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Georgia Police Misconduct and Police Brutality
 
 Page 1


08/25/2005 -  Albany -- A former Albany Police Officer is indicted by the Grand Jury for molesting a 14 year old girl.

 28 year old Darius Richardson is charged with for five crimes, including Aggravated Child Molestation and violation of Oath of Office.

 Prosecutors say in May he had sex with the 14 year old, who was caught by Dawson Police driving Richardson's personal car. The Albany Police suspended Richardson with pay days later. He officially resigned Tuesday.

 The Dougherty Grand jury also issued a new indictment against a 67- year old Albany man already charged in a car crash that killed a 19 year old expectant mother and her unborn baby.

In January Arnold Gray was indicted on charges of vehicular homicide and fetacide by vehicle.

 Now he's also charged with D-U-I. Prosecutors say Gray was drinking September 15th before he crashed his truck into Kristy Tullis' car at the intersection of Palmyra and Schley roads.

The 19-year old and her unborn son died the next day.

If convicted Gray could face more than 25 years in prison. 

**********

  08/19/2005 - Valdosta, Georgia -  Officer Jimmy Michael Lankford of the Pearson Police Department is charged with theft by taking by a public official and violation of office. Investigators say he took a money order belonging to the city that was used to pay an inmate's jail costs.

 He worked for the Pearson Police department for 11 months, but has been fired. Chief Wesley Fletcher says the Georgia Peace Officers Association has been notified and will likely revoke his police certification if he's convicted.

*********

   08/18/2005 - ATLANTA -- A former Atlanta police “Officer of the Year” was sentenced Thursday to almost six years in federal prison for helping a drug gang kidnap a rival who was severely beaten.
  Officer David Alan Freeman, 39, pleaded guilty in February to a civil rights violation by misusing official authority and admitted an association with the Diablos gang. For using his position as a police officer to lure the beating victim under threat of arrest, U.S. District Judge Charles A. Pannell sentenced him to five years and 10 months in prison.
  Authorities said Freeman, a former student government president at Georgia State University, had been a police officer for about 12 years and grew up in the area where the Diablos operated.
He was arrested in August 2003, just two weeks after being named “Officer of the Year.”  

*********

     08/10/2005 - A Henry County police officer was arrested Friday afternoon and then fired from the force for engaging in an "inappropriate act" with a 16-year-old girl while he was on duty, police officials said.

 The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has charged Randolph Cobian, 28, with aggravated child molestation and child molestation, according to the Henry County Police Department.

 Mike Turner, the Henry County Police public safety director, said Cobian was discovered at a private residence in the county when the girl's father came home at approximately 5:30 Friday morning.

 "Because of her age the matter has been turned over to GBI," Turner said. "The Henry County Police has been working cooperatively with the Flint Judicial (Circuit) District Attorney's Office and GBI to make sure this case comes to a speedy and correct conclusion."

 Turner said Cobian, who is single, has been with Henry County for two years and has no record of a citizen's complaint or inappropriate conduct. Prior to his employment within the county, Turner said the officer worked as a trainee with the Cobb County Police Department. Cobian was "immediately terminated" as an employee of the police department on Friday, Turner said.

 No specific details were given to identify the nature of the "inappropriate act" in which Cobian and the girl were engaged in when the father found them. Whether or not the two had an ongoing relationship will be part of the investigation now under way, authorities said

 According to reports, Cobian was outside his designated geographical zone and was on duty when the incident occurred. Turner said the father saw the police car in his driveway and called authorities after entering his home. Reportedly the father told Cobian to remain in the house until authorities arrived, and he complied.

  Officials believe the two have known each other for more than a year when Cobian served as the girl's volunteer swimming coach at an area school, which has been unnamed due to the open investigation. Turner said the officer had asked to volunteer at the school again this year, but school officials had yet to grant approval. The headmaster of that school has been notified of the incident.

 "There may be other issues we may need to approach at this school," Turner said. "In this case we cannot discount anything. We have no evidence at this point that there is any other person involved. However, we cannot reasonably discount the fact that because of contacts with other young people that there may not be other issues that may be involved."

Officials also reported that the officer and the girl's family were acquaintances.

 "This was a friend," he said. "This was someone who had been in their house and eaten dinner with them. (He) had been trusted to teach their daughter."

Turner said the parents are "understandably angry."

 "They are hurt - as we all are," he said. "On behalf of the public safety division, we apologize to this community for the behavior of this officer. It does not reflect the standards of the officers ... that serve this community."

Chief Russell Abernathy said the incident is "an embarrassment to the county."

