Houston Police Shot Man Killed in Fraudulent Drug Raid at Least Eight Times

Dennis Tuttle and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, who was shot twice, were pronounced dead shortly after police invaded their home based on a “controlled buy” that never happened.

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Houston narcotics officers shot Dennis Tuttle at least eight times during the January 28 drug raid that killed him and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, at their home on Harding Street. The no-knock raid, based on allegations that Tuttle and Nicholas were selling heroin, found no heroin and no evidence of drug dealing. The officer who obtained the warrant, Gerald Goines, reported a “controlled buy” at the house that apparently never happened.

According to an autopsy report dated March 19, Tuttle suffered gunshot wounds in his head and neck, chest, left shoulder, left buttock (which was struck twice), left thigh, left forearm, left hand, right wrist, and right forearm (two graze wounds). The report says the chest injury “may represent a re-entrance wound of a fragmented bullet associated with one of the gunshot wounds of the upper extremities.” The officers reported that they shot Tuttle after he fired at them with a .357 Magnum revolver in response to their armed invasion of his home, during which they killed a dog with a shotgun immediately after crashing through the door.

Another autopsy report, also dated March 19, says Nicholas was shot in the torso and right thigh. Police said they shot her after she moved toward the officer with the shotgun, who had collapsed on a couch after being shot by Tuttle. They said they believed she was trying to take away the shotgun. There is no video of the raid to corroborate that account. Both Tuttle, who was 59, and Nicholas, who was 58, were pronounced dead at 5:15 p.m., shortly after police broke into their home.

The only drugs that police found in the house were 18 grams of marijuana and 1.5 grams of cocaine. Those are also the only drugs detected by the toxicology tests described in the autopsy reports: THC and a THC metabolite in Tuttle’s blood and benzoylecgonine, a cocaine metabolite, in Nicholas’ blood. Notably, the tests found no traces of heroin, fentanyl, or other opioids.

Although Police Chief Art Acevedo has said the affidavit for the search warrant was falsified, he continues to defend the investigation that led to the raid, citing a January 8 call from an unnamed woman who reported that her daughter was using drugs at the house and described Tuttle and Nicholas as armed and dangerous drug dealers. Acevedo also said neighbors had thanked police for raiding the couple’s home, which he said was locally notorious as a “drug house” and a “problem location.”

Those claims are inconsistent with the accounts of neighbors interviewed by Houston news outlets. They said that Tuttle and Nicholas, who had lived in the house for two decades, were perfectly nice people and that they had never noticed any suspicious activity at the house.

KTRK, the ABC station in Houston, reported in February that the woman who called police on January 8 was Nicholas’ mother, who was concerned about her own daughter’s drug use. But that report is inconsistent with Acevedo’s account and with what Nicholas’ mother, Jo Ann Nicholas, has told reporters. “I want her name cleared,” the grieving 84-year-old woman said in a March 25 interview with KTRK.

Four officers, including Goines, were injured by gunfire during the raid, but it is not clear where those rounds came from. It seems implausible that Tuttle, even if he fired all six rounds from the revolver, was able to hit his targets four times in the chaotic circumstances of the raid. Acevedo initially responded indignantly to the suggestion that officers were hit by “friendly fire,” but that question is part of the Houston Police Department’s ongoing investigation. This morning I asked the HPD whether the issue has been resolved but have not heard back yet.

After I requested copies of the autopsy reports on April 1, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan claimed the documents were not subject to disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act. Citing the law’s exception for information that “would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime,” Ryan sought an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who I gather disagreed.

Update, May 7: HPD spokesman Kese Smith said the department is not releasing any information on the “friendly fire” issue until it completes its internal affairs and criminal investigations of the operation. He said those investigations should be completed by mid-May, at which point the department will report its findings to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which is conducting its own investigation. The FBI is also looking into potential civil rights violations.

 

| “Houston Police Shot Man Killed in Fraudulent Drug Raid at Least Eight Times”, https://reason.com/2019/05/06/houston-police-shot-man-killed-in-fraudulent-heroin-raid-at-least-8-times/

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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.”, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/04/broward-county-deputy-beats-black-teen.html

Broward Police Officer who Assaulted 15 Year-Old Suspended From Force

 

Cellphones have been an instrumental tool in capturing alleged incidents of police brutality. This weekend, there were multiple videos taken of a Broward County, Florida police officer slamming a young black teenager’s head into the ground.

As the videos spread around social media, there were numerous calls for the officer involved to be fired. Deputy Christopher Krickovich has now been ordered to surrender his gun and badge as he is being suspended while the incident is investigated.

The arrest of 15 year-old Luca drew attention from Broward County’s Mayor, Mark Bogen. Bogen tweeted, “The behavior of these BSO deputies is outrageous & unacceptable. The officer who jumped the student, punched & banged his head should be fired. I have a problem with the deputy who threw him to the ground after he pepper sprayed him. He could’ve easily arrested him after the spray.”

Mayor Mark Bogen@mark_bogen

The behavior of these BSO deputies is outrageous & unacceptable The officer who jumped the student, punched & banged his head should be fired. I have a problem with the deputy who threw him to the ground after he pepper sprayed him He could’ve easily arrested him after the spray.

