VA Police Brutality: Victim Gets Settlement In Excessive Force Lawsuit

The Phoenix VA Medical Center settled an excessive force lawsuit with one veteran who was the victim of VA police brutality caught on video.

The veteran, Errick Hathaway, served multiple tours in Kosovo but received a bad conduct discharge in 2005. That discharge resulted in Hathaway being ineligible for mental health care he needed in 2015 when attacked by VA police at Phoenix VA Medical Center.

Just last year, lawmakers changed the preclusion allowing veterans like Hathaway to receive some mental health care. The US Armed Forces frequently discharged service-members suffering from PTSD without diagnosis using bad conduct discharges as a means to evade taxpayer accountability through disability benefits and health care, later.

Hathaway occasionally sought care from Phoenix VA for his mental health, which he sometimes received based on humanitarian grounds decided by local clinicians or administrators.

Hathaway VA Police Brutality

So, when he tried to get care at Phoenix VA on September 9, 2015, his presence at the medical center was not unusual. As covered by The Intercept, what followed appears to be par for the course for many veterans nationwide.

One hospital staffer accused the veteran of trespassing at the medical center dedicated to serving veterans. Three VA police officers were alerted to the accusation and attempted to arrest Hathaway, who resisted.

Resisting arrest is not great. In fact, it is illegal and likely will result in additional charges beyond what a person is already going to get charged with following an arrest, such as what followed.

In the ensuing scuffle, Hathaway allegedly kicked the officers and bit the thumb of one, which could be a consequence of untreated mental illness.

Once handcuffed, the three officers in an apparent rage continued the altercation, much of which was caught on video.

The veteran was forced into a wheelchair while handcuffed.

He was then hauled into a holding cell at the hospital where two officers slammed his body and head into a wall and then the floor. Hathaway says one of the officers then tried to strangle him leaving a red mark around his neck.

RELATED: Did VA Police Beating Cause Veteran’s Death?

The body slamming and strangulation, if true, are examples of police brutality.

The video does not clearly show the strangulation, but images of Hathaway’s injuries are undeniable. He suffered a two-inch gash on his forehead after being restrained and possible strangulation marks on his neck.

The agency filed five criminal charges against the veteran who was convicted of felony aggravated assault of a police officer.

Hathaway served 16 months in prison following his conviction.

RELATED: VA Shuts Down Longterm PTSD Therapy Program

Once released from prison, Hathaway reportedly filed a lawsuit against the VA for use of excessive force in the altercation aka police brutality. The agency ultimately settled for $25,000 without admitting fault according to the veteran’s lawyer, Charles Piccuta.

Again, resisting arrest is a poor idea, generally speaking. However, attacking any person once they are fully restrained, as Hathaway was, is also illegal. VA police officers should avoid this practice, too.

Excessive Force

In case you are wondering what the legal definition is of “excessive force” and how it might apply to your situation, I grabbed the definition from USLegal:

Excessive force by a law enforcement officer(s) is a violation of a person’s constitutional rights. The term ‘excessive force’ is not precisely defined; however, the use of force greater than that which a reasonable and prudent law enforcement officer would use under the circumstances is generally considered to be excessive. In most cases, the minimum amount force required to achieve a safe and effective outcome during law enforcement procedures is recommended.

Police brutality is a violation of the law. “Cruel and unusual punishments” by the state (police) are prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment provides further protection to individuals, prohibiting the state from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”.

Police brutality is a form of misconduct where a police officer uses excessive force meaning force that is “greater than that which a reasonable and prudent law enforcement officer would use under the circumstances”.

Did the VA police use excessive force, here? Based on the allegations, they most certainly did by physically abusing the restrained veteran while he was detained in a cell.

In this instance, the agency settled the lawsuit without admitting fault.

It seems possible, and even likely, that the agency settled to avoid any embarrassing exposure as to how leadership handled the physical abuse of the restrained veteran given that it was captured on video.

But for the video, you can rest assured VA likely would not have settled the matter.

The agency generally preserves video for at least a few days. If an incident occurs, veterans would be well served to request copies of area video immediately using FOIA before the recordings are deleted or recorded over.

Previous VA Police Brutality

The Hathaway incident was not the first rodeo for at least one of the officers that may have occurred under the leadership of the “Queen of cover-ups” Kathleen Fogarty who headed VISN 18 following exposure of the Phoenix VA wait time debacle.

Monday, I wrote about Fogarty’s cover-up of a subsequent battery at the hands of VA police at Kansas City VA resulting in the death of that elderly veteran in 2018.

RELATED: Elderly Veteran Death By VA Police Obfuscated By ‘Queen Of Cover-Ups’

A couple of months before the Hathaway incident, back in 2015, a VA whistleblower reported having witnessed the same officer allegedly choking Hathaway choke a different patient. In that instance, the veteran was a patient who said he was suicidal but “wasn’t being disruptive” or behaving in a violent manner justifying strangulation.

The whistleblower, a former VA police officer himself, said, “His eyeballs were popping out of his head; he was turning another color.”

Is strangling suicidal veterans an approved suicide prevention technique?

RELATED: VA Pays $300k In Sepsis Death

The incident of police brutality was reported to VA OIG that failed to interview the whistleblower who reported the attack. When asked by The Intercept for comment, OIG refused to even admit it investigated the matter, as if the investigation itself is some national secret.

Meanwhile, the officers implicated in Hathaway’s VA police excessive force incident still work for the agency.

The Intercept covered Hathaway’s story and those of other veterans who were body slammed by VA police over the years. VA admits it lacks adequate training and staffing for VA police that is at least partly to blame for the poor treatment of veterans.

RELATED: VA Executives Cover-up Deadly Bacteria At Hospital

Fogarty is now implicated in another incident of possible VA police brutality

Disruptive Behavior Committee

I’ve been covering Disruptive Behavior Committees for some years, and it seems the agency is not backing down on its treatment of veterans in those circumstances.

Rather than improve training, the agency is apparently running the other way, at least when it comes to body slamming veterans.

Therapeutic Containment

It is worth noting VA’s use of “therapeutic containment” against veterans supposedly deemed threats to themselves or others at medical centers.

RELATED: VA Paints Veterans As Crazed Psychos

Yes, that’s a thing.

Medical Records

For those of you who are new to the concept of Disruptive Behavior Committees, here is some information to make you aware of “disruptive behavior” according to VA.

DOWNLOAD: VA – Prevention & Management Of Disruptive Behavior

The following is straight from a Word document published by the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System – – this is the same VA system that erroneously told veterans that their smartphones were banned items along with weapons like guns and knives.

Yes, that also happened, and VA later rescinded the ban once we exposed it here.

VA Bans iPhones

What Is Disruptive Behavior?

The following excerpt in italics is a quote from VA:

Definition of Disruptive Behavior: Any unacceptable behavior that causes the routine operations of the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS) to be interrupted, impeded, or result in an unsafe environment.

• All threatening and/or inappropriate behavior 
• Verbal or non-verbal
• With or without an intent to inflict harm
• Use of physical force to violate, damage, or 
abuse another person or property
• Use of weapons or other instruments to threaten or inflict bodily harm
• Can take the form of sarcasm, profanity, threats, loud & belligerent verbalizations, refusal to follow reasonable requests or the use of physical force or violence

Sarcasm? Reasonable Requests?

Some on this list seem obvious but the last bullet on the list seems excessive. It seems VA wants practically any display of emotion while in a bad mood to be a punishable offense.

But “sarcasm”? How about “refusal to follow reasonable requests”?

Would Jerry Seinfeld be banned from VA for biting sarcasm? Maybe not Jerry, but definitely Newman.

How about farting or making fart noises? Is farting sufficiently disruptive to deserve a patient flag? I guess it depends on who decides.

Do we not have a Constitution that allows sarcasm as protected speech? Who decides what a “reasonable” request might be? Does a veteran not have a right to refuse such a request since we are Americans?

Did we somehow lose our rights as citizens when we became soldiers?

In that Word document, VA says it has zero tolerance for disruptive, threatening or violent behavior.

