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

Friday, August 29, 2008

City Council: The season premiere airs this week!

I've been receiving complaints about the deterioration of the internet service provided by Metro WiFi particularly the "free" service during the past month. People say they try to hook up to it and just get many error messages saying there's a failure to connect through Windows. I talked to several providers of wireless antennas and other relevant computer equipment who just shook their heads and said, Metro Wi Fi is a new development, totally unreliable, it's a scam (!) and hooking up to it is always going to be a dodgy situation. There are other very low-cost internet plans out there that provide reliable service and that can provide the user with a more secured connection so that your computer doesn't get hacked into by someone to get personal information which is always possible on any public network.

What's probably happening is that either the equipment erected all over the city (through the power provided to street lamps) isn't holding up very long without problems or the more likely explanation is that AT&T has set a finite number of people who can hook up at one time to maintain a certain standard so one way to think about it is that you're probably in a very long line along with other city residents until a slot opens up through its server. That was one expert opinion provided as a possible explanation that makes some sense and one way to test that hypothesis is to try to access the service at different times of the day. Is it impossible to access in the evenings but accessible at 2 a.m. in the morning. If this is the case, then you have your answer.

I used to actually have Metro Fi visitors come to my site but not anymore. It's not because there's no demand for it, it's because in order to visit any Web site including mine, you have to be able to hook up to the internet service. But if you have a wireless icon on the bottom of your computer, keep an eye on the Wi Fi signals for the paid and free service and what you'll notice within one half-hour is how much the signal fluctuates between "excellent" and "poor" and back again and how many times the signal falls off the list which is a sign of interference or instability of the broadcast. Part of the problem is also that it seems that you have to be practically right next to one of those light poles with the funny looking antennae on them to get a good signal is what people have been saying about the service.

It's not worth it folks because even with the free internet access, you get what you pay for and this is the cyberspace equivalent of having about 1,000 people share one bathroom. You have to wait in line to get access because there's a finite number of those who can hook up at one time to ensure that service for those lucky few doesn't deteriorate over time. Plus, if you have businesses signing up and hooking up 24/7, that's going to impact the quality of service as well. Frankly, it's scary to think that any businesses would actually pay to hook up with what sounds like such a flaky wireless setup.

And remember, offering this service to city residents is simply the providers, AT&T's way of getting paid subscribers to its service to outdo Charter Communication's performance in this area and if you remember, the Charter peeps were out in force to speak out against this MetroFi deal when it was going down.

The greatest show in town is back!

Yes, it's a brand new season of the Riverside City Council so you can say goodbye to the tiring reruns and look forward to exciting, action and dialogue-packed episodes of civic affairs in this city brought to you four weeks each month.

The agenda this week is fairly sanitized for a season opener. A push for eminent domain in one place and the receivership of someone's property (for over $100,000 in those pesky code enforcement fines) in another. In other words, a pretty normal weekly program to watch.

What would be incredibly awesome is if the city government opened up its flashy and pricey new restaurant during the meeting to serve snacks so we could really proper intermissions between the main events. How about a coffee bar or a hot dog stand?

Also included in the agenda is the announcement of this critical committee meeting. Yes, it's that elusive of time of year when the renowned king of committees, the Governmental Affairs Committee actually meets and this time it's going to be Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 3 p.m. at City Hall in the only facility that can properly house it, the Mayor's Ceremonial Room. Just check out the agenda and you'll see the double billing of exciting agenda items.

Up first, is this annual review of what passes for an ethical code and complaint process in this city. If there's any further way to dilute its effectiveness and water the process, there are at least two minds on the panel that have more than the ability to do this and a third one who so far on this committee seems to go with the crowd on other pressing agenda items at other meetings including the infamous and failed attempt to "reform" the city's election structure.

There will be further analysis of this agenda item before the meeting but there's an 11 page report on what the process this year will be. What's so appropriate is that the report was actually prepared by City Attorney Gregory Priamos who is the one who ultimately decides whether your complaint gets accepted (which happened once) or tossed out (which is the majority of the time) which is contrast to his role in the city council as its swing vote between the two current loosely formed alliances on the dais.

Just when you think that's too much excitement for one committee meeting, along comes the bottom half of the bill, this one which involves the annual review of who will receive funds from Charter Communication to provide public access programing. Now, the caveat here is that you have to actually have the money in your pockets that you're applying for because it's not exactly the grant it was intended to be but it simply reimburses money you already have spent. As far as gate keeping tactics go for public money by government officials, this actually is a shrewd one.

Which is why there are far fewer applicants for the monies this year than the last two years. Not that it matters because with one exception, all the truly community petitioners were denied by the city's recommendation process. Big surprise there given how discouraging the process was last year and given that in previous years the campaign managers of city council members had first and some say only dibs on the bulk of the available funding.

The really good news in all this drama is that the city's new snack bar will be open while this meeting is taking place so get your snacks and come on up.

The acquittal of former U.S. Marine sergeant and Riverside Police Department officer is sparking discussion over the interpretation of a federal law that allowed him to be charged as a civilian for alleged crimes committed in the military.

There's no word yet if the Riverside Police Department has rehired the former probational officer who did walk to the Orange Street Station from the federal court after a jury acquitted him to ask for his job back. I've received input from quite a few people asking me if this has happened, when it will happen and if so, will he be assigned to their neighborhoods including after a meeting held yesterday in the Eastside by the regional chapter of the National Association of Equal Justice for America. This civil rights organization is setting up a chapter in Riverside and is really interested in learning more about what's happening here including with the police department. The San Bernardino regional office is currently investigating the Rialto Police Department for among other things, discriminatory hiring and promotional practices.

They plan to be busy in Riverside.

At the end of the day, the Riverside Police Department is under no obligation to hire back a probational officer that it fired but it has the option to do so and if it does, it will because it believes Nazario is the kind of officer who fits right in with its mission statement, objectives and patterns and practices and that's the bottom line. If they do rehire him, they may or may not tell anyone about it. If he gets into trouble involving excessive force or lying or falsifying any reports, warrants or testimony, then the city's in trouble financially because of his statements about how doing this defined his experience at the police department that were reported on by one of the nation's largest and most circulated publications, the Wall Street Journal.

The whole process will definitely serve as a useful litmus test to know where the department's at in its continuing reform process through actions rather than just words.

Speaking of words, meetings will be taking place this week on the fate of community policing in Riverside as well as the future of officer-involved death investigations by the Community Police Review Commission. Alas, some of these meetings are being held at the same time.

The LAPD blog has a discussion going on about the incident involving one of its off-duty officers who shot and killed a motorist in Corona.

In response to a county grand jury report, the scandal-plagued San Bernardino County Assessor's office cutting its executive staff.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The results of the grand jury investigation were released June 30 and required a response from the assessor's office within 60 days. The report listed six recommendations that addressed several criticisms the probe had of the department.

Postmus, who created the executive support staff branch of the department when he took office as assessor in 2007, has been on 10-week medical leave since July.

Assessor's office spokesman Ted Lehrer said department officials "agree with the six recommendations and we look forward to implementing them."

Among other findings, the grand jury concluded assessor's executive staff used e-mail on the county computer for political activities during normal working hours. The panel also criticized the office for what it called a misuse of tuition reimbursements, said a severance package for a former assistant assessor was excessive and questioned the relevancy of a consultant's duties to the department's mission.

Besides cutting the executive support staff from nine to four positions, officials at the assessor's office pledged to act on a second recommendation and restore several "civil service protected" jobs that had been reclassified as "at will" political appointments.

According to the grand jury report, the shift to "at will" had possibly made the positions "vulnerable to political cronyism or undue influence from administrative political appointees."

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board is giving its thumbs up to Riverside County's decision it made involving the construction of the new District Attorney's building in downtown.

Still will this action hurt the downtown which is in the midst of the office space wars? If so oh well, states the Board.


The big drawback is that Riverside would lose the commercial benefit of a new downtown development. The Regency Tower project originally envisioned high-end office space and retail shops. Putting the DA in the building would exchange potentially tax-producing businesses with tax-consuming public operations -- not really the kind of economic boost the downtown needs.

Still, saving taxpayers millions of dollars makes the tradeoff acceptable, and the correct choice for Riverside County.