South Florida Sun Sentinel

@SunSentinel

Broward Sheriff’s Office investigates after video shows deputies pepper-spraying and punching teens https://trib.al/7OTBElf 

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Bishop Talbert Swann also weighed in, writing, “Demand that Broward Sheriff, Gregory Tony drop all the charges against Delucca, fire and arrest the racist, rogue officers that used excessive force and brutalized an innocent 15 year old boy.”

Bishop Talbert Swan

@TalbertSwan

Here’s another angle that shows @browardsheriff’s deputy pepper spraying unarmed Black boy, Lucca, who posed no threat. He then slammed his head into the concrete, arrested him & charged him with ASSAULTING the cops.

This is brutality.

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Bishop Talbert Swan

@TalbertSwan

Demand that @browardsheriff Gregory Tony drop all the charges against Delucca, fire and arrest the racist, rogue officers that used excessive force and brutalized an innocent 15 year old boy.

Sign the Petition! http://chng.it/5KhTfFXw  pic.twitter.com/gR4sU4WZaN

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Golden State Warriors’ Coach and frequent Trump critic, Steve Kerr, also gave his opinion. “What the hell is wrong with our country? This is insane yet routine. So demoralizing,” wrote the Coach.

Steve Kerr

@SteveKerr

What the hell is wrong with our country? This is insane yet routine. So demoralizing.

Keith Boykin

@keithboykin

This is police brutality. https://twitter.com/TalbertSwan/status/1119612441049075713 

37.6K people are talking about this

Broward’s Sheriff, Gregory Tony is doing his best to manage the situation. Talbert Swann writes, “Gregory Tony held a meeting with Black Elected Officials & emphasizes a commitment to transparency & accountability.” The 15 year old boy involved in the incident is still facing charges.

 

TODD NEIKIRK, https://hillreporter.com/broward-police-officer-who-assaulted-15-year-old-suspended-from-force-32157

Violent ‘Bacon Dispute’ at Georgia IHOP Raises Questions About Police’s Use of Force

“Reducing it to bacon is inflammatory, discriminatory and offensive,” said defense attorney Sarah Flack.

Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images

Bettina Makalintal, Apr 3 2019

When local news stations picked up a story about a police altercation at a Georgia IHOP earlier this week, they wrote that a lack of bacon was to blame for the physical fight between the Marietta Police Department and local chef Renardo Lewis early Sunday morning. “Bacon Dispute At Marietta IHOP Lands Man In Jail,” wrote Patch; according to WSB-TV, Marietta police officers were called after Lewis allegedly “threatened to kill everyone inside over bacon.”

“Dispatchers advised officers that an employee from IHOP called 911 and stated a customer ‘had made threats, including gesturing like he (the suspect) had a gun,’” the Marietta PD wrote on Facebook. According to the department, Lewis’s wife had told them the issue “was not about threats, but that she needed IHOP employee names and their telephone numbers because she was upset they did not have bacon.” The department wrote that both Lewis and his wife became “more and more agitated” as the police gathered statements, and that they tried to place Lewis in handcuffs.

In the violent altercation that followed—which was caught on video and circulated on Facebook and Instagram—Lewis was allegedly “tased, punched, and kicked by up to six Marietta police officers,” 11Alive reported yesterday. According to Lewis’s attorney Sarah Flack, turning the fight into a “bacon issue” dismisses the department’s use of force.

“Marietta Police said it’s about bacon. This case has nothing to do with bacon,” Flack said in a press conference. “Reducing it to bacon is inflammatory, discriminatory and offensive.” (MUNCHIES has reached out to Flack for comment, but has not yet received a response.)

In response to the video, the Marietta PD has defended its use of force, claiming that officers were responding to a call that a customer “had made threats and motioned like he had a handgun.” The department further claimed that Lewis had attempted to strangle an officer while resisting arrest, which was why Tasers and punches were used. “While the video may seem shocking to some, we are very proud that all officers used only the force necessary to place Mr. Lewis in handcuffs,” the department added.

The Marietta PD characterized the fight as a “wrestling match,” but according to Flack, “It was a mob-style attack of five officers on one man. He never resisted.”

In a statement to WSB-TV, IHOP’s corporate office stated, “Our top priority is the safety of our guests and team members. […] The franchisee’s team quickly followed protocol and alerted authorities. We’re grateful to the police for their quick response and for keeping the guests and team members in the restaurant safe.”

Flack is pushing not only for the charges to be dropped, but also an investigation into the Marietta PD’s use of force, and an apology from IHOP. As Lewis’s wife told 11Alive, “He doesn’t even eat pork.”

