Lake County deputy fired for ‘reckless behavior’ in ‘Training Day’ incident

Colleagues say he waved weapon around in public

By Louis Bolden – Investigative Reporter

Posted: 11:02 PM, May 03, 2017 Updated: 6:46 AM, May 04, 2017

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – A Lake County deputy was fired for “reckless behavior” for waving his gun around in public.

A supervisor said the deputy posed a “serious safety concern to citizens and other deputies,” according to an internal affairs investigative report obtained by News 6.

Deputy Dean Zipes had his department issued handgun in one hand  and a Taser in the other, according to colleagues who witnessed the incident.

He also recited lines and re-enacted a scene from the movie “Training Day,” starring Denzel Washington, according to the report.

In the movie, Washington plays a crooked LAPD officer.

In one scene, Washington confronts a suspected rapist and points two guns back and forth from his chest to straight out in front of him, then rubs the weapons together.

News 6 uncovered video from a Lake County deputy’s patrol car that shows Zipes re-enacting the scene using his Taser and department-issued weapon.

The incident happened in the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Office substation in Minneola, according to the report.

A deputy in training who witnessed it reported “Deputy Tammy Peshek was upset that Deputy Zipes would act in an unsafe manner.”

“And in public where a civilian could drive by and witness it,” Peshek said during an interview with a supervisor after the incident.

It happened in February, and News 6 has learned Zipes was already under investigation “for pulling his firearm out of his holster twice in an office setting and using racial slurs,” according to the internal affairs report.

In another incident, a deputy reported being in the break room when Zipes “pulled his weapon out of his holster, pointed it at the glass
windows and stated he never got to shoot the gun,” according to the report.

Zipes was terminated April 21st for harassment, on duty use of a firearm, and other violations, according to the report.

 

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/investigators/lake-co-deputy-fired-for-reckless-behavior?platform=hootsuite

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“[We’ll]…blow your front door off the hinges.” – Sheriff Peyton Grinnell

The Militarization of Policing

The militarization of American policing is a controversial subject. Some say the police have to arm themselves like soldiers so that they can keep up with the threats posed by terrorists and drug gangs. Others maintain that the line that has traditionally separated the police function from the military function has been badly blurred and, as a result, the police are now using confrontational tactics and unnecessary violence. In January 2015 President Obama ordered several changes to the federal programs that provide armored military vehicles and weapons to local police agencies. That order did little to resolve the controversy. The order was criticized from all sides for doing too little and also for going too far. This primer will briefly describe the federal programs that contribute to the militarization trend at the local level and the tactics of paramilitary units in American communities. The primer will conclude with several policy recommendations.

Background

Following riots in Los Angeles in 1965 and the mass shooting at the University of Texas in 1966, several big city police departments started to create special tactical teams to respond to emergencies, such as hostage situations and active shooters. These tactical units are commonly referred to as SWAT teams (Special Weapons and Tactics), but different jurisdictions sometimes use other names, such as “Special Response Team.”

During the 1980s, with the escalation of the drug war, the SWAT teams also began to take on a more expansive role in domestic law enforcement. A few hundred paramilitary raids a year gradually became tens of thousands as tactical units were increasingly used to serve search warrants.

Today, police departments around the country launch approximately 80,000 raids a year. Roughly four out of every five raids today are serving search warrants instead of addressing extraordinarily dangerous situations.

Unfortunately, the drastic expansion of the use of raids to serve warrants has led to an increase in the number of botched raids. A SWAT raid is an inherently violent, dangerous event. Property damage is common, with battered doors and broken windows. Family pets, especially dogs, are sometimes killed due to their reaction to the invading agents.