Press Enterprise columnist, Cassie MacDuff muses about Redlands' loss of its treasurer who plead guilty to criminal charges. Now the city has to find a replacement.


Anyone who is registered to vote in Redlands can run for treasurer. No accounting or investment background is required. There's no guarantee qualified candidates will run.

Making it an appointed position, as Mayor Pro Tem Pat Gilbreath suggested after Reynolds' arrest last October, would enable the city to set job requirements, recruit qualified applicants and select the best.

Reynolds retired Aug. 20 after 28 years as city treasurer. On Wednesday, he pled guilty to one of the three felonies with which he was charged after a $38,000 discrepancy was discovered in the petty cash fund.

Until the missing money came to light, everyone thought Reynolds was doing a bang-up job. But bookkeepers could never make the fund balance, and the discrepancies were swept under the rug for 13 years.

In Rialto, more police officers are on the streets

A potluck dinner was held between the tribal leaders of Soboba reservation and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department to try and mend fences between the two factions.

A baseball fan in San Francisco was killed by a police horse at the stadium. He was standing in the parking lot when the runaway horse collided with him.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Eugene Caldwell was struck by the horse about 6 p.m. Friday after stepping out of a chartered bus to attend the 49ers game. Caldwell flew through the air and struck his head on the pavement. He died at 1 a.m. Saturday at San Francisco General Hospital.

The horse had become agitated when a plastic trash bag flew into its face and lodged in its bridle, said San Francisco Police Sgt. Neville Gittens. The horse flung its head back just as a police officer reached for the bag, striking the officer's head and knocking them both to the ground.

The horse stood and raced through the parking lot, without its officer. It first struck and injured a 47-year-old man before hitting Caldwell. A fan captured the horse and held it for officers. Gittens said the department is investigating the incident and has not decided whether the horse, named Seattle, will remain a member of its 10-horse mounted unit, which has a history dating to 1874.

First day they used the horses. First fatality from a horse that its charges couldn't even control. A member of the public finally caught the loose horse but the city had better have deep pockets on this one but a life has been lost.

More fallout involving the state's SEIU.

Friend of the so called "bling bandit" who turned out to be a former New York City Police Department detective said his liver cancer is impacting his behavior.

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Four bank tellers identified the 33-year NYPD veteran and Vietnam War vet as the bejeweled "bling bandit" who wore an expensive watch and flashy rings when he demanded cash.

"I have a gun. I do not want to hurt anyone. No dye. No bait money. You have 10 seconds," Kelson's note warned teller Samantha Cherry in a July 10 heist of a Chase branch on Linden Blvd. in Queens.

The note - wise in the ways of bank heists - reflected Kelson's career with the NYPD, which included hunting bank robbers, time on the joint FBI-NYPD Terror task force and undercover work infiltrating the Black Panthers.

Kelson walked out of the bank with $600 - chump change for betraying his badge.

Friends said his battle with terminal liver cancer prompted this shocking twist in an otherwise impressive career.

"It is truly shocking," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Will Officer Jose Luis Nazaro be wearing blue again in Riverside?

If you haven't heard or read the news by now, former U.S. Marine sergeant and Riverside Police Department officer, Jose Luis Nazario, jr. was acquitted by a jury of manslaughter charges in federal court. Afterward, at least one juror was effusive in her emotional response to the case.

(excerpt, Associated Press)

It's been a long, hard year for my family," Nazario said outside the courtroom. "I need a moment to catch my breath and try to get my life back together."

Thursday's verdict marks the first time a civilian jury has determined whether the alleged actions of a former military service member in combat violated the law of war.

The jury forewoman, Ingrid Wicken, hugged Nazario's sobbing mother, Sandra Montanez, without speaking after the verdict was read. "I watched her all week. She was being tortured every day," Wicken said later.

"I thanked her, God blessed her," Montanez said. "I told her she gave me my son back. It was something I needed to say."

Wicken said the panel acquitted Nazario because there was not enough evidence against him.

"I think you don't know what goes on in combat until you are in combat," she said.

What's next for Nazario? His lawyer said getting his job back with the Riverside Police Department. One article placed him as walking to the Orange Street station to get his job back. The jury made the only decision it could have made considering the dearth of evidence presented in part due to the witnesses taking the 5th amendment. What exactly happened couldn't be proven within a reasonable doubt.

Now there's a next step.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Cheers erupted in the court from Nazario's family members and a small group of ex-Marines and off-duty Riverside police officers when the verdict was read. After the defendant was charged in the case, the Riverside Police Department fired him. His lawyer said he planned to petition the department for reinstatement.

What's interesting about that and troubling at the same time is that just last week, the Wall Street Journal, one of the nation's most circulated newspapers, published this article about the Nazario case.

Included in the article were statements allegedly made by Nazario while he was talking on the phone to Marine Sgt. Jermaine Nelson, a conversation taped by the Navy Criminal Investigation division. While talking with Nelson, Nazario shared some of his sentiments about working as a probational officer for the Riverside Police Department.


In a recent interview, Mr. Nazario said he went to Riverside to raise a family and "protect the people there," which was "a natural extension from my work in the Marines."

During his time in Riverside, Navy investigators arranged a surreptitiously taped phone call between Mr. Nelson and Mr. Nazario, during which Mr. Nazario described his work. Saying his job was much like the television show "Cops," he told Mr. Nelson that he regularly would "beat the s- out of" a criminal, finding "a reason to take him to jail" later, according to a transcript of the conversation.

So, is he basically saying that he regularly used excessive force on individuals and then came up with a legal justification to do so after the fact? If so, is that the truth and is that what the Riverside Police Department wants its officers to do while patrolling the city's streets? It's made great efforts to express to communities that this is definitely not what it wants.

Different people had different reactions to news that Nazario had tried to get his job back just minutes after his acquittal. Some people that would never happen because it was the Riverside Police Department. Others said it would because it was the Riverside Police Department. Even in the decade since the fatal officer-involved shooting of Tyisha Miller, the image that is perceived of the police department remains very polarized depending on who is sharing it. And in several months when people share their feelings about the department when the 10th anniversary of that shooting passes, these sentiments likely will define what people say. Possibly, this episode will cross their lips when evaluating where the department was in 1998 and where it is a decade later. after spending much of that time period undergoing reforms mandated by former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

When Nazario was asked about these statements about beatings and construing excuses to explain them in an interview by a reporter, he attributed what he said to two men "talking tough" about "untrue stories" but it's difficult to unring the bell. It's just as difficult to do that as it is to figure out which time he was truthful and which time he wasn't.

When a representative of the police department was asked to comment on the statements, he or she simply said that they were unable to talk about the personnel records of officers in the agency and that there were no other pending criminal charges filed against Nazario. The department didn't include in its issued statement that it was even looking into the alleged statements to determine whether there was any factual basis to them, meaning if Nazario actually did what he told Nelson he did while he was a police officer in Riverside and if so, who he did it to.

When it was asked by one reporter to respond to whether or not Nazario could be rehired, it declined to comment but this is an issue that it will have to eventually face in terms of deciding the fate of the officer it had fired and how an officer who made such statements fits into its fabric. But whether or not the police department looked into the allegations and into Nazario's past contacts with individuals during his year at the department, that might never be known outside of the department.

Many a law enforcement agency which prided itself on its improved accountability would be dismayed or even horrified to find out that one of the nation's largest newspapers was writing about a former officer talking about misconduct that he apparently said that he did while employed there according to the Wall Street Journal.

Hopefully, the department's silence on the manner doesn't mean that it's doing nothing. Hopefully, it's remembering how far it's come and what it took to get there and investigating what Nazario did during his nearly one year spent at the police department. Hopefully, it will evaluate what exactly Nazario did mean when he made those statements while evaluating whether or not to accept his lawyer's petition to readmit him into the police department's fold.

Will it rehire him and defend its decision to do so?

On one level, his acquittal of the manslaughter charges opens up that door to do so, but that decision can't be made separately from the comments that he made about his stint there. So would another argument be used to justify rehiring Nazario instead?

The rationale being, that the public doesn't understand what it means to be a police officer so it shouldn't have an opinion, yet by saying that, what that individual or individuals is really saying is that yes, we beat up people, yes we lie about it but don't judge us, because you don't walk in our shoes. Yet, if this stance is taken and it's one possible one to choose from, then perhaps the next step is to explain why if this is so there are administrators and investigators say that this isn't going on. Because it can't be defended by drawing the blue wall around it while at the same time saying it doesn't exist at all.