Bettina Makalintal, Apr 3 2019, Vice.com, “Violent ‘Bacon Dispute’ at Georgia IHOP Raises Questions About Police’s Use of Force”,  https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/03/28/fairfield-cop-fired-for-sexual-misconduct-at-golf-course-was-called-creepy-joe/

Video Showing NYPD Violently Arresting Delivery Worker Contradicts Police Account

nypdpar031919.jpeg
A still of the surveillance footage showing three police officers on top of Christopher Parham (Brooklyn Defender Services)

In September of last year, 19-year-old delivery worker Christopher Parham was inside a Williamsburg grocery store picking up ingredients for his boss when he was approached by a plainclothes police officer. The officer, Lieutenant Henry Daverin, claimed he’d seen the teenager driving recklessly and without a helmet on an illegal scooter. During the confrontation, Daverin and Officer Tyler Howe would later state, Parham pushed an officer’s hand, “violently resisted” arrest, and sparked a public disturbance that “caused a crowd to gather.” He was taken to the police precinct, where he allegedly lied about his identity.

On Monday, the Brooklyn Defender Services released surveillance footage of the incident that appears to contradict several aspects of the NYPD’s narrative. While the arrest report states that cops did not use force against Parham, the video shows three officers tackling the delivery worker to the ground. And contrary to their statement that a “a crowd of about 30 persons gathered” around the suspect — thereby triggering a disorderly conduct charge again Parham — the footage shows just a handful of people on the corner at the time of the arrest.

Still, the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez plans to prosecute the case next month, bringing eight separate charges against the now 20-year-old Parham. The slate of allegations includes four misdemeanors, and carries the possibility of one year in prison. He also faces three charges related to his employer’s delivery scooter: unauthorized use of a vehicle, motorcycle helmet violation, and reckless driving.

According to Maryanne Kaishian, a staff attorney at the Brooklyn Defender Services, the video proves that the NYPD’s description of events cannot be trusted.

“The police lied about everything that happened,” she told Gothamist. “From the very beginning, when they said he was driving recklessly, to the very end, when they alleged that they never used force.”

She says her client, who has no arrest record, was essentially jumped by the officers, tased without warning and beaten so badly that he was dazed for hours afterwards. According to the criminal complaint against Parham, when he was asked his name and date of birth at the precinct, he identified himself as “Christopher Perez,” and said he couldn’t remember his birthday — a consequence of the severe concussion he was later diagnosed with, according to his attorneys. As a result of the identification, he was charged with a misdemeanor “false personation.”

The surveillance footage also contradicts the NYPD’s justification for the police stop. In the arrest report, officers claimed they were at the intersection of Flushing Avenue and Humboldt Street when they “observed persons in a crosswalk move out of way to avoid being struck” by Parham. But video shows the delivery worker entering the crosswalk and parking his scooter without any pedestrian reaction.

Discovery materials obtained by Parham’s attorneys, meanwhile, suggest that the cops initially believed the scooter had been stolen, and were only persuaded otherwise after speaking with the owner of La Nortena 2, the nearby Mexican restaurant where Parham was employed (he’s currently a student).

Scott Hechinger

@ScottHech

Client was 19 y/o now 20. Working at La Nortena Restaurant as a delivery driver using the restaurant’s motorized scooter. His boss sent him to the grocery store to pick up shrimp, onions & avocados. Here he is parking the scooter & walking inside. Minutes before assault.

Embedded video

Scott Hechinger

@ScottHech

Seconds after he walks into grocery store, he’s followed in by a plain clothed officer. Wearing a “Don’t tread on me” shirt. Outside, a group of officers gather. pic.twitter.com/X3jsyCWEFI

Embedded video

227 people are talking about this

“They see a young person without a helmet driving a scooter and it’s grounds for them to initiate a conversation and rack up an arrest,” Kaishian told Gothamist. “It’s low-hanging fruit to them.”

As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s crackdown on e-bikes has continued to target delivery workers rather than the businesses that rely on the workers and their vehicles, the mayor has faced growing criticism for an enforcement framework seen by many as hypocritical. While the e-bikes traditionally used by delivery workers remain prohibited under the motorized scooter law, Citi Bike has expanded its fleet of pedal-assist e-bikes, and local officials have recently taken meetings with representatives of venture-capital-backed e-scooter companies like Bird and Lime.

Meanwhile, the moped-like vehicle used by Parham and many other delivery workers presents its own grey area: some certified models of “limited use motorcycles” can be registered with the DMV, but many others cannot, and it’s often unknown to workers whether their employers have received the proper registration. The technical differences in certification, along with the apparent confusion over the administrative code and de Blasio’s directives, has allowed cops to take a kitchen sink approach to applying the scooter law against delivery workers, according to some observers.

“They get ticketed for things such as riding an unregistered vehicle, not having vehicle insurance, or not having a driver’s license,” said Do Lee, a member of the #DeliverJusticeCoalition who wrote his PhD thesis in environmental psychology on delivery cyclists at the CUNY Graduate Center. “Many immigrant delivery workers have told us stories where the police charged or ticketed them for things that never happened.”

It is also relevant, says Kaishian, that Lieutenant Daverin, who appears to be wearing a “Don’t Tread On Me” t-shirt in the video, has a history of alleged brutality. According to a new police misconduct tracker released by the Legal Aid Society, he has been named in at least ten previous lawsuits, resulting in taxpayer-funded settlements of at least $77,500. In one federal case — which the city settled for $30,000 — Daverin allegedly oversaw the discriminatory arrest of a motorist, who was later falsely charged with resisting arrest.