Veterans who exhibit any of the above “disruptive” behaviors will immediately be investigated. “Clinical, administrative, and possibly, legal action will be taken as warranted.”

Is this the United States of America?

Victims Excessive Force, Police Brutality

Veterans willing to talk about their experience with VA police and excessive force should comment below. By creating a record that VA OIG cannot obfuscate, we begin to paint a picture that better resembles the truth rather than what the agency tells Congress and the news media.

Also, the Hathaway story gives us some insight into how the agency is handling excessive force allegations when caught on tape.

Your take away should be two-fold.

Make a recording of your interactions with VA police so long as the recording is legal if you believe you are in danger. If you are the victim of a battery, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the agency for your injuries.

Be sure to request copies of VA video if the incident occurs in a commons area like a lobby or outside main entrances. If you can see a camera, VA likely was recording, but the agency does not keep recordings indefinitely unless a formal incident is under investigation.

Problems faced by VA Police and veterans interacting with them are now front and center in the policy arena. Reforms to how the agency trains and recruits its police officers should result but do not hold your breath just yet.


Benjamin Krause, July 10, 2019, “VA Police Brutality: Victim Gets Settlement In Excessive Force Lawsuit”,


Police officer charged with assault after allegedly using leg to slam suspect’s head into sidewalk

Maryland police investigating ‘excessive’ force arrest incident
Montgomery County police are investigating after a video showed an officer using the bottom part of his leg to force a man’s head into the ground. (@zxjustin_/Twitter)

July 9 at 11:41 AM

A Montgomery County police officer was criminally charged Tuesday with assault and misconduct after cellphone videos surfaced that appear to show him using his shin to force a man’s head onto a concrete sidewalk during an arrest.

The officer, Kevin Moris, faces one count each of second-degree assault and misconduct in office, according to a criminal information complaint filed by county prosecutors. Montgomery’s acting police chief, Marcus Jones, said the videos showed “troubling evidence” that excessive force was used during the encounter, which began inside a McDonald’s restaurant.

“The excessiveness of the officer, Officer Moris, actually slamming the individual’s head to the pavement — this gave me grave concern,” Jones said at a news conference Tuesday.

Videos of the July 3 altercation went viral on social media. In one 45-second clip, a group of Montgomery officers is seen standing over Arnaldo Andres Pesoa, 19, who was suspected of trying to sell psilocybin mushrooms in the area. Pesoa is seen lying facedown on the pavement, handcuffed, just outside the McDonald’s as he yells obscenities.

Moris can be seen leaning over Pesoa, who lifts his head, prompting Moris to use his right hand to grab a patch of Pesoa’s hair while thrusting his right shin into the back of Pesoa’s neck. The video shows Pesoa’s head striking the sidewalk.

While the video appears to show Pesoa resisting, it does not seem to present him as an imminent threat when Moris jabs him with his shin. “I felt like the officers did have that situation under control,” Jones said.

After hitting the concrete, Pesoa turns his head and yells that he has spit on the officer’s foot. At that point, Pesoa is told to “stop spitting” as Moris pulls the suspect’s shirt over his face.

“Mr. Pesoa did require medical attention on the scene as a result of injuries he sustained during the course of his apprehension,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

Efforts to reach Moris or learn whether he has retained an attorney were not successful Tuesday. A person who answered a phone number linked to him declined to comment and hung up. Online court records did not show whether he has hired an attorney.

Moris is a seven-year veteran of the department, most recently assigned to a plainclothes unit in the county’s Wheaton police district, according to police officials.

The union that represents county officers, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, declined to comment Tuesday on the specifics of the case.

“Without knowing anything more than what has been shown in the viral videos posted, the FOP will not make a statement without knowing all the facts,” the union said in a statement. “Officer Moris, like all U.S. citizens, is innocent until proven guilty and has a right to due process under law.”

The charges come amid mounting criticism of the incident from local officials and activists. Late last week, the president and vice president of the Montgomery County Council issued a statement condemning the officer’s actions.

“We are outraged and deeply saddened to watch the videos that show a young man being apprehended by Montgomery County Police officers using what appears to be excessive force,” wrote President Nancy Navarro (D-District 4) and Vice President Sidney Katz (D-District 3), who also chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee.

On Tuesday afternoon, Navarro praised the swift action taken by Jones and McCarthy and commended the rank and file of the department.

“It is important to reiterate that the Montgomery County Police Department is made up of men and women of integrity who pride themselves on high standards as they keep our county safe,” she wrote. “However, effective accountability and oversight are essential to develop and maintain trust between the police and our community.”

Several days ago, the local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice announced that it would hold a rally and news conference Tuesday night demanding that Moris be charged. Attendees were encouraged to bring signs with suggested slogans. Among them: “Stop Police Brutality,” “Not in My County” and “We Demand Accountability.”

The group gave an update on its Facebook page Tuesday.

“Tonight’s protest is on,” it said. “We demand systemic changes to MCPD.”

The charges were brought relatively swiftly and reflected the stern tone taken by police administrators after the incident. They suspended Moris of his police powers, moved him to administrative duties and launched a criminal investigation.

Jones and McCarthy stayed in regular contact over the past few days, according to McCarthy. On Tuesday, McCarthy’s office filed charges by way of a “criminal information” submission, meaning prosecutors made the decision without showing the matter to a grand jury.

The altercation outside the McDonald’s stemmed from an undercover operation into alleged sales of psilocybin mushrooms in the Aspen Hill area. Officers had identified Pesoa as a suspect, found him inside the McDonald’s and tried to arrest him.

“Pesoa became disorderly with the officers inside the restaurant and resisted the arrest,” police said in a statement. “Officers eventually removed Pesoa from the restaurant. While outside the restaurant, Pesoa continued to act in a disorderly manner and resist arrest.”

Pesoa was taken to jail and charged with drug possession, attempted drug distribution, resisting arrest and second-degree assault, police said. He was released after posting a $5,000 bond, according to police.



Springfield City Council approves $450,000 for police brutality settlement

6/17/19 - SPRINGFIELD - City Solicitor Ed Pikula.

6/17/19 – SPRINGFIELD – City Solicitor Ed Pikula.

SPRINGFIELD — The City Council on Monday approved spending $450,000 to resolve a police brutality case in which a jury previously ruled the city was “deliberately indifferent to the civil rights of its citizens.”

The payment to Lee Hutchins Sr. follows a successful lawsuit in U.S. District Court in which he accused police of using excessive force during a domestic disturbance. The Boston jury awarded $250,000 to Hutchins in February, and he filed a subsequent claim for more than $200,000 in attorneys’ fees and trial-related costs.

Springfield City Solicitor Edward Pikula said the settlement was negotiated after the judgment. The city faced a potential payment of $600,000 when considering the judgment, interest on the judgment, attorney fees and other costs.

The suit was initially filed in U.S. District Court in Springfield, but was transferred to Boston.

The Springfield City Council recently met in private with the Law Department to discuss the proposed settlement, but did not discuss the specifics in public until Monday. Funds for the settlement were transferred from the city’s fiscal 2018 budget surplus, known as its “free cash” account.

Hutchins claimed three officers used excessive force again him when he was pepper sprayed and struck with a baton at his home on Jan. 20, 2013.

The jury found one officer, Thomas Hervieux, used excessive force. The verdict slip from the jury said the city “was deliberately indifferent to the civil rights of its citizens through a policy or custom of inadequately supervising or disciplining its police officers.”

Lawyers for Hutchins said the city was to blame for the rising cost of the lawsuit by dragging out the case rather than reaching a settlement. They said the prolonged case led to more than 500 hours of work on Hutchins’ behalf.

“In short, the City never made any serious effort to resolve the litigation,” wrote Northampton attorney Luke Ryan, one of the lawyers representing Hutchins.

Councilors have been critical of police misconduct lawsuits and city funds needed to settle them.

Council President Justin Hurst, in previously commenting on the judgment, said, “Unfortunately, this case is just the tip of the iceberg that last year cost taxpayers over a million dollars in settlements, and if this case is any indication, citizens will be paying even more money this year.”

