Houston officer kills unarmed man walking with trousers down

28 March 2018

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

Media captionVideo shows unarmed man before fatal shooting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gunfire rings out.

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

“He should have gotten tased!

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

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

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

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

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It’s time for Xavier Becerra to show some courage on police misconduct disclosure

By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

It's time for Xavier Becerra to show some courage on police misconduct disclosure
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sits for an interview in Sacramento, Calif. on Oct. 10, 2018. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra is setting a bad example for this state’s guardians of public safety. He’s got some 500 law enforcement officers working for him in several state Department of Justice agencies, and they are covered by a new law that lifts the veil of secrecy on police behavior by requiring the release of certain personnel records. He ought to quickly comply with requests for those documents, and he ought to make it clear that he believes the hundreds of police and sheriff’s departments around the state ought to be doing the same thing.

Instead, he has failed to respond to records requests. He explains that he’s waiting for courts to decide whether the new law — SB 1421 — really means what it says, or if it instead applies only to records of police misconduct or shootings that occurred after the law took effect this year.

Of course the law means what it says. There is nothing in the language that limits its application. When police secrecy laws were adopted in the 1970s, they covered up records past and present. Likewise, the bill to once again grant public access to records related to officer use of force, sexual assault or dishonesty applies to all law enforcement files.

Los Angeles officials have been hot and cold on police disclosure.


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After losing in the Legislature last year, police unions are making a last-ditch attempt to thwart the law by arguing that it somehow doesn’t apply to records of previous years’ incidents. They have gotten a few judges in Los Angeles and other places around the state to halt disclosure while they consider the question. Meanwhile, other judges in other parts of the state have properly rejected the argument. That means the law applies or doesn’t apply depending on where in the state the records are being held. That’s an untenable situation that requires some leadership from the state’s top lawyer.

Keep in mind that none of those lawsuits seeking to block release apply directly to Becerra’s department. But he isn’t releasing anything anyway, until the other lawsuits are resolved.

That’s absurd. Lawsuits are filed all the time over the proper interpretation of the Public Records Act and other disclosure laws. If state and local agencies didn’t comply with any request while litigation was pending, police unions and others who want to block disclosure would have an easy time of it. They wouldn’t have to win their lawsuits; they would just have to file them over and over again.

In addition to conducting its own law enforcement operations, Becerra’s office also investigates local police agencies, and in so doing it obtains records from city police officers and county sheriff’s deputies that are subject to the disclosure law. Becerra isn’t releasing those either. He is being challenged in court on that point by the First Amendment Coalition, just as The Times and other news organizations are pressing for disclosure from other law enforcement agencies.

Californians should expect better from their attorney general. He is the state’s lawyer and the public’s advocate, and should put his position and his office’s legal acumen to work on behalf of transparency, as required by the law, and not secrecy, as preferred by police unions.

It’s the unions, of course, that make things complicated. They are big players in state and local politics, and they expect elected officials to toe their line on issues of importance to them.

Los Angeles officials have been hot and cold on police disclosure. More than a decade ago, when a more expansive bill came before the Legislature, then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton spoke out in favor of it.

This time around, LAPD Chief Michel Moore argued that the law ought to apply only to new incidents and new records because doing otherwise would create a bureaucratic headache. It may or may not, but inconvenience is no excuse for noncompliance.

Now, however, Moore finds himself a defendant in a suit by the Los Angeles Police Protective League to block disclosure. City Atty. Mike Feuer has filed papers on behalf of the city arguing for disclosure.

The Assn. of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs filed a suit blocking release of sheriff’s records from before Jan. 1. It’s time for the Board of Supervisors to weigh in on behalf of the public, and of disclosure.

And it’s time for Becerra, the state’s preeminent law officer, to show some leadership on the issue.

THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD, FEB 15, 2019, “It’s time for Xavier Becerra to show some courage on police misconduct disclosure”, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-sb-1421-police-20190215-story.html

Police, at Odds with Oversight Board, Reject More of Its Penalties

Tensions have increased between the New York Police Department, led by Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.CreditCreditJohn Taggart for The New York Times

By Benjamin Mueller, April 12, 2018

 

The New York Police Department, at odds with a civilian oversight board about changes to a rule the police used to delay disciplinary decisions for hundreds of days, has increasingly turned its back on the board’s proposed penalties since the rule was tightened.

The police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, is now reducing or rejecting the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s disciplinary recommendations in a substantial majority of cases, even though the board is pursuing more lenient penalties, according to an annual report the board released on Thursday.