“This kind of abuse happens all the time, we just happen to have footage in this case,” said Kaishian. “The word of a police officer is given more credence in our justice system, and so they don’t bother [telling the truth]. These officers were fully confident that they would never be held accountable.”

Sergeant Jessica McRorie, a spokesperson for the NYPD, told Gothamist that “the matter was immediately investigated, and it was determined no misconduct was committed” on the part of the officers. She did not respond to follow up questions about inconsistencies in the police report.

A spokesperson for the Brooklyn DA’s office said they were “looking into this incident.”

 

“Video Showing NYPD Violently Arresting Delivery Worker Contradicts Police Account”, http://gothamist.com/2019/03/19/surveillance_video_appears_to_under.php

The Torture Machine: Flint Taylor on Chicago Police Brutality from Fred Hampton to Today

MARCH 20, 2019
GUESTS

We look at the Chicago Police Department’s long history of violence against African Americans, from the murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton to the reign of torture overseen by commander Jon Burge. The brutality of the Chicago police force is laid bare in a new book by leading civil rights lawyer Flint Taylor. It’s called “The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago.” The book exposes decades of corruption and cover-ups in the Chicago Police Department. We speak with Flint Taylor, who has represented survivors of police brutality in Chicago for nearly half a century.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we spend the rest of the hour in Chicago, where the Illinois Supreme Court has let stand a less than 7-year prison sentence for former police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was found guilty last year of second-degree murder for killing African-American teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014. The Illinois Supreme Court denied a request by the state’s attorney general to resentence Van Dyke on Tuesday. Van Dyke, who is white, was found guilty on 16 counts of aggravated battery—one count for each of the 16 bullets he fired at McDonald. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul petitioned the state Supreme Court to vacate Van Dyke’s second-degree murder sentence and instead impose a sentence on each of the 16 counts. If the petition had been granted, Van Dyke could have faced to up 96 years in prison.

The news that Van Dyke will not be resentenced has sparked criticism throughout Chicago. The city’s mayoral candidates, who are both African-American women, have spoken out against the decision. Lori Lightfoot, the front-runner in the race, tweeted, quote, “Today’s ruling is the latest disappointment in the Jason Van Dyke sentencing, and a sad reminder of the work we must do to create a system that is free of institutional racism and truly holds police accountable for their misconduct, including criminal acts. We cannot build trust between police and the communities they serve if officers who commit crimes are not held to the same standards as [other defendants].” Lightfoot and her opponent, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, both have vowed to reform Chicago’s Police Department. Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer to be sentenced for an on-duty shooting in half a century.

AMY GOODMAN: The decision is the latest in the struggle by activists, lawyers, journalists to hold the Chicago Police Department accountable for its long history of violence against the city’s citizens, particularly African-American men. Much of that history is chronicled in a new book by a leading Chicago lawyer fighting police torture. The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago exposes decades of corruption and cover-ups in the Chicago Police Department, from the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and Mark Clark to the reign of torture overseen by Commander Jon Burge. Under Burge’s reign, from 1972 to ’91, more than 200 people, most of them African-American, were tortured with tactics including electric shock and suffocation.

We’re joined now by the book’s author, Flint Taylor, an attorney with People’s Law Office who has represented survivors of police torture in Chicago for more than 25 years.

Flint, welcome back to Democracy Now! Why did you name your book The Torture Machine?

FLINT TAYLOR: Well, thank you, Amy and Juan. It’s a pleasure to be back with you.

I named it The Torture Machine for two different but related reasons. First of all is rather obvious. On the cover, the torture machine, that was the electric shock box that the notorious Commander Jon Burge and his men used on many African-American suspects over that 20-year period that you just mentioned. But also “the torture machine” refers to Chicago’s machine, the notorious political machine, often known as the Daley machine and the Democratic machine, here in the city, which not only countenanced this torture, covered it up, but also was involved at the highest levels of the police department and, yes, the State’s Attorney’s Office, when Richard M. Daley was the state’s attorney of Cook County—were involved in this conspiracy, this scandal, that has gone on for so many decades in this city.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Flint, I want to, first, congratulate you on the book. It is really a riveting account. It’s almost a forensic analysis of decades of collusion between judges, politicians, prosecutors and the police to basically engage in systemic human rights violation. But you start the book with an incident that, for many young people today, is not even part of history, but it’s not often covered history. And you make the statement that the killing of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark really was a seminal moment in the development of Chicago, in the modern history of Chicago. And I’m wondering if you could first give us a sense of why you believe that’s so, and then we’re going to do a clip of a documentary, from The Weather Underground, about that, the house where Fred Hampton was killed.

