Wednesday June 19, 2013
LAPD Officers Investigated in 3 Recent In Custody Deaths and BrutalitiesSalem-News.com
Roundup of stories about police abuse in Southern California by Bill Holmes and Tim King
(LOS ANGELES) - While initially reading through this information, I immediately understood why it had caught the information of my friend Bill Holmes in Eureka. I count on him for keeping track of police brutality; particularly in California, and I know he can't stand the thought of it any more than I can.
We were frequently in contact as has watched innocent people who were part of Occupy Eureka brutalized by police; arrested without reason as if we are living in some fascist country without laws to protect people from this type of police abuse. Freedom of Assembly is one of our most basic and most precious rights.
Small towns like Eureka in Northern California are infamous for all types of police corruption. It isn't surprising that officials paid by and often falsely trusted by the public in a place where it is easy to influence the coverage of local media, can get away with this behavior as they and their acts are frequently off the radar, so to speak.
Not the case in my hometown, Los Angeles. I grew up and learned the dark side of police at a tender age. It is no different in Orange County, I have written about this in the past at great length. The following stories are borrowed from a variety of agencies in Southern California and all entries have links so you can go the source and learn even more.
LAPD Officers Investigated in Death of Woman
By ADRIANA PRATT
Aug. 31, 2012
Five Los Angeles Police Department officers have been placed on administrative duty during criminal and administrative investigations after a woman died in their custody last month, police officials said today.
An "in-car video was reviewed which revealed some questionable tactics and improper comments" during the officers' encounter with the woman, Alesia Thomas, the department said in statement Thursday.
The video has not been made public and the officers have not been named.
"The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Justice System Integrity Division (JSID) and the OIG [Office of the Inspector General] were present at the scene and will conduct a comprehensive and independent review of the facts of the in-custody death," according to the Thursday statement.
Police arrested Thomas, 35, for child endangerment after she left her 3-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son at the Southeast police station at 2 a.m. July 22. The children were stranded with a backpack full of clothes and told police their mom didn't want them anymore, LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told ABC News today.
The children also told police they hadn't eaten anything in a couple of days, Smith said.
Alesia Thomas, 35, died in police custody July 22, 2012. Officers contacted Thomas at the children's home and believed they had a legitimate reason to arrest her, according to a police statement released July 23.
Thomas resisted arrest, according to the statement, prompting one officer to perform a leg sweep and take her to the ground to control her. Two other officers handcuffed her, the police statement said.
Officers also restrained Thomas' ankles with a "hobble restraint device," then placed her in a seated position in their patrol car, according to the statement.
At that point, Smith said today, police noticed that Thomas had stopped breathing and pulled her out of the car before contacting paramedics.
Thomas died at the hospital.
Thomas' grandmother, Ada Moses, told ABC News today that her granddaughter was "a beautiful person" and questioned the events of her death.
"Alesia came to see me on that Friday, and that Sunday morning I was getting ready to go to Sunday school and my doorbell rings, and when I went to the door, it was the social worker with her oldest child," Moses said.
The social worker, along with Thomas' son, told Moses that Thomas had died.
Moses said Thomas' children are now in the custody of their grandmother, Sandra Thomas.
Smith said the department is awaiting toxicology reports from the coroner's office to determine whether intoxicants or drugs played a role in Thomas' death.
"I take all in-custody death investigations very seriously," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement Thursday. "I am confident we will get to the truth no matter where that leads us."
This investigation coincides with the LAPD's investigation of an Aug. 21 incident in which two officers were caught on camera body slamming a handcuffed nurse to the pavement, then apparently fist bumping afterwards.
Video of LAPD body-slamming woman disturbing, chief says
“I have serious concerns about this incident," Beck said. "Every Los Angeles police officer, regardless of rank, will be held accountable for their actions."
The commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department's Foothill Division was reassigned Wednesday, a day after video was broadcast showing two of his officers twice body-slamming a 34-year-old nurse to the pavement, once while she was in handcuffs.
The move to reassign Capt. Joseph Hiltner, as well as bump him from his current Captain III rank to a lower pay grade of Captain I, was announced by Beck at a news conference Wednesday evening at LAPD headquarters.
Hiltner, a 34-year LAPD veteran, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
Beck said Internal Affairs detectives have launched a criminal and administrative investigation into the Aug. 21 use-of-force incident, which began after the officers pulled over Michelle Jordan at a Del Taco restaurant in Tujunga because she was holding a cellphone while driving.
LAPD brass didn't find out about the incident until the department was contacted by a KNBC reporter asking for comment Tuesday about the incident and black-and-white security surveillance footage that captured the officers' actions, police officials said.
As the 5-foot 4-inch Jordan left her vehicle, she allegedly failed to comply with officers' commands to get back into the car and was slammed to the ground by the male officers and placed in handcuffs, according to police officials.
While handcuffed, she was led to the officers' patrol car. Moments later, she was slammed again to the pavement, apparently with more force, by one of the officers, who was much larger than Jordan, the officials said.
The video footage appears to show the two officers exchanging high fives after Jordan was taken down.
The surveillance video was recovered by an LAPD supervisor from the Foothill Station who canvassed the area after the incident, law enforcement officials told The Times.
Beck said he ordered the video shown at roll calls when officers begin their shifts.
On Thursday, the LAPD revealed that least five Los Angeles police officers are under investigation in the death of a woman who stopped breathing during a struggle that included an officer stomping on her genital area and the use of additional force by others to take her into custody.
Venice Skateboarder's Arrest Prompts Protests, LAPD Investigation
The confrontation was caught on cellphone video
A 20-year-old college student is accusing officers of unnecessarily roughing him up while arresting him in Venice Beach. Officials say four officers approached the student because he was riding his skateboard on the wrong side of the street. Now, the student says he suffered a broken nose and cheekbone and a concussion after the incident. The LAPD's Internal Affair Division is investigating the case. Ted Chen reports from LAPD Pacific Division in Venice for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 20, 2012.