By that measure, relations between the two agencies — inherently contentious — are at their lowest point since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014.

The department’s treatment of review board recommendations last year reversed a yearslong trend as the police made more use of so-called reconsideration requests, a practice allowing the department to challenge the board’s findings or proposed penalties.

But the board, stung by the 200-plus days it was taking the department to lodge such challenges, instituted a 90-day deadline at the end of 2016, with exceptions only for new evidence or a misapplication of the law.

With that change, two years of relative comity between the agencies ended, just a few months into the tenure of Mr. O’Neill, who had succeeded William J. Bratton as commissioner.

In the most serious cases, prosecuted by the review board before a police administrative judge, Mr. O’Neill departed from the board’s recommended penalties 73 percent of the time last year, in most instances after an administrative judge found an officer not guilty. That was up from 60 percent of those cases in 2016.

Overall, almost half of the most serious cases that were closed in 2017 ended with no discipline. And on four occasions, Mr. O’Neill reversed a guilty verdict at trial.

He also broke from the board’s proposed penalties in almost 60 percent of cases in which the board recommended a lower class of penalties last year, up from 34 percent of those cases in 2016.

Those numbers put Mr. de Blasio in an uncomfortable position since he had campaigned for mayor on a promise of greater police accountability and, as a city councilman, sponsored a bill giving the civilian oversight board more power. Not since the former commissioner Raymond W. Kelly was at loggerheads with the oversight board over stop-and-frisk tactics have the police departed so often from the board’s proposed penalties.

Richard D. Emery, chairman of the oversight board from 2014 to 2016, said: “The C.C.R.B. very quickly becomes irrelevant because it’s no longer a meaningful part of the disciplinary process, and is just a palliative to people who complain with no real consequence.”

The Police Department has rejected the recommendations of the review board even as the board pursues lighter penalties. The board sought the most serious punishment, which leads to a trial process, against only 11 percent of officers with a substantiated allegation last year, down from 66 percent of such officers in 2013. Instead, the board is more often recommending “command discipline,” which can mean anything from the officer’s getting guidance from a commanding officer to the officer’s forfeiting up to 10 vacation days.

Review board officials have said a 2014 expansion of their disciplinary options allowed them to tailor proposed penalties to an officer’s conduct. Mr. Emery has also said reducing proposed penalties was meant to persuade the police to accept more of the board’s recommendations.

But at the same time, the police started channeling their disagreement into reconsideration requests in 2014. By the second half of 2016, the police took an average of 264 days to lodge a challenge, severely prolonging cases.

Some critics have always said that process was needlessly accommodating of a department that already controlled final outcomes. The police commissioner has the final say over all verdicts and penalties.

The review board tightened its rules further in February, giving the police 30 days to challenge recommendations, with some exceptions.

Kevin S. Richardson, the deputy commissioner in charge of the department advocate’s office, which reviews the oversight board’s recommendations, said police officials had met with the board to express concerns about no longer having enough time to launch challenges. He said the department had added lawyers to the unit that reviews oversight board cases to reduce delays.

In around half the cases of officers who had allegations reconsidered in 2015 and 2016, the review board downgraded the disposition or disciplinary recommendation, and Mr. Richardson said the department would not have broken with the review board so often in 2017 had that trend continued. Last year the board rejected departmental challenges in cases involving 119 officers, stuck with its decisions for 13 officers and downgraded the finding or the disciplinary recommendation for 14.

“Police Commissioner O’Neill is not in any way disregarding or ignoring the C.C.R.B. or not giving them the legitimacy the agency deserves,” Mr. Richardson said.

A growing supply of video evidence has helped the review board close more investigations and substantiate more of those cases. But overall, only a third of cases resolved last year were fully investigated, with many of them truncated because a complainant or witness stopped cooperating or couldn’t be found. People often have to come to the review board’s offices in Lower Manhattan during business hours for a complaint to proceed.

Christopher T. Dunn, the associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the truncation rates were a significant concern: “If you’re a victim of police misconduct, that’s not going to give you a lot of confidence in the C.C.R.B.,” he said.

Jonathan Darche, executive director of the review board, said making the review board more accessible to the public was a priority, with the goal of enabling the agency “to investigate misconduct, identify trends, and ultimately, increase accountability and improve police-community relations.”