Will the department say to Nazario thanks but no thanks because we are very concerned about hiring or rehiring officers who make comments even in jest about using force against individuals that might be in violation of administrative policy and potentially illegal and lying in any context about that use whatsoever. There's no room for that in the Riverside Police Department today in August 2008 or so the public's been told time and time again.

The department would have to be the one to let him back in because being probational, Nazario was an "at will" employee meaning that he could be fired without cause. He also doesn't have the option of taking his firing to arbitration in an attempt to get reinstated that way. So if he's back in uniform by the end of the month or the year, it will be by invitation only by the department or the city.

But it's not very likely that it will even be up to the police department. More than likely several key players in the arena that's City Hall will make their views on the subject known and they will be looking at various factors including any civil liability or risk management issues associated or surrounding Nazario's return. They'll have to answer questions like what will happen if Nazario and the city get sued for excessive force allegations or even the use of lethal force? Will plaintiff attorneys use the statements made by Nazario in that phone conversation to up the dollars paid out in settlements or in trial verdicts? Will the city want to take that risk, given that it's currently in the midst of settling law suits filed for wrongful death and it's not even clear that the money being used to pay off any of these lawsuits is coming from outside the general fund?

The marriage between the police department and risk management seems to be a long-lasting one with a rich history.

At any rate, whether or not the police department or the city rehires or reinstates Nazario, its decision will certainly serve as commentary and as testimony to what its identity is now and what it will be in the future. If it rehires him without examining how he defined himself as an officer, then it will be telling communities what it expects out of its officers. And that will be beating the shit out of people and then lying about it to back it up. Its actions will speak louder than any words it could use to define itself as anything but an agency that advocates that kind of policing. And people who believe that this is how the department operates anyway will have some proof.

After nearly a decade from the day the shots were fired that were heard around the world, that would be a shame, a huge step backwards and not a very good legacy built on reform and rebuilding trust at that. But the decision it makes in this case will be one opportunity to see how much the department has changed and grown for the better or for the worse. At any rate, it's the department or the city that runs it which will make the decision and maybe it'll be forthcoming about it and maybe it won't, but this situation will provide a very useful litmus test of the department as it stands in 2008.

What's past doesn't necessarily have to be prologue but it may very well be.

Anatomy of the Jose Nazario case

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein dishes on the downtown office building wars including the proposed new headquarters for the Riverside County District Attorney's office.


Riverside's downtown mall is getting a redo (Ladies in heels: Beware the Personal Injury Pavers!) for $10 million.

But everything's relative. RivCo may spend $128 mill on a 10-story edifice for DA Rod Pacheco -- much less than the $216 million Rod Mahal that Pacheco pitched last year.

His new building will be taller than the county building (but he shudda held out for Morongo Pacheco) and topped by a dome (a Pacheco Chamber). Look for an IT floor (Injunction Technology); Backlog Bay, where felony cases will be properly aged; Misdemeanor Mezzanine (filings 24/7!); a mock Family Law court converted to try felonies; a penthouse telescope to make sure judges ride the bench on Fridays; and a 10-story outdoor Conviction Rate thermometer.

You think a $10 million mall job and a $128 million DA Dome are big boppers?

The former treasurer of Redlands admitted forging at least one record during his tenure. He was pleading guilty on corruption charges filed against him.

A police officer in San Diego charged with leaving his canine in his car on a hot day killing it entered a no contest plea.

He was ordered by the judge to pay restitution costs, do 100 hours of community service and spend three years on probation.

One of New York City's most revered veteran police officers also turned out to be so-called "bling bandit".

(excerpt, New York Daily News)

Several former colleagues were shocked this fearless lawman could take such a turn.

"Dear God, he was a hero cop! He was an amazing undercover. He worked the Joint Terror Task Force with the FBI. How this happened is incredible," a police source said. " ... Anyone who knows him, and sees the video, knows it's him."

Wearing dark shades and a baseball hat, Kelson, who drives a Porsche, walked into banks and wrote his demands on the backs of deposit slips. After patiently waiting in line, he handed the note to the teller, requesting the loot be stuffed in an envelope.

Twice, he flashed a semi-automatic handgun during his heists, police said.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Clear Mandate: The CPRC and Martin Gaspar Pablo

*****Former Marine sergeant and Riverside Police Department officer, Jose Luis Nazario, jr. acquitted*****

""It's something I wouldn't forget. That face, the dread," he testified. "... That's the face I saw on both of these men."

"I would deem it the worst day in my life."

----Former Marine Cory Carlisle testified in federal court about seeing two detainees after the others were killed.

"He basically said he doesn't want to do this all by himself and if anybody wants to take care of the other two. I said, 'I'll do it.' "

---Former Marine James Prentice testifying in federal court. Soon after, Carlisle or Weemer escorted him out of the residence as two more shots were heard being fired.

Probe the death of Martin Gaspar Pablo.

So urges ACLU attorney, Peter Bibring who wrote an opinion article for the Press Enterprise which was published this week. Bibring, who specializes in police practices, also spoke in front of the Community Police Review Commission at a special meeting held on Sept. 13 on his interpretation of City Charter Section 810(d) and the role that the CPRC played in investigating and reviewing officer-involved deaths. After hearing his opinion and asking him questions, the commission voted 5 to 3 to initiate an investigation into the death of Martin Gaspar Pablo, 38, which occurred over a month ago on July 11.

Bibring expands further in his opinion piece while sharing the same points that he had made at the meeting in front of an audience which packed a City Hall conference room drawn by the chain of events which took place in the month after Pablo died.


A full month after Pablo's death, the commission rightly defied the city attorney and its own executive director by voting 5-3 to launch a preliminary investigation. But there may yet be pressure on the commissioners to abandon their inquiry.

They should not.

In fact, the commission's involvement in the Pablo case should not even be controversial. According to The Press-Enterprise and the Riverside Police Department's own press release, police officers responded to a call about a man banging on the back door of a residence. Upon arriving, they discovered Pablo, who appeared to be disoriented, and handcuffed and detained him before determining that he was in medical distress.

The officers called an ambulance, but Pablo died at Riverside Community Hospital barely 90 minutes after police first made contact.

Clear Mandate

This is a clear-cut example of a case that needs commission review. Riverside's city charter requires the commission to investigate any death "arising out of or in connection with" the actions of a police officer, whether or not a complaint has been filed. That's a broad mandate to look into any death connected to the police. The charter doesn't limit investigations to deaths that suggest police misconduct.

When police arrived, they treated Pablo as a criminal suspect and detained him, but by the end of the encounter, he was in medical distress that ultimately resulted in his death. Those facts alone make his death sufficiently "connected with" police to trigger an investigation under the charter. But in addition, a large body of medical research shows that police use of restraints and certain kinds of force on people in agitated states can contribute to cardiac arrest and death.

Nevertheless, several local officials have urged the commission not to investigate, for a variety of reasons. And the city attorney went so far as to say that commission members could be prosecuted for investigating the Pablo incident -- an opinion that can only be based on a untenable reading of the city charter.

Some commissioners have said they don't need to investigate because it doesn't sound like the police caused Pablo's death -- at least not according to the Police Department's press release. Others have contended that they would like to hear what the department can tell them about the Pablo incident before deciding on a course of action.

All of this amounts to rationalizations that would shrink the power of the commission to a shadow of what's required by the city charter and what's needed for meaningful civilian oversight.

It will be interesting to see what City Attorney Gregory Priamos' response is to the ACLU's challenge of his own interpretation of the provision in the city charter that he authored, but did so in the vein mandated to him by the legislative body which employs him. There will no doubt be a response from that office, most likely in opposition. But will Priamos charge the five individuals who voted to investigate with violating the city charter to the tune of a misdemeanor? That remains to be seen as does the outcome of any investigation conducted by the CPRC of Pablo's death.

At least one commissioner said that she had saved $1,000 in her bank account to pay any fine that may be issued out in response to the vote taken on Aug. 13 just in case.