 "All the officers are upset about this," he said. "They're stunned. This is a fellow officer that they trusted and worked with. It's shocking to them."

Despite their peer's alleged actions, Abernathy said the officers "can still hold their heads high."

 "They're not the ones who did this," he said. "One officer - who's now a former officer - did the wrong thing. One stumbled ... and he's paying the price. This is something we will overcome. This is just a cancer that's happened, and we removed it."

***********

   07/27/2005 - Georgia - A confessed "bad cop" turned against a former Atlanta police officer accused of moonlighting as a bank robber.

 Stanley Street, accused by federal prosecutors of a series of bank robberies last summer, listened Tuesday as one-time precinct colleague David Alan Freeman testified that his friend passed him notes in prison admitting to the trio of holdups.

 Under defense cross examination, Freeman, formerly officer of the year in his northwest Atlanta precinct, acknowledged that he hopes for a lesser sentence by cooperating with prosecutors against Street.

 Freeman, who pleaded guilty in February to a federal racketeering charge for his role with a northwest Atlanta drug gang, told a U.S. District court jury that Street, in notes passed to him in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary by prison orderlies, admitted to the robberies.

 Street insisted in the notes that bank tellers could not identify him and that he "didn't leave any fingerprints," Freeman told the jury.

 Street, 45, a 17-year Atlanta police veteran, former Savannah cop and one-time Marine Corps drill instructor, could face more than 50 years in federal prison if convicted of holding up two Wachovia branch banks last summer.

 The bandit was armed with a 9 mm pistol and wore a black ski mask, gloves and dark clothing, police said.

 FBI agents testified that Street confessed to robbing the same Wachovia branch on Chattahoochee Avenue twice, the last holdup coming just hours before his arrest Aug. 31. Street also is charged with robbing a Wachovia on Lakewood Avenue in June.

 The FBI contends that Street stole a total of $137,000 in the three robberies but deposited only $18,000; much of the loot was damaged by exploding red dye packs that tellers concealed in the currency.

  Freeman, who worked with Street on the day shift in northwest Atlanta's Zone 1, has been in the Atlanta federal penitentiary since August 2003.

 U.S. attorneys contend that Freeman, while a police officer, was also a leader in the Diablos drug gang, which operated in northwest Atlanta's Bankhead Highway area. Freeman pleaded guilty to watching gang members severely beat a man who the Diablos believed had stolen drugs from them.

 "I'm looking at a sentence of anywhere from time served to 10 years," Freeman testified.

 Freeman said he also testified against several Diablos members at their federal trial last spring and had been told that he could receive a lesser sentence for "truthful" cooperation with prosecutors.

 In the confession, Street said he committed the robberies for money to pay employees of his off-duty private security company, Atlanta's Finest.

 "It hurts all of us," says Chief David Huckstep. He adds that Police officer Tony Entrekin was taken into custody himself after arresting a woman for possession of cocaine at Magnolia and Fern Streets on Sunday. "While en route to the jail, the officer stopped, had a sexual encounter with the suspect that was in custody, and then continued on to the justice center," says Huckstep.

 That's where the 38 year old woman filed a complaint. It's also where the GBI began its investigation Monday night. "During that interview, he confessed," says Huckstep.

 Entrekin has been charged with violation of oath of office and sexually assaulting a person in his custody. Two counts that cost him more than money. "His status has been reduced to leave without pay and we are in the process of terminating his employment," says Huckstep.

 Entrekin won't be able to work with any other law enforcement agency either. "He'll end up losing his certification as a police officer and he'll never be a police officer again," says Huckstep.

 Now, the people who once relied on Entrekin as a police officer have mixed feelings about him. "If he's found guilty, he should be judged and tried and sentenced on that, but not put down the whole force," says Mildred Cross. "I think he should go to prison for life," adds James McQueen.

 Prison is a possibility if Entrekin is convicted, but Huckstep isn't sure for how long, or if the officer has done this before. "We don't of course have any indication that he has, and why he did now we don't know," says Huckstep.

 But Huckstep does know that his top priority right now is restoring the community's faith in the TPD. "It's something that will take time. We'll continue doing the good job that we always do," he says. That's proven by the charges that will stand against the woman Entrekin arrested.

 

  05/25/2005 - An Atlanta police officer who threw a woman to the ground during an altercation at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has been fired. Officer Terrance Alexander was dismissed, effective Monday, Police Chief Richard Pennington said a statement released Tuesday.