Benjamin Mueller, April 12, 2018, NYTimes, Police, at Odds with Oversight Board, Reject More of Its Penalties”, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/12/nyregion/police-at-odds-with-oversight-board-reject-more-of-its-penalties.html

20 Shots in Sacramento: Stephon Clark Killing Reignites a Furor

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

By Jose A. Del Real, March 28, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Lives Upended by Policing: The Raw Videos Sparking Outrage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phoenix man paralyzed by police shooting makes claim of brutality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police Officer Is Charged With Lying About Finding a Gun

Police Officer Joseph Moloney, left, arrived at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Tuesday. He pleaded not guilty to perjury charges. CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times
Police Officer Joseph Moloney, left, arrived at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Tuesday. He pleaded not guilty to perjury charges.CreditCreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

By Joseph Goldstein, March 27, 2018

 

A New York police officer was arraigned on Tuesday on perjury charges after prosecutors said he repeatedly lied about how the police found a gun in a Brooklyn apartment.

The officer, Joseph Moloney, 27, is accused of providing several false stories, under oath, about how the police discovered a gun in an apartment in the Red Hook Houses complex in South Brooklyn in 2016. Officer Moloney initially claimed that he had found the gun when it was another officer — a sergeant — who had discovered it, prosecutors said. Ultimately, he came clean, but that did not help him. Prosecutors charged him in a 24-count indictment that includes perjury in the first degree and official misconduct.

He pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the charges before Justice Danny K. Chun in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. Officer Moloney’s lawyer, John Tynan, declined to comment on the charges.

“Our police officers are expected to be truthful and honest at all times because people’s fates and the integrity of the justice system depend on that,” said Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney. “We allege that the officer in this case failed to do that and instead repeatedly gave false testimony under oath. Such conduct diminishes public trust and is, in fact, criminal. We intend to now hold the defendant accountable.”

Last week, The New York Times published an investigation into police perjury within the New York Police Department that found that false testimony by the police, known as “testilying,” remains a problem. This year, a Queens detective, Kevin Desormeau, has been convicted of perjury and a Brooklyn detective has been charged with fabricating a photo lineup.

Even as Officer Moloney was arraigned, prosecutors offered little explanation about why they believe he lied. They also did not say if they suspect it had been his idea to lie or if he been instructed to lie by superiors. At the time of the gun arrest, Officer Moloney had been a police officer for three years. As contradictions in his account were exposed, Officer Moloney cited his inexperience as the reason for the error, prosecutors said.

The charges against Officer Moloney stem from an arrest he and other officers made on May 6, 2016, in the public housing apartment building where they had been seeking to arrest a man on a warrant for low-level charges. The officers knocked on the door of an apartment and arrested the man when he answered the door, prosecutors said.

Because it was early in the morning, the man was not properly dressed. The officers followed him into a bedroom to allow him to put on clothes. Officer Moloney and a second officer left with the man to process the arrest, prosecutors said, but about 15 minutes later a sergeant who had stayed behind told the officers to come back.

Inside the apartment was an open black box containing a gun as well as a few bags of marijuana, prosecutors said. At that point, the sergeant told Officer Moloney to go get a search warrant. But when Officer Moloney went to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office to apply for the warrant, he claimed that he — not the sergeant — discovered the gun.

He also insinuated that the arrested man had tried to hide the gun.

“As I was assisting Mr. [redacted] to get dressed, Mr. [redacted] kicked a black plastic box under the bed where the baby was sleeping. I then opened the black plastic box and observed a silver pistol inside the box,” Officer Moloney wrote in a search warrant affidavit, according to the indictment.

He repeated this account, with some variations, to a grand jury, and at court proceedings, prosecutors said.

His story came under scrutiny when photographs from the apartment showed that the bed was set on the floor. At that point, Officer Moloney said the suspect had been trying to push the box away from the bed — rather than toward it, prosecutors said.

“When we were getting him dressed we’re noticing he’s pushing the box away from the actual bed and we realize that it’s open a little and we see that there’s also a firearm in the box,” Officer Moloney testified on Feb. 1. in a family court hearing.

Asked about the discrepancy, Officer Moloney said it was an error based on a lack of experience. It was, he said in Supreme Court, a “mistake on my part, being my first search warrant that I’d sworn out alone, and just a rookie mistake.”

But in July 2017 Officer Moloney admitted that he had not been the one to open the black box, prosecutors said. He also said that he did not observe the moment that the box was being opened, prosecutors said.

“I want to come clean to you,” he told officials, according to the indictment. “I did not open the black plastic box. I did not see the box being opened by someone else. I wasn’t in the room.”

Based on this, prosecutors dismissed the gun charges against the man, whom prosecutors did not identify. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office referred the matter to the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, which led to perjury charges being filed against Officer Moloney.

