Saturday, March 26, 2011

Phoenix police: Man who stole detective's car kills himself

The man who shot at a Phoenix police detective while stealing his car Friday is dead after shooting himself early Saturday, police said.

An off-duty Phoenix vehicle crimes detective had his personal car stolen around 4:30 p.m. Friday at a car wash, said Phoenix Police Sgt. Steve Martos.

The suspect, a male between 25 and 30 years old, got into the driver's seat of the officer's 2009 black Dodge Charger after car wash attendants had finished washing it, Martos said.

The suspect was sitting in the driver's seat of the car with the door open when the detective, who has been with the force for 24 years, tried to pull him out of the car. The suspect pulled out a semi-automatic hand gun while the detective was struggling with him, police said.

The detective let go of the man when he saw the gun, but the suspect fired while they were extremely close to one another.

"We are extremely lucky the detective is still alive," Martos said.

The suspect drove away from the car wash near Bethany Home Road and Seventh Street, he said.

At about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, police spotted the stolen car near Eighth and Colter streets and began chasing it. They later located the abandoned car near 19th Street and Camelback Road, where it appeared the suspect had crashed and fled into a nearby apartment complex.

Soon after, police received a 911 call from a resident who said the suspect had entered his apartment. The caller was able to escape without injury, Martos said.

As police officers were positioning themselves around the unit, they heard a single gunshot. Using a robot to search the apartment, officers found the suspect, who had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Martos said.

Police are investigating and have not released the suspect's name.

It is unclear how the suspect got the keys, but they were left with the car while the attendants were waiting for the detective to pick it up, Martos said.

The car did not have any markings or any police weapons. The detective was unarmed at the time of the robbery and the suspect had no way of knowing that the vehicle belonged to a police detective, he said.

Mark Spencer's PLEA's Smears Sergio Virgillo (Again), Fundraises for Richard Chrisman

In the wake of the Phoenix Police Department's firing of Officer Richard Chrisman, the cop facing second degree murder charges in the October 5 slaying of an unarmed South Phoenix man, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association continues to smear fellow Officer Sergio Virgillo, who witnessed the shooting and told investigators that neither the victim, nor his dog (which Chrisman also killed), posed a serious threat to himself or Chrisman.

The latest sleaze tactic from PLEA comes in a post to PLEA's Web site, announcing a BBQ/fundraiser on April 7 for Chrisman. The post contains a not-so-thinly-veiled swipe at Virgillo's credibility, one that it would not surprise me to see tonight on KPHO/Channel 5, known by some detractors as "PLEA TV."

"The State's primary witness is currently part of an internal investigation regarding his veracity in a recent court proceeding," says the unsigned post.

Though the statement does not mention Virgillo by name, it's pretty obvious who's being talked about. But here's one piece of info that I hope Channel 5 uses if it runs with this latest piece of PLEA sleaze: It's dead wrong, according to the Phoenix Police Department.

PPD spokesman Steve Martos told me that there was a recent fact-finding inquiry into allegations of untruthfulness leveled against Virgillo, but whatever questions there were about Virgillo have been resolved.

"[PPD] did look into it and found no wrongdoing," explained Martos. "It did not reach the level of an internal investigation and quickly went nowhere."

I called PLEA president Mark Spencer and left a message asking for him to phone me back about the inaccuracies in the post. He has yet to return my call.

I also put in a public records request asking for any memos or reports related to the inquiry. I will report on them as soon as I have them.

This is, of course, simply PLEA's latest attempt to back PLEA member Chrisman and undermine non-PLEA member Virgillo at every possible opportunity.

Indeed, as I've previously reported, PLEA was investigated by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office regarding allegations that PLEA was involved in witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

County Attorney Bill Montgomery has closed that investigation, as PLEA's shenanigans did not rise to the level of criminality. However, there have been shenanigans.

Reports and interviews done as part of the MCAO investigation revealed that 48 hours after the Chrisman shooting, Spencer called a detective in the PPD's Drug Enforcement Bureau, where Virgillo once worked, looking for dirt on the officer.

The MCAO wanted to talk to Spencer as part of the investigation, but Spencer clammed up and lawyered up.

