Tag Archives: Excessive Force

Under Federal Investigation, Chicago PD Releases Controversial Videos of Officer Conduct

As the Department of Justice launches a civil rights investigation into the practices of the Chicago Police Department, a series of videos have been released depicting controversial officer conduct.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced on Monday that the DoJ was launching the investigation because when “suspicion and hostility is allowed to fester, it can erupt into unrest,” and a lack of trust between police and their communities, “makes it more difficult to gain help within investigations, to encourage the victims and the witnesses of crime to speak up and to fulfill the most basic responsibilities of public-safety officials.”

[RELATED: Chicago Police Shooting Video Released Officer Charged First Degree Murder]

[pull_quote_center]The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into whether the Chicago police department has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution of Federal Law. Specifically, we will examine a number of issues related to the Chicago police department’s use of force, including its use of deadly force, racial, ethnic and other disparities in its use of force and its accountability mechanisms such as its disciplinary actions and its handling of allegations of misconduct.[/pull_quote_center]

[RELATED: Chicago Police Union Stands By Officer Charged with First Degree Murder]

The investigation comes weeks after the dashcam video from the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was released on Nov. 24. The shooting occurred on Oct. 20, 2014, and the officer involved, Officer Jason Van Dyke, was charged with first degree murder after the video showed him opening fire just six seconds after exiting his patrol car and shooting McDonald 16 times.

The case of Van Dyke was unique due to the fact that it was the first time in 35 years that a Chicago police officer has been charged with first degree murder.

[RELATED: Lawyers: Alleged “Black Site” In Chicago Detaining And Interrogating Suspects]

The DoJ’s announcement came on the same day prosecutors announced they would not charge the officer who fatally shot 25-year-old Ronald Johnson III on Oct. 12, 2014. Dashcam video of the shooting showed Officer George Hernandez, who was responding to a call of “shots fired,” exit an unmarked police car and chase Johnson on foot, taking four steps before firing several shots.

Warning: The following video contains graphic content.

While Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez claimed that Johnson was carrying a gun at the time of the shooting, Johnson’s family attorney Michael Oppenheimer alleged that a gun was planted on Johnson’s body, and claimed that Alvarez had not interviewed any of the officers involved in the incident.

A third video was released, also on Monday, which depicted the events that led up to the death of 38-year-old Philip Coleman in 2012. In the video, which shows the view of a security surveillance camera, Coleman is lying on a cot in a jail cell when six officers enter.

Warning: The following video contains graphic content.

While the video does not have audio, it does show the officers speaking to Coleman briefly, and then surrounding him and shocking him with a taser multiple times. They then drag his limp body out of the cell. Coleman was taken to a hospital where he later died.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement condemning the way Coleman was treated by the officers. “I do not see how the manner in which Mr Coleman was physically treated could possibly be acceptable,” he said. “Something is wrong here – either the actions of the officers who dragged Mr. Coleman, or the policies of the department.”

Chicago’s Acting Police Superintendent John Escalante said the case of Coleman’s death is “under investigation, as it should be.” He also said that while the independent investigation is ongoing, the department “will be doing our own review of our policies and practices surrounding the response to mental health crises.”

Fired Denver Officer In Excessive Force Case Moves Toward Reclaiming Job

A Denver police officer, who lost his job in light of video footage revealing that he had used excessive force on a female suspect in a holding cell, may be able to get his job back.

Civil service hearing officer Terry Tomsick ruled Wednesday that former Denver Patrolman James Medina should serve a 60-day suspension followed by two years of probation. Medina was fired in March when it was found that he had pinned a woman down driving his knee into the woman’s neck, leaving her limp.

The incident that led to Medina’s termination occurred on July 10th, 2014. Medina and other officers had been called to a fast-food restaurant to assist in placing an intoxicated man in custody of a rehabilitation facility. A woman, identified as Seryina Trujillo, and her boyfriend were interfering with the situation, according to the disciplinary report. Trujillo was eventually handcuffed and taken to a patrol vehicle, where she reportedly had kicked Medina in the face and Medina had punched her in the face in response.