FLINT TAYLOR: Yes. On December 4th, 1969, 14 Chicago police officers working under the control of the state’s attorney of Cook County—at that time, Edward Hanrahan—raided a West Side apartment where Black Panthers were sleeping. And one of those Black Panthers was the chairman of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, a charismatic young leader, who was targeted not only by the police, but by, it turns out, the FBI. And that raid, which was covered up, was claimed to be at first a shootout, was later shown to be a total shoot-in. And then, over the years, as we and others were able to litigate a case in federal court, we were able to show not only that this was a vicious, racist attack on the Panthers and its leadership, where two men were killed and many others wounded, but it was part and parcel of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, the counterintelligence program devised and implemented by J. Edgar Hoover over the years, which in the late ’60s targeted the Black Panther Party, and specifically Fred Hampton in Chicago, and, in fact, that the raid on the apartment was part of this COINTELPROprogram.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, of course, you make the point in your book that that was the beginning of the resistance, mass resistance, of the black community, that eventually led to the election of Harold Washington as the first black mayor of Chicago. But I want to turn to the clip from the documentary The Weather Underground about the murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton nearly 50 years ago, on December 4th, 1969. This clip begins with Fred Hampton.

FRED HAMPTON: So we say—we always say in the Black Panther Party that they can do anything they want to to us. We might not be back. I might be in jail. I might be anywhere. But when I leave, you’ll remember I said, with the last words on my lips, that I am a revolutionary.

WALTER CRONKITE: In Chicago today, two Black Panthers were killed as police raided a Panther stronghold. Police arrived at Fred Hampton’s West Side apartment at 4:45 this morning. They had a search warrant authorizing them to look for illegal weapons. The State’s Attorney’s Office says that Hampton and another man were killed in the 15-minute gun battle which followed.

BOBBY RUSH: The pigs murdered Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton while he lay in bed. Their lies, their oinking to the people won’t—can’t bear up to the evidence that we have that they murdered our deputy chairman in cold blood as he lay in his bed asleep.

BERNARDINE DOHRN: The Panther Party organized tours of the apartment that they were in when they were murdered, and I went with a group of people from the SDS national office, which is a couple of blocks away.

BLACK PANTHER TOUR GUIDE: Don’t touch nothing. Don’t move nothing, because we want to keep everything just the way it is.

BERNARDINE DOHRN: It was a scene of carnage. It was a scene of war. You see this door ridden with bullets, not little bullet holes, but shattered.

BLACK PANTHER TOUR GUIDE: The room where first brother Mark Clark was murdered at.

BERNARDINE DOHRN: You walk through a living room into the bedroom, and there’s a mattress soaked in his blood, red blood down the floor.

SKIP ANDREW: Anyone who went through that apartment and examined the evidence that was remaining there could come to only one conclusion, and that is that Fred Hampton, 21 years old and a member of a militant, well-known militant group, was murdered in his bed probably as he lay asleep.

THOMAS STRIETER: This blatant act of legitimatized murder strips all credibility from law enforcement. In the context of other acts against militant blacks in recent months, it suggests an official policy of systematic repression.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was from the documentary The Weather Underground, directed by Sam Green and Bill Siegel. And so, Flint, the reality was, as you document in your book, that this was actually a direct assassination and that there was a long struggle, on your part, to—because you were there. You were able to get to the house the very day that Hampton was killed. Could you talk about this conspiracy to kill one of the rising radical leaders of the black community?

FLINT TAYLOR: Well, we see now—and it was uncovered during our trial in the ’70s—that the COINTELPRO program targeted black liberation organizations and leaders. And they specifically named targets—Dr. King, Stokely Carmichael, Rap Brown, Elijah Muhammad—and pointed to Malcolm X, as well. And as the Panthers rose and became powerful, first in Oakland and later in Chicago—as you can see from the clip what a charismatic, young leader, at 21, Fred Hampton was—Hoover and his people focused on the Black Panther Party and, specifically in Chicago, on Fred Hampton.

They had an informant in the Black Panther Party by the name of William O’Neal. He sketched out a floor plan that showed where Hampton would be sleeping. They went to the apartment. They supplied that floor plan to the police—the FBI did. They went to the apartment in the early-morning hours. And Fred was asleep. It appeared that he had been drugged by O’Neal or some other agent. And he was murdered in his bed.

Over the years, we uncovered documents that showed this floor plan. That was all covered up, as well. It showed that the FBI took credit for this raid as part of its COINTELPRO program. And it showed even that O’Neal, after the raid, was given by Hoover and the people in Chicago a $300 bonus, what we later called the “30 pieces of silver” for the informant, O’Neal, for setting up the raid. So, he was receiving from Hoover a bonus for the success of the raid at the same time he was serving as a pallbearer in Fred Hampton’s funeral.

AMY GOODMAN: Flint Taylor, you pursued this case civilly for 13 years. What came out of it?

