News in Brief
Arizona: Rapper Jay-Z has hired attorney Alex Spiro for a family preparing to sue the city of Phoenix for $10 million, alleging excessive force by police, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, physical injuries, emotional stress and civil rights violations after their 4-year-old daughter walked out of a dollar store May 29, 2019, with an unpaid doll, newsmaven.io reports. Cellphone video shows police pulling over Dravon Ames, 22, and his pregnant fiancée, Iesha Harper, 24, along with their children, ages 1 and 4, at their babysitter’s apartment complex. Cops were responding to an anonymous report of shoplifting at the store. “Multiple videos show Phoenix police officers with guns drawn, screaming orders rife with profanities and foul language,” newsmaven.io reports. “Officers are seen surrounding the car, pulling their guns and threatening to kill them.” Officers, who have not been named, were not wearing body cameras. Ames was cited for driving with a suspended license.
California: Armed with a sledgehammer and warrant, San Francisco cops raided the home of freelance journalist Bryan Carmody May 10, 2019, in search of the source of a confidential police report into the Feb. 22 death of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “I knew what they wanted,” Carmody told The Los Angeles Times. “They wanted the name.” They handcuffed him for several hours while they hauled off notebooks, cameras, phones, computers and an iPod, according to latimes.com. The eight- to 10-officer squad drew their guns and combed through his belongings before transporting him to his office, which they also searched. Two weeks earlier, cops also stopped by his home seeking the name, even though California’s shield law “protects journalists from being bullied by police into revealing confidential sources,” mercurynews.com reports. Police Chief Bill Scott apologized and said the warrants did not fully identify Carmody as a journalist. San Francisco Chronicle editor-in-chief Audrey Cooper tweeted: “The problem is, you can’t put this egg back together. The police have chilled sources with their actions and also know whatever is in this journalist’s files. The implications are chilling.” Adachi died of an overdose of cocaine and alcohol, the coroner reported.
California: Two police officers fired 76 times to fatally shoot a man whose family only wanted help for him. In July 2018, a man called Anaheim police to say his brother Eliuth Penaloza Nava, 50, “had ingested an unknown drug and was ‘hallucinating,’ according to the DA’s report,” reports ktla.com. Nava reportedly got into his truck and drove it toward the officers’ police cruiser. “He attempted a U-turn but ran out of room and ended up perpendicular to the officers’ vehicle,” ktla.com reports, and did not exit the vehicle upon police command. Officers Kevin Pedersen and Sean Staymates chased him through West Anaheim and fired the shots, striking homes and cars and fatally hitting his body with at least nine bullets. An officer bodycam video “was described as ‘disturbing’ and ‘difficult’ to watch by city officials,” ktla.com reports. However, in May 2019, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said there was insufficient evidence to file charges against Pedersen and Staymates. Pedersen was fired.
California: U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick has sentenced a now-suspended San Francisco cop who robbed two banks in November and December 2018 to 30 months in prison, sfchronicle.com announced in May 2019. “Rain Daugherty, 44, was indicted in January on four counts of bank robbery — two for each incident,” sfchronicle.com reports. “In February, [he] pleaded guilty to two charges. … Orrick sentenced him to 30 months for each count, to be served concurrently, and dismissed the other two charges as part of the plea agreement in federal court.” His attorney cited his opioid addiction in seeking a reduced sentence. He “could have faced a maximum of 20 years in prison for each charge.”
Connecticut: Demonstrations occurred after security camera footage revealed a cop firing on a car with an unarmed black couple in April 2019 near the Yale University campus in New Haven. The protesters, carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs, demanded that the cops involved—Town of Hamden police officer Devin Eaton and Yale police officer Terrance Pollack—be investigated. They say that Stephanie Washington, 22, and her boyfriend Paul Witherspoon III, 21, were unfairly targeted. According to the New Haven Register, “Hamden has started a local probe into the shooting and State Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney and state Sen. Gary Winfield, both D-New Haven, called for a ‘thorough’ investigation of the police shooting.” According to Daily Mail, “During the shooting, Washington was shot in the face and has since been hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, according to university officials,” while Witherspoon was unharmed. In the lead-up to the shooting, cops believed the car the couple had been in was involved in an armed robbery of a newspaper delivery person. Video from their vehicle, reports the Daily Mail, “shows that prior to the shooting, they had been enjoying each other’s company and were singing songs to each other. They had been singing ‘Nothing In This World’ by R&B singer Avant and Keke Wyatt.”
