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News in Brief

Alabama: A former police officer in Birmingham was sentenced for murder on Feb. 6, 2023. AL.com reported that the former officer, Alfreda Fluker, 42, once a detective, was found to have shot and killed Kanisha Nicole Fuller, 43. The killing took place on April 11, 2020, when Fluker murdered Fuller after finding Fuller with her romantic partner, Mario Theodore White. She reportedly found them in a park, together in an SUV. Fluker testified that they were having sex, which White denied. Fluker was found to have opened fire on the vehicle using her department provided gun. Fuller was hit and later died from her wounds, while White escaped without physical injury and resigned from the department. The defense tried to argue that it was a heat of the moment decision on Fluker’s part, rather than a planned attack. Fluker also claimed that she and White had gotten into an argument, and even physically fought before he went off that night. She admitted to tracking him on her phone, resulting in her discovery of Fuller with him in the car. They were common-law and police partners before the attack, after which Fluker was quickly arrested and fired. She was convicted in Nov. 2022 and sentenced to life in prison in Feb. without chance of parole.

Arizona: KPNX in Mesa reported on Feb. 3, 2023, that a former state police officer in the Valley was sentenced after pleading guilty to sexual assault and kidnapping. The former officer, Tremaine Jackson, originally arrested in 2019, had been accused by a woman of forcing her to touch him during a traffic stop. After the initial accusation, more women came forward with related allegations against him. Jackson was fired by the Arizona DPS in 2019, and in Aug. 2022, his “peace officer certification” was revoked, barring him from ever again working in law enforcement. Jackson’s defense tried to claim that he was the victim, targeted by a “smear campaign.” But he later pleaded guilty to charges of bribery with sexual intent, fraud with sexual intent, unlawful imprisonment with sexual intent, unlawful sexual conduct by a peace officer, and attempted kidnap with sexual intent. He was handed 5 years in prison and life on probation. [See: CLN, Nov. 2019, p. 42]

California: On Feb. 2, 2023, a former officer with the California Highway Patrol (“CHP”) in Ventura County was sentenced to jail time for shooting his neighbor. KTLA in Los Angeles reported that the former officer, Trever Dalton, 50, had been found to have gotten into a “dispute” with Sorin Popescu on Dec. 4, 2018. Popescu later testified that the off-duty officer appeared to be drunk and even threw an empty beer can at him before unloading two rounds in his direction. Popescu was hit by the shots, sustaining nonfatal injuries to the liver and lungs. But even as Popescu was struck, he was soon shot again, this time in the back. Dalton, who resigned from his position with the CHP in 2019, was found guilty of the shooting on Oct. 17, 2022, and the prosecution asked for 9 years in prison. But Dalton was instead sentenced to just a year in jail and 36 months of probation.

District of Columbia: The former vice chairman of the D.C. Police Union was arrested on Feb. 6, 2023, and accused of fraud for working a second job while on duty as a police officer. WTTG in D.C. reported that the officer, Medgar Webster Sr., was alleged to have worked at three different Whole Foods Market locations between Jan. 2021 and April 2022, and for a significant amount of his working hours was also on duty as a police officer. He had originally been investigated starting April 2022 for alleged sexual abuse at Whole Foods and was suspended as a police officer. Webster reportedly received tens of thousands of dollars in pay, including overtime, from the Metropolitan P.D. while on the clock at Whole Foods.

Florida: A sheriff’s deputy in Hillsborough County was arrested on Feb. 9, 2023, during a traffic stop, accused of having a blood alcohol level well past double the legal limit. WTVT in Tampa reported that officer Attila Tapolyai, 29, a five-year member of the Sheriff’s Office, was pulled over after a police officer noticed that his vehicle was struggling to stay in one lane. He was later charged with DUI and placed on administrative leave without pay. The legal blood alcohol limit for driving in Florida is 0.08. Tapolyai’s reading was 0.177.

Georgia: Atlanta News First reported on Dec. 6, 2022, that a police officer in Oakwood resigned before he could be fired after a video was released showing him assaulting a woman during a traffic stop. The incident took place in Sep. 2022 and saw now-former officer Timothy Holbrook forcefully taking a woman to the ground during an arrest. He had been responding to a call over a dispute and theft, and the victim was taken into custody for obstruction of an officer and public drunkenness. After an internal investigation by the department, the decision was made to fire Holbrook, but he resigned before the move could take effect. He had been hired in the summer prior to the incident, according to the department. Holbrook was reportedly still eligible for hiring by the city after the resignation. It was unclear at the time of the report whether charges would be filed against the former officer.

