Last Updated: Tuesday, 08 August, 2000 23:50

Only The Police And Military Should Have Guns



Frequently we hear the statement "only the police and the military should have guns" from people and groups who are "gun control" proponents. On the face of it, this might seem logical since these two groups are limited and controlled. However, the opposite side cries out that such a mandate would produce a "police state" and that the police would become as corrupt as in many other nations.

The purpose of this page is not to bash thousands of hard-working, well-intentioned and dedicated police officers. I have to say that most of the police officers I've met in my years have been professionals who do a hard job. But over the years I have seen the style and demeanor of many police departments change. It seems as if every citizen they contact must be identified, checked out and interrogated. Perhaps this is just a sign of the times, but I fear that it is a sign of a creeping change in mentality in our police. From being the "official" to being the "master".  This does not encourage me at all..

Gun control proponents claim that police crime or misuse of guns is a rare thing so I set out to find out. What are shown below are articles gleaned from mainstream news sources on the Internet. I initially surveyed a few months of news articles and listed about 10 items. Unfortunately the news continues and I have over twice that number listed. What is worse, I've discarded dozens of such articles (note the absence of the LAPD-Rampart scandals). No special effort was made to find these stories, other than using several sources to obtain the information. When ever possible, the source of the information is shown in the article or a link provided. After reading these stories, the idea of trusting "only the police" with firearms seems too absurd.

Return to Taking On Gun Control

A friend e-mailed this to me as I was putting this page together. Truly a frightening article!
Emphasis herein added by me for this webpage. This is only one part of a series published by the Washington Post on the disgraceful condition of the Washington D.C. Police. Remember, Washington D.C. prohibits citizens from owning handguns and all long guns must be stored in an "inoperable" condition.

D.C. Police Lead Nation in Shootings

Lack of Training, Supervision Implicated as Key Factors

By Jeff Leen, Jo Craven,
David Jackson and Sari Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, November 15, 1998; Page A1

The District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department has shot and killed more people per resident in the 1990s than any other large American city police force.

Many shootings by Washington police officers were acts of courage and even heroism. But internal police files and court records reveal a pattern of reckless and indiscriminate gunplay by officers sent into the streets with inadequate training and little oversight, an eight-month Washington Post investigation has found.

Washington's officers fire their weapons at more than double the rate of police in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Miami. Deaths and injuries in D.C. police shooting cases have resulted in nearly $8 million in court settlements and judgments against the District in the last six months alone.

"We shoot too often, and we shoot too much when we do shoot," said Executive Assistant Chief of Police Terrance W. Gainer, who became the department's second in command in May.


The shootings involve a small proportion of the District's 3,550 officers. But the details of individual cases can be chilling even to police veterans: An off-duty police officer out walking his dog in August 1995 fired 11 times while trying to stop an unarmed motorist who had hit a utility pole and left the scene of the accident. An off-duty police officer fishing in May 1995 shot an unarmed man three times after arguing with him on the banks of Rock Creek. In August, an officer ended a police chase of an irrational truck driver who had rammed several cars by firing 38 times into the truck's cab, killing the unarmed driver.

The extent and pattern of police shootings have been obscured from public view. Police officials investigate incidents in secret, producing reports that become public only when a judge intercedes. In a small hearing room closed to the public, nine of every 10 shootings are ruled justified by department officials who read the reports filed by investigating officers but generally hear no witnesses.

The spate of police shootings in the District this decade is closely tied to the training and supervision of officers and the way the department investigates cases and holds officers accountable, records and interviews show.

Police shootings began to rise at the beginning of the decade with a huge infusion of new, ill-prepared recruits and the adoption of the light-trigger, highly advanced Glock 9mm handgun as the department's service weapon. By the mid-1990s, shootings by officers had doubled to record levels even as a succession of police administrations failed to accurately track shooting patterns or correct acknowledged deficiencies in firearm skills.
Note: Safety Rule #3: Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire!

Among the findings of The Post's investigation:

  • In the last five years, D.C. officers shot and killed 57 people -- three more than police reported in Chicago, which has three times the police force and five times the population. During that period, D.C. officers were involved in 640 shooting incidents 40 more than the Los Angeles Police Department, which has more than double the officers and serves six times the population. Since 1990, Washington police have shot and killed 85 people.

  • District officers in the last five years shot at 54 cars they said drove at them or others in "vehicular attacks." The shootings have killed nine people all of them unarmed and wounded 19. Police officers in the District and elsewhere are instructed to get out of the way and not shoot at moving cars, except in the gravest circumstances, because bullets can ricochet and because cars with wounded drivers can become unguided missiles. In New York City with 10 times the number of officers and 14 times the population officers shot at only 11 cars in vehicular attacks in the last three years.

  • In addition to the incidents in which officers fired into cars, D.C. police in the last five years shot nine unarmed men on foot, killing two. Five of the surviving men were charged with assaulting a police officer, but the charges were dropped in all but one case.

