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News in Brief

Arizona: The family of a homeless and mentally ill man who died after being restrained by Phoenix cops in 2017 will get $5 million from the city, after a 7-2 city council vote in favor of the payment on November 17, 2021, according to a report by local TV station KNXV. The death of the man, 43-year-old Muhammad Muhaymin, occurred after Phoenix Police Department officers stopped him as he tried to carry his small dog into a public restroom. Discovering he had an outstanding arrest warrant for a misdemeanor, they moved to take him into custody, ultimately pinning him to the ground. In video of the arrest, Muhaymin can be heard saying he couldn’t breath and calling for Allah. No criminal charges have been filed against any of the officers involved. A teenage daughter he left behind plans to use some of the payout to go to law school and fight for social justice.

Arizona: A day after he fatally shot a wheelchair-bound shoplifting suspect, Tucson Police Department (TPD) Officer Ryan Remington was fired on November 30, 2021. According to a report by the Arizona Republic, the shooting victim, 61-year-old Richard Lee Richards, allegedly threatened a Walmart employee with a knife when asked to show a receipt for a toolbox he was carrying. That’s when Remington, who was off-duty from TPD and working security at the store, gave chase, catching up with Richards and his wheelchair outside a neighboring Lowe’s hardware store. Remington’s body-worn camera recorded that he then opened fire on Richards just seconds after ordering him to stop. TPD Chief Chris Mangus said Richards had also threatened Remington with the knife, but the chief admitted the shooting violated department policy, so he gave the officer the boot. The district attorney is now reviewing the case to see if criminal charges are warranted.

California: A fired California Sheriff’s deputy was sentenced on December 15, 2021, to a year in jail for throwing out a urine sample that exonnerated a suspect he then jailed anyway on suspicion of being high on methamphetamine. According to a report by the New York Post, the former Ventura County Sheriff’s deputy, 29-year-old Richard Charles Barrios III, pleaded guilty in November 2021 to the fraud perpetrated two years earlier against an unnamed woman he pulled over on suspicion she was high. She denied the accusation, but she agreed to provide a urine sample after Barrios promised to release her if it tested negative for drugs. Jail surveillance video captured him as he performed the test, examined the results and then trashed the sample. When he tried to book the woman into the jail, though, her complaints prompted another jail guard to search for and find the discarded sample, which tested negative for drugs.

Connecticut: After a seven-month Internal Affairs investigation into allegations of “unwanted contact” lodged by an undocumented immigrant against one of its officers, the police department in New Haven, Connecticut (NHPD), arrested Officer Christopher Troche on November 21, 2021, on charges he tried to solicit the unnamed 19-year-old woman for paid sex work. According to a report by the Yale Daily News, Troche’s solicitation charge—rather than one for sexual assault—has a local migrant advocate, Kica Matos, worried that other undocumented women targeted for sex by cops “will be afraid to speak out and reach out to advocacy organizations or the (NHPD) because of what happened to this woman.” Matos is National Vice President of Initiatives at the Vera Institute of Justice. Another NHPD cop, Gary Gamarra, was decertified by the department on November 26, 2020, after he allegedly raped a pair of undocumented immigrant sex workers in Fair Haven.

Florida: A Florida cop appeared in federal court on December 3, 2021, on charges he solicited sex from the 15-year-old son of friends. According to a report by West Palm Beach TV station WPTV, bond was set at $750,000 for the officer, 30-year-old Juan Garcia, a five-year-veteran of the police department in tiny Sewall’s Point (pop. 2,099), an afflient town where real estate website Zillow reported typical home values exceed $1 million. The victim’s father said he became suspicious when his son suddenly lost interest in a part-time job he held working on a taco truck owned by Garcia. The dad then allegedly found incriminating text messages from the cop on the boy’s phone and contacted the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, after which an undercover officer posing as the boy received more texts on the phone—including nude selfies—from Garcia, who set a date for the two to meet in a park, where he was arrested.

Maryland: The police department in Prince Georges County, Maryland, suspended one of its cops without pay after he was arrested and charged with felony child abuse on December 1, 2021. According to a report by local radio station WTOP, the officer, Cpl. Benjamin Lasic, was off-duty when he was picked up on the charge in neighboring Anne Arundle County. He has been with the department since 2013.