Joseph Goldstein, March 27, 2018, NYTimes, Police Officer Is Charged With Lying About Finding a Gun”, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/27/nyregion/police-officer-perjury-new-york.html

Dallas Police shooting illustrates dangers of police brutality and victim blaming

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

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

Carrie Pommerening,

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How dare Jean get shot in his own home.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No,” Windbigler said.

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

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

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

“Yes, sir,” Windbigler said.

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

History of misconduct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six California officers shot man as he woke in his car

13 February 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do Vallejo police say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does the family say?

Mr McCoy’s family has disputed this police account.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 things: The cost of Jon Burge’s police torture legacy

Elvia Malagon, Chicago Tribune, September 21, 2018

There are many ways to measure the legacy of disgraced Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge. There’s the alleged torture suspects suffered — a means of forcing confessions — at the hands of officers under his supervision. And the years those who were wrongly convicted spent behind bars. Taxpayers have paid a hefty price, too, as the city county and state settled lawsuit after lawsuit.

We learned in recent days that Burge died, at the age of 70, in Florida. A Vietnam veteran, Burge started working for the Chicago police in 1970 and moved up the ranks to commander. Stories of the violence committed under Burge — including beatings, electric shock, suffocation with typewriter covers and games of Russian roulette — began to surface and by 1993 he was fired. Years later, he was convicted of lying to federal authorities about his conduct and was sent to prison.

His death is a reminder of the price paid by so many in the wake of the torture revelations. Here are four examples:

26 years

Alton Logan spent 26 years in prison for murder before the lawyers of another man, Andrew Wilson, came forward to point the finger at their client. Wilson, who had just died, confessed to the killing, the legal team said. They said they couldn’t say anything before that because they were bound to attorney-client privilege while he was still alive. In the wake of that revelation, Logan was initially released on bond and eventually the Illinois attorney general’s office dismissed the charges against him.

$132 million

The Chicago-based People’s Law Office, which handled torture-related lawsuits, calculates that the torture cases involving Burge and officers he oversaw have cost the city, Cook County and state of Illinois $132 million. That figure includes settlements and legal fees that were paid to individuals who said they were tortured.

The city of Chicago has paid $83 million alone in settlements related to torture cases under Burge, according to figures compiled by the People’s Law Office. The city reached one of the largest settlements — totaling $10.2 million — with Alton Logan in 2013. Logan had been convicted and sentenced to life in the 1982 fatal shooting of Lloyd Wickliffee, who had been working security at a South Side McDonald’s. Logan had taken Burge to court, arguing that evidence that could have proved he was innocent was hidden. The state of Illinois paid Logan $200,000 after he was exonerated, according to the People’s Law Office.

The city also paid out $10.2 million to Eric Caine, who had been convicted of the 1986 murders of an elderly couple. He spent about 25 years in prison until a Cook County judge tossed the conviction in 2011. He had alleged that detectives working under Burge tortured him until he provided a false confession.

Reparations package

In 2015, the Chicago City Council approved a $5.5 million reparations package for people who were tortured during Burge’s time with the Chicago police. The package include settlements up to $100,000 for 57 victims, said Flint Taylor, an attorney with the People’s Law Office. Victims who had already gotten settlements from the city for more than $100,000 were not eligible. Victims and their families were also eligible to receive tuition for classes at City College and could receive job training services.

The reparations package also led to the opening of the Chicago Torture Justice Center in Englewood to provide a variety of services to Burge’s victims and the community impacted by police brutality. The package also called for public school students in eighth grade and 10th grade to learn about the Burge torture era, according to a news release from the city at the time.

Burge’s police pension: $4,000 monthly

Burge continued to collect a his taxpayer-funded monthly pension of more than $4,000, according to the People’s Law Office. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan had previously tried to challenge the pension payments, but it was tossed out by the Illinois Supreme Court. The state’s high court ruled that the Retirement Board of the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago has the jurisdiction to decide if the monthly pension should be terminated.

“This opinion should not be read, in any way, as diminishing the seriousness of Burge’s actions while a supervisor at Area Two, or the seriousness of police misconduct in general. As noted, the question in this appeal is limited solely to who decides whether a police officer’s pension benefits should be terminated when he commits a felony,” the court’s ruling stated.

Elvia Malagon, Chicago Tribune, September 21, 2018, 9“4 things: The cost of Jon Burge’s police torture legacy”, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-four-things-jon-burge-torture-chicago-police-20180921-story.html