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News in Brief

California: The Daily News reported that two former police officers from Fullerton and Anaheim were indicted on counts of kidnapping while working illegally as bounty hunters. The former officers were Rodger Corbett, 49, formerly of the Fullerton PD and Kevin Pedersen, 34, formerly of the Anaheim PD. The two were accused on June 20, 2022, of kidnapping a woman while armed and driving her around for hours. Corbett and Pedersen were allegedly on the hunt for a suspect who had missed a number of court appearances. The pair had been presenting themselves as bounty hunters despite not having completed the requirements to be registered. They were accused of kidnapping the woman because she was the girlfriend of their target. They did so with weapons fully visible. Corbett and Pedersen were both charged with false imprisonment by violence, fraud or deceit, enhancement with a firearm, menace, and kidnapping. Pederson was also involved, as an Anaheim officer, in a 2018 killing in which officer bodycam video “was described as ‘disturbing’ and ‘difficult’ to watch by city officials.” He was cleared of wrongdoing in that incident 2019. [See: CLN, Aug. 2019, p.42.]

Delaware: A former police officer in Dover entered into a plea agreement on March 1, 2022, admitting guilt to a DUI and official misconduct, Delaware.gov reported. The officer, Steven Vieira, 30, was found by fellow officers on Nov. 26, 2021, after dispatched repeated tried to get in touch and couldn’t reach him. The officers discovered Vieira unconscious inside his police vehicle and displaying signs of an overdose. He later tested positive for marijuana and fentanyl. It was at first believed that he had been accidentally exposed to fentanyl earlier, but upon investigating the vehicle officers found oxycodone hydrochloride, a prescription opioid. He now faces 12 months in prison and a 12-mont probation. Delaware Att. Gen. Kathy Jennings expressed pleasure with the result, indicating that Vieira was no longer trustworthy to the public and highlighting how the agreement would ensure he received the addiction help he needed.

DC: A police officer for the U.S. Capitol was indicted by a federal grand jury in early June 2022. The DOJ reported that officer Thomas Smith was charged with violation of civil rights for an alleged hit-and-run on June 20, 2020. He accused of willfully endangering people when he recklessly drove a police vehicle, crashing into a pedestrian and injuring him. After the crash, Smith allegedly drove away without administering aid to the victim or calling for help. He also allegedly falsified records to hide his wrongdoing. His case was being investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office.

England: A Wiltshire police officer was fired after he touched a coworker’s penis and shouted, “it’s a small one.” The Manchester Evening News reported that now-former officer Adam Reed was fired for what was described as “wholly inappropriate behavior.” The firing came after a misconduct investigation was carried out for five days, finding that he had committed an act of “gross misconduct,” which results in a termination of employment. The findings indicated that Reed allegedly unzipped a colleague’s pants zipper and stuck his hand inside before shouting the inappropriate phrase. Reed responded to the development by asserting that his actions were “banter” and amounted to “misconduct” and not “gross misconduct,” and that his firing was unwarranted. The investigation disagreed and the victimized party, new to his full-time position, claimed that he had felt “violated.” Reed was officially barred from working as a police officer, and placed on a national list.

Florida: A former police detective in Miami–Dade avoided prison time after stealing $1,300 during a drug sting in 2016. The Miami Herald reported that former detective Armando Socarras, 36, was found guilty of theft and was subsequently sentenced on June 13, 2022. The trial testimony lasted one day before Socarras suddenly pleaded no contest. In response, the judge overseeing the case handed down a sentence of just 24 months’ probation, 100 hours of community service, and completion of an anti–theft course. She also allowed him a “withhold of adjudication,” which would keep a felony conviction off of his record. All this despite prosecutors seeking a full year in prison. The result of the trial took so long, with Socarras being busted originally in 2016, because of a combination of pandemic complications and extended legal battles over the admissibility of his statements.