  • In 11 cases from 1992 to 1997, D.C. police ruled shootings justified despite eyewitness accounts or forensic evidence that contradicted officers, an examination of internal investigative records showed. Investigations were sometimes marked by errors, omissions and internal inconsistencies.
    Bad investigations, failure to use witnesses, obvious inconsistencies - does this sound like an American police department or one belonging to a 3rd world country?

  • Nearly 75 percent of the District officers who used their weapons in 1996 failed to meet the District's basic firearms standards for using the Glock semiautomatic handgun, a weapon that requires a high degree of training and skill. There have been more than 120 unintentional discharges of the gun in the past decade; 19 officers have shot themselves or other officers accidentally.
    The Glock requires no special expertise and is nearly as easy to learn as the more basic revolver. Thousands of police officers use theirs without incident and millions are in the hands of civilians with no apparent rise in accidents.

  • In the internal records used to track shooting trends, D.C. police undercounted by nearly one-third the number of people they killed from 1994 to 1997, tallying only 29 fatal police shootings. The Post investigation confirmed 43 fatal police shootings in that period. Seven fatal shootings were missing from police shooting trend records, and seven other fatal shootings were mislabeled as nonfatal.

  • Police shootings during the 1990s already have left a costly legacy: more than 70 lawsuits filed against the District. In June, a D.C. Superior Court jury awarded a $6.1 million judgment against police in a case in which a man with a knife was shot 12 times in the back by SWAT team members.

    "Some of them just got gun-happy," one juror, William P. McLaurin, later told The Post.

That same month, the District quietly paid a $797,500 settlement in a lawsuit brought by the roommate of a D.C. police officer. The officer, who had not been to the firing range to qualify with his weapon for 26 months, accidentally shot and wounded his roommate. Department regulations require firearms training every six months.

Yessiree-Bob! Only the police are qualified to have guns. Sarah Brady says so. But I think I might feel more endangered by the D.C. police arriving to arrest a burglar than in confronting the guy myself!


Homes Hit by Gunfire From Police Range
Area Officers Were Shooting in Wrong Location at Lorton

By Jacqueline L. Salmon and Cheryl W. Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 26, 1999; Page A01

Submachinegun bullets fired by police officers training at the wrong shooting range rained down on a Fairfax County neighborhood Monday afternoon, hitting 12 houses and three cars, authorities said yesterday. One round crashed through a dining-room window, narrowly missing a baby being held in her father's arms.

A D.C. police weapons instructor took eight to 12 officers from several suburban jurisdictions for assault drills at a District-owned complex on the grounds of the Lorton Correctional Complex, officials said. But the instructor mistakenly allowed them to fire the MP5 submachine guns on a range meant for shotguns, and the bullets flew about a mile north to the Newington Commons community.

The 9mm bullets pinged off the aluminum siding of some houses, lodged in the walls of others and crashed through at least the one window, Fairfax County police said. No one was injured in the incident.

"Our preliminary investigation indicates officers were using a weapon on a range they shouldn't have been on, and firing from a position they shouldn't have been firing from," D.C. Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said yesterday.

Gainer said the instructor improperly led the officers to the shotgun range when he found that their scheduled range was already in use. Once there, they fired about 12 to 15 bullets that "launched like rockets" in the direction of the neighborhood, Gainer said.

The instructor "used poor judgment," and the officers "violated even the minimum safety standards," Gainer said.

A joint investigation by Fairfax County and D.C. police confirmed that all but one bullet found in the neighborhood came from the Lorton facility. The origin of one round has not been determined, investigators said yesterday.

Fairfax County police said they learned of the incident about 1:45 p.m. Monday when they received a call from a homeowner who said a bullet had struck his home.

One resident, Lori Hatton, said her husband, an off-duty police officer, was sitting in the dining room of their home on Newington Commons Road looking through the mail and holding one of their twin girls -- 8-month-old Christen -- when the bullet tore through the window. It narrowly missed a high chair and landed less than a foot from her husband and the baby.

If one of the twins had been sitting in the high chair, "it would have gone into the back of my child," Hatton said. "It could have killed somebody. Now I know how the people in D.C. feel. I just feel unsafe in my own house."

Down the street, Donna Conklin said she and her neighbors are accustomed to hearing gunfire from the nearby firing range, so she didn't pay attention when she heard shots Monday afternoon. Shortly after, however, a police officer "knocked on my door and told me I'd been hit," she said, pointing up to a small hole where a bullet had wedged itself into the siding. "I was scared to death." The bullet struck just below a second-floor window where a 3-year-old girl whom Conklin cares for was sleeping, she said.

Lisa Wachter said she was at work during the incident, but when she came home Monday evening, she found a bullet wedged in the wall above her 3-year-old son's bed.

