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News in Brief

Alabama: Deputy Jeff Graves resigned from the Madison County sheriff’s department after making homophobic statements about a Huntsville teen’s suicide, but he’s still a lawman today. Graves was hired by the neighboring Owens Cross Roads Police, newsweek.com reports on July 12, 2019. Graves had posted online “comments in an article about 15-year-old Nigel Shelby, who died by suicide after being bullied about his sexual orientation,” the news magazine reports. “Liberty, Guns, Bible, Trump, BBQ—That’s my kind of LGBTQ movement,” Graves wrote in the comments section. “I’m seriously offended there is such a thing such as the movement. Society cannot and should not accept this behavior.” Nigel’s mother Camika told WAFF 48 that her son was kind, loving and outgoing but was bullied at high school and suffered from depression.

Arizona: Maricopa police lost a package of heroin for three weeks before returning to search for it at Butterfield Elementary School, where they had a narcotics dog-sniffing training exercise July 3, 2019, azfamily.com reports. On July 25, Maricopa Unified School District’s superintendent Tracey Lopeman penned a letter to the parents that read in part: “This morning, District officials advised Butterfield Elementary to have students and staff shelter in place while the Maricopa Police Department conducted a search of the school. After interviewing teachers, it was determined a teacher found the package on July 15; not knowing what it was, the teacher discarded the package in the trash. At no time were students ever exposed to the package.” At least one parent of a kindergartner isn’t buying it. “They should never ever have been training there in the first place … using live narcotics,” he told local Channel 5 news. “You bring your kid to school and expect them to be safe there.” The school district is reviewing how police can use its campuses and police are reviewing its policies.

California: Gustavo Alvarez felt harassed by Palo Alto cops, so much so that he installed home surveillance video, which revealed cops beating him, thefreethoughtproject.com reports. Alvarez spent two weeks in jail on charges of driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license and resisting an officer. But the charges were later dismissed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office because of insufficient evidence. “Instead of realizing they had no legal reason to detain him, the officer called for backup and a half-dozen heavily armed cops showed up at Alvarez’s home — over an alleged traffic ticket. One of those cops was Sgt. Wayne Benitez who appeared to take pleasure in doling out pain to the innocent gay man,” thefreethoughtproject.com reports. “As the video shows, police rip Alvarez from his home where he is slammed on the hood of his car. Benitez then begins punching and slamming Alvarez for no reason at all. He punches Alvarez in the ribs, then the face, and then slams his face into the windshield causing Alvarez to start bleeding as a tooth is knocked loose.” Benitez responds by saying: “You’re going to bleed a hell of a lot more.” Former San Jose Independent Police Auditor Judge LaDoris Cordell heard the audio from Benitez’s microphone, mocking Alvarez for being gay. “I have never seen police officers exhibit [such] explicit bias,” he says. Alvarez feared for his life: “I thought they were going to kill me,” he was quoted as saying. “Later on, you think about it, like why did they do this for a [possible suspended license]?” Alvarez has since filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city and the police department and six of its employees.

California: There will be no jail time for former California Highway Patrol Assistant Police Chief Kyle Scarber, along with his wife and daughter. The family helped son Spencer Scarber escape to Acapulco, Mexico, during his 2012 trial for raping and robbing the neighbor’s housekeeper, according to thefreethoughtproject.com. “Despite the horrific nature of their family member’s rape, Gail Scarber, Kyle Scarber and daughter Crystal Reynoso, received only probation for their crimes,” the news site reports. “The criminal parents, according to their plea deal, also are ordered to pay the State of California $10,000 in restitution and serve 500 hours of community service. Reynoso was also ordered to complete 250 hours of community service. None of them, however, will go to jail for helping a violent rapist flee the country.” The Fresno Bee reports that “police accused the Scarbers of concocting a phony story about their son being kidnapped outside their Squaw Valley home” but actually drove him “across the border where he dyed his hair, grew a goatee, used fake identification and disguised himself in hopes he would not be found.” Once he was back in custody, however, he was tried and convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Florida: Florida Highway Patrol state trooper Riley Schwarz, 23, faces two counts of lewd and lascivious battery involving sex with a girl between the ages of 12 and 15, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and tampabay.com report. The now-fired lawman was arrested July 27, 2019, and has reportedly admitted to the relationship with a 15-year-old, which allegedly began when the girl was 14. Details were first uncovered by the girl’s parents through her journal, the Tampa Bay Times reports. “The alleged actions are reprehensible, and the department continues to fully cooperate with the investigation,” Captain Thomas E. Pikul told the newspaper via email.

