Friday, August 28, 2009

Radio KASA's Carlos Galindo's Thursday Run-In with MCSO Deputies

Radio personality Carlos Galindo gets the MCSO treatment Thursday

Above is a video sent to me by activists out monitoring MCSO activity in Maryvale yesterday. According to the activists and others I spoke with, there were about 50 or so MCSO deputies gathered at the John F. Long Community Center at 3454 N. 51st Ave. This was about mid-day on Thursday, August 28.

Initially, both activists and media believed it to be the beginning of an MCSO anti-immigration sweep. It wasn't. One journalist at another outlet I spoke with said that the MCSO told him it was narcotics-related, and that MCSO deputies ordered reporters not to follow them. Many of the activists said they received the same warning from MCSO deputies, and that they were threatened with arrest if they followed the MCSO when they left the area.

In addition to KASA AM radio personality Carlos Galindo, shown here, others there watching the MCSO were harassed and told not to videotape MCSO activity because there were supposedly "undercover narcotics officers" present. Thing is, if you're in public videotaping cop activity, and you're not "interfering" with their investigation, you're within the bounds of the law. Hell, Phoenix Copwatch does this sort of thing on regular basis.

Of course, that doesn't mean the cops won't threaten to arrest you, act thuggishly, or even arrest you under false pretenses. It happens all the time, especially when you're dealing with rogue organizations like the MCSO.

It doesn't look like Galindo was doing anything wrong. The MCSO just didn't want him there videotaping them. Fortunately, he wasn't arrested, though he looks like he was seconds away from it. The cocky white-haired leprechaun with sunglasses on is Dave Letourneau, Captain of MCSO's SWAT Team, known for intimidating protesters at events like this. The white, bald deputy who apparently opened Galindo's door is Sgt. Poe, one of Letourneau's underlings.

You may remember this pair from the infamous "cone incident" back in April during the MCSO's Avondale anti-immigration sweep. Check this link for an explanation and a video of their outrageous conduct back then. In any case, the bulls had Galindo surrounded, and were simultaneously ordering him to leave and preventing him from leaving by opening his car door. Galindo's lucky he didn't get collared by these cowboys.

The irony is that the MCSO might have been involved in legitimate police activity for a change. Hard to tell. But the MCSO has so poisoned the well with the community through Sheriff Joe Arpaio's anti-brown dragnets that now activists dog deputies' every step, and rightly so. If Arpaio were not at war with Maricopa County's Hispanic community, probably no one would have paid any attention to a gaggle of MCSO deputies like this, collected at a community center parking lot in the middle of the day.

There's more video to come on yesterday's MCSO operation from other sources. I'll put it up as I get it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Joe Arpaio's 168 287(g) Officers: Names, Ranks, Serial Numbers, Etc.

Sharing is caring. That's why I'm posting a link to a list of the names, ranks, serial numbers, hire dates, and pay rates for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's 287(g)-trained deputies. (You can view the list, here.) These are the deputies trained by the feds to enforce federal immigration law, and according to this roster released by the sheriff's office in response to a public records request, there are 168 of the Hispanic-hunting gendarmes in Arpaio's ranks.

Notable names include Sgt. Brett "Shut Up" Palmer, known for making hostile remarks toward elected county and city officials during an MCSO press conference earlier this year; Deputy Loren Gaytan, the MCSO's liaison to the town of Guadalupe and a participant in the MCSO's notorious Honduras project, training law enforcement down there; and Officer Anthony Reese, who may have been present when immigrant Maria del Carmen Garcia Martinez's arm was broken in MCSO custody.

Oddly, neither SWAT Team Captain David Letourneau, nor Lieutenant Joe Sousa are listed as being 287(g)-trained, though both are usually part of MCSO's anti-immigrant sweeps and raids.

I had asked ICE for this list through a FOIA request. But despite the vaunted "transparency" of the Obama administration, the feds responded to my request with a document wherein the actual names of the deputies involved were redacted. The MCSO to its credit simply coughed up the list shortly after I asked for it.