It was more insidious than just pimping dirt on Virgillo. According to an MCAO interview done with the MCAO's law enforcement liaison Keith Manning, both Spencer and PLEA lobbyist Levi Bolton raised the issue of the Chrisman shooting with Manning prior to current County Attorney Bill Montgomery taking office.

Manning informed them that neither he nor the soon-to-be County Attorney could comment on the matter, but Bolton and Spencer had no problem bringing up the topic. After all, PLEA had endorsed Montgomery during his run for County Attorney, and PLEA had made a donation to Montgomery's campaign.

I'm not saying Spencer, Bolton, or other PLEA operatives broke any laws, but Spencer and PLEA have actively been attempting to undermine Virgillo and bolster Chrisman, truth be damned.

Maybe the PLEA folks think that's a-OK, since Chrisman paid dues to PLEA. But as part of PLEA's agreement with the City of Phoenix, PLEA technically represents ALL police officers, not just those who pay them dues.

Plus, whatever happened to that much vaunted "brotherhood" amongst police officers? PLEA must not subscribe to that. The organization has no problem sliming Virgillo or anyone who doubts Chrisman's account of what happened on October 5.

Finally, the PLEA post whines that other Phoenix cops now under investigation haven't been fired, so why Chrisman?

The answer, of course, is a dead, unarmed man by the name of Danny Rodriguez. But I would argue the firing has come way too late. Chrisman should have been canned back in 2005, after a security camera caught him planting a crack pipe on a mentally-ill homeless woman.

If he'd been let go then, he would not be facing a second-degree murder charge today. And that's whether or not he ends up beating the rap.

Richard Chrisman, Killer Phoenix Cop, Canned (Finally!)

Phoenix Police Officer Richard Chrisman, who faces a second-degree murder charge in the October 5 shooting death of South Phoenix resident Daniel Rodriguez, was terminated today by the City of Phoenix.

Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sergeant Tommy Thompson issued the following statement to the press via e-mail:

"In answer to questions from the media, a Loudermill Hearing was held today for Officer Richard Chrisman. The decision was made to terminate Officer Chrisman's employment. The separation process is anticipated to conclude by early next week."

Public Safety Manager Jack Harris was looking to fire Chrisman back in early November, but Chrisman's civil attorney Kathryn Baillie, who works for the firm that represents the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, sought and received a preliminary injunction from Superior Court Judge Donald Daughton, putting plans to kick Chrisman to the curb on hold.

But on February 28, Daughton issued a minute entry, allowing Baillie to file a special action with the Arizona Court of Appeals to seek a further stay. Daughton stated that unless the Court of Appeals ruled otherwise, his preliminary injunction order would be lifted.

The Court of Appeals denied Baillie's motion for a stay on March 18, opening the way for the City to conduct a Loudermill hearing, which is the hearing of last resort before a public employee is axed.

Obviously, it didn't go too well for Chrisman.

PLEA has vigorously defended the dues-paying Chrisman, bailing him out of jail, assisting him with legal representation, and doing its best to undermine the account of the shooting offered by non-PLEA member Officer Sergio Virgillo.

Helping members with legal representation is one of PLEA's duties, of course. Sliming a fellow cop? PLEA does that for pure joy, apparently.

Both Virgillo and Chrisman responded to a 911 domestic violence call from Rodriguez's mother on October 5. Rodriguez was unarmed, though a toxicology report later showed he had meth in his system.

During the incident, Chrisman killed Rodriguez's dog and struggled with Rodriguez, eventually gunning the man down. Virgillo told investigators that neither Rodriguez nor the canine posed a threat to either officer.

Chrisman refused to speak to investigators and quickly lawyered up, with the assistance of PLEA. In addition to the second degree murder charge, he's facing a charge for aggravated assault and cruelty to animals.

Last week, Rodriguez's mother Elvira Fernandez filed a $30 million notice of claim against the City of Phoenix for the wrongful death of her son.

One wonders how much money, pain and agony could have been avoided if the City had fired Chrisman after he admitted to planting a crack pipe on a mentally ill homeless woman in 2005, an outrage that was captured by a security camera.

This grotesque, and likely criminal shenanigan landed Chrisman on the Brady List, the County Attorney's roll call of cops whose bad behavior must be disclosed to defense counsel.

