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News in Brief

News in Brief

Britain: A court hearing at London’s highest legal body is scheduled for late June 2022, The Guardian reported. It will concern a lawsuit brought against the City of London police for allegedly wrongfully tasering a Black man on April 7, 2018. Case was brought by Edwin Afriyie, 36, who was tasered by the police during a traffic stop. The London PD claim that Afriyie was speeding on a road at night. When he stepped out of his vehicle the responding officers are said to have accused him of driving under the influence, but multiple breathalyzer tests returned inconclusive results. Afriyie, a social worker focused on police relations with Black Londoners, claims that he was the designated driver for friends that night, and that there were speed bumps on the road in question, so he was not drunk and couldn’t have been speeding. He claims that when officers took him into custody, they tasered him in the chest, causing him to fall backwards, striking his head on a stone windowsill. The suit also claims that Afriyie suffered from the head injury and had suicidal thoughts after the incident. He says the experience has challenged his sense of his social work with police and Black citizens, believing himself to be targeted as a Black man.

California: Newsweek reported that as many as 54 officers with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) were charged in a fraud scheme on Feb. 17, 2022. Of the 54, just 11 were still employed by the CHP, and were placed on administrative leave. The rest had already finished their employment with the department. The scheme in question involved mass inflation of overtime hours. The plot allegedly earned the officers a combined amount of $226,556. The investigation into the matter, initiated in May 2018, is ongoing, and is said to cover a period from Jan. 1, 2016, to March 31, 2018.

California: A clip of body-cam video recently revealed the words of an LAPD SWAT officer during a fatal confrontation on May 3, 2022. Yahoo! News reported that the incident took place in an apartment in the middle of Los Angeles, where a team of SWAT officers were tasked with confronting an armed suspect, Leron James, 54. James was killed during the encounter after he fired shots at officers, and they returned gunfire. What was revealed during a review of the body-cam footage was that one of the other officers on the team said “happy hunting” while the operation was commencing. The remark was condemned by authorities and the officer was subsequently removed from the field while the investigation into the matter continued. The LAPD Chief commented that the remark, even if “gallows humor,” like the kind the officer used “doesn’t have a place” in the department and was “disturbing” to hear.

California: International Business Times reported that a police officer in San Jose was caught masturbating at a home he had been dispatched to on April 21, 2022. The officer, Matthew Dominguez, 32, was accused of masturbating in front of a family while responding to a domestic disturbance. It was also revealed that Dominguez was accused by a woman in a separate incident of molesting her during a DUI stop. Dominguez, a four-year member of the SJPD, was also accused in 2021 of grabbing a woman’s breasts at a Memorial Day party. That case reached the SJPD Internal Affairs Unit, but he was not charged. After the incident in April, Dominguez was charged with indecent exposure.

Colorado: A former police officer in Larimar County was sentenced to five years in prison on May 5, 2022, CBS News reported. Austin Hopp received the sentence after he was found guilty of violently arresting Karen Garner, 73, in June 2020. Garner, an elderly woman coping with dementia, suffered a broken arm during the arrest, when Hopp forced her to the ground. Hopp and fellow officer Daria Jalali, confronted Garner when she was walking home from a local Walmart, where she had tried to steal about $15 worth of merchandise. She had been confronted by employees and gave the merchandise back before setting off for home with a wildflower in her hand. She was later held at the Loveland Police Department, where the officers acknowledged they had audibly popped her shoulder out of place during the arrest. Both officers resigned after an investigation and were arrested and charged. Hopp was given five years as part of a plea agreement. The Garner family, who won a $3 million settlement over the excessive force incident, did not approve of the terms of Hopp’s of plea agreement. [See: CLN, online, Sep. 2021.]

Florida: Two Tampa police officers are in hot water after a July 31, 2021, incident during which a “bad arrest” was carried out. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the officers in question, Briana Yukniewicz and Brigette Curbelo, are the subjects of an ongoing investigation in the arrest of a woman during a traffic stop. During the stop Yukniewicz and Curbelo pulled an unconscious, impaired man from his vehicle when he did not respond to requests to exit. When they held him down on suspicion of DUI and waited for back up, the woman in the car with the man stepped out. She told the officers to get off her companion, who she claimed was her fiancé. She was standing eight feet away when the officers told her to get back. When she did not move further away Yukniewicz and Curbelo forced her to the ground and arrested her for nonviolently resisting officers. Memos from the police chief indicate that the internal investigation found no clear threat was posed to the officers by the woman, despite their claims that they felt she did. Yukniewicz resigned on Jan. 4, 2022, and Curbelo was place on three-day suspension on March 1, 2022.

