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News in Brief

Alabama: Huntsville police officer William Benjamin Darby faces a murder charge in the April 2018 fatal shooting of a mentally ill man. While the officer was cleared by his department, he was indicted by a Madison County grand jury, accused of killing Jeffery Louis Parker at Parker’s home, whnt.com reports. Darby and two other officers responded to a 911 call by Parker, who reported he was suicidal and had a gun. Darby reportedly shot Parker after Parker did not heed commands to drop his weapon. The grand jury saw body camera video of the incident and heard from police witnesses who spoke to department training. The charge is in contrast to a decision by the police shooting review board that said Darby heeded police procedures and training. In separate statements, officials backed the cop and voted to spend thousands of taxpayer money on his defense. Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray said Darby is “by no means a murderer” and was “called upon to make split-second decisions in a nightmare scenario.” In 2016, Darby earned the Top Gun Firearms Award. Darby is on leave pending the outcome of his trial.

Arkansas: After stripping county Judge Wendell Griffen of the opportunity to hear death penalty cases, six of the seven Arkansas state Supreme Court justices were hit September 26, 2018, with ethics charges by the judicial watchdog Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. “The commission found that the justices did not give Griffen a ‘sufficient’ ability to respond to petition filed in April 2017 by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office, which said Griffen ‘cannot be considered remotely impartial on issues related to the death penalty,’” arkansasonline.com reported. “The petition, and the court’s decision, came after Griffen had issued a ruling that temporarily halted the state’s plan to carry out a series of executions that month. The same day Griffen issued the order, he participated in a protest against the death penalty outside the Governor’s Mansion, sparking outcries from many supporters of capital punishment. Griffen filed his own complaint against the Supreme Court justices, which resulted in Thursday’s action.”

California: A prosecutor on leave from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office was arrested on suspicion of DUI following a crash in which he was seen drinking after the incident, according to nbclosangeles.com. “After the crash,” NBC disclosed, “the alleged drunk driver proceeded to remain behind the wheel of the wrecked vehicle and drink from what appeared to be a bottle of alcohol. Eventually, police arrived on the scene and arrested the man, who stumbled and fell in the process, with pants falling down around his ankles.” Michael Kenneth Pettersen, 54, of Northridge was booked by the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Pettersen’s BMW sedan allegedly struck a Nissan carrying radio personality Big Boy, whose real name is Kurt Alexander, reported losangeles.cbslocal.com. The DJ was shocked by Pettersen. “I can’t believe what I was seeing. He was still on the bottle,” he tweeted, along with video. Pettersen is facing felony DUI charges and two outstanding warrants in Ventura County. Alexander’s driver was transported to a hospital with undisclosed injuries.

Florida: Federal administrative judge Timothy Maher’s two-week run-in with the law ended tragically. On Aug. 24, 2018, he fatally shot himself after a 10-hour standoff with police while inside a barricaded South Miami-Dade home. The jurist, 51, had taken three hostages: the brother of his former wife, that man’s wife and their teenage daughter, according to the Miami Herald. Just two days earlier, he is believed to have threatened the life of a co-worker at the Social Security Administration Office on South Miami Avenue, leading Federal Protective Services to shut down the office two days. One week earlier, he was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, child abuse with no great bodily harm and resisting arrest without violence. That’s when he allegedly pointed a flashlight and then a long rifle at his former girlfriend after she arrived to pick up their young son. She called the police and there was a brief standoff outside his home, according to news reports. He vehemently denied her allegations. He paid his $13,000 bond and was freed from jail. In June, he tailgated a driver in Miami Shores, reportedly following the motorist to his home before police were called. Maher said the driver pulled a gun on him. Miami Shores Police had been investigating the road rage report.

Louisiana: An Oak Grove police officer was arrested and charged with raping a teenager in East Carroll Parish, The Times-Picayune reports. David Tyler Boyd, a three-year town of Oak Grove employee, resigned after the August 2018 arrest. The alleged incident took place when the then-officer was off duty. Louisiana’s State Police Special Victims Unit was tipped off to the teen being raped. An investigation concluded that Boyd had sexual intercourse with the minor. Bond was set at $50,000.