Florida: Orlando’s 2018 patrol officer of the year Jonathan Mills has a record of using excessive force and of “blatant racism,” and, as a result, the police department will review its “selection and evaluation process” for the award, orlandosentinel.com reports. Mills was named in two excessive-force lawsuits that were settled by Orlando in 2017 for $130,000. “In one incident, a man claimed Mills sexually assaulted him as he searched for drugs during a traffic stop in 2014, while another man accused Mills of slamming him to the ground without provocation after pulling him over in October 2013,” nypost.com reports. In addition, Mills, who is white, is seen in a video of a 2016 traffic stop, criticizing a black woman’s appearance. “That hairdo is sad,” Mills said. “You’ve got to get your hair done, girl.” After that, Mills underwent sensitivity training and was reassigned from a tactical squad to patrol duties. In addition, an internal affairs probe concluded that he had violated department policy.
Georgia: Atlanta Municipal Court Judge Terrinee Gundy has been accused of “an abandonment of her duties” through tardiness and absenteeism from court, leading some defendants to be illegally jailed by failing to deliver required hearings. She also “disabled a courthouse recording system to conceal the tardiness,” the Associated Press reports. Now the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission — an investigative panel — has filed ethics charges with the state Supreme Court, alleging nine counts of misconduct in a “willful and persistent pattern of absenteeism,” reports lawandcrime.com. “Law.com noted that, on one day in 2017, Gundy absence from court allegedly deprived six charged individuals their constitutional right to a hearing. The JQC also alleged that Gundy made false statements in written responses and in person, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.”
Louisiana: Public outcry over the death of Anthony Childs led the Shreveport City Council in June 2019 to abolish the city’s sagging pants law that was disproportionately enforced against blacks, according to The Washington Post. In February, a patrol officer followed the young black pedestrian and it was because he was wearing low-hanging pants, Shreveport Police Chief Benjamin Raymond confirmed at a May meeting organized by the NAACP. Police fired a hail of bullets when they saw a gun. Although the coroner determined “Childs died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound” to the chest, residents called the pursuit racial profiling. “The sagging pants ordinance is just so small and petty compared to the loss of life,” Councilwoman LeVette Fuller told The Washington Post.
Louisiana: A now-fired Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy has been charged with first-degree rape, malfeasance in office and pornography involving juveniles after police say he filmed the rape of a year-old boy on his cellphone. Shaderick Jones, 33, has been arrested and accused of coercing a woman in her home to perform a sex act on her 1-year-old son in exchange for not arresting the woman on an open traffic arrest warrant, thehill.com reports, quoting St. Gabriel Police Chief Kevin Ambeau. In addition to arresting Jones, “authorities seized several electronic devices from his home after executing a search warrant.” Chief Ambeau said: “I have 30 years of experience. This is at the top of the list for the worst case. I have never witnessed something so disgusting — it’s sickening to your stomach to see.” Hill and the boy’s mother were being held without bond.
Mississippi: James Hollins, a 29-year-old Jackson police officer accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl in the back of his patrol car several times weekly over six months, was found dead May 27, 2019, from an apparent suicide, usatoday.com and wlbt.com report. He fatally shot himself with another officer’s service revolver in a Dodge Charger along Interstate 220, JPD spokesman Roderick Holmes told the news sites. When asked if there was any connection between the allegations and the suicide, the chief told a reporter there was “no knowledge right now it’s connected.” Attorney Lisa Ross, who represents the girl’s mother, said sexually explicit videos reveal the misconduct. Chief James Davis placed Hollins on administrative leave. The officer had been with the department about three years.
