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News in Brief

California: In Sun Valley, Juan Catalan was nearly convicted of a murder he did not commit. After an eyewitness led police to Catalan, they arrested and interrogated him. Catalan is brothers with Mario Catalan and Jose Ledesma, who allegedly committed two murders. Police suspected Catalan of the May 12, 2003 Martha Puebla murder in retaliation for her testimony in court about the murders. Catalan had been at a Dodgers’ game, and it took his tickets, blurry Dodgers stadium video footage, cell phone records, and the filming of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm at Dodger stadium in his section to prove his innocence. Catalan was dismissed of his charges, released, and granted a settlement.

Colorado: On September 27, 2017 William Ray resigned from his position as a Canon City police commander. An investigation began based on an incident that occurred on August 26, 2017. After the investigation turned to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, Ray was placed on unpaid administrative leave on September 6, 2017. Ultimately, he was charged with three counts of official misconduct.

Colorado: About 1,000 of the Denver Police Department’s crime reports are in question. An investigation of the source of the flaws in these reports is underway. Crime data from reports are used in various ways, including police officer assignment locations, home purchasing prices based on criminal activity in an area, and national crime data reporting. The discrepancies in the Denver Police Department’s crime reports could be a result of computer error, crime data report training issues, or inaccurate data input. The Denver Police Department had encountered these issues previously. For instance, in 2005, Denver passed an unconstitutional auto theft ordinance based on false statistics, and from 2009 to 2012, 12,000 reports were missing from Denver’s crime mapping website on account of a computer error.

Connecticut: 62-year-old retired police officer Garfield Burns was charged with fourth-degree sexual assault and second-degree breach of peace. He had previously been convicted in 2011 for sexually assaulting a female employee at Walmart in Stratford, CT. This time when he assaulted a woman in the Trumbull Westfield Mall, he told the 26-year-old female employee at Brookstone, “You have such large breasts.” He then went on to lean over and kiss her chest. Burns then got down on one knee and offered her a ring after she got upset. Surveillance footage affirms the woman’s account and Burns was arrested.

Florida: Michael DeMarco a Palm Beach sheriff’s deputy shot his ex-girlfriend, Yuly Solano, three times before fatally shooting himself in the head and chest. The two lived in the same gated condominium complex where the shooting took place, while Solano was walking her dog. DeMarco had become depressed after the two broke up and started taking Xanax. Solano survived, and her lawyers sued the condominium association, its property manager, and DeMarco’s estate on the basis that each one did not protect her well enough. She had complained of harassment to management, yet she had not yet turned in formal complaints.

Florida: In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on January 20, 2018, Border Patrol officers boarded a Greyhound bus to demand citizens show proof of citizenship. However, the Border Patrol officers made every passenger prove citizenship. Thomas Kennedy recorded the incident, showing a woman escorted off the bus by the officers. Yet, proof of citizenship is not required to ride a bus.

Georgia: In the span of 10 days, there were eight officer-involved shootings, all subject to review by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Clayton County police officers shot a man threatening suicide, who did not put down his gun when police ordered him to do so. In Thomas County, officers responded to a report of an erratic man walking along a road with a gun. Although police attempted to deescalate the situation, the man raised his gun at the SWAT officers, and an officer shot him fatally.

Indiana: On January 2015, Brian J. Oberst, a former prosecutor and public defender, was able to avoid two speeding tickets by showing his badge to the police officer. But when the police figured out that Oberst was no longer a prosecutor, he was first charged with felony impersonation of a law enforcement officer but then had his conviction reduced to misdemeanor impersonation of a public servant on March 10, 2017. Oberst appealed the ruling, but the three-judge panel rendered his action sufficient for a misdemeanor conviction.

Kentucky: On October 2017, Gail Guiling, the commonwealth’s attorney for Logan and Todd counties, was indicted on two counts of tampering with physical evidence, two counts of second-degree official misconduct, and one count of engaging in organized crime between 2008 and 2016. While her case is being processed, she will be removed from her prosecutorial duties. Her partner, James Quinton Guiling, was also alleged to have stolen and/or received stolen goods that he sold to others for profit, dating back to 2008, and is also accused of threatening bodily harm to two people who gave information to the law enforcement.

