Friday, December 31, 2010

Gilbert Taser incident: Man seeks $600,000 from town

For the second time in six months, Gilbert is facing a possible lawsuit from a man complaining police used excessive force in firing a Taser to incapacitate him before arrest.

Justin Lowell McLemore, 29, was arrested on June 10 at the Hyatt Place hotel near Val Vista Drive and Pecos Road after an altercation with a family member earlier in the evening.

Gilbert police used a Taser to incapacitate McLemore after he did not comply with orders to lie on the ground, according to a notice of claim filed on his behalf.

McLemore, a former Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputy, claims police acted on "irresponsible and inaccurate statements" and escalated the confrontation to "completely unnecessary levels" before shooting him in the chest with the Taser.

He wants a $600,000 settlement for an alleged violation of his civil rights and "the excruciating pain" inflicted by the Taser, according to the claim.

Tasers use a compressed nitrogen cartridge to propel two probes at a range of 15 to 35 feet, according to report from Scottsdale-based manufacturer Taser International. The energy can penetrate one inch of clothing, and the "initial effect" can last from about five seconds for law enforcement products and up to 30 seconds for consumer market models.

More than 15,000 law enforcement agencies in over 50 countries have purchased or tested the company's products, and about 5,000 police departments have purchased or are purchasing Taser devices to issue to all on-duty patrol officers, according to the company report.

McLemore's arrest came after a family member pulled a knife on him during a "minor altercation," and McLemore went to Hyatt Place to visit friends, according to the claim.

Gilbert police found McLemore by "pinging" his cell phone, a process that allows authorities to track a suspect by locating the nearest cell tower. At least 11 officers arrived, and McLemore said the situation was "(expletive) ridiculous" as he approached police, according to the claim.

When an officer ordered McLemore to lie on the ground, he instead walked to a police car and placed his hands on the car. He again refused to comply when ordered to lie down.

"The subject did not comply with my orders," Gilbert Officer Todd Johnson wrote in his report. "I activated my Taser and the probes struck the subject in the chest."

McLemore dropped to the ground and was arrested.

Police officers' use of Tasers has generated widespread criticism and support. The incidents have yielded numerous claims and lawsuits, including several in the Southeast Valley.

In July, Phoenix police Officer Seth Samuel Castillo filed a $500,000 claim after he was found on Jan. 3 "slumped over" behind the wheel of a black Jeep Commander, which was blocking an intersection in his Gilbert neighborhood, according to a police report.

A Gilbert police officer ordered Castillo out of the vehicle and told him to put his hands on the car. Castillo reportedly dropped his arms, and the officer, fearing he might draw a weapon, shot him in the back with the Taser, according to the report.

Gilbert has not paid to settle that claim, and Castillo has yet to file a civil lawsuit, town spokeswoman Beth Lucas said.

In 2007, an 18-year-old Gilbert man died after police used a Taser to shock him. An investigation by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office later determined drugs to be the primary cause of death and did not list the Taser strike as a contributing factor.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Phoenix police: DNA yields no leads in officer's fatal shooting

Forensic efforts to link DNA evidence collected at the scene of Phoenix police Sgt. Sean Drenth's fatal shooting have yielded no results, according to investigators who believe additional analyses could take several more months.

More than 10 weeks ago Drenth was found dead Oct. 18 alongside his patrol vehicle in a line-of-duty tragedy that has baffled detectives who have yet to confirm if Drenth was murder or if he committed suicide.

As the investigation continued earlier this month, Drenth was implicated in an off-duty work scandal reviewed by the Arizona Attorney General's Office. The case led to felony charges against three current Phoenix police officers and a former officer.

Phoenix police leaders said Drenth could have also faced felony charges because the sergeant's alleged misconduct would have met the criteria for grand-jury consideration. He was among the officers accused of receiving money for off-duty security work they didn't perform.

Drenth, a longtime south Phoenix patrolman, was found dead around the time Phoenix learned about the Attorney General's Office investigation.

Officers investigated as part of the Attorney General's Office probe were required to submit DNA samples for the Drenth homicide investigation.

On Tuesday, Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump announced that investigators have failed to make a link between DNA samples and evidence collected from the scene of Drenth's death.

"The overall processing of the evidence and comparative analysis is not complete and is expected to take several months," Crump wrote in an e-mail. "We will continue working on the case until all leads have been exhausted."

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office has not yet released Drenth's completed death investigation. Reports take as long as three months, meaning that an official record would likely be released by Jan. 18.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bar Patron: Bouncers, Scottsdale Officer Used Excessive Force

A Scottsdale man says a Scottsdale police officer and bouncers at Jackrabbit Supper Club used excessive force when they subdued him during a bar brawl in July 2010.

Surveillance videotape from the Old Town Scottsdale nightclub shows (victim's name removed by request, hereafter referred to as ***) standing on the sidelines when the brawl began outside the bar.

"I wasn't trying to fight back," said ***.

The tape shows *** reach up to as a bouncer turns toward him.

The tape then shows two bouncers grab *** and slam him into a wall.

After turning him around, a Scottsdale officer shows up and repeatedly strikes *** with his baton.

*** is off screen during several of the strikes.

"They were barbarians. Almost brutal," said *** of the incident.

A photograph taken afterward shows a large bruise covering a portion of ***'s right leg.

"The manner in which they acted was absolutely uncalled for," said ***.

Sgt. Mark Clark, a Scottsdale police spokesperson, said the surveillance tape tells a different story about how *** reacted to the brawl.

"He lunged towards one of the doorman and stuck out his arm, like who knows what he was going to do," said Sgt. Clark.

Sgt Clark said the Scottsdale police officer repeatedly reported that he repeatedly asked *** to get on the ground before striking him with his baton.

"The video shows that he was trying to get away. If he was doing as the office asked him to do and commanded him to do there probably wouldn't have been a confrontation," said Clark.

The courts will decide what really happened during the incident.

*** was charged with disorderly conduct and failing to obey a police officer and will appear in court early next year.

*** also plans to file a notice of claim against Scottsdale police and Jackrabbit Supper Club for $3.5 million dollars.

After CBS 5 contacted Scottsdale police about the incident, Clark asked internal affairs investigators to review the videotape of the officer hitting ***.

Third body pulled from Arizona canal

A third body has been found at a Gila Bend canal where a group of illegal immigrants fled from authorities during a vehicle stop last week, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

Authorities say deputies and fire personnel were in route to recover the body. Two bodies were recovered earlier Thursday.

Detectives believe that survivors did not disclose there may be a third body in the water to thwart investigators.

Three suspected illegal immigrants were rescued from the canal and arrested after a traffic stop near U.S. 80, and clothing descriptions helped identify the two males pulled earlier Thursday from the water, the Sheriff's Office said.

One of bodies is that of a 17-year-old boy who had been traveling with his father, who survived, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said. The other body is that of a male believed to be age 17-21.

Last week, deputies launched a robot into the 8-foot-deep canal. The water was murky and so full of debris that no bodies were visible.

Arpaio mentioned that this is the third case where a juvenile, or reported juvenile, has jumped into the same canal near Gillespie Dam.

"There is a trend occurring, and it has to stop," Arpaio said.

The first took place two weeks ago when a juvenile jumped into the deep water and was rescued by deputies.

"They are still taking chances, trying to evade our law enforcement," Arpaio said.

Arpaio said human smuggling is a complex and controversial problem, and he is not going to stop.

"I'm going to crack down even more starting in the new year," Arpaio said.