"I was quite upset," Wachter said. "All you had to do was lift a little bit of the drywall, and it was there."

"The seriousness of this incident cannot be overstated. It was not an accidental or errant discharge," said Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), adding that homeowners' safety "was placed in direct jeopardy."

If this had been citizens shooting their legal firearms you can bet that local politicians would be calling for both the closure of the range and prosecution of those "responsible". So why don't the police rate the same sanctions?


Police bullets spray neighborhood

By Jim Hughes
Denver Post Staff Writer

Aug. 1, 2000 - Bullets from a police training exercise flew into a Weld County neighborhood Sunday morning, the result of an introduction to automatic weapons gone awry.

Police officers from Dacono and Frederick were practicing with borrowed automatic rifles in a training session for the Tri-Area Containment Team, a regional tactical unit, Frederick Police Chief and team leader Jim Torrez said Monday.

They were shooting at targets on private land between Colorado 52 and Weld County Road 14 east of Fort Lupton, in an area where a rancher lets them practice, he said.

"We wanted to familiarize ourselves with what automatic weapons were like," Torrez said. "What happened was, there probably were some rounds that got away from the guys. They might have got over the berm we were shooting into. When we found that out, we immediately stopped and put away the automatic weapons."

Though the group quickly put the big guns away, it continued with a pistol training session, Torrez said. Pistols cannot shoot as far as rifles.

Note: Do you think the police acted irresponsibly by not checking down-range when they realized their shots had left their local shooting area?

Mark Franzen, who complained about the shooting, was in his yard cleaning up after a barbecue he'd hosted the night before when the shooting sent him to the ground. At first, the crackling sound of automatic gunfire didn't scare him, but the unmistakable whizzing sound of bullets overhead did, said the life-long hunter.

"We're used to it out here in the country," he said. "I even do it. That's part of the reason I live out here. We go out in the field with a shotgun and shoot clay pigeons. But when we choose a place to shoot a weapon, we look down range. We want to make sure there's nothing in the way. It's called responsible shooting." Franzen said he lives about a mile and a half from the site.

Torrez said he was glad to have only scared Franzen and his neighbor, Hope Candelarie, who also was out in her yard and witnessed the errant fusillade.

"I think it was a close call, and it's something I definitely regret," he said. "It won't happen again." Candelarie was out weeding with two of her young grandchildren when the automatic gunfire came through.

"I just heard bullets zooming by," she said. "So I told my grandkids, "We better go in before somebody shoots us.'" Torrez said his tactical officers were practicing in the area because the shooting range they regularly use was unavailable Sunday. The range near Franzen's neighborhood normally is only used for pistols, he said.

Franzen said he was surprised when he learned it was police officers shooting such powerful weapons so carelessly.

"Those guys, if anybody, should know that weapons are dangerous and that you have to handle them properly or somebody can get hurt," he said. "When you're shooting, you always want to be cautious of what's down range, and I'm down range from them." He said he wasn't angry at the police, just hoping they would be more careful with their guns.

Yet again we see police endangering neighborhoods. There is no doubt in my mind that if a few citizens were doing the shooting the local police would have confiscated their firearms and claimed they were reckless for not checking down-range!


Federal Cops Spray Ammo in Alexandria

A bicyclist who confronted three well-dressed men walking to their hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, pointed what looked like a 9mm semi-automatic handgun at them and demanded money. The three men turned out to be off-duty federal agents, who drew their own weapons and fired more than 20 shots, hitting the would-be robber, as well as three cars, a truck, two homes and an office building. The injured suspect's weapon turned out to be a pellet gun.
Apparently these Feds need some marksmanship courses!


June 9, 2000

Cop Raped Woman Twice, Police Say
Allegedly Assaulted Her Second Time After She Called 911

MEDIA, Pa. (AP) -- A police officer has been accused of raping a woman while responding to a call and then returning to her house and raping her again after she phoned 911 for help.

Christopher Scaggs, 27, a Glenolden officer for 18 months, was charged with rape and sexual assault. He was freed Thursday on $25,000 bail and placed on administrative leave. No preliminary hearing date has been set.

Authorities said Scaggs admitted the crimes on tape when the woman, wearing a hidden recorder provided by investigators, arranged to meet him after the Monday morning incidents.

Mother-daughter quarrel

The situation began with an argument between the 30-year-old woman and her 10-year-old daughter. The girl called her father, who in turn called police and asked them to come with him to the house in suburban Philadelphia.

Scaggs and other officers responded at about 1 a.m. Monday. The father was given custody of the girl, and the two left along with the other officers.

Prosecutors say Scaggs stayed at the home and raped the mother.

The woman called 911 but panicked and hung up before speaking to anyone. Dispatchers traced the call and, as is routine, ordered a patrol car to be sent. Scaggs, the only officer left on duty, responded to the call and raped the woman again at about 3 a.m., authorities said.