Kentucky: Assistant Police Chief Todd Shaw resigned from his position after being suspended for messages on Facebook exchanged with a Louisville Metropolitan Police Department recruit. The court made these messages public, revealing the disturbingly racist and threatening communication between the two. In one message stream, the recruit asked Shaw the right thing to do when an officer finds three teenager smoking marijuana in a park. Shaw responded, “Fuck the right thing. If black shoot them.” In their messages, Shaw makes other racially violent, racist, and stereotyping statements and so-called “jokes.” These messages were found by Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, who was investigating if Shaw had tampered with private information on the police database for Officer Kenneth Betts, who is accused of sexually abusing teenage explorers. The police did not properly document these complaints and even insisted that parents stay quiet. Also, after it was discovered he had “improper contact” with a 16-year-old, he was allowed to resign from the police department, and was allowed to work with Boy Scouts and a hospital visitation program for sick kids while the investigation for his sexual misconduct took place.

Massachusetts: Authorities allege that on January 2017, Joseph Nee stole about $2,000 from the police department’s evidence room and attempted to launder the money at Plainridge Park Casino. Nee has been a police officer with the Boston Police Department since 1998, but due to his indictment, he has been suspended without pay.

Michigan: Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has charged Michael Merritt in connection with an alleged theft from a motor vehicle and misconduct in office that occurred on September 19, 2017. He is currently suspended without pay from the Detroit Police Department and is being arraigned soon.

Nebraska: Former Lincoln Police Officer Gregory Cody was arrested in late October 2017 for first-degree sexual assault of an incompetent person. The 27-year veteran of the police department is accused of physically and sexually abusing a woman in her 30s for more than a year, involving about 65 incidents of sexual encounters that she characterizes as “forced.” She told investigators that her ordeal began in July 2016 after Cody released her from custody instead of taking her into emergency protective custody. He reportedly said that she would “owe him.” Court records reveal that she told at least two Lincoln police officers that she was being stalked and abused by another officer, but neither took any action. Cody resigned from the department. The Nebraska State Patrol is conducting the ongoing criminal investigation of Cody.

Nevada: A former Las Vegas Metro Police officer, Arthur Lee Sewall Jr. was arrested January 11, 2018 on charges of rape and murder of Nadia Iverson. Iverson’s murder took place back in 1997, yet a rape kit was only processed in March 2016. Sewall was finally identified with a positive DNA match to the kit in February 2017. The rape kit was not tested until much later due to a lack of funding, yet the department spent over $360 million on building a new headquarters and a new radio system. In addition to Iverson’s case, 6,473 rape kits have gone untested until a recent $2.7 million grant from the New York State District Attorney’s Office. Before arrest for Iverson’s rape and murder, Sewall was on and off probation and arrest for various sex crimes, weapon possessions, and other charges.

New York: A former New York police officer, Eduardo Cornejo, age 35, was arrested for peddling a 16 year-old girl. He was a pimp and part of a human trafficking ring that victimized a minimum of 10 women, and he pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in sex trafficking of a child. In 2016, Cornejo was fired from the New York Police Department for marijuana use. He will now spend more than five years in prison.

North Carolina: On February 26, 2017, during a traffic stop in Wilmington, North Carolina, a police officer, Kenneth Becker, lied to Jesse Bright, a defense attorney who drives for Uber on the side, when telling him there was a new law stating that police activity could not be recorded. While Bright was stopped, he started recording, but Becker tried telling him that it was illegal. Even when a New Hanover sheriff’s deputy arrived Becker affirmed this lie. As a result of his dishonesty, Becker was demoted and given a pay reduction.

Ohio: Joel Jenkins, 33, a former Pike County deputy in Waverly, Ohio, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide on December 3, 2015, of Jason Brady, 40, in trial later that month. Brady asked Jenkins to teach him how to disarm someone, but Jenkins did not first check if the gun was unloaded. He walked away from the gun and used it again without checking the chamber after Brady had returned. Brady was shot in the head when Jenkins set the gun off twice in what he called a “stupid, tragic mistake.” Additionally, in March 2015, Jenkins shot through Robert Rooker’s window nine times after a police chase, killing the 26-year-old, whom Jenkins thought was grabbing a weapon. In January 2017, he was found not guilty during a jury trial.