Florida: The Palm Beach Post reported that on June 18, 2022, a black bear was shot and killed by police. The bear was first spotted in the Saratoga Lakes community at around 8:00 in morning on the day in question. After about nine minutes, officers with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office (“PBSO”) arrived and blocked off the street where it had been seen. They proceeded to follow the creature as it made its way toward a canal outside the neighborhood and climbed a tree in a resident’s backyard. For five hours police and officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (“FWC”) stood off with the bear. It was at this point that reports from the two organizations began to diverge. According to police they were waiting all that time for a trapper to be called to contain the bear, but officials with the FWC claim that their people never called a trapper, having determined it was best to let the bear leave the area itself. When the bear descended from the tree at around 12:30 p.m. officers opened fire, hitting the bear in the shoulder. When the bear tried to get up two more shots went out. Finally, a fourth shot was fired, intending to kill the bear so that it didn’t suffer, according to police reports. On June 27, 2022, the FWC released a report clarifying that PBSO was not authorized by FWC to kill the bear, was informed the bear was from a protected species, and that there were nearby wildlife areas where the bear would likely have gone. “FWC bear experts did not consider killing the bear since FWC law enforcement on the scene never observed any indication that the bear was a threat to public safety.”

Florida: Insider reported that an as of yet unidentified police officer was taken off patrol duty after getting into a heated exchange with a black man he had pulled over. The man, Gerardson Nicolas took a video of the encounter with the officer on June 15, 2022, after he had been pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt. In the video that officer can be seen asking Nicolas for his license and registration and getting agitated when the man at first struggled to find the documents. Apparently agitated, the officer can be telling Nicolas in part “This is how you guys get killed out here, man.” Nicolas can then be heard asking the officer to repeat himself. He did but omitted the seeming threat. Nicolas posted the video to the social media site TikTok the next day, explaining that he had started recording because he had feared for his life.

Georgia: WSB–TV 2, a news channel serving Atlanta, reported that a Bibb County police officer was fired in May 2022 after leaving a pregnant 14–year–old locked in an interrogation room for 21 hours. The officer, Omar Sanders, brought the teenager, into the Macon department on the morning of March 24, 2022. She was seven–months pregnant at the time and a potential witness to a homicide. He apparently had little interest in interviewing her. So much so that he didn’t even take down her name. He claimed to have called her mother and grandmother multiple times, being unable to reach them. Eventually another officer asked what his intentions were and Sanders said she was free to go. But he didn’t free her before going out on other calls for the day and eventually leaving for the night. The young woman was caught on surveillance camera wondering around in the parking lot outside early the next morning, after having apparently used a chair to break the door to the interrogation room open. Sanders submitted an appeal to his firing.

Georgia: The marshal overseeing the Spalding County animal control department resigned in June 2022 after fatally shooting a dog in front of its owners. WSB–TV 2, a news channel serving Atlanta, reported that the now former marshal, Smart Web, was responding to a call of roaming goats when he spotted what he believed to be a pit bull charging him. The owners of the dog, Allison, a Boston Terrier, were standing nearby and had just barely been unable to restrain her. Web proceeded to shoot Allison, killing her in front of Isabela Avellaneda, her sister, and her 13–year–old son, who has special needs. Avellaneda and her community responded in horror, and Web, after just three months on the job, resigned. He was already under criminal investigation from his time as chief of police in Woodbury. Avellaneda publicly stated that her son has changed since losing his dog, his “best friend.” He stays in his room all day, she explained, and didn’t sleep or eat for three days after.

Illinois: Salon reported that in June 2022 a Black 13–year–old boy was shot by police at a gas station in Chicago. The boy, identified to the public so far only as A.G., was running from police when he was caught on camera stopping at a gas station and putting his hands up. In the subsequent moments the police opened fire, striking the boy in the back. They then dragged A.G. by the feet and shirt away from the gas pumps before turning away from him entirely to focus on another officer who has crashed into the gas station sign while arriving on the scene. By June 17, 2022, A.G. still had a bullet lodged in his back, and it was reported possible that he might never walk again. The family filed a lawsuit alleging that the officers neglected to provide immediate aid and caused “permanent” and “catastrophic” damage to the child.

Maryland: A former Prince George’s County officer pled guilty in late June 2022, to tax evasion worth more than $1.3 million. The U.S. Att. Off. for the District of Maryland reported that Edward Scott Finn, 48, served as a police officer in PG County from 1995 to 2021, and during the period of 2014 to 2021 ran a security business called Edward Finn Inc., or EFI, using off–duty police officers. He admitted during a trial, as the DOJ reported, to underrepresenting his earnings from that business for the years between 2014 and 2019, an estimated total of well over $1 million. Finn faces a potential of five years in prison for tax evasion and must pay restitution to the government, which lost an estimated $367,765 as a result of his fraud. The DOJ report did indicate however, that federal sentencing often falls below maximum limits.

