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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Tapestry Of Abuses Redux

I haven't posted for a while on purpose as I wanted to leave the previous post up top for a while. It's about how Seattle Police misconduct complaints are being dismissed out of hand and bypassing the OPA process. It seems that when the city refined rules that made it more difficult to excuse sustained findings of misconduct the department responded by skirting the investigative process so officers wouldn't be found guilty of misconduct.

But, let's move on... A while back I wrote a piece about different police abuse stories around the nation that sort of meshed together... some of those stories have some updates so, for those who were actually interested in those stories, I wanted to give some updates.

But first, some local news...

The Sturgis Shooting
The shooting incident involving off-duty Seattle Police Officers and a Hells Angel's MC member in Sturgis is still generating quite a bit of interest so I've been updating our coverage of the investigation and grand jury questioning that has been going on surrounding that event. For the latest summary of noteworthy updates, tune in here.

Ex-Cop Fugitive Arrested Near Seattle
An (now ex) Alabama police officer who's been charged with transporting children across state lines for sexual purposes, rape, possession of child pornography, and other related charges has been arrested in Lakewood, Wa, near Seattle on Monday. The officer appeared in federal court today shackled from head to toe because he had been trained in SWAT tactics and was deemed a dangerous prisoner.

He had fled Alabama once he was released on bond and had been staying at a friend's home nearby for nearly a month when he was finally found. After he fled, federal agents found that his car had been left at an Alabama airport and contained several weapons along with a handwritten note that said "they won't ever find me; six days (in jail) was unbearable for me."

...Guess he was mistaken.

Latest Lawsuit Against the SPD
The federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Michael Watson and his attorney John Kanin was lost last week. While Mr. Watson claimed to have been stunned by a Taser a dozen times and doctors confirmed at least that many burn marks on his torso, the police claimed they didn't shock him that much and that they did so in order to stop him from being combative. Apparently the jury sided with the officers after a week-long trial.

This is the first loss against the city after a long slate of highly publicized settlements and the very pricey loss on a civil rights case appeal by the city on what was originally a quarter of a million dollar lawsuit that bloomed into half a million dollar bill for the city after the legal fees were added. There are several more lawsuits in the works from others though, so we'll try to keep up to date with the latest as we become aware of it.

Now for those updates on the Tapestry stories...

The Death of Andre Thomas
Andre Thomas ended up dead after an encounter with Swissvale Pa. police earlier this month that started with him going door to door asking for help saying he was afraid someone was going to shoot him and ended with, as one witness detailed, police stunning him with a Taser and then punching him in the back of the head until he vomited and then remained motionless for several minutes.

An autopsy performed by Allegheny County coroner was said to be inconclusive with the coroner citing the highly questionable "excited delirium" (a cause of death that is strangely only associated with deaths in police custody) as the cause of death and that there was no evidence of excessive force. With toxicology results taking longer than usual to be released the family asked for an independent autopsy to be performed as well.

The independent autopsy revealed 17 bruises and wounds on Mr. Thomas' face and torso and a preliminary finding of death to be positional asphyxia, though further results are pending due to the county coroner refusing to give the independent coroner blood and other tissue samples. The independent examiner also canvased the neighborhood where the death occurred and said that witnesses say Mr. Thomas did nothing criminal that night, he only seemed to be knocking on doors and pleading for help...

I'm sure we'll hear more about this case in the future since the citizens of that city have been holding protests and rallies to demand a proper investigation into this questionable death in custody.

More from Prince Georges County
While the case of the mistaken raid on a mayor's home in Prince Georges County Maryland has dominated the news, shortly after the case of an accused cop killer being "inexplicably" strangled to death in custody, comes yet another troublesome story of a man who's death has two different stories, one from police and the other from witnesses of Manuel de Jesus Espina's death.

It appears, in this case, an off-duty officer working security had confronted Manuel, supposedly for public intoxication, in an apartment stairwell and depending on which account you believe, the two ended up in a struggle that took them into an apartment where two women claim to have witnessed what happened next... While the officer claims that Manual reached for either his gun or his baton, he's not certain which, and he shot Manuel in front of the two witnesses.

However, the witnesses give a different tale, saying that they heard a commotion outside and saw the officer beating a cowering Manuel. They opened the door and the two fell into the apartment and the officer continued to beat on Manuel until he stood up and then shot Manuel while he laid on the floor.

The embattled police department, already being investigated by the FBI over the jail death and the raid against the mayor, has asked the Latino community for calm while they promise to investigate this latest high profile case of allege police brutality. However, the other two incidents were quickly put down as officers doing their jobs correctly, despite the FBI being called in to investigate these color of law abuses. So residents are rightly skeptical that a fair and unbiased investigation will be conducted by their scandal-ridden police department.

I'm sure we'll be hearing more from Prince Georges County soon, sadly enough.

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