Michigan: Rookie Detroit cop Sean Bostwick got the boot in September 2018 after posting a caption on a Snapchat photo of himself, saying “another night to Rangel [sic] up these zoo animals,” according to The Detroit News. It went viral on social media, and the backlash was immediate. In the photo, Bostwick, who is white, is wearing his police uniform. “He needs to be fired,” tweeted journalist “Branden HAUNTer.” “Your top cop is black, you patrol a predominantly black neighborhood, in a city that is almost 85% black. Can’t have this on our force.” Detroit police chief James Craig terminated the 27-year-old rookie who joined the force in June 2017, telling him that he’d “placed a stain” on the organization. Kenneth Reed, director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, told The Detroit News, that Bostwick’s “racist, offensive comments calling Detroit citizens ‘zoo animals’ is beyond the pale and hearkens to the darkest days of our nation’s history, when African Americans were widely viewed — and treated — this way. If you call someone an animal, you will treat them like one. That is unacceptable for one who is called to protect and serve.” The chief said Bostwick “took responsibility for it. He admitted that he did this. He said he didn’t mean it the way it came off.”

New Jersey: Michael Coppola, a New Jersey police chief, has been charged with attempted possession of cocaine, according to the New York Post. The 43-year-old was busted after he allegedly attempted to buy cocaine online and have it delivered to a Passaic County post office box he owned. The cocaine, however, was fake, part of an operation by U.S. Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Detectives arrested him on Route 80 in Ridgefield Park after he was picked up with the package. Coppola, of the Palisades Interstate Parkway Police Department, had been under investigation for ordering drugs online and having them delivered to the postal box. The arrest also came on the heels of a three-month suspension for his department tactics, including giving $200 bonuses to police officers who wrote the most tickets and violating state rules for high-speed chases.

New York: The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights “Mass Bail Out Action,” composed of grassroots groups and former prisoners, aimed to spend millions [in the month of October 2018] to bail out every New York City female prisoner or any 16- or 17-year-olds, law enforcement sources told The New York Post, “from Rikers Island, The Tombs and other city lockups.” On the first day of the effort, October 1, several defendants were released, with “bureaucratic red tape” a hurdle. The foundation made headlines last year when it provided money to bail out a teen who had been in detention at Rikers for over a year awaiting trial on a gun charge. In 2017, the charity brought in $103,252.45 to bail 50 teenagers out of city jails before the first day of school. The push for criminal justice reform continues. “No one should be caged just because they cannot afford the ransom price of their own freedom. While wealthier New Yorkers are set free, women and children, children 16 and 17 years old, are jailed — many for less than $1,000 — simply because they cannot make bail,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “The Mass Bail Out is an opportunity to shine a light on the injustices of our bail system not only in New York City, but across the country.”

North Carolina: An animal rights activist who sheltered more than two dozen abandoned pets on the heels of September’s deadly Hurricane Florence in Wayne County got an unexpected response from law enforcement. Good Samaritan Tammie Hedges was arrested on charges of keeping pets in an unregistered shelter and trying to administer medicine without a veterinary license, according to news reports. “The owners got to evacuate. They got to save themselves. But who’s going to save those animals? That’s what we did,” Hedges told USA Today about her Crazy’s Claws N Paws charity volunteers. “We saved them.” Wayne County Animal Services demanded that she surrender the pets. “She was told to hand over the animals or they would get a warrant. Hedges willingly surrendered them,” reports mnn.com. The county was working to reunite pets with owners, and a gofundme.com campaign raised money for her legal fees and the charity, which helps low-income people with vet bills. The charges were dropped after more than 10,000 people signed online petitions.

Ohio: Former Phillipsburg police officer Justin Sanderson has been sentenced to 43 years in prison for raping four women while on duty, The Associated Press reports. Two of the victims said they agreed to meet the officer at a motel after he contacted them through a classified ad website and under the guise of an investigation. “One woman said Sanderson stopped her for drunken driving in May 2017 and forced her to have sex at the police station, while a second woman said she was forced into sexual conduct after her arrest on a warrant,” according to the AP. “Sanderson was found guilty of 19 counts, including kidnapping and rape, during an August trial in the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court,” the Dayton Daily News reports. After the sentencing on September 12, 2018, Montgomery County prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. called the crimes “reprehensible and disturbing.”