Divers recover 2 people from Arizona canal

Two kids murdered by policy and the enforcers of the brutal regime of law and order

GILA BEND - The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says the bodies of two suspected illegal immigrants have been recovered from a canal near Gila Bend along Old Route U.S. 80 west of Phoenix.

The Sheriff's Office said Thursday they believe these may be the two people who had jumped into the canal late last week.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Jeff Sprong says the teenagers went missing after a Sheriff's deputy pulled over a sedan carrying five illegal immigrants on a traffic violation near Gila Bend last Thursday night.

All five ran away from the vehicle and made their way into the canal. Three of the five were found later by deputies.

Authorities say the description of the clothing is consistent with what was recovered Wednesday night.

The investigation is ongoing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ex-Chandler officer Dan Lovelace, at center of Florence prison abuse probe

A former Chandler cop now working as a Pinal County detention officer is under internal investigation after using pepper spray on a detainee.

Dan Lovelace, who was at the center of two wrongful death suits that cost Chandler more than $4.6 million, was hired by the Sheriff's Office in mid-2009.

A Sheriff's Office statement said Lovelace used a "short burst of pepper spray" on an ICE detainee after he had defecated on the floor of a holding area and did not respond to detention officers' commands Dec. 11.

Lovelace has been transferred to another position within the department and does not have contact with inmates until the investigation is complete. Results are expected later this week.

The statement said the Professional Standards Unit reviews each use-of-force incident.

Lovelace shot and killed an Ahwatukee woman trying to fill a forged prescription at a Chandler drug store drive-through in 2002 while her toddler sat in the back seat. He was fired and charged with second-degree murder. A jury acquitted him, and in 2005 Lovelace fought unsuccessfully to get his job back.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu -- a Chandler police officer and union leader before voters put him in office -- sat with supporters at some of those proceedings. In 2009, he hired Lovelace to work in a Florence jail.

Babeu in 2009 said the college-educated Lovelace was hired in May and completed an eight-week detention officer training course in Tucson where he was selected to speak to his graduating class.

He is working in the Pinal County Adult Detention Center in Florence, which houses up to 1,504 pretrial inmates, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, and individuals sentenced to county lockup. Corrections officers do not carry weapons, nor do they enforce the law, Babeu said.

The 2002 shooting death of Dawn Rae Nelson, 35, ended Lovelace's career on the Chandler force but many came to his defense. Two of the jurors who acquitted him of murder charges later befriended him and showed up at personnel hearings as Lovelace fought to get his job back.

A motorcycle officer at the time of shooting death, Lovelace also had been involved in a 2000 high-speed chase that killed a college student. He was given a letter of reprimand for not using his siren in the chase.

The city settled wrongful-death lawsuits in both cases and paid out more than $4.6 million.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Two Children -- Feared Drowned in Canal Near Gila Bend After Running From MCSO Deputy

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office fears that two children believed to be undocumented immigrants -- both under the age of 18 -- drowned in a canal near Gila Bend after fleeing a car pulled over by a sheriff's deputy last night.

MCSO spokesman Jeff Sprong says the sheriff's dive team is headed to an area of the canal near mile post 11 on old US 80 to try and locate the bodies if the two did in fact drown.

The incident happened about 8:30 p.m. yesterday when a sheriff's deputy made a routine traffic stop on US 80. When the car came to a stop, the deputy says he watched five people jump out and start running from the vehicle.

The five suspected undocumented immigrants jumped into the nearby canal in an attempt to evade the deputy. At the time, the MCSO says, the canal's water flow was heavy.

Three of the suspects were pulled from the canal, while deputies were unable to locate the other two.

Last week, deputies rescued a minor from the same canal, in the same general area, Sprong says.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ex-Phoenix officer arrested in robberies had tested positive for steroids

A former Phoenix police officer accused of robbing several Valley banks in 2006 quit his job several months before the alleged heists following a positive steroids test, according to a state law enforcement accreditation agency.

After 13 years of service, Chad Michael Goulding, 40, resigned from the Phoenix Police Department in August 2005 in the middle of an internal investigation prompted by a girlfriend's accusation that led to the positive drug test, records show.

Records released Monday by the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board highlighted that Goulding tested positive for the anabolic steroid Nandrolone.

Goulding's girlfriend, a fellow police officer, told detectives she feared Goulding "may cause her harm" due to the drug use, according to a termination report reviewed by AZPOST. The agency certifies and revokes police officer credentials.

According to the investigation, Goulding "explained that he was not sure if he was using steroids or not as he had purchased the pills from an acquaintance at his gym." Phoenix police drug tests also showed his testosterone levels were abnormally high.

Late last week, Goulding was arrested by FBI agents on suspicion of five Valley bank robberies in which he is accused of stealing more than $133,000 between June and November 2006.

A 95-count indictment accuses Goulding of armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and theft in a string of Bank of America robberies in Mesa, Glendale, Chandler and Scottsdale.

Goulding is being held at Maricopa County Lower Buckeye Jail on a $1 million bond, according to the County Sheriff's Office. He is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ex-Phoenix officer accused of armed bank robberies

A former Phoenix police officer has been arrested on suspicion of five Valley bank robberies in which he is accused of making off with more than $133,000.

Chad Michael Goulding, 40, who left Phoenix Police in 2005 after 13 years, was taken into custody after a four-year investigation involving the FBI's Bank Robbery Task Force and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, the agencies announced Thursday.

A 95-count indictment accuses Goulding of armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and theft in a string of Bank of America robberies in Mesa, Glendale, Chandler and Scottsdale over a five-month period in 2006.

In a prepared statement, Nathan Gray, the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau's Phoenix division, heralded Goulding's arrest as an example of the bank robbery task force's commitment to "reducing the number of armed serial bank robberies."

Goulding allegedly wore a ski mask during the heists, according to investigators. He was identified in part through "assistance from the public," officials said.

The former officer is being held on a $1 million bond.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Phoenix officers on leave after settling Arizona Attorney General suit

Two Phoenix police officers have been put on administrative leave after they agreed to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the Arizona Attorney General's Office that alleged they ran a home foreclosure scam.

Lee Brent Shaw of Gilbert and Mark Tallman of Chandler were accused of running companies that defrauded 148 homeowners between 2003 and 2007.

Recruiters allegedly approached the homeowners and persuaded them to sign up for a foreclosure rescue. Shaw and Tallman then would pay the recruiters, take over the mortgages and toss out the homeowners.

The solicitors who found the homeowners settled a similar lawsuit a year ago.

The two officers agreed to pay $310,000 to victimized homeowners, $148,000 in civil penalties and nearly $28,000 in legal costs. A police statement released Wednesday says an internal investigation is now under way.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

OFFICER DOWN: The Phoenix Media and Cop-Killings

By Phoenix Insurgent

The recent shooting death of Officer David Uribe, shot in the head and neck while making a traffic stop, offers several opportunities for radical analysis. Typical of its easy-going treatment of local police departments, the media fell lock step behind the idea of the police officer as defender of public order and all things good. In fact, where any dissented from the gushing media monotone, they demanded an even more gratuitous lavishing of praise on Uribe and police in general.

Such was the case with John McDonald's melodramatic column in the Arizona Republic. In his sensationally titled article, "The day a cop died, this city lost its soul," McDonald expressed his exasperation at the TV when "two anchors and a weatherman laughed and giggled about the delightful mild temperatures just minutes after detailing the brutal execution of a local veteran cop." One wonders if McDonald even watches local television news, which in fact was dominated by endless coverage of the murder, manhunt and reaction for several days as local talking heads beatified Uribe with all due haste.


