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News in Brief

News in Brief

Colorado: On February 28, 2024, Chiara Wuensch, a DNA Analyst for the Weld County Sheriff’s Office at the Northern Regional Forensic Lab for more than 10 years was fired. The termination was the result of a roughly one-month internal investigation, which concluded that Wuensch’s case work had significant inconsistencies. Wuensch reportedly violated the Weld County Code for expectations of proper conduct as well as the Sheriff’s Office’s standards of conduct policy by refusing to cooperate with the investigation. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation began a separate investigation into their own staff, which was how Wuensch’s anomalies initially came to light. Exactly what inconsistencies were committed by Wuensch have not been released because the investigation is ongoing. The Sheriff’s Office expects criminal charges to be filed against Wuensch. 

England: According to the Daily Mail, the escape of a woman from a police vehicle in traffic with her wrists tightly bound by a cable tie in September 2023 prompted the investigation of a Metropolitan police officer. Former officer Cliff Mitchell, 24, of south-west London, threatened his victim that if she vomited in his car he would “slit her belly.” Shortly after the woman escaped, Mitchell was found and arrested in Putney, a town seven miles away. He was then taken into custody. A 2017 rape investigation had yielded no charges against Mitchell but following his arrest for the September 2023 rape and kidnapping, the case was re investigated. The new investigation resulted in an additional three counts of rape of a child under 13 and three other rape counts. Another seven charges tied to the victim who was threatened in the car took place between 2020 and 2023. On February 21, 2024, at Croydon Crown Court, Mitchell was found guilty on ten counts of rape, three counts of rape of a child under 13, one count of kidnapping and breach of non-molestation order.

Florida: On the morning of November 12, 2023, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a disturbance in a local neighborhood allegedly caused by Marquis Jackson. A woman had called the sheriff’s office accusing someone of stealing a vehicle and sending threats. Shortly afterwards, Jackson was detained and placed into the back of Deputy Jesse Hernandez’ patrol vehicle. Vice reports that as Hernandez approached the side door of his car, he suddenly heard something that sounded like a gunshot. The dash-cam footage shows him immediately falling to the ground. “Shots fired!” He shouts. “I’m hit! I’m hit!” He then proceeds to unload his sidearm into the vehicle, where the handcuffed and unarmed Jackson sat. Hernandez’ partner reacted and unloaded her firearm into the vehicle as well. During the investigation, Hernandez was adamant that shots had been fired. He also added that he did not have law enforcement experience before OCSO but had served as an infantry officer for a decade in Afghanistan. When the investigators showed Hernandez the footage of the event he saw, frame-by-frame, an acorn falling from a tree and hitting the car. That was the noise which caused him to believe he was shot and wounded. Hernandez resigned on December 4, 2023, while being investigated. Jackson says he is “psychologically impacted and damaged for life.”

Florida: The Miami Herald reported on February 1, 2024, that a string of pharmacy robberies had occurred in Columbia County. The robber used a variety of disguises, but his loot was always the same: bottles of painkillers. In January 2022, a good Samaritan took note of the license plate number of the getaway car after witnessing one of the robberies. The license plate led investigators to Jesse Rance Moore, 46, of Bell. Moore had been a Florida highway patrol trooper from 2003 to 2017 but with numerous disciplinary issues on his record. He was even fired twice, but each termination changed into a suspension. In 2016, he was in a bad car accident after hitting a deer. The doctor prescribed 27 medications which led to his dependency and downfall. After his arrest, a jail doctor was “stunned by the number of medications (he) was on.” Jail staff described Moore’s detox behavior as “extremely bizarre.” Investigators found that Moore googled on his phone “Do drug stores get robbed in Florida?” Moore was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison on January 31, 2024.

Illinois: According to the Columbus Dispatch, Adam Nguyen, 27, had been with the Columbus police since October 2021. On January 9, 2024, he pled guilty to a class 3 felony charge in the Circuit Court of Cook County of taking videos under clothing. He admitted to taking upskirt video of an underage girl, without her consent, at an anime convention last year in Chicago. Nguyen was sentenced to 24 months of probation, 100 hours of community service and ordered to undergo a sex-offender evaluation, among other conditions. Although Ohio law disqualifies any person with a federal conviction from being a police officer, Nguyen was still listed as “relieved of duty” on January 25, 2024, meaning he was still being paid pending an administrative investigation by the Columbus police.

