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

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Will Riverside say goodbye to Chinatown...again?

"My first feeling was, it wasn't real. Like a dream I'd been caught up in."

---Former Riverside City Councilman Chuck Beaty on the City Hall shootings ten years ago.

"He is a very intelligent man. You could carry on a lengthy conversation on a variety of things. Joe knew about history. He was articulate. He had no criminal record."

---Assistant District Attorney William Mitchell who prosecuted the case in 2000.

The Press Enterprise offered a look back at the City Council shootings in Riverside which took place 10 years ago.

On the morning of Oct. 6, 1998, city council members, city employees and Mayor Ron Loveridge gathered in the city council chambers for the weekly meetings of the council and the Redevelopment Agency. Several of them were eating food in the adjacent conference room before the meeting was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m.

But they weren't alone in the building.

Also there was former city employee, Joseph Neale who had attended many city council meetings, never speaking at the podium but sitting in the back of the room. If people arriving saw him there, they might not have given it much thought because he had been a fixture at the weekly meetings. While they were preparing for the meeting, Neale came in with a gun in the conference room and started shooting.

Councilman Chuck Beaty was shot in the face and neck three times by Neale while struggling with him for the gun. He has had many surgeries to repair the damage. Councilwoman Laura Pearson was seen on a surveillance video struggling with Neale for the gun and being pistol whipped until she fell on the floor when the case went to trial three years later. She was shot several times by police officers who were engaged in a shootout with Neale, which led to one of them, former Sgt. Wally Rice being shot in the abdomen and Neale with bullet wounds in his groin and both legs. A photograph in the Press Enterprise showed her being hauled out on a stretcher.

The police officers who came to City Hall and broke through the door weren't members of the SWAT team but showing how hastily the situation transpired and how quickly the police had to act, its members consisted of several employees from the nearest police facility which was the administration headquarters just blocks away. They included the Internal Affairs lieutenant and the department's public information officer who were both based there.

Mayor Ron Loveridge was shot by Neale, the bullet narrowly missing his spinal cord.

On that morning, I was actually on my way downtown to attend what would have been one of my first city council meetings. There was an item on the agenda dealing with a homeless shelter and programs for the homeless and at the time, I was the Social Action Committee co-chair of my church and that was one of the issues we focused on in Riverside and other nearby cities.

By the time I got there, there were crowds of people already congregating, whispering among themselves about what they were seeing and what they thought had happened. There were so many different stories going on through the crowd. Ambulances and lots of police officers crowded the area as news spread of what did take place.

The Press Enterprise did come out with a special afternoon edition that day, an action it repeated on 9-11.

The articles include this interactive which provides a chronology of the events based on the accounts provided by Loveridge and then Sgt. Chris Manning, an officer on the rescue team with SWAT experience.

On Oct. 7, 2008, the Riverside City Council will be holding its long anticipated public hearing on the controversial development of medical office buildings by developer and campaign contributor, Doug Jacobs on what was once one of the city's Chinatowns. However, it's likely the hearing is just a formality. The proposed project passed the muster of the Land Use Committee which includes Chair Rusty Bailey and council members Frank Schiavone and Chris MacArthur sided with Jacobs and it's likely that the rest of the city council and Loveridge will as well. Hopefully, there will be some discussion of the agenda item by the council members before they cast their votes. But you just never really know. What is known is that the meeting chambers is expected to be packed with supporters of the Chinatown effort.

Community leaders and members got together, attended meetings and held public forums on the issue of what will be the future of this historical landmark. When asked if they were considering filing a lawsuit, they seemed to say not at the moment, as they are involved in what they called "constructive engagement".

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The citizens group held a "Save Chinatown" forum last month that attracted about 45 people.

Group member Judy Lee said she feared that any excavation will become a rushed "salvage" operation.

The city has agreed to hire a third-party to peer review the excavation plan.

Forum attendee Luz Negron, chairwoman of the Multicultural Council of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, said she was concerned.

The city touts itself as the "City of Arts and Culture," she said. "We have to walk our talk."

Someone asked whether legal action was being considered. The citizens group has not reached a consensus.

Two of the group's leaders, Lu and Moses, said later that they recognize that some members want to take a more aggressive posture.

But they said they worry that if the group becomes too antagonistic, they risk losing the gains they've made. Their whole approach has been constructive engagement, Lu said.