Georgia: WSB and WAGA in Atlanta, and WYFF in Greenville, South Carolina, reported that a Doraville police officer was arrested in early Feb. 2023 on suspicion of participating in the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl. The officer, fired after his arrest, was Miles Bryant, 22, and charged with false report of a crime and concealing the death of another in connect with the death of Susana Morales, who disappeared on the night of July 26, 2022. Morales had texted her mother close to 10:00 p.m. on the night of her disappearance, and she appeared to be headed toward her home. But detectives suspect that she might have gotten into a vehicle and her phone was eventually turned off. She was never heard from again and was not found until her body was discovered on Feb. 6, 2023, about20 miles away. Bryant was taken into custody by Gwinnet County police. He was suspected of, though not yet charged with, rape and murder. The investigation was ongoing at the time of the arrest.

Massachusetts: A Fall River police officer was arrested in the pre-dawn hours on Dec. 3, 2022, and charged with misdemeanorthird-degree assault. WPRI in Providence, Rhode Island, reported that officer Aaron Souza was arrested at the Foxwoods Resort Casino after an altercation, that from court filings appeared to involve alcohol. The exact details of what led up to the assault, for which he received two counts, were not publicly available at the time of the report. Souza himself was reportedly the one who informed his department of the arrest, and an internal investigation was opened into what had happened.

Missouri: A judge decided on Jan. 23, 2023, that the Sheriff of Callaway County, Clay Chism, would have to face a jury in his DWI court case. KOMU in Columbia reported that Chism had been arrested in Oct. 2022 in Moberly by officers responding to a property damage call at an Arby’s. Chism was found having crashed his truck into a concrete barrier by the drive through, with an alcoholic drink inside the vehicle and vomit just outside. He was “forcibly” removed from the vehicle. He was later charged with misdemeanor resisting/interfering with arrest and driving while intoxicated. Both a criminal case and an administrative case, related to refusing to take a sobriety test, were opened.

New Hampshire: The New Hampshire Union Leader reported on Feb. 10, 2023, that a police officer in Franconia had agreed to forfeit his station and never work in law enforcement again in exchange for not being prosecuted on suspicion of unauthorized use of a database. The officer, Gary Pilotte, was accused of an “unauthorized query” on a motor-vehicle license database and was under threat of prosecution, but before it could go forward, he reportedly agreed to the conditions, which also included placement on a national registry of decertified officers, placement on the Laurie List, which contains the names of police officers with issues relating to credibility, and he is barred from having communication with the owner of the vehicle he was looking for. He is also vulnerable to prosecution if he violates the terms of the agreement in the next 2 years. Pilotte’s case closely resembled that of another officer, Justin Swift in Ossipee, who was also accused of inappropriate use of a database and also avoided prosecution by resigning and certification forfeiture. Swift was accused of running the license plate of a motorcycle on which his wife was riding.

New Jersey: State Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced on Feb. 6, 2023, that criminal charges had been brought against an officer accused of shooting a man in the back. CBS News reported that the officer, Jerry Moravek, of Paterson, was charged with official misconduct and aggravated assault. He was alleged to have shot a man in the back as he was fleeing in June 2022. Moravek had reportedly heard gunshots moments before the alleged victim ran past him. After Moravek shouted for the victim to drop a gun, the officer unloaded a round into the man’s back, severely injuring him. The prosecution claimed that there was neither evidence that the alleged victim had a gun during the chase nor that the gun Moravek had heard, a gun was found nearby, had any connection with him. Video of the incident later released seemed to show the officer asking the victim why he had run away. The victim took bullet fragments to the spine and has since been unable to walk. Moravek was charged with official misconduct and second-degree aggravated assault and could face up to a decade in prison on each charge.

New York: A probation officer in Jefferson County was arrested on Dec. 14, 2022, after being accused of stalking and official misconduct. WWNY in Carthage reported that officer Danielle Larson, 52, was charged with counts of misdemeanor fourth-degree stalking and official misconduct of a public servant. The charges came after she was accused of a number of acts of misconduct including telling a probationer she was supervising in Aug. 2022 to spy on someone on her behalf. The victim also claimed that Larson injected herself into the victim’s personal business even when she was told to stop between Aug. and Oct. 2022. She also sent an individual a video of Larson shooting a service weapon with a threatening message attached.