Dozens of supporters gathered in Venice on Monday night to protest the weekend arrest of a 20-year-old skateboarder, who claims LAPD officers used unnecessary force against him which resulted in a concussion and fractures in his nose and cheekbone.
Update, Aug. 21: Arrested Skateboarder Hires Trayvon Martin's Lawyer
Chanting "No justice, no peace," and "Crooked cops gotta go," some protesters carried skateboards while others held signs denouncing what they called police brutality and racial profiling.
"You could be the next vicim," said one demonstrator. "You're not safe in your own neighborhood."
LAPD has launched an internal investigation into the arrest of Ronald Weekley Jr., who is going into his sophomore year at Xavier University in New Orleans. Weekley says he was riding his skateboard in front of his home near Sunset Boulevard and 6th Street on Saturday afternoon when he was tackled and pinned down by LAPD officers.
The tussle was caught on cellphone video, which shows at least four officers on top of Weekley, one of whom lands what appears to be a punch on the student’s face.
"It was hard to hear him calling out for us while getting hit in the face and no one was here to help him," said Cheyenne Weekley, Ronald’s sister. "He was pummeled by the police."
LAPD officials say Weekley was riding his skateboard on the wrong side of the road.
"He was approached because the officers wanted to discuss his traffic violation with him," said Cmdr. Andrew Smith with LAPD.
"I’m not sure if they wanted to warn him verbally or cite him for that traffic violation, but our officers write hundreds of traffic violations, citations every day in the city of Los Angeles. This was just another one of them."
The 20 year old was arrested on suspicion of interfering and for three unrelated outstanding misdemeanor warrants, police said.
LAPD would not comment on the video and asked the public to reserve judgement until an investigation is complete. The Chief of Police, the LAPD Independent Inspector General, the Police Commission and the LAPD Internal Affairs Division are all handling the case, Smith said.
A crowd witnessed the confrontation. A woman can be heard on the video telling the officers to "step back." She seems to reference a recent spate of fatal police shootings in Anaheim that sparked weeks of violent protests in that city.
"I know this ain’t Orange County, but, you know, we’re just trying to make sure you don’t kill him," the woman said.
The responding officers are part of a special LAPD violent crime taskforce that patrols Venice on the weekends, in part because of high instances of burglaries in the area and the increased traffic to the popular tourist spot, officials said.
Weekley’s sister gives LAPD credit for reducing crime in the area, but says the incident with her brother has changed her perception.
"Things have gotten better," she said. "They’ve gotten people off the streets that need to be off the streets but, like I said, what they did on Saturday to my brother was a step back.
"At this point now, do you trust the police, or are you afraid that they’re going to attack you whenever they feel need to?"
Weekley was home from the hospital and jail on Monday night, consulting with lawyers and contemplating a court date in about three weeks.
Anaheim Police Say They Will Reach Out to Community After Shootings, Protests
Police say they have made preliminary overtures to a non-profit and the Orange County Human Relations Commission.
Despite ongoing protests that led to nine additional arrests over the weekend, Anaheim police said they are trying to start a dialogue with community groups to ease tensions over a spate of officer-involved shootings in the Orange County city.
Law enforcement officials have made very early overtures to the non-profit group Community Service Programs, Inc., and the Orange County Human Relations Commission, Anaheim Police Department spokesman Bob Dunn told NBC4 on Monday.
Police hope to be able to take those discussions further over the next couple of weeks as they seek to defuse community anger sparked by the deaths of Manuel Diaz, 25, and Joel Mathew Acevedo, 21, in separate incidents earlier this month.
"We're looking to dialogue with the community," Dunn said.
"We are 100 percent behind the process and we will wait for that process to take its course and then own whatever the results are," he added.
It was not yet clear, he said, what form those discussions would take. For example, community members might want to talk about the incidents with a facilitator present but without police participation for the first few meetings, Dunn said.
Diaz, who was unarmed, was shot and killed July 21 as he fled on foot from Anaheim police officers. His mother, Genevieve Huizar, contended that officers first shot Diaz in the leg, and then, as he lay on the ground, shot him in the head.
The next day, Acevedo was also shot and killed while fleeing Anaheim police. Officers later said In another incident last week, police fired at a burglary suspect, but he was unharmed.
The lead agency investigating the shootings is the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
Protesters as well as the City Council have called for federal and state law enforcement agencies to step in, but spokesmen for the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s office and the State Office of Attorney General all say they have not yet opened formal investigation proceedings.
Signatures from an online petition started by Washington-based Presente.org are headed to the hands of the California Attorney General.
"It’s over 17,000 at this point," said Arturo Carmona.
Still, officials at the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office say they are reviewing information on the case as they receive it from local prosecutors and others. And a representative of California Attorney General promised that the department would consider a petition asking the agency to open its own case.
"The FBI will review evidence and reports by the Orange County District Attorney's Office to determine whether further federal review and/or investigation is warranted," spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a prepared statement.
Protests over the shootings have rocked Anaheim for much of the past week.
"First thing that comes out of their mouth after one of these is, they’re a gang member. They’re human, everybody’s human. We have a judicial system," said Anaheim resident Louisa Sanchez.
Corie Cline, whose brother was shot by Anaheim Police, is part of the group "Anaheim Crusaders," which is planning weekly protests outside the Anaheim Police Department’s building.
"They're getting away with murder," Cline said.
On Sunday, seven adults and two youths were arrested after a protest near police headquarters grew raucous.
At one point, demonstrators said they were going to march on Disneyland.
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