Oklahoma: Tulsa police officers arrested Adam James, a businessman, on September 30, 2017. James is a Black man who believed he was racially profiled for his arrest. Yet the police officers claim they pulled James over for veering into another lane when driving; they were then suspicious James was “over-obeying” as he kept his hands up in fear of being shot. He fumbled when getting his registration from the glove-box and did not walk completely straight during a sobriety test. Sheriff Vic Regalado said getting nervous can have an effect on a field sobriety test. The officers had James’ blood tested for intoxication, and his test results came back negative. However even though James is innocent, it took him about $10,000 just to counteract the arrest and charges.

Oregon: In Eugene, Oregon, on October 5, 2015, Tamala Bemis was arrested for an outstanding warrant when police officers stopped her, suspecting her of robbery. Her dog was in her car at the time she was arrested. She communicated that her dog was in the car and requested to contact her brother about the dog. The officers refused contact to Bemis’ brother and ignored the directions, location, and details of her car as she expressed concern for the dog. The dog was left in the car for 17 days without food or water. Subsequently, the dog died. Bemis filed a lawsuit against the city of Eugene because her attorney states the officers did not have probable cause to arrest or detain her.

Pennsylvania: Police Chief Mike Diebold, of Leechburg, Pennsylvania, was arrested January 5, 2018 for unlawful contact with a minor and criminal attempt to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. The 40-year-old communicated online with an undercover agent posing as a 14-year-old girl. Diebold sent “inappropriate pictures” and planned to meet her when allegedly soliciting sex from her, with full knowledge of her age.

Tennessee:After two accusations of sexual battery, 34-year-old Reginald Hurley immediately resigned from his position as an in-school suspension teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 22, 2017 after the district investigated the allegations. He was also a patrol officer with the Memphis Police Department, but was relieved of duty. Allegations against Hurley include sexually touching an 18-year-old female student on two occasions, sending her inappropriate text messages, and showing her inappropriate pictures on his cell phone. However, he was released on a $10,000 bond.

Texas: Robert Meager was videotaped by a subordinate masturbating in his office earlier this year. Granted, that isn’t exactly breaking news these days. But it turns out Meager is the chief of the Gregory Police Department. With video evidence of the deed, he can’t deny it, but his defense, if you can call it that, is right out of the standard playbook whenever cops get caught behaving badly on video. He insists that the video doesn’t capture the full episode, and that there’s more to the story. After hearing his account of what the video failed to capture, it might have been better for him to have stayed mum, and let the video do all the talking. Meager claims that it wasn’t just a solo performance; rather, the subordinate who surreptitiously recorded the video had performed fellatio on him moments earlier. Neither scenario casts the chief in that great a light. He either unilaterally whipped it out in front of a subordinate in the workplace, or he allowed a subordinate to perform a sex act on him, the police chief, in the police station. He’s going with the latter story. As of late September 2017, a full-scale investigation is reportedly underway.

Texas: After two hit-and-runs, a high-speed chase that resulted in the death of a motorcyclist, and numerous excessive force complaints, gypsy cop Ernesto Fierro has finally been held accountable for his behavior. Unfortunately, it took the death of an innocent 70-year-old motorist named William Livezey Jr. for his day of reckoning to come. In December 2013, Fierro engaged in a road rage incident with Livezey. Witnesses reported that Fierro weaved his motorcycle from side-to-side and darted in front of Livezey at least 15 times, forcing him onto the shoulder. Despite Fierro’s recklessness, the off-duty cop arrested and handcuffed Livezey, who subsequently died of a heart attack after the terrifying episode. The victim’s family sued Fierro; their lawyers argued that Fierro “wrongfully and illegally handcuffed, arrested, assaulted, and detained” Livezey, leading to his death at the scene. The jury agreed and awarded the family $6.3 million, which Fierro—not the police department or city—is personally responsible for paying. He also surrendered his Texas peace officer’s license. Finally, a small measure of justice was served. 

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