Meeting at car dealership

She sought treatment at a hospital, which contacted police. Officers then had the woman arrange a meeting at a car dealership where Scaggs moonlighted as a security guard.

"I'm very, very concerned," said Delaware County District Attorney Pat Meehan. "This is a situation again in the Delaware Valley where a person [alleges] that a responding police officer has actually raped a person."

Michael Evans, a state trooper from Montgomery County, is awaiting trial on charges he sexually assaulted three teenagers and three women while on duty.


Cop Accused of Blackmailing Ex-Wife's Lover
Lawyer Allegedly Paid $400,000 to Keep Affair Secret

June 19, 2000
By Richard Zitrin

GROSSE POINTE WOODS, Mich. ( -- A sheriff's sergeant is facing up to 20 years in prison for allegedly blackmailing more than $400,000 from a prominent attorney who was having an affair with the officer's ex-wife, authorities said.

Wayne County sheriff's Sgt. Frederick "Rick" Lovelace, 50, is free on $50,000 bond following his arrest Friday on charges of extortion and felony gun possession, county Deputy Chief Prosecutor Bob Agacinski said. Lovelace was off-duty, but had his service firearm with him when he was arrested, Agacinski said.

Lovelace was arrested after he met the lawyer in a school parking lot in this Detroit suburb to get what was to be a final $120,000 hush payment in exchange for secret tape recordings supposedly of conversations between the lawyer and sergeant's ex-wife, the prosecutor said.

Although he had been making blackmail payments to Lovelace since 1984, the attorney only recently contacted Detroit police about the scheme because his wife learned of the affair, Agacinski said.


Friday October 16 3:15 PM EDT

Police rob, kidnap tourist?

By Martin Roberts

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico City police forced a Norwegian tourist into a patrol car, robbed him at gunpoint, and locked him in the trunk of a vehicle they then dumped on a freeway overnight, the Norwegian Embassy said on Friday.

Jorn Espolin Johnson, an engineer on vacation with his mother, was stopped by police outside his downtown hotel at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. They stole $150 in cash and forced him to give them his personal identification number to a credit card account containing $5,000. ``He left his hotel to look for a taxi to visit a friend. The police came before the taxi, the patrol car pulled up and they asked to see his immigration documents,'' Norwegian Embassy official John Opdahl told Reuters.

At least four policemen then blindfolded Johnson, forced him to drink tequila and locked him in the trunk of another car, which was found abandoned on one of the city's major traffic arteries around 4:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Mexico City's police have frequently shocked even this crime-weary city for their corruption and human rights abuses, and the U.S. State Department has repeatedly warned tourists about violence in Mexico.

In July police in the Tlahuac district kidnapped three teenage girls and repeatedly raped them while holding them in stables. They managed to escape four days later.

In October 1997, 19 police were arrested for killing three youths whose mutilated bodies were found dumped in a ravine hours after they were arrested.

The Cardenas administration claims to be making some headway in tackling crime. But the Mexico City-based National Chamber of Commerce says its surveys show violent crime is rising and that most victims have so little faith in the police that most do not even bother reporting assaults.

Tuesday July 21, 12:32 pm Eastern Time
Company Press Release
SOURCE: Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General

PA Attorney General's Office: Westmoreland County Deputy Sheriff Charged With Stealing Guns From Evidence Locker

HARRISBURG, Pa., July 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher today announced that a Westmoreland County Deputy Sheriff has been charged with theft for allegedly stealing seized weapons from an evidence locker and selling the guns to an area gun dealer.

Fisher said agents of his Bureau of Criminal Investigation have filed criminal charges against Luigi "Gino" Ferrari, 40, of 1xx7 Saybrook Dr., Greensburg. Ferrari is a Westmoreland County Deputy Sheriff and holds the rank of sergeant.

The charges allege that in the fall of 1996 Ferrari, who was in charge of the evidence locker in the Westmoreland County Sheriff's office, falsified documents and stole 15 unclaimed weapons from the locker. He allegedly gave some of the weapons away and sold others on consignment to a local gun dealer. The charges allege that in 1991 Ferrari stole one gun.

The charges allege that several of the weapons that Ferrari stole were obtained from individuals who were served with protection from abuse orders (PFA). Fisher explained that when the Sheriff's office served a PFA order they would seize or confiscate weapons or guns from the individual. The weapons were logged in the Sheriff's office and kept in the evidence locker. Upon the expiration of the PFA order, a notice was sent to the individual to claim their weapon within 30 days. If a gun remained unclaimed, a court order to destroy the weapon was to be obtained. The Sheriff's office was supposed to take the weapons to a foundry to be melted.

A copy of the charges is available by contacting the Attorney General's Press Office at 717-787-5211.