Trujillo was taken into custody and brought to a holding cell, where she was told by Medina to remove her belt and shoes. Video footage taken from the holding cell showed that Trujillo was arguing with Medina and reluctant in removing the items. A struggle ensued and Medina was heard ordering Trujillo not to bite him, and then the officer was seen pinning Trujillo’s neck down with his knee while removing her belt and shoes. The video of the incident can be seen below:

It was found that Medina had violated five department policies including the use of inappropriate force and failure to report use of force in a timely manner. At the time of the incident Medina failed to seek medical attention for Trujillo. Five days passed before Medina filed a report about the struggle in the holding cell, and he did not include information about pinning Trujillo down. Medina did not seek assistance from other officers to gain control of the situation, and the disciplinary report noted that Medina should have requested a female officer to remove Trujillo’s belt and shoes.

Medina’s attorney, Donald Sisson, argued that Trujillo never fell unconscious. “She was smiling or smirking at him,” Sisson said. “A few seconds after she pops up of her own free will.”

Court records showed that Trujillo later pleaded guilty to third-degree assault.

In deciding discipline for Medina, Police Commander Michael Battista had recommended two 30-day suspensions and two years of probation on behalf of Police Chief Robert White. Medina had not been notified that termination was a possibility, according to the Denver Post. While Tomsick agreed that Medina violated several department policies, he said that the city of Denver made an error when the Department of Public Safety’s deputy director, Jess Vigil, chose to fire Medina without warning.

Tomsick’s ruling does not mean that Medina is guaranteed to regain his badge. Daelene Mix, a department spokeswoman, said that the Department of Public Safety will appeal Tomsick’s decision and the issue is yet to be resolved. Over the course of Medina’s career at the Denver Police Department, he has been the recipient of 15 commendations and nine prior disciplinary actions.

Texas DPS Replaces Original Dashcam Video Of Sandra Bland Arrest

The death of Sandra Bland, a woman found hanged in a jail cell three days after her arrest following a minor traffic infraction, has led to video footage of the arrest to fall under heightened scrutiny.

Following the release of dashcam footage capturing Sandra Bland’s traffic stop and controversial arrest, the Texas Department of Public Safety faced a swarm of accusations regarding doctoring of footage when viewers discovered inconsistencies in the video. The Texas DPS has since removed the original footage and replaced it with another video.

In the original footage, there were multiple instances in which video would appear to show looping images while the audio remained continuous. In one section of video around the 25 minute mark, the tow truck driver arriving to remove Bland’s car was seen exiting his truck, leaving the video frame, and then reappearing several times while trooper Brian Encinia continued speaking uninterrupted.

In another section of the video at approximately 32 minutes and 36 seconds into the footage, a white car was shown disappearing in the street and reappearing while the audio of Encinia speaking was uninterrupted.

[RELATED: Sandra Bland Dashcam Footage Appears Edited, Texas DPS Denies Manipulating Footage]

The original video uploaded by the Texas DPS was removed on Wednesday. However, a copy of the original from the YouTube channel of Photography Is Not A Crime is currently available to view and can be seen below:

Texas DPS uploaded a new video in its place, seen below, which is about three minutes shorter and does not show all of the reported errors. Neither video contains a visible time code.

Texas DPS spokesman Tom Vinger stated that the video was not edited and that uploading issues were to blame for the errors in the video.

“The entire video was uploaded to include the audio and video of the conversation the trooper had by telephone with his sergeant, which occurred after the arrest,” Vinger said in a statement. “Some of the video during this conversation was affected in the upload and is being addressed.”

Read more about the Sandra Bland case here.

Video: Colorado Officer Caught On Multiple Cameras Assaulting Suspect

Federal Heights, CO- Federal Heights Police Department Cpl. Mark Magness pleaded guilty to attempted assault in June after he was terminated by the department last December as a result of excessive force used by Magness on a suspect in custody.

