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Texas Police Brutality and Police Misconduct

Page 6

  

  08/12/2005 - When Gus Elliott was a student at NT in 2003, he was a criminal justice major with plans of becoming a police officer. But because of an incident on Aug. 16, 2003, he has now filed a civil lawsuit against three NT police officers.

 The lawsuit claims the officers slammed Elliott's head, face-first, onto the trunk of his car and signed a false affidavit stating that Elliott assaulted them.

 Attorney Richard Gladden filed the lawsuit against officers Greg Prickett, Mark Linnell and William Hitt on July 29 at the 158 district court. Gladden said the jury would probably find damages up to or more than $50,000 and hopes punitive damages will be issued to deter similar actions in the future.

"They didn't just assault a citizen," Gladden said. "They lied about it." 

 Prickett said, according to video evidence and his sworn affidavit, that he pulled Elliott over at 1100 Maple St. because he "failed to stop at a designated stop point" before a flashing red light.

 Elliott said he pulled out a little far to see around a metal box on the corner of Highland Street to establish it was safe to turn but was still very confused as to why he was pulled over.

"I really just think he came after me because I was the only car out at that hour, and he was bored," Elliott said.

Prickett asked Elliott to step out of the car, and in the officer's sworn affidavit, he stated that Elliott exited the car and "fell against the door." Police video showed that statement was fabricated.

 Elliott told Prickett that he had not been drinking that night. Elliott was given a field sobriety test and submitted to a hand-held breathalyzer. Prickett asked him again if he had been drinking, and Elliot stuck to his previous statement. Then Linnell and Hitt arrived, and Prickett asked Elliot to put his hands behind his back.

Elliott recalls saying, "Oh man," and freezing up.

"I just couldn't believe they were arresting me," Elliott said. "There was just no reason for it."

 In the police video, the three policemen surrounded Elliott and slammed him face-first onto the trunk of his car. There was a loud crack, and Elliot uttered a muffled groan of, "Oh god, my teeth, awww, oh god, my teeth!"

 A third of Elliott's tooth chipped off, and there was a cut on his chin deep enough to require five stitches. The medical expenses totaled $6,680.55.

 Elliot was handcuffed, put on the ground and told by Prickett that he had ended up on the hood of the car because he had head-butted Linnell. According to the video, that head-butt did not take place, but Prickett's sworn affidavit said, "Elliot began to fight, head-butting Officer Linnell."

"I didn't head-butt him," Elliot said. "I hadn't done anything wrong."

 Elliott was then taken to jail where he was refused entrance until he was first taken to the hospital.

 "The police officers hadn't offered me any medical help or anything at all," Elliott said.

 The three officers are still employed by the university. Prickett, now employed at the NT Dallas campus, said he would love to talk about it, but had been advised against it by Renaldo Stowers, an associate general council at NT.

 NT Deputy Police Chief Ed Reynolds also declined to comment, saying it was against university policy to discuss matters of pending litigation.

 "There's no indication that the university chief of police has done anything to discipline them." Elliott's attorney, Gladden, said.

 The district attorney did not prosecute the NT policemen for the criminal charges of aggregated assault of a citizen or signing a false affidavit, Gladden said.

"I found that a little discouraging," Elliott said.

 Elliot did not receive a DWI, and his aggravated assault charge was dropped to resisting arrest. The assault charge was dropped on when Lisa Decker, a prosecutor for the state, signed a motion to dismiss, which stated: "After reviewing the videotape, it has been determined that this case should not be prosecuted."

 Elliot, now 21, is no longer a student at NT. He relocated to Texas State University at San Marcos to put the incident behind him, and he no longer wants to be a police officer.  

*********

 08/10/2005 - The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office announced the firing Tuesday of a deputy charged last month with interfering with an island police officer.

 Sheriff’s office investigators spent more than three weeks gathering evidence in the case of Danny Floyd Allen. Galveston police reports allege that Allen, 30, was part of a group of people standing in a parking lot outside a closed nightclub in the 2800 block of Avenue R about 2:20 a.m. July 5. Allen’s family owns the club.

Police accused Allen of refusing to comply with an officer’s orders to leave the area.

 Sheriff’s office Capt. Donald Allen, the deputy’s father, told The Daily News last month that the group was composed of family members. He said the family members were not loitering, but waiting for him to finish closing the club.

 A panel, comprised of senior members of the sheriff’s office, had a seven-hour administrative hearing Monday.

 Chief Deputy Freddie Poor said the recommendation coming out of the hearing was to fire Allen, who joined the agency in 2001. Allen has the right to appeal the termination to Sheriff Gean Leonard.

“If he makes that appeal, I’ll review all documents and information in the case before making a final decision,” Leonard said.

The criminal case against the younger Allen was still pending Tuesday.

 Interfering with public duties carries a possible jail term of up to 180 days. A conviction could also mean the suspension of Allen’s peace officer’s license for up to 10 years, said officials with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education. 

**********

  07/20/2005 - Fort Bliss, Texas - A former military police officer at Bagram, the U.S.' main base in Afghanistan, was arraigned Tuesday on charges accusing him of abusing a detainee in December 2002.

 Sgt. Darin M. Broady, who was assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve's 377th Military Police Company in Cincinnati, was charged in June with aggravated assault, maltreatment of a detainee and making a false official statement.

 Military investigators allege that Broady, who is now stationed at Fort Bliss outside El Paso, mistreated at least one prisoner in December 2002, the same period in which two other detainees died while in the custody of U.S. soldiers, and then lied to investigators in January 2004.

 Broady is scheduled to stand trial on Sept. 8. He is one of seven soldiers facing criminal charges at Fort Bliss for alleged abuses at the air base near the Afghan capital of Kabul.