Chrisman should have had his Loudermill hearing then. This is regardless of whether he is innocent or guilty of second degree murder in the 2010 Rodriguez killing.

You can anticipate the spin from PLEA and its sleazy president Mark Spencer. In fact, you may see it tonight on CBS 5/KPHO, otherwise known as "PLEA TV."

Buckeye police officer put on leave after argument with teens

A Buckeye police officer has been placed on paid administrative leave after she was cited on suspicion of disorderly conduct.

Corrina Griffith, 36, was cited after a heated argument with teenagers outside a grocery store in Buckeye, said Lt. Dave Hubalik, a Buckeye police spokesman.

The Police Department placed Griffith on leave the morning after the altercation while an internal investigation into her conduct is ongoing, he said. The Goodyear Police Department is conducting a criminal investigation.

"We asked Goodyear to step in for us so that there was no possible appearance of impropriety," Hubalik said. "Goodyear did all the interviews of all the people there. Basically our officers stepped out of it so that there was no influence of any manner, and Goodyear made their decision on what they needed to do."

According to a Goodyear police report, Griffith, who was not on duty, arrived at Bashas' grocery store in Verrado at about 10 p.m. March 13. She was looking for her 15-year-old stepdaughter. The teen reportedly had told her friends that night she had run away from home. Griffith said she has been upset with the girl over various family issues.

The girl was in front of the store with a group of friends - four 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old - when Griffith arrived. Witnesses said Griffith told her stepdaughter to get in the car and then used strong words in threatening language toward the group of teens, the report states.

That sparked an argument between Griffith and one of the teens, who said she "had never been so disrespected in her life," and told Griffith "she needed to act like a mom," according to the report. The two continued to call each other names, and other teens called parents to pick them up.

One parent, Stephanie Rutherford, 36, called police and later confronted Griffith, starting another "loud verbal confrontation" that could be heard in the background of one of the 911 calls, the report states. Another parent reportedly told Griffith, "I know you are a cop, act like one."

Several witnesses said Griffith had an odor of alcohol, but a Goodyear police DUI investigation found that she did not have bloodshot, watery eyes, and did not have any balance or speech issues. She refused a field sobriety test.

Griffith was cited in lieu of arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor disorderly conduct and then released. She is scheduled to appear at the Agua Fria Justice Court in Tolleson on April 21, according to police records.

"It's always disturbing when a police officer gets into trouble, but we're going to handle it just like any other citizen," said Cmdr. Ralph McLaughlin, a Goodyear police spokesman.

Hubalik said Buckeye's internal investigation will determine whether Griffith violated any department policies, including "unbecoming" conduct.

"It's an unfortunate situation, and we're going to wait to see what the internal investigation bears out. Whatever decisions are made will be done in a fair and ethical manner," Hubalik said. "We truly believe that . . . we should hold ourselves to a higher standard, and we will not tolerate this type of behavior."

Griffith, a patrol officer, joined the Buckeye Police Department about two years ago from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. She changed from full time to part time in February 2010.

Griffith is married to Buckeye police Lt. Jared Griffith, a spokesman for the department.

Goodyear police are investigating possible charges against Rutherford, who "also chose not to disengage in a disorderly event" and continued "to argue with Mrs. Griffith, which only escalated the situation," the Goodyear police report states.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Phoenix police detective, sergeant arrested in separate DUI incidents

PHOENIX – Two Phoenix police officers have been arrested for alleged drunk driving, adding another chapter to the story of a department that has been the center of controversy for the past few months.

According to Sgt. Mark Ortega of the Surprise Police Department, one of the officers was arrested three weeks ago. The other was cited over the weekend.

The first officer, identified as Detective Cameron Scadden, 42, was stopped for a traffic infraction near RH Johnson Boulevard and Bell Road in the early morning hours of Feb. 18. The officer saw Scadden's police identification as he reached for his driver’s license. When asked about it, Scadden said he worked for the Phoenix Police Department.

After a field sobriety test was administered, Scadden, 42, was taken to the police station where officers had him blow into an Intoxilyzer®, which is an alcohol breath testing device. Ortega said Scadden blew a concentration of .107 the first time and .111 the second time. Both results were well above the legal limit of .08.

Scadden was cited and released.