Far too often, there is an human cost to the raid as well. Here are a few examples:

  • On July 29, 2008, a SWAT team from the Prince George’s County (Md.) Sheriff’s office burst into the residence of the mayor of Berwyn Heights, MD, Cheye Calvo. Police had been tracking a package of marijuana from Arizona when it was delivered to Calvo’s door. Without any further investigation, the police stormed the Calvo residence. The family’s two dogs were shot and killed. Soon thereafter, it became evident that Calvo had nothing to do with the drug package. The marijuana had been mailed to his house either by mistake or so some third party could pick it up before the Calvos could retrieve it from their front porch.
  • In January of 2011, police in Framingham, MA raided an apartment in search of drugs after confidential informants reported making drug purchases “around” the area. When police smashed the door of the apartment, they found 68-year-old Eurie Stamps, not one of the suspects, laying on the floor with his hands above his head. One of the officers kept his M4 rifle trained on Stamps as the other officers searched the apartment. When the officer pointing the gun moved to secure Stamps, he claims his gun accidentally discharged, killing Stamps.
  • In the early hours of May 28, 2014, a Habersham County (Ga.) SWAT team raided the home of the Phonesavanh family. Police were serving a warrant in search of a family member who had allegedly sold a small amount of drugs to an undercover officer. This was a “no-knock” raid, meaning the police did not knock on the door or announce their presence prior to breaking into the home. The family was taken by surprise, and when officers could not get the bedroom door open, they lobbed in a “flashbang” grenade. The door wouldn’t open because the crib of a 19-month-old child was pushed against it. The flash grenade landed in the child’s crib and exploded. The child survived his injuries after several surgeries, but will be permanently scarred. The suspected drug dealer was not at the home when the raid occurred. He was later arrested without incident at another location.

Paramilitary raids sometimes lead to the tragic killings of police officers as well. On January 4, 2012, a “Narcotics Strike Force Team” in Ogden, Utah kicked in the door of Matthew David Stewart while serving a drug warrant. Stewart, a veteran who admitted to growing marijuana to treat his PTSD, was asleep when he heard his door being smashed in. Stewart grabbed a 9mm pistol and fired on what he perceived to be criminal intruders. One officer was killed and five more were injured. Stewart himself was shot multiple times before eventually surrendering to police.

Federal Role in State and Local Militarization

The federal government has contributed to the spread of paramilitary police units and to the “warrior cop” mentality of police culture. Through federal grants and equipment transfer programs, state and local police departments have become heavily armed.

The 1033 program, administered through the Department of Defense, allows for the free transfer of military surplus weapons, equipment, and vehicles, to state and local law enforcement. A task force commissioned by the White House in 2015 found that the 1033 program, along with similar transfer programs, were not properly overseeing local law enforcement’s use of the equipment, not adequately training recipients, and not coordinating with other federal agencies to ensure that slipshod police departments were barred from the program.

The federal government also plies state and local law enforcement with billions of dollars in federal security grants and civil asset forfeiture payouts. The justifications for these transfers and grants typically relate to the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, but there are reasons to be skeptical that the equipment is actually used against drug cartels or to protect national security.

When officials in Keene, NH, applied to the federal government for funding for a BearCat tactical vehicle, for example, by citing a terrorist threat to the annual town pumpkin festival, one city council member stated: “Our application talked about the danger of domestic terrorism, but that’s just something you put in the grant application to get the money. What red-blooded American cop isn’t going to be excited about getting a toy like this? That’s what it comes down to.”

Policing has historically been the province of state and local governments. These federal programs undermine the traditional balance between the federal government and the states. When law enforcement agencies turn to the federal government, rather than their locally elected officials, for equipment and funding, the goals of those police agencies can shift away from local crime-fighting priorities.

Some police commanders have experienced regret. In September 2015, the Burlington Police Department in Vermont decided to stop accepting transfers of federal military equipment. Here is how Chief Brandon del Pozo explained his reasoning: “There are times when military-style equipment is essential for public safety, but they are very rare. We have the resources to handle all but the most inconceivable public safety scenarios. Amassing a worst-case scenario arsenal of military equipment results in officers seeing everyday policework through a military lens. When I realized what a small role the military played in equipping our police, I concluded it was better to return the items.”

Militarization of Federal Agencies

State and local law enforcement are not the only beneficiaries of the federal push for militarization. Federal regulatory agencies have also acquired military weapons and equipment. A 2016 report commissioned by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 found that between 2006-2014, the federal government spent more than $335 million equipping agencies like the EPA, IRS, and Smithsonian Institution with guns, ammunition, and other military equipment, such as night-vision goggles and grenade launchers.

