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, July 19, 2008

Democracy doesn't come with speaker cards

"Decedent status post multiple penetrating and perforating gunshots of the neck and torso with concomitant injury to the cervical spinal cord, trachea, right carotid right jugular vein, and middle lobe of the right lung."

---Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner's office autopsy protocol report on Douglas Steven Cloud, March 8, 2007.

This weeks' Riverside City Council meeting agenda includes the so-called agenda item placed on the discussion calendar by the Governmental Affairs Committee to place an initiative on the ballot to ban the runoff election. This is being rushed on to the agenda of a midsummer meeting so that it will make the ballot during this November's election. Why does that matter so much and why does it matter so much now? Because the chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee is likely running for reelection next year. He just lost the competition over the District One Riverside County supervisory seat, apparently failing to capture a precinct in Ward Four which is the one he has represented since 2002.

The Governmental Affairs Committee hadn't seem to believe this was an urgent issue since it last discussed changing the election process in December 2007, just after another one of its members had lost his reelection bid by a handful of votes. One of the ideas floated around at that meeting was to have runoff elections for individual wards voted on citywide. That discussion clearly arose out of the final results of Election 2007.

This is purportedly about "letting the people decide" when if passed, this latest tinkering of the city's election process will override and replace a system that was in place during a grand total of one election cycle, a system that was also installed by "letting the people decide" during the November 2006 election. So much for letting the people aside, because we the people of Riverside seem to be only allowed to decide and to have our decision and our votes stand when something's passed that fits the agenda of our elected representatives.

Some of the trends which have been noted with runoff elections include the following.

1) Runoff elections have decided the winners quite frequently in elections during the past 10 years.

2) Grassroots candidates as individuals still have difficulty with preliminary rounds of elections which are plurality to determine the win or runoff status, especially when competing with other grassroots candidates. As a class, they tend to fare better in runoff elections which allow them the time to build name recognition. If a grassroots candidate finishes a strong first or second in the preliminary round, they have an excellent chance of improving their performance in the finals. Remove the competition of other grassroots candidates and the remaining one will improve his or her performance in the final rounds.

3) During plurality elections, it's usually the candidate with the highest degree of name recognition who gains the most votes although there have been several exceptions involving incumbents.

4)If you have a strongly popular incumbent, he or she will attract few candidates to compete against and this popularity will allow this person to win through plurality without manipulating the process.

5) An unpopular incumbent will attract other candidates and may or may not lead the preliminary round but likely will not win by plurality during that round. This candidate most likely will not win a runoff round against a strong candidate including a grassroots candidate.

6) More often than not, a vote going to a candidate besides an incumbent in a plurality round is a vote against that incumbent.

So far, this latest proposal has elicited concern but also a lot of laughter, because in terms of the recent history of politics in this city, there hasn't been an agenda item on a meeting that's been quite this transparent. Transparent in terms of the motive of putting yet another initiative on the ballot to "fix" an election process at taxpayer expense. Democracy isn't smiling. She is laughing at the follies of what is done in her name.

And whether it's a coincidence or not, the city council meeting where this item is up for discussion just happens to be the one where speaker cards are being introduced for the first time. Hopefully, there will be a minimum of lost or misplaced speaker cards when this or any other item comes up for discussion at the meeting. Perhaps it would be prudent to set up a hotline for people to call to report missing or lost speaker cards.

The elevators at City Hall had to have their pulley systems replaced because so many of them in the three shafts had broken down, the majority of them in a relatively short period of time after installation. They are not sure what the problem is with the pulleys because the parts themselves seem to be doing fine in other elevators outside of City Hall.

The attorneys representing the Cloud family took a deposition from Mark A. Farjado, M.D. who did the autopsy protocol report on Cloud for the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner's office. By the time he did his deposition, he had performed at least 100 autopsies involving gunshot wounds.

During his deposition, Farjado discussed the information involving the five bullet entry wounds and the two exit wounds. He was not able to determine the sequence of bullets or what order they struck Cloud's body but numbered them for comparison and identification purposes.

Gunshot #1: This bullet went in right behind the left ear, leaving a circular entry wound with an abrasion collar. It exists on the right side of Cloud's neck behind and below his right ear, having moved through soft tissue and muscles. The wound by itself is not likely to be fatal, because the bullet did not hit major organs, vessels or the spinal cord. Given that Farjado was not clear whether trajectory rods were used in this case, the trajectory is based on measurements taken of the entry and exit wounds in relation to the top of the head and any differentials between the two. The trajectory of this bullet was slightly upward and slightly back to front.

Gunshot #2: This bullet hit on the top of the left shoulder. A circular entry wound with an elliptical shape. Its pathway through soft musculature placed it at the base of the neck on the back. Potentially fatal but not likely given that no major organs, spinal cord or vessel damage was noted.

