onto the ground,” Highsmith said. “I was slammed on my head, like bleeding from the back of my head. Bleeding on my knees from being thrown on the cement.”

She said Ferritto placed her in handcuffs facedown on the ground but refused to explain why he arrested her.

“I was terrified of what was going to happen next…nothing made sense,” she said. “A person like that should not get to hold the position that he holds. It’s scary.”

Officer Daniel Ferritto

In his incident report, Ferritto said he demanded the women stop after hearing Highsmith and Gist yelling racial slurs in the parking lot. He also said they had an open container of alcohol in the car.

“The two females fled on foot from police and one of the females resisted,” according to Ferritto’s narrative. “The other female [Gist] endangered her two-year-old child by leaving her home alone.”

Highsmith was charged with open container in a motor vehicle, resisting arrest and obstructing justice.

Gist was charged with child endangerment.

The charges against both women were eventually dismissed.

“[That tells me] that I did nothing wrong,” Highsmith said. “And they [Euclid Police] did everything wrong. And they know it.”

She and Gist have since filed a federal lawsuit against Ferritto and the City of Euclid for civil rights violations.

The incident is among the hundreds of use of force reports 5 On Your Side Investigators reviewed as part of our exclusive investigation.

We uncovered a broken system that leaves innocent civilians injured and allows problem officers to continue patrolling the streets – in many cases, with little or no accountability.

Troubling trends

For example, Ferritto was never investigated related to Highsmith’s incident, even after the lawsuit was filed, and remains on the force.

When a Euclid Police officer uses force during an incident, he or she must report what happened in what’s called a resistance/response form, per department policy .

Resistance Response Form

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/392084153/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-1eGwMqENmGgqlYEgG408&show_recommendations=true

Jim Buerrmann

We spent six months examining all of the 273 forms filed by officers between January 2016 and June 2018.

Immediately, a troubling pattern emerged: only a handful of officers were involved in the majority of incidents involving uses of force, including punches, takedowns and Tasers.

Our data analysis found less than 20 percent of Euclid Police officers were involved in more than 80 percent of the use of force incidents.

“When that happens, that is a red flag for the organization,” said Jim Buerrmann, president of the Police Foundation, a non-partisan research group dedicated to improving policing practices.

“Clearly, when a small number of people are responsible for the lion’s share of the use of force, somebody needs to be taking a very hard look at that,” he said.

Familiar faces

So, which officers used force the most?

Officer Michael Amiott. Photo credit: AP

Some are familiar faces, like Officer Michael Amiott.

We found he was involved in 17 incidents, the seventh highest number of any officer within the department.

Recently, an arbitrator awarded Amiott his job back after he was fired when a video of him beating 25-year-old Richard Hubbard III was posted on Facebook and went viral.

WARNING: The video below contains graphic content.

In the video, you can see Amiott repeatedly punching Hubbard in the face.

The police brutality incident occurred during a routine traffic stop on Aug. 12, 2017.

In their report, officers at the scene said Hubbard ignored commands to turn away from officers after he was ordered to get out of his car.

Hubbard was charged with driving under suspension and resisting arrest, but, like Highsmith and Gist, he was later cleared of all charges .

On Sept. 28, Hubbard filed a federal lawsuit against Amiott, two additional officers and the City of Euclid alleging civil rights violations.

After the City of Euclid announced Amiott was awarded his job back by an arbitrator, the Euclid NAACP issued a travel advisory for “travelers, particularly those of color to proceed with caution when driving through the municipality of Euclid, Ohio.”

Amiott is also facing allegations of police brutality in a separate federal lawsuit filed in January stemming from another incident.

Erimius Spencer, 30, alleged Amiott reached into his pocket without cause and pulled out what appeared to be a small amount of marijuana during a Dec. 5, 2016 arrest.

The lawsuit alleges Amiott then twisted Spencer’s arm, kneed him in the groin, pushed him to the ground, Tased him 10 times and kicked him in the face.

The kick fractured Spencer’s orbital bone.

Erimius Spencer’s injuries. Photo credit: Paul Cristallo

Our analysis also shows Euclid officers use or display Tasers more often than any other type of force.

Infogram

In addition, we found Amiott’s partner during the arrest, Shane Rivera, was involved in more use of force incidents than almost any other officer during the time period we reviewed.