***************** 

  07/09/2005 - MISSOURI -- A Houston police officer was arrested Sunday after allegedly stealing an ambulance from a hospital and going for a joyride in Kansas City, Mo., Local 2 reported Wednesday.

 Officials said Metropolitan Ambulances Services Trust paramedics had just dropped off a patient at North Kansas City Hospital's emergency room. They were inside filling out paperworkwhen officer Aronald L. Plotner, 36, slipped into the ambulance and took off, according to the North Kansas City Police Department.

 Police caught up with the ambulance a short time later on Interstate 70 near Bartle Hall and took Plotner into custody without incident. He was charged with tampering with a motor vehicle, a first-degree felony. Bond was set at $10,000.

***************

  01/22/05 - HOUSTON - In December of 2002, Benjamin Boatman, 19, died after his SUV collided with Deputy Raul Martinez's cruiser. An investigation cleared Deputy Martinez of any wrongdoing, but he was just indicted last month on criminally negligent homicide.

 The reason for the two year delay is unclear, but prosecutors say precinct four never reported the accident to the district attorney as required whenever a deputy is involved in a fatality.

  Two workers die after being exposed to fumes from tanker New superintendent proposes changes to Houston schools Woman found shot inside SE Houston hotel Brief police chase ends with motorcyclist dead in SW Houston Deputy constable charged in 2003 fatal accident DPS criticized for holding back information on lab trouble FBI called in to help in disturbing murder case of mutilated woman Man wanted for taking $100,000 in jewelry from mall stores

*********

   May 19, 2005 - Two agencies are investigating a former Williamson County deputy constable for possible crimes committed while he wore a badge, including an incident in which authorities said he damaged a hotel room and told responding police officers, "Cop to cop, let's squash this."

 Craig Rigtrup, 37, had been employed as a Precinct 1 deputy constable for about two weeks when he had a run-in with Sunset Valley police Jan. 16. In that incident, an employee of the Holiday Inn Express on U.S. 290 West called police because Rigtrup was said to be drunk and causing a disturbance at 4 a.m., according to a police report.

 Rigtrup damaged the wall of a hotel room and interfered with public duties, according to the Sunset Valley police report, released Friday under the Texas Public Information Act.

 He was not arrested, but the incident is being reviewed by the Travis County attorney's office. The City of Sunset Valley refused to give additional details while the investigation is open.

 Rigtrup denied damaging the hotel room and making the statement about squashing the incident.

"I never encouraged an officer not to do his job," Rigtrup said.

 Rigtrup resigned from the constable's office Jan. 19, the day Chief Deputy Robert Woodring said he planned to fire him over the incident.

 According to a termination letter drafted after Rigtrup's supervisors learned about the incident, his repeated requests to Sunset Valley police to overlook his behavior violated policy and discredited himself and the agency.

 Rigtrup said he was unaware of the letter and resigned after discussing the incident with supervisors.

 The integrity crimes unit of the Austin Police Department also is investigating Rigtrup in connection with accusations that he illegally accessed e-mails belonging to his estranged wife, an Austin school district employee. Rigtrup has denied any wrongdoing.

 On March 23, Rigtrup filed a complaint with Taylor police accusing his former employers in the constable's office of conducting an unauthorized investigation into his background by calling his workplace to find out if he had a new job.

 In the complaint, Rigtrup claims that Constable Gary Griffin and Lt. Mike Schnautz placed calls to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas offices in Taylor with the intent to annoy and harass.

"They were using the colors of their office to obtain information," Rigtrup said. "I don't know why having a badge gives them a right to pry into someone's business."

**********

   05/16/05 - Texas - The chief investigator for the Pass Christian Police Department was arrested on charges of sexual battery and incest.

Thomas Pustay was taken to the Harrison County Sheriff’s department, where he is being held on a $200,000 bond. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of both charges.

The victim was a family member, who alleged the abuse occurred when she was 16.

Tom Ruspoli, assistant chief of the Pass Christian Police department said Pustay, a 23-year law enforcement veteran, resigned following his arrest.

Ruspoli said he was shocked by the recent events.

It certainly surprised me. He’s been here about over twenty years.

Since the alleged crime occurred outside of Pass Christian city limits, the case is being handled by the Harrison County Sheriffs Department.

****************

   04/15/05 - Texas - A former Fort Worth police officer was found guilty Thursday of a civil-rights violation for repeatedly kicking a drug suspect during a 2000 arrest that was videotaped from a Police Department helicopter.

A federal jury returned the verdict against Ruben Ruiz on a charge of deprivation of civil rights that resulted in bodily injury.

Ruiz repeatedly kicked David Davis Jr. in the head while Davis was being arrested after a high-speed chase from Fort Worth to Arlington on Sept. 13, 2000.

Ruiz resigned in March 2001.

Sentencing is set for July 25, with Ruiz facing a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

 Ruiz stared straight ahead without emotion as U.S. District Judge Terry Means announced the verdict by the jury of six women and six men in Fort Worth. The jury deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours.

The courtroom was filled with Fort Worth police officers and relatives and friends of Ruiz.

"The video was hard to get around," said Greg Westfall of Fort Worth, Ruiz's attorney. "You do all you can."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Hastings agreed that the video was a strong factor.

"The videotape showed the officer using deadly force without justification," Hastings said after the verdict.

During closing arguments Thursday morning, Hastings told the jury that five other officers at the scene that night didn't use the same tactics as Ruiz.

"There's no question that it was a stressful situation, but the police are trained to make reasonable decisions," Hastings told the jury. "He decided to make his own rules."

Hastings said that Ruiz went from being a police officer to being a criminal.

"We don't condone that he [Davis] took drugs or he led police on a high-speed chase," Hastings said. "He still has constitutional rights."

But Westfall said during closing arguments that Davis struggled with officers after he led them on a chase that reached 100 mph.

"He didn't even feel compelled to testify," Westfall said. "Do we now let a suspect decide when to give up?"

Davis was in the courtroom Thursday morning but declined to comment.

In October 2001, Davis was sentenced to six years in prison for possession of a controlled substance. He was paroled in May 2003.

*****************************

    03/29/2005 - SAN ANTONIO A 26-year police veteran has been charged with molesting a 9-year-old girl.

 Joe Regalado, 51, was arrested on a warrant by the sex crimes unit at police headquarters Monday. He was being held on a charge of indecency with a child by contact at the Bexar County Jail on $150,000 bond.

Police Chief Albert Ortiz said he placed Regalado on paid administrative leave March 21, the day the allegations were brought against the officer.

The offense is a second-degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

 Authorities allege the assault took place March 20 when the girl, described in an arrest affidavit as a friend the man's girlfriend, was visiting his home. Regalado allegedly touched the girl inappropriately beneath her clothes.

The alleged victim reported the incidents to a school counselor the next day.

 Police notified Child Protective Services of the allegation.Ortiz said Regalado would be terminated if found guilty or indicted on the charges.

********

    03/07/2005 - AUSTIN, TX -- Five police officers and four dispatchers were suspended and a sixth officer received a written reprimand for what Police Chief Stan Knee called "inappropriate'' computer messages sent after an Austin nightclub caught fire.

Authorities said Austin police officer John Lengefeld heard a radio transmission shortly after 7 p.m. Feb. 18 that the Midtown Live nightclub was on fire.

Documents released Friday indicate the seven-year department veteran said he immediately thought of the song "Disco Inferno" and sent a message from his patrol car to fellow officer Josue Martinez that said "burn baby burn."

Martinez replied 37 seconds later: "Hey ... LOL (laughing out loud). Those were my exact thoughts."

So began more than two hours of messages that led to 15-day unpaid suspensions for Lengefeld and officer William White, who sent a note that said, "U can smell from (Interstate) 35.

It is the smell of victory."

 At one point during the flurry of messages, dispatcher Susan Negron wrote, "I have some extra gasoline if they need it," according to the documents. She was suspended for 15 days.

 White also message another officer: "My nite is made. I just had a lady ask me if it was burning. I said yep. She was upset. I was enthralled."

 And dispatcher Ashlye Bauerle wrote, "You hear that Midtown is on fire!! The roof of a club . . . That's funny! Gives a whole new meaning to the roof, the roof is on fire," the documents said. Her suspension was three days.

All of the dispatchers and officers said in written statements that they regretted their actions and that their messages were intended as jokes.

 Knee confirmed that another dispatcher also was disciplined for activity relating to the fire and that a sergeant and an additional dispatcher remain under investigation.

 Witnesses at Midtown Live saw the "burn baby burn" message on the computer screen inside an officer's patrol car during the fire. Knee said a commander and corporal who responded to the scene worked to calm angry witnesses who saw the message. Had the incident happened in another city, he said, it could have sparked rioting.

 The messages also indicated that the officers were tired of responding to calls at the establishment. Statistics show that police responded to 129 calls last year for reports that included a stabbing, gunshots and public intoxication. The calls made Midtown the fifth busiest club for police response citywide, according to police statistics.

 The club, with mostly a black clientele, draws patrons from across the city. On a given weekend night, its crowd can include anything from a 20-something interested in hip-hop to a politician seeking votes.

**********

  3/01/04 - HOUSTON - A former Harris County deputy charged with aggravated sexual assault faces his day in court on Monday.

 Investigators say in September of 2002, Deputy Randy Christian pulled over a driver who couldn't show a driver's license or proof of insurance.

 Christian reportedly took the motorist to a remote location, where the female victim says the former deputy sexually assaulted her.

 The victim said the deputy threatened to have her deported if she didn't comply. The ex-deputy posted a $20,000 bail.

************

   02/18/2005 - Austin Police Chief Stan Knee, whose mistakes in handling an officer's disciplinary case fueled speculation about his job security, will not be punished for writing a letter to the Texas attorney general that contradicted his testimony about his plans to fire the officer.

 City Manager Toby Futrell said Thursday in a two-page memo to Knee that she did not find "the elements of intent and harm I would look for in considering a disciplinary action" after reviewing a report by the city attorney.

 However, she said Knee's mistakes indicated "significant management issues" in how internal investigations are handled and instructed him to work to fix them.

"When a problem is surfaced, I expect management to own that problem and correct it," Futrell said in the memo.

"That's what I hold my team accountable for, and that's what you are doing."

Futrell's decision ends more than two weeks of speculation about whether Knee would be punished.

 The controversy centered on whether Knee broke any laws in writing an Aug. 11 letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in which he said he needed more than 180 days to investigate officer Vernon Stevenson because he planned to fire Stevenson.

Stevenson had been involved in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend.

Texas law allows police departments to extend the state-imposed deadline if they notify the attorney general that they plan to fire an officer.

 But five months after writing the letter, Knee said in an arbitration hearing for another officer that he never intended to fire Stevenson and that he knew the officer would receive little, if any, discipline.

Knee later said he sought the extension to protect a criminal investigation involving Stevenson.

The lawyer in the arbitration case took Knee's letter and testimony to the Travis County district attorney's office, which said no crime had been committed and declined to investigate. Knee then requested an internal city review of his actions.

As the review began, long, closed-door meetings between Knee and his bosses early last week sparked rumors that the chief would resign.

 Observers lowered that threat 24 hours later, saying Knee who has weathered high-profile shootings of minorities and the subsequent community backlash probably would receive only a suspension or written reprimand.

"I think he is just worn down and exhausted by it all," Roy Butler, a former mayor and one of Knee's closest friends, said last week. "It has been a very hard, tough time for him."

Knee has limited his comments to written statements.

 Futrell's memo said Knee's actions "did not change the outcome of discipline nor unfairly benefit anyone including yourself. You have rightly accepted full responsibility for this problem."

In a written statement Thursday, Knee repeated that he accepts full responsibility for the errors.

 The department is developing a policy about when officials will ask for extensions to the deadline for internal investigations with "the goal being we will rarely use that extension letter," Futrell said.

 She said the department's policy will include a provision requiring officials to meet with prosecutors to discuss the status of criminal investigations involving officers.

 Mike Sheffield, president of the Austin Police Association, said Thursday that he is pleased that the department is working to solve problems concerning disparate discipline "our biggest heartburn and unhappiness for the last couple of years."

 In the last sentence of her memo, Futrell wrote: "From my perspective, our efforts should now be focused on moving forward."

*************

   02/03/2005 - Taking the stand in his own defense, former Kendleton police official Sam Jimmie Mann denied pocketing traffic fines that should have been deposited into the small town's bank account.

"Were you stealing money?" asked defense attorney Thomas Berg.

"I never stole in my life. I never had to," Mann said Thursday in Houston federal court.

Mann, 64, who was police commissioner of the small Fort Bend County town, is on trial on charges of conspiracy, extortion and making false statements to a federal agency in a case stemming largely from Kendleton police operating a speed trap along U.S. 59.

Another former Kendleton police official, Gerald Davis, 42, pleaded guilty last week to one charge and testified for the prosecution. He said he stole money and split it with Mann.

Davis said he kept dummy receipt books and warrant information that he burned in the barbecue pit of his home.

"I burned it so nobody would know the money would be missing," Davis said.

Davis, who was a captain on the force and ran the department's warrant division, said he would deliver cash stolen from traffic fines to Mann at one of the two Houston nightclubs Mann operated.

When asked how much money he stole, Davis estimated at least $20,000.

But Mann denied being involved in any illegal activity. "I never heard such outrageous statements," he said.

Witnesses also testified about a federal COPS grant the town obtained in 1998. The grant money was to be used to hire police officers, but prosecutors said Mann used the money to pay the salaries of officers already on the force.

Since the police department's payroll mainly depended on revenue from traffic fines, the grant money freed up funds that Mann and Davis could then pocket, said U.S. Assistant Attorney Michael Wynne.

Wynne presented the application documents showing the city intended to hire new officers.

The documents were signed by Mann and Kendleton Mayor Carolyn Jones.

Mann testified the documents were prepared by a consultant hired by the city.

"It was a mistake to sign it. I relied on the consultant," he said.

The court also heard from retired federal auditor Ron Waddell, who said Kendleton was awarded a grant of $318,171 from the COPS program that was administered by the Department of Justice.

He said about $250,000 was paid to the town before federal officials halted payments.

"The grant was stopped when discrepancies were found out," Waddell said.

Waddell said police departments applying for grants were required to list the salary and benefits the department was paying to entry-level police officers.

The Kendleton grant application listed the figure at about $22,000 per officer, when in fact, officers were making about $10,000 per year.

Mann and Davis were indicted in August 2003 on 52 counts of conspiracy to commit extortion, lying to a federal agency, wire fraud and money laundering. Davis pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to make false statements to a federal agent.

If convicted, Mann faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count of wire fraud and conspiracy, and 20 years and a $250,000 fine on each count of extortion.

*************

   TEXAS -- An off-duty motorcycle officer with the San Antonio Police Department was arrested early this morning, accused of being drunk when he crashed into a parked SUV, killing one man and injuring two women. Officer Frank Navarijo, a 20-year veteran, was charged with intoxication manslaughter. He is being held at the Bexar County Jail on $100,000 bond.

 Once Navarijo makes bond, he will be put on administrative duty, Police Chief Albert Ortiz said. Ortiz said Navarijo could be placed on unpaid suspension either when he gets indicted or the departments investigation bears out the allegations.

For all intents and purposes, this officer's career has ended, Ortiz said during a morning news conference.

 The crash occurred at about 1:45 a.m. at Hot Wells Boulevard and Groos Avenue, according to a police report. Jerry Ornelas, 51, was saying goodbye to his wife, Belinda Ornelas, 48, and an aunt, Carrol Melchor, 51, when Navarijo’s 2005 Nissan Titan pickup struck the Jeep the women were in.

The pickup then hit Jerry Ornelas, who was standing outside the Jeeps drivers-side door. The Jeep hit a tree on the sidewalk before veering back onto the street and again striking the Titan.

 Jerry Ornelas died at the scene. Melchor and Belinda Ornelas were taken to Brooke Army Medical Center.

 Navarijo was taken to University Hospital for a mandatory blood alcohol test. Ortiz said the results won’t be available for two to three weeks.

 Ortiz said the 43-year-old officer had a string of disciplinary problems with the department, including one in 2003 in which the officer received a 45-day suspension for hitting a parked car and waiting several hours before reporting the incident.

 Other disciplinary actions included a two-day suspension in 2002 for an altercation with a TV news reporter; a five-day suspension in 1993 for allowing another person to use his parking permit; and a five-day suspension in 1991 for not responding to a police call. At the time he was summoned, the officer was inside a strip club.

**************

    BROWNSVILLE -  A request for a new trial judge after one judge already recuse herself in March has bought Sheriff Conrado Cantu an indefinite amount of time before he answers to charges of official misconduct.

Cantu was scheduled for a preliminary court hearing on Wednesday, but that hearing was postponed until the 13th state Court of Appeals rules on Cantu’s latest request for a new judge.

Cantu’s attorney, Ernesto Gamez, requested a new judge for the case earlier this month, arguing that the appointment of Judge Leonard Giblin from the 252nd state District Court in Jefferson County was made improperly.

Giblin was assigned to the case after Judge Migdalia Lopez recuse herself in late March.

 Cantu is charged with a misdemeanor count of official misconduct in connection with allegations that he asked Cameron County Sheriffs Department employees to participate in a block-walking campaign in his re-election bid.

 Such a request could have violated state and county laws, as officials are not allowed to use public resources for personal reasons.

*******

    01/08/2005 - A former deputy constable who owns a men's clothing store faces up to four years in prison after he was arrested in an undercover operation last month and accused of buying "stolen" designer suits from a former Houston Oiler.

 John Lee Jr., 53, a former Harris County Precinct 1 deputy constable, was charged Dec. 16 with felony theft and evading arrest, said Dan McAnulty, captain investigator for the Harris County District Attorney's Office's public integrity division.

"These clothes were presented to him as stolen, and he bought them," McAnulty said. "He paid $400 for them. That's ten cents on the dollar. You can make a profit on that."

McAnulty said investigators found several other expensive items from Neiman Marcus and other stores when they searched Lee's store, Trading Fair, 5515 South Loop East.

 Precinct 1 Chief Deputy J.C. Mosier said Lee was fired after McAnulty notified his office about the two-week undercover investigation.

 Lee, who had worked for the constable's office for about a month before he was fired, had previously worked as a Precinct 7 deputy constable and was retired from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

McAnulty said the district attorney's office set up the sting after former Houston Oiler running back Adger Armstrong, who had been arrested in November on shoplifting charges, told police he had been selling his stolen goods to Lee.

"They had been hitting various stores," McAnulty said. "He claimed he was selling them to a deputy."

In exchange for his cooperation in the sting, Armstrong, who played for the Oilers in the 1970s, agreed to a plea bargain in which he pleaded to a lesser offense and received five years' probation.

Lee agreed to meet Armstrong in a restaurant parking lot to buy merchandise he believed was taken from a Nordstrom's department store.

When authorities attempted to arrest Lee in the parking lot, police said, Lee fled a short distance in his vehicle before he was stopped.

******************

     12/07/2004 -  Two Houston police officers have been relieved of duty with pay in the wake of a brawl at a southwest Harris County tavern Friday.

 Patrol officers Jody L. Garney, 36, and Russell W. Sutherland, 41, both have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of a departmental investigation into the incident, said Houston police Lt. Robert Manzo.

The Harris County Sheriff's Department is handling the criminal investigation into the matter. Neither officer had been charged Monday.

Manzo said preliminary information received from the sheriff's department indicates deputies were called to Bo's Bar, 6649 S.

Mason, Friday night in response to a fight.

 Garney and Sutherland are accused of fighting two of the bar's patrons, Manzo said. The sheriff's department did not provide details Monday on the incident, or whether anyone was seriously injured.

 Garney, with the department 16 years, is assigned to the Westside Command Station. Sutherland, an 18-year HPD veteran, is assigned to the Northwest Patrol Division. Both were off-duty Friday night.

****************

  November 12th, 2004 - Houston, TX -- Some Houston police officers are spending their time on duty doing questionable things.

 In a follow-up to May's Troubleshooters undercover report on how some HPD officers spend their time, several more officers were caught on tape.

In one instance, a police officer looked for just the right spot to sit and park for 35 minutes.

Two weeks later, the Troubleshooters were not the only ones watching the officer in the vacant lot near Northwest Mall.

The Houston Police Internal Affairs squad, with six undercover officers, hid out in bushes and parked nearby. That time, the officer under surveillance was parked for 1 hour and 48 minutes, apparently enjoying a book.

"He's looking down like he's readying," an internal affairs officer said.

 On May 19, a Local 2 hidden camera investigation reported on some officers killing time, avoiding calls. A Houston City Councilman, who called for action because of the station's report, cannot believe it is still going on.

 "I am surprised. When your report aired, I thought this would send a message to all the police officers that if they are supposed to be patrolling and they're not, that they better be on the lookout because Channel 2 might be filming them," councilman Mark Goldberg said.

 Office workers told Local 2 about another officer who was tucked behind trees, smoking every morning near Greenway Plaza. Since June, the Troubleshooters found it was true -- up to 45 minutes at a time.

"I think it's pretty outrageous. We have officers supposed to be patrolling and they're stationary -- disappointing," Goldberg said.

After the May reports, Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt felt the same way.

In a memo to all officers, he mentioned Local 2's broadcast, saying, "such misconduct will never be tolerated."

Did six-year veteran officer Scott Arnold get the memo, Local 2 wondered?

He was seen repeatedly outside his own apartment.

 A neighbor informed Local 2 how he routinely showed up right after going on duty. Several days a week, the Troubleshooters found him walking into his own apartment, sometimes spending more than one hour there.

"I'm trying to figure out what kind of police work you're handling here," Local 2's Stephen Dean said.

"I used the restroom in that apartment," Arnold answered.  "I've been in there two minutes."

"Right, but in the past, we watched you in there more than an hour," Dean said.

  Across town, at 2:59 p.m., it was the first hour of work for another officer. On 16 different occasions, Local 2 found him pulling in during the same hour of the day, so you could pay him to sit.

"It's frustrating -- like clockwork, every day. What's he doing there?" said a woman who lives nearby, who wanted to remain anonymous.

She is among the people who live and work nearby who call the officer a fixture in the lot, while other areas go unprotected.

 "What's it going to take -- somebody getting killed two blocks down at the same exact time that he's sitting there?" the woman said.

 It was so predictable in July, August and September, that Local 2 invited the police chief to see it for himself.

Instead, the internal affairs squad was sent, asking a truck to move, so the officer's favorite spot would be vacant.

 Eleven-year veteran officer Dung Nguyen was right on time.  After two separate days of undercover work, HPD said that since Nguyen was not sleeping, the case was closed.

 Local 2 told Internal Affairs that on several occasions, he stayed put while his reports said he was handling police work somewhere else.

But Internal Affairs said it was OK because he was not sleeping.  "That tells me that don't want to address the issue. They're turning a blind eye to it," said the unidentified neighbor.

"Shame on them. Shame on our new police chief."  The police chief is once again promising action. After watching the hidden camera video, he reopened the investigation that his Internal Affairs squad closed.

"If we need to take further action with reference to this officer or the people doing this investigation, we'll do that," Hurtt said.

Is he surprised the Troubleshooters found more officers, despite his memo and his warning after the station's last reports?

"Disappointed, but not surprised," Hurtt said.

The city councilman who was angered by the station's last reports told Local 2 that he had some questions for Nguyen.

"We have a shortage of police officers and it seems like you'd be patrolling around," Goldberg told Nguyen.

"Did you get the chief's memo about expecting a full day's work for a full day's pay? You think you're giving the taxpayers their worth here?" Dean said.

"This is the area I work, sir," Nguyen said. "But is this working?" Dean asked. "I am working right now," Nguyen said.

"How are you working when you're in this lot an hour, two hours a day," Dean said.  "I'd rather not talk," Nguyen said.

"If he really was doing what he was supposed to be doing, he would justify it and have nothing to be ashamed of and he wouldn't have left. The fact that he did drive off shows me he does have something to hide," Goldberg said.

 Officers are getting the message that low productivity can affect their career. The chief asked for a list of his least productive workers, and then moved the bottom 33 officers to desk duties last month.

***************************

    Oct. 20, 2004  - DALLAS - Botched procedures, lazy or careless supervisors, and a complete failure to test seized drugs provided a recipe for disaster in the Dallas Police Department's narcotics division.

 That was the conclusion released Wednesday by a city-appointed panel investigating a drug scandal that crippled the credibility of Dallas' 3,000-officer Police Department and paved the way for the firing of Police Chief Terrell Bolton last year.

 Throughout much of 2001, a group of confidential informants working with a squad of street-level narcotics officers planted 330 kilos of fake cocaine and methamphetamine on 30 unsuspecting residents. Most of the victims were blue-collar Hispanics who spoke little English and could not afford lawyers. Most spent as long as six months in jail before the scandal began unraveling in early 2002.

The city panel, consisting of lawyers Terence Hart and Lena Levario, found that supervisors ignored at least seven red flags, including the obvious appearance of the drugs as fake. It also uncovered evidence that the officers may have lied when they claimed they tested the seized drugs in the field.

The lawyers also blamed the district attorney's office, saying its policy of waiting to test drug evidence until trials allowed wrongly arrested people to languish in jail. District Attorney Bill Hill changed that policy within a month after the scandal broke.

Although they did not set out to conduct a criminal inquiry, the two lawyers filed 51 cases with police internal affairs and 59 cases with the city's public integrity section. Twenty-three officers are named in the complaints.

 "This is obviously a very sad and painful day for the people who were wrongly accused and for the Police Department," Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle said as the findings were released at a packed meeting attended by many of the victims. "It's an embarrassment to the city of Dallas."

Two officers firedKunkle said two officers have been fired and one key supervisor retired, and he replaced the narcotics division's chain of command when he was appointed to his job this summer.

 The city's probe, summarized in a 96-page report, has been proceeding alongside a criminal investigation by a special prosecutor. Felony charges arising from that investigation are spending against three former officers and five former confidential informants, with trials tentatively set to begin next month.

 The indictments allege that Mark Delapaz, a former narcotics officer at the center of the cases, lied about many details in the busts, including saying he reported doing field tests on drugs when none was done.

Delapaz was acquitted on federal civil rights charges in November.

 Three informants who worked with Delapaz pleaded guilty to concocting the scheme. The said they were motivated by the $210,000 Dallas police officers paid them for setting up the drug seizures and arrests.

"To the victims, the only thing I can say is our apologies," said City Council member Elba Garcia. "I know that's not much."

 Jaime Seguenza, who spent nearly six months in jail as a victim of the drug squad, said, "This comes too late. And what results do we really have? Nobody has gone to jail for this."

Erubiel Cruz, a mechanic, sat in jail for 2 1/2 months after the informants planted 22 pounds of packaged gypsum at his car repair shop and claimed it was methamphetamine.

"I want them to do more," he said through an interpreter. "They'll have to show me more than just this."

Don Tittle, a lawyer who is representing most of the victims in a multimillion-dollar civil suit, said the city has not admitted liability in the matter and is waging a vigorous defense.

"They're sorry but they're not ready to admit liability," he said. Tittle said the report's discussion of drug testing by narcotics officers in the field is likely to help his case.

The report quotes a lab chemist who said "only two or three" of the dozens of packages containing the fake drugs appeared to have been opened by officers and tested.

*************

   September 29th, 2004- DALLAS -- Revised indictments accuse North Texas law officers of lying about performing field tests on three large narcotics seizures that resulted in the arrests of innocent people.

According to the indictments released Tuesday in the Dallas Police Department's fake drug scandal, former lead narcotics officer Mark Delapaz never performed a field test on an 8-pound methamphetamine seizure in August 2001 and falsely reported that he had done the test.

The powder was found by a lab analysis several months later to be almost entirely crushed pool chalk.

Ex-officer Jeffrey Haywood is charged with lying about performing field tests in two large cocaine busts in May 2001.

His attorney, Peter Barrett, told The Dallas Morning News in Wednesday's editions that he did not want to discuss details of the case before trial but that his client ``absolutely denies'' the charge.

The revised indictments were issued following motions by defense attorneys for the former narcotics officers to quash earlier charging instruments on the grounds that their language was too vague, said special prosecutor Dan Hagood, who has been investigating the matter since January.

 Poor immigrants were among dozens of innocent people jailed in the scandal. Dallas County District Attorney Bill Hill eventually threw out about 80 felony drug cases they were deemed tainted by officers and informants involved in the scandal.

 As a result of Hagood's investigation, three former officers and five former confidential informants face indictment.

Delapaz has been indicted on 11 felony charges and has a tentative Nov. 14 trial date.

*************

     09/13/04 - Texas - A Hays County Sheriff's Deputy faces charges of improper sexual activity with a person in custody.

Early Friday morning a 20-year-old San Marcos woman reported the incident.

Patrol Deputy John Pastrano was investigated by the sheriff's office and the Texas Rangers.

The 25-year-old has been suspended without pay and is currently in custody at the Hays County Jail.

Pastrano is also charged with Official Oppression, a class A misdemeanor.

********

   08/12/04 - Texas - A resigned Austin-area sheriff found himself behind bars twice in 24 hours.

 Former Williamson County Sheriff John Maspero was booked into jail Tuesday after allegedly entering his ex-wife's home, refusing to leave and spitting in her face. He was charged with trespassing and family violence in that incident, and a protective order was issued for his wife.

 Then Maspero was arrested again early yesterday, about five hours after he bonded out of jail after Georgetown police said they found him outside his ex-wife's home. An arrest affidavit says he resisted officers' efforts to block him from the house, and he was subdued with pepper spray.

Now, charges of violating a protective order, resisting arrest and public intoxication have been added against him.

Maspero resigned as sheriff last year and entered an alcohol treatment program after he was accused of public drunkenness.

**********

   July 22, 2004   - An Amarillo jailer was charged with official oppression Wednesday after police finished a week long investigation into allegations he sexually harassed a female inmate at the Amarillo City Jail.

Amarillo police placed Joshua Wayne Pearson, 23, of Amarillo into custody at about 2:30 p.m. after officers presented the results of their investigation to the 47th District Attorney's office and a warrant was issued for his arrest, said Amarillo Police Chief Jerry Neal.

The district attorney's office filed a complaint against Pearson on Wednesday morning.

"I have terminated his employment," said Neal after Pearson's arrest.

The Amarillo Police Department runs the city jail, and Pearson was one of eight jailers.

 According to the Texas Penal Code, official oppression can happen when a public servant, "acting under the color of his or her office, intentionally subjects another to sexual harassment."

 Rebecca King, the 47th Judicial district attorney, said her office will handle the case because it prosecutes all misdemeanors that involve official misconduct in Potter County.

Pearson was in the Potter County Detention Center late Wednesday on a $2,500 bond.

Neal placed Pearson on leave with pay last week after police began investigating the inmate's complaint of sexual harassment, Neal said.

 Neal said results of the investigation determined there was enough probable cause to charge Pearson with official oppression.

But Neal would not say where in the jail the alleged harassment occurred.

 "It is very seldom something like this happens, but it did," said Neal, adding that this is only the second time an incident like this has happened in his 23 years as chief.

"This is stupidity," he said.

In a high-profile official oppression case last year, Potter County Justice of the Peace Marvin Dean Mitchell pleaded no contest to an indictment charging him with the offense for sexually harassing a teen-age girl.

 Mitchell was sentenced to 90 days of deferred adjudication and surrendered his Texas peace officer's license.

Neal said police investigate all complaints filed against jail staff by inmates.

 Affidavits are taken from complainants and witness, and if necessary, police use polygraph tests, Neal said.

 "There are not very many (complaints), but we investigate each one," Neal said. "It is not a Holiday Inn, and it is not supposed to be."

*********

  6/3/04 - The main focus in the case was the girl's age and whether Wilson actually had sex with her.

 In testimony Wednesday, Wilson explained that he never had sex with the girl and said he didn't know she was 15 years old because she allegedly told him she was an exotic dancer.

 But prosecutor Libby Senterfitt said it's unbelievable that Wilson didn't know the girl's age because they spent so much time together.

Defense attorney Mark Rosemblum argued that the girl was lying about having sex with Wilson.

The victim first told police that she and Wilson did not have sex, then changed her story.

Wilson also changed his story after initially telling officers that he did have sex with the girl.

************

  June 26th, 2004 - BAY CITY, Texas -- A Matagorda County sheriff's deputy who is facing sexual assault allegations has been fired.

 Raymond DeLeon, 34, was arraigned on Friday on sexual assault and retaliation charges. He was being held on Saturday in the Matagorda County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.

 DeLeon was fired on Friday, a day after he was accused of assaulting a 25-year-old Bay City woman while he was off duty, Matagorda County Sheriff James Mitchell said. He had worked for the department for about a year and a half.

 Mitchell said an internal investigation found DeLeon, of Bay City, had violated the sheriff's department's policies.

DeLeon and the woman apparently had a previous relationship, Mitchell said.

``This is the hardest thing law enforcement officers have to do, when they have to investigate one of their own,'' Mitchell said in Saturday's edition of the Victoria Advocate. ``It is difficult to do, but we don't hesitate to act when a law may have been broken.''

**********

  June 24, 2004 - TEXAS CITY Former Texas City acting police chief Anthony Morgan permanently surrendered his peace officers license today after pleading guilty to harassment..

 District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk released a statement indicating that subsequent to the plea and surrender of the peace officer license, the grand jury chose to take no action against Morgan based on evidence and testimony originally presented on June 10.

The grand jury had requested on that date that the case be continued today. Sistrunk declared the DA officers investigation into the case to be closed.

 Morgan, who was acting police chief of the Texas City Police Department, resigned in February after Interim Police Chief Tommie Buchanan put him on administrative leave.

 A police department employee filed a complaint against Morgan accusing him of inappropriate sexual conduct with her.

 The Galveston County Daily News obtained an internal memo in January that accused Morgan of making other unwanted sexual advances toward women in the police department and in the community.

***************

   July 21, 2003 - HOUSTON -- Five Houston Police officers were suspended for what they were doing while on the job, News2Houston reported in an exclusive story Monday.

Three officers are from northeast patrol near Ley Road while the two other officers work on Lake Houston as part of the Houston lake patrol.

 HPD's Internal Affairs division investigated the officers and wrote them up for the policy violation of "in availability while on duty," officials said.

The following officers were suspended without pay for 10 days.

 David L. White, HPD lake patrol,  an 11-year police veteran James Fowler, HPD lake patrol, a 12-year police veteran Julio C. Diaz, HPD northeast Roy D. Jackson, HPD northeast, a 16-year police veteran Paul A. Taylor, HPD northeast, a 20-year police veteran.

 Investigators caught Fowler hauling lumber and a barbecue pit behind a pickup truck when he was supposed to be handling calls, officials said.

White took a police car to visit family, according to the suspension letter.

Ninety-five percent of the time, officers with lake patrol should be patrolling the water in boats, not spending time in squad cars, according to authorities.

 Diaz, Jackson and Taylor were suspended for "inattention to duty, failure to use sound judgment, and lying to the boss," officials said.

 Investigators said they lied to their supervisors by saying they were on special assignment when they were found at coffee shops and running personal errands.

The five officers are not appealing the decision.

 A hearing date will be set for the officers with a city examiner who could overturn their suspensions.

The officers can also ask that their appeals be heard before the city service commission.

*****************

    February 1993 - The family of a 26-year-old man shot to death by a Garland, Texas police officer during a 1991 drug raid has sued the officer in federal court for more than $1 million (Tracy Everbach, "Family Sues Garland Officer Over '91 Fatal Shooting."

  The parents of the dead man, Kenneth Baulch, allege in the suit that Officer Robert C. Johns unjustifiably used deadly force and then fabricated a story in conjunction with other police officials, to justify the shooting. The suit asks the defendant to pay Baulch's parents and son at least $1.2 million in damages.

Only Officer Johns is named. Johns has been cleared by an internal investigation and grand jury.

  Kenneth Baulch was asleep in his trailer around 2 p.m. of February 14, 1991 when a group of police officers dressed in black and wearing ski masks burst through the door and aimed pistols at his brother, Michael Baulch, ordering him to freeze, according to The Dallas Morning News. The officers then kicked down the bedroom door, yelling "freeze!" and almost immediately fired three shots, fatally wounding Kenneth Baulch, according to the suit. They later seized a small quantity of marijuana and what they thought was powder cocaine.

 Police said they shot Kenneth Baulch because he attacked Officer Johns with an ashtray. The suit specifically refutes this allegation, stating that "at no time did Kenneth Baulch attempt to strike anyone, or use the ashtray as a weapon."

********

  September 6, 2002 - HOUSTON -- A grand jury indicted Houston Police Chief C.O Bradford Friday, accusing him of lying during a disciplinary hearing. Hours later, Bradford announced that he would take a leave of absence until the trial is over.

 Bradford was indicted on aggravated perjury charges. Bradford was defending himself against allegations of perjury from a complaint filed by Capt. Mark Aguirre, who's under fire for leading the controversial Kmart parking lot raid last month and has since been suspended with pay.

"It means that there's probable cause to believe the chief of police committed aggravated perjury," Harris County Assistant District Attorney Don Smyth said.

The charge is a third-degree felony, with a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Bradford and Houston Mayor Lee Brown appeared in a joint news conference two hours after the indictment was handed down.

"He will, effective at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, go on leave, as would be the case with any police officer placed under indictment pending outcome of the trial," Brown said.

"We have a process in America where allegations are made and I'm not above the law. Obviously, I'm disappointed but nonetheless I need an opportunity to listen to what evidence (is) presented, what witnesses testify," Bradford said.

Bradford said he looks forward to the opportunity to prove his innocence.

Assistant Chief Tim Ottmeyer was named the acting chief for the Houston Police Department.

"We feel this vindicates Captain Aguirre and shows that he had been targeted by Bradford," Aguirre's attorney, Terry Yates, said.

Aguirre also testified before the grand jury Tuesday. He was on the stand for approximately one hour.

 Long before the Kmart raid, Aguirre claims that Bradford lied under oath during a disciplinary hearing in May in which Aguirre was appealing a reprimand where he was accused of using profane language to subordinates.

 Bradford testified that he never used bad language, but was quickly contradicted by an assistant chief.

 The parking lot raid happened Aug. 19 in the parking lot of a Kmart department store, located in the 8400 block of Westheimer Road, in southwest Houston.

 As a result of the operation, 278 people were arrested with the majority being charged with criminal trespass.

Thirteen officers have been suspended in the wake of the raid, including Aguirre.

 One of those people arrested has filed a $100 million lawsuit against the city, accusing Aguirre and the city of falsely arresting him for "attempted trespass."

***********

   Dec 1999 - An ex-Harris County sheriff's deputy who was serving four years in prison for drug charges was released Wednesday and put on "shock" probation.

 Over prosecutors' objections, state District Judge Jim Wallace granted a defense motion to free Lawrence Rhea Underwood to serve six years' probation for two charges of possession of a controlled substance.

 Underwood, 30, pleaded guilty to the charges in June. Wallace sentenced him to four years in prison, telling him he had soiled his badge.

**********

  Nov. 29, 2004 - Modesto Ontiveros, 49, was shot on the night of Oct. 17 in his mobile home in the 3500 block of U.S. 90A on the outskirts of town.

Police said Ontiveros had struck a man with a pistol and threatened to kill him earlier that day.





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