3:03 a.m. EDT - July 17, 1998 (CNN)

Three Chicago police officers charged in extortion

CHICAGO (AP) -- Three Chicago police officers were arrested Thursday on charges of extorting several thousand dollars from three people in exchange for not charging them with drug and weapons offenses.
[Here's another reason more gun-control laws won't work. Cops who let crooks go for payoffs.]

John Labiak, Rodney Carriger and Ernest Hutchinson were each charged with one count of armed robbery, home invasion and official misconduct, said Bob Benjamin, a spokesman for the Cook County state's attorney's office.

According to an attorney representing the victims, the three officers barged into an apartment June 23 and uncovered two handguns and a small amount of marijuana. They demanded $8,000 to $10,000 to not press charges, lawyer Mitchell Kreiter said.

One of the victims was sent out to get the money and returned with $8,000, which the officers took, Kreiter said. The alleged payoff was witnessed by two off-duty Chicago police officers who reported it to their superiors, police said.


Philly police caught fudging crime statistics

December 9, 1998
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Rob Lehmann was walking down the street when a thug punched him just for kicks, shattering his cheekbone and cracking his teeth. Lehmann has a steel plate in his face to show for it.

As far as the Philadelphia Police Department was concerned, however, the crime never happened.

Police Commissioner John Timoney, hired 10 months ago, disclosed earlier this year that police have been fudging crime statistics in the nation's fifth-largest city. The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported on the practice in several articles this year.

Timoney, a 29-year police veteran credited with helping shape up the New York Police Department, discovered that the City of Brotherly Love was known as one of the nation's safest cities partly because officers systematically downgraded offenses such as assaults, rapes and robberies, writing them off as "hospital cases," "threats" and "investigate persons."

Across the country, crime statistics are often seen as suspect since they depend on both victims and police to report offenses accurately.

"I'm better taking my chances with the muggers than
thinking Philadelphia police would help me" -Rob Lehmann

"But Philadelphia is known to be among the worst offenders," said Temple University criminologist James Fyfe, a New York police officer for 16 years.

Nearly 1 in 10 of Philadelphia's 95,000 major crimes -- approximately 10,000 -- has been tampered with, Timoney discovered, according to the Inquirer. Since then, he has removed two captains and withdrawn the Philadelphia's 1996, 1997 and some 1998 crime statistics from the FBI's national registry. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

Attorney General Janet Reno last month assigned the Justice Department to investigate Philadelphia's statistics. For years, it's believed, the creative bookkeeping has thrown off federal crime statistics and caused crimefighting efforts to be misdirected by pretending problems did not exist.

Before the numbers were withdrawn, the FBI ranked Philadelphia, population 1.5 million, the third-safest among America's 10 largest cities in 1996, and the fourth-safest in 1997, with a reported 2 percent drop in crime last year.

How much higher Philadelphia's crime rate will be when the numbers are corrected isn't clear, but department spokeswoman Officer Carmen Torres said Tuesday: "It's for the best. We'll have better information of what's happening where to effectively battle the situation."

Ms. Reno said the problem appears to be confined to Philadelphia and Boca Raton, Fla., where the police chief and a top aide resigned in May after it was learned that officers had downgraded 400 serious crimes.
At least until the next city fudging numbers is discovered.

Although police reports have also been questioned in the past in Atlanta, Baltimore and New York, Timoney took the rare step of challenging his department's records and setting out to correct the problem himself.

"It's important for me to show that the job is not just to go out and fight crime but that we will clean up our house," he said last week at a Livable Cities Conference in Washington.

Distortions Costs Victims Too

Crime victims say the fudging of statistics has cost them insurance money and victims compensation, as well as faith in the justice system.

When Lehmann was attacked, officers listed the assault as "unfounded," meaning police came across no proof of a crime. With no record of the assault, the state victims compensation board denied Lehmann help. Eventually, after he had spent hours poring over records of 911 calls and finding evidence of his distress call, police agreed to write a new incident report and the state decided to pay all the bills.

Eight years and $18,000 in medical bills later, the 46-year-old museum worker said he walks cautiously through the city. "I'm better taking my chances with the muggers than thinking Philadelphia police would help me," he said.

Similarly, Philadelphia resident Bill Johnson, 26, said he was jumped and beaten by a gang and lost his job after spending six weeks nursing a broken wrist and bruised body. The incident was classified a "hospital case," meaning he can't get compensation for his $5,000 in medical bills.

The president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police, Richard Costello, blamed the problem on a few police administration officials who he says encouraged officers to distort statistics to keep districts looking good on paper.
So why wasn't the F.O.P. making this an issue? Aren't they also responsible?

"Timoney walked into a situation that's like a war, with mines left buried all over the place," Costello said. "His predecessors put a lot of mines around, and he's having the misfortune of stepping on them. But the fact that the police commissioner has acknowledged the problem and is dealing with it is a step in the right direction."

While this might send an immediate message to rank-and-file officers, it may take longer to reach citizens on the street.