Officer Shane Rivera’s name appears on 24 response/resistance forms. Photo credit: Facebook

Lamar’s lament

Lamar Wright

“The things they have done, the way they handle people, they just [need to] redo their whole force,” 37-year-old Lamar Wright said.

Wright has also filed a federal lawsuit alleging civil rights violations by Euclid Police officers.

On Nov. 4, 2016, he pulled into a driveway of an acquaintance on East 212th Street in Euclid to call his girlfriend.

Seconds later, two men wearing dark clothing appeared at his car doors, guns drawn.

He thought he was being carjacked by robbers.

Instead, it turned out the two men were Euclid Police officers Kyle Flagg and Vashon Williams, who were doing surveillance on a nearby home.

Officers Vashon Williams and Kyle Flagg. Photo credit: Facebook

It was surveillance that had nothing to do with Wright.

Flagg’s body camera video shows the officers demand Wright show them his hands and get on the ground.

WARNING: The video below contains graphic content.

For a brief moment, Wright struggled to raise his arms.

He had recently had stomach surgery. A colostomy bag was still attached to his right side.

“I was in bad shape,” he said. “My stomach was still open from the staples.”

Wright said Flagg then grabbed and twisted his left arm and pulled him to the ground. In the video, you can hear Wright repeatedly say Flagg is hurting him. Flagg then deployed his Taser. Williams used his pepper spray.

The officers accused Wright of “reaching,” appearing as if he was grabbing a weapon.

Wright said he was lifting up the arm rest around his colostomy bag to cooperate with officers’ orders. Police did not find a gun in his car.

“I mean, you just don’t treat people like that,” Wright said. “I just wish this doesn’t happen to anybody else.”

Wright’s lawsuit alleges Flagg and Williams filed false police reports about the incident.

They charged Wright with resisting arrest and traffic violations. Those charges were dismissed.

The officers remain on patrol.

“It’s crazy – like they’re almost getting away with it,” Wright said.

The outlier

Even more troubling, we found Flagg was involved in 35 use of force incidents alone – more than any other officer.

“You need to find out why this officer has many times more use of force cases than other officers,” Buerrmann said. “The best practices in policing today indicate that you should take a look at what’s going on with that officer’s experience.”

Like Rivera, Ferritto, who’s accused of attacking Highsmith, was involved in multiple incidents. Specifically, his name is mentioned on 24 response/resistance forms.

Between Flagg, Ferritto and Rivera, the three officers account for 30 percent of the department’s use of force response/resistance forms.

“It’s obligation of the leadership of that organization to try to find out why that’s occurring and then make a decision about helping that officer, removing them from the context or removing them from the organizations…[and] protect the people of that community.” Buerrmann said.

“Sometimes, it is the assignment the officer gets…sometimes there’s personal issues going on. Frequently, it is that latter case,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s because they lack certain training.”

Trouble with training

The department’s use of force training has come under fire in the six federal lawsuits filed against the City of Euclid over police brutality during the last two years.

In a recent lawsuit filed by Euclid resident Shajuan Gray, the complaint referred to a use of force PowerPoint presentation utilized by the department for training purposes.

The first slide, part of the department’s 2017 winter in-service “Defensive Tactics Training,” shows the image of an officer in what appears to be riot gear striking a person lying on the ground with their hands in the air. A caption next to the image reads, “serving and protecting the poop out of you.”

Slide from Euclid Police training presentation.

Gray, 46, said on March 27, 2017, Officer James Aoki knocked on her door about a noise complaint that she was playing her music too loud. She was in the shower at the time and answered her door in a bath wrap.

Gray alleged Aoki forced his way into her apartment and assaulted her in her kitchen, leaving her with bruises on her body.

“As he’s slamming me and pushing me against the freezer and refrigerator, he’s twisting my arms up in an uncomfortable position,” she said. “I’m telling him then, ‘You’re hurting me. Why are you doing this to me? Please stop.’”

Shajuan Gray

In the lawsuit, Gray said her bath wrap fell off while Aoki allegedly assaulted her, exposing her chest. She said he refused to let her to get dressed before he took her to the police department.

Aoki, who has been involved in 14 other incidents involving the use of force since 2016, did not have a body camera on during the incident.

Later, an assisting officer arrived, who was wearing a body camera. His video showed Gray walking down the stairs of her apartment in handcuffs wearing only her bath wrap. She can be heard asking to be allowed to put on clothes and telling officers they’re hurting her.