The vote was 10-2 in favor of the settlement, with Councilors Orlando Ramos and Adam Gomez opposed, and Councilor Tracye Whitfield absent.

Pikula said judgments must be paid if not successfully appealed or settled.

On Oct. 1, 2018, the City Council approved a settlement of $885,000 to four men who claimed they were beaten by off-duty police officers in 2015 outside Nathan Bill’s Bar & Restaurant. Of that amount, $750,000 was awarded to Herman Paul Cumby, who suffered a concussion, fractured ankle and damaged teeth in the attack, according to a lawsuit he filed against the city.

In April, 13 current and former Springfield police officers were arraigned in Hampden Superior Court on allegations that they either participated in or helped cover up the beating.


“Springfield City Council approves $450,000 for police brutality settlement”,

Bridgeport man’s charges dismissed in police misconduct case


BRIDGEPORT – Criminal charges were dismissed Tuesday against a city man whose October 2017 arrest during a pre-Halloween party led to disciplinary action against 17 police officers accused of using excessive force and lying on police reports.

“After a year and a half, I finally got justice and it feels great,” said Carmelo Mendez, as he left the Golden Hill Street courthouse. “I said all along that the police were the aggressors and now a court has seen it, too.”

Superior Court Judge Frank Iannotti dismissed the charges of interfering with police and breach of peace pending against Mendez as the case was about to go to trial. Prosecutors had entered a nolle in the case in which they were discontinuing the prosecution without comment and the judge then granted a motion to dismiss the charges from Mendez’s lawyer, Robert Berke.

The dismissal now sets up a lawsuit against the city and the Police Department.

City spokeswoman Rowena White said late Tuesday that the City Attorney’s office was unaware of the dismissal.

“Mr. Mendez has filed a lawsuit, and so we cannot comment on pending litigation,” she said.

Berke confirmed later that he will be filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and Police Department but declined further comment.

“I’m going to sue the city,” Mendez said. “I need to get justice for what they did to me.”

He said he suffers from permanent eye damage as a result of the incident.

Mendez and his sister were arrested on Oct. 21, 2017, after police responded to a noise complaint at the sister’s home on Colorado Avenue. Eventually, 45 officers responded to the scene.

A report by the city’s Office of Internal Affairs, obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media, found that 17 officers involved in the case violated police rules and regulations including using excessive force on Mendez who had been taking video of the police response.

The OIA report states that video from the party shows Officer Michael Stanitis strike Mendez multiple times in the side of the head with the butt of his flashlight as Mendez was held on the ground by other officers. “Officer Stanitis stated he did not see any injuries on Mr. Mendez, offering that he was unable to ‘even see him at all.’” The report states that Mendez had an “S” imprint on his face consistent with the butt end of the flashlight carried by the officer.

Mendez and his sister, Wanda Mendez, were arrested. His sister was charged with assault on a public safety officer, interfering with police, inciting a riot and breach of peace. Her case is still pending.

Last week, the city’s Board of Police Commissioners began closed hearings against each of the accused officers in the case.

At his last court hearing, Carmelo Mendez told the judge he wanted a trial and Berke filed a motion for a speedy trial. Jury selection in the case was to begin Tuesday.

Last month, Carmelo Mendez sued the police department on behalf of his 8-year-old son and 13-year-old niece who he claims witnessed officers beating him up.

“They both were traumatized as they stood by and watched police beating me up,” Mendez said. “My son didn’t want to celebrate Halloween again after what happened.”


‘I Can’t Breathe’: 5 Years After Eric Garner’s Death, an Officer Faces Trial

Disciplinary proceedings against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is accused of using a chokehold to subdue Mr. Garner, could lead to his firing.

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, at a protest in 2015 outside the Manhattan office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.CreditMark Kauzlarich/The New York Times
Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, at a protest in 2015 outside the Manhattan office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.CreditCreditMark Kauzlarich/The New York Times

By Ashley Southall

The last words Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, uttered on a New York City sidewalk in 2014 instantly became a national rallying cry against police brutality. “I can’t breathe,’’ Mr. Garner pleaded 11 times after a police officer in plain clothes placed his arm across his neck and pulled him to the ground while other officers handcuffed him.

The encounter was captured on a video that ricocheted around the world, set off protests and prompted calls for the officers to be fired and criminally charged.

Mr. Garner’s death was part of a succession of police killings across the country that became part of a wrenching conversation about how officers treat people in predominantly poor and minority communities.

Now, the officer who wrapped his arm around Mr. Garner’s neck, Daniel Pantaleo, 33, faces a public trial that could lead to his firing. Officer Pantaleo has denied wrongdoing and his lawyer argues that he did not apply a chokehold.

The trial, scheduled to start Monday at Police Department headquarters, has been long-awaited by the Garner family, whose campaign to hold the police accountable for what they say is an unjustified use of force took on greater significance after Mr. Garner’s daughter, Erica Garner, died in 2017.

The city paid $5.9 million to settle a lawsuit with the family after a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges.

But Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has fought and delayed the family’s efforts to have all the police officers involved in the encounter punished.

“It was at least a dozen more who just did nothing, or either they pounced on him, they choked him, they filed false reports,” Mr. Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said in an interview. “It’s about all of those officers who committed an injustice that day and they all need to stand accountable.”

Officer Pantaleo faces charges of reckless use of a chokehold and intentional restriction of breathing. His lawyer says that Officer Pantaleo did not use a chokehold, but a different technique that is taught to officers in training and is known as a seatbelt.

So the trial will have to settle two questions at the heart of the case: Was the maneuver Officer Pantaleo used a chokehold? And, if so, was the officer justified in using it to subdue an unarmed man during a low-level arrest?

On Thursday, the Police Department judge overseeing the trial said that prosecutors must prove that Officer Pantaleo’s actions went beyond a violation of departmental rules and constituted a crime — an unusually high bar.

Video of the fatal encounter was recorded by Ramsey Orta, a friend of Mr. Garner’s who is expected to testify at Officer Pantaleo’s trial. It captured Mr. Garner telling officers in street clothes to leave him alone after they approached him outside a beauty supply store on July 17, 2014, not far from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

Mr. Garner had repeated encounters with the police and believed that he was being harassed.

“This stops today,” he told the officers before they moved to arrest him over accusations that he was selling untaxed cigarettes. As one officer tried to grab Mr. Garner’s hand, he slipped free. Then Officer Pantaleo slid one arm around Mr. Garner’s neck and another under his left arm and dragged him to the ground. On the pavement, he begged for air.

The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide and said he died from a chokehold and the compression of his chest from lying prone. The findings are a crucial issue in the trial and Officer Pantaleo’s defense lawyer plans to dispute them.

Stuart London, the police union lawyer representing Officer Pantaleo, said the technique his client used was the seatbelt maneuver taught in the Police Academy, not a chokehold. He plans to argue that Mr. Garner, who was overweight and severely asthmatic, died because of poor health.

“Those who have been able to not come to a rushed judgment, but have looked at the video in explicit detail, see Pantaleo’s intent and objective was to take him down pursuant to how he was taught by NYPD, control him when they got on the ground, and then have him cuffed,” Mr. London said in an interview. “There was never any intent for him to exert pressure on his neck and choke him out the way the case has been portrayed.”

Demonstrators protesting a decision by a grand jury not to bring criminal charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo in December 2014.CreditVictor J. Blue for The New York Times
Demonstrators protesting a decision by a grand jury not to bring criminal charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo in December 2014.CreditVictor J. Blue for The New York Times

The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent city agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct, is prosecuting the case against Officer Pantaleo and is seeking his termination.

But the ruling on Thursday by the judge, Rosemarie Maldonado, the deputy police commissioner in charge of trials, denied Mr. London’s motion to dismiss the case. But her ruling means that prosecutors need to prove that Officer Pantaleo’s actions rose to the crimes of assault and strangulation in order to avoid the state’s prohibition on bringing misconduct charges more than 18 months after occurrence.

Colleen Roache, a spokeswoman for the review board, said prosecutors understood their obligation when they served Officer Pantaleo with the charges last July.

But critics have said the review board’s failure to file charges sooner had made the prosecutors’ case significantly harder to prove.