One eyewitness to the fatal shooting of a motorist by an off-duty police officer later identified as Antonio Mendez, 27, provided his account of what took place.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Joe Varela, a salesman at the Seven Oaks Nursery, watched the incident unfold.

"A truck came into the parking lot at a high rate of speed with screeching tires, and I started to walk over there to tell him to slow down," Varela said.

But then the Hummer pulled into the parking lot and a man jumped out with a gun, Varela said.

"I didn't know he was a cop," Varela added. "(Mendez) kept telling him to get down on the ground two or three times, but he wouldn't listen. He just kept walking forward aggressively like he wanted to fight."

As the driver of the truck closed the distance, Mendez shot him in the chest at close range, Varela said.

"I didn't hear him identify himself and I didn't see his badge at all," Varela said. "At the time, he just seemed like some guy to me, but given the warnings, I don't know why the other guy didn't get down on the ground. It was obvious that the next thing that was going to happen was that he was going to get shot."

Other people at the scene reacted as well.


"I don't care who you are, you call 911 in that situation," said Wayne Southworth, a salesman at the nursery. "You don't chase someone down the freeway, pull a gun on him, tell him to get down on the ground and shoot him. He was a trained policeman -- he didn't need to shoot him."

"Everybody in the neighborhood is so upset. It's so sad and so wrong," said Rose Darrah, who lives in a mobile home park across from the shooting.

"He had a baby in the backseat. Who would drive like that with a baby in the car? And then to pull out a gun in the parking lot in front of everyone -- it's shocking to see that kind of thing in your neighborhood especially from a police officer," Darrah said.

The wife of Robert Scott Day who was the motorist spoke out against the killing of her husband.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Jennifer Day said she, too, is trying to find out what she can about her husband's killing and what led up to it. Day concedes her husband had a criminal past, including convictions in Orange County for burglary and robbery, but those problems were history. He worked as a carpenter and was a good father, she said.

"He changed his life a lot from when he was running wild," she said.

The couple was estranged, she said, but they were trying to work things out.

"I don't know what was going through my husband's mind," said Day, who is living in Napa. "But that didn't mean he had to die.

Day tearfully remembered marrying her husband in January -- they both wore jeans to the City Hall wedding -- and the birth of the couple's 10-month- old daughter, Haley.

"What am I going to tell her?" Day asked.

The criminal history may have bearing in this case, depending in part on how old it was but my first reaction to this incident wasn't that it was how a law enforcement officer would act but actually the opposite. It didn't seem how a professional law enforcement officer would respond at all. Speeding down a highway "recklessly" (according to at least one 911 phone call to the CHP) with a young child in the back seat. Given that law enforcement officers are trained to minimize the danger and maximize the safety of those around them, did this officer do that?

Did this officer call for backup or call 911 himself for assistance? Did the individual he was pursuing have any reasonable expectation of knowing a law enforcement officer in a hummer was pursuing him and not someone with road rage in a hummer? As one identified law enforcement officer said as a comment to one of the articles, not having lights and a siren greatly complicates the situation for a pursuit and being from the Los Angeles Police Department, Mendez should have been mindful of that complication and danger given that this agency has discussed, debated and revised its vehicle pursuit policy more extensively than any other agency in Southern California.

There are numerous discussion threads in connection with the articles and what's been posted on Belo Blog. Most recently this one. It's rare to read an article or blog entry in the Press Enterprise that's received such a response so this incident has clearly struck a chord with different groups of people.

What is a bit strange is that the discussions begin with whether or not individuals agree or disagree with the actions taken by Los Angeles Police Department Officer Antonio Mendez and then take off in a direction where individuals start talking about the Riverside Police Department which has no part in the incident which took place in Corona nor were any of its employees involved in the incident or the investigation. Perhaps it's because a large proportion of readers live or work in Riverside and are thus more likely to interface with Riverside's police officers than those in other agencies. But there's very little mention of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department which is doing the investigation, the CHP which is investigating the alleged hit and run incident and the LAPD which employs Mendez. Nor the Corona Police Department for that matter.

One visitor called "The Truth" tries to set everyone straight on Riverside's police department and raises some interesting issues in his or her comments.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

"Everyone is jumping on law enforcement. A lot of officers are in jail. You just don't hear about it. They are placed in protective custody for obvious reasons, just as rapists, because the general population has a problem with following laws, hence why they are in jail. Everyone acts like this idiot who got killed was some sort of saint? Why in the hell are you hitting people on the freeway and running? Let me guess, no license, no insurance and/or a warrant?

The people who have problems with law enforcement are usually dumb kids (I'm sorry, "young adults") or criminals. Usually drug addicts. But they can't figure out why law enforcement has a problem with them. I also love how everyone is an expert in law enforcement. Never been trained, only hear stuff from the media, yet they can complete this lengthy investigation in 30 seconds with the limited facts. It doesn't matter. If the suspect advanced in a matter that could of caused harm to the officer or his child, he should of shot and killed him. Also, everyone with a problem with law enforcement.

Do me a favor.

Next time something happens, DO NOT call for any sort of law enforcement. Since you know everything and do not like cops. I'm sure you can handle the armed illegal immigrant with a gun to your family members head. Right? If you can complete the investigation in 30 seconds, you can defuse a hostage situation even quicker, due to all your media training. A little bit of news and some COPs? Sounds about right. One last thing.

The person with "RPD harassing a family memeber", your full of it. Whats your family member been in for? Weapons charges, gang charges and also drug charges? They one of those know it all pot head "young people", who think they got it all figured out? They dress like one of these idiot kids dressed in all black, looking like a complete idiot? I know it falls into one of the above. So lets let the professionals handle the investigation instead of all you amature investigators."

"Whatever" responds to the above comments.


Hey "The Truth" - I read your little comment about the RPD and I am a witness to the RPD harassing people for no reason. A few family members in our household have been pulled over for no reason. My husband and my 2 bros give or take at least twice a month have been pulled over and let they're not gang bangers, no they don't dress in black, no they're not drug heads or drug dealers. My husband and brothers are 3 hardworking men, pretty built, and none of them have a record. So what's the problem? Ask the racist time my husband was on his way home from work a little after 11pm, stopped at the credit union on Magnolia/Tyler to get some money for a late food run b4 coming home, and who flashes their lights on him?? Riverside PD...straight asked him what's his purpose at the ATM?? Then tried to make some bogus excuse for their reason of pulling up on him. I can go on for days about RPD, but then this will turn into a novel.

Yes we've filed complaint after complaint against RPD and of course we never hear any response back, just the usual..."we're looking into" letter they always send out.

So uh to "The Truth" RPD do harass people for no reason, and there are those in the field who abuse their authority, my family can testify to it.

So does "S".


Ive been beat up personally by a group of 5 on duty rpd's. Im white, I wear nice clothes, no record. I laughed at a cop and guess what... he brought his other cops back and showed me how tough they were. nice. Ive been pulled over 4 times for meeting a discription only to sit there with a gun pulled on me listenin to a cop act like Im an idiot hopin his finger doesnt slip. Im 30. I guess thats a "punk kid" or young adult to these cops that look 15. I'm sure you've been trained to aim a weapon... whats the problem with shooting someone in the leg? High speed chase with a kid? sounds logical.

If that was me I'd be in jail for murder and child protective services would be all over me. Investigations? ha! It's funny how all these street cops act like they know somethin. Did you learn all the laws while you were in your 2 week police acadamy law school takin your bar exams? You act like cops are always there to save the day. You do realize that you show up after an incident and assess and assist right? I sure dont believe me calling you will help my chances of protecting myself while someones robbing me at gunpoint. I feel safer on my own without some nerd from high school actin like he "deserves" respect.

And then there's "Justice".

I agree with the majority of folks on this blog. There is no reason for this shooting. I live in Riverside County and am neighbor to many police officers from departments all across Southern California. I can tell you that the majority do act like the laws do not apply to them.

I am definitely in favor of more psychological testing and screening. If you are not on duty, you should be treated like an ordinary citizen. I agree with Trisha - Lawman you have a twisted view of law enforcement. Living among police officers, I can attest that the best thing to do is avoid them and stay away.

I find they are hypocritical in their private lives as well. I have only ran into one good officer/person out of the 10+ that live in my neighborhood. I see them speeding in their personal cars around the neighborhood, side swiping us while on their police issued motorcycles, bad mouthing other neighbors, spying, etc. And for the record, I have never had a run in with the law, I'm just a typical white collar professional who fate has been to have them as neighbors.