The media uniformly treated the Uribe killing as a loss for whole community. Even the killing of an unarmed man by Phoenix PD the very next day could not damper the media's enthusiasm for the story. Remarking on the shooting, Patty Kirkpatrick, a Channel 3 anchor, expressed relief that the conflict had ended in the death of the suspect, rather than a cop. In her mind it was preferable that an unarmed man die than a cop get hurt trying to carry out murder.

On May 12th, Benson's cartoon in the Republic featured a simple sketch of a police badge bearing Uribe's number. Written across a black band of mourning were the words, "thank you." But for what? "When we lose someone like that, we lose part of ourselves," answers the Phoenix Fire Department's chaplain, Rev. Father Carl G. Carlozzi in the Arizona Republic. In a letter to the editor, Patricia Fay of Phoenix explained it this way, "They are my protectors. Someone killed one of my protectors."


But there is a real tension between the public image of policing, defended so single-mindedly by the media, and the reality. Introducing channel 12's coverage of the Uribe funeral the following Tuesday, Lin Sue Cooney described the event as "a whole community" saying thank you. Effusive in their coverage of a car-wash fundraiser for the Uribe's family, local media outlets actively campaigned for valley residents to participate. Can the same police force that regularly kills unarmed people of color be the protectors of the community? Can the same police force that uses Tasers to kill, just as the Phoenix Police did on May 4th, 2005, killing a 24 year-old man, be protectors? Are the same police forces that disproportionately target, arrest and incarcerate the poor, and especially people of color, really defenders of the "community?"

But, everyone knows that police don't protect everyone equally and that they specifically target some segments of the community over others. For years the Scottsdale PD enforced what they called a "no-n****r zone," pulling over and harassing black people driving through the city. Incarceration rates for poor people versus rich people are so obvious that they hardly require mentioning. But many whites still continue to deny the just as obvious disparities in white and non-white incarceration rates. To believe that these disparities exist apart or in exception to the overall system of policing makes no sense. They exist because this is the way the system was meant to function.


The police system is designed primarily to defend the rich and toward that end to police poor people and poor people of color in particular. Made up of reporters primarily drawn from middle and upper classes, and owned by very rich people, the media serves that goal as propagandist for the police and defender of its own class interest, and they reflect the racism that all white people learn in their upbringing.

Let's look at the numbers. According the Princeton Review, the average television reporter, after five years on the job, earned $65,000 dollars a year. In the top 25 television markets the median salary as reported by the Missouri School of Journalism stood at $78,000 in 2000. According to the US Census, that rate stood at nearly twice the same figure for male workers in general, a rate which, it should be pointed out, itself remains higher than the median for non-whites and women. That disparity appears even sharper when we consider the Bureau of Labor Statistics count, which put the average annual wage in the U.S. as $36,764 for 2002. Even print reporters, generally paid less than their television comrades, fair better than average Americans. Clearly there is a class divide between many of us consuming the news and the people reporting, not to mention the editors and owners, and the media coverage shows it.

For example, the bulk of the media ignored a story that ran in the Arizona Republic the 11th, the very day Uribe was killed. Jahna Berry reported that a federal jury had awarded Gerardo Ramirez-Diaz $1 million dollars after a Phoenix police officer shot him in the gut without just cause. And just four days before the shooting of Uribe, in a rare display of public criticism, the Arizona Republic came out against the reinstatement of Chandler police officer Dan Lovelace. Lovelace was fired for using excessive force after he shot and killed unarmed Dawn Rae Nelson in her car, from behind, with her 14 month-old son sitting in the seat behind her. That murder occurred on October 11th, 2001, making the Republic's opposition to Lovelace's reinstatement a little late in coming, to say the least, though it does show just how extreme a case it takes for the local media to take a critical position towards local police.


Much of the coverage Uribe's killing focused on the supposed danger cops face in the carrying out of their duties. Multiple newscasters and residents interviewed regarded the police as "putting themselves on the line" for other people, risking their lives regularly or standing as soldiers on the front lines of American society. But reflecting a rate that has remained pretty consistent, police officers don't even rank in the top ten most dangerous jobs as most recently listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, just a little over a week before Uribe's killing, a farm worker was killed in Arizona when a bale of hay fell on him. Another worker, a roofer, was killed when he fell and drowned in a pool. The first didn't even merit mentioning his name in the brief Arizona Republic article that ran. Both farm worker and roofer do rank within the top ten most dangerous occupations. Interestingly, Latinos represent a large proportion of workers in these fields. Another recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found a rate of five fatalities per 100,000 Hispanic workers in 2002 that was 25 percent higher than for all workers. This wouldn't happen if white workers would stand up with Latino workers against these kinds of abuses. But apparently local media finds the deaths of workers, especially workers of color, as too commonplace to merit coverage, even though that contradicts their attitude towards the job of police officer, who they misreport as in constant jeopardy.

So, in order to understand why the media, the rich and so many white people have fallen all over themselves to praise Uribe and to condemn his murder – while rarely admitting police excesses - we have to delve a little into the history of American police forces. The alleged danger of the job doesn't stand up as a sufficient explanation. Policing in America has two main origins, both of which serve to accomplish the same mission: to protect the wealth of the rich and powerful.


The first origin lies in the violent class struggles of the 19th century. During those times, workers were forced into the emerging factory system that the capitalist class was creating in the cities of the Northeast. In these factories workers had little power and were subjected to long hours. When armed class struggle broke out, the capitalists, outnumbered and not generally wishing to risk their own necks in the fighting, created police forces to wage war on the working class in defense of their factories and wealth. The first real police force in the US was founded in 1845 in New York City, center of the country's emerging industrial economy. As industrialism and modern capitalism spread, other cities followed New York's example.

Private property lies at the heart of capitalist exploitation. The authority of the boss derives precisely because s/he owns the means of production – the workplace, the computers, the machines and thus the profits. Because workers' interests depend on a redistribution of wealth and equality in the workplace, this brings us in inevitable conflict with the boss and his lackeys, the police. It's the same thing with the landlord. The landlord's ability to evict or demand rent couldn't exist without the system of private property and the police to back it up with violence.

The second main origin of American policing centers on the slave patrol system of the South. Charged with protecting white plantation owners, the slave patrols, or "patty rollers" as they were often called, brutally oppressed blacks, both slave and free. It is from the slave patrollers that American policing gets many of its traditions and powers. Patty rollers worked specific "beats" and could demand identification from any black person they encountered. The slave patrols incarcerated and returned, frequently with violence, any black person who could not prove their free status or provide written permission for their travel. Even in the North the police were charged with capturing and returning escaped slaves.

The influence of this racist tradition reverberates today in a variety of ways. An Arizona Daily Star review of Department of Public Safety records revealed that during traffic stops police searched Latinos more than twice as frequently as whites. And police searched blacks almost three times as frequently as whites – despite the fact that searches of whites turned up contraband much more regularly. Beyond racial profiling, which brings them into police contact more frequently in the first place, non-whites also face racist judges, unequal access to competent defense and sentencing guidelines that send them to prison at rates many times that of whites.

In fact, the history of Arizona police forces combines both origins. Back in the day, as now, Arizona was a mining state and Latinos composed a large percentage of the miners. In response to militant organizing by mine workers, the state created the Arizona Rangers. Ostensibly formed to combat cattle rustling, in actuality the government used the force primarily against miners and people of color. This tradition continues to contemporary times, and many of us remember the UMW strike of 1983 when then-Governor Bruce Babbitt, a Democrat, called out police and national guardsmen against workers in defense of the Phelps-Dodge Corporation. Police guarded scabs brought in by the company, effectively breaking the strike.