WARNING: The video below contains graphic content.

In an incident report, Aoki said Gray refused to provide her name, tried to shut the door on the officer and resisted arrest.

She was acquitted of the charges filed against her after the incident, which included resisting arrest, obstruction of official business and noise violation charges.

Gray’s lawsuit wasn’t the only one that highlighted problems with Euclid’s use of force training presentation.

Luke Stewart was shot and killed by Officer Matthew Rhodes in March of 2017.

According to his family’s complaint , Stewart was asleep in his car and unarmed when Rhodes approached him. After waking Stewart, a struggle ensued when Stewart began to drive his car.

Rhodes then shot him.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin ruled Rhodes was justified when he shot Stewart, but, in an unusual move for a judge, he sharply criticized the Euclid Police Department.

In his ruling , Gwin wrote the training presentation shows the department displays a “cavalier indifference” to use of force training.

Along with the cartoon of an officer beating an unarmed individual, the presentation also featured a skit by comedian Chris Rock, titled, “How to not get your ass kicked by the police!”

“Have you ever been face-to-face with a police officer?” asks the comedian. “If you have to give a friend a ride, get a white friend. A white friend can be the difference between getting a ticket or getting a bullet in your a**.”

Gwin described the comedy video as “grossly inappropriate” to show officers as part of formal training.

He also criticized the department for giving officers the same “barebones” test each year on its use of force policies and Chief Scott Meyer’s failure to create a training committee as mandated by the department’s policy manual.

We made multiple requests via phone and email for a sit-down interview with Meyer. He did not respond, so we went to a recent city council meeting to share our findings and ask him about his department’s use of force.

When asked whether he believes the police department’s training materials are appropriate, Meyer said yes. When specifically asked about the Chris Rock video, he did not respond.

Leadership matters

We also asked Meyer why 20 percent of his officers account for more than 80 percent of use of force response/resistance form.

“That’s something we could talk about at a later time,” Meyer said.

Investigative reporter Sarah Buduson asks Police Chief Scott Meyer questions at a recent council meeting

We asked if our findings indicate a red flag regarding the officers’ conduct. He told Investigator Sarah Buduson, “Didn’t I just tell you? It’s not that I don’t have a comment. I don’t have a comment for you.”

“Leadership in police matters,” Buerrmann said. “The police chief or the sheriff is very similar to the captain of the ship. What he or she says to the organization, or doesn’t say, sends a very clear message about what’s acceptable. Any statement, or lack thereof by any police leader, can potentially be problematic.”

“There’s a clear problem with their training,” Highsmith added. “I think they need to kind of revamp their entire police department.”

Hours after our investigation published online, Euclid Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail responded to News 5’s reporting via email and said the city and police are “committed to providing a safe community and to treating all residents justly and with dignity and respect.”

She said the city has contacted the U.S. Department of Justice to implement a procedural justice training program for its officers. You can read her full statement below:

RE: Mayor Gail Response to Red Flags

The City of Euclid and the Euclid Police Department remain committed to providing a safe community and to treating all residents justly and with dignity and respect. The incidents in this report occurred in 2016 and 2017. Our goal remains to continuously upgrade and improve the Euclid Police Department. To that end, we have implemented new programs such as a multi-department use of force review committee. We reached out to the Department of Justice to implement a Procedural Justice Training Program, the very first of its kind in Ohio. We have and will continue to far exceed state training requirements and have enhanced training in areas including community relations, de-escalation techniques, and defensive tactics. EPD use of force incidents remain well below the national average*. We will continue to work with the Euclid Police Department, residents, and community partners to ensure Euclid remains a community where we all can be proud to live, work and visit.

*See: http://euclidpd.org/response-to-resistance/

Kirsten Holzheimer Gail

Mayor, City of Euclid

A day after News 5 published this report, the Euclid FOP Lodge 18 responded by calling the investigation a “witch hunt,” and providing a statement which reads, in part:

The officers mentioned are some of the most decorated in the department and are probably responsible for taking more guns, drugs and violent criminals off the streets than the rest of the department combined. Some are even assigned to a Community Response Unit, which is tasked with addressing severe crime in the community. Some have saved almost as many overdose victims with Narcan, as times they’ve used force.

