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News in Brief

Arkansas: A Mulberry police officer and two sheriff’s deputies from Crawford County were suspended after a video surfaced appearing to show them beating a man suspected of making violent threats. Maine Public Radio reported that the three officers were videoed by a bystander as they held down Randall Worcester, 27, kicked him, and hit him in the late summer of 2022. They had been responding to an alert about someone threatening a convenience store. Worcester had been charged before with resisting arrest, making terroristic threats, and second-degree murder. He was later taken to a hospital, then booked into a nearby jail. The local authorities, after the three officers were suspended, vowed to open an investigation into whether they had broken any laws.

California: On Sep. 7, 2022, an Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy surrendered to the police after he was accused of murdering a husband and wife. The officer, Devin Williams Jr., 24, was arrested by the CA Highway Patrol after he called law enforcement to tell them he wanted to turn himself in. Hours before, and 160 miles north in Dublin, Williams allegedly shot to death a couple in their home using his service firearm. Investigators, who received a call about the shooting in the early morning, claimed that Williams knew the two victims and had left his gun at the scene. There was allegedly another man present, a guest of the couple, who was unhurt and cooperative with law enforcement. Williams, an officer since Jan. 2020, first in Stockton PD and then with the Sheriff’s Office, was talked into surrendering by Dublin Police Chief Garrett Holmes, who spent 45 minutes on the phone with Williams leading up to his arrest. There had been no previous concerns filed about Williams, though he had failed the Stockton field training program.

Florida: The Tampa Bay Times reported that a New Port Richey police officer was fired after an internal investigation determined that he had inappropriately touched an underage arrestee. The incident, between Bobby Lubrido, 43, and a 17-year-old girl, allegedly took place on July 13, 2022. The girl, unnamed in the report, claimed that while she was in former-officer Lubrido’s custody he looked at naked photos of her on her phone, and then grabbed her breasts and buttocks. The subsequent investigation into the allegations claimed that the incident had occurred, and while Lubrido didn’t actively contest the findings, he claimed that he had done nothing “immoral or illegal.” He also allegedly engaged in inappropriate sexual talk with the minor, asking if she’d want to have a “threesome” with her mother and becoming so distracted by the images on her phone that he hit a deer. During the investigation, Lubrido allegedly made testimony that did not align with the video evidence.

Georgia: On Sep. 8, 2022, a Deputy Police Chief in Cartersville resigned after being placed on administrative leave. The New York Post reported that Jason DiPrima was caught up in a sex trafficking sting operation. The investigation reportedly found at least two victims of sex trafficking and caught 160 people involved in the operation, including a state prison guard, two Disney employees, and DiPrima. The operation was called “Operation Fall Haul II.” There was reported to also be the potential for more victims to be found. An internal investigation against DiPrima was also reported to be pending. [See: CLN, Sep. 12, 2022, online.]

Illinois: WFLD in Chicago reported that a Chicago police officer was indicted by a grand jury on Sep. 8, 2022, for misconduct and aggravated battery. The charges came after a video was released in which Michael Vitellaro, 49, can be seen kneeling on a teenager in Park Ridge. The alleged incident reportedly took place on July 1, 2022. Vitellaro had been told in the early evening that his son’s bike had been stolen and he then went out to find the thief. He allegedly found a group of boys hanging out near a Starbucks with the stolen bike nearby. Vitellaro allegedly approached one of the boys, pinned his arm behind his back, shoved him to the ground, and knelt on his back. As Vitellaro held the teenager to the ground, his friends surrounded the off-duty officer and shouted at him to get off. Vitellaro then allegedly followed the crying boy before Park Ridge PD showed up. The surveillance footage is reported to confirm that the boy in question had not been the one to steal the bike.

Indiana: A former Elkhart police officer pleaded guilty on Aug. 30, 2022, to beating an arrestee in Nov. 2018. ProPublica reported that Cory Newland accepted a deal that would require him to pay restitution to Mario Guerrero Ledesma for assaulting him, and spend 15 months in prison. Newland resigned his post on the same day as the guilty plea. The plea came after surveillance camera footage was released showing Newland and another officer retaliating again Ledesma for spitting at them. The man had been handcuffed to a chair in the police station at the time of the incident, and the two officers can be seen punching the restrained Ledesma to the ground before getting on top of him and beating him. Ledesma had been arrested on accusations of domestic battery and later pleaded guilty. The other officer, Joshua Titus, pleaded not guilty to his role, and was placed on unpaid leave by the Elkhart PD. The surveillance footage had originally been obtained by ProPublica and the South Bend Tribune.