It is critical for working class white people to understand the true origins and purposes of American policing and to be critical of both the aims and causes of media defense of police and police departments. In the end, supporting police power means supporting the rich people that exploit the entire working class, white or not. The American system has given white workers privileges that non-white workers don't get, and many of them directly involve reduced exposure to police violence and policing in general. American history has shown, though, that when even white workers organize against the bosses and politicians, the police are brought in against us as well. It's time for white workers to stand in support of communities of color when they organize against the police of all kinds, including La Migra. We need to recognize that the police are a racist institution that cannot be justified if what we want is a world of equality and justice, and media defense of policing amounts to defense of racism and the rich.

Arpaio urged to probe calls to witness officer

A Washington-based government watchdog agency has asked the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to investigate allegations that two Phoenix city councilmen broke the law by contacting a police officer who reported the fatal shooting of an unarmed domestic violence suspect.

In a letter to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Judicial Watch asked MCSO to review any possible felonies committed by councilmen Michael Johnson and Michael Nowakowski in contacting the witness officer in the wake of the high-profile shooting that led to murder charges against south Phoenix patrolman Richard Chrisman, the officer who fired the shots.

The councilmen phoned Officer Sergio Virgillo, who was on scene with Chrisman during the shooting, to offer support to the officer for making the difficult step of reporting what he perceived to be criminal behavior by a fellow police officer.

Nowakowski (far right) told The Republic last month that the allegations are part of a police union attempt to discredit Virgillo as a sound witness in a case against one of the union’s members. He and Johnson have denied any wrongdoing.

In his Monday letter to Arpaio, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said Phoenix officials declined to investigate the allegations that the councilman tried to influence Virgillo to continue with telling his side of the story.

Fitton added that "these contacts also may have run afoul of Arizona criminal laws against obstructing criminal investigations and witness tampering."

Virgillo told detectives he saw Chrisman threaten suspect Danny Rodriquez with a gun to the suspect's head just prior to the fatal shooting on Oct. 5. Chrisman has pleaded not-guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated assault and animal cruelty for allegedly attacking Rodriquez and killing the suspect's dog.

Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the labor union representing Chrisman, has suggested the call could have violated the Phoenix City Charter and that politicians are “possibly trying to exert influence over a criminal investigation," according to a past message on the union's web site.

Virgillo reported the phone calls to his supervisors, telling them he felt uncomfortable receiving calls from elected officials on his cell phone, according to e-mails posted by PLEA.

PLEA has supported the ongoing Judicial Watch lawsuit against Phoenix Public Safety Manager Jack Harris to halt his monthly pension payments three years after his retirement as police chief. Judicial Watch has separately sued Phoenix for release of Mayor Phil Gordon's security logs, though a judge denied release of the records last month.

-- Michael Ferraresi

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Accused Detention Officer Resigns from Job

MCSO detention officer Kevin Gerster

PHOENIX - The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said Thursday that detention officer Kevin Gerster resigned on Wednesday following his arrest earlier in the week on aggravated assault charges.

A jail surveillance video shows the former Arizona detention officer stepping on the neck of an inmate who was restrained and bent over a table.

The video shows the inmate, William Hughes, handcuffed behind his back, bent over a table, and surrounded by three officers. Gerster walks up to the men, gets on the table and steps on Hughes' neck.

The video of the assault also shows the officer later punching Hughes in the back of the head four times and kicking him in the leg once. Investigators also said they believe he slammed Hughes' head up against a wall in his jail cell, although there is no video evidence of that.

Sheridan said Hughes did not require medical treatment and didn't have any apparent neck injuries, although he had some bruising and a cut on his forehead, which investigators believe happened in his jail cell.
Gerster posted a $36,000 secured appearance bond Tuesday after he was booked into jail on aggravated assault charges stemming from Hughes' assault and from a June incident, which was uncovered during the recent investigation.

In a June video also released to the media, Gerster is shown punching inmate Michael Flores in the jaw.

Gerster also faces charges of accessing criminal history and one count of computer tampering. The sheriff's office said Gerster looked up the address of an ex-inmate for his friend, whose ex-wife was dating the inmate and who allegedly assaulted the two with a box cutter after getting the address from Gerster.

Another officer, Alan Keesee, who is shown in the November video slamming Hughes' head against the table, was not arrested, but the sheriff's office recommended he also be charged with aggravated assault.

Sheridan said the sheriff's office decided to release the video to the public because he and Sheriff Joe Arpaio "took it very seriously."

"We were upset with the actions of both these officers and we quickly initiated a criminal investigation," he said.

Phoenix police officers indicted on fraud, theft charges. All four were ordered to submit DNA in the death investigation of officer Sean Drenth

Dirty Phoenix cops: Sgt. Benjamin Sywarungsymun (from top left, clockwise), George Contreras, Officer Steven Peck and Officer Aaron Lentz

Three current and one former member of the Phoenix Police Department indicted on felony theft charges pleaded not guilty Wednesday to taking money for off-duty security work that allegedly was never performed.

The charges against former Officer George Contreras and current Officers Benjamin Swarungsymun, Steven Peck and Aaron Lentz cap a three-year state investigation into the officers' involvement in an off duty security job.

Meanwhile, KTAR Radio reports all four men were ordered by the court to submit DNA samples in the death investigation of Phoenix police Officer Sean Drenth. Contreras' attorney Cary Lackey says there's no connection between the security case and Drenth's death.

Police Chief Jack Harris says Drenth's alleged misconduct involving off-duty work would have been taken to the grand jury for consideration of charges.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Broke-ass Maricopa County Sheriff's Sergeant Arrested for Theft

PHOENIX - A Maricopa County Sheriff's detention officer has been arrested after he's allegedly caught on surveillance video stealing over $7,000 from a jail safe.

Sgt. Jason Vance, 31, has been arrested for felony theft.

The investigation started after Lower Buckeye Jail supervisors noticed a large sum of money was missing from a safe during a routine cash count.

Detectives examined surveillance video from inside the jail, which showed Vance taking the money from the safe while on-duty. They interviewed him and Vance openly confessed to the crime, MCSO says.

They say that Vance knew he was in the view of the cameras and tried to conceal what he was doing.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio says, "It is a very sad situation to have to arrest one of my own officers but this is a clear act of a crime and he must be held accountable."

Apparently Vance hadn't been working a lot lately and was in bad financial shape. His car was repossessed from the Lower Buckeye Jail parking lot.

"He was on leave without pay for 6 weeks so evidently he needed money to get his car back, but you don't go steal money from a safe to get your car back," says Sheriff Joe.

The safe holds cash brought in by inmates or deposited by their families while they are in custody.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Former Phoenix cop shook down drug dealers, now pleads guilty to theft charge

Phoenix police officer James Wren

A former Phoenix police officer accused of shakin' down drug dealers pled guilty to theft charges in a Maricopa County Superior Court this morning.

Former Officer James Wren pled guilty to solicitation to commit theft, which is a hell of a deal considering the crimes with which he'd initially been charged.

Initially, Wren was charged with theft, money laundering, armed robbery, kidnapping, and use of a wire or electronic communication in drug-related transactions. The penalties for those crimes can be pretty steep (just ask O.J. about kidnapping), so copping only to theft is a pretty sweet deal -- especially when you look at what Wren did.

Wren got busted when the Avondale Police Department contacted the Phoenix PD to say one of its officers, Wren, 23, based out of the Maryvale Precinct (not the South Mountain Precinct -- we were shocked, too), was using traffic stops to steal money from drug dealers.