Still, there was also discussion that focused on the incident involving Mendez that was also apparent. One individual who was talking about the Corona shooting said that his friend was at the scene.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

Actually, the cop did tell the man he was a cop, before he even had his gun out... I know this becuase my friend was at the scene....He said the officer had told him that he was a cop, and that the guy was acting crazy and angry, and that he was told to stay where he was, not get closer, but he lunged at the cop....

A man was arrested for allegedly trying to slash the tire of a Riverside Police Department squad car in the parking lot of the Magnolia Police Station.

More reports of the testimony by former Marines who served in the squad of their former sergeant, Jose Luis Nazario, jr. who is facing manslaughter charges in federal court in connection with the shooting deaths of Iraqi detainees in Fallujah in 2004. Nazario, a former Riverside Police Department officer was charged last year after an investigation was initiated by the Navy Criminal Investigation division when they found out that another Marine sergeant, Ryan Weemer discussed the incident while being given a polygraph test for a job in the Secret Service.

One of those testifying was James Prentice who was assigned to Nazario's squad.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Prentice said he heard Nazario call someone on his radio and explain that they had found four "military-aged males" and two AK-47s and asked what to do.

He said he saw Ryan Weemer, the fire team leader, take an older man wearing a white turban and traditional Arabic clothing into the kitchen. They heard a gunshot and saw Weemer walk out.

Weemer, now a sergeant, and Sgt. Jermaine Nelson have been charged with murder and dereliction of duty in military court. Both have refused to testify in this case and face criminal contempt charges. A Naval Criminal Investigative Services investigation of the killings began after Weemer mentioned the incident during an interview for a job with the Secret Service.

Prentice testified that Nazario took one man into a different room, and he heard one gunshot. Then Nazario returned.

"He basically said he doesn't want to do this all by himself and if anybody wants to take care of the other two," Prentice said.

"I said, 'I'll do it.' "

He didn't. Cory Carlisle had testified that he had talked to Prentice who was upset because one of his friends had been killed earlier that day, to find an "exit" for him out of the residence. As they left, they heard two more gunshots signaling the deaths of the two remaining detainees.

As this trial is taking place, another incident involving the killing of four other detainees came to light. The men were blindfolded, handcuffed and then shot in the head on the banks of a canal.

(excerpt, Reuters)

According to Leahy's statement, cited by the NYT, Army officials directed Hatley's convoy to release the men because there was insufficient evidence to detain them.

"First Sergeant Hatley then made the call to take the detainees to a canal and kill them," as retribution for the deaths of two soldiers from the unit, Leahy said in his statement.

"So the patrol went to the canal, and First Sergeant, Sgt. First Class Mayo and I took the detainees out of the back of the Bradley (fighting vehicle), lined them up and shot them," he added, according to The Times. "Then we pushed the bodies into the canal and left."

Also presented to the jury in the trial in Riverside was a tape recorded conversation that Nazario had with Marine Sgt. Jermaine Nelson who is facing court martial in connection with the shootings.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

As their final piece of evidence, prosecutors played the recording of a phone call between Nazario and Sgt. Jermaine Nelson, one of two Marines in Nazario's squad facing charges at Camp Pendleton.

During the call, recorded at the request of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Nelson sought to get Nazario to incriminate himself.

On the tape, Nelson, using a derogatory word for the Iraqis, asked Nazario who gave the order to kill the prisoners. Nazario replied, "I did."

He then told Nelson they had no time to process the Iraqis as prisoners because "we were moving."

"What we did wasn't illegal. . . ," Nazario said. "You can't play Monday-morning quarterback."

The conversation took place Jan. 8, 2007, as military and civilian investigators were probing the deaths. By then, Nazario had left the Marines and was a probationary Riverside police officer.

In the trial of Nazario not long after the prosecutor rested his case, it was handed off to the jurors to deliberate over Nazario's fate. With two of the alleged participants in the killings opting to not testify and Nazario not taking the witness stand, the trial wound up being fairly short.

The defense had rested without calling a single witness. It will find out soon enough whether that was enough.

Before the jury began deliberating, both attorneys gave their closing statements.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

Nazario disregarded his duty and "committed an act that was criminal'' -- even on the battlefield, a federal prosecutor told a Riverside jury today.

``If you find the defendant did not abide by the rules, no matter how he might have fought or how many days he spent in the military, if he violated the `law of war' that day, you have a duty to find him guilty,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Behnke told the civilian panel.

``The government believes the evidence fully establishes that these ... persons had given up and surrendered,'' Behnke said in his closing statement.

Acquittal or conviction, will the trial verdict establish a precedent?

Menifee is trying to figure out how it's going to work its contract out with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The goal is to hold steady or increase the current level of police services, Councilman John Denver said.

Denver and Councilman Scott Mann sat down last week with law enforcement officials, including Capt. James McElvain, who oversees patrol of the Menifee area, and looked at the service packages the Sheriff's Department offers. The Menifee City Council will negotiate the contract, including services and costs, in coming weeks.

One change that probably will take effect with the new contract is that patrol cars assigned to the area will be emblazoned with "Menifee" on their sides.

Keeping the present number of police would cost the city about $7.5 million a year, which is close to the public-safety cost estimate set in the fiscal analysis that paved the way for cityhood, Denver said. However, more police services may be in order because the city's population of about 68,000 exceeds the 60,000 estimate used in the fiscal study.

McElvain said the biggest crime issues facing Menifee are property theft and vehicles being broken into and stolen. He added that vandals prey on homes left vacant because of foreclosure. To date, McElvain said, the overall crime rate in 2008 for the Menifee area is down 21.5 percent from the previous year.

"Some people might say we need more services. A city might be wealthy enough to buy and buy and buy. But there is a leveling point when no matter how much more service you purchase, you start to see diminishing returns," he said.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board has some advice for individuals running for political office when it comes to receiving campaign donations


Politicians always say contributions do not influence their votes, but voters have a hard time believing all those donors are mere altruists. Why would special interests spend so much on politics if the money did not further their goals somehow?

The state could revise the law to put elected officials under the same constraints as appointed officials, who cannot receive such contributions for a year before or three months after a vote. But that change would mainly disguise any link between donation and vote by obscuring the timeline, without severing the connection.

So voters' best course is to follow the money trail and judge for themselves whether their city council is up for sale.

Scrupulous city officials will refrain from taking donations from people with matters before the city. The rest can explain to voters why that ethical high road is just too hard to navigate.

A very salient point of view on a controversial issue, but will its advice be taken? Election 2009 provides in Riverside a tremendous opportunity to sit up close and watch to see if the local politicians do take that advice seriously.

The Riverside County Superior Court is falling behind again in hearing cases.

Menifee has picked out its brand new city hall.

Redlands former treasurer has accepted a plea bargain in the case of the missing money.

A retired Pasadena Police Department officer was arrested on suspicion of committing a bank robbery but is he linked to the crimes of the "polite bandit"?

The new Police Assessment Resources Center's newsletter is out!

Some of the articles include progress reports from court mandated reform efforts in Washington, D.C, Cincinnati and Oakland. Also further information on the implementation of civilian oversight in New Orleans, Atlanta and Providence, Rhode Island.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Officer-involved shootings here and there

"They were unarmed,"

---Former Lance Corporal Cory Carlisle in response to Asst. U.S. Attorney Jerry Behnke's question about why he didn't shoot the Iraqi detainees during an alleged incident in Fallujah when he was asked to do so.

Another day, another off-duty shooting by a Los Angeles Police Department officer. This shooting took place in Corona after the officer shot and killed a motorist he pursued into a parking lot.

(excerpt, Associated Press)

The man, who was driving a Toyota Tundra, sideswiped the officer, who was driving an H2 Hummer, Franchville said. A 1-year-old child was in the officer's car, Franchville said, but he declined to identify the child.

The officer chased the man at speeds of up 100 mph on northbound I-15 until the truck exited at Weirick Road and stopped in the parking lot of a convenience store in the 20400 south Temescal Canyon Road, Franchville said.