Florida: An Osceola County police officer is facing charges after severely burning a man with his taser on Feb. 27, 2022. CBS News reported that Jean Barreto was still suffering from third-degree burns over 75% of his body in May 2022, three-months after the incident. On the day in question Barreto was riding his motorcycle in a group. They can be seen on helicopter footage driving on the wrong side of the road, popping wheelies, and running redlights. Some believe that the bikers possessed weapons. When stopped by police, Barreto fled, later stopping at a Wawa to refuel. When police confronted him, the motorcycle was knocked over, spilling gasoline. Barreto was then tasered and the gasoline ignited. The police officers on scene were unsure if Barreto was armed at the time and were trying to get him to cooperate. The officer who used the taser was charged with culpable negligence. Barreto was charged with fleeing, attempting to allude law enforcement, reckless driving, and nonviolently resisting.

Maryland: WUSA9, a news channel serving Washington, DC, reported that a Prince George’s County police officer was found guilty on May 4, 2022, of assault during a traffic stop. The officer, Bryant Strong, arrested Demonte Ward-Blake, 24 at the time, in Oct. 2019. During the incident Strong forced Ward-Blake, verbally agitated, but mostly cooperative, to the ground. The intensity of the action was enough to injure Ward-Blake, so much so that he was rendered permanently paralyzed below the waste. His girlfriend’s daughter was in the car at the time. Ward-Blake remained in a wheelchair until he died on Aug. 1, 2021, from injuries sustained on Nov. 21, 2020, during a shooting. Strong was found guilty on charges of misconduct in office, reckless endangerment, and second-degree assault.

Minnesota: Syracuse.com reported that a former Minneapolis police officer pleaded guilty to killing George Floyd, 46 at the time of his death. The officer, Thomas Lane, entered the plea on May 18, 2022. As part of the agreement Lane with accept a charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and have a second charge, aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder, dismissed. The guilty plea follows Lane’s conviction on federal charges of violating Floyd’s rights. The agreement will allow Lane to avoid a longer sentence, which the dismissed charge, considered more serious, would have gotten him. Lane can be seen in video of the killing holding Floyd’s legs down while other officers kneel on him and hold off bystanders. The other three officers have also been convicted in their own trials related to the case. [See: CLN, Jul. 2020, p. 1.]

New Jersey: On April 22, 2022, Bordertown Police Chief Brian Pesce was arrested for a DWI, New Jersey 101.5 reported. In video of the arrest Pesce can be scene lying on the road outside his Chevy Silverado with his keys and cellphone thrown aside, and his pants partly down. Officers in the video wonder whether Pesce had vomited or urinated on one of the tires of his truck. He was suspected of crashing his truck, causing property damage, and was placed on restricted duty until further notice as an investigation is carried out. He was arrested by Hamilton police officers, and charged in Mercer County with drunk driving, careless driving, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage, and failing to report an accident.

New York: Times Union reported that a retired Troy detective was sentenced to 1 to 3 years for violating probation. The sentence was handed down on May 2, 2022, ending a five-year court process for Aaron Collington. He was originally placed on probation for stealing from the Troy Police Union, of which he was the president. The violation, committed and prosecuted in Rensselaer County, was Collington’s failure to report an incident with the Colonie Police Department. That interaction was with that town’s detectives, who were investigating his illicit use of a credit card in which he spent $25,459 on the “friend’s” card 26 times at a Homewood Suites hotel over a seven-month period. His probation was stripped during the recent sentencing, and the jail time he had been avoiding for the grand larceny conviction was reinstated. He was ordered to serve both sentences, larceny and violation of probation, concurrently.