The encounter between Magness and suspect Kent Lasnik occurred on December 6, and the footage was recently made available to the media. Lasnik, who had been arrested for allegedly attacking a liquor store employee, was taken by Magness and his partner into booking, where the encounter turned violent and Magness appeared to lose his temper. The Denver Post obtained and published raw footage of the incident, seen below.

The video shows, from the body camera of an officer identified as David Romero, Lasnik being removed from a police vehicle. While being pulled out of the car and into the station by Magness, Lasnik is thrown into a refrigerator, leaving a large cut on his chin that later required stitches.

Magness can later be heard shouting and swearing at Lasnik inside a cell, who shouted back at Magness. Lasnik is seen raising a hand to Magness, and Magness then struck Lasnik several times in the cell. Prosecutors said that Magness punched Lasnik at least seven times while Lasnik was seated on the bench, and hit another five times while on the ground.

Magness’s own body camera shows him grabbing a restraint chair and shoving it across a room while swearing, and it appears that his partner was encouraging him to calm down. Magness’s partner then strapped Lasnik down in the restraint chair as Magness squeezed the man’s temples to keep him still.

Later in the footage, Magness acknowledged that he’d “busted him up” and would “take full responsibility.” Lasnik was charged misdemeanor assault and has since considered taking legal action.

Magness was fired following an internal investigation and was charged earlier this year with assault. After pleading guilty, Magness was sentenced to one year of probation and court costs. The Denver Post reported that a second officer had been disciplined in the case.

The December incident led to the second time that Magness has pleaded guilty to assault. He was criminally charged in 2009 for using excessive force on a man named Dennis Discua by throwing him to the ground and breaking his arm. According to Fox 31, Discua called 911, dispatchers sent the closest officer who happened to be Magness. When Magness returned to the scene he allegedly pretended to be unaware of Discua’s situation.

“Officer Magness has had a history of being very aggressive with suspects,” Romero told prosecutors. “He’s been told he’s had anger issues before and like I say, it’s taken a SGT or another officer to do it and there’s been time where he’s able himself to calm down.”

Federal Heights Police Chief Karl Wilmes, who was not the department’s Chief in 2009, said he did not know the facts of that case and said that he has “no idea why” Magness was still employed by the department after that 2009 incident.

Texas Officer Involved In Controversial Pool Party Intervention Resigns

McKinney, TX- Corporal Eric Casebolt, the McKinney police officer whose contentious attempts to reign in a disturbance at a pool party fell under national scrutiny, has resigned.

McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley described Casebolt’s behavior as “out of control” to reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

“The actions of Eric Casebolt are indefensible,” Conley said.

[RELATED: Teen Who Filmed Viral Pool Party Video Describes Officer’s Controversial Use of Force]

Casebolt had been placed on administrative leave after video surfaced showing the officer, who was responding to complaints of an out-of-control pool party last Friday, using profanity and behaving particularly aggressive toward the young attendees. Casebolt was also seen in the video wrestling a 14-year-ol girl to the ground and pushing his knee into her back.

Jane Bishkin, an attorney representing Casebolt, confirmed Casebolt’s resignation following a meeting with the McKinney Police department’s internal affairs unit to discuss potential charges against Casebolt.

Teen Who Filmed Viral Pool Party Video Describes Officer’s Controversial Use of Force

In McKinney, Texas last Friday, a pool party at Craig Ranch North Community Pool descended into chaos when local police responded to complaints of a fight and that unauthorized guests were attending the party. The McKinney Police Department response to the incident, particularly as it pertains to the behavior of Corporal Eric Casebolt, has been described as excessive and racially-motivated by local community leaders, according to CBS 46. The majority of the party-goers were African American teens, and Corporal Casebolt was filmed detaining bystanders seemingly at random, wrestling a bikini-clad 14-year-old girl to the ground, and pulling his pistol on another teen who clenched his fist near the officer.