Iowa: The Iowa Department of Public Safety reported that a former Clarksville police officer was arrested on Sep. 1, 2022, in connection with sexual misconduct with minors. The former officer, Mike Tobin, was accused on March 4, 2022, of showing a minor sexual images on his phone. Those alleged explicit images were reported to be of minors and connected with a then-pending criminal case. On March 5, 2022, Tobin was fired from the department, and six months later he was arrested and charged. He was handed 11 counts of sexual exploitation in relation to a minor.

Kansas: On Sep. 15, 2022, a Kansas City woman testified in court that a police officer had raped her. The Intercept reported that her name was Ophelia Williams, a mother who claimed to have been repeatedly sexually assaulted in her home by a man named Roger Golubski, a former Kansas City police officer. The first encounter, she testified, occurred the morning of her twin sons’ arrest, Aug. 8, 1999. As police searched her home and her boys were taken to jail, Golubski eyed her and made sexual comments that made her feel uneasy. A few days later, he allegedly returned to her home and raped her. It was the first of many times, she claimed. And according to prosecutors, she was not the only woman to be abused by the then-officer, who is now 69. Golubski was also accused of being associated with no less than six murdered Black women between 1996 and 2004. One, he was only spotted with briefly, but the other five, whose deaths have yet to be resolved, were claimed by friends and family to have been sexually abused and forced into relationships by Golubski. Though he went a long time without even being suspected, The Kansas City Star has reported that the number of his abuse victims might exceed 70. He began to face trial, at last, in 2022. [See: CLN, Aug. 20, 2022, online; Sep. 2018, p.19.]

Louisiana: On Aug. 28, 2022, a Bossier City PD sergeant was arrested by federal law enforcement. Fox News reported that the arrest of Harold “BJ” Sanford occurred in relation to an investigation into the local police union, of which he was the president. The investigation also saw the search of the Bossier City PD headquarters and took place at the same time that a police officer in nearby Shreveport was indicted for suspected wire fraud. The FBI was reported to be investigating Sanford in his official capacity as head of the Bossier City Police Local 645 International Union of Police Association.

Maryland: The Baltimore Sun reported that a Baltimore police officer was convicted on Aug. 16, 2022, of reckless endangerment during a 2020 investigation. The officer, Christopher Nguyen, 27, was found guilty of not stopping an assault. He, the jury found, did not take the proper steps to ensure that Kenneth Sommers did not physically assault Wayne Brown. The incident took place when Nguyen arrived on a scene in progress. Sommers, standing by his truck, was a car business owner and claimed that Brown, laying in the grass nearby, had stolen one of his vehicles. Nguyen’s body camera footage from the incident showed Sommers approaching Brown. Nguyen hung back as Sommers confronted the incapacitated Brown and kicked him in the head. Nguyen appeared to not stop the assault. Charging documents also indicated that Sommers, who was later convicted of assault, had already pulled Brown out of the vehicle and beaten him, hence his state on the ground when Nguyen arrived. The officer could face up to five years in prison.

New Jersey: CRWE World reported that three Paterson police officers were sentenced in late summer 2022 for violating citizens’ civil rights. Matthew Torres, 33, who pleaded guilty to falsely filing a police report and conspiring to violate civil rights, was given three years of probation. Jonathan Bustios, 33, pleaded guilty to extortion under color of official right and conspiracy to violate civil rights. Eudy Ramos, 35, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate civil rights, but also to falsely filing a police report, and excessive use of force. Both Bustios and Ramos were given terms of two years in prison and three years of supervised release. [See: CLN, May 2019, p.42.]

Oklahoma: KTEN in Ada reported that a police officer in Durant was fired after shooting his gun at a traffic violator. The incident, caught on police vehicle camera footage, happened on July 21, 2022. Then-officer Lt. Brandon Laxton was trying to pull over a gray pickup truck that had made an illegal U-turn when the driver veered off the road and into a field. Laxton made chase, and the driver stopped at the edge of some woods, exited the vehicle, and made a run for it into the trees. That was when Laxton decided to grab his gun and fire a pair of warning shots to stop the suspect. It did not work, and the driver escaped. Laxton, who had been with the Durant PD for 15 years, was let go by the department weeks later. Firing warning shots was prohibited by department policy and the report on the incident determined that the use of his gun was unnecessary.