Missouri: The St. Louis prosecutor’s office has added 22 more names to its list of police officers barred from bringing cases to its office after “a research project unearthed racist and anti-Muslim social media posts” from the officers, nydailynews.com reports. “St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner relayed the decision in a letter to the city’s public safety director and its police chief, she said in a news release. Seven of the 22 were banned permanently from presenting cases and the other 15 would be reviewed for reinstatement.” The announcement, reports stltoday.com, “follows the disclosure [in June 2019] of a study by the Philadelphia-based Plain View Project of Facebook posts by current and former officers in St. Louis and seven other jurisdictions around the country.” Gardner explained: “After careful examination of the underlying bias contained in those social media posts, we have concluded that this bias would likely influence an officer’s ability to perform his or her duties in an unbiased manner.”
Pennsylvania: Racist and anti-Muslim social media posts by police officers have roiled the Philadelphia community. A full “72 officers were taken off the streets and placed on administrative duty,” according to cnn.com, while an investigation continues. The bigoted posts include those by a police inspector, six captains, and eight lieutenants, inquirer.com reports. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross called the posts “disturbing, disappointing and upsetting.” Each one will be reviewed “to see if the speech is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.” The posts came to light because of the nonprofit Plain View Project, which checked public Facebook posts from officers in eight jurisdictions, and provided screenshots of them.
Oklahoma: Cement Acting Police Chief Stacy Burger, who is married with four kids, was jailed and charged with soliciting child prostitution over an incident in March 2019, according to kswo.com. A 16-year-old girl told investigators that Burger, 40, arrived at her Chickasha home and both went into his car parked in an alleyway. Although the girl said she’d known Burger since she was 11 and considered him a “role model” and “father figure,” he allegedly propositioned her, offering her “a lot of money” for oral sex. She said no. He then asked if one of her friends could give him oral sex. She refused. “Later during an online conversation, Burger allegedly asked the girl not to ‘rat’ him out and that he had not thought about her age,” kswo.com reports. Burger allegedly admitted the solicitation to Chickasha cops, but said, “I was off duty, in my own car which wasn’t tied to my job at all.” Burger, however, was carrying a gun.
Oregon: The eastern Oregon city of Pendleton will no longer jail people who cannot pay fines due to minor violations, city attorney Nancy Kerns said in June 2019. Thanks to a lawsuit settlement over the city’s so-called “modern-day debtors’ prison,” city court must now consider ability to pay. “No person shall be incarcerated for the inability and lack of financial resources to pay financial obligations to the Court, including fines, costs and restitution,” a new policy states. It is noteworthy that The Supreme Court ruled almost 50 years ago that a person can’t be jailed for not being able to pay a fine. However consider the case reported of Angela Minthorn, who was jailed nearly two months for owing about $1,000. A low-income woman with disabilities, “she sued in early 2018, contending the city was violating the U.S. Constitution by incarcerating a debtor unable to pay the debt,” lmtribune.com reports. “A settlement was reached in April, with the city paying Minthorn $130,000.”
Pennsylvania: Ten Latino plaintiffs and the ACLU filed suit in June 2019 against the Pennsylvania State Police and six troopers for being in the immigrant enforcement business. “Pennsylvania State Police troopers have routinely violated the law by stopping and holding people based solely on their Latino appearance, terrifying drivers and passengers while usurping federal authority to investigate supposed immigration violations, the ACLU claims in a federal lawsuit,” propublica.org reports. The plaintiffs “contend it is a pattern of police misconduct that follows a common script. Latino motorists, the suit says, were pulled over by troopers who immediately sought to ascertain the immigration status of the car’s occupants,” propublica.org reports, sometimes even before asking to see a driver’s license. The suit seeks “both damages and vindication of their constitutional right to be free from unlawful detention.”
Washington: The state has announced it will expand law enforcement’s DNA database to solve cold cases. “Under the new law, detectives can now obtain DNA samples from deceased sex offenders, and those convicted of indecent exposure are required to submit samples to the state and national DNA database,” K5News reports. The database in named is in memory of Jennifer Bastian, 13, and Michella Welch, age 12, who were murdered during 1986 in Tacoma. Their suspected killers were first arrested last year because of DNA evidence. Said retired Tacoma Police Detective Lindsey Wade, who helped crack the two cases, “We want to get their DNA into the database to solve cold cases.”