Avondale police got a tip from an informant who claimed he had conducted two "operations" with Wren where the informant led the officer to the cars of drug dealers after a deal had been made.

Wren, according to the informant, would then pull over the car and steal money.

In one instance, according to court documents acquired by New Times, Wren pulled over a drug dealer, stole his money, and then threw his car keys into the desert before releasing him.

On June 10, about 10 p.m., Wren stopped somebody he thought was a drug dealer who had $40,000 in the car in the 6300 block of West McDowell Road.

The alleged drug dealer was actually an undercover Phoenix police officer.

According to police, over the course of the traffic stop, Wren became suspicious and let the driver go.

Wren then drove to the Estrella Mountain Precinct Station where he was arrested by Phoenix police.

The arrest came after Phoenix cops made video and audio recordings of Wren and the Avondale informant discussing the previous thefts and arranging the one that ultimately led to his arrest.

Wren is on tape asking the informant details about the target of the heist, including whether the subject driving the car would be armed. He has since resigned from the department.

Wren will be sentenced on January 28, by Judge Michael Kemp.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

3 Officers Indicted in Overtime Investigation: Sgt. Drenth, Ofc. Chrisman were involved, Police Chief says

PHOENIX - A jury has indicted three current and one former member of the Phoenix Police Department on felony theft charges -- and had Sgt. Sean Drenth still lived -- he would be indicted too.

According to the indictment, officers in the South Mountain Precinct billed businesses for off-duty work they allegedly did not do.

This is a story we've been following for weeks now.

It involves a troubled apartment complex in south Phoenix. One of the alleged businesses, Cotton Center Townhomes, suffered the largest hit -- involving a security job contracted with the Phoenix Police Department by three homeowners associations to help reduce crime in the area.

The officers allegedly billed the business for off-duty security work that was never performed. All of the officers work or worked at the South Mountain precinct.

Former Officer George Emil Contreras was indicted on four felony counts, including fraud and theft. Current Officers, Steven Peck, Aaron Lentz and Sgt. Benjamin Sywarungsymun were also indicted on theft charges related to off-duty work. Contreras resigned shortly after the investigation started, just two years away from being able to retire with his full pension.

Contreras is alleged to have committed thefts in excess of $9,000, Lentz $2,000, Sywarungsymun $1,800 and Peck $1,700. According to the indictment, total losses are in excess of $16,000.

During a 3:30 p.m. press conference, Public Safety Manager Jack Harris said that an additional 25 officers were investigated. Those officers did not rise to the level of charging by the Attorney General's Office, but will be turned over the Professional Standards Bureau for a misconduct review. The officers' future with the department will be decided once their investigation concludes.

Sgt. Sean Drenth was part of the investigation and would've met the AG's office's criteria for a criminal charge, Public Safety Manager Jack Harris said. He said that if Drenth had not been deceased, he would be facing a felony indictment.

Sgt. Drenth was killed one month ago and no arrests have been made in the case -- his death is being investigated as a homicide but suicide has not been ruled out.

"I don't know if he knew he was facing indictment, but he knew that he was part of the investigation because all of the employees had been interviewed."

Harris also added that Officer Richard Chrisman is one of the 25 officers being investigated for misconduct -- but the AG's office determined his actions did not rise to the level of a crime. Chrisman has been charged with murder in the death of a suspect.

In spite of the announcement, Harris defended his department largely, saying these bad apples do not represent his department as a whole.

"It's criminal in some cases, it's misconduct, but it's not corruption in the traditional sense... so painting the Phoenix Police department as a corrupt agency is not fair," Harris said. "If we were a corrupt organization I wouldn't be telling you what's going on. I wouldn't be standing up here and explaining to you our position on what has occurred."

Since this came to light, there's been a big shake-up at the precinct with a group of officers being reassigned. Harris also said he will be reviewing the off-duty police officer security work program. The involved employees are suspended from performing off-duty work as of now.

Rick Romley Says Police Union's Under Investigation in the Chrisman Murder Case

Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) president Mark Spencer

by Stephen Lemons


Can the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the powerful union that represents Phoenix Police Department officers, successfully derail the case against Officer Richard Chrisman, the Phoenix cop indicted for second-degree murder in the October 5 shooting of an unarmed man?

That's the question I have as interim County Attorney Rick Romley leaves office on November 22, to be replaced with County Attorney-elect Bill Montgomery.

PLEA endorsed Montgomery in his victorious Republican primary challenge to Romley, and PLEA contributed $410 to his campaign coffers, though Montgomery hardly needed the help.

His official sponsor, longtime Romley enemy Sheriff Joe Arpaio, spent more than a half-million dollars on TV ads and mailers bashing Romley. That effort, or at least the cash dropped on the mailers, earned Arpaio a hefty campaign fine of $154,000.

So you could at least argue that Montgomery owes PLEA less than he owes the sheriff, though PLEA's endorsement's worth a lot more that its little donation.

Also, PLEA's reportedly tight with at least one member of Monty's newly announced executive staff. And from day one, PLEA has vigorously defended Chrisman against allegations leveled at him by fellow officer Sergio Virgillo.

Virgillo told investigators that the victim, Daniel Rodriguez, posed no threat to the officers, who were responding to a domestic-violence call placed by Rod­riguez's mother.

According to Virgillo, Chrisman, challenged by Rodriguez as to why the cops were in his mom's residence, put a gun to Rodriguez's head, telling him, "I don't need no warrant, motherfucker."

Why would a cop make this stuff up about another cop, thus instantly earning him the enmity of fellow law enforcement officers? If the confrontation went down the way Virgillo said and if he'd kept his mouth shut and backed Chrisman's tale, the whole incident probably would've been forgotten after the initial reports on it.

But PLEA's having none of Virgillo's account. The union ponied up the dough for Chrisman's bail and apparently began planting stories with friendly reporters at CBS 5 and elsewhere (according to my sources), aimed at smearing Virgillo, who's not a PLEA member.

That campaign caught the eye of Romley, who has told me that PLEA and other Phoenix police officers are now under investigation by his office and the Phoenix Police Department for possible witness tampering and obstruction of justice. In addition, Romley said an FBI agent's assigned to the matter.

"I think there's a concerted effort by PLEA and some of its members to obstruct the success of this case going forward," Romley told me. "And they need to know that I'm going to play hardball."

Sadly, Romley won't be playing hardball from the County Attorney's Office, but he's never been quiet on the sidelines, and I wouldn't expect him to clam up after November 22. By informing me of an investigation into PLEA, Romley was sending a message.

"This thing doesn't go away just because Rick Romley has to leave," he said.

I called the FBI, where spokesman Manuel Johnson said, "We're aware of the situation." He specified that the FBI knows about the County Attorney's Office and PPD probes.

Johnson would neither confirm nor deny Romley's statement that there was an FBI agent assigned to the matter. He said that in cases in which law enforcement's accused of alleged misconduct under "color of law," it's not uncommon for the FBI to wait until local investigations run their course. He said there was no active FBI investigation, but he left the door open for that to change.

(Note: PLEA President Mark Spencer hadn't returned a call for comment as this column went to press.)

Romley declined to discuss specifics of the investigation. However, I wondered to Assistant Phoenix Police Chief Andy Anderson, how PLEA had gotten internal e-mails among police officers concerning a phone call from Phoenix city councilmen Michael Nowakowski and Mike Johnson to Officer Virgillo concerning Daniel Rodriguez's death.

The e-mails are posted on PLEA's Web site. When I asked Anderson whether his department was investigating how the e-mails got there, he said he couldn't comment. I asked if the PPD was investigating PLEA, and he said that he couldn't make a statement at this time.