FLINT TAYLOR: Well, a lot of what I’ve just mentioned came out of it. The narrative shifted over the years, thanks to the community, thanks to the Panthers and thanks to the lawsuit that we filed. And as you could hear from the clip, the position that the police took—and they thought they were going to get away with scot-free—was that this was a shootout, that these were vicious Black Panthers, all of that. Well, because we and the Panthers went to that apartment, we were able to show that it was a shoot-in. We were able to change the narrative to the fact that it was an unjustified and violent shoot-in by the police. But over the years, as we were able to join the FBI in the case, we were able to uncover these FBIdocuments that showed that, yes, it was not just a murder, it was not just a shoot-in, but it was an assassination. It was a political assassination straight from Washington and the FBI.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Flint, very shortly after the murder of Fred Hampton, you got involved in another case of the Wilson brothers, and which began the uncovering of the Jon Burge scandal, that, again, would take you decades, really, to finally get some measure of justice. Could you talk about that, the Wilson case?

FLINT TAYLOR: Yes. The Wilson case arose in February of 1982. Two white police officers were shot and killed. The two black perpetrators had escaped. And the city of Chicago, under Jane Byrne and Police Superintendent Brzeczek, set out on the most vicious and terroristic manhunt in the history of the city. They terrorized the black community. They kicked in doors. They dragged people out of their houses. If they thought that they had some information about the killings, they tortured them. They tortured them with suffocation. They tortured them with all kinds of medieval types of torture. They finally found the two people who the eyewitness identified as the persons who were involved in the crime. And the person who was identified as the shooter was Andrew Wilson.

Andrew Wilson was taken back to the police headquarters on the South Side of Chicago. And this notorious commander, who at that time was a lieutenant in charge of the manhunt, by the name of Jon Burge, led a torture of Andrew Wilson that included electric shock with the torture machine, that is mentioned and depicted in my book, and suffocation with a bag. They handcuffed him across an old, ribbed steam radiator and electric-shocked him so that he was burned across his chest. And they also burned him with cigarettes, beat him and got a confession from him.

This came out at that time, but nobody really cared. The state’s attorney of Cook County, Richard Daley, was informed specifically by a doctor and the police superintendent about this torture, and he chose to do nothing about it. Because he did nothing about it, Burge was able to, in the next 10 years, torture another 75 individuals—all African-American men.

And a few years after that, Andrew Wilson, who had been sentenced to death, filed a pro se complaint in federal court challenging his torture and suing Burge. That’s how we got involved. During his trial, an anonymous police source, who we later dubbed as “Deep Badge,” started to give me information that laid out exactly the map of what had happened, the systemic nature of the torture, the fact that Daley and his surrogates were involved, that the police superintendent, that the mayor were all involved.

And we followed that map, basically, for the next 20, 30 years, even as we sit here today, to uncover evidence that supported the idea that this was a systemic torture. This was something that sent people to death row. This was something that convicted innocent people. And, ultimately, all of this led to Burge’s firing. It led to, many, many years later, his conviction for obstruction of justice for lying about the torture. And, of course, it led to the remarkable reparations that the city of Chicago granted to the survivors of police torture and their families here a couple of years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Flint Taylor, we’re going to break and then come back to this conversation, and we’ll also be joined by Lilia Fernández. This is Democracy Now!Flint Taylor, attorney with People’s Law Office, known as the PLO, has represented survivors of police torture in Chicago for nearly half a century. His new book, The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago. When we come back, Lilia Fernández will join us, as well. Stay with us.

 

MARCH 20, 2019, democracynow.com, “The Torture Machine: Flint Taylor on Chicago Police Brutality from Fred Hampton to Today”, https://www.democracynow.org/2019/3/20/the_torture_machine_flint_taylor_on

Cop probed after hitting woman during St. Patrick’s Day melee

By Joshua Rhett Miller, March 18, 2019 | 9:47am | 

A Pennsylvania police sergeant is under investigation after a video showed him hitting a woman in the face with a stun gun during a St. Patrick’s Day street brawl.

A 10-second clip posted to Twitter on Saturday shows an unidentified Chester police sergeant striking Dominique Difiore, 20, of Brookhaven, with what appears to be a Taser as cops tried to control several people who were fighting in the street.

Police Chief James Nolan said Difiore struck the sergeant first but that cannot be seen on the footage.

“A partial video of the event is circulating on various social media platforms,” Nolan said in a statement. “The incident, the video, and level of force used in connection with the event are all currently under investigation.”

The fight took place in the 800 block of East 16th Street at about 5 p.m. Saturday. Officers responding to the scene were told a “riot” had broken out after several people were turned away from a nearby house party on East 15th Street, Nolan said.

Jaylene Westfall, 19, of Levittown, assaulted one of the residents at the home after being turned away, prompting the partygoers and residents to lock themselves inside the home. But Westfall and other suspects managed to kick in the home’s front door and assaulted several people once inside, Nolan said.

In all, four people were arrested and charged with aggravated assault and alcohol-related offenses. In addition to Westfall and Difiore, they were identified as Shawn Connelly, of Philadelphia, and Tess Herman, 20, of Springfield.

Investigators are still looking into whether other people will be charged in connection with the incident.

Sources told CBS Philly that the fight happened during a Widener University pub crawl. But university officials told the station that it was not a “university-sanctioned event” and said the four people arrested were not students at the school.

“It was just very hectic,” said Zachary Whalen, a senior at Widener. “I would say probably 30, 40 people were just running around here, beating the crap out of each other.”