Recently, certain human rights activists in town have informed me that they've been trying to obtain this list to no avail, so now everyone will have it at their disposal. After all, whether they like it or not, these deputies are public servants. We pay their salaries, and have a right to know who they are.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Free the Fonz! Fronzo West Jailed for Telling Authorities "Fuck the Police"

Why are cops afraid of The Fonz? A combination of camcorder and freedom of speech.

Phoenix civil liberties activist Fronzo West is currently doing time in the Maricopa County jail for exercising his freedom of speech rights as enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Folks like to say we have freedom of speech in this country, and in theory, we do. But in practice, it's a whole 'nother matter. West, 65, challenges that theory nearly every day of the week here in Phoenix by riding around in a car emblazoned with the slogans "Fuck the Police" and "Stop Police Brutality." He goes further than that. Everything he wears, from the cap on his head to his loafers also bears the same anti-cop messages.

For West, it's part of a self-appointed crusade against police heavy-handedness that dates back some 30 years, when "The Fonz" as he's known around town, was wrestled to the ground in downtown Phoenix by white police officers. The Fonz, who is black, was roller-skating -- his preferred mode of ambulance -- while carrying his child in a papoose. The Fonz's mixed race kid was white in appearance, and this is what led the cops to believe something was askance. The entire ugly incident was captured on tape by a local TV news crew, and watching it now is, to say the least, a surreal experience.

Since that time, Fonz has driven around town in a vehicle scrawled with his opinions about the local gendarmes. He also stops to videotape them whenever he spies them pulling someone over. But Fonz, a Navy vet who served this country during the Vietnam war, pays a price for his activism, and for expressing himself so boldly. That is, whenever cops of any stripe see his car or his garb, they harass him, pull him over, and find something to cite him on.

Fonz has no idea how many times he's been arrested, and a cursory check of court records does not reveal all of the times I know he's been collared after I first met him several years ago. (There are numerous jurisdictions involved.) But he must've been taken into custody scores of times since he began his mostly one-man "Stop Police Brutality" organization.

It should be noted that Fonz has a Gandhi-like approach to local law enforcement. When they begin to question him after seeing his clothes or his car, he remains silent. If they approach him and lay hands on him, he does his patented "Fonz flop" and falls to the ground, a textbook example of passive resistance.

As a result of doing this for decades, many cops know who he is, as do many judges and justices of the peace. As Fonz offers no threat to the community, and as his continued harassment by law enforcement does nothing but waste cops' time and taxpayer money, you'd think they'd just ignore him. But that'd be like a Spanish bull ignoring a red sash. And so, Fonz inevitably ends up in court on some pretty bogus charges, like "failure to obey" a police officer.

According to his longtime lawyer Steve Suskin, a former La Paz County Attorney who currently represents New Times in numerous matters, when Fonz ends up in Phoenix municipal court, the judges there, who are all lawyers, overlook his clothing, perhaps as a nod to the First Amendment issues involved. But in the justice courts, the Justices of the Peace are so disturbed by Fonz's attire that they frequently order him to remove his shirt or order him out of court altogether.

Fonz's predicament has resulted in some fairly amusing episodes. Once, when ordered to remove a shirt with an offending inscription, he did so, only to reveal another beneath it with the same message. In another incident I witnessed and wrote about in April of last year, JP C. Steven McMurry lashed out as soon as he saw the Fonz, sputtering, "I am not having that 'Fuck the Police' [shirt] in the court!"

Fonz left the courtroom, and later, McMurry apologized for repeating in court the very phrase he wished to forbid.

Fonz's appearance before JP Armando Gandarilla a couple of days ago was not so amusing. Before Gandarilla on lame charges of "unsafe lane usage" and "failure to obey" a police officer, Fonz was wearing his Eff the Po-Po uniform as always. Gandarilla held Fonz in contempt, and Fonz is currently in MCSO custody on a $500 bond until his case is heard Friday morning.

"I think the judge's thinking was, he'd be in jail the rest of this time," explained attorney Steve Suskin. "And when the sheriff's deputies brought him back to the court, he'd have a striped suit on. That's fine. You can have a trial with a striped suit on, but you can't have a trial with a `Fuck the Police' shirt on."