The Police Department banned chokeholds in 1993 amid concern about a rising number of civilian deaths in police custody. In 2016, the department added an exception to its chokehold ban under certain circumstances, which critics said made it easier for officers to justify its use.

After Mr. Garner’s death, the Police Department spent $35 million to retrain officers not to use chokeholds, but they continue to use the maneuver and rarely face punishment.

The trial is expected to last two weeks, with testimony from about two dozen witnesses. Officer Pantaleo has not decided whether he will testify, Mr. London said.

When the trial ends, Deputy Commissioner Maldonado, will decide if Officer Pantaleo is guilty. If guilt is determined, she will recommend a penalty to Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, who will make the final decision.

Short of firing, any discipline of Officer Pantaleo, a 13-year veteran, may never become public because of a state law that shields police disciplinary records from public disclosure.

The delays and secrecy surrounding officer discipline are part of the reason that police reform advocates say the public has lost trust in the city’s process for assessing complaints against officers.

The de Blasio administration fought to keep prior abuse complaints against Officer Pantaleo secret, including one stemming from a car stop in which the occupants said he strip-searched them on the street.

The records were eventually leaked, but the administration won several court rulings broadening the scope of the secrecy law.

“It’s been de Blasio and his administration who’ve been blocking the whole time that I’ve been trying to get the officers fired,” Ms. Carr said.

Despite Eric Garner and ‘I Can’t Breathe,’ Chokeholds Still Used

Beyond the Chokehold: The Path to Eric Garner’s Death

The trial will revisit a painful chapter marked by months of protests with marchers chanting Mr. Garner’s final words.

Not long after a Staten Island grand jury in December 2014 decided not to charge Officer Pantaleo with a crime, two officers were ambushed and killed by a gunman while sitting in their patrol car.

To Mr. Garner’s family and their supporters, his death discredited a crime-fighting strategy that the police and mayors have cited repeatedly as helping to drive crime rates to their lowest level in recent history. The strategy relies on targeting lower-level offenses that the police believe create the environment for more violent crime.

But critics say it has resulted in racial profiling, targeting mostly black and Latino men in poorer neighborhoods.

The Police Department delayed disciplinary proceedings against Officer Pantaleo for years because of an ongoing federal investigation. But with prosecutors in the Department of Justice divided over whether to bring charges, police officials decided to allow the disciplinary process to move forward.

Officer Pantaleo and Sergeant Kizzy Adonis, who was the first supervisor to arrive on the scene where the police were confronting Mr. Garner, were stripped of their guns and placed on desk jobs. Sergeant Adonis, who has since been restored to full duty, has been administratively charged with failing to properly oversee officers, but a date for her disciplinary trial has not been set.

A state judge recently denied Officer Pantaleo’s motion to have the civilian review board removed from the case. He argued that the agency lacked jurisdiction because the person who filed the complaint was not involved or an eyewitness.

“It’s time for Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, the rest of the Garner family, and the people of the City of New York to have closure,” Fred Davie, the chairman of the civilian review board, said in a statement.

On the stretch of Bay Street where Mr. Garner died, the type of behavior that drew police attention five years ago persists. People peddle loose cigarettes and a sign affixed to a door outside an apartment building warns against selling heroin on a stoop.

“It’s a hustle block,” Christopher Sweat, a retired chef, said. “It’s a regular mood until the cops get called.”

Nearby, a plaque memorializes Mr. Garner’s death as a murder, adding, “May his soul rest in peace.” Passers-by on a recent afternoon were unanimous in their belief that Officer Pantaleo deserved to be fired.

“It was a blatant chokehold,” said Keenen Hill, 46, a maintenance man who lives in the neighborhood. “Stevie Wonder saw that.”

Laura Dimon and Ali Winston contributed reporting.

Ashley Southallm, “‘I Can’t Breathe’: 5 Years After Eric Garner’s Death, an Officer Faces Trial”,

Broward County Deputies Assaulted a Black Teen. But ‘Accountability’ Is Not Enough.

Video still from footage of a Broward County Sheriff's deputy assaulting a black teenager, April 2019.

Video still from footage of a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy assaulting a black teenager, April 2019. Photo: Screenshot via Broward County Sheriff’s Office

The sheriff’s office in Broward County, Florida, has promised to investigate two of its deputies for assaulting a black 15 year old on Thursday. An 18-second video shows the officials — Christopher Krickovich and Sergeant Greg LaCerra — pepper-spraying the teen in the face, banging his forehead against concrete, and punching him on the side of his head. (The teen’s name has not been disclosed in news reports, but he has been identified on social media as “Lucca.”) Footage of the incident has circulated nationally, prompting outraged responses from celebrities and lawmakers alike. Sheriff Gregory Tony tried to assuage the concerns of local black civic leaders by vowing a “tactful” investigation. “That’s the most electrifying and dangerous situation for a law enforcement administrator to handle,” Tony, the county’s first black sheriff, said on Saturday, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Any time a white deputy is involved in contact with using force on a black youth, this thing blows up.”

That such a thing might “blow up” is appropriate. Years of activism and reporting have demonstrated the racism with which law enforcement is applied across the United States. In Broward County, its impact on black youth has been a point of special focus. A 2013 initiative led by Robert Runcie, superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, sought to eliminate disparities in the rates at which black students were suspended and arrested for in-school misconduct compared to their white peers. (During the 2011-2012 school year, black students were roughly two-thirds of those suspended, mostly for minor incidents — like using profanity or disrupting class — despite being 40 percent of the student body, according to the American Prospect.) Runcie partnered with local advocates and law enforcement to implement alternatives to suspension and prohibit arrests — 71 percent of which were for misdemeanors — in some cases where they had been allowed before. (Officers were, however, allowed to override some of these prohibitions: “I wanted to make sure deputies always had discretion,” then-Sheriff Scott Israel told the Prospect.)

The effect was almost immediate. By the end of 2013, suspensions had dropped 40 percent and arrests of students had fallen 66 percent. A more humane tint began to color how local law enforcement treated black children for whom youthful mistakes often meant years of condemnation as criminals. But Thursday’s incident proves that progress on one front does not constitute a sea change any more than it precludes regression. After 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February, criticism of how Broward County Sheriff’s deputies handled the shooting — including their failure to immediately enter the school when gunshots were reported — prompted an emphasis on meeting perceived threats with swift violence, according to the Washington Post. Deputies have since been re-trained on how to subdue subjects in what one sheriff’s union official described to the Post as a “Fight Club atmosphere.” Some participants have suffered injuries in the process, ranging from fractured bones to a detached retina to brain bleeding.

So when dispatchers on Thursday received calls that a group of teenagers had gathered in a McDonald’s parking lot in Tamarac — a popular hangout for local high schoolers — and that some of them were fighting, they applied the kind of immediate and decisive force that many wished they had wielded against Cruz. Among the differences was that such force is used traditionally against black youth with no such justification — as examples ranging from the 2015 police assault on a black girl in Richland County, South Carolina, to the February police beating of a black girl in Chicago illustrate. For these victims, the misapplication of brutal police training was their lot well before Parkland. That the 15 year old on Thursday committed no clear infraction, let alone a crime, highlights the absurdity of continuing to apply it after. In effect, the training changes in Broward County seek to level against men like Cruz a degree of violence that, for many unarmed black children, was already a danger. Such are the wages of a culture that looks to atrocities like Parkland to shape law enforcement policy, but seems unable or unwilling to ensure that officers do not greet innocent people with the same violence.

Accordingly, Krickovich, who wrote the police report about Thursday’s incident, seemed to inflate Thursday’s threat to justify his response. In his telling, he was arresting another teen for trespassing when Lucca bent down to pick up the boy’s cell phone. “While I was dealing with the male on the ground, I observed his phone slide to the right of me and then behind me,” Krickovich wrote, according to the Sun Sentinel. “I observed a teen [Lucca] wearing a red tank top reach down and attempt to grab the male student’s phone.” In the video, another deputy — identified by the Sun Sentinel as LaCerra — is seen shoving Lucca, after which Lucca appears to object verbally. In the report, Krickovich wrote that Lucca “took an aggressive stance” toward LaCerra, “bladed his body and began clenching his fists.” (The video shows no such clear aggression.) LaCerra then pepper-sprayed Lucca in the face and threw him to the ground. Claiming that he feared for his safety, Krickovich “jumped on [Lucca],” grabbed the prone teen by both sides of his head, slammed his forehead against the concrete, and punched him before another deputy helped him apply handcuffs.

