The Thick Blue Line
So this is the new year. And I don’t feel any different ♫
Below is a January edition of ‘no charges against police officer’ in cases leading to injurious harm or fatality: the thick blue line of police impunity. (See previous post here.)
The only officer charged (who does not appear below) was Brian Fanelli, the police chief of Mount Pleasant, NY, on child pornography charges. Fanelli taught children classes in his parish, covering topics such as ‘inappropriate touching.’ He has been suspended with pay. (His salary is $135,518.)
The only officer indicted (on second try) for voluntary manslaughter was Police Officer Randall Kerrick, who shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell in Charlotte, NC. Ferrell had wrecked his car and sought help at a nearby home. A 911 call about an ‘unknown black man’ was placed by the woman inside. When Kerrick showed up, he fired 12 shots at close range at Ferrell. Kerrick’s arrest and indictment ‘mark the first time in more than 30 years that a Charlotte police officer has been charged in connection with an on-duty shooting.’ The second trip to the grand jury is cited as ‘highly unusual.’; activist John Barnette said ‘the grand jury’s decision is not a “complete victory” because the police officer has not been convicted and Ferrell is still dead.’ It took nearly five months for an official response to Ferrell’s killing.
The only police officer fired—but not charged for assault—was Officer Bernadette Najor who forcibly cut off 22-year old hairdresser Charda Gregory’s weave (hair sewn into her scalp) while Gregory’s hands and feet were restrained.
Dallas Officer La’Cori Johnson, who raped a woman while on duty in the back of his patrol car, resigned and was released from Dallas County Jail after his bond was paid for.
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Los Angeles, CA | ‘Kim Nguyen, a 27-year-old pharmacist, says she was thrown from a squad car after police kidnapped and sexually assaulted her. Nguyen was shown on camera tumbling from a moving LAPD cruiser last year, after being handcuffed in the early morning hours of March 17, 2013. Video of the incident appears to show Nguyen sprawled on the ground with her dress removed from the waist down. The deposition taped last month claims that while the officer who was in the back seat with Nguyen grabbed her left inner thigh and began forcing her legs apart. Nguyen says the officer also grabbed her chest and pulled her by the ear to bring her head towards him. As she struggled to get away from him, she says officer negligence led to her being thrown from the high speed, moving vehicle. Nguyen spent two weeks in the hospital as a result of the injuries she sustained. Her jaw was wired shut and she lost all of her teeth from the impact, after being ejected from the cruiser.’ (‘To this day, neither David E. Shin nor Jinseok Oh has been taken off the field. They continue to patrol the streets of Koreatown and Pico-Union, pulling over women for alleged traffic violations.’)
Fullerton, CA | ‘Two former Fullerton California police officers were just acquitted this week in the death of a homeless man. Police brutally beat and killed Kelly Thomas after a violent struggle that was captured on surveillance video. [F]ormer Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos was acquitted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges. Former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli was also acquitted of all charges, in his case involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force. As the verdict was read, Cincinelli tightly hugged his lawyer, and was seen putting his face in his hands, expressing the face that he was overcome with joy. But outside of the court house, Thomas’s parents vehemently condemned the verdict as travesty of justice. Cathy Thomas explained that the family was “Just horrified. He got away with murdering my son,” she said. “It’s just not fair. So I guess it’s legal to go out and kill now. He was so innocent. It just isn’t fair at all.” Ron Thomas joined her in saying that the defense “lied… continuously” about the character of his son, Kelly. “It’s carte blanche for police officers everywhere to beat us, kill us.” [T]his verdict proves that “they’ll get away with it” no matter whether it is caught on video or not.’
Torrance, CA | ‘A Torrance police officer who mistakenly shot at a man during the massive manhunt for ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner will not face criminal charges. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office declined to press charges against Officer Brian McGee, who opened fire at close-range last February on an innocent driver. The officer shot at least three rounds at close-range into the Perdue’s driver side window. Perdue was not shot, but his attorney said he sustained back and head injuries that left him unable to work. The incident was one of two mistaken-identity shootings related to the Dorner manhunt.’
Philadelphia, PA | ‘A 16-year-old Philadelphia charter school student is recovering from serious injuries caused by police. Darrin Manning suffered serious injuries to his genitals during the stop-and-frisk, which led to the teen being sent to the hospital. Manning, a sophomore at Mathematics, Civics and Charter School, had just got off the subway with a dozen teammates in uniform on their way to play a high school basketball game. He says the group was confronted by police at Broad Street and Girard Avenue. Exactly why the students were stopped and questioned remains unclear, but Manning says he was put in handcuffs. He then says during a pat down a female officer squeezed his genitals so hard-it ruptured his testicle. Hospital records show that Manning spent the night following his arrest at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where he underwent emergency surgery. As a result of the incident he may have permanent injuries that prevent him from fathering children. Manning now faces charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest. Police in the 22nd District said they may launch a possible internal investigation.’ (‘Philadelphia’s use of stop-and-frisk doubled in 2009. The vast majority of Philadelphians apprehended through the program are still black and Latino men, mirroring the pattern in New York City.’)
