Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Saturday, November 11, 2006

When pictures and words collide

The Los Angeles Times wrote another article on the latest round of LAPD Videogate. This time, the article stated that what was shown on the video contradicted what both involved officers wrote in their official reports about the arrest of William Cardenas several months ago. The video was only 20 seconds in duration in terms of what it portrayed of an incident that lasted much longer, but it was apparently enough to bring the FBI into the LAPD again.

Video, police reports conflict

Chief William Bratton discussed the ongoing criminal and administrative investigations. He touched on the latest issue of the differences between what was seen on video by people all around the world, and what was written in the document record by his employees.

"That's part of what the investigation will attempt to determine, the officers' recollection versus the individual's," Bratton said. "Those are the issues you look at in an investigation. You look at discrepancies, memory gaps."

In that statement, he did not mention the video tape's depiction of Officer Patrick Farrell delivering more than six "distraction" blows to Cardenas's face or the officers' recollection vs what was caught by the video tape. The police report, a joint product of Farrell and Officer Alexander Schlegal, stated that Farrell hit Cardenas twice because he was resisting arrest.

The video also appeared to challenge the contention that Cardenas was struck by Farrell because "the suspect continued to grab at my [Schlegel's] belt and waist."

The article said that Cardenas' hands were not close to Schlegel's belt. They did approach but did not touch Farrell's at one point.

The contradictions between what is seen and what is read mirror those that appeared in similar cases involving the LAPD including the Rodney King and Stanley Miller cases. The incident involving Donovan Jackson and several Inglewood Police Department officers also suffered from similar problems. In fact, in both the King and Jackson cases, officers were eventually charged by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office with writing reports they knew to be false, but those cases went to trial and resulted in not guilty verdicts.

The discussion continues on the LAPD's official blog and at other blogs including here, here and there.

The Los Angeles Police Commission also commented on the latest incident.

Once again, the commission and police chief find themselves thrust into the public eye by a provocative video of a police incident — requiring them to play an all-too familiar role of reassuring the public that brutality will be taken seriously but without condemning the officers prematurely.

"The tape is disturbing, but at the same time there may be explanations not visible in the videotape we have," said Commissioner Anthony Pacheco

Another individual warned of more incidents that took place and more videos to be brought to light.

Carol Sobel, a civil rights attorney and president of the Lawyers Guild, said the LAPD should brace for the emergence of more videotapes purporting to show police brutality.She said one videotape making the rounds among civil rights and defense attorneys appears to show a mentally ill man in Venice who has been handcuffed by the police, then placed in a patrol car. An officer pepper sprays him and shuts the door. Some LAPD officials have seen the tape, but it has not yet been publicly disclosed.

The week's just getting started.

Sixty miles to the east of L.A. in Riverside, there's been a lot of discussion of the fatal officer-involved shooting of Lee Deante Brown. No video was taken in that case, not even by the nearby businesses that Riverside Police Department officers canvassed after the shooting. All that exists in this case is the evidence in the form of eyewitness accounts and physical evidence and there lies the difficulty in determining exactly what happened that day.

The statements by the officers who were involved and the civilians who watched them after both arrived, contradict each other. The statements of the officers who stood side by side, both physically engaging with Brown up to the time that shots were fired also apparently differ in whether Brown was squatting on the ground holding an officer's taser, or on his feet lunging towards the officers with that taser in his hand, according to a preliminary briefing given by investigator Butch Warnberg to the Community Police Review Commission last week. Forensic tests have been conducted on Officer Terry Ellefson's taser to determine whether or not it contains Brown's DNA. Earlier tests for fingerprint evidence were inconclusive.

It's not clear who ordered the forensic testing, as it was conducted nearly seven months after the shooting and some time after the police department's officer-involved death team had handed off its investigative material to the Community Police Review Commission. Earlier, department representatives had made comments that they were resting the agency's case on statements made by both officers after the shooting that were captured by their audio recorders, concerning the taser in question. One of those was the same audio recording that contained statements by Ellefson that he had shot in a "downward trajectory". Similar statements were reported to investigators by two sergeants who spoke with Ellefson after the shooting.

In his statement to investigators, Ellefson said he shot from the hip and took a step backward away from Brown, who was two feet away.

Then there is the inaudible statement that was apparently caught on Ellefson's recording that CPRC investigator Butch Warnberg interpreted as "drop the gun" just before the shots were fired. Warnberg said that if that were the case, it would change his analysis considerably. Hopefully, further voice analysis by experts will be done to ascertain what words actually were said, as they might be critical to determining what happened, immediately prior to the shooting.

Ellefson's two references to his taser on that recording after that shooting, referred to it as a taser.

(excerpts from his audio recording)

When the counter read 6:58, Ellefson said, "He picked up the taser." About 90 seconds later, he told another officer, "He came up with the taser. I shot downward."

According to Warnberg, neither officer mentioned hearing or saying the statement, "drop the gun" during the incident in their interviews. Department investigators did ask Ellefson what commands he did give to Brown at that moment in time.

When Det. Rick Cobb asks Ellefson this, "The suspect is--still got the taser in his hand. Are you...and/or Officer Stucker still giving commands to him?

Ellefson answered, "...I'm--I was giving commands for the suspect to get on the ground."

On Nov. 14, 2005 Ellefson shot and killed Todd Argow, after Argow allegedly aimed a rifle at him while standing in the doorway of his house. According to statements provided by officers Nicholas Vasquez, Trinidad Lomeli and Daniel Mercadefe to the department's investigators, Ellefson had ordered Argow to "drop the weapon" before the shooting. That shooting was determined to be within policy by the CPRC and the police department.

Other orders given by the officers were also picked up by Ellfeson's recorder. One was given 90 seconds after the shooting, when Ellefson said, "Stay down brother, " followed 40 seconds later, by "put your hands behind your back, please."

As stated previously, this is the second fatal shooting of an individual by department officers after he had allegedly grabbed an officer's taser, this year.

This same year, there were at least two cases of officers having their tasers taken away from them in South Carolina and getting shocked by them. One last month, here and one last summer, there, so it's serious business when it happens but what's different in those cases and others cited in earlier postings and these ones are their endings.


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