Whether the deputies were actually afraid is less knowable — and arguably less telling — than their confidence that claiming they were would exonerate them of wrongdoing. Racism shapes this expectation. Outlandish scenarios arise from police accounts of the dangers that young black men allegedly pose. Officer Darren Wilson equated Michael Brown to a “demon” during his testimony about the 2014 shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, that sparked protests and riots. “[He] had the most intense, aggressive face,” Wilson told a grand jury. “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon.” If one accepts that Brown was “like a demon,” claims that he barreled toward a police officer through a hail of bullets become palatable. (No criminal charges were filed against Wilson.) If one concedes that Lucca was similarly endowed, assertions that the unarmed teen posed a threat to gun-toting sheriff’s deputies — despite video evidence to the contrary — is plausible enough for Krickovich to gamble on investigators siding with him.

In a sense, Thursday was a predictable outcome of asking an institution whose job is violence to escalate. Lucca and Cruz — or Lucca and anyone who seeks to harm police officers, really — exist on polar ends of most realistic threat spectra, but separating them is of secondary concern to those convinced that safety means reflexively treating more people like the latter. Krickovich banked on this ambiguity. Racism likely helped rationalize his response, despite it transpiring in a community whose administrators, in the past, sought to reduce disparities. Indeed, it is hard to believe that he and LaCerra would have treated a white child the same way they did Lucca. But when an assault like Thursday’s is permissible as long as officers claim they are afraid — and can convince investigators that their response was consistent with what others would have done in their place — then the bigger issue is more fundamental than whether they were white and the victim black. The problem, one of many, is the public and institutional instinct to let the worst set the standard rather than remain outliers. Humane rules of engagement evaporate where every suspect is a demon. And whatever the outcome of the department’s investigation, it is worth asking if that is a reasonable price to pay for feeling safe.


Zak Cheney-Rice, NYMag., “Broward County Deputies Assaulted a Black Teen. But ‘Accountability’ Is Not Enough.”,

SWAT Team Takes Children after Parents Disagree with Doctor.


Updated 1:12 p.m. EDT Mar. 25, 2019
Police breaking down door to check on child
A Chandler father provided home-security video of Chandler police breaking down the door of a family’s home for a DCS-requested welfare check of a child with a spiking fever, after parents refused to give police permission to enter their home, saying their toddler son was fine.

After police officers busted down the door of a Chandler home to take a toddler with a spiking fever from his parents, advocates and a state legislator are questioning if a new law intended to protect families’ rights is failing.

Officers pointing guns forced their way into the family’s home in the middle of the night last month after the Arizona Department of Child Safety called police for a welfare check on a child with a 100 degree-plus fever and no vaccinations.

The parents had ignored a doctor’s recommendation to take their 2-year-old to the hospital, saying their son’s fever had decreased.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, who helped craft legislation requiring DCS to obtain a warrant before removing a child from their parents or guardians in non-emergency circumstances, said she was outraged by the response of police and DCS officials in the case.

“It was not the intent (of the law) that the level of force after obtaining a warrant was to bring in a SWAT team,” Townsend said. “The imagery is horrifying. What has our country become that we can tear down the doorway of a family who has a child with a high fever that disagrees with their doctor?”

DCS officials did not respond to The Arizona Republic’s questions about their policies for child-welfare checks and warrants, or whether their handling of this family’s case was in line with those policies.

Townsend said she wants lawmakers to review warrant procedures that led to police using force, left a family traumatized and placed three children in state custody. The fact that DCS obtained a court-approved warrant shows this wasn’t an emergency that threatened the child’s life or safety so there wasn’t time to file with the court, she said.

Child-welfare workers used to be able to remove children without warrants. But under a law that took effect in July Arizona lawmakers designated limited circumstances for removing a child from their parent without a warrant: DCS must have probable cause to believe a child is at imminent risk of harm and there’s no less-intrusive alternative to removal, or DCS must have probable cause to believe a child is a victim of sexual or physical abuse that can only be evaluated by trained medical personnel.

“What about parents’ rights to decide what’s best for their child?” Townsend said. “Parents felt the child was fine. Next thing we know, the Gestapo is at their door.”

The case has made its way to a juvenile court room and sparked conversation over the balance between parental rights to care for their children versus the power of DCS and doctors.

It could take months of hearings and DCS-mandated instructions before the parents regain custody of their children. Or maybe they never will.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, attended a juvenile hearing to see if the Department of Child Safety violated the rights of a Mesa mother and father when taking custody of their child.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, attended a juvenile hearing to see if the Department of Child Safety violated the rights of a Mesa mother and father … Show more 


Child-welfare warrants were supposed to protect parental rights

Lawmakers and family-rights’ advocates hoped the new law would reduce the number of children being removed by DCS. Child-welfare lawsuits in Arizona and across the nation, citing the First and Fourteenth amendment, argued for due process and protections against illegal search and seizure.

In 2016, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that removing a child without court approval violates parents’ constitutional rights.

You get your day in court for most crimes, advocates said, why wouldn’t the same apply when removing a child because of accusations of neglect or abuse?

By the time Arizona lawmakers approved a child-welfare warrant law in 2017, critics said it had too many loopholes and wouldn’t reduce unjust removals.

In fact, the total number of child removals has declined since the law took effect, but only slightly, and it’s unclear what role the new law played in the decline.

Despite lawmakers approving the warrant law to require greater transparency and address constitutional rights, DCS says it doesn’t track data for when children have been removed due to emergency situations without a warrant. And total removals include a variety of situations, including when parents voluntarily surrender their child, where the court — not DCS — orders the removal request and when a child is in the juvenile-justice system.

DCS placed 4,649 children into the foster-care system in the six-month period that ended December 2018, according to DCS data. In the six-month period prior to the July law, DCS removed 4,887 children.

That’s down from a high mark of 6,815 in fall 2015, when nearly 19,000 children were in the foster-care system and families and child-welfare advocates began pushing for a warrant law.

Concern over DCS abusing loopholes in the system prompted a second round of legislation in 2018. The restrictions designated “exigent circumstances” when DCS may remove children without a warrant. Removing the child must be so dire that there’s no time to use the electronic system to gain authorization from a judge who’s on call 24/7.

Family advocates calling themselves the Arizona DCS Oversight Group argue what happened to a Chandler family on the night of Feb. 25 is evidence the state is abusing its power and the rights of parents.

“If they can do this to one family they can do it to anyone,” said Lori Ford, a member of the self-appointed public watchdog group. “DCS took their kids and treated these parents like they were criminals.”

A fever, a doctor’s order, a parent’s right to choose medical care for their child

It started with a visit to the doctor for a fever.

On February 25, the mother took her 2-year-old boy to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine clinic in Tempe, according to Chandler police records.

It was dinner time. But the toddler’s fever had spiked to over 100 degrees.

The doctor asked if the child had his vaccinations.

The mother said no.

Concerned that a lethargic child with a fever and lacking vaccinations could have meningitis, the doctor instructed the mother to take the child to the emergency department at Banner Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, according to attorneys at a March 7 court hearing following the removal of the children.

The Republic knows the names of the parents and child but it does not typically identify children in the child-welfare system.

The doctor contacted Banner physicians who recommended the child be “taken to the emergency room as soon as possible,” according to police records. The doctor told the mother that meningitis can be life-threatening and said the hospital would contact her when the mother arrived.

After they left the doctor’s office, the child was laughing and playing with his siblings. The mother took the child’s temperature again. It was near normal.

Shortly after 6:30 p.m., the mother called the doctor and told her that her toddler no longer had a fever so she wasn’t taking him to the emergency room.

The mother also said she was worried about getting in trouble with DCS because her child did not have vaccinations.