"I'm not surprised this happened to me," Johnson said. "People who live here know the truth about this city."


Mexican Police Attempt Robbery

In Mexico, three armed state police officers surrounded a car containing the eldest son of President Ernesto Zedillo and demanded money, apparently unaware of their victim's identity. They learned it soon enough when another car containing presidential bodyguards stopped, and the guards overpowered the police.
But the average Mexican citizen does not have a car full of bodyguards either!


Police Chief Shoots Oven, Turkey

Madison, Wisconsin's police chief, Richard Williams, forgot he had a gun in the oven. Then he decided to roast some turkey. "Shortly thereafter - BOOM!" police spokeswoman Jeana Kerr said. Williams was given a voluntary one-day, unpaid suspension for violating his department's firearms policy. He said the oven is one of his hiding places.
No word was given on the condition of the turkey - or the chief's dinner.


Friday March 24 6:32 PM ET

Scandals Spotlight Denver Police

By ROBERT WELLER, Associated Press Writer

DENVER (AP) - Despite a sharp decline in crime, Denver's finest are under the gun in the worst series of police scandals since the city was known as the ``crooked cop capital of the United States'' in the 1960s.

This week, the city paid $400,000 to the family of a man killed in a raid at the wrong house, and was fined $10,000 by a federal judge for failing to cooperate with a police brutality investigation, and swore in a new cop who admitted he once used cocaine and LSD.

Last month Police Chief Tom Sanchez was ousted in the fallout from the SWAT raid. Police also have been criticized - and cleared of wrongdoing - in recent beatings of three suspects while television crews taped them.

The spate of problems began in 1997 when officers were caught by a TV news camera beating Gil Webb Jr., whose vehicle smashed into a patrol car and killed an officer. Webb is serving prison time after being convicted of vehicular homicide, assault and driving a stolen car.

On Sept. 29, Ismael Mena, 45, was shot to death after officers broke into his bedroom in a so-called ``no-knock'' raid on the wrong house. Police said he threatened them with a gun.

Two police officers were cleared of wrongdoing. Officer Joseph Bini, who requested the raid, is charged with perjury for allegedly lying when he said he saw an informant going into Mena's house to get cocaine. The correct target was a suspected drug house next door.

The shooting prompted a public outcry over no-knock raids. A panel assembled by the mayor is considering a temporary ban.

City officials have agreed to pay $400,000 to Mena's family to settle claims stemming from his death. Sanchez was forced to step down as police chief after Bini was charged Feb. 4.

In a separate case, city attorneys have drawn the ire of a federal judge who ordered them to release 3,000 internal-affairs files to attorneys representing a man in a police-brutality lawsuit.

The judge ruled the city had violated his earlier orders to hand over the documents, and he fined Denver $10,000. City attorneys have appealed, contending they were complying with the order.

That case arose from Matthew Combs' allegations that police officer Timothy McAleer beat him unconscious after a 1998 traffic accident. Police have denied the allegations.

One of the city's newest officers, Ellis Johnson II, 40, was hired last year even though he admitted that he had used LSD and cocaine. Sanchez opposed the hiring but was overruled by Manager of Safety Butch Montoya.

This is frightening. Police kill an "innocent" civilian in his own home because they can't get the right address (also see the similar Houston incident below) and the initiating officer lies to cover it up. Then, as if the beatings and wrongful death aren't bad enough, the city forces the police to hire someone who admits to using LSD. Remember "drug education" programs in schools where they told you that LSD can cause flashbacks when you're under stress? Do government officials even care about their citizens anymore?


[This is scary if you read it carefully. Apparently Houston's Police and District Attorney's office cannot figure out what constitutes a crime by police. See my comments added. Edited for space.]

Cops Raid Wrong House, Man Dies

Houston Chronicle Date: FRI 07/17/98
Section: A Page: 1 Edition: 3 STAR

Cops may have had right to shoot /DA speaks about deadly home raid


Harris County District Attorney John B. Holmes Jr. said Thursday that the six Houston police officers involved in a Sunday raid in which a man was killed could have been within their rights to shoot him - even if they had no right to be in his home.

"I don't know of any authority at this point that gave them the right to be in that residence," Holmes said. "But that doesn't make the shooting a crime."
[Either the officers had authority to enter the residence or they didn't. If they did not, then their shooting a man in his own home amounts to homicide. What's so hard about that? Or hasn't Mr. Holmes ever heard of the Fourth Amendment?]

The six suspended officers, assigned to the gang task force at the Southwest patrol division, reportedly fired about 30 shots after breaking into Pedro Oregon Navarro's apartment at 6711 Atwell at 1:30 a.m. Sunday in southwest Houston.

Relatives of Oregon, 23, who died from multiple bullet wounds, have retained attorney Paul Nugent to investigate his death. Nugent said family members told him that even after Oregon was shot, the officers tried to bully them into saying he had been dealing drugs. He said they had denied it. Police acknowledged that no drugs were found in the apartment.