Nowakowski and Johnson have said they were calling only to offer support to Virgillo. The e-mails insinuate that Nowakowski and Johnson may have been trying to get Virgillo to stick to his story — which is what PLEA wants us to believe.

Granted, it's a legitimate news item for the media hounds who've reported on it. As was another item concerning Virgillo's wife, Maria, who was busted in 2008 and eventually caught three years' probation for being part of a drug-trafficking organization.

Virgillo, by all accounts, knew nothing of his wife's dealings. But as with the story regarding Nowakowski and Johnson, these twists effectively muddy the pool, no doubt part of PLEA's plan. If there's enough doubt in the mix when Montgomery ascends to the catbird seat, it could give him enough cover to act in Chrisman's favor.

Chrisman's attorney, Craig Mehrens — who wouldn't tell me whether PLEA's paying Chrisman's legal bills — contends that the grand jury was bogus from jump. He said the County Attorney's Office wouldn't allow his expert witness, police psychologist Dr. William Lewinski, to testify.

Mehrens said Lewinski interviewed Chrisman and has concluded that "this was a justifiable use of force," in the attorney's words.

"I wanted to make Dr. Lewinski available to the [county attorney] and the grand jury to tell them Rich Chrisman's version on the facts and, if they were interested, his expert opinion," Mehrens wrote in an e-mail to me.

Yet Mehrens admitted that he didn't offer his client to the grand jury to tell his side, which was the smart thing for Mehrens to do. Particularly if his client's guilty.

Romley scoffed at the suggestion that Lewinski should've gone before the grand jury.

"Mehrens knows better than that," Romley said. "His expert didn't even have any of the police reports or any of the information [on the case]."

And what about Mehrens' contention that he and Public Safety Manager (read: Police Chief) Jack Harris rushed to judgment regarding Chrisman — that the grand jury came too fast?

"That's ridiculous," Romley said. "How many murder investigations do we sit, [where] we have someone who's a potential subject and we do the grand jury right away? Just go back in history. It was a week [after the murder that the Chrisman grand jury] was done."

Romley also hotly contested the suggestion by Phoenix police Officer Eric Rude that the County Attorney dictated the probable-cause statement attached to the Chrisman indictment. Rude's testimony came before a hearing seeking a preliminary injunction against Chrisman's firing by Harris, a request the judge granted.

PLEA member Rude told the court that Chief Harris informed him that the County Attorney dictated what was to appear in the statement, referred to as a "form four." This, even though Phoenix homicide Detective Kenny Porter is listed as the author of the form four.

"I triple-checked it," Romley said. "We even contacted the officer that wrote the form four, and he said, 'Absolutely not.'"

PPD spokesman Tommy Thompson explained to me that in major cases, officers may corroborate facts with the county attorney, but the officers actually write the form fours themselves.

The latest round fired from Mehrens' office is a motion seeking a remand of the Chrisman case to the grand jury. Mehrens contends that the prosecutor assigned to the case, Juan Martinez, and another prosecutor, Ted Duffy, misled the grand jury by presenting the case "almost entirely from the point of view of Officer Sergio Virgillo."

Not long after its filing, the legal paperwork found its way to CBS 5, which then produced a hit piece on Duffy, noting that he'd been sanctioned, given a 30-day suspension, and put on probation by the State Bar of Arizona.

The Channel 5 story quoted defense attorney Daniel Raynak's saying he was surprised "anyone would put Duffy in charge of another murder case."

The TV report also noted that Duffy's "one of two prosecutors handling the Chrisman prosecution."

But the County Attorney's Office said it was Martinez who presented the case to the grand jury, not Duffy.

County Attorney's Office spokesman Bill Fitzgerald got back to me with this statement:

"Ted Duffy didn't have anything to do with the presentment of the Chrisman case. He was the person who was assigned that day to the grand jury to read from a piece of paper the standard admonishments with regard to all cases being heard by grand jurors that day.

"He reads from the piece of paper and takes a seat. The actual presentment of the case was done by Juan Martinez."

Asked about Duffy's involvement or non-involvement in the presentation of the case to the grand jury, Mehrens reacted, well, weirdly.

"You know, I am so tired of this shit," wrote Mehrens in an e-mail to me. "Why [is the County Attorney's Office] lying to you? More importantly, why are you buying into it? I actually know the answer to the former question: They cannot support their actions on the facts, so they spin."

Mehrens later added, "I know your paper supports Romley, having done a huge piece on how wonderful a guy he is. I know your paper supports and has done 'puff pieces' on the Phoenix PD homicide detectives and homicide detectives [who] have left for other employment, so why am I surprised? I shouldn't be."

So, uh, does this make New Times anti-cop or pro-cop? Confusing, eh?

Speaking for myself, I'm neither pro- nor anti-Phoenix PD. And as to Chrisman's guilt or innocence, that's for a jury to decide.

The line that's out there on the pro-Chrisman side is that Virgillo froze (or didn't engage) while Rodriguez and Chrisman struggled, that Rodriguez went for Chrisman's gun, and Chrisman had to kill him.

There were only three men involved in the incident, and one of them's dead.

The second, Virgillo, is a cop with a spotless record who's now loathed by many — if not most — of his brothers and sisters in arms for ratting out a fellow centurion.

The third, Chrisman, is tainted by his name's inclusion on the "Brady list" and the reason it was put there: planting a crack pipe on a mentally ill homeless woman in a sick prank we learned about only after he was indicted for murder two.

Chrisman's past behavior aside, I'd be willing to keep an open mind on whether the shooting was justified. That is, if Mehrens and PLEA weren't so actively sliming anyone who opposes or even questions them, and setting the stage for Montgomery to step in and put the kibosh on a possible trial.

That endgame may be good for Chrisman, Mehrens, and PLEA — which is using the affair to target its bĂȘte noire, Jack Harris. But would it be good for justice? No. Sorry, but now more than ever, we need a trial to sort out the death of Danny Rodriguez.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

N-S-M and P-P-D, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!

Remember that photo from January 16th? Some may recall some months back, around January, when anarchists and others called out local immigrant organizations for collaborating with the police. The movement's leadership had decided that they would play with the Phoenix PD as part of their PR game with Sheriff Joe (they are each other's willing foil). They invited the cops into their planning meetings for what was then the most recent in a seemingly unending series of funeral procession-like marches to Arpaio's jails that stretched, like the domesticated anti-war marches of years before, into infinity towards both horizons with no end in sight. It was political pragmatism at its worst, since the PPD actually deports more people than the Sheriff Department does. Still, at the January 16th mobilization, the movement leaders worked closely with the Phoenix PD as it marched against Sheriff Arpaio.

This dance with the devil ended that day for most anarchists and anti-authoritarians with the police attack on the DO@ Bloc, a truly historic convergence of anarchists and revolutionary anti-authoritarian indigenous folks from around the state, which was an expedient conclusion for a movement leadership that was increasingly having to deal with anarchist and anti-authoritarian criticisms about the tameness, boringness and ineffectiveness of the struggle against the increasingly worrisome rise of the racist Right here in Arizona. Likewise the marginalization of many indigenous people within the movement and the hostility of the leadership to arguments that brought white people into situations that opposed white supremacy and controls on movement stood out to many of us as more than just problematic given the reactionary political circumstances.