The militarization of regulatory agencies is unjustified. The federal government already has several agencies that are tasked with law enforcement responsibilities, such as the FBI.

Conclusion

  • The use of special tactical teams should be reserved for potentially deadly emergencies, such as hostage situations, active shooters, and barricaded suspects. They should not be used for routine law enforcement practices, such as serving search warrants.
  • The federal government should not provide military weapons to local civilian police.  At the least, never directly, without the explicit approval of locally elected officials. When local civilian oversight is bypassed, there is a danger that the police will become unresponsive and unaccountable to the local electorate’s policy preferences and priorities.
  • Federal regulatory agencies do not need paramilitary units.  The FBI has SWAT units and should be called upon when their extraordinary weapons and tactics are actually needed.

Suggested Readings:

Adam Andrzejewski and Thomas W. Smith, “The Militarization of America: Non-Military Federal Agencies Purchases of Guns, Ammo, and Military-Style Equipment, Fiscal years 2006-2014 Oversight Study.” June 2016.

“Demilitarizing America’s Police: A Constitutional Analysis,” The Constitution Project, August 2016.

Radley Balko, “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America,” Cato Institute, July 17, 2006.

Radley Balko, The Rise of the Warrior Cop, PublicAffairs Publishing, 2013.

Peter B. Kraska and Louis J. Cubellis, “Militarizing Mayberry and Beyond: Making Sense of American Paramilitary Policing,” Justice Quarterly, December 1997.

“Recommendations Pursuant to Executive Order 13688 Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition,” White House Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group, May 2015.

“War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” American Civil Liberties Union, June 2014.

Diane Cecilia Weber, “Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments,” Cato Institute, August 26, 1999.

Prepared by Adam Bates.

https://www.policemisconduct.net/explainers/the-militarization-of-policing/

2 Lake deputies off force for covering up accidental tasing of school employee

Jason Ruiter

Two school resource deputies lost their jobs for trying to cover up an incident in which a Leesburg High School employee was accidentally shot with a taser, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.

Master Deputy Raymond Mattiucci accidentally deployed his taser Jan. 31 when Leesburg High security monitor Jerome Scott asked him how far it could shoot, according to a Sheriff’s Office internal investigation. Deputy Darrell Blanton then colluded with Mattiucci to cover up the tasing, which caused Scott to fall unconscious and left him with a broken wrist, while another school employee was “terrified” to come forward, the report said.

Mattiucci, a Sheriff’s Office employee for over 11 years, resigned March 8 and Blanton, who had been with the agency since January 2015, was fired March 15. Neither deputy had previous disciplinary actions.

“These deputies failed to immediately report a serious incident to their supervisor and then compounded the issue by being less than truthful,” Lake Sheriff Peyton Grinnell wrote in an email. “As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest of standards and that type of conduct should not and will not be tolerated.”

Mattiucci and Blanton had a history of playing around with their tasers on school property, once pretending to tase the security monitor and pointing it “lights flashing” at the face of Leesburg High employee Pamela Nash, according to interviews with sheriff’s investigators.

The deputies kept tabs on Scott and Nash, who witnessed the incident, through text messages and face-to-face inquiries during the following week, the report said.

Nash was alone with Mattiucci and Scott in her classroom when she heard a “pop” sound and saw Scott reaching for the countertop and falling face first on the floor, the report said.

“Jerome, I am sorry!” Mattiucci said, according to Nash’s interview. Nash works as a clerical assistant, according to a school district spokeswoman.

Mattiucci then radioed Blanton, who came into the classroom and removed the probes from Scott’s body. It was another 15 minutes until Scott could speak, Nash said in the report.

Blanton then made contact with dispatch and told them an employee “fell” and the two school employees told the deputies they wouldn’t report the incident, according to interviews.

Mattiucci told investigators, “I can’t tell you how many times [Scott and Nash] flat out said we got your back … I made a grievous error believing them.”