The second incident took place on March 5 shortly before noon. Sgt. John Flanagan, 41, was pulled over for speeding near Greenway and Litchfield roads. Just like what happened with Scadden a few weeks earlier, the officer saw Flanagan’s ID. Flanagan willingly told the officer he worked for the Phoenix Police Department.

Believing he smelled alcohol on Flanagan’s breath, the officer administered a field-sobriety test.

Like, Scadden, Flanagan was taken back to the police station for an Intoxilyzer® test. Flanagan also consented to a blood draw. While the blood test is not back yet, the Intoxilyzer® returned results of .178 and .170, which is more than twice the legal limit.

He, too, was cited and released. Because the charge in Flanagan's case could be aggravated DUI, police are waiting for the results of the blood test to file.

“In both cases, they called a lieutenant they work for, a supervisor in the Phoenix Police Department,” Ortega explained. “We also made sure we made contact with that supervisor and let him know that we had arrested their people.”

Ortega insisted the two officers were not shown preferential treatment.

“Citing and releasing for DUI is a common practice, not just with our department, but many departments,” he said. “You have to have a criteria that has to be met before you can do that.”

Ortega said his department looks at DUI history, as well as the behavior and level of cooperation of the subject. He said they also try to determine if the person arrested might be a flight risk. Finally, officers determine if there is a responsible party to whom the subject can be released, somebody who can and will take charge and make sure the subject gets home safely.

“In both cases, the vehicles were impounded so there wasn’t a threat of them getting back in and driving,” Ortega said. “This is the criteria we’ll use with a construction worker, an office worker, anybody.”

Arizona has some of the toughest DUI laws in the entire country, requiring mandatory fines, jail time ranging from 24 hours to 10 days, license suspension for at least 90 days, and the installation of an ignition interlock device for first-time offenders.

News of the arrests of the two Phoenix police officers on suspicion of DUI comes just a week after the department’s chief, Public Safety Manager Jack Harris, was reassigned amid allegations of manipulating kidnapping statistics in order to obtain federal grant money. While Harris retained his title and duties as public safety manager, he no longer oversees the daily running of the police department.

Auditors with the U.S. Justice Department are reviewing the numbers that sparked the controversy. In the meantime, spending of the $1.7 million the city Phoenix received has been frozen and interim Police Chief Joe Yahner has taken over day-to-day operation of the department.

Even as they story was unfolding, another scandal broke, this one involving alleged drug theft and evidence tampering. Those allegations came up after a routine random audit in January. Investigators said the alleged crimes could have been going on for years. A Phoenix detective resigned amid the investigation.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cash, jewelry, guns taken from Surprise PD evidence room

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Another police agency is investigating a theft within its own department.

As much as $33,000 is missing from the Surprise Police Department evidence room.

Among the items taken were jewelry, guns and an unknown amount of cash.

The evidence room is supposed to be off-limits for employees who do not have an access swipe card.

No suspects have been identified but the investigation is ongoing.

Phoenix police officer busted for DUI

A Phoenix Police Officer has been arrested on suspicion of DUI, FOX 10 has learned.

The officer is Cameron Scadden, a 20-year veteran of the force who works in the patrol division.

Right now, he is on desk duty.

The arrest happened in the city of Surprise.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Phoenix police detective suspected of stealing drugs

A Phoenix police detective is suspected of having stolen as many as 2,400 narcotic pills, a police spokesman said Monday.

The detective, whose name was not released, was detained by investigators Monday and questioned, said Sgt. Trent Crump.

"He then submitted his resignation to his superior," Crump said. "He was released as we continue the investigation. We know who he is, where he lives and we don't think he's going anywhere."

Crump said that the department's Professional Standards Bureau does regular audits of drugs that are kept as evidence and that a recent audit of drugs destined for destruction revealed "that some of them had been swapped out.

Most of the pills swapped were Oxycodone, he said, though other drugs were missing.

Crump said that since the detective had access to the department's case management system, it was easy for him to see what drugs might be available. And since he had the authority to check the drugs out of the evidence room, Crump said, it was easy for him to take them, swap an over the counter drug into the bottles and then return the containers.

Crump said the department is working with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to build a case against the detective.

He said the suspect could face charges of felony theft and drug possession.