Keep in mind that Fonz's already spent several days in county after being arrested on the original charges back in March. If you take a look at the DPS reports generated by the March incident, you can see what a mountain the four -- count 'em, four -- DPS officers made out of this molehill. (You can read them for yourself, here.)

What was Fonz stopped for? According to Officer L.A. Lopez, it was because as Fonz was exiting I-17 at 16th Street, the car's "right front and rear tires crossed over the fog line by a full tire width." We all know this wasn't the real reason. Lopez and the other officers do allude to the real reason by stating at the top of their reports that, "the vehicle was also covered in red anti-police graffiti/slogans such as `Fuck the Police' and `Stop Police Brutality.'"

The remainder of the reports are like something right out of a script for Reno 911, save for the fact that it sounds like Fonz was moments away from getting gunned down. Lopez reports that, "The driver a black male immediately exited the vehicle pointing a silver object in my direction that was in his left hand as he stood in the roadway." The "silver object," of course, was Fonz's camcorder. A black man with a silver object in his hand? Fonz is lucky to be alive.

True, Fonz probably could have parked in a more convenient location for the patrolmen, and he was hardly what you call cooperative. On the other hand, Fonz should have never been pulled over to begin with.

The DPS officers go on to search Fonz's vehicle without his permission or any probable cause that I can see. They find what they call "burglary tools," basically a couple of slim jims. When having one of these became illegal is beyond me, but interestingly this one semi-serious charge is the one that's been dropped. There were no drugs or any other sort or contraband in Fonz's car. So this illegal search and seizure produced nothing of import. I should also mention that one officer's sinister suggestion that Fonz is an IV drug user is completely untrue, based on zero evidence whatsoever.

It's not the first time Fonz has gone to jail on petty charges, drummed up and enforced because those with authority don't like Fonz's message. Nor will it be the last. Fonz is not afraid of jail, and indeed, he seems to feel it's part of his duty as a citizen to be incarcerated for challenging unchecked police power. As we approach the Fourth of July, I would posit that Fonz is a true patriot, a Yankee Doodle Dandy wearing his declaration of independence on his sleeve, and every other part of his clothing.

Justice Gandarilla and the DPS officers involved should be ashamed of themselves for what they've done, in no small part because Fonz is a veteran who is not in the best of health. The last time he was in the hospital, his heart stopped and he had to be revived. As the police are hardly gentle with Fonz when they arrest him, I anticipate that he will one day die in custody, just because his eccentric devotion to certain constitutionally protected phrases ticks off those bearing badges and black robes.

UPDATE: The sheriff's office was supposed to deliver Fonz to JP Gandarilla's court Friday morning at 9 a.m., but did not do so. JP Gandarilla told attorney Steve Suskin that he would sign an order of release for Fonz.

I called down to the court, and am awaiting a call back from someone who works for Gandarilla to tell me whether or not this was done, and if Fonz has been released.

This farce will continue after the court reschedules the trial on these bogus misdemeanor charges Fonz faces. More as I get it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Joe Arpaio's Guards Break Woman's Arm, ICE Releases Her on Own Recognizance

Maria del Carmen Garcia Martinez, after being released from ICE custody.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a suspected illegal immigrant Thursday night after it was determined that her arm had been broken while she was in MCSO custody.

Maria del Carmen Garcia Martinez was released on her own recognizance, her left arm slung in a cast after she received treatment at St. Joseph's. She had been turned over to ICE earlier in the day by the MCSO. ICE took her to St. Joseph's for medical attention, photographed her injuries and released her with a pending court date around 8 p.m. from its offices on Central Ave.

Martinez, being greeted by her family outside ICE's Central Avenue HQ.

Martinez, 46, was met by her family, Respect/Respeto activist Lydia Guzman and a couple of reporters, including yours truly. Her left arm was swollen as was her leg and ankle. As her daughter Sandra translated, she explained that she was recently arrested by the Phoenix Police Department, after she was questioned about posting signs for a yard sale.

She said she was arrested for a having a fraudulent I.D., even though her I.D. was an out-of-date I.D. card from California, according to her. Martinez was then collared and booked into MCSO custody.