When asked to clarify, he said, “Believing that uh … it wasn’t going to go anywhere. That’s the reason they said, ‘Don’t worry about it, don’t report it. We got your back.’”

Both school employees believed it was an accident and Scott said Mattiucci offered to pay his medical costs, interviews showed. Mattiucci, who had apologized to Scott multiple times, sent him a text message the day after: “Hey if your (sic) worried about the deductible I will help with it,” the report said. The Leesburg security monitor replied with a picture of his wrist in a brace, the report said.

Mattiucci — who never paid Scott — began to avoid him the next week, eventually telling him he was short on cash because he supported five people, according to interviews.

On Feb. 6, Blanton lied to a Leesburg assistant principal that it never happened and went to Nash, asking, “Did you tell?” investigators said. That same day, when a sheriff’s corporal was seen talking to school employees, Mattiucci texted Scott, “What’s the word … Our Corp is about poking his nose around.”

Nash lost sleep over the ordeal and Scott once before told the two deputies not to playfully enact using the taser on him, but Blanton said that even though he could tell Scott was scared, he thought it was funny, the report said.

Both Leesburg High employees feared coming forward.

Around the first weekend in February, Nash told the school’s principal what happened. The principal reported the incident to deputies.

Blanton and Mattiucci were placed on administrative leave during the investigation and were accused of two violations — “departure from the truth” and conduct unbecoming of an officer.

Jason Ruiter, March 27, 2017, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/lake/os-lake-deputies-taser-coverup-20170327-story.html?platform=hootsuite

FBI, Indiana Troopers Raid Lake County Sheriff Offices

By

Police Car Lights

Photo: Scott Davidson (Flickr)

Investigators entered the sheriff’s offices at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point about 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

The FBI and Indiana State Police have raided the offices of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.

Investigators entered the offices of the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point Thursday morning and left later with several boxes of documents.

U.S. Attorney spokesman Ryan Holmes says search warrants were served but declined to comment on the nature of the investigation.

Dean Delisle tells The (Northwest Indiana) Times he was in an office where police records are kept seeking a copy of an accident report when investigators entered and ordered everybody including the sheriff’s employees to leave the building. He says investigators began “taking pictures of everything.”

State and federal investigators’ cars also were parked outside Buncich’s home in Crown Point.

A spokesman for Buncich says his department is cooperating with the FBI.

The Times reports:

A source within county government said federal agents then fanned out to the Lake County Voter Registration and Election offices, where vote totals are kept, the Lake County E-911 offices and other departments within the administration building.

The Lake County Jail, where the sheriff has offices, has been under a U.S. Department of Justice mandate for the last eight years for failing to meet federal healthcare standards for inmates.

http://indianapublicmedia.org/news/fbi-indiana-troopers-raid-lake-county-sheriff-offices-108848/?platform=hootsuite

Lake County, Ind., deputy charged with driving drunk in Lake County hit-and-run

Guy Mikulich.

Guy Mikulich. (Lake County Sheriff’s Department.)

Monday, July 11, 2016

A sheriff’s officer in Lake County, Indiana, is accused of driving drunk and causing a hit-and-run crash.

Indiana State Police said Sheriff’s Lieutenant Guy Mikulich was in an unmarked police car when he struck a 34-year-old man from Frankfort, Illinois, who was standing outside his minivan on Oak Avenue in Miller Beach at 4:48 p.m. Sunday.

Mikulich, a 16-year veteran of the department, had been working the Gary Air Show and had been released from his post, state police said.

A police officer pulled him over in the 5900-block of Hemlock Avenue shortly after the crash, investigators said. The victim was transported to North Lake Methodist Hospital with serious injuries.

State police said Mikulich was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent.

Mikulich was charged with operating while intoxicated causing bodily harm and leaving the scene of an accident. Late Sunday night, he was booked into Lake County Jail and bonded out early Monday morning.

Mikulich was placed on paid administrative leave.

“His actions are in no way representative of the fine men and women of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department,” said Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.

Buncich said he asked the officer to resign, but hasn’t received a response.