Minnesota: On November 23, 2021, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) reported it had disciplined a second officer for misconduct during civil unrest that followed the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. According to a report by the Minnesota Reformer, MPD gave a written reprimand—its “lowest level of discipline”—to the officer, Oscar Macias, for failing to report a use of force when he fired rubber bullets at protestors, striking two of them. That was the only one of three charges sustained in the heavily redacted report of Macias’ disciplinary hearing, which took place on October 9, 2021. MPD had previously disciplined Officer Colleen Ryan in January 2021 for talking frankly but anonymously with a journalist about the department’s “toxic” culture in the days after Floyd was murdered by her fellow MPD officer, Derek Chauvin. The city still faces “over a dozen lawsuits alleging brutality and misconduct” stemming from incidents during the same period, the paper added.

Missouri: After he was convicted of excessive use of force—for beating a Black fellow officer working undercover during racial justice protests in 2017—a White St. Louis cop was sentenced on November 22, 2021, to a prison term of a year and a day. According to a report by ABC News, the sentence given the officer, 37-year-old Dustin Boone, was far less than the 10-year term prosecutors requested and even less than the 26 months sought by Boone’s own attorneys. After previous sentencings of two other St. Louis Police Department cops convicted of attacking him—who, like Boone, are White—the victim, Luther Hall, said that U.S. District Court Judge E. Richard Webber had shown “leniency that’s not shown to African American defendants.” For his injuries sustained in the beating, Hall and the city reached a
$5 million settlement in February 2021.

Missouri: The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in St. Louis County, Missouri, announced on November 22, 2021, that use-of-excessive-force charges had been dropped against a White cop who mistook her gun for a Taser and shot a Black shoplifting suspect in the back. According to a report by News One, the incident unfolded on April 23, 2019, when Ladue Police Department Officer Julia Crews responded to a reported shoplifting at a grocery store in the suburban city and found employees restraining the suspect, Ashley Fountain Hall. Seeing Crews, the suspect bolted, and the officer fired what she thought was her Taser but was in fact her service weapon. She resigned afterward. Fountain Hall survived and won a $2 million settlement in a lawsuit she filed against the city. She then participated in a “restorative justice mediation” with Crews on November 5, 2021, after which she formally requested that the charges against the former officer be dropped.

New Mexico: A cop employed to police the Pueblo Isleta tribal area was arrested by New Mexico State Police (NMSP) on November 30, 2021, after he allegedly raped a drunk-driving arrestee he was transporting to jail. According to a report by Alberquerque TV station KRQE, the charges against the 22-year-old officer, Leon Martin, include “criminal sexual penetration, false imprisonment, demanding or receiving a bribe by a public officer, and ethics violations.” Martin admitted to having sex with the unnamed woman, but he claimed it was consensual. The woman told NMSP she was afraid not to cooperate in the assault for fear the officer would retaliate with harsher charges than DWI. Adding insult to injury, she tested positive for chlamydia a few days later, she said. Isleta Pueblo’s governor, Vernon Abeita, said that Martin is no longer employed there. 

New York: After a review of body-cam video footage showed he assaulted a restrained suspect during an arrest, a Long Island cop was indicted by a special grand jury on December 2, 2021, on charges that he falsely reported the suspect resisted arrest. According to a report by the Daily Voice, Suffolk County Police Officer Matthew Cameron, 33, was charged with offering a false instrument for filing about the arrest of Christopher Cruz on February 24, 2021, one day after his release from a detox unit. Cruz allegedly stole a vehicle and led cops—including Cameron—on a chase that ended when he struck two police vehicles and got stuck in snow. After breaking the vehicle’s window to free Cruz, officers were holding him by the back of his coat to restrain him when Cameron allegedly kicked and shoved the suspect. Unsurprisingly, the officers “then grappled with Cruz to get him under control,” the paper added. All of them denied assaulting the suspect. None other than Cameron was charged with any wrongdoing.

New York: Telling a federal judge in New York that he “hoped not to die in prison alone,” former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, 80, began serving a five-year prison term on December 10, 2021, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. His former aide, Christopher McPartland, 55, surrendered to the Federal Correctional Complex in Beaumont, Texas, on the same day, according to a report by Newsday. The two men were convicted in December 2019 of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and civil rights violations for their roles in covering up a police beat-down in 2012 of a shackled detainee who stole items—including sex toys, a pornographic video and Viagra—from the car of the county’s then-Chief of Police, James Burke. The former chief, now 56, pleaded guilty to civil rights violations and obstruction of justice in the matter in 2016 and was sentenced to a 46-month prison term. Judge Joan M. Azrack handed longer terms to Spota and his aide because “community service and home confinement are insufficient punishments,” she said.