  On Nov. 2, a video camera recorded a scuffle between the police officer and a Henry County woman. The video showed Alexander dragging Diana Dietrich-Barnes from her car, which she had stopped at the curb while waiting for her elderly mother. Alexander is shown picking up Dietrich-Barnes and slamming her to the ground before handcuffing her.

Alexander claimed Dietrich-Barnes had hurt him by slamming her car door into him. But the officer's supervisors dropped charges against the woman after reviewing the video.

An internal investigation later found Alexander had used unnecessary force in the incident.

 "Our officers' conduct with the public will be civil and professional at all times and should foster mutual respect and cooperation," Pennington said. "Residents are partners with the police and that relationship is important in the public safety of the entire city."

Pennington also said Alexander can appeal his firing to the city's civil service board.

  Steve Lister, the attorney for Dietrich-Barnes, said the police officer's firing was a good first step for the city. "This is not the end of the situation," Lister said. "We still have some unresolved issues that we are working on. We have been in talks with Atlanta to reach a conclusion to the unresolved issues."

 After the airport incident, Pennington ordered police officers assigned to the airport to participate in a training program to help them in tense situations. The training is meant to improve relations between officers and travelers, some of whom break the ban on parking at curbs outside the terminal.

================

   05/25/2005 - A School Resource officer is charged with child molestation. Sylvester Police officer Nathaniel Curry surrendered Monday and is in the Worth County jail. He's charged with two counts of child molestation and criminal intent to commit rape and sexual battery.

 GBI agents also say there were allegations that there was underage alcohol use at a party Curry attended a year ago.

 Curry, who worked as a police officer at Worth County High School, is suspended. Bond has not been set.

===========

  April 21st, 2005 Warwick, Ga. -- A police officer will be reprimanded for not giving a speeding ticket to former child star Emmanuel Lewis after he was clocked driving 25 mph over the posted speed limit.

Lewis, who starred in the '80s TV series ''Webster,'' was clocked driving through town at 70 mph in a 45 mph zone last week. He was towing a trailer loaded with a sport utility vehicle.

He got off with a verbal warning. Lewis, 34, gave his autograph and posed for a photo with police Officer Ron Kirk and the police chief in this southwest Georgia town.

Although police officers can use discretion in issuing tickets, the Warwick City Council concluded Tuesday that Kirk's actions were improper.

 The council ordered that Kirk receive a written reprimand and that the police chief review his department's policies on giving verbal warnings. ''The council wants the public to know they acknowledge and agree that mistakes were made,'' said Tommy Coleman, the town's lawyer. ''Anyone who has been in government and anyone who is a driver knows that 70 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone is too fast, especially when one vehicle is towing another.''

 Coleman said he conducted an investigation and concluded the incident was ''simply a mistake.'' Lewis didn't attempt to get out of the ticket, and Kirk didn't ask for anything before issuing the warning, the lawyer said.

=======

  March 21st, 2005 –   Americus, GA -- When Donnie Spillers made his first appearance in Americus Tuesday, it was the first time in his 18-year career to be on the other side of the law.

 "This has been a demanding investigation and while we are at this stage in the investigation, it is by no means complete," said GBI investigator Danny Jackson. That means we don't know if investigators believe Beaver was trying to burglarize the pawn shop. We do now know Beaver didn't try to run from deputies. "There's no indication that there was any force used to have Beaver pull over," Jackson said. "All indication is that he pulled over voluntarily."

 Sources in the Lee County Sheriff's office tell WALB Spillers confessed that he panicked after shooting Beaver and did something rash, planting the knife in his truck. Prosecutors say Spillers did not mean to shoot the 17-year-old, and have only charged him with a misdemeanor.

"And there is not evidence to prove any higher charge in the terms of the death of Mr. Beaver," said District Attorney Cecilia Cooper.

The second deputy on the scene that night, Sandra Pressley Fordham, is apparently back on active duty. Cooper said her office has not seen the complete GBI report, so the final decision on whether Fordham will face any charges will be made later.

Authorities still won't talk about what evidence they do have. "Any details of the case, other than what's in the warrants and the official record, may lead to the defendant asking for the case to be transferred to another county for the trial because of pre-trial publicity," Cooper said.

That's not what the District Attorney's office wants. They want this case to be heard by the people of Lee County, a case that is the first of it's kind in Cooper's 14-year-career.

"Generally speaking for law enforcement officers, pulling your gun and pulling the trigger is the last resort. That's what they're trained for." Lee County Sheriff Harold Breeden says he began the process Tuesday to fire Spillers. Spillers was released on $12,000 bond.

Spillers is charged with involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. Both of those are misdemeanors and each hold a maximum of 12 months in jail. He's also charged with making false statements and violating his oath of office. Both of those charges are felonies. Spillers could face one to five years in jail for each felony charge.