Louisiana: On August 25, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that Waylon Bailey’s Facebook post in March 2020 was protected speech under the First Amendment and that he should not have been arrested for terrorism. Bailey, 27 at the time, learned that his Facebook messages were not amusing to the deputies of Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office when a dozen or so of them wearing bulletproof vests came busting into his garage. Bailey’s subsequent 2020 lawsuit alleged the sheriff and a detective violated his First and Fourth amendment rights. The Western District of Louisiana dismissed Bailey’s claims in 2022 citing qualified immunity. The post that caused such furor in Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office spoofed the Brad Pitt movie, World War Z, and directed deputies to shoot on sight if they encountered the infected during the first month of the pandemic. The wording, the hashtags and the replies made it clear it was not a call to violence. When Bailey was arrested, he apologized to the deputies, telling them he meant no ill will. The ruling by the Fifth Circuit cleared the way for a jury to rule in Bailey’s favor in January 2024 and order the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office to pay him $205,000 in punitive and compensatory damages.

Mexico: In December 2023, five Tijuana policemen seized drugs from a home in a gated community. According to Vice, a few days later, local media released a recording of a phone call between a local police commander and an alleged cartel member. In the recording, the cartel member says to the cop, “We sent you to watch over the job on Friday, dude, what they were stealing from us, and you joined the fucking thieves.” Since that phone call, six policemen have been killed and five have been injured on the streets of Tijuana. At the time of writing, the most recent Tijuana cop to be found was Keevin Gaxiola. The cartel tortured Gaxiola and left him naked and dead. The non-profit group in Mexico that tracks crime in the country, Causa en Comun, reports that on average a police officer is murdered every day. In a recent report Causa states that “In our country it is easy to kill a policeman and on rare occasions an investigation will follow, or an arrest will be made.”

New Jersey: As reported by the Tap into Asbury Park website, a multi-car accident on November 9, 2023, became worse once the police arrived. Sergeant William Major was working the scene when Chief Leonard Guida arrived in sneakers and plainclothes. Guida immediately approached Major and commanded him to leave the scene because letters were peeling off his police jacket. Major removed the jacket and continued working the accident. Guida continued telling tell him to leave. His unreasonable demands escalated into a verbal altercation. Major was heard saying, “I am working, I don’t have time to argue about a jacket.” When Guida grabbed Major’s arm, Major pushed Guida backwards, and pinned him down on the hood of vehicle. During the fight, Major can be heard saying “drunk again.” Guida ended the confrontation by telling Major he was suspended but he loved him. A Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office investigation reported that in December 2023 Guida was placed on paid administrative leave from his $204,000 a year job, where he remains.

New Mexico: The family of a Native American father of five struck and killed by a long-time judge in Questa filed a wrongful death lawsuit on February 8, 2024. According to KOB-TV in Albuquerque, Municipal Court Judge Michael G. Rael Sr. was speeding on his way home after playing a gig in August 2023 and hit and killed Nathan Kee Charley, 48. The lawsuit accuses the judge of trying to use his authority to obstruct a 911 operator as well as several policemen. When Rael made the 911 call, he said that Charley was naked. Then a 911 operator relayed to dispatch that “a suicidal naked man jumped into the road in front of Judge Rael’s vehicle.” When the police arrived, they failed to perform a sobriety test on Rael. Nor did they ticket the judge for speeding or driving without insurance. The police officers appear to have colluded to pin the blame on Charley for having been drunk, walking on a dark road at night and allegedly leaping onto the roadway. The family’s attorney accuses Rael of driving negligently. They contend that Charley was hit from behind while walking on the shoulder.

New Mexico: KRQE in Albuquerque reported on February 14, 2024, that Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen made a press statement expressing his frustration and disappointment with the behavior of three deputies in the first six weeks of this year. The day before the press release, a third deputy was charged with a crime. Daniel Vasquez-Moreno was arrested early on February 13 on an aggravated DWI after a domestic violence call. Sheriff Allen’s problems with deputies began on New Year’s Day when BCSO deputy Adrienne Seay was arrested for DWI. A few weeks later, BCSO Deputy Michael Borrecco finished his shift and purchased a 100-ml bottle of vodka at a convenience store. He was in the parking lot of Circle K on January 24 and instructed a group of people to leave via his public address system. When they approached his vehicle, Borrecco pointed his gun at them and said he was going to take their souls. When Albuquerque police responded, they noted that Borrecco smelled of alcohol and initially denied having a gun. In his car they found a gun, several magazines, two body-worn cameras and three empty bottles of vodka. An arrest followed that discovery.