Several witnesses said they saw the officer use his Taser on Difiore once she fell to the ground.

“I was shocked,” witness Latine Bethea told CBS Philly. “I was really shocked. I couldn’t believe a man hit a female like that.”

One man who lives nearby said he thought the officer’s blow to Difiore was a clear example of excessive police force.

“I think it was ridiculous to do something like that, no matter how frustrated you get,” neighbor Matt Pfaff said. “They’re trained to do better.”

A message seeking comment from Chester police early Monday was not immediately returned.

 

Joshua Rhett Miller, March 18, 2019, NYPost, “Cop probed after hitting woman during St. Patrick’s Day melee”, https://nypost.com/2019/03/18/cop-probed-after-hitting-woman-during-st-patricks-day-melee/

Chicago spent more than $113 million on police misconduct lawsuits in 2018

Among the high-profile police misconduct lawsuits settled last year, the city of Chicago paid $16 million to the family of Bettie Jones, shot and killed by Officer Robert Rialmo (above) in December 2015.

Among the high-profile police misconduct lawsuits settled last year, the city of Chicago paid $16 million to the family of Bettie Jones, shot and killed by Officer Robert Rialmo (above) in December 2015. | Max Herman / Sun-Times

The city of Chicago paid more than $85 million last year to settle police misconduct lawsuits and another $28 million to private attorneys to defend City Hall in those cases, records show.

The $113 million-plus total is more than in any year since at least 2011, according to an analysis by The Chicago Reporter of data from the city’s law department.

The payout last year is more than what the city paid in the previous two years combined and brings Chicago taxpayers’ tab for police misconduct to well over half a billion dollars in the past eight years.

There were several high-profile cases settled last year, including $16 million paid to the family of Bettie Jones, shot and killed by Officer Robert Rialmo in December 2015.

Among the other payouts last year: $15 million to the families of two men killed by off-duty detective Joseph Frugoli in a 2009 drunk-driving accident; $9.5 million to the family of Jose Lopez, gravely injured when Chicago police officers used a Taser on him in 2011; and $3.5 million to the mother of Niko Price, fatally shot by former Officer Marco Proano in 2011.

There were also multimillion-dollar payments last year in several wrongful-conviction lawsuits, including $9.3 million to James Kluppelberg, who was released after nearly 25 years in prison for an arson he says he confessed to after being tortured by police Cmdr. Jon Burge’s notorious “Midnight Crew,” $4 million to two men wrongfully convicted of a 1992 double murder and $3.5 million in the case of Patrick Hampton, who was released after 20 years in prison for sexual assault after his conviction was thrown out as a result of claims that detectives fabricated and withheld evidence.

The number of police cases for which the city paid settlements was down slightly from the previous years.

Still, the number of lawsuit payouts by City Hall for police misconduct came to nearly one every two days, on average. Most of them were in the tens of thousands of dollars, with a median payout of $50,000 and the smallest for $500.

The $113 million doesn’t include cases of property damage, minor car accidents, vehicle pursuits or employment-discrimination lawsuits.

The cost is more than five times what the city budgeted for police lawsuits last year.

The sum also does not include the cost of private attorneys City Hall hired to represent the city in negotiations over a federal consent decree that will govern police reform efforts for years. In 2017 and 2018, the city paid more than $4.2 million to outside lawyers involved in the consent decree and related lawsuits.

Last month, a federal judge formally approved the consent decree and appointed a monitor to oversee its implementation. The monitor is expected to cost the city $2.85 million a year.

 

03/15/2019, “Chicago spent more than $113 million on police misconduct lawsuits in 2018”, https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chicago-police-misconduct-lawsuit-payouts-totaled-113-million-2018/

East NY Precinct Paid $9M In Police Misconduct Suits, Data Shows

East New York’s 75th precinct is the city’s most sued and has paid more money in settlements than any other, new data shows.

By Kathleen Culliton, Patch Staff | 
One Brooklyn precinct faced more misconduct lawsuits than any other in the city, data shows.
One Brooklyn precinct faced more misconduct lawsuits than any other in the city, data shows. (Shutterstock)
EAST NEW YORK, BROOKLYN — An East New York father, framed for a kidnapping he did not commit and forced to spend 16 years in prison, is just one of almost 100 people who have sued the 75th Precinct since 2015, a new database shows.The 75th precinct at 1000 Sutter Ave. is the most sued precinct in New York City with 91 federal lawsuits filed since 2015 and, at $9.1 million, has paid out the most money in settlements, according to the Legal Aid Society’s new database, CAPstat.

CAPstat, launched Wednesday, provides users access to data culled from federal civil rights lawsuits and disciplinary summaries provided by BuzzFeed with the hope of improving transparency within the NYPD, Legal Aid Society officials said.

“We join a national movement including fellow defenders, advocates, and community members to shed much needed daylight on police departments,” said Cynthia Conti-Cook, Legal Aid staff attorney.

“CAPstat will help New Yorkers gain a more thorough understanding of lawsuits filed against the NYPD for misconduct and will help the public hold the NYPD accountable.”