Total, he could face up to 12 years in prison and have to pay up to a $100,000 fine. If Spillers is convicted of either of the felony charges, he will never be able to work in law enforcement again.

No one from the family will speak out and some of his friends are saying that the family has asked them to stop talking. So for now, we continue to know little about the life of this young man from the people who knew him and loved him the most.

=====================

March 25, 2005

  Albany-- An assassination - that's what the attorney for the Lee County teenager, shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy last month, calls is death.

Seventeen-year-old Wesley Beaver's family is threatening to file a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against Lee County, the Sheriff's Department, and Captain Donnie Spillers.

Dawson attorney T. Gamble says this is the most egregious case of police misconduct he's ever seen.

A Christmas photo for 1999 shows the tight-knit Beaver family. It was on another holiday, Valentine's Day six year later, that they're life was rocked by the unexpected death of son, Wesley.

"They're a very strong Christian people. That has been the main way that they've gotten through so far is to trust in the Lord," Gamble said. Gamble says the family has many unanswered questions about the February night, when Wesley was pulled over by Lee County Sheriff's Deputy Capt. Donnie Spillers, shot in the face, and later died. "I think it's a clear class of police misconduct. In our opinion, he cold-blooded assassinated him."

 Spillers was fired after a GBI investigation showed he pulled the trigger, then planted a knife in Beaver's car. Gamble says Spillers actions and the Sheriff's Department handling of the incident were reprehensible. "You can't have a more egregious situation than an unarmed 17-year-old boy being shot in the head by a patrolman who's been in his position for a number of years, and then after it, takes the steps to cover up what he's done is reprehensible. To top it off, the Sheriff's department allows him, after he's suspended, to cruise around in the patrol cars with other people on duty, because he's worried about whether Spillers is depressed or not!"

Gamble says Spillers shouldn't have even been on the job. "We feel like he's been coddled and covered up for on a number of occasions, and in fact, should have been discharged from his duties well before this incident ever occurred."

Gamble says Spillers had documented misconduct including a situation that happened nine months ago, that lead to a confidential settlement, but Gamble would not elaborate. "There was a confidential settlement which has prohibited me from talking about it. But if we do file a lawsuit, I might be, at that point, more able to discuss it."

The Beavers' are threatening a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against Spillers, the Sheriff's Office, and Lee County. "I wouldn't surprise me that if you put it in front of a jury, it could bring more than $10 million, because of the facts in this case about Capt.

Spillers' conduct, his attempt to cover up, and even the callousness of the Sheriff's Department." Gamble is waiting on the County Attorney to contact him about possibly settling the case out of court. But Gamble says the Beaver family realizes no monetary settlement or even criminal punishment for Spillers could ever bring back Wesley. "They've told me that it's a day-by-day process, that you almost have to force yourself just to do the routine. Hopefully as time goes on, it will get better, but it will never be the same."

Gamble is also asking District Attorney Cecelia Cooper to upgrade the charge of involuntary manslaughter against Spillers to at least voluntary manslaughter. A grand jury is expected to consider Spillers' criminal charges the end of April.

==========

  03/21/05-   Georgia - When Donnie Spillers made his first appearance in Americus Tuesday, it was the first time in his 18-year career to be on the other side of the law.

"This has been a demanding investigation and while we are at this stage in the investigation, it is by no means complete," said GBI investigator Danny Jackson. That means we don't know if investigators believe Beaver was trying to burglarize the pawn shop. We do now know Beaver didn't try to run from deputies.

"There's no indication that there was any force used to have Beaver pull over," Jackson said. "All indication is that he pulled over voluntarily." Sources in the Lee County Sheriff's office tell WALB Spillers confessed that he panicked after shooting Beaver and did something rash, planting the knife in his truck. Prosecutors say Spillers did not mean to shoot the 17-year-old, and have only charged him with a misdemeanor.

"And there is not evidence to prove any higher charge in the terms of the death of Mr. Beaver," said District Attorney Cecilia Cooper. The second deputy on the scene that night, Sandra Pressley Fordham, is apparently back on active duty. Cooper said her office has not seen the complete GBI report, so the final decision on whether Fordham will face any charges will be made later.

Authorities still won't talk about what evidence they do have. "Any details of the case, other than what's in the warrants and the official record, may lead to the defendant asking for the case to be transferred to another county for the trial because of pre-trial publicity," Cooper said.

That's not what the District Attorney's office wants. They want this case to be heard by the people of Lee County, a case that is the first of it's kind in Cooper's 14-year-career.

