Monday, October 25, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski and Councilman Michael Johnson say allegations that they tried to influence a witness in the case involving Phoenix police Officer Richard Chrisman are false. Chrisman is being charged with second-degree murder.
On the website for the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, items posted suggest that Nowakowski and Councilman Michael Johnson inappropriately contacted Officer Sergio Virgillo shortly after Virgillo worked a domestic-violence call with Chrisman.
Chrisman fatally shot 29-year-old Danny Frank Rodriquez earlier this month, and, according to court records, Virgillo told investigators Chrisman needlessly killed an unarmed man who posed no threat.
On Thursday at his arraignment in Maricopa County Superior Court, Chrisman pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder and other charges.
According to a string of e-mails posted on the police union’s website, Virgillo felt uncomfortable with the calls from the elected officials.
“During this conversation, the councilmen stated things like …‘You are not going to second guess yourself…Right?; and ‘You did the right out out there … Right?,’” according to the e-mails PLEA has posted.
PLEA has suggested the call could have violated the Phoenix City Charter and that politicians are “possibly trying to exert influence over a criminal investigation.”
Nowakowski said he and Johnson did call Virgillo but were in no way trying to persuade Virgillo to do anything. Nowakowski said he always contacts people involved in serious police situations to express support for the Police Department and “let them know they’re in my prayers.”
The allegations are PLEA’s attempt to discredit Virgillio as a sound witness in a case against one of the union’s members, Nowakowski said.
It’s a “game to try to have us call Sergio a liar,” Nowakowski said. “They wanted us to say something bad about Sergio.”
PLEA represents Chrisman and helped post the officer’s bail shortly after he was arrested on the murder charge. Virgillio is not a member of PLEA.
“It’s just crazy politics,” Nowakowski said. “Mark (Spencer) is doing what he can to protect his PLEA guy.”
Johnson said he was commending Virgillo for "stepping forward" and "telling his side of the story."
"It's good for an officer who sees something wrong to step forward and tell the truth," Johnson said.
Johnson would not comment on the e-mails which he called "third party e-mails written between a sergeant and a lieutenant based on an alleged conversation with Sergio and written to discredit him (Sergio)."
--Lynh Bui, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, October 18, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
MESA, AZ - A man who was reportedly Tased, kicked and punched on the ground by Mesa police officers has filed a notice of claim against the Mesa Police Department, saying the officers knowingly and intentionally breached their duties and exceeded their authority, and that he was taken into custody in a negligent manner.
A video of the chase and arrest shot by a Mesa police helicopter shows Aaron Belander raising his arms in the air. A voice from the chopper says, “He’s got his hands up, he’s got his hands up. I don’t see anything in his hands.”
“We’ve got a man who appears to have stopped running, doesn’t seem to be making any types of aggressive movements towards anyone, and he’s Tased in the back,” said Belander’s attorney, Matt Schwartzstein. “The moment he falls down, he’s kicked in the head.”
Police reports from the officers involved that night last November paint a very different picture. The officers said they were conducting the high-risk traffic stop of a violent convicted felon who did not comply with commands to show his hands. The reports say police were tipped off that Belander had a gun.
“The officers did note in their reports that he had a history of violence in his past,” said Schwartzstein. “I did not see any crimes of violence that he was convicted of as of November 6th, 2009.”
According to police reports, Belander drove away in his truck during that traffic stop, initiating a chase that ended at Highland High School, where Belander got out of the truck and started running. Police reports say Belander threw a gun on the ground during the chase.
The video shows officers catching up to Belander, who stops running and raises his hands in the air. A voice apparently from the helicopter communicating to officers on the ground, advises them that Belander has his arms up and does not appear to have anything in his hands.
Officers wrote in their reports that they believed Belander was reaching for his midsection, where he may have had a gun, and that he did not comply with verbal commands to get on the ground. Several officers also stated that Belander resisted arrest, fighting, kicking and grabbing an officer’s arm as they tried to take him into custody.
“He had his hands up and he wasn't moving-- that changed from the moment they Tased him in the back,” said Schwartzstein. “They kicked him in the head, and then they kicked him again in the side and in the arm and it went on from there. It's hard to say at what point a person is resisting arrest or just protecting themselves.”
One officer said he tried to kick Belander in the shoulder to subdue him, but ended up kicking him in the face because he was flailing around.
“For all I know, he was convulsing after being kicked in the head,” said Schwartzstein.
Belander’s attorneys say the video shows six officers Tasing Belander multiple times and delivering dozens of blows to the suspect after he surrendered and was on the ground and did not make any threatening movements.
A medical exam at the jail concluded Belander suffered cuts, scrapes and broken bones. Belander’s notice of claim says he may have also suffered memory loss and posttraumatic stress.
Belander is behind bars. His attorneys filed a notice of claim for $350,000.
None of the officers involved have been placed on leave.
It is the Mesa Police Department’s policy not to comment on ongoing internal investigations.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Protestors planned to gather Monday outside Phoenix Police headquarters for the fifth straight day to continue to draw attention to last week's officer-involved shooting of an unarmed man.
The protest set to begin this afternoon at 620 West Washington Street will include a re-enactment of the incident, with community activists portraying two Phoenix police officers and a 29-year-old domestic violence suspect fatally shot inside his mother's trailer home on Oct. 5.
Phoenix police Officer Richard Chrisman shot and killed suspect Danny Frank Rodriquez during a scuffle in the trailer home near Central Avenue and Baseline Road.
A fellow officer told investigators Chrisman held a gun to Rodriquez's head and that the suspect never posed a serious threat of violence to the officers, according to court records.
Organizer Carlos Galindo, (left) a Spanish-language talk show host, said protests would continue until Chrisman is charged with murder.
Chrisman was arrested last week and charged with aggravated assault, though Maricopa County prosecutors could possibly re-arrest the officer on murder charges, officials said.
On Monday, protestors also planned to line the sidewalk near police headquarters with memorial lanterns to mark Rodriquez's death. Galindo said one activist would use a toy gun and mask made out of a jail booking photo of Chrisman to portray the officer. Galindo added that he has worked with Phoenix police to make them aware of the protest schedule.
Protests last week drew as many as 60-80 people, many who heard Galindo's calls to the public.
Galindo, who hosts a Hispanic Christian radio-show, helped the family of murder victim Juan Varela protest at the state Capitol in May. Police said Varela was killed by a White neighbor who shouted racial slurs during the shooting.
The case was not initally labelled as a hate-crime, though prosecutors later added it as an aggravating factor, which could lead to enhanced sentencing if shooting suspect Gary Kelley is convicted.