Fifteen-year-old white teenager Brandon Brooks, who also attended the pool party, filmed the incident and said in an above-embedded interview with journalist Andrew Demeter that he believes that Casebolt acted inappropriately and that racial bias appeared to be a motivating factor.

Brooks told NewsFix CW33, “I was one of the only white people in the area when that was happening. You can see in part of the video where he tells us to sit down, and he kinda’ like skips over me and tells all my African-American friends to go sit down.” Brooks’ full video of the incident can be seen in the YouTube player below.

In the video, Corporal Casebolt can be seen swearing and accusing the teens of running their mouths just before he grabs 14-year-old girl Dajerria Becton and forcefully wrestles her to the ground. As bystanders begin to crowd around him, a teen can be seen clenching his fist in anger, to which Casebolt responds by drawing his pistol on the teen. Casebolt then keeps his pistol out while wrestling with the 14-year-old girl as she calls for her mother.

I think she was quote unquote running her mouth, and she has freedom of speech and that was very uncalled for him to throw her to the ground… When he pulled his gun my heart dropped. As soon as he pulled out his gun, I thought he was going to shoot that kid. That was very scary,” said eyewitness Brooks to NewsFix CW33.

It is our hope and prayer that the Chief of Police and the mayor of this city handle this situation by not only firing this officer but taking his license, because this was simply based on race,” said local pastor Reverend Ronald Wright.

Brooks said in his above-embedded interview with Andrew Demeter that police were originally called in response to a fight between a mother and a teen girl, and that the other bystanders, many of whom were detained, had nothing to do with the incident. Said Brooks to NewsFix CW33, “The cops showed up and the parents immediately started yelling, ‘you need more cops, there’s too many of them.’ And most of the kids weren’t even involved. It was a fight between a mom and girl, which had nothing to do with all the other kids that she apparently needed more cops for.

The McKinney FOP assures that this was not a racially motivated incident and can say without a shadow of doubt that all members of the McKinney FOP and McKinney PD do not conduct racially biased policing,” said McKinney Fraternal Order of Police president Daniel Malenfant, according to ABC News.

Jahi Adisa Bakari, a parent of a 13-year-old who attended the pool party, said that Casebolt’s behavior was “out of control” but that she “saw some [officers] doing the right thing.” She continued, “I saw some actually trying to keep the matter right.

USA Today notes that party organizer Tatyana Rhodes said “[Corporal Casebolt] was just aggressive for no reason at all.

43-year-old African-American resident Benet Embry said, according to CNN, “Let me reiterate, the neighbors or the neighborhood did not call the police because this was an African-American party or whatever the situation is. This was not a racially motivated event — at all. This whole thing is being blown completely out of proportion.” Many of the party’s attendees felt that the police were called primarily because residents of the predominately-white neighborhood were bothered by the number of African-American teens at the pool.

Fifteen-year-old white eyewitness Brandon Brooks said that he felt he was “invisible” to the cops, who he believed were only focused on detaining the African-American party-goers.

Several concerns about the conduct of one of the officers at the scene have been raised. The McKinney Police Department is committed to treating all persons fairly under the law. We are committed to preserving the peace and safety of our community for all our citizens,” said McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley at a press conference.

An adult male was arrested at the scene on charges of evading arrest and interfering with the duties of a police officer.

Our initial reaction was to place [Officer Casebolt] on administrative leave until we can conduct a complete and thorough investigation of the incident,” McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley said.

UPDATE: Caselbolt resigned on Tuesday, according to his attorney. Read more here.

Albuquerque Cop Accused Of Beating Suspect While Body Camera Was Turned Off

Albuquerque, NM- The Albuquerque Police Department is under scrutiny once again due to another one of its officers being accused of not using a body camera while on duty.