"Generally speaking for law enforcement officers, pulling your gun and pulling the trigger is the last resort. That's what they're trained for." Lee County Sheriff Harold Breeden says he began the process Tuesday to fire Spillers. Spillers was released on $12,000 bond.

Spillers is charged with involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. Both of those are misdemeanors and each hold a maximum of 12 months in jail.

He's also charged with making false statements and violating his oath of office. Both of those charges are felonies. Spillers could face one to five years in jail for each felony charge.

Total, he could face up to 12 years in prison and have to pay up to a $100,000 fine. If Spillers is convicted of either of the felony charges, he will never be able to work in law enforcement again.

No one from the family will speak out and some of his friends are saying that the family has asked them to stop talking. So for now, we continue to know little about the life of this young man from the people who knew him and loved him the most.

=================

  11/18/04 Georgia - A Walker County detention officer has been fired following his arrest for driving under the influence while off duty.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol arrested 22-year-old Jason Cruise after his vehicle struck a utility pole in East Ridge on Saturday, Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said.

Cruise’s blood-alcohol level was about 0.10 percent, Wilson said. Anything above 0.08 is illegal in Georgia and Tennessee.

Cruise was released on bond that afternoon from the Hamilton County jail on bond, the sheriff said. Wilson said he dismissed Cruise on Monday. Cruise worked for the Sheriff’s Department for about two years.

====================

   November 5, 2004 -- A DeKalb County police officer has been charged in connection with a fight earlier this week with a man who had been accused of assaulting and kidnapping the policeman during a fight.

Officer Ronald W. Jones was charged with kidnapping with bodily injury, violation of oath by a public officer, making a false statement and false report of a crime.

Jones, who has been with the DeKalb police department for 3 1/2 years, remained Friday at Atlanta Medical Center, where he is still undergoing treatment for wounds suffered during the fight. He is expected to be transferred to the DeKalb jail after his release.

Police said they have dropped the charges against Robert Williams, 33, the man who had been arrested and accused of kidnapping and stabbing the police officer.

Williams, who had been held in the DeKalb jail following a manhunt and his subsequent arrest Monday, was released Thursday night.

Police said during a press conference that they suspect the police officer preyed on the man and other people. Anyone who may have been victimized by the officer in the past was asked to call DeKalb police.

The incident began about 2 a.m. Monday when Williams, who was walking near Wesley Chapel and Snapfinger roads, said he was approached by the officer, who was driving in his police cruiser.

Williams told police the officer tried to harm him and that he was acting in self-defense. He says the police officer picked him up for loitering and then drove him outside the county and told him to get out of the car. He told investigators that the police officer struck him with a stick.

Williams says he grabbed the officer's gun and fought back.

During the altercation, one of the men was stabbed and at least one gunshot fired.

Williams managed to take the officer's gun, put him in the trunk of the patrol car and then took off, police said.

The police officer was able to get out of the car's trunk by pulling a release latch inside the car when it stopped in Rockdale County. There, another struggle took place, authorities said.

Williams fled on foot.

A manhunt ensued for Williams, who was later found and arrested.

======

  Sep. 13, 2004 -- Two Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters were the subject of unauthorized background checks performed at DeKalb County police computer terminals, the newspaper reported Thursday.

The newspaper learned of the checks on reporters Ben Smith and Eric Stirgus after filing an open records request with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Also subject to background checks were Georgia State Rep. Teresa Greene-Johnson,

Democratic candidate Ron Marshall and DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, who the newspaper described as "political opponents of DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones.

The background checks searched outstanding arrest warrants, records on parole and probation, and driver's license information.

Background checks can be done only for legitimate law enforcement, GBI officials told the paper.

None of the five individuals was under criminal investigation, DeKalb police told the Journal-Constitution .

A tip about the checks sparked the open records request, Stirgus said. Stirgus, who has been at the newspaper for about three years, covers community government in Henry County and had previously covered DeKalb County.

Stirgus said he is "not sure" why he was singled out for a background check.

Smith, who has been at the paper since 1987, said he primarily covers politics and had covered Jones in the past. Although he did not want to speculate on why he was singled out, Smith said he had written a story about Jones in June 2003 that "upset the CEO greatly."

The article examined Jones' security contingent, Smith said.

"[The story] led to a grand jury investigation of how money was being spent," he said.

DeKalb officials refused an open records request by the newspaper Wednesday for the names of the people who had been working at the terminals in question.

Jones, the DeKalb CEO, said he has no idea who performed the checks and has called an independent investigation into the matter.

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