New York: Former New York Police Department Crime Stoppers Unit detective Michael Bonanno was sentenced in July 2019 in Manhattan federal court to “one year and one day in prison for his role in a bank fraud scheme that was busted with the help of a tipster,” according to nypost.com. The Staten Island resident pleaded guilty in January 2019 to the scheme in which investigators say he swindled or attempted to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from New Yorkers’ bank accounts between November 2016 and March 2017 using forged checks and swiped bank-account numbers on wire transfers. “Plain and simple, Michael Bonanno allegedly used other people’s money to pay off his debts while simultaneously serving as a police officer, charged with investigating criminal wrongdoing,’’ said FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. in a statement last year. “As part of the scheme,” nypost.com reports, “[Domenic] Aiello posed as his dead father at various times while helping to make bank transfers for his rogue NYPD pal, court papers say.”

Pennsylvania: Protests erupted after the March 2019 acquittal of police officer Michael Rosfeld, who fatally shot unarmed black teen Antwon Rose in the back, face and elbow during a traffic stop June 19, 2018, in East Pittsburgh. “The verdict in the death of Antwon Rose II came after a four-day trial in downtown Pittsburgh and less than four hours of jury deliberation,” nytimes.com reports. “Prosecutors charged Mr. Rosfeld with an open count of homicide, meaning the jury could have convicted him of murder or manslaughter.” The officer, who was not wearing a body camera, shot passenger Rose as he fled an unlicensed taxi that Rosfeld had pulled over because it matched the description of one sought in connection to a nearby drive-by shooting. Rosfeld said he thought a weapon was pointed at him. A bystander video of the incident went viral. Anton’s mother Michelle Kenney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “I hope that man never sleeps at night. I hope he gets as much sleep as I do, which is none.” After the verdict “about 100 protesters reportedly blocked roads and read a poem written by Rose, while chanting his age,” BBC reports.

Louisiana: Two Gretna police officers were fired in July 2019 after suggesting on Facebook that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., be killed. “Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson told reporters [July 22] his department terminated Officer Charlie Rispoli for posting the anti-Ocasio-Cortez message on Facebook and Officer Angelo Varisco for ‘liking’ the post,” foxnews.com reports. Rispoli had shared an article on Facebook that included fake quotes attributed to Ocasio-Cortez, including one about members of the U.S. military being paid too much. “‘This vile idiot needs a round,’ the Thursday post by Rispoli said, ‘and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve,’ a reference to Ocasio-Cortez’s time spent working as a bartender before she joined Congress.” The post has since been removed.

Ohio: The Pike County sheriff who investigated the infamous Rhoden family massacre in April 2016 has been indicted on 16 charges, including felony theft in office, cincinnati.com reports. Charged in the slayings that left eight people dead are four members of the Wagner family, although all have pleaded not guilty. Sheriff Charles Reader, meanwhile, is under investigation for allegedly taking cash from drug cases his office handled. “An anonymous source made the allegation in a complaint that was forwarded to the Ohio Auditor’s Office,” usatoday.com reports. In addition, Reader faces “two counts of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; four counts of theft in office, three are fourth-degree felonies and one is a fifth-degree felony; seven counts of conflict of interest, a first-degree misdemeanor; one count of securing writing by deception, a fifth-degree felony; [and] two counts of theft — one is a fifth-degree felony and the other is a first-degree felony.”

Rhode Island: Tiverton police officer William R. Munroe, 56, of Fall River, was suspended without pay and benefits following accusations that he falsified his signature dozens of times. He was arrested in July 2019 by the Rhode Island State Police Major Crimes Unit and charged with 30 counts of forgery. The issue came to light when the town treasurer’s office had trouble processing a payroll deduction for a retirement plan contribution. According to newportri.com, “The investigation revealed that 33 disbursement forms were submitted by Munroe between 2013 and 2019 with the town treasurer’s signature. State Police confirmed the treasurer did not sign 30 of those forms. The total withdrawal from Munroe’s deferred compensation plan was $53,900.” In 2018, officials allege that Munroe stole gas from town gasoline pumps for personal use, leading to 14 counts of larceny. In July, he was arraigned and released on $10,000 personal recognizance; his last court date was set August 13. “On the forgery counts, Munroe faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,” providencejournal.com reports.