Earlier this month, APD Chief Gorden Eden revealed in a YouTube video that an internal affairs investigation had been launched regarding “possible misconduct” and “excessive use of force” involving two APD officers. Additional information has identified the suspect and the APD employees involved in the incident.

Albuquerque Officer Cedric Greer, 24, has been charged with aggravated battery for allegedly punching a suspect repeatedly during an arrest. The incident was reported to APD’s training staff by a cadet, identified by the Albuquerque Journal as Andrew Henry, who was present at the scene.

Henry, Greer and another officer, Jerry Rauch, were called to a motel on March 20th to assist a “down and out” male. The “down and out” male, Adrian Marthell, was found on the second floor of the motel highly intoxicated.

Marthell was escorted downstairs. A patdown was conducted, and Marthell was found with a small amount of marijuana. While Rauch went to his vehicle, Greer and Henry stayed with Marthell. The arrest warrant affidavit claims that Greer caught Marthell looking at Henry and ordered him to “stop looking at” the cadet and to “look at the f**king ground.”

The affidavit goes on to claim that Greer grabbed Marthell and shoved him down to the ground and into a prone position with Marthell’s left shoulder and left side of his head on the pavement. Greer then allegedly grabbed Marthell by his jacket and struck him twice in on the right side of his head “causing the left side of his head to bounce off of the pavement.” 

According to the affidavit, Greer continued to assault Marthell. The officer allegedly held the Marthell by his left arm and struck him twice in his rib cage before wrenching his arm upward and repeatedly asking Marthell “who’s the man?” until Marthell “responded in obvious pain, ‘you are the man’.”

Rauch returned to the scene and helped Greer place Marthell in restraints; the affidavit claims that Greer and Rauch proceeded to turn their lapel cameras on and were “courteous” to Marthell once the cameras were activated. APD’s policy requires the use of body cameras for most public interactions.

The lapel camera allegedly showed “large red blotches which appeared to be abrasions” on the left side of Marthell’s face. The affidavit reported that the officers did not report to supervisors that force had been used.

An eyewitness was reportedly interviewed who said he was 20 feet away from the officers and Marthell and had clearly seen Greer striking a man laying on the ground. According to the affidavit, interviews with officers and the witness indicated that Marthell was cooperative and not threatening to any of the officers during the encounter.

KOB News4 reports that the APD is investigating the glaring differences between the arrest warrant affidavit and the criminal complaint against Marthell. The complaint, written by Rauch, provides very few details and does not mention use of force, Rauch walking to his vehicle, or lapel cameras being turned on in the middle of the encounter.

Rauch has not yet faced any charges; Greer is charged with misdemeanor aggravated battery. According to the Albuquerque Journal, there was a clerical error that cause Greer to first be charged with a felony; a Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office clarified that Greer is charged with a misdemeanor. A felony charge would allow the APD to immediately fire Greer.

Both Greer and Rauch are on administrative leave.

The allegations against Greer are similar to those made against another APD officer, Jeremy Dear. Dear had been allegedly involved in three use-of-force incidents in which Dear did not have his body camera turned on. One of those incidents involved a fatality: Dear shot and killed Mary Hawkes during a foot chase in April 2014 and admitted in an interview that he knew his camera was not on during the chase. Dear, who was fired by Eden last December, has appealed his termination and wants his job back.

Caught on Video: Orlando Cop Knees Handcuffed Suspect, Rupturing Spleen

Last August, 40-year-old Robert Liese exited a local bar without paying for his drink and was subsequently arrested by Orlando police. While in a holding cell following his arrest, Liese, appearing inebriated, headbutted the holding cell’s window, damaging it. In the above-embedded raw video of the incident provided by WFTV, Orlando Police Department Officer Peter Delio, rather than simply charging Liese with an additional crime for destroying property, appears to respond by taking it upon himself to dish out a punishment instead, viciously kneeing Liese, who was bound by handcuffs, in the stomach. Following the incident, Liese was hospitalized with a ruptured spleen, which had to be removed.