Franchville said no weapon was found other than the officer's gun. The officer and a passenger in the Tundra were detained, he said. Police declined to identify the officer, the dead man or the truck passenger. The officer, who was not under arrest, was technically free to leave, Franchville said.

The officer shot the man from 15 to 30 feet away. Franchville said.

There are already a lot of readers' comments on this breaking story. The majority of those written so far are asking why the officer didn't respond to the crime by calling in the license plate and the description of the vehicle to the police department with jurisdiction instead of taking off at 100 mph on a pursuit with a baby in the car. And did the motorist who the officer pursued realize that he was being pursued by a police officer in a hummer or did he think that he was being pursued by someone in a hummer with a bad case of road rage? Might he not think that if he doesn't drive fast enough to escape, the other driver could ram him off the road, pull a gun out and shoot him or commit other violence? If the guy was scared of the man in the hummer, his fear was well placed because he was ultimately shot and killed by someone he may or may not have ever known was a police officer.

As to whether the officer contacted any other law enforcement agencies for backup while this incident was unfolding, that information has not been released at this time. It would be assumed he did, because a well-trained and clear thinking police officer would realize that engaging in a vehicle pursuit by himself is not a good or safe situation.

What makes it appear that this officer had put aside his judgment and run off on his emotions was the fact that he took such potentially reckless actions with a young child in the car and chased a man in a car at high speed who could have fleeing what he thought was an irate motorist potentially armed who was out to harm him not arrest and detain him. As a police officer, he would have known that vehicle pursuits are one of the most dangerous aspects of his job, given that the number one or two cause of death for police officers annually are vehicle accidents. As an LAPD officer, he should have been especially aware given how much discussion, debate and revision went into that department's vehicle pursuit policy in recent years. As a father who was a police officer, he would not have put his own child at the bottom of his list of priorities. Police officers don't have a tendency to put children in a dangerous situation when they are thinking about how to handle a situation that arises. They take actions to ensure the safety of those in their vicinity when they do act rather than react.

When they are simply reacting to something that happens based on emotions, that might not be the case. It's not even clear how much the fact that this man was a police officer had to do with his response in this situation and whether or not it was the determining factor for his response in the situation.

However, another version of the incident stated that the collision occurred, the two sides were exchanging information and then the man tried to steal the officer's child out of the car before the officer shot him. One would think if that were the case then the shooting must have taken place at closer than the 15-20 foot distance cited.

The Los Angeles Times which initially had been one of the media outlets to state that the man had tried to abduct the officer's child backpeddled a bit in later versions of the story saying that the officer shot the man while they exchanged information after a traffic collision and that there was no evidence of an abduction attempt.

Yet another version provided by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department didn't mention a high-speed pursuit at all but said that the collision occurred, the two cars pulled into a parking lot and then the man "aggressively approached" the officer before the officer shot and killed him.

An even later version identified the officer and provided some information that matched earlier versions and some that conflicted.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

According to investigators, Mendez was driving along Interstate 15 on Monday afternoon in a white H2 Hummer with his 13-month-old son in the backseat when he was sideswiped by a Toyota Tundra. A witness to the accident called the California Highway Patrol and reported that the two vehicles continued down the freeway at about 100 mph, said Riverside County Sheriff's Investigator Jerry Franchville.

The two vehicles continued northbound on the I-15 and exited the freeway at Weirick Road, said Franchville. They parked at a convenience store and the motorists exchanged words, added Franchville.

The 50-year-old driver of the Tundra advanced toward the officer, who then shot the man once in the chest, Franchville said. The man did not have a weapon, Franchville said.

The man was transported to Corona Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead. As of Tuesday afternoon, investigators had not released the man's identity because his family had not been identified.

Officials are continuing to interview witnesses to determine whether Mendez identified himself as a police officer and whether the other man threatened him before the shooting. The incident took place just before 4 p.m. There were several witnesses, including a passenger in the Toyota Tundra, said Franchville.

Hopefully, the investigators will get the facts all sorted out or at least help the officer come up with a good and solid account of the events which took place. In the meantime, the investigators say they are looking for more witnesses to what they are now calling an "altercation". So if you are a witness, you're supposed to contact the Riverside County Sheriff's Department to provide your account of events. If your version agrees with that provided by the police officer or officers including the one or ones who did the shooting, then everything's cool and you can be anyone at all from any background. As long as you agree with what the officers said happened. In fact if you agree, your accounts will be recounted in the media by department representatives as factual accounts of the incident which took place. What's interesting about this is that often later it turns out that the witnesses didn't agree in their accounts of an incident but provided conflicting accounts. Only those who agreed with the department's version weren't rendered invisible by that department when responding to the media.

After all, it's very rare when investigators say the witnesses disagreed with the officers' versions of events, in part because there might not be any disagreement but this also applies in cases where there is considerable differences in the accounts.

If your story conflicts with the account provided by the police officer, you'll find yourself in a similar situation as would a rape victim in that you have to be a model person in all ways and even that might not be enough if you're telling the truth. You can't be poor, you can't be homeless, you can't live in a high-crime area or be Black or Latino and lord forbid, you can't reside in a motel in Riverside. If you fall in any of these categories and an investigator for an officer-involved shooting comes up to you for your account, you're just as much a viable witness in that investigation if you tell the investigator, thanks but no thanks and tell them to talk to that nicely dressed White business man on the corner instead.

Police officers might and have said that people aren't in a position to judge their actions if they aren't them, meaning that only officers can judge other officers. Yet, in situations where that happens certainly in the cases more out in the open, the officers doing the judging or what may be called "tattling" or "snitching", are often punished through ostracism, harassment or worse. If the culture truly allowed officers to report misconduct in their ranks, this type of behavior wouldn't happen and if it did, those engaging in it would themselves be shunned. But who indeed is shunned? The officers committing the misconduct or those who tell on them?

In some cases all of us outside the profession's blue wall get to watch how these individuals are treated by their colleagues when they break the code of silence. And after that, we get to pay out through tax dollars in settlements and verdicts in civil litigation tied to this form of whistle blowing because most of the time, it's very expensive.

And often times, it's the internal mechanisms which are supposed to investigate the allegations of misconduct shared by whistle blowers who are dispatched to reopen old cases of complaints against those who report.

As for criminal charges being filed against this officer even if it was "road rage", don't count on it. The Riverside County District Attorney's office in the vast majority of officer-involved shootings gives the officer the benefit of the doubt. If you're a law enforcement officer and you shoot someone even if it's out of rage, you couldn't pick a better county than this one which has only seen one "road rage" shooting case involving an investigator in the District Attorney's office prosecuted, in that case by the state attorney general's office. The only reason there was an indictment in the case of that investigator, Daniel Riter was because the decision whether or not to prosecute charges was made by a grand jury.

Testimony continued in the federal trial of former U.S. Marine sergeant and Riverside Police Department officer Jose Luis Nazario, jr. who faces manslaughter charges in relation to the killings of Iraqi detainees in Fallujah in 2004. The other two Marine sergeants, Jermaine Nelson and Ryan Weemer have refused to testify in this case but other squad members have been called to the stand to provide eye witness accounts.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

Carlisle went on to say he recalled that as the worst day of his life because of the shootings in the house and the death of his squad member earlier that day after the squad entered the city.

Nazario, a former Riverside Police officer, is accused of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of the four detainees. Nazario is the first veteran to be tried in civilian court for his actions in the service. He is being tried in civilian court because he left the service before being charged.

Fellow squad member James Prentice took the stand afterward, testifying that when he went in the house, he saw the four men on the floor with their hands raised.

Prentice said that after Sgt. Ryan Weemer took one detainee in the kitchen, he heard a gunshot. He saw Nazario take another detainee in another room and heard a gunshot. As he left the house, he heard two more gunshots, Prentice testified.

The testimony by these two men linked Nazario to the men who were killed.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Carlisle, 26, who is now a college student in Salt Lake City, told jurors that he was part of the squad that entered the house and came upon four unarmed Iraqi men. He said the Marines captured the men, and he and others went on to search the house.

During the search, he said, he overheard Nazario asking another Marine to help him kill the Iraqis. He said he heard the other Marine refuse to do so.

Carlisle said he then came upon the Marine with whom Nazario had been talking -- Lance Cpl. James Prentice. Prentice, he said, had already been shaken by the death of a friend a few hours earlier.