New Jersey: A Newark Police Department (NPD) Officer accused of fatally striking a pedestrian with his vehicle and then taking the body back home—while he discussed what to do about it with his mother and a friend—was charged on November 24, 2021, with a list of crimes related to the incident. According to a press release from the prosecutor in Essex County, New Jersey, the dead man, 29-year-old Damian Dymka, was standing on the shoulder of the Garden State Parkway in the early morning hours of November 1, 2021, when he was struck by a car driven by off-duty NPD cop Luis Santiago, 25. Afterward, “neither Santiago or his passenger, Albert Guzman, 25, of Newark, called 911 or tried to render aid,” the release continued, recounting how the pair returned to the scene several times before finally loading Dykma’s body in their vehicle and driving to the home Santiago shared with his parents. There, they allegedly left the body in the car while they discussed strategy with Annette Santiago, Luis Santiago’s mother. His father, an NPD lieutenant, eventually called 911, bringing emergency responders to the scene of the accident, where the younger Santiago had by then returned with Guzman in the passenger seat and Dykma’s corpse in the seat behind them. Both Guzman and Annette Santiago were also charged.

Pennsylvania: The Board of Commissioners of Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania, voted on November 8, 2021, to pay $75,000 to settle claims of racial discrimination lodged against Township police who went looking for a 14-year-old at a high school basketball game in January 2020 and got into a melee with four Black teens. According to a report by the Easton Express-Times, as part of the settlement, police also agreed to drop felony charges filed against the teens. Because no charges were filed against any other students involved, Yolanda Wright and Rosa Rita Bailey, the mothers of two of those charged, filed a racial discrimination suit against the Township in January 2021, after a judge dismissed their earlier claims that police had used excessive force against their sons, who were 16 and 17 at the time of the incident, leaving the boys with traumatic brain injuries, they said.

Pennsylvania: The fire chief for West Salem Township, Pennsylvania—who also headed the Drug Task Force for surrounding Mercer County—was arrested on November 29, 2021, on charges of “engaging in prostitution, possession of criminal tools and attempted sexual contact with an animal,” according to a report by the Salem News. The 58-year-old drug cop, William F. Brown, was nabbed in a sex sting when he responded to an ad on a prostitution website and offered to pay an undercover agent $300 for sex—but only after she first has sex with a dog, which he offered to help find. When the undercover agent announced plans to get high during the escapade, Brown said that was okay, too. He pleaded guilty the day after his arrest, the Sharon Herald reported. A sentencing hearing scheduled for December 13, 2021, was postponed until January 24, 2022.

South Carolina: On November 17, 2021, the City of Orangeburg, South Carolina, agreed to pay $650,000 to a Black man stomped in the head by city cops after his bum hip prevented him from responding quickly enough to their demands he hit the ground during a July 2021 stop. According to a report by the New York Times, the award to 58-year-old Clarence Gailyard comes with a promise from the city to set up a task force to “provide oversight and guidance with regard to interactions” that city cops have with citizens in the municipality of 12,402 residents, almost 75% of whom are Black.

United Kingdom: A pair of London cops assigned to guard the scene of a brutal dual murder of two sisters shared photos on social media of what they called the “dead birds,” according to a November 2021 report by the Atlanta Black Star. The former London Metropolitan Police officers, Jamie Lewis, 33, and Deniz Jaffir, 47, confessed they “dehumanized” the corpses of Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, after the women were fatally stabbed in a city park on June 16, 2020, by 18-year-old Danyal Hussein. He was sentenced to a 37-year prison term in October 2021, but not before his defense counsel attempted to argue the officers contaminated the crime scene with their photo-op. Jaffir resigned in August 2021; Lewis was fired in November 2021.

Utah: An officer with Salt Lake City’s Unified Police Department (UPD)—who tested positive for fentanyl after crashing his patrol vehicle on a city freeway in June 2021–was charged in December 2021 with DUI, drug possession and weapons violations. According to a report by Deseret News, the officer, 49-year-old Jared Brooks Cardon, was also found with 26 pills for which he had no prescription. He resigned from UPD in August 2021. He had previously beaten charges of using excessive force on a suspect he stopped and body-slammed as well as a reckless endangerment charge for firing into a vehicle during a chase.

Washington: The survivors of a mentally ill woman fatally shot by Seattle cops reached a $3.5 million settlement with the city on November 29, 2021, over four years after Charleena Lyles was killed in her home in June 2017. According to a report by the South Seattle Emerald, three of Lyles’ four children were “only feet away when she died,” including an infant son who “crawled onto her chest” as she drew her last breath. Neither Jason Anderson nor Steven McNew, the two Seattle Police officers involed in the shooting, was fired. But Anderson was reprimanded for failing to carry his Taser. King County plans to proceed with an inquest into Lyles’ death in 2022, though Anderson and McNew will not be required to attend, thanks to a challenge by the cops’ union, the Seattle Police Officers Guild. 

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