You can read their complete statement on their Facebook page here.

A dream on hold

After Ferritto hurt her, Highsmith said, she feels anxious when she sees a police officer.

“[It’s] constant, automatic,” she said. “Everything tightens up. Even if I’m just driving down the highway.”

She said the incident led her to put her dream of becoming of police officer on hold.

“I don’t want to work alongside them,” she said. “I just feel like I can’t trust police officers.”

 

“Euclid officers named in police brutality lawsuits showed warning signs in use of force reports”, https://www.news5cleveland.com/longform/euclid-officers-named-in-police-brutality-lawsuits-showed-warning-signs-in-use-of-force-reports

Fellow officers testify as police brutality case continues

 

Prosecutors and defense attorneys dissected video footage taken outside bars on Chippewa Street during testimony on Tuesday in the alleged brutality case against a Buffalo police officer.

The focus on the second day of testimony in Corey R. Krug’s trial – in which two fellow officers took the witness stand – centered on the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day 2014, as what’s known as the biggest bar night of the year was winding down in downtown Buffalo.

The civil rights case against Krug centers on what happened on Chippewa more than four years ago, along with two other separate allegations that he used excessive force. Krug’s defense attorneys argue his force was justified.

Jurors on Tuesday repeatedly were shown footage taken by a WKBW-TV photographer before, during and after Krug allegedly pushed a man against a car, took him to the ground and repeatedly hit him with a nightstick.

Devin Ford, of Lackawanna, the man seen in the video with Krug, had just been ejected from a Chippewa bar, along with another man after the other man sucker punched Ford inside, according to the testimony of two men who were out with Ford that night.

After the parties exited the former Indulge Bar & Night Club sometime around 3 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2014, the two sides nearly got into another physical confrontation in the middle of Chippewa Street, but were dispersed after police officers used pepper spray.

Men on each side of the dispute, despite the urging of officers to leave the area, seemed to be close to fighting again when officers intervened near the corner of Chippewa and Pearl streets, witnesses testified.

Officer Anniel Vidal, who was Krug’s partner that night working a special police detail in the Chippewa area, testified the apparent dispute that started inside Indulge lingered out on the street.

Police intervened because it appeared the men were going to start fighting again, Vidal told the court.

“All I saw was Officer Krug standing and I saw the guy on the ground,” Vidal testified. As he approached, Vidal said he ordered Ford – who was on his back – to get onto his stomach because he thought he was going to be arrested.

But Ford was not arrested and was allowed to walk away.

Officer Maurice Foster, who was stationed at the corner of Chippewa and Pearl that night, said he first noticed the WKBW cameraman walking down Chippewa. When Foster noticed the videographer was following Krug, he said he approached Krug to tell him the cameraman was following him.

Foster, who testified he had just separated two men involved in the dispute from inside the bar who had thrown punches, said he wasn’t telling his fellow officer because he felt Krug was doing anything wrong, but he wasn’t sure if Krug had heard him.

Krug’s defense attorneys grilled the day’s two other witnesses: Ford’s best friend, Sean M. Dechent, and his older brother, Justin Dechent, both of whom had accompanied Ford to a bar in Lackawanna before the trio came to Chippewa and visited two bars.

Ford’s injuries, including cuts and bruises on his legs, made him decide to sit out an annual football game played among friends later on Thanksgiving morning, Sean Dechent testified.

Ford, now 26, testified Monday about his encounter with Krug. “I just remember being on my back, saying ‘I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything,’ ” he said in court.

After video footage of their encounter first became public, the FBI investigated and found evidence of two other alleged incidents of brutality, both of them documented in earlier civil suits against the officer.

Krug, a Buffalo officer since 2000, was charged in August 2015 with deprivation of rights under color of law and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara at several points during Tuesday’s testimony found problematic some defense attorneys’ questions of witnesses about what was seen in the footage.

“The video speaks for itself,” the judge said at one point.

Defense attorneys argued Ford was lying in his accusations in order to bolster his pending lawsuit against Krug, the Buffalo Police Department and the City of Buffalo. The defense is also expected to introduce evidence of Krug’s record, including having made more than 1,000 arrests and his reputation for working in the city’s toughest neighborhoods and the everyday risks that go along with the job.