"I tried to calm Prentice down. I told him, 'We don't want to be part of this,' " Carlisle said of what was going on in the house. "I tried to find us an exit."

Not long after, as he continued to search the house, he said, he heard a shot fired and found Sgt. Ryan Weemer standing with his 9-millimeter handgun in his hand over one of the Iraqi men, who was dead.

Soon after, he heard a second shot and found Nazario, holding his M-16, standing over another dead Iraqi prisoner. The dead man was lying on his back, shot in the head. The two remaining Iraqi prisoners stood terrified nearby, Carlisle testified.

"It's something I won't forget, the dread on their faces," he said. "That's the face I saw on both men -- dread."

At that point, Carlisle told jurors, he wanted out of the house. As he left, he said, he heard two more gunshots -- presumably signaling the last two prisoners had been shot.

Squad member, Samuel Severtsgaard encountered Carlisle and the man's demeanor was of such that he went into the residence where he found the four bodies of the men who had been shot to death. He came back and found Carlisle but all he would say was, "It wasn't me".

The testimony reported seems very disturbing and along with the comments that Nazario allegedly made about his days with the Riverside Police Department where excessive force and lying about it were the norm of his actions, it makes one wonder how he got to the police department in the first place.

Moreno Valley is set to continue with the use of Eminent Domain to gain easements for a numger of properties during a renovation of Day Street.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"Negotiations have not been successfully completed with all of the property owners, and it is therefore necessary to proceed with eminent domain to acquire the easements necessary for the project to allow the work to commence on or about December 2008," Senior Real Property Agent Monica Adamee wrote in a report to council.

The owners of the nine properties include individuals, a family trust, a loan company and a bank.

Joe Teague, one of the individual property owners, said he has reached an agreement with city officials for use of his property, but he declined to say how much he would receive in compensation. The biggest sticking point was that city officials had wanted to put a culvert through his property, he said.

"I would have fought that tooth and nail," Teague said by phone. "I want to develop that lot."

A Lake Elsinore man running for an elected position this autumn found his vehicle on fire.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

On Saturday night, Richard Knapp, a candidate for the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District board, was at his home in Lake Elsinore when someone burned his minivan parked outside.

"It's obvious that it was a torch job," Knapp said.

It's the second arson this month impacting Knapp and his vehicles.

More on the decision of a San Bernardino County supervisor to give the job to head his staff to a former colleague of county assessor, Bill Postmus. Never a dull moment in San Bernardino politics.

Upcoming Meetings:

Governmental Affairs Committee meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 3, at 3 p.m. in the Mayor's Ceremonial Room at City Hall. According to advertisements run by the city, this is the date that this committee is supposed to do its annual discussion and evaluation of the city's ethics code and complaint system. Any recommendations for action would go back before the city council at its Sept. 16 meeting. If there are any ways to further nullify the complaint process, this committee will find a way to do so.

Councilman Andrew Melendrez's meeting of the Eastside Forum will be held on Thursday, Sept. 4 at 5:30 p.m at the Caesar Chavez Community Center. The topic is "Decentralizing Community Policing" and the presenter will be Lt. Larry Gonzalez who is the East Neighborhood Policing Center commander.

The latest ad-hoc committee with the Community Police Review Commission will be meeting on Thursday, Sept. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall to further discuss creating policies and procedures for the investigation of officer-involved deaths by the commission.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Martin Gaspar Pablo: The tug of war continues?

"We couldn't even get an address. That's insane. That's absolutely ridiculous."

---Riverside Community Police Review Commission member John Brandriff about the police department's apparent refusal to provide the address where the Martin Gaspar Pablo incident took place to the CPRC's investigator.

"If they were interested in doing things half-way right, they would have no problem with us investigating the Pablo case."

---CPRC commissioner, Jim Ward in response to problems with getting information from the department on the Pablo incident

"But I was thinking of a way To multiply by ten, And always, in the answer, get The question back again."

---Lewis Carroll

It's been over a month since the July 11 death of Martin Gaspar Pablo, 38 which took place at Riverside Community Hospital within two hours after police officers handcuffed and detained him on a burglary call. It's been almost two weeks since the commission voted 5 to 3 in favor of initiating an investigation into Pablo's death even after City Attorney Gregory Priamos had warned them that if they investigated without the city's approval, they would be in violation of the city's charter provision governing the commission's investigation of incustody deaths.

Investigator Ray Martinelli was dispatched to do his investigation and according to Commissioner John Brandriff, wasn't even able to get the address where the incident allegedly took place from the Riverside Police Department. The obvious solution to that obstacle placed in the commission's path is for the investigator to perform a canvass of the neighborhood which apparently he did and finally received the proper address.

But then the police department has yet to do a briefing in front of the commission on the Pablo incident even though the commission voted 5 to 3 nearly two weeks ago to extend it its second invitation. Despite its "good communications"(as Riverside's police chief called it during a meeting in 2002), the police department and the commission have had some sort of breakdown in talks surrounding the Pablo incident.

This information about the stumbling blocks encountered by the CPRC investigator was relayed at the CPRC's ad hoc committee meeting which was held on Aug. 25 at City Hall. The purpose of this meeting was to come up with guidelines in which the commission will implement Charter section 810(d) which states the provision involving the commission's investigation and review of incustody deaths. And that's what commissioners Chani Beeman, Jim Ward, Ken Rotker and Brandriff set out to do.

There were differences of opinion almost right away.

Ward was concerned that if the commission started amending policies and procedures in this area, it would be spending more time doing so than investigating incidents. He said that the commission hadn't done what it should have done in this case from the beginning but it was on them because they didn't understand what their role was in the process.

"How can we decide to send out an investigator 30 days after if we didn't one day after," Ward asked.

Ward told Rotker that he had made good points, before letting the city attorney talk him out of them.

Beeman said that the unwritten practice of giving the executive director or manager the order to roll out the investigator when it heard of an incustody death didn't survive the tremendous turnover of the commission during the past several years. It needed to be reexamined.

Brandriff agreed with Ward "100%" that the commission should roll out its investigator when it first heard of the incustody death incident but that it needed to put that procedure into writing.

CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan, an ex-Pomona Police Department captain, said that it was easier to make the decision with incidents involving shootings than in other death cases.

"It's a tougher call when it's not that," Rogan said.

So some individuals suggested using the police department's use of force policy to serve as parameters to determine when the commission should investigate officer-involved deaths. Whether that meant investigating any incident where an officer came into physical contact with an individual who later died or deciding whether or not even the level of force could be ascertained without investigating a death first, these were both topics of intense debate. And using the force continuum doesn't allow for the situations where an officer using force don't constitute the only actions taken in which the death of a person could arise from or in connection with. Other potential violations of policy outside the use of force continuum could contribute to an individuals death, for example as could poor service.

There was also a bit of a trip down memory lane during the discussion to figure out what was used in the past to determine what could be done in the present.

At the CPRC meeting that took place on Aug. 26, 2002, Chief Russ Leach explained the department's role in investigating officer involved deaths. He said at one point that it was very important for all witnesses to an incident to be interviewed as soon as possible and that all involved agencies initiate their investigations. Words which obviously make a lot of sense when trying to do a good and thorough investigation. At the time, people cheered when Leach provided that response. But a few years later, a few city managers later and apparently things have changed a lot.

Still, when asked about his perception of the CPRC's role in incustody death investigations back then, Leach had said that it was up to the CPRC to determine when it would initiate a "companion" investigation whenever it felt it was necessary to do so.

His response was to a question made by one commissioner who asked Leach if he believed that the CPRC should wait to do its investigation until after the police department had completed its own. Leach said he believed it was the commission's call when it came to deciding when it would investigate. But apparently that has changed, especially considering where City Attorney Gregory Priamos is concerned as evidenced by July's CPRC general meeting the first after the Pablo death.

Then Executive Director Don Williams had said that it might be useful if the commission, city manager's office, city attorney's office and Leach met at some time to further discuss implementing guidelines but there's no tangible evidence, no discernible paper trail according to several commissioners that this meeting ever take place. Actually, that it took place before the commission's critical vote on the Summer Marie Lane shooting in 2005. But then that's a whole different discussion.