"We've negotiated in good faith," he said, noting that late last week, the group got a commitment from the city that the building's name will recognize the site's history.

These folks have done an amazing job dealing with what is at best an uphill battle and the public hearing is but another chapter in that. Hopefully, they will also stay active in the city including its political makeup as there's another round of elections coming up next year.

Speaking of the city council, it appears that three plus two doesn't just equal five. That's how many names from the dais have apparently signed on to written statements endorsing City Manager Brad Hudson's directive to essentially shut down the commission's ability to timely investigate officer-involved deaths. Three city council members authored an opinion piece and two city officials apparently authored another written statement with very similar language to explain the rationale of its support to what one other city council member is quoted as saying here.

What this means that if you take all these alleged statements and their authors and add them up together, you have a majority of the current elected officials sitting on the dais discussing the issue of the Hudson directive amongst themselves to the point where they can co-author position statements on it. However, there's yet to be one single public meeting on the issue conducted by these elected officials.

In fact, one of them, Schiavone, said in the Press Enterprise that this wasn't necessary to do. If all of this intrigue is indeed taking place, then what these elected officials need to do is go back and reread this law.

And while they're on this site, they might as well check out this law too.

The turmoil with the San Bernardino Police Department continues with outgoing Chief Mike Billdt's decision to name a new captain under fire.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

City Council members approved the restructuring, which consolidates patrol areas and creates a fourth captain's position, in July. But on Sept. 2, council members tabled action on Billdt's nominee for the position, Lt. Brian Boom, after Councilwoman Wendy McCammack voiced concerns about Boom's leadership in his current assignment.

Boom supervises Sgt. Brad Lawrence, a narcotics squad supervisor accused by another sergeant in July of arresting suspects without probable cause. Lawrence was placed on administrative leave six weeks later, after unrelated allegations that he also supervised an improper narcotics search.

"I have some more information to gather before I make my decision," McCammack said. "I'm going to be sure, with all of the accusations that have been flying, to review high-level promotions much more carefully than I have in the past."

Boom could not be reached for comment.

Councilman Rikke Van Johnson said he's not prepared to endorse any new top-level managers.

"Since we've got all this upheaval in the Police Department, I wouldn't want to promote anyone until we get a new chief in there," Johnson said.

Perhaps the city can find itself a new police chief but can they get him or her to stay? That's the challenge.

Elections are coming back to Colton with three incumbents on the city council favored by the Press Enterprise Editorial Board. Given the election antics in Colton during the past year or so including a recall election for the mayor, there shouldn't be a dull moment in this autumn's round.

Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero is upset at a campaign mailer that implied he endorsed a particular candidate for city council.

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

"As chief of police, I endorse no political candidate," Romero said Friday.

"My position is that would give the appearance I am beholden to a political candidate," when his commitment is to the public trust, he said.

"The truth is that I endorse no one -- particularly that I don't endorse Elliott Rothman."

Rothman said he doesn't know who put out the mailer, but he did receive a copy of it. As he saw it, Romero's inclusion in the mailer isn't an endorsement.

"I didn't see it that way," Rothman said, adding that if Romero had any concern about the mailer he would have heard about it. "He didn't have anything to say about it."

Not surprisingly after the Metrolink disaster, attorneys are starting to swarm looking for potential plaintiffs. Lawyers in that field hang out where they believe the cases are, especially in cases of potentially wrongdoing. The state's bar association has already issued a warning.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

In the weeks since Metrolink Train 111 crashed head-on with a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, killing 25 and injuring at least 130 others, litigators have pursued clients so aggressively that the State Bar of California reminded lawyers of the professional sanctions they could face for initiating contact with accident victims.

"Any unsolicited contact with a potential client either in person or by telephone (and perhaps even by mail) by an attorney or someone acting on his or her behalf is both illegal and unethical," the bar's chief trial counsel, Scott J. Drexel, warned in a letter sent to area hospitals. "It is especially serious when the contact or solicitation takes place at the scene of the accident or at the hospital where the injured person has been taken for care and treatment."

The warning came as attorneys took out newspaper and TV advertisements, solicited on the Internet and even tracked down the injured at hospitals, all seeking a piece of what is likely to be hundreds of millions of dollars in damage awards for the victims and their loved ones.

An Atlanta Police Department officer was reindicted for sexual assault and violation of an oath. Similar charges that had been filed against him were dropped earlier this week.

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