New York: The New York Post reported that on Feb. 4, 2023, an NYPD officer was arrested and charged for drunkenly smashing his personal vehicle into parked cars. The incident, reportedly involving off-duty Bronx officer Efrain Alejandro, took place in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in the pre-dawn hours. Alejandro’s car was reportedly so damaged in the crash that it could not be driven, but no one was injured in the incident. He had also fired his gun at an Uber behind him. Police were responding to a call about shots fired and found Alejandro there having crashed. He was handed a count of aggravated DWI, menacing and operation of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit, and assault.

North Carolina: A former Greensboro police officer was charged with sexual battery, WFMY in Greensboro reported. The former officer, K. E. Adams, was accused of sexually assaulting an individual outside Greensboro, while he was off duty on Dec. 18, 2022. A criminal investigation into the matter was opened by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office after the arrest, and the Greensboro P.D. placed him on administrative duty and began its own internal investigation into the matter. In all, Adams was charged with giving alcohol to an underage person, assault on a female, and sexual battery.

Ohio: On Feb. 2, 2023, a former police officer in Columbus was sentenced to prison for his role in a drug trafficking scheme. The DOJ reported that the former officer, Marco R. Merino, 45, had originally been arrested in Sep. 2021 on suspicion of smuggling fentanyl and protecting cocaine trafficking in exchange for bribes. He eventually pleaded guilty to the allegations in Feb. 2022. He admitted to working with another police officer, John J. Kotchkoski, 33, for part of the scheme. The full period of bribes and smuggling lasted between March 2021 and Sep. 2021 and saw Merino taking payments worth tens of thousands of dollars to protect fake cocaine shipments set up by federal law enforcement. Though he thought they were real and had a gun while protecting the illicit cargo. He was also found to have attempted to convince another individual, secretly an informant, to join in the scheme, offering protection from other law enforcement. Merino was sentenced to 9 years in prison for the offenses.

Tennessee: The New York Times reported that in late Jan. 2023 five police officers in Memphis were charged with the murder of a Black man during a traffic stop. The five officers were accused of pulling over Tyre Nichols, 29, on the night of Jan. 7, 2023, suspecting him of reckless driving. Nichols died three days later of injuries sustained during the encounter. The five officers involved were soon accused of brutally assaulting Nichols, beating his head repeatedly and with such severity that he succumbed to the injuries. An internal investigation was opened by the police department, the state opened up another investigation, and two members of the city’s fire department charged with responding to his injuries were “relieved of duty” as well. Federal investigators also opened a civil rights investigation into the incident. The video of the incident was released on Jan. 27, 2023, and appeared to show the officers repeatedly kicking Nichols in the head, sloppily spraying him and each other with pepper spray, and tasering him. Three days later, two fire department medical technicians were fired, and two more police officers were arrested. The original five officers were charged with second-degree murder.

Texas: The Wichita Falls Times Record News and the Trish Choate reported that Clay County Sheriff Jeff Lyde was arrested on Jan. 16, 2023, for assaulting and sexually harassing three women. Lyde was accused of taking and making and showing “unwelcome” comments and images, and even slapping one of the alleged victims on the rear, for which he was handed four counts of misdemeanor official oppression. All of the alleged victims were reportedly members of the sheriff’s office and included two deputies employed there according to 46th District Attorney Staley Heatly. The cases, there were three indictments, were referred to a grand jury. Lyde’s defense claimed after the charges were filed that they were “clearly politically motivated” and portrayed the official proceedings as an abuse of power that could be extended to anyone in the county. Lyde, already charged with two unrelated counts of official oppression, was accused of a number of acts of outright harassment including discussing female private areas with one of the victims and showing her pictures of the subject matter on his computer, making sexual inuendo to another victim, causing physical injury to another as he struck her butt, and implicitly making her continued employment conditioned on her acquiescence to the unwanted contact.

Utah: A Salt Lake City police officer was accused of drunk driving and getting into a fight on Dec. 30, 2022. KSL in Salt Lake City reported that the officer, Thomas Edward Caygle, 37, was arrested in the days following the incident and accused of causing a “minor accident” with another driver in the early evening. He was intoxicated, and when the two got out of their vehicles, they got into an argument. Caygle was accused of getting back in his truck during the argument and plowing his truck into the other driver, pinning the driver’s leg between the truckand the back of the other car. The officer then let the other driver stay there without backing up to release victim. Riverside police officers were summoned to the scene to help Ogden P.D. because of a “conflict of interest.” The other driver was taken to a hospital. Caygle was not on duty and was in his own vehicle. He was later placed on administrative leave and arrested on suspicion of DUI and negligently operating a vehicle resulting in injury.

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