The doctor said the mother would not get in trouble. The mother again agreed to take her child to the hospital, according to police records.

In Arizona, a parent may decline vaccinations for their child based on personal, religious or medical exemptions.

About three hours later, the hospital contacted the doctor to advise her that the child had not shown up and the mother wasn’t answering her phone, according to police records. The doctor contacted DCS.

A DCS caseworker called Chandler Police and “requested officers to check the welfare of a two year old infant,” according to police records. A caseworker said he was on his way to the house.

Officers with ‘lethal coverage’ kick down door, enter home with DCS worker

Chandler police forced their way into a family's home for a DCS welfare check on a child with a spiking fever

Chandler police forced their way into a family’s home for a DCS welfare check on a child with a spiking fever

It was about 10:30 p.m. when two police officers knocked on the family’s door. The officers heard someone coughing.

Officer Tyler Cascio wrote in a police report that he knocked on the door several times but no one answered.

A neighbor approached the officers and police explained the situation. The woman said she knew her neighbor and that “she was a good mother.” At the request of officers, the neighbor called the mother and said police wanted to speak with her.

The DCS caseworker arrived and updated police on the toddler’s fever and the mother choosing not to take her child to the hospital. The officer called the family’s doctor, who repeated her recommendation that the mother take the child to the hospital.

Police dispatch told the officers that a man at the home had called requesting that they call him. They called, and the man identified himself as the sick boy’s father.

The officer said they told the father they needed to enter the home for DCS to check on the child. The father refused, explaining that his son’s “fever broke and he was fine,” according to police records.

Officers tried to call the parents again, but no one answered. They told the caseworker the parents refused to open their door.

At about 11:30 p.m., the caseworker informed officers that DCS planned to obtain a “temporary custody notice” from a judge to remove the child for emergency medical aid.

The caseworker “advised they obtained a court order for temporary custody in order to take (redacted) to the hospital.” The order was signed at 12:04 a.m. by Judge Tracy Nadzieja, according to police records.

Cascio wrote that officers consulted with the police criminal investigations bureau and SWAT.

“Based upon the court order, the intent of DCS to serve the order, and exigency to ensure the health and welfare of the child, the decision was made to force entry to the home if the parents refused to respond to verbal requests,” according to police records. Police knocked, saying they had a court order and would force entry if needed, according to police records.

The Republic has requested the police-worn body-camera footage.

It was after 1 a.m. when officers kicked down the family’s door. One officer carried a shield, while another was described as having “lethal coverage.” Officers pointing guns yelled, “Chandler Police Department,” and entered the house.

The father came to the door. Officers placed him in handcuffs and took him and the mother outside. Inside, they found a juvenile who said she was sick and had thrown up in her bed.

Officers said the home was “messy” with clothing piles and concrete floors. In the parent’s room, a shotgun lay next to the bed, according to police records.

The caseworker spoke with two of the children without their parents present. He told officers it was “necessary to obtain a temporary custody order” for the parents’ two other children, according to police records.

Since there was no “criminal incident” and because the mother refused, no photos were taken inside the home, according to the police records.

Neither of the parents was arrested.

Officials took the parents’ three children to Banner Cardon Medical Center.

Inside a Mesa courtroom, the parents fight for their children to be returned

Families attend child-welfare hearings at Maricopa County Juvenile Court in Mesa.

Families attend child-welfare hearings at Maricopa County Juvenile Court in Mesa.

At a Mesa juvenile court hearing 10 days later, the parents got their first chance before a judge to fight for their children to be returned.

Each parent had an attorney. The parents had raised a family together but weren’t legally married.

The father’s parents sat on a bench next to a friend of the mother. Ford and Christina Lawler, with Arizona DCS Oversight Group, sat quietly listening and taking notes. Townsend, the state lawmaker, sat near the grandparents. She wanted to see whether the family’s rights had been violated.

A lawyer for the state Attorney General’s Office, representing DCS, asked the judge to close the hearing to the public.

In Arizona, we like our courts to be open, Judge Jennifer Green said. After listening to the lawyer’s reasoning — the attorney said members of the news media were in the courtroom and the family had spoken with the news media about the case, which he said wasn’t in the best interest of the children.

Attorneys for the parents said they hadn’t known of any restrictions on them speaking with media.

Green denied the request to close the hearing, but warned everyone that they could be held in contempt of court if they revealed personally-identifiable information about the children or any others mentioned in the hearing.

Attorneys for the parents said the children hadn’t seen each other since being taken from their parents’ home. The parents had only had one visit with their older children. DCS officials told the parents the toddler couldn’t make that visit because he was at a medical appointment.

The state’s attorney argued that the children shouldn’t be returned to their parents yet because they’d been hostile to DCS workers and weren’t cooperating. He said the parents had attended a DCS visit with members of Arizona DCS Oversight Group who were combative toward DCS workers. He said the grandfather had tried to videotape a meeting with DCS, and recording is not allowed to protect the privacy of the children.

DCS wanted the parents to undergo psychological evaluations.

Attorneys for the parents argued such evaluations were for people who had a history of mental-health issues, which neither parent had. They said the parents weren’t hostile, but they were living a nightmare that started with a child’s fever. They were woken up in the middle of the night, police busted down their door, brandishing guns and their three children were taken from them, attorneys said. The grandfather did what most people would think they had the right to do — record government officials.

The father had agreed to drug testing and the grandparents had agreed to background checks in hopes of becoming temporary caretakers for their grandchildren. Everyone was cooperating, the father’s attorney said.

A court-appointed guardian ad litem, who’s assigned to look after the best interests of the children, said he had one primary concern: Each child was still in a separate foster-care placement. Not only were the children separated from their parents, but this was also the first time they’d been separated from each other.

The judge asked the parties to attend an expedited hearing that afternoon.

After the hearing, in the courthouse hallway, the father held the mother in his arms. She cried and rested her hand on her pregnant belly.

Townsend spoke with the father about the road to getting his kids back.

“Why do they make it so hard?” he said with tears in his eyes. She tried to comfort him.

A lawmaker discusses parental rights

Outside the courthouse, Townsend said she didn’t know the parents personally but was disturbed by the case.

“It was brought to my attention that these parents may have been targeted by the medical community because they hadn’t vaccinated their children,” she said.

Townsend said parents who don’t vaccinate their children because of medical concerns aren’t criminals and shouldn’t be treated as such. She worried physicians were using it as a reason to refer parents to DCS.

“I think if DCS decides to use this as a factor they would be violating a parent’s right to have a personal exemption, a religious exemption and perhaps a medical exemption,” she said.

Townsend said the hearing opened her eyes to issues she will raise with fellow lawmakers. She questioned why the state’s attorney and DCS used the parent’s frustration with DCS to label the family as hostile and argue they weren’t cooperating with DCS.

“It doesn’t say anywhere that after your kids are taken, after police bust down your door, that you have to be nice to DCS to get your kids back,” she said.

A judge decides a family’s future

It was just before 2 p.m. when the parents walked back into the courtroom.

A DCS investigator, a former police officer, took the stand. She said upon visiting the hospital, doctors found the toddler had RSV, a respiratory virus that can cause serious illness in young children. She said the parents weren’t complying with DCS’ request to provide medical records for the children. She said they also weren’t following steps to regain custody of their children.

One of the parent’s attorneys asked the DCS investigator to outline specific steps the parents must follow to get their children back. The caseworker said she couldn’t remember any of them.

Attorneys for the parents claimed DCS was angry at the parents for speaking with the media and as retribution DCS officials were making it more difficult for the family to regain custody of their children. They said the child’s fever had gone down, as evidenced in medical reports.

The judge asked what was delaying placing three children with their grandparents. The state’s attorney said the grandparents still needed a home-safety check.

Green asked if that check could be expedited. The state’s attorney said DCS contracts with a company to conduct safety reviews and has no control over timelines but that it could take up to 30 days.

The guardian ad litem, representing the best interest of the children, told the judge he didn’t see why the children couldn’t be cared for by their grandparents while their parents worked with DCS to regain custody.