Krug’s trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Prosecution witnesses are expected to be called about an August 2010 incident in which Krug was accused of hitting a man with a metal flashlight during an alleged confrontation at the man’s Langmeyer Street home.

|Published |, Buffalo News, “Fellow officers testify as police brutality case continues”, https://buffalonews.com/2019/02/05/fellow-officers-testify-as-police-brutality-case-continues/

Jury awards man $250,000 in police brutality suit

January 31, 2019

BOSTON (AP) — A federal jury has awarded $250,000 to a Massachusetts man who said Springfield police used excessive force when they responded to his home for reports of a domestic disturbance.

Lawyers for Lee Hutchins Sr. told Masslive.com that the jury found Wednesday that one of the three responding officers used excessive force and the other two unlawfully entered Hutchins’ home in January 2015.

Hutchins said in the suit that police pepper-sprayed his eyes and beat him with batons while he was trying to defuse a domestic melee.

The jury also found that “the city of Springfield had a custom of failing to discipline officers and this custom demonstrated deliberate indifference to the rights” of citizens.

A city lawyer said Springfield is “reviewing all of its options for post-trial motions and appeals.”

January 31, 2019, Associated Press, “Jury awards man $250,000 in police brutality suit”, https://www.apnews.com/25ccb302f60143dcb5ec092de89ad435

‘We want justice’: Family of George Robinson calls for JPD officers to be jailed

Alissa Zhu, Mississippi Clarion Ledger Published 5:24 p.m. CT Jan. 24, 2019 | Updated 9:25 a.m. CT Jan. 25, 2019

More than a dozen members of George Robinson’s family gathered in front of a white and light blue house in Washington Addition on Thursday afternoon.

A white Chevy Impala — with two San Francisco 49ers hats peaking out the rear window — was parked out front, next to a large evergreen tree.

News cameras surrounded the sunlight-bathed scene.

Attorney Dennis Sweet IV, with Sweet and Associates, addressed the onlookers.

“You all are not at a press conference today. Today, we are at a crime scene,” Sweet said.

Sweet announced that he and his father are representing Robinson’s family. They have hired an independent investigator to look into the death of the 62-year-old, who died of a head injury two days after he was arrested by Jackson police officers.

“Upon our preliminary investigation, we believe that Mr. Robinson died as a result of police misconduct. We believe that Mr. Robinson died as a result of the use of excessive force by Jackson police officers,” Sweet said.

Last week, the Jackson Police Department announced it launched an internal investigation into Robinson’s death.

Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart confirmed Wednesday Robinson’s death was ruled a homicide. That same day, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba announced three officers involved with Robinson’s arrest have been placed on paid administrative leave.

Sweet said Robinson was sitting in the car the night of Jan. 13, when officers approached him.

“(They) pulled him out of the car, and beat him — brutally beat him. And that beating resulted in his death. To add insult to injury, they gave him a citation for disobeying a police officer,” Sweet said.

Police said those officers, who are part of JPD’s K-9 unit, were searching for the men suspected of killing the Rev. Anthony Longino as he opened his church, one block away from Robinson’s home, earlier that Sunday. Two men have since been charged with Longino’s murder.

Robinson was arrested for failing to obey an officer and resisting arrest, police said. He was released, with the expectation he would show up for a later court date.

Robinson’s sister, Bettersten Wade, said the officers involved “should be in jail.”

JPD is not releasing the officers’ names. Sweet also declined to identify them at this point.

“We want justice for George,” Wade said. “…(Police) are supposed to protect and serve us. But instead, we did not get protected, we did not get served. We did not get justice. Not yet.”

Wade said Robinson had suffered a stroke on Christmas, which he was still recovering from at the time of his arrest.

Wade said their mother, who has lost two sons in recent weeks, is “suffering.”

Sweet said independent investigator Tyrone Lewis, a former Hinds County sheriff, has conducted several interviews and is in the process of collecting statements.

“We want to see these officers prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Sweet said. “This man was brutally beaten. That caused his death. That is a murder.”

WAPT-TV reported witnesses saw police slam Robinson to the ground and hit him in the head with a flashlight. During last week’s press conference, Jackson Police Chief James Davis said it was too early in the investigation to confirm if that’s what happened.

A JPD spokesman said he is not aware of any body camera footage of the arrest.

Robinson was kind, generous and uplifting, his friends and neighbors said.

One friend called him a “source of happiness” in the neighborhood.