We later found out as a result of the investigation following the Arpaio Five arrests that the police/movement collaboration had resulted in the compilation of a snatch/watch list which cops used to pick out particular people for arrest that day. Our understanding is that this list was in police possession ahead of time, placing more than a little doubt on the mainstream dialog about the police attack that says that cops were forced to attack by anarchist provocations. I myself was shadowed by cops while in the park and a comrade reported overhearing the officers talking about me. This was before the march.

At the time, the soft activist middle, eventually including almost every out of state radical who parachuted into town for the summer's glorious and oh-so-activist-hip fight over SB1070, refused to listen to anarchist criticisms of the cozy relationship between cops and the movement leaders, defending them without listening to local criticisms from people who had interacted with them for years. When we pointed out the obvious problems with working with cops tasked with deporting the base of the movement, not to mention the PPD's increasingly obvious corrupt and violent nature, we were treated like we had broken some taboo.

Denouncing us as sectarian, out of town activists and movement heavies combined to attempt to impose the most watered-down bourgeois popular front framework on a movement that by then was justifiably itching for radical action, regardless of whether it alienated the political middle (or forced them to choose a side). The time for moral appeals to the white center was clearly and at long last over for many people who itched for a fight back.

Well, here we are almost a year since January 16th and the latest clash with the National Socialist Movement offers us a perfect lesson that will be hard to ignore. Below you will find photos and video showing without a doubt the level of police collaboration with the NSM. For movement leaders to maintain their relationships with this racist organization in the face of this kind of evidence will be difficult indeed, although we've seen the kinds of political gymnastics they're capable of, so don't rule it out!

In this first picture you can see the NSM getting ready for a fight, surrounded by cops. Note how they are turning their flags upside down and wrapping them up to make clubs. You don't see any cops stopping them, do you? How many is that? I count at least five, maybe six, flags turned into weapons in this picture. This is not to say that we anti-fascists didn't come planning on disrupting their march -- we did. It's just worth noting the police complicity with their supposed "free speech" march. Notice also JT Ready on the far left in the glasses with the goatee marching with them. I'll come back to the significance of this a little later.

In this second photo, below, you can see an officer of the PPD (note his badge on his belt) giving an order for the NSM to stop marching. Indeed, at one point a cop was seen directing the NSM formation to tighten up.

Need more proof? Check out this video that clearly shows the cooperation between the Phoenix cops and the NSM throughout the entire march. Note how the police clear the sidewalk, moved the NSM into the street and then direct them forward.

Speaking of that, now consider this next photo! Clearly visible here are Phoenix cops with riot gear and shields standing side by side on the skirmish line with NSM shield-bearers while they blast pepper spray in the face of a protester (who is just out of the picture).

Finally, review this footage from the news. Local videographer Dennis Gilman is interviewed about his experience on Saturday. He shows the reporter some footage of everybody's favorite huggy bear Nazi, JT Ready, being allowed to pass through the police line to antagonize protesters. Later he did it again but was attacked with spit, bottles and firecrackers. Again, the cops did nothing to stop him. It seems like Nazis can come and go through the police line at will.

As Dennis points out in this interview, the cops actually extended the Nazi's permit so they could still hold their rally. This after we had held the NSM and the cops at bay in the street for well over an hour, past its expiration time. Escorting Nazis, giving them orders, letting them pass through their lines, sharing the front line with them, extending their permit -- at what point can we finally say out loud what so many of the victims of the police already know: the police are the violent arm of the state, determined to defend the existing order, whether through their own routine violence (rarely remarked upon in the dominant discourse) or, if need be, through collaboration with fascists. Either way, it's a war machine on the working class, intent on attacking and disrupting our attempts at wresting from them control of our own lives.

So what is a movement to do in the face of this obvious collusion between the white fascist street and the white fascist state? Will movement leaders just ignore it like they did on January 16th and continue to work with the murderous bastards of the PPD? Or can the movement finally understand that the cops are as much the enemy as the NSM is? It's not like this is a different Phoenix Police Department. It's the same force as in January. And it's not like they're acting differently. If you need a refresher, scroll back up to the photo introducing this article.

In fact there's actually more reason to worry about the cops, really, because as of now the Nazis don't have detention camps or deportation powers. But the police do. If someone is deported or delivered into state custody, they pass first directly through the hands of the police. Arguments that cops are just doing their jobs hold little water in terms of a defense -- after all, don't these ridiculous assertions just reinforce all the arguments anarchists make for the elimination of police entirely? But seeing the willing and natural alliance between police and Nazis has got to raise doubts in even their most stalwart defenders, I would think. No, the police are part of the problem.

If the mainstream movement leaders continue their relationships with these Nazi-lovers, then one can only presume that they find some utility in keeping them around. It can't be because it advances the struggle against the State, however, because here we are many years into this failed strategy and thousands upon thousands have been deported or, out of fear from the police more than Nazis, have self-deported themselves.

So, did we see that usefulness to the movement leadership on January 16th? Are the police convenient not because they advance the movement's larger goals of stopping deportations, but instead because they push forward the movement leadership's desire to police the radical, militant wing of the movement? As Grace, arrested that day and then blackmailed into taking a plea agreement, heads to jail next week, I know I'll be pondering that question with great interest.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Joke of the Day: Phoenix Cops banner drop removal FAIL!

Yesterday's wildly successful confrontation with the National Socialist Movement had many highlights and it's hard to pick out just one. Everyone really brought their 'A-game', for sure. The barricades, the rocks raining down on fascists' heads, the smoke bombs, the fact that we held the NSM at a standstill in the street for well over an hour (past the expiration of their original permit) -- there was a lot to celebrate. In the second in our occasional "joke of the day" series, I thought I would share what I thought was one of the day's funnier moments.

I should say, however, that there was some tough competition for today's prize. The RCP showed up at the rally, sporting matching Bob Avakian shirts (or is it John Goodman?) and hawking their pathetic little rag to unsuspecting victims. An audible laugh went out from the crowd when, just as things were really heating up in the street, someone noticed that the RCP was sitting idly by on the sidewalk holding a banner. "Where's 'the leadership we need' when we need it?" the call went out. The RCP, useless and backward, had no answers. Typical. I can't wait to read their imaginative little write up about the action. I'm sure the anarchist bloc will be transformed into steady Maoist cadre and the anarchist and anti-fascist banners and flags will become the RCP's "flag on a flag" and Avakian stencils. Hi-larious, to be sure! So, RCP gets an honorable mention.

But on to the winner. Before the NSM showed up, some enterprising anarchos dropped a fantastic anti-fascist banner off the parking structure across the street from where the boneheads were going to rally. It took a while for the dimwitted cops to notice it up there but when they did, a troop of riot cops was dispatched to remove it. Stomping up the stairwell, they split up into a couple groups and attempted to pull it down.

Hilarity ensued. Congratulations PPD on your well-deserved award! Enjoy:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Police officer's sociopathic personal license plate raises concerns

This can't be emphasized enough, this is a story on the longtime partner of the drug planting, corrupt, and murderous cop Richard Chrisman, who is now facing murder charges. This story is not about an aberration in the behavior of the police, this is the norm.

PHOENIX – A Phoenix police officer is in trouble for his personal license plate.

Police say they saw the license plate when Officer Austin Lewis responded to a crime scene while working off-duty at a nearby QuikTrip and killed a man.

Police say the killing was justified because that suspect had a gun.

The officer-involved shooting took place Oct. 17. Officer Lewis, a 9-year veteran, shot and killed the suspect after police say the man pulled out a gun.

Sgt. Steve Martos, with Phoenix police, says, “That individual failed to obey commands and reached into his waistband where he retrieved a handgun and pointed that handgun at officers.”