South Carolina: A bodycam captured the scene of a sheriff’s deputy shooting Dick Tench, a 62-year-old retiree, multiple times through a windowpane outside Tench’s Simpsonville home around midnight, according to cnn.com, contradicting what the sheriff’s department originally reported. “In a deleted June 14 statement posted to Facebook, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office said the homeowner ‘pulled the door open and pointed a handgun directly at the deputy,’ prompting the deputy to open fire,” CNN affiliate WYFF reports. On July 30, 2019, the sheriff’s office said it “erred” in its earlier report. The deputy, said Capt. Tim Brown, was investigating a medical panic alarm coming from the home. Through a window he saw a man pointing a gun and thought he was in danger. Tench seemed unaware that a lawman shot him because he yelled, “Oh, my God, call the cops please.” The deputy responded: “I am the cops.” Tench, who said he had no medical alarm, told the officer: “I saw lights and I heard a doorbell ring and I got my gun. I’m a concealed weapons guy. Get the ambulance here, I’m going to die, hurry.” Tench was struck in the forearm and back. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating. The officer, who was not named, is on paid administrative leave.

Tennessee: Metro Nashville police officer Barrett Teague, who was captured on video slamming a woman against a car, has resigned after “possible use of excessive force,” tennessean.com reports. On social media, the woman, Adreneyonia Ensley, 21, said the East Precinct officer parked behind her at a gas station pump alleging her license tags were expired. She said she provided the information he needed, then tried to verify the plate herself when the altercation occurred. Teague “remains the subject of a criminal investigation” by local detectives, tennessean.com reports. Meanwhile, longtime officer Gilbert Ramirez, the El Protector liaison to the Hispanic community, has been decommissioned, scoopnashville.com reports. He is under investigation for “his alleged promotion of, and involvement with” a food and game business managed by his domestic partner. In addition, police said he charged school kids a $25 fee to spring and summer camps without department permission.

Texas: Eighteen-year-old Francisco Erwin Galicia was detained for three weeks even though he showed U.S. border agents his Texas ID and birth certificate, reports buzzfeednews.com. The teen was initially stopped at a checkpoint June 27, 2019, “as he, his younger brother, and others were traveling from the border town of Edinburg, Texas, to Ranger College for a soccer scouting event,” according to The Dallas Morning News. “Galicia provided Border Patrol officers with his Texas ID card — which is only issued to residents who can prove they are a citizen. He also showed his social security card and birth certificate, the Associated Press reported.” But it wasn’t enough. Agents alleged a conflicting document. He was forced into custody, “spending weeks in a CBP detention center before being moved over the weekend to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, where he was finally allowed to call his family, the AP reported. On [July 23], he was released from ICE custody. “I’m so thankful Francisco is free and he can sleep at home tonight and see his mom,” his attorney Claudia Galan told the AP.

Texas: A young man high on cocaine who called cops for help from an adult video store Aug. 10, 2016, ended up dying while cops joked as he lost consciousness, according to thedailybeast.com. “You’re gonna kill me! You’re gonna kill me! You’re gonna kill me!” Tony Timpa yelled over two dozen times to Dallas cops. The words are heard in police bodycam video obtained this year by The Dallas Morning News. It shows that officers had handcuffed and pinned Timpa face down to the grass and that paramedics didn’t start CPR until four minutes after he lost consciousness. In fact, they didn’t even take his pulse. “In the footage, officers can be heard mocking the 32-year-old Dallas man—who called authorities for help in 2016 after taking drugs and forgetting his schizophrenia medication—for several minutes. When cops finally loaded him into an ambulance, he was already dead.” As reported in The Daily Beast, “officers involved were initially indicted in 2017 for misdemeanor deadly conduct, but prosecutors dismissed all charges against them two years later, saying all three men did not act ‘recklessly.’” Police would not comment on the video because of pending litigation.

Washington, D.C.:Going against the trend to abolish or halt executions, the U.S. Department of Justice announced in July 2019 that it would reinstate a long-dormant policy of federal capital punishment, reuters.com reports. Five death row prisoners convicted of killing children are scheduled to be put to death in December and January, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a surprise announcement. In July, there were 60 prisoners on federal death row. The last federal prisoner to face capital punishment was in 2003, and since then seven states have abandoned executions. Meanwhile, more prisoners have been exonerated and the penalty itself disproportionately affects people of color. Since 1972, “166 former death-row prisoners have been exonerated of all charges and set free,” according to the Death Penalty Information Center. “Barr did not say why the Trump administration was reinstating executions now,” notes The New York Times, but he did call for a new one-drug protocol using pentobarbital. It’s a method used by the states of Texas, Missouri, and Georgia. 

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