The judge said the removal was warranted, citing the mother’s refusal to follow the doctor’s orders. She said records showed the family had a history of domestic violence, noting an incident in which the father punched a wall.

She approved psychological evaluations for both parents, saying it would help identify the best services for the parents. She ordered DCS to complete a safety check of the grandparents’ home within four days. And she ordered the father to continue drug and alcohol testing.

She reminded the grandparents and parents that they were no longer in control of the children’s medical and health decisions. If a doctor orders treatment, the family must follow those directions, she said.

Then, she told the parents to remember that the state had them on a family-reunification plan and wants them to regain custody of their children.

After they left the courtroom, father and mother, both in tears, embraced.

The parents declined an interview with The Republic. They said they were afraid saying anything might upset DCS officials and hurt their efforts to regain custody of their children.

From left to right: Steven Isham, Karla Johnson, Lori Ford, Malinda Sherwyn, and David Watson are members of a group called Arizona DCS Oversight.

From left to right: Steven Isham, Karla Johnson, Lori Ford, Malinda Sherwyn, and David Watson are members of a group called Arizona DCS Oversight.

Ford, with the DCS watchdog group, said this is how it goes.

“They (DCS) had no right to bust into this family’s home and take their kids,” she said in the courthouse parking lot. “But now, they (DCS) have control of this family. These children are traumatized, and all over a fever that wasn’t even a fever anymore when they went the hospital—just like the parents had said.”

She was upset with Townsend and other Arizona lawmakers who talk about holding DCS accountable but never do. Meanwhile, children and their families suffer, she said.

“They hold the purse strings, if they wanted to force DCS to make changes that would protect family’s rights they’d stop funding them,” she said.

Townsend hopes this case is an outlier, but the only way to know for sure is to review DCS child-welfare check policies, medical providers’ power over families and the DCS warrant process for removing children.

This case is more than enough reason to be concerned, she said.

“The fact that they got the warrant shows it wasn’t a matter of exigency by definition — it wasn’t something that they were rescuing this child from imminent death,” she said. “The expectation of child welfare is we’re thinking about the children in the family. We’re not talking cartels holding someone who’s been kidnapped, we’re not talking about a drug bust, we’re not talking about a flight risk. We’re not talking about any of that. This was a family with a child who has a fever. … We used a SWAT team on a family with a child with a high fever.”

The parents say they wonder if they’ll be a family again: ‘We love our children’

On March 15, the father told The Republic that DCS had placed their three children with his parents.

“We get to see them again,” he said. “Thank God.”

He still can’t shake the night police kicked down their door and entered his home with guns drawn. He still can’t believe they took all three of their children.

He said he has asked DCS why the caseworker never presented himself and showed a warrant for removal, but he hasn’t received a clear answer.

“I know people have the right not to let the police into their home,” he said. “But if the caseworker had called me or knocked, and shown me their warrant, I would’ve let them in.”

He said home security video showed police had stated they had a DCS warrant for removal, but the family didn’t hear them because they were sleeping in the back bedrooms with their sick children.

The judge’s approval of DCS’ request for psychological evaluations has created another barrier to regaining custody of their children, he said. The wait for an evaluation is months, he said.

The father sent The Republic a statement. His family is scared, he said, but they feel compelled to warn other families:

We have been through a very traumatic experience with our encounter with DCS. We would like other parents out there to know and realize the amount of power DCS has over the welfare of your children. Even though we remain confident in our innocence through our case, it is immediately an uphill struggle of what to do or not to do. Even if you do not agree with them or the process in which they follow. We thought they did not have the right to check on our children because they were getting better, from what they last heard about from us. We were in our home tending to our sick kids and did not want to be bothered in this tough time of illness.  With multiple children it is difficult to keep up their needs while they are ill, and to be bothered in the middle of the night by DCS was not something we were ready to tackle. No matter what we though was right, it turned tragic with the removal of all of our children. The process of removal in our opinion was uncalled for and we would like to see the laws/process change when dealing with expedited removal of children. Our children have sure been through a traumatizing experience and hope they have not been harmed psychologically or emotionally as we are a very happy family who love each other and would do anything for each other. We hope to see a positive outcome for our trial, but worry about what the kids have been though. We would like to see some sort of public service announcement by DCS to inform other parents out there that this could happen to them, because nobody, especially children should have to go through what we are going through. We love our children and are doing everything possible to get them back to us.

Reporter Mary Jo Pitzl contributed to this story.


DIANNA M. NÁÑEZ | ARIZONA REPUBLIC, Updated 1:12 p.m. EDT Mar. 25, 2019, “A couple decided not to take their feverish child to the hospital. Hours later police kicked down their door”,

8 Shotgun Wielding Cops Dispatched to Confront College Student Cleaning his Front Yard.

BRLDF: Recently released video shows an intense confrontation initiated by Boulder, Colorado police with an individual cleaning his front yard. Despite the entirely pedestrian nature of this activity, the primary officer believed this to be suspicious enough to warrant an investigation. When the resident naturally became agitated, this officer requested backup, identifying the trash picker pole held by the man as a “blunt object”.  Despite the approximately 20 foot distance between them, this officer wielded a drawn handgun, and rather than retreat (as would seem appropriate if someone believed they were in real physical danger),  repeatedly closed the distance and approached the resident ordering him to “sit down”.

Over the course of the confrontation, which was initiated, provoked and escalated by the Boulder Police, additional Officers arrived, some bearing shotguns, and surrounded the resident. This is an example of “Command and Control” policing, wherein an adversarial dynamic is established between law enforcement & the public. Describing a flimsy maintenance tool as a “blunt object”, repeatedly approaching an agitated individual doing nothing wrong with gun drawn, and ordering him to “sit down”, this cop was establishing legal use of force justification in the event this exchange resulted in violence, or death (to the “suspect”).

This is an example of a police officer abusing his power, more concerned that this totally unjustified investigation did not receive immediate and complete submission. Plainly, this cop felt that his Authority was disrespected, and was determined to show this citizen that he was the boss.

An outrageous violation of the Fourth Amendment, something no American should tolerate, and the exact reason BRLDF was founded.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The city of Boulder should be embarrassed, and unless they’re looking to repeat the Philip Brailsford / Daniel Shaver incident in Mesa, Arizona, this police officer should be removed from active duty as he clearly lacks the maturity to interact with the general public in a sensible manner.

Police in Boulder, Colo., are investigating a March 1 confrontation between officers and a black man picking up trash.

March 7

The Boulder, Colo., police department is conducting an internal investigation after video surfaced of an officer questioning a student who was picking up garbage in front of his residence. The officer has been placed on administrative leave until the investigation is complete.

On March 1, an officer approached the man as he was sitting in an area behind a private property sign and asked him if he had permission to be there, according to a department release. The Daily Camera reported that the man is a student at Naropa University in Boulder, and the building is listed as a school residence. Police have not publicly named the man or the officer.

The man gave the officer his school identification card and said he both worked and lived in the building. However, the officer continued to investigate and called for backup, “indicating that the person was uncooperative and unwilling to put down a blunt object.”

In the 16-minute video, which appears to have been taken by a friend and fellow building resident after the encounter began, the man can be seen holding a bucket and a trash picker.

“You’re on my property with a gun in your hand threatening to shoot me because I’m picking up trash?” the man with the trash picker says.

The man being questioned repeatedly says of the officer, “He’s got a gun!”

“Just relax, man,” the officer responds as sirens are heard and more officers arrive and surround him.

Though a police spokeswoman would not release the number of officers involved, citing the ongoing investigation, at one point the man can be heard saying there are eight officers “with guns drawn.” The video appears to show at least one officer, on the far left, holding a gun before putting it away.

Police chief Greg Testa rebutted these particular claims made in the video at a city council meeting on Tuesday, saying “Body-worn camera video indicates that only one officer had a handgun out and it was pointed in the ground.”

The man who was stopped by police and the person taking the video repeatedly assert to the officers that the man lived there and was only picking up garbage.

An officer can be heard assuring the man, who is agitated by the encounter, that “my plan is not to shoot you.” The encounter continues for several minutes until an officer says “we’ve decided we’re going to end things at this point.”