New York: A former police officer with the NYPD was found guilty of assault on May 2, 2022. The New York Times reported that the officer is Thomas Webster, and he was convicted of assaulting a police officer during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Webster, the first Jan. 6 defendant to go to trial on accusations of assaulting officers, claimed that he had assaulted the officer with a flagpole in self-defense. He attempted to use the claim that the Capitol police used excessive force on the violent mob that stormed the building. Specifically, he said that a Metropolitan police officer punched him. But a video of the incident shows Webster screaming expletives, shoving barricades, swinging his flagpole, and tackling the officer without being punched. The verdict was reached in just two hours on the first day of deliberation. He was also convicted of remaining in a restricted area with a deadly or dangerous weapon and interfering with law enforcement during a civil disorder. Webster is set to be sentenced on Sept. 2, 2022 and faces up to 20 years in prison.

Oklahoma: A former police officer in Canadian County was arrested on May 13, 2022, and charged with raping a prisoner he transported on April 7, 2022. KXII, a news channel serving Sherman, Texas, reported that the officer, David Wayne Loman, 58, was accused by a female prisoner of sexually assaulting her three time in different locations as he was transporting her from Marshall County. He was taken to Carter County Jail and placed on a bond of $25,000.

South Carolina: A police officer in Horry County was found guilty of reckless homicide on May 19, 2022. ABC News reported that the officer, Stephen Flood, 69, was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of two prisoners just after Hurricane Florence in Sep. 2018. The prisoners, Wendy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43, drowned when the van Flood was transporting them in was washed away by floodwaters. Flood was found to have pursued the shortest route possible as he was transporting the women, and in so doing entered a hazardous area, resulting in the deaths of the prisoners. Flood and the officer with him, were found to have talked to the prisoners as the waters rose, trying to keep them calm, but they had no keys to get them out, and there was no escape hatch on the vehicle. Flood is now set to serve 18 years.

South Sudan: In May 2022 a woman in South Sudan was attacked by a ram owned by a local farmer. WTRF, a news channel serving Wheeling, West Virginia, reported that the woman, Adhieu Chaping, 45, died from her injuries. In response to the incident local police arrested the ram, placing it in jail and convicted it of murder. They explained that the owner of the ram was not at fault, however they did require the owner to give the victim’s family five cows as payment. They sentenced the ram to 3 years in prison, after which it will also be given to the victim’s family. The South Sudanese justice system is distinct from the system in the United States. Its system of courts is a complex overlay of centralized constitutional courts and customary courts, which are governed by traditional and ethnic authorities. Given that it is a young nation and has been at war with neighboring Sudan, the South Sudanese federal government has so far struggled to effectively disseminate enforcement of the many laws it has passed since 2005.

Texas: A police officer in Harris County was arrested and fired after being accused of using a department issued taser on three minors. Law & Crime reported that now former officer Xochitl Ortiz, 34, was arrested in mid-May 2022 in response to the alleged crime of turning a taser on her three children, boys aged 8, 11, and 12 on April 4, 2022. The arrest came as the result of an investigation launched on April 14, 2022, in response to complaints filed with the department. The taser used in the incident is alleged to have belonged to her boyfriend, also now a fired police officer, Christopher Worthington. It had been issued by the department. Worthington was not facing criminal charges as of mid-May 2022. The original accusation is said to have come from the children themselves, who complained to their father. They allege that Ortiz “drive-stunned” them, by pressing the taser into their hands, buttocks, and shoulders.

Texas: The Dallas Morning News reported that a police officer in Dallas was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a teenage victim of sex trafficking. The officer, Tyrone Williams Jr., 49, has been accused of sexually assaulting a number of children, and was arrested for one of those cases in mid-May 2022. Williams, who turned himself in to authorities in June 2021, is facing multiple charges of assault. The first charge for which he offered himself up, was in connection with the alleged assault of a family friend’s daughter earlier in June 2021. The second charge, filed nearly a year after the first, was in connection with the alleged rape of a 14-year-old in 2011. In that case, Williams is accused of repeatedly raping the teenager over seven months after taking her in. She had been the victim of sex trafficking and the trafficker had been arrested at the time. She was allowed to live with Williams, who was listed as her guardian on school records at the time, because he had been a friend of her mother’s. Attorneys have also accused Williams of sexually assaulting two more minors in separate cases. The status of those cases was unclear as of mid-May 2022. 

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