The license plate on Lewis’ personal plate read 451 M ALL. In police code, 451 means murder so the plate could be read as “Murder M’All.”

Police would not comment on the officer’s license plate or what it means but say the Professional Standards Bureau is investigating.

Lewis’ frequent partner, Officer Richard Chrisman, was arrested for murder on Oct. 5. He stands accused of murdering an unarmed man in South Phoenix. Both officers work out of the South Mountain precinct.

Lewis did not want to talk to 3TV about his license plate but says they have expired and he has put a different plate on his truck.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Phoenix police chase man who refused to show ID, fled, and died in police custody

(12/3/10) One month later and Phoenix PD have still not released information on an official cause of death.

Phoenix police have identified a man who fled from police on foot collapsed and died after being caught, police said.

Just before 7 p.m. Friday, Phoenix police responded to a call about a fight near 19th Avenue and Bell Road in north Phoenix.

Once there, they asked the three individuals involved for identification, said Phoenix police spokesman Steve Martos. Two complied immediately.

The third, Oesha V. Reese, 35, fled the apartment, Martos said. Officers chased after him on foot for about six minutes.

After police took him into custody, the man complained he was having trouble breathing, then collapsed, Martos said. Firefighters performed first aid, and the man was taken to a nearby hospital where he died just after 8 p.m.

Martos said it is not known why the man fled or whether he suffered from any pre-existing medical conditions.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Phoenix internal-affairs detectives investigating South Mountain Precinct

Phoenix police on Thursday confirmed that internal-affairs detectives have been investigating off-duty misconduct within South Mountain Precinct since 2007.

The complex investigation is focused on officers' off-duty security work - such as the assignments guarding nightclubs or working crowd control at parades or football games in which they earn extra money, Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump said.

Crump said the department's Professional Standards Bureau considers the investigation "still pending and still open." He declined to address specifics other than that detectives are looking into the actions of officers assigned to off-duty assignments in south Phoenix, rather than solely focusing on officers stationed at South Mountain Precinct.

Phoenix officers are authorized by the department to work off-duty security in uniform. They are also required to follow department policy.

Cmdr. Chuck Miiller, who oversees the police department's Public Affairs Bureau, said Friday that the recent reassignment of the South Mountain Precinct commander and several lieutenants was unconnected to the ongoing internal-affairs investigation into off-duty misconduct by officers.

Miiller said the reassignment of Cmdr. Jeff Alexander, who was replaced three weeks ago by Cmdr. Chris Crockett, and several lieuterants -- including Lts. Mark Tallman and Chris Moore of the Ahwatukee substation -- were part of a separate decision made by the department's chiefs to restructure leadership in the precinct.

Tallman and Moore will be replaced by Lt. Matt Giordano, also of Public Affairs Bureau, and Lt. Russ Frederiksen.

Republic reporter Cathryn Creno contributed to this report.

Phoenix officer's fatal shooting still "confuses" detectives

More than two weeks after Phoenix police Sgt. Sean Drenth's on-duty shooting death, police have yet to release a suspect's description, a license plate on a getaway car or any other details from the scene.

If Drenth was shot to death by an unknown assailant, investigators have refused to say anything about the killer after the highly decorated patrolman was discovered fatally wounded outside his patrol vehicle in an industrial lot near the Arizona Capitol.

Drenth's shooting is still being treated as a homicide, according to Phoenix police, though the cause and manner of Drenth's Oct. 18 death is still under review by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner.

Phoenix homicide investigators have said little else other than they are forced to consider the possibility that Drenth committed suicide based on unidentified evidence collected at the scene of the shooting.

"We are still treating it as a homicide, as we always have, but there is still nothing definitive as to what happened out there," said Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump, the department spokesman handling the Drenth case.

"If we had that definitive evidence - one way or another, that it was a homicide or suicide - there would be no reason to withhold that information," Crump said.

By now, crime-scene technicians have already swabbed for evidence such as hair and fibers from inside Drenth's patrol vehicle and conducted a blood-spatter analysis from evidence at the scene, though it was still unclear if the South Mountain Precinct sergeant was shot inside or outside the vehicle.

Silent Witness is offering up to $10,000 in reward money for information in the case with the hope that someone will provide an anonymous tip leading to an arrest, though Phoenix police have yet to confirm Drenth was murdered.

Police said he was neither writing a report nor responding to an emergency call when he parked at the lot near the Union Pacific Railroad tracks at Jefferson Street and 19th Avenue on Oct. 18.

The vehicle is one of three crime scenes in the Drenth case, according to experts. The scene around the vehicle and the sergeant's body are the others.

Each has already been processed for latent fingerprints and ballistics at this point of the investigation, though investigators have declined comment on the results of tests conducted in the Phoenix Police Crime Lab.

Doctors at the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office said they could take up to three months to release the official death-investigation report.

Dr. Cyril Wecht, a longtime Pennsylvania medical examiner and forensic pathology expert at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, said any shooting like Drenth's should be approached initially as it were a homicide.

He said based on his limited knowledge of the case, that a major metro police agency such as Phoenix police likely have an idea at this stage of the investigation - or that they simply could be stumped based on evidence that could suggest a murder or suicide.

"Two weeks of silence makes me highly suspicious," Wecht said. "It makes me think they've got some questions, that there may be more there than they're saying at this time and that it might not be a homicide," he said.

The case largely hinges on the weapon or weapons used in Drenth's shooting. Police have declined to confirm if Drenth was shot at a distance, from close alongside his vehicle or with one of his police weapons - such as his shotgun, his duty handgun or a secondary handgun officers carry on patrol.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Late Timing of Detention Officer's DUI Arrest Questioned

Maricopa County Sheriff's detention officer Adrian Salazar Guzman

GOODYEAR, Ariz. - A 26-year-old woman died in an accident caused by a suspected drunk driver -- and that driver, a Maricopa County Sheriff's detention officer, wasn't arrested until two weeks after the crime.

Adrian Salazar Guzman had a blood alcohol level of nearly 3 times the legal limit. It has many people asking why his arrest took so long.

Guzman has been charged with negligent homicide and several DUI-related charges in the death of 26-year-old Alisha Trejo. Court documents allege he ran a stop sign and hit Trejo, who was on a motorcycle stopped at the Goodyear intersection.

Her leg was amputated as a result of the impact and she died instantly.

At the hospital, Guzman admitted he had been drinking since 10 a.m. and felt "buzzed." A blood alcohol test taken by nurses at 2 a.m. registered at .225. At 4:23 a.m., DPS procured a search warrant and took another blood test, and the result was .14. The legal limit in Arizona is .08.

The accident happened on Oct. 16. But Guzman wasn't arrested until Oct. 29, nearly two weeks later. We've been trying to stay on top of this, but Goodyear Police has been very uncooperative with our questions and gave us the runaround.

FOX 10 wanted to know if this was standard procedure for Goodyear Police.

We called John Rowan with the department, and he says, Guzman's case was handled properly. When we asked him whether or not Guzman was given preferential treatment because he is a detention officer, the phone call was ended abruptly. We tried calling him back several times thereafter, and he didn't return the call.

It's a question that Alisha's grieving family also wants to know.

We called two law agencies in town to ask them what they think about the situation. One said that if a person was in the same position as Guzman, it is possible that he could have been released the same day. The agency would have slapped the driver with a DUI charge, opened an investigation, and then later on added a homicide charge in court.

The second agency said there is no way that guy should've been walking. The agency said it could take up to two weeks to get an accurate blood alcohol level read, but if a suspected drunk driver killed someone, it's just too serious. That driver should be taken to jail and not let out on the streets.