“Officers ultimately determined that the man had a legal right to be on the property and returned the man’s school identification card,” the Boulder police department release states. “All officers left the area and no further action was taken.”

“We began looking into the incident on Friday, shortly after it occurred, and quickly made the decision that we needed to launch an internal affairs investigation,” Boulder police spokeswoman Shannon Aulabaugh said in an emailed statement.

“Our internal affairs investigation will include a review of all body worn camera video, interviews of everyone involved which includes both officers and community members, reports and all other related information,” she said.

Testa said in a prepared statement before the city council that “this is an extremely concerning issue and one that we are taking very seriously.” Members of the public who attended the hearing carried signs and trash pickers, the Daily Camera reported.

“While it appears that the officers responding to the requests for backup followed standard procedures given the information they heard over the radio, all aspects of this incident, specifically the actions of the initial officer, are being investigated,” he said.

“I am not aware of any information that the man did anything unlawful or wrong,” Testa said.

Charles Lief, president of Naropa University, also spoke at the hearing. “I do not want to underestimate the amount of trauma that was experienced by our student, who was the victim in this situation,” he said. He noted that he spoke to the man’s mother and “she has made clear that her son is not interested in becoming a symbol for any issue that we have to deal with in this city.”

“The incident that impacted him is going to be one that’s going to take him a long time to deal with,” Lief said. “The city can’t wait that long for us to talk about the broader issues that we have to address.”

One of six officers who fired at Willie McCoy had killed unarmed man in 2018

Vallejo officer Ryan McMahon, among officers in shooting at Taco Bell, faces lawsuit in earlier killing

Willie McCoy was shot at a Taco Bell after officers woke him up inside his car.
 Willie McCoy was shot at a Taco Bell after officers woke him up inside his car. Photograph: Courtesy David Harrison

One of the six California police officers who fired a barrage of bullets at Willie McCoy at a Vallejo Taco Bell had previously shot and killed an unarmed man and is the subject of an ongoing excessive force lawsuit. A second officer had been sued by the family of a Vallejo teenager in a police brutality case.

The Vallejo officer Ryan McMahon and five other policemen fired at McCoy, a 20-year-old aspiring rapper, after officers woke him up inside his car at a fast-food drive through earlier this month. McCoy died at the scene.

The McCoy family’s attorney, who recently viewed the young man’s body, said he was hit by what appeared to be roughly 25 shots, including in his face, throat, chest, ear and arms. His loved ones have called the death an “execution by a firing squad” and have accused police of racial profiling.

The department released the names of the six officers on Wednesday night in response to a Bay Area News Group records request. They were Ryan McMahon, Collin Eaton, Bryan Glick, Jordon Patzer, Anthony Romero-Cano and Mark Thompson.

Officer McMahon, who has been on the force for more than seven yearsshot an unarmed black father of two just last year. On 13 February 2018, McMahon stopped Ronnell Foster, 32, who was riding his bike in downtown Vallejo. Foster fled toward an alley, prompting McMahon to chase after him and strike him over the head with a flashlight, according to a federal complaint. McMahon eventually shot Foster several times in the back and the back of his head.

The department claimed McMahon fired the fatal shots after Foster took the officer’s flashlight and raised it in a threatening manner, but an eyewitness disputed that account. The complaint noted there was no evidence that the officer was injured in any way, and when he called in the shooting to dispatch, his only statement was that Foster had fled from him.

It is unclear why McMahon followed or stopped Foster in the first place.

Foster left behind two children, now ages six and 14.

A troubled history

The police department in Vallejo, 30 miles north-east of San Francisco, has a troubled history of excessive force claims and controversial killings. McMahon is not the first officer in the department to be implicated in multiple shootings. One officer killed three men in a five-month period – and was subsequently promoted.

“Over and over and over, we have these cases in Vallejo, and we never have any discipline or re-training,” said Melissa Nold, a civil rights attorney who is representing McCoy’s family. “That is why people keep dying … It’s pretty disturbing.”

Nold’s law firm also represents the relatives of Foster, whose civil lawsuit against McMahon and the city of Vallejo continues.

“It’s rare for any police officer to use deadly force in the course of their career,” said Adante Pointer, an attorney for Foster’s family, noting that it was particularly rare for police to kill multiple people. “It is alarming … that he would be placed in a position where he can harm and kill citizens again while there is still ongoing litigation about the lawfulness of his use of force.”

Despite a continuing stream of deaths, Vallejo officials did not seem interested in trying to reduce the use of deadly force, said Nold: “How are you training officers if they are repeatedly taking lives?” The attorney said McCoy’s body was one of the most disturbing examples of police brutality and gun violence she had ever seen in her career.

Officer Thompson was sued in 2013 by the family of Anton Barrett and his teenage son. Barrett was unarmed when he was was shot by Vallejo police the year before. Thompson was not involved in the shooting, but was accused of directing his police dog to repeatedly “maul” Barrett’s 19-year-old son after the teen was handcuffed, according to the complaint. The officer was also accused of threatening to kill the son and calling him the n-word. The teenager ended up in the the hospital with bites to his face and legs.

The city denied the allegations and the case was eventually settled. Thompson was never criminally charged.

Vallejo police did not respond to a request for comment, and McMahon and Thompson could not immediately be reached.

‘We are being slaughtered in the streets’

The 9 February killing of McCoy has sparked national outrage, and a witness video, filmed from a distance, revealed that after the group of officers riddled him with lethal shots, they shouted a series of commands at him.

Police have alleged that McCoy had a handgun in his lap and had “moved his hands downward” when he was wakened. The department has not released body-camera footage.

Taco Bell had called 911 to report a man who appeared to be unconscious.

David Harrison, one of McCoy’s cousins who helped raise him, said Thursday he was not surprised to hear that one of the officers who shot his loved one had previously killed a man.

“It’s not shocking to me, because these guys are trained to do that,” Harrison, 48, told the Guardian. “We are just helpless. We are like sheep being led off to slaughter, and we are being slaughtered in the streets.”

Harrison said he wished McMahon had faced accountability after the first killing, but noted that his cousin would probably still be dead, given the involvement of five other officers.

“It’s a bigger problem than just that one officer,” he said. “This has just been going on for so long … It’s not just Willie. I want people to know that this could also be your child.”


Sam Levin, “One of six officers who fired at Willie McCoy had killed unarmed man in 2018”,

More Police Misconduct in Delaware

by Delaware Dem, 

A video of a Delaware trooper pulling a gun on a man named Mack Buckley during a traffic stop was recently posted on social media. This is the second arrest video to surface in a week questioning police tactics. The first video concerns two New Castle County Police repeatedly punching a boy who was being arrested during a marijuana investigation. The videos, provided via the News Journal, are embedded below:

Erica Marshall, Manager of the Delaware Campaign for Smart Justice, had this response to the beating video: “The ACLU of Delaware and the Delaware Campaign for Smart Justice commend the Attorney General for opening an investigation into the beating of Roger Brown by New Castle County law enforcement officers.

We urge the New Castle County Police Department to suspend the officer involved in the attack pending the thorough and complete investigation by the AG’s office. We await the result of the investigation, but it is difficult to imagine circumstances that justify multiple officers pinning down a 16-year-old boy and punching him repeatedly in the face.

This incident also highlights the urgent need for more accountability and transparency on the part of law enforcement in Delaware. Police agencies across the state have a frayed relationship with many of the people they police. Repairing that relationship is essential to making our communities safe and just, and it will require holding officers accountable when they do wrong. Improving trust between officers and the people they serve also means providing enough transparency to judge whether such accountability exists.

Finally, we applaud Roger’s friend Jaiden for continuing to record this situation despite attempts by officers to get him to leave the scene. Recording the police is a First Amendment right.”

I haven’t any ACLU statement concerning the Mack Buckley video yet, but will update this post if one is released. The Delaware Attorney General’s Office said it will review the arrest of a 16-year-old boy by New Castle County police. AG Kathy Jennings said the AG’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust has initiated an investigation in the incident.


Delaware Dem, “More Police Misconduct in Delaware”,