Rhode Island: A Providence police officer was charged on Aug. 11, 2022, with simple assault after allegedly smashing an arrestee’s head into the pavement on July 3, 2022. The Police Captain was Stephen Gencarella, and he was allegedly seen on video committing the assault. His attorney claimed that the use of force was warranted, though the 21-year-old arrestee was handcuffed and face-down.  Gencarella claimed that he thought that the arrestee was reaching for a weapon. He also claimed that officers later found a knife on the alleged victim. The arrest allegedly took place after the suspect had left his vehicle in the middle of a travel lane near India Point Park. This was reported to be after a holiday fireworks display. Though there was another officer involved, their actions are still under review. The police chief recommended Gencarella’s termination from the department, but he remains on a status of “injured on duty.” He still retains his annual salary of more than $100,000.

Tennessee: On Aug. 5, 2022, former Soddy-Daisy Police Chief Jeffery Gann, 57, was arrested on accusations of assault. WTVC in Chattanooga reported that Gann was taken into custody by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office after he was accused of punching another man in the face. The alleged assault was reported to have been motivated by Gann’s desire for retribution after the alleged victim insulted his wife. The two had apparently been yelling at each other in a gas station. They had repeatedly run into each other after Gann told the man that he wasn’t allowed to ride his four-wheeler on the street four years ago. The two reportedly yelled at each other numerous times over the following years. In the gas station assault incident, Gann was shoved to the ground after his punch and then reportedly walked away, threatening the man’s life.

Texas: KXAN in Austin reported that on Sep. 6, 2022, a sheriff’s deputy from Williamson County was arrested in Bell County on suspicion of committing domestic abuse. The deputy, Timothy Ramos, was accused by his girlfriend of hitting her. He was taken into custody by Bell County law enforcement after she called the police. While responding, police reportedly found Ramos’ girlfriend with visible injuries. He had been working in law enforcement since 2013 and had been a deputy since 2018. He was placed on administrative leave with pay.

Utah: In the summer of 2022, the former chief of police of Moroni filed a lawsuit against the mayor of that city for wrongful firing. Fox News reported that the former chief, Robert Hill, claimed in the suit that he was fired as retribution for giving the mayor’s son a driving citation. The incident in question took place over Superbowl weekend in Feb. 2022. Hill, the chief and only police officer in the 1,400-resident city, was patrolling during the game when he pulled over a truck he had witnessed driving erratically. It was only once the vehicle was pulled over that he realized who the driver was. Yet despite the rank of the driver’s father as mayor, Hill still gave him a citation. Some of the charges on the citation were later dismissed, but Mayor Paul Bailey’s son pleaded guilty to another. A month earlier, Hill claimed, he had been complimented for his work by the city leadership. He was fired on Feb. 18, 2022. Bailey claimed it was for two excessive use of force complaints, which Hill’s attorney claimed had yet to be substantiated. The city began to contract Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement duties.

West Virginia: A police officer in Bethlehem was charged with driving infractions and false police reporting after he was accused of a hit-and-run and erratic driving. The incident, in late summer of 2022, was reportedly witnessed by bystanders who called the Wheeling police. The responding officers claimed to have found a seemingly intoxicated Rusty Jewell, a police officer himself. He tried to claim that he had hit a deer and wanted to report it to police, but the officers informed him that there were witnesses describing his impaired driving. The police also claimed to have found debris from mailboxes scattered around the area, and that Jewell had just come from a place called the “Cave Club,” at which he was reportedly a bartender.

Wisconsin: WITI in Milwaukee reported that on the night of Sep.10, 2022, a Milwaukee police officer accidentally shot another police officer. The officers were investigating a hit-and-run in which a driver had plowed into the side of a building and ran away. One of the officers, a 35-year-old with seven years’ experience, had his gun in his side-holster when it somehow went off, striking his companion, a 41-year-old with four years’ experience. The 35-year-old was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Milwaukee PD Homicide Unit. The 41-year-old was reportedly in a stable condition soon after being taken to a hospital. 

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