The committee is set to meet again on Thursday, Sept. 4 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss this issue some more and decide whether or not written language needs to be included in the bylaws and/or the policies and procedures of the commission.

Councilman Andrew Melendrez confirmed that the topic for his Eastside Forum being held at the Caesar Chavez Community Center on Thursday Sept. 4 at 5:30 p.m. will be on the topic of the recent changes in the police department involving community policing. The presenter will be Lt. Larry Gonzalez who is the East Neighborhood Policing Center commander.

Testimony is set to continue on Tuesday in the federal trial of former U.S. Marine sergeant and Riverside Police Department officer, Jose Luis Nazario, jr.

What's complicated the trial proceedings is confusion by jurors about the background of the U.S. Marines and its culture.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Two fellow Marines who remain on active duty face military charges in the case. When Sgts. Ryan Weemer and Jermaine Nelson go to court-martial, their jurors will be Marines and sailors, most of whom will have had combat experience in Iraq, Afghanistan or both.

No one will have to tell those jurors what a rifle squad is, the difference between an M-16 rifle and a .50-caliber machine gun, that RPG stands for rocket-propelled grenade and IED stands for improvised explosive device, or that a "daisy chain" is a series of IEDs buried by insurgents to kill a large number of Americans.

These were among the details the three men and nine women on Nazario's jury learned last week.

At one point, a juror complained that she was having trouble keeping up with all the acronyms. The court reporters also have had trouble with the speed and volume of jargon.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson ordered the lawyers and witnesses to slow down.

Meanwhile, before calling witnesses specifically about the events of Nov. 9, 2004, prosecutors have brought in retired and active-duty Marines to discuss Marine training, Marine history and culture, and the meaning of the motto of the 1st Marine Division: "No better friend, no worse enemy."

Jurors will be faced with a shifting of testimony towards eyewitnesses recounting what happened in Fallujah that led to the deaths of four Iraqi detainees.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Cross-examination of Chief Warrant Officer Paul Pritchard by the defense will begin today. He was responsible for processing detainees brought in by Nazario's company.

Squad mates James Prentice and Cory Carlisle are also scheduled to testify.

Carlisle was the first Marine into a house in Fallujah where the squad found four men sitting against a wall with their arms raised, Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kovats said in opening statements.

The prosecution contends Nazario killed two of the men and ordered squad mates Ryan Weemer and Jermaine Nelson to kill the other two.

According to court documents, Prentice heard part of a radio call in which Nazario said that they had found four military-age males and weapons in a house and that they had been shot at from that house.

After the incident, Prentice and Carlisle took a Humvee back to headquarters with Weemer to have the tires replaced. While waiting for the new tires, Weemer told Prentice and Carlisle that he instructed them to leave the house because he didn't want them to have to kill the detainees, according to court records.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board opposes the labor agreement going before the Riverside city council in connection with the construction of a utility power plant, calling the plan "thinly disguised blackmail".

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The city's goal should be the most cost-effective construction contract possible, regardless of unions' role. Giving organized labor a monopoly inevitably increases the financial burden on city residents and businesses.

Rejecting the labor pact carries risks, however. Riverside's growing demand for power will soon -- perhaps by 2010 -- exceed the city's capacity to provide it. Without the 14 percent increase in city power supplies the new generators would provide, Riverside faces possible rolling blackouts during periods of high energy use.

But that outcome is not a certainty. The current economic slump has also slowed growth in Riverside's electricity demand, which may give the city some leeway on deadlines. And those who oppose the labor agreement should realize that stance also brings a responsibility to curb energy use, to help buy the city time.

Riverside has no guarantee of power sufficiency, especially during a summer heat wave. But forgoing efficient use of public money is never an acceptable course, even in the cause of energy expediency.

Developer and campaign contributor Mark Rubin plans to build a six-story office building in downtown Riverside.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

The late Mayor Ab Brown's automotive garage used to occupy the site, which is next to Highway 91.

The city Redevelopment Agency bought the property -- about six-tenths of an acre -- from the Garner family this March for slightly more than $2 million as part of the settlement of an eminent domain lawsuit. The agency demolished the rundown garage.

Graham said the agency would sell the now-vacant property to Rubin. He envisions lawyers as his main tenants in the 120,000-square-foot building, he said.

There would be underground parking and an aboveground parking garage, Rubin said.

He doesn't worry about finding tenants, he said.

Unlike with his housing projects which may have gone from high-priced condos to high-priced rentals in one housing crisis.

Riverside County's trying to buy an even taller building under construction in the downtown to use for its new district attorney's office. The Regency Tower is not quite the digs that District Attorney Rod Pacheco had in mind but in these fiscally trying times, it will have to do.

The city council's development committee will meet to discuss and vote on this proposal at City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 18. at 3 p.m. Members of this committee include its chair, Councilman Mike Gardner as well as Councilmen Steve Adams and Frank Schiavone.

Did you ever wonder what ever happened to that red sculpture that used to sit in front of City Hall? It found a new home. Did the former president of a sheriff's department get appointed to head the staff of a San Bernardino County supervisor? Not quite yet but he's on his way there.

The California Judicial Council just named its selections for Jurists of the Year and guess what? The winners are two judges who headed up that emergency strike force team of judges who swooped down to Riverside County's backlogged courts to try to speed them up.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The honors went to Los Angeles Superior Court Supervising Judge David S. Wesley and retired Placer County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens.

The judicial strike force was a pool of 28 judges hand-picked by Chief Justice Ronald George for their expertise in criminal cases.

Riverside County has the state's worst criminal case congestion. New judgeships were not created to keep up with the county's population growth over the past decade.

Originally, 12 strike force judges at a time were assigned to Riverside County and heard cases from August through November of last year.

The program was extended though the end of June, but with six judges instead of 12.

It was Wesley and Couzens who reviewed the status of 1,040 of the county's oldest pending criminal cases and narrowed them down to 127 to be heard by the task force.

An off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer accidentally wounded another officer inside a hotel room.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

In a statement Monday, the Los Angeles Police Department says Officer Christopher Campagna was in a hotel Sunday with two friends -- both Los Angeles police officers -- when the accident occurred.

Police say Campagna was holding a .38-caliber revolver that he thought was unloaded, but it went off and a bullet struck one of his companions in the abdomen.

His friend is expected to recover, but it goes to show that guns must always be assumed to be loaded when they're being handled.

Nationwide, most police departments said they don't arrest people based on immigrant status.

(excerpt, Washington Post)

Despite a nationwide clamor against illegal immigration, only 55 of
more than 18,000 police and law enforcement agencies across the
country have signed agreements to coordinate with U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement.

Although they face public and political pressure to crack down on
illegal immigrants, officials say such efforts can backfire by
making immigrants reluctant to report crimes, exposing departments
to lawsuits, and putting local police officers in confusing and
dangerous situations that can lead to mistakes and abuse.

El Paso's mayor, John Cook, described his mostly Hispanic city on
the Mexican border as "the second-safest city in America," in part
because it stresses community police involvement. While recognizing
that illegal immigration is a crime, he said he is also worried
about a growing public perception that immigrants are criminals.

"There is a danger," he said. "Once people don't trust a police
officer in immigrant communities, they become communities that
foster crime, where people won't report domestic violence or the
theft of a TV. If people feel they are under threat of being
deported, they become silent. There has to be a delicate balance."

Police officers in Tennessee said they use the taser sparingly.

(excerpt, The Tennessean)

Only those officers who completed a daylong Taser training were certified to carry the stun guns, and a specialized Taser report was required each time the Taser was turned on, regardless of whether it was fired.

And last week, Metro police added cameras and audio recording devices to its Tasers.

"Any tool we can use to draw compliance in the one of 100 people who resist arrest, there is a value to protect the people," said Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas. "In this case, we continue to see a trend toward compliance that gives us continued reason to use this tool."

In April and May, when Tasers were available only to supervisors, the devices were fired twice. In June and July, after they were redeployed to officers, they were fired eight times, and showed to suspects resisting arrest an additional 14 times, according to police statistics.

Serpas said the number of times officers pulled out Tasers but didn't need to use them demonstrates that even showing the tool increases compliance.

Only 1 percent of arrests require officers to use force in the first place, Serpas said.

Overall, Tasers were used 17 percent of the time in arrests where some kind of force was used.

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