Oregon: A 55-year-old deportation officer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) assigned to the Medford office in southern Oregon, has been arrested on sex crime charges and placed on leave from his job. Blake Northway faces 10 counts of sodomy and one count of incest for sexually abusing an underage female family member between March 2009 and September 10, 2018. He was being held in Jackson County Jail on $1 million bail. According to CBSlocal.com, “Northway is the second immigration agent to make headlines for misconduct in [one] week. Former U.S. Border Patrol supervisor Juan David Ortiz of Texas was arrested on suspicion of murdering four women he targeted for being sex workers or using drugs. He was found hiding under a truck over the weekend after a fifth woman escaped from him at a gas station and flagged down state police. He has since confessed to several killings.”

Pennsylvania: A state grand jury report released in August 2018 details how the Catholic Church was able to shield a ring of child-abusing priests for decades. The report identified 1,000 victims but said there were probably thousands more. In addition to the church hierarchy, the two-year investigation of six dioceses found that police and district attorneys were found to be complicit in the cover-up. “Sometimes this aid was in the form of looking the other way, while other times, it involved actively thwarting investigations,” according to thefreethoughtproject.com. “The abuse scarred every diocese,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro was quoted as saying. “The cover-up was sophisticated. The church protected the institution at all costs.”

Tennessee: Nashville police officer Andrew Delke was charged with criminal homicide on September 27, 2018, after reportedly shooting a man running away from him in late July, tennessean.com reports. The 25-year-old turned himself in after a judge’s warrant was issued on the incident, which was captured on neighboring school security video. At the time, Delke was on the Juvenile Crimes Task Force, tracking down stolen cars and juvenile offenders. Looking for a reason to stop someone, he followed a Chevrolet Impala even though he discovered by running the license plate that it was not stolen, the warrant says. Delke lost track of the white car and, in a case of mistaken identity, pulled up to a different white car in an apartment parking lot. Although Delke had an unmarked patrol car, Hambrick began to run. Delke yelled at him to stop and pursued him on foot because he thought the man “may have been connected to the white car that Officer Delke misidentified as the target vehicle,” the warrant says. “In the video, Delke, who is white, stops and takes a shooting stance, and Hambrick, also 25, who was black, falls to the ground. Delke then moves toward Hambrick with his weapon still drawn,” nbcnews.com reports. He was struck in the back, torso and head. Delke attorney David Raybin told the media that his client, who was released on $25,000 bail, is not guilty. “The incident reignited questions about policing of Nashville’s black community,” reports thestate.com. “The outcry has stirred enough support to place a question on the city’s November ballot about creating a citizen oversight board for the police force.”

Washington: A process for vacating misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession was ordered September 11, 2018, by seven Seattle Municipal Court judges, the Seattle Times reported, and could affect 542 people. The ruling would help those convicted from about 1996 to 2010, the year the city attorney’s office “stopped prosecuting low-level pot cases entirely,” komonews.com reports. Clearing those convictions, city attorney Pete Holmes’ filing argues, is only fair because the state legalized marijuana in 2012 and it’s now available in storefronts. Even more significant, nearly 50 percent of the convictions involved people of color, a major racial disparity. “We’ve taken another important step to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs, and to build true economic opportunity for all,” Mayor Jenny A. Durkan said in a news release.

Wisconsin: Milwaukee police officer Erik Andrade has been fired for derogatory social media posts, including “racist memes,” for mocking the arrest of Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown. Ironically, the officer was not fired for his conduct during the incident in which officers swarmed Brown over a routine parking violation, according to jsonline.com. The police chief, Alfonso Morales, said the social media sharing compromised Andrade’s ability to testify in court. In June, Brown filed a federal civil rights suit against the City of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Police Department, claiming wrongful and race-based arrest and excessive force, including tasing, during the January 2018 altercation outside a Walgreens store caught on video. The suit also cited Andrade’s shared Facebook posts and memes the day of Brown’s arrest. “Andrade’s post is an admission that he and other Defendant officers are allowed to engage in unlawful attacks and arrests of African Americans without justification and then relish such events without any fear of real discipline,” Brown’s attorney, Mark Thomsen, wrote in the lawsuit. In addition, Andrade on social media mocked NBA player Kevin Durant’s hair and referenced the Brown incident in another post about Cleveland Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith. Police Chief Alfonso Morales said “members are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media to the degree that their speech is not disruptive to the mission of the department. However, speech, on or off duty, pursuant to members’ official duties and professional responsibilities is not protected.” Video footage of the arrest also drew an apology from Morales and Mayor Tom Barrett. The Associated Press reported that 11 police “officers were disciplined or retrained for their actions during the arrest, but Andrade wasn’t among those punished.” 

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