"Pedro was a father, soccer player and landscape worker," Nugent said. "What we have here is a good kid from a good family."

Holmes said that because the law [in Texas] does not allow anyone to resist an arrest, even an illegal one, officers had a right to use deadly force against Oregon if he threatened them. A pistol was found at the scene, but police have not yet said if it had been fired. "They do not have to sit still for a citizen pointing a firearm at them, even if they entered unlawfully," Holmes said.

"They were - every one of them - in uniform," he said. "There should not be any reasonable idea in your mind that you are being the victim of a kick burglary."
[Apparently Mr. Holmes believes citizens must first ascertain if its a criminal or police smashing down the door before reaching for a firearm or weapon. He also seems to think it's the citizen's fault if he hears his front door crash in and he responds with a revolver to defend his family.]

Holmes said Texas law at one time had recognized a person's right to resist an unlawful arrest. But since the mid-1970s, the law had required that everyone submit to arrest, even in their homes. The only exception, Holmes said, is the right to defend yourself against unreasonable force, such as being beaten.

Holmes said his investigation is continuing, along with those of the Police Department's homicide and internal affairs divisions.

The officers, who had no search or arrest warrant, have told investigators they raided the place after a confidential informant told them he had witnessed a drug transaction there. A source told the Chronicle that the tipster was not registered with HPD, as is required of all police informants. Holmes said the tipster had just been arrested and was trying to "make a deal" with officers. Holmes said that violates the policy of his office, and any such deal would not be honored by prosecutors and would not stand up in court.

Even if a reliable informant had seen drugs sold in the house, Holmes said, officers would have to get a warrant from a judge before breaking in.

Although there are some circumstances that justify warrantless entry - hot pursuit, for instance - Holmes said he knows of none that applies in this case. "There are damn few exceptions to searching someone's private residence," he said.

"If the informant got in and was wired (with a recording device) and the officers heard someone say `I'm gonna blow you away,' then they could go in," Holmes said.

Nugent said the family contacted his firm - Foreman, DeGeurin, Gerger & Nugent - "because they were being besieged by police." He added, "They thought they were being treated unfairly and were being bullied."

He conceded that Oregon may have had the weapon, for self-protection. "But there is nothing wrong in having a gun in your home. There is a legal process in America even for police officers. You don't just barge in and start shooting people," Nugent said.


Sheriff shoots himself in the foot

July 25, 1998
CNN - 11:07 p.m. EDT (2307 GMT)

TAZEWELL, Tennessee (AP) -- Most people just do it figuratively. Sheriff Bruce Seal literally shot himself in the foot -- with a pistol he keeps in his pants pocket with his car keys.

"The bullet went down my pants leg and into my foot," said Seal, sheriff of Claiborne County in eastern Tennessee.

Seal shot himself Thursday when he reached for his car keys in his pocket and inadvertently set off his pistol. No surgery was required, but Seal was hospitalized.

Seal said he carries his Glock 9 mm pistol in his pocket and believes one of his keys must have gotten hung up on the trigger.

"I'm doing fine," Seal said from the Claiborne County Hospital. "I'm in charge and running the sheriff's department right here from my bed."

[Well, that certainly makes me feel better!]


NYPD Officer Commits Suicide after Killing Family

Daughter, 7, makes desperate call before dying
Suicidal officer's shooting of wife, kids heard on 911 tapes

Associated Press and San Jose Mercury News

(New York)-- A grisly scene in New York where a police officer apparently committed suicide after killing his wife and two children.

Police say 38-year-old Patrick Fitzgerald and his family were found dead Friday evening in Greenville, about 75 miles outside New York City, where Fitzgerald worked.

State police say they were alerted to trouble in a 9-1-1 call from Fitzgerald's seven-year-old daughter. Ashley Fitzgerald frantically dialed 911, telling the dispatcher: ``My mommy is shot. She is going to die.''

When state police officers arrived at the Fitzgeralds' two-story log cabin six minutes later, they discovered a gruesome scene: Fitzgerald had shot his wife, Leanne, as Ashley called for help. Then he shot his 4-year-old son, Shane, as Ashley watched. Then he shot Ashley.

Then, finally, he called a desk sergeant at his precinct, confessed to the murders, hung up the phone and shot himself.

A neighbor says he had advised the Fitzgeralds to separate because they were always arguing and complaining about each other.

Fitzgerald was a 13-year veteran of the force.


Staten Island Officer Kills Cop-Wife, Self

10/21/98 - New York Post

A veteran NYPD cop shot his police officer-wife to death and then killed himself with a bullet to the head as the couple's terrified daughter cowered in another room, cops said.

Erica Jesselli, 11, ran into the kitchen of the family's Staten Island home and found the bodies of her father, Frederick, 47, and her mother, Monica, 38, on the floor, cops said.