(Oddly, the Phoenix PD's on-call spokesperson, an Officer Holmes, said he could find no record of Martinez in their system.)

While in custody at Lower Buckeye Jail, Martinez said she was brutalized by six MCSO detention officers, who were trying to get her to put her fingerprints on a voluntrary removal order, a document wherein an undocumented foreign national gives his or her consent to be repatriated.

(Lydia Guzman asserted that sometimes MCSO will attempt to get a fingerprint instead of a signature for the VR form. An ICE spokesman had no immediate explanation for this procedure.)

Martinez refused, as was her right, but the officers tried to force her, she said. They stepped on her, twisted her arm, and beat her. She noticed that one of the officers was Hispanic.

"Why are you doing this to me, when you came from Mexico also," she told the Hispanic guard.

She was placed in a cell by herself, and later that night she was visited by eight MCSO officers, who warned her to sign the VR, or, "We're all going to get you," she said they told her.

Martinez's right hand was swollen, and stained with blue ink.

A fellow inmate advised Martinez's daughter that her mother had been beat down. She feared for her mother's life, and advised her lawyers, who filed an emergency stay on Martinez's behalf.

According to her daughter Sandra, Martinez was a housemom, who stayed home and took care of the family. Martinez's husband works as a handyman. They came here three years ago from California, looking for a less expensive way of life.

"I'm proud of her, and I'm glad that she's out," said Sandra, her eyes welling with tears. "I couldn't sleep. I would think of her, and cry every night because I missed her so much."

Ironically, because the MCSO has apparently abused her, Martinez may get to stay in this country permanently, noted Guzman, who has been following the case since Martinez was arrested.

For updates on this item, check this related Bird column, and this Feathered Bastard blog update.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Madrigal lawsuit on police shooting hits $227,365 but still stalled

The shooting death of Mario Madrigal Jr. has cost Mesa hundreds of thousands of dollars, even though the 4-year-old civil suit doesn't even have a trial date yet.

So far, the city has paid an outside law firm, Jones, Skelton & Hochuli, $227,365 to defend the case, according to City Attorney Debbie Spinner, who released the price tag in response to a public-records request.

The wrongful death case filed by the boy's parents revolves around whether police were justified in shooting the 15-year-old to death after he slashed at officers with a knife. Family members say the boy was falling to ground after being hit with a Taser and was shot in the back.U.S. District Court Judge Earl Carroll has yet to issue any rulings or schedule hearings on several key motions pending in the marathon case, which was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court in 2004 and then moved to federal court two years later.

The motions include the city's attempt to have the case dismissed and an attempt by the Madrigals' attorney to eventually show jurors an animated version of the shooting.

The Mesa City Council was briefed behind closed doors on the case's status on Dec. 4.

"The city looks at every case and constantly evaluates its merit,"said Steve Wright, a city spokesman. The choice is whether to fight the suit or settle out of court, Wright said. More than five years after the Aug. 25, 2003, shooting, the city and the Madrigal family still have vastly different versions of what happened that night.

They agree only that the family called police because Mario Jr. was intoxicated and armed with a knife and they feared he might commit suicide.

The family's attorney, Ray Slomski, argues in court documents that the shooting was unnecessary, that three officers shot Mario Jr. 10 times in a kitchen doorway as he was falling to the ground.

"The nearest police officer was approximately 10 feet away from the falling boy when the first shot was fired," according to the court records.
Slomski said the shots struck Mario Jr. in his left side and his back as he was turning away from officers.

The three officers were cleared of wrongdoing by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

Marc Steadman, an assistant Mesa city attorney, argues that Mario Jr. cursed at police "and came at Officer (Mark) Beckett, slashing at him with a knife."

Beckett, Officer Richard Henry and Sgt. Tracey Dean fired "because they believed Mario would stab Officer Beckett if he was not stopped. They reasonably believed Officer Beckett's life was in danger," Steadman wrote.

After the shooting, Beckett said, "I thought I was was going to die," according to the city's motion for summary judgment.

Dean and Henry have retired from the force. Beckett still works in the patrol division in the Red Mountain precinct.