William Ruffier, an attorney who is representing Liese in a federal excessive force lawsuit, noted that the MMA-style knee strike also damaged an artery and said in comments to WFTV, “He was bleeding internally and could have died.” According to The Orlando Sentinel, Liese was charged with and pleaded guilty to defrauding an innkeeper, criminal mischief, and resisting an officer without violence. Liese’s excessive force lawsuit seeks over $75,000 in damages.

After Liese headbutted his holding cell window, he said that he intended to sit down. “Let me help you,” said Officer Delio after he kneed Liese in the stomach, causing him to double over in pain. Liese was then taken to another holding cell where he was bound by the feet. Said Officer Delio to Liese, “Understand if you stand up, you will fall, and we will not retrieve you.”

Liese languished in the cell for two more hours before Orlando police sought medical help for him. Liese’s attorney Ruffier said that an officer misled paramedics when they arrived and told them that Liese was suffering from chest pains and a head injury, drawing attention away from the stomach injury caused by the knee strike. Orlando police also told hospital staff that Liese sustained a chest injury while fighting police officers, which differs from what is seen in the footage of the incident.

The Orlando Sentinel notes that the City of Orlando was previously forced to pay a $15,000 settlement after Officer Peter Delio wrongfully arrested and seized the cellphone of a bystander who had stopped to record Delio after a suspect in his custody began calling for help.

Albuquerque Police Chief Fires Cop, Who Fatally Shot Woman, for Refusing to Turn on Body Camera

The Albuquerque, NM Police Department came under fire back in April of this year when a Department of Justice investigation concluded that its officers had been engaging in a pattern of excessive force. As Reason notes, the 500,000 person city has suffered 41 officer-involved shootings, 27 of which were fatal, over the past four years alone, including a highly-publicized caught-on-video incident in which officers fatally shot homeless camper James Boyd, who appeared to pose no threat to police at the time.

In February of this year, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry appointed Gorden Eden, who promised to clean up the department in advance of the DOJ’s investigation, to the position of police chief. Now, Reuters is reporting that Chief Eden has fired Albuquerque Police Officer Jeremy Dear for four incidents in which he allegedly either refused to turn on or disabled his body camera. As the above-embedded video by KOAT-7 notes, Dear is the third officer to be fired by Chief Eden since he took over as head of the Albuquerque Police Department.

In one of the incidents, which, according to Annabelle Bamforth at BenSwann.com, led to the investigation into his use of body cameras and took place on April 21, Officer Dear’s camera had been disabled before he fatally shot 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, who was allegedly attempting to flee police on foot. Officer Dear claimed that Mary Hawkes pointed a gun at him prior to the fatal shooting. In another incident, Dear’s camera was reportedly disabled when he was involved in a brawl with a suspect in January of 2013. A citizen also accused Dear of kicking him in the groin during a February 2013 traffic stop. Once again, the officer’s camera was disabled.

Albuquerque police officers are required to wear body cameras, but, according to Albuquerque Journal, the DOJ investigation concluded that police were violating the policy without facing consequences. Chief Eden’s firing of Officer Dear appears to be an attempt to give teeth to the department’s policy requiring body cameras during all interactions with citizens.

Officer Dear claims that his body camera malfunctioned during the aforementioned incidents. His lawyer Thomas Grover calls Dear’s firing unfair and says that Chief Eden is just trying to use his dismissal as a way to get officers to follow the body camera policy. “If they fire every officer who doesn’t turn on his uniform camera, they won’t have anyone left on the department,” said Grover, describing an environment of rampant insubordination. Grover worries that officers will now be fired when their body cameras malfunction and is appealing Dear’s dismissal.

Chief Eden issued a statement on the incident, which said, “Insubordination tears at the fabric of public safety especially when the officer makes a choice not to follow a lawful order… In imposing the discipline of termination, I considered the seriousness of the acts and omissions, aggravating circumstances and Officer Dear’s disciplinary record.”