Fired Police Officer Kills Family, Self

Associated Press

BALLWIN, Mo. (AP) -- A twice-fired Texas police officer fighting his ex-girlfriend for custody of their son herded them and two others into a closed garage and started a car, killing everyone, including himself.

Police on Tuesday found the body of Reginald Sublet, 34, leaning inside the open door of a car on his knees, a gun in his hand.

His ex-girlfriend, Rosalind Tramble, 33, was bound on the floor and had severe head wounds. Her husband, Michael Tramble Jr., 32, was found bound and gagged inside the trunk of a car.

Police found two boys, 12-year-old Reginald Sublet Jr. and Michael Tramble III, who would have turned 2 on Tuesday, inside another vehicle. Michael was strapped in; Reginald was slumped in the back.

Sublet, the husband and the two boys apparently all died of carbon-monoxide poisoning, while Mrs. Tramble probably died of a combination of poisoning and head wounds, a medical examiner said.

After a struggle that left blood splattered on the floor and furniture overturned, Sublet tied up the two adults and got everyone into the garage, police Lt. Jon Belmar said.

At least one of the two vehicles in the garage had been started. Though Sublet's gun had been fired once, no one had been shot, investigators said.

The killings came just a month after Sublet was released from a Texas jail, where he spent five months for failing to pay child support.


Officer Allegedly Aided Inmates' Escape

Associated Press

(Salt Lake City)-- Authorities in Utah say an officer has been fired after allegedly helping two inmates, including a convicted killer, walk away from jail.

A Department of Corrections spokesman says the female officer may have been having an affair with one of the inmates. The guard-- hired by the Salt Lake City sheriff's office-- was arrested, booked and released on her own recognizance.

Officials say the inmates walked away from the jail Tuesday night after the guard apparently left a door unlocked. The escapes weren't discovered until yesterday-- more than 12 hours later--when the jail performed an inmate-by-inmate head count.

Officials say the guard forged head-count documents to hide the escapes.
A criminal investigation is under way.


Sheriff's Department Pays $24 Million to Family

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Los Angeles County issued 36 checks worth nearly $24 million to members of a Samoan-American family who claimed sheriff's deputies beat and terrorized them during a 1989 bridal shower.

David Dole, the most seriously injured, was struck on the head 50 times with billy clubs and flashlights. He received the largest check Tuesday -- $4.8 million.

Deputies went to the house in riot gear in February 1989, saying they had received a call about partygoers fighting in the street. Officers said they were met with rocks and bottles, but a neighbor's videotape contradicted that account.

Thirty-six people suffered injuries ranging from scrapes to broken bones, and 35 family members were arrested. Only eight were charged with crimes. Charges were dropped against five and the other three were acquitted.

The family sued, and a jury found in 1995 that 25 officers had made false arrests, used excessive force and conspired to violate the partygoers' civil rights. The original award of $15.9 million grew by almost $10 million while the county unsuccessfully appealed.


Police Chief Allowed to Keep Job, despite Drinking on Job

Associated Press

(Morristown, New Jersey)-- Despite testimony that he routinely got drunk on the job, a judge says Brian Kelly will remain the police chief in Dover, New Jersey.

Police officers testified they saw Kelly walking around the office with bloodshot eyes and a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. Others said he would fly into drunken rages, lashing out at his employees.

Five officers sued seeking Kelly's removal But the judge ruled Kelly is fit to be chief despite what he called a "significant drinking problem."

Kelly says he's now sober.
Oh, well, that solves it then.


Police Officer Fired Over Fast-Food Fight

Associated Press

An Ohio police officer is out of a job today, after a fight with a fast-food worker over a bill.

The Dayton Police Department has fired officer Michael McDonald for unacceptable conduct.

Police say McDonald used pepper spray on a 17-year-old worker at a Wendy's restaurant in February after a dispute over his change. He claimed he had given her a 20-dollar bill. She said it was a ten.

He arrested her, but when she wouldn't go with him, he sprayed her.

McDonald was found innocent last month of assault charges. But a police department investigator is quoted in the Dayton Daily News as saying McDonald now says he may not have given a 20 to the girl after all.


Sheriff Arrested on Theft, Misconduct Charges

Associated Press

OCALA, Fla. (AP) -- A sheriff who instituted a no-frills approach in the county jail resigned on Friday on theft and misconduct charges. If convicted, he could face up to 35 years behind bars.

Marion County Sheriff Ken Ergle surrendered to state investigators. He was charged with stealing $170,000 from a department fund used for investigations. If convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.

Ergle, sheriff since 1992, was known for his handling of the jail in this central Florida county. In 1993, he removed televisions from the jail and in 1996 started charging inmates $1 a day for meals and a $10 copayment if they want to see a doctor.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began investigating Ergle a week ago after receiving a tip, said agency spokeswoman Mandy Montalvo.


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