Tag Archives: deadly force

Judge Denies Qualified Immunity for Two Montana Deputies in Lawsuit Over Fatal Shooting

On Thursday, a judge in Montana ruled that two Yellowstone County Sheriff’s deputies could be held personally accountable in a lawsuit brought by the family of a man they shot in 2015. Judge Susan Watters ruled that Deputies Chris Rudolph and Jason Robinson had not acted reasonably when they killed Loren Simpson as he drove toward a roadblock they had set up. As a result, should Simpson’s family win their suit, the deputies will not be entitled to protections under the law and instead will be personally liable for damages awarded.

Rudolph and Robinson had used the old standby excuse of “I thought he was going to run into me with his truck” to try and justify their murderous actions. However, dashcam video (embedded below) showed that Simpson had actually veered off the road and into the ditch in an effort to avoid the police vehicles blocking the road. In addition, the deputies even admitted that they weren’t sure Simpson’s vehicle was the one they were looking for at the time.

Further testimony showed that the low visibility caused by darkness and the snowy conditions, along with potential noise from the vehicle itself and its heater may have prevented Simpson from seeing or hearing the deputies and the vehicles, which had no overhead lights on at the time, from a distance.

The judge ultimately ruled that there was no evidence to support the deputies’ contentions that Simpson was trying to hit them, nor was there any reason to believe he had even committed a crime. According to Judge Watters, even if they had possessed such evidence, the crime of burglary that they claim he was suspected of was so minor that the force used would have been excessive, regardless.

Via KTQV.com:

“The force used by the deputies was severe, the crime they suspected Simpson had committed was minor, the danger to the deputies was minimal, and the deputies could have used less intrusive means to affect the investigative stop,” said Watters in her judgment.

Rudolph and Robinson shot and killed Simpson on White Buffalo Trail Road in Huntley in January of 2015.

The former deputies were cleared of criminal wrongdoing at a coroner’s inquest in February of 2016.

Rudolph and Robinson claimed to believe Simpson was a suspect in a burglary and they believed he was driving a stolen vehicle.

The former deputies parked the patrol car in the street to block traffic from coming through and pointed their weapons at the oncoming vehicle.

The former deputies said they killed Simpson because they believed he was trying to run them over with the vehicle.

Dash-cam video from the patrol car shows Simpson driving the Explorer toward the deputies but it swerves into the ditch.

“The question that will never be answered is whether Simpson even knew the deputies were attempting to stop him,” said Watters in her judgment. “Prior to setting up a roadblock without even turning on the patrol car’s overhead lights, Robinson admitted to his supervising officer that he wasn’t “even 100% it [was the right] car.”

The former deputies fired at least 24 shots at Simpson, according to the judge’s review.

Watters added that it was possible Simpson could not hear the deputies’ commands because it was winter and he had the heat on in the vehicle.

She also noted that it was dusk and visibility would have been impaired.

Watters said in her judgment that not only was there no evidence to support Simpson’s intent to hit the deputies, but argued that there was no proof Simpson had committed any crime.

“A rational jury could find the deputies’ use of deadly force was unreasonable,” said Watters in her judgment.

Not surprisingly (because that’s what they are designed to do), a coroner’s inquest found Deputies Rudolph and Robinson were justified in executing Simpson.

Dash Camera Video:

Full Unedited Dash Camera Video:

Leave a comment

Philadelphia Taxpayers Forced to Pay $4.4 Million to Innocent Delivery Man Undercover Cops Ambushed

Last week, the Philadelphia Police Department agreed to the largest settlement in the history of the city to pay off an innocent man that two undercover cops shot at fourteen times. In April of 2014, Philippe Holland was delivering food when Officers Mitchell Farrell and Kevin Hanvey ran at him without ever identifying themselves as police officers.

Holland, having no reason to know they were cops and seeing that one of them was holding a gun, believed he was being robbed and tried to escape in his car. In spite of it specifically being against policy to do so, Farrell and Hanvey used the excuse that they “feared for their lives” from the car being used as a weapon to open fire on Holland. As a result, Holland, who was twenty years old at the time, now suffers from a permanent seizure disorder and still has bullet fragments lodged in his brain.

In spite of witness statements that contradict the two officers’ story, the district attorney (not at all surprisingly) declined to press any charges against them. Instead, they’ve been given a paid vacation for the past two years, while the slap on the wrist they will eventually receive from the department remains “pending.”

Via Philly.com:

It is the largest settlement in a police shooting case in the city’s history, according to Philadelphia Law Department records.

Then-Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said shortly after the shooting that Officers Mitchell Farrell and Kevin Hanvey had fired at the wrong man.

On Friday, the mayor’s office called the shooting “an unfortunate, regrettable series of events.”

“We will strive to ensure that tragedies such as this do not happen again in our city,” City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante said in the statement.

Philippe Holland was delivering a cheeseburger to a house on the 5100 block of Willows Avenue in West Philadelphia on April 22, 2014, as police responded to reports of gunshots nearby.

In a deposition, he said he saw Farrell and Hanvey approaching him and thought he was about to get robbed. He slipped into his car through the passenger door, he said – and that’s when one officer shined a light into the car and Holland saw a gun in the other’s hand.

He told police that Farrell and Hanvey never identified themselves as police officers. He said that he panicked and tried to pull out of his parking spot – and that the two men opened fire on him, hitting him in the head and body.

At the time, it was against police regulations for officers to fire at a moving vehicle unless someone inside the car was threatening them or someone else with some form of deadly force other than the vehicle itself.

Hanvey and Farrell told investigators they approached Holland because they saw him walking past a Chinese restaurant on 51st Street and asked a witness on the street where the gunshots she’d heard had come from. They said the woman had pointed toward Holland and said the shots came from where he was walking.

But the woman later told police investigators she had only pointed toward the Chinese restaurant, and didn’t mention a man at all.

Hanvey and Farrell insisted that they told Holland they were police and that he drove his car toward them, making them fear for their lives.

Holland, a student at Delaware County Community College, was left with a permanent seizure disorder and has bullet fragments in his brain, according to his attorney, Tom Kline, who announced the settlement Friday.

The District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges in the case. According to police documents Kline provided to the Inquirer and the Daily News, the department’s Use of Force Review Board concluded that Farrell and Hanvey had violated department policy, though the board did not specify a punishment for that violation.

A police spokesman said that the two have been on administrative duty since the shooting, and that “discipline is still pending.”

The department could not say whether the officers will return to the street.

At least the taxpayers of Philadelphia get to pay for this “unfortunate, regrettable series of events,” while the two officers actually responsible for it have had plenty of time to sit home getting paid to think about what they did. That certainly should ensure that “tragedies such as this do not happen again” in their city.

Leave a comment

Cleveland Police Department Submits To Slew Of Accountability Reforms

Cleveland Police Shoot BoyCleveland, Ohio – A slew of unprecedented regulations for police in Cleveland were just