Gunshot #3: This bullet entered through the left lateral neck region next to the sternocleidomastid muscle. The bullet wound has an elliptical shape and it travels through the cervical spinal column severing the cord, The arteries on both sides of the vertebrae column are destroyed. It came to rest on the right side of the spinal column. This gunshot wound is fatal due to disruption of the respiratory system through paralysis at the C6-C7 level. Once this damage was done, Cloud would have been paralyzed from the neck down, only able to turn his head. The bullet's trajectory was minimally downward.

Gunshot #4: This bullet entered just in front of the #3 and to the left of the larynx. The entry wound was elliptically shaped. The bullet destroyed the larynx and the right carotid artery. It also severed 50% of the right jugular vein and fractures the right clavicle. It's a fatal wound due to destruction of the carotid artery.

Gunshot #5: This bullet struck the right chest, toward the midline of the nipple and is elliptically shaped. It exits in line with the right armpit. During its path in the chest, it breaks the fifth and sixth ribs and grazed the right lung. Due to hitting the lung, this bullet wound is potentially fatal.

Fajardo said that he was unable to determine which guns fired the bullets that hit Cloud or whether they came from different guns. He said that stifling is usually seen when the bullet is fired from less than two feet away. There was no stifling found on any of the bullet wounds in this case.

John Porter, the city's hired attorney also questioned Fajardo, about the time frame of how long it took Cloud to die from his bullet wounds (most likely to evaluate pain and suffering before death). Fajardo said the sequence of loss of consciousness and brain activity would be within 10 seconds. It might take up to a minute for the heart to stop beating. Death would come from bullet wounds three and four.

Porter asked about Cloud's toxicology report and Fajardo said that methamphetamine was discovered.

Included in his deposition are the coroner's and autopsy protocol reports. The recorded trajectories of the bullets were also included.

Gunshot #1: From left to right, minimally front to back and minimally upward.

Gunshot #2: From left to right, minimally front to back and no appreciable up or down trajectory

Gunshot #3: From left to right and minimally downward

Gunshot #4: From left to right, slightly downward and slightly front to back

Gunshot #5: From left to right, downward, slightly front to back

What's the impact of rising fuel costs on the ability of law enforcement agencies to fly helicopters and airplanes? Not enough to ground them yet.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Fuel is a huge issue," said Officer Dave Mullins, a pilot for Riverside police. "It's a huge issue for all cities. It is a huge drain."

The Inland area is mirroring problems facing law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

"It is an issue that everyone is facing," said Kevin Chittick, with the U.S. Park Police and a regional director of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association in Washington, D.C. "It is affecting the smaller departments now but it will eventually impact the larger ones at some point."

By some estimates, the cost of aviation fuel has increased by 90 percent in the past year, causing most cities and counties to surpass the amount budgeted. Riverside police spent almost $156,000 for fuel over the fiscal year that ended June 30, about $40,000 more than budgeted, while the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department spent $836,000 during the same period, about $186,000 more than it budgeted for fuel.

The unemployment rate in the Inland Empire is now 8%.

Campaigning for office on the internet can be useful and a lot of fun.

Rancho Belago or bust and let the voters decide.

The federal corruption trial of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona has been delayed for two more months.

Shocked nine times in 14 minutes and then he was dead.

Dr. Randolph Williams called the death of Baron "Scooter" Pikes, 21, a homicide. The official cause was a cardiac arrest following nine applications of 50,000 volts from a conductive electric weapon, meaning a taser.

The city was no stranger to scandal and now it has another one.

(excerpt, Chicago Tribune)

What happened in the 39 minutes in between -- during which Pikes was handcuffed by police and shocked nine times with a Taser while reportedly pleading for mercy -- is spawning suspicions of a political cover-up in this lumber town infamous for backroom dealings.

Racial tensions also are mounting; Pikes was black and the officer involved is white.

No novelist could have invented Winnfield, the birthplace of two of Louisiana's most colorful and notorious governors -- Huey and Earl Long.

The police chief committed suicide three years ago after losing a close election marred by allegations of fraud and vote-buying. Just four months later, the district attorney killed himself after allegedly skimming $200,000 from his office budget and extorting payments from criminal defendants to make their cases go away.

The current police chief is a convicted drug offender pardoned by then-Gov. Edwin Edwards, who is in federal prison for corruption convictions.

All that history is wrapped up in the Pikes case because the officer in question, Scott Nugent, is the son of the former chief who killed himself and the protege of the current chief, who hired him.

"A lot happens in this town and it just gets swept under the rug," said Kayshon Collins, Pikes' stepmother, who has participated in several protests over the case.

"What the police did to Scooter just isn't right. They would never have Tasered a white kid like that."

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