Ohio: WCPO in Cincinnati reported that on January 18, 2024, Andrew Golobic, 52, a former Blue Ash ICE deportation agent, was convicted on four criminal charges including depriving a Honduran rape victim of her rights, obstruction, destroying evidence, and tampering with a witness. Golobic had been with ICE since 2006. According to a second woman, Golobic forced her to have sex with him in exchange for her passport. Trading sex for something else defines sex trafficking, so that was one of his charges. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on that charge though, which would have meant a possible life sentence. Golobic’s responsibility with ICE was to supervise women in the Alternative to Deportation (ATD) program. Golobic admitted to having sex with other vulnerable women in the ATD program even though he knew it was unethical. However, he insisted that he never forced them to have sex, nor did her ever try to destroy evidence or influence witnesses. Meanwhile, in the current case, Golobic admitted to deleting apps and incriminating phone calls once the FBI asked to inspect his personal phone as part of the investigation.

Tennessee: On the night of February 21, 2024, Meigs County Deputy Robert “R.J.” Leonard took a call regarding a man and a woman fighting on a bridge. Around 10 p.m. he arrested the woman. According to a Reason article, it was his first arrest since graduating from the academy and joining the force in December. Sadly, it would also be his last. After radioing that he was transporting the handcuffed suspect, Tabitha Smith, he sent a text to his wife composed of one word, “Arrest.” According to the police report his wife texted back and congratulated him. While reading that message, Leonard drove the wrong way down a boat ramp and into the Tennessee River. The rookie police officer drove into the water near a ferry landing, an area that locals say is especially hazardous at night due to a hill and a sharp curve. Officials noted that Leonard was originally from New York and was likely unfamiliar with the area. “R.J.’s” passing is certainly tragic, but the handcuffed mother of two, who died because of “R.J.’s” negligence, deserves equal attention.

Washington: The New York Times reported that on March 21, 2022, Nicole McLure, then 38, left work early because she had a headache and felt dizzy. According to a lawsuit filed on February 1, 2024, Trooper Jonathan Barnes noticed McLure driving very slowly and wandering from her lane. He tried to stop her, but she kept driving until she crashed into a roundabout. The dash-cam footage shows Barnes throwing her onto his car and handcuffing the dazed woman. He repeatedly questioned her about drug use. McClure replied that she was confused and tired. Barnes arrested her but crossed out the section in his report regarding health and medical questions he was supposed to ask. Barnes transported McClure to a hospital for a blood draw and discovered she had no drugs in her system. Her next stop was a jail cell. Despite vomiting, desperate pleas for help, and her inability to stand, McClure was deprived of medical attention for 24 hours. When McClure was finally taken to the hospital, she underwent emergency brain surgery and remained in the hospital for seventeen days. McClure had been suffering a life-threatening brain bleed at the time of her arrest. According to her lawyer, “Had Nicole received immediate medical attention, her condition would have been significantly easier to treat and the outcome far less severe.”

Wisconsin: As reported by Journal Times, on February 8, 2024, Preston Kite, 37, a Racine County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO) deputy was charged with possession of child pornography, five counts of child sexual exploitation, lewd and lascivious behavior and disorderly conduct. The RCSO investigated Kite after they were contacted by an individual who claimed that he had received a message on an app for gay, bisexual and curious men asking him to come to a bathroom stall at a gas station. While the individual was washing his hands, the stall door behind him opened and Kite appeared in full uniform with his genitals on display. The individual was alarmed, so he left and contacted Racine dispatch. Kite was taken into custody where he allegedly admitted that someone online agreed to meet him at the gas station. During the investigation of the bathroom rendezvous, officials found child porn on Kite’s phone. On February 15, he appeared in court without a lawyer. The hearing was postponed to March 7, 2024, to allow his family time to find legal counsel. Kite is currently on unpaid administrative leave pending the termination process.  

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