New Mexico: A police officer in Sandoval County was found with photos of child sexual abuse on May 25th, 2022, and was arrested and charged hours later. The Albuquerque Journal reported that officer Robert Jesse Strand, 39, had his phone searched on the day in question, and investigators found the exploitative images, which had been downloaded. The images were said to have been originally traced to Strand’s phone in June 2021, but the search warrants weren’t carried out for 11 months. A spokesperson with the state AG indicated that the process took so long because Strand’s position as a police officer required the involvement of third–party warrants and various agencies. She also indicated that the investigation was ongoing. Strand, a 7–year veteran of the department, had his home searched as well. He had previously been charged with DWI in 2006, and then again in 2012. He was charged in May with criminal solicitation for possession of visual medium of sexual exploitation

Ohio: A Cincinnati police officer was fired in April 2022, after he decided to have the words “pure evil” tattooed on his knuckles. Vice reported that officer Eric Weyda, a 16-year veteran of the department, made the decision to get the troublesome tattoos. A senior officer first noticed them in Dec. 2021, after which Weyda was reassigned to the impound lot to keep him out of the public eye as much as possible. Though the officer contends that the markings represent the “struggle” between purity and evil, the message can easily be taken another way, and tattoos on the neck, face, hands, or head is strictly against department policy. Weyda, who had received commendations in 2012 and 2013, had spent the past 4 years racking up complaints, poor attendance records, and stories of cursing at people making calls for help. Having been fired for insubordination, and expressing “remorse” for getting the tattoos, Weyda was reported to be attempting to get his job back through the local Police Lodge. He has declined to get the tattoos removed due to the potential cost of the procedure.

Oregon: OPB reported on May 23, 2022, that a Washington County detective texted racist messages to a prosecutor working on gang–related cases. The detective, Rebecca Venable, allegedly texted Dep. Dist. Att. John Gerhard on Jan. 21, 2018, happily discussing having a “fiesta” with “Mexican themed food dish” to celebrate the guilty pleas of four men police identified as Hispanic in an assault case. The case, which had to do with the men assaulting a victim outside a restaurant in Hillsboro, was investigated by Venable and prosecuted by Gerhard, who responded to the invitation with “Ha! Sounds fun.” The revelations about the texts came as a defense attorney for another man convicted by a non–unanimous jury in 2018 was seeking to get an attempted murder case dismissed for her client. Non–unanimous convictions were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2020. She was using texts to point to apparent bias against Hispanic people by the two officials. Both Venable and Gerhard were involved in her client’s case as well. Her client identifies as Hispanic.

South Carolina: On Dec. 14, 2021, a Marlboro County sheriff was indicted on charges of aggravated assault and battery. Charles Lemon was accused of directing a subordinate to shock a prisoner three times in May 2020. The deputy, David Andrew Cook, was directed to use a taser on the prisoner during what Lemon and Cook claim was an attempted escape. They will both face charges for the assault, which could have killed the prisoner. The prisoner too could face charges of assaulting a police officer. The man was originally arrested after beating someone with a baseball bat, assaulting them with his fists, and throwing their Bible into the garbage. Lemon and Cook face up to 20 years each in prison if convicted. Lemon joins 13 other South Carolina sheriffs to face charges since 2010. Those other sheriffs were indicted on counts of crimes such as forging false reports, taking bribes, and running a drug ring, just to name a few.

Tennessee: The Herald–Citizen reported that an investigation into a child pornography site led to the arrest on May 26, 2022, of District 9 commissioner Jimmy Ray Neal (R– TN), a retired TN Highway patrolman. Neal, 57, was caught using the illicit website under the username “tennesseemaster.” He first won election in 2018 after running unopposed for the Republican nomination. He is running again, also currently unopposed in General Election in Putnam County. Neal claims that he was on the site for the purposes of taking notes to give to law enforcement. His arrest at his home came after the first suspect on the site was arrested in Oklahoma in July 2021. Neal could face, if convicted, between five and 20 years in prison for using images of child sexual exploitation.

Texas: On June 16, 2022, a former Arlington police officer was indicted on a murder charge in connection with a fatal shooting, CBS News reported. The former officer, Robert Phillips, allegedly shot and killed a man named Jesse Fischer on Oct. 20, 2021. The incident took place at the end of a slow-speed car chase. At the moment of the shooting Fischer was allegedly driving toward Phillips while they were in a cul–de–sac. Phillips was fired two days later for violation of department policy and if convicted could face between five and 99 years. 

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