The data shows that East New York’s precinct surpasses every other in the city for the number of police misconduct lawsuits in federal civil court and the cost of payouts, CAPstat data shows.

The second-most sued precinct, the 71st precinct in Crown Heights, faced just 29 lawsuits, less than a third of the 75’s, in the same period. Bushwick’s 83rd precinct came second for settlement costs of $530,000, or just 6 percent of what the East New York precinct paid.

Reginald Connor, the East New York father framed by police for the kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old girl Jennifer Negron in 1992, claimed most of that money when he sued the 75th precinct in 2014.

Connor was granted nearly $8 million after spending 16 years in jail and being forced to register as a sex offender, court records show.

In their complaint, Connor’s attorneys noted the 75th precinct became “one of the most notorious examples of unchecked police corruption and misconduct in the City’s history” in 1992, when 75th precinct Officer Michael Dowd was busted for running a massive drug dealing operation out of the precinct.

Dowd’s arrest led the city to establish the Mollen Commission, which spent almost two years investigating NYPD corruption in precincts across New York.

The commission found “a system that had virtually collapsed years ago,” attorneys wrote.

According to Connor’s complaint, an NYPD sergeant admitted that of 750 murder investigations he supervised at the 75th Precinct between 1992 and 1994, only one was done correctly.

 

Kathleen Culliton, Patch Staff | “East NY Precinct Paid $9M In Police Misconduct Suits, Data Shows”, https://patch.com/new-york/brownsville/east-ny-precinct-paid-9m-police-misconduct-suits-data-shows

Benny Warr, awarded $1 in police brutality case, seeks new federal trial

Gary Craig, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Published 8:07 a.m. ET March 9, 2019

Benny Warr, who received an award of $1 after a trial in which he claimed he was brutalized and seriously injured by police, is seeking a new trial.

In court papers filed this week, Warr’s attorney, Charles Burkwit, maintains that the jury’s verdict in the civil trial ran counter to the evidence. The jury largely exonerated three officers accused of misconduct and abuse, though did conclude that one of the officers, Anthony Liberatore, used excessive force in a May 2013 arrest of Warr.

The jury then awarded Warr $1.

Also, Burkwit noted in his court papers, the jury decided that Liberatore should be subjected to “punitive damages” — typically an award designed to punish an individual who committed a wrongdoing — but then set the award amount at no dollars.

That “award was inconsistent and against the weight of the evidence,” Burkwit wrote.

City attorney Spencer Ash has responded in court papers that the jury’s verdict aligned with the evidence and that jurors “did not buy (Warr’s) conspicuously false narrative.”

The court salvos largely echo the conflicting testimony from the recent civil trial in federal court, with Warr, who was in a wheelchair which was pushed over when he was arrested, contending that he suffered serious injuries from a beating inflicted upon him by police.

Meanwhile, city officials maintain that Warr initiated the conflict that led to his arrest, tussled with police, and had suffered earlier injuries in life that he now wants to claim happened during the physical confrontation.

Warr, who lost part of his leg when he was a child and has worn a prosthesis since, testified that he was simply waiting for a bus when he was knocked from his wheelchair by police the evening of May 1, 2013. He maintained that he was severely beaten and now suffers from post-traumatic stress.

Evidence showed that he was kneed in the abdomen and hit in the head with an “elbow strike” by police, but police and city officials said the response was proper given Warr’s aggressive response to an attempt to arrest him on a disorderly conduct charge.

Police alleged that Warr was combative and possibly trying to inflame an angry crowd when they arrested him. They said he that he punched them, and continued to fight after he fell to the ground from his wheelchair.

He was arrested on disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges; a judge later agreed to what is known as an “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal,” leading to the eventual dismissal of the charges after Warr was accused of no more crimes over a six-month period.

In his request for a new trial, Burkwit argues that:

• Medical evidence showed that Warr suffered fractured ribs from his arrest.

• His injuries complicated his ability to now walk with a prosthesis, which he could do beforehand.

• Warr will need years of medical treatment, and a jury decision to award no compensatory damages is not consistent with a determination that Liberatore did use excessive force.

• Attorney Ash committed misconduct during the trial that impacted the jury’s decision, including showing the jury medical records that were not supposed to be admitted at trial; briefly showing a video clip that also had been precluded; and maligning an expert who testified for Warr as being “down the line of doctors.”

In his response, Ash answered that:

• Warr, who previously struggled with drug addiction, had a lifetime of “chronic degenerative medical conditions” and the rib fractures may have been old injuries.

• Warr claimed his head was “punted like a football” in the arrest yet showed no outward signs of head injury afterward and clearly talked lucidly with a witness who was there.

• Warr “tried to instigate” the altercation to have a friend then record it on a cellphone.

• Any errors made by Ash during the trial were resolved quickly by instructions to the jury from the judge and were irrelevant when weighed against the bounty of other evidence.

 

Gary Craig, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, March 9, 2019, “Benny Warr, awarded $1 in police brutality case, seeks new federal trial”, https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2019/03/09/benny-warr-police-brutality-case-seeks-new-trial/3103338002/