Coeur d’Alene, ID | ‘The Coeur d’Alene Police Department released the body camera video from officer Spencer Mortensen’s shooting of 35-year-old Dalton Gardens resident Eric B. Johnston on the morning of Aug. 25, 2013. (‘Mortensen shot Johnston five times in a confrontation that unfolded after Johnston crashed his truck into a utility pole and then fled to a friend’s apartment.’) Special prosecutor Louis Marshall of Bonner County declined to prosecute Mortensen. Marshall found Mortensen’s “conduct was within the parameters of the laws of the state of Idaho.”’
Sheridan, OR | ‘Police in Oregon are alleging a Yamhill County reserve police officer beat his girlfriend’s four-year-old son until the boy suffered a severe brain injury, seven fractured ribs, and tears in his bowel and intestine. In addition to the severe brain injury, internal tearing and rib fractures, the boy also sustained bruising on several parts of his body, according to the affidavit. [Michael Shane] Abo, was hired as a Yamhill County deputy in 2008, but was fired in November 2012 for an “internal personnel issue.” Abo reportedly became a reserve officer with Yamhill police department in January 2013.’ (While Abo has yet to be charged, the boy’s mother—not believed to be involved with the heinous beating—was charged with ‘criminal mistreatment and reckless endangering.’)
Houston, TX | ‘“Jordan, Jordan, Jordan,” The crowd of more than 50 chanted loudly.Thursday night Baker was shot by a uniformed HPD officer J Castro, working security at the strip center on Antoine and Little York. There have been a number of armed robberies allegedly committed by young men in hoodies here. Castro is assigned to administrative duty pending the outcome of the HPD internal investigation.’
New York, NY | ‘Two dozen cops stripped of their guns and badges after on-the-job shootings could soon return to full duty. Traditionally, cops involved in high-profile cases have been kept on modified duty for fear that any subsequent slipup [sic] would make for headlines critical of the NYPD. Officer Kenneth Boss was stripped of his gun after he and three other cops shot unarmed vendor Amadou Diallo to death in the Bronx in 1999. The four officers were criminally charged but later acquitted. Two left the NYPD; a third retired in 2005; but Boss stayed on, working on modified duty until his gun was returned in 2012. Other cops are placed on modified duty after becoming the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation. “Then nothing ever happens,” another source said. “The cop is never charged, but it takes months and months to get back to full duty.”’
DeLand, FL | ‘A three-month state investigation into the autopsy of [Marlon Brown] who was run over by a rookie cop [after being pulled over for an alleged seatbelt violation] determined that the Medical Examiner did not misrepresent facts in listing the cause of death as accidental suffocation. Although Harris was fired from the DeLand Police Department weeks after the crash, a Volusia County grand jury cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing in September. Since then, the Browns have unsuccessfully petitioned for vehicular-manslaughter charges to be filed.’
Santa Rosa, CA | ‘[Deputy Erick] Gelhaus shot Lopez, a Santa Rosa eighth-grader, Oct. 22 as the youth was walking up Moorland Avenue carrying an airsoft-style BB gun designed to resemble an assault rifle. Gelhaus encountered the boy while riding in a patrol car being driven by another deputy. He reportedly mistook it for a real weapon and opened fire after yelling at Lopez to drop the gun. He told investigators Lopez was turning toward him and he felt threatened by the manner in which he was raising the BB gun. After the shooting, Gelhaus was placed on administrative leave but subsequently returned to desk duty after being cleared by a preliminary sheriff’s office investigation.’
Dallas, TX | ‘A Dallas police officer is accused of sexually abusing a woman while on duty and in uniform. Officer La’Cori Johnson, 28, allegedly forced a woman to perform oral sex on him before having sex with her in the back of his patrol car. ”You don’t have to go to jail if you do what I tell you to do,” he said. He was booked into the Dallas County Jail and released the following day after his bond was paid.’
Fort Worth, TX | ‘A Fort Worth police officer will not face charges for fatally shooting a 72-year-old Woodhaven homeowner while investigating a burglary call at the wrong house, a Tarrant County grand jury decided. The decision not to indict R.A. “Alex” Hoeppner in the death of Jerry Waller came a week after prosecutors began presenting the case. Waller died May 28 after being shot multiple times by Hoeppner as the officer and partner Ben Hanlon searched for a possible suspect after being dispatched to a burglary alarm call across the street. Waller’s relatives have accused police of misrepresenting the facts, stating that Waller had never even stepped out of his garage when he was shot multiple times just feet from his kitchen door. “He was shot multiple times in the chest only a few steps away from the doorway to his kitchen,” Waller’s son, Chris Waller, [said] the day after the shooting.’
Warren, MI | ‘You can see [Charda] Gregory kick her legs and writhe in pain as the officer plunges scissors into her hair, hacking away at the weave that was sewn into braids on her scalp. “I was confused. I didn’t know what happened and what was going on.” Gregory says on November 13, she went to a party in Detroit, where she believes someone drugged her. By the time she was brought in to the jail lock-up on the top floor of the Warren Police Department, Gregory had been pepper sprayed, but she appears calm. Officer [Bernadette] Najor starts yanking Gregory’s head from side to side, chopping out chunks of hair. It takes 3 full minutes before Najor gives one final yank and removes what’s left of Gregory’s weave. Gregory tells us in some places she now has bald spots because Najor ripped her real hair out by the roots.’