So for the month of November we have selected the case of Roger Carlos, who was severely beaten by officers with the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD). According to news reports, Mr. Carlos had done nothing wrong. He was apparently just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Here’s what reportedly happened. SAPD police were hunting for a suspect on drugs and weapons charges. In a case of mistaken identity, officers swarmed on poor Mr. Carlos. And even though Mr. Carlos complied with their commands, they just kept hitting him.
Mr. Carlos’s wife, Ronnie, still can’t believe this has happened. The couple has three boys under the age of ten–but their father is now paralyzed from the chest down. Doctors are also concerned he may have difficulty breathing down the road. The medical bills for multiple surgeries are enormous.
After reviewing the case, a police discipline board recommended 15-day suspensions for three officers involved. The Police Chief, William McManus, thought that recommendation was wrong. He shortened each of the suspensions to five days.
So for the month of October, we’ve selected the incident from Owasso, Oklahoma. Michael Denton was charged with excessive force for beating a motorist with the butt of a shotgun.
The reason why this is arguably the worst case from last month is because this is the very same officer who was fired for excessive force for elbowing an inmate in the face. An arbitrator later reversed his dismissal and in February Denton was awarded $280,000 in back-pay.
Not just a problem officer here. The system for getting rid of problem officers seems broken. Will Denton be reinstated again? Stay tuned.
So for September we have chosen the Chicago Police Department, particularly, the officers who were responsible for arresting George Roberts.
CBS Chicago reports on a lawsuit filed by Roberts against the Chicago Police Department. According to Roberts, he was falsely arrested and roughed up by police following a traffic stop. Here’s the thing: Roberts investigates police misconduct for the Independent Police Review Authority. And it was when the police discovered that fact that the abuse of power began. Mysteriously, several police cameras on the scene were turned off:
It is against policy in both Chicago and Illinois for a police officer to turn off his dashboard camera, CBS Chicago reports.
Vehicles belonging to two other officers on the scene were equipped with audio recording devices, though no audio of the encounter was saved, according to the lawsuit.
Roberts said in the lawsuit, which was filed on Sept. 15, that the camera was shut off after officers realized he worked for the Independent Police Review Authority — or IPRA — the agency responsible for investigating police misconduct.
Roberts said he was initially stopped for a minor traffic violation, but was then pushed in the back by one of the officers and forced to the ground. He said in the lawsuit that an officer shouted, “Don’t make me [expletive] shoot you.”
But “when the (officers) turned off the dash camera, things got worse,” his attorneys write in the lawsuit.
Roberts, who was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police vehicle, complained that the handcuffs were too tight, according to the lawsuit. The 6-foot-3, 315 pound man says that, instead, it would have have been appropriate for officers to use multiple handcuffs strung together for someone of his size.
He says in the lawsuit that one of the officers responded to his complaints: “What are you going to tell me next, you can’t breathe?” — an apparent reference to Eric Garner, a New York City man who died in 2014 as a result of a police choke hold.
Roberts also says he was told “that’s your fault,” when he pointed out that his weight made the single set of handcuffs painful.
Read the whole thing. Roberts was suspended from his job while charges were pending. Following his acquittal, he returned to work.
So for August it was the case of Officer Kevin McGowan. According to news reports, Patrick D’Labik, age 18, admits to running away from the police. He said he ran because he had some marijuana in his pocket and did not want to go to jail. Officer McGowan caught up with D’Labik in a convenience store and the encounter was caught on the store’s surveillance tape (video at the link above). D’Labik has his hands raised in surrender and is in the process of getting on the floor when McGowan kicks him in the face.
When police commanders saw the surveillance tape, they concluded it was unnecessary, excessive force and fired McGowan.
Wait, McGowan is now back on patrol because the city’s Civil Service Board reinstated him.
For July, it was the case from Akron, Ohio. Officer Eric Paull worked as a sergeant for the Akron Police Department. He also taught a course on criminal justice at the University of Akron. One of his students was a single mom. According to news reports, the woman (name withheld) says they started a romantic relationship. But after a year or so, that relationship turned ugly and violent. After he beat her up on a Thanksgiving holiday, Paull told her that he was legally “untouchable.”
She believed him–so she did not file a complaint right away. Instead, she just tried to avoid him. But Paull stalked her and her boyfriends, using police databases to discover addresses, phone numbers, and vehicle information. Paull would also text pictures of himself holding his gun. There were threats to kill the woman and her boyfriend. The woman did lodge complaints with the police and would later obtain a protective order, but the police department seemed indifferent. Paull would not stop.
Finally, after months of harassment, Paull was charged with stalking, aggravated menacing, felonious assault, and burglary, among other charges. His trial is expected to begin in a few weeks.
Paul Hlynsky, the police union leader, says he will try to have Paull back on the police force if he can avoid a felony conviction.
So the worst case for June goes to the police department in Carrollton, Kentucky.
Adam Horine was a homeless person who arrested for some petty offense. He then appeared before Judge Elizabeth Chandler. Horine wanted to represent himself in the case and he gave the judge some rambling answers to her questions. Horine indicated that he had problems and did not seem angry when the judge ordered that he be sent to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.
This is when things took a bizzare turn. Instead of following the judge’s order, the local police chief, Michael Willhoite, had one of his deputies put Horine, against his wishes, on a 28 hour bus ride to Florida. No one accompanied Horine on the bus and no one was expected to meet him when the bus trip ended in Florida. The idea seemed to be to push their problem prisoner on someone else. One wonders whether this was the first time that this “police technique” was used.
Even though the police put the mentally distressed Horine on the bus, they would later charge Horine with a new crime, “escape from custody.”
So the worst case for May was the death of Matthew Ajibade. Ajibade’s girlfriend called the police because he was having a bipolar episode. Georgia deputies arrested Ajibade but then took him to the jail instead of a hospital. At the jail, he was placed in a restraint chair. Deputies reportedly fired stun guns at him while he was restrained in the chair and then left him unattended in an isolation cell. Ajibade, 22, died and the coroner now says it was homicide. Nine deputies were fired over the incident and a criminal investigation is on-going.
Note: We were so busy in early May following the criminal charges leveled at the 6 Baltimore police officers that we neglected to do a “Worst of the Month” for April. It was the death of Freddie Gray.
For March, it has to be the conspiracy to frame an innocent man, Douglas Dendinger, in Bogalusa, Louisiana.
Mr. Dendinger agreed to take on the task of a “process server.” That is, he would hand-deliver legal papers to a person who has been sued–putting that person on notice about the legal action. In this instance, Mr. Dendinger was to serve papers upon a former police officer, Chad Cassard, who was being sued for police brutality. Mr. Dendinger found Mr. Cassard as he was leaving the local courthouse and made the delivery. At that moment, Mr. Cassard was in the company of several police officers and prosecutors. These people became hostile and furious with Mr. Dendinger over what this lawsuit would mean for their friend/colleague.
Then the story takes a bizarre and disturbing turn. Later that day, the police arrive at Mr. Dendinger’s home and place him under arrest on several charges, including two felonies (1) obstruction of justice and (2) witness intimidation. Mr. Cassard and a few of his cohorts claimed that Mr. Dendinger had served the papers in a violent fashion. Mr. Dendinger was in very serious legal trouble. He was looking at many years in prison.
Fortunately, a cell phone video of the “incident” emerged. Turns out, Mr. Dendinger did nothing wrong. All he did was peacefully hand-deliver an envelope to Mr. Cassard. The charges were then dropped.
But we now know that local police and prosecutors leveled false accusations about what happened that day. Had the case proceeded to trial, it would have been Mr. Dendinger’s word against several witnesses with law enforcement backgrounds. A jury would have been hard pressed to disbelieve several witnesses who claimed to see the same thing. A miscarriage of justice was narrowly averted.
The cell phone video exposes an outrageous criminal conspiracy by officials in Bogalusa. More here.
So the worst case for February goes to an officer with the San Antonio, Texas Police Department. Daniel Lopez held his wife and children at gunpoint, striking his wife in the head with his gun, and had a 20 minute standoff with police before surrendering. He pled no contest to disorderly conduct. But get this: He was sentenced to just one day of probation and ordered to pay a $100 fine! According to the news report, “The plea deal struck out any reference to a gun or family violence,” and so Lopez will retain his peace officer’s license whether or not the SAPD terminates his employment.
The worst misconduct of September goes to the still-unnamed police officer who shot John Geer last year and the police and federal investigators who have refused to release any information on the case a year after the shooting. Fairfax County police officers responded to a call from Geer’s longtime girlfriend who called 911 because Geer had been drinking and throwing her possessions into the lawn after she told him she was moving out. When officers arrived, they trained their weapons at Geer as they spoke with him in the doorway of his home for almost fifty minutes. Friends and family gathered to watch the situation. One of Geer’s daughters shouted from a neighbor’s home “Don’t you hurt my daddy!” Geer had been speaking calmly and holding his arms above his head, resting them on the doorframe from within, but when he moved his hands down the doorframe to about face-level, one of the officers abruptly fired a shot directly into Geer’s chest, as his best friend, father, and neighbors watched. Geer spun and closed the door before collapsing. The officers then waited an hour while Geer bled to death before sending in assistance. Over four hours later, Geer’s body was still left lying on the floor of his home.
Things haven’t been handled much better in the year since the shooting. Geer’s family and friends still don’t even know the name of the shooting officer—who has been on paid desk duty since—whether the shooting was declared justified or not, or why trained negotiators were not called. State and federal investigators have taken no substantial public action on the case, and the family, which exhibited incredible patience for the better part of a year, has finally had to resort to a lawsuit.
The refusal of the police to disclose even the name of the officer who shot and killed an unarmed man is just another example of the same troubling lack of transparency that we saw in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Police officers are human, and yes they make mistakes, but what possible excuse is there for circling the wagons and denying the public—and worse, the victims’ family and friends—the right to know what their public servants have done and which of them needs to be to held accountable? The resulting feeling among those affected, as Geer’s father described it, is “Frustrating to say the least—not knowing anything and having a feeling of helplessness, sadness, anger. Just wondering what’s going on and why nobody would tell us anything.” This is a case of one man shooting another unarmed man in the chest in front of dozens of witnesses. No complication can justify forcing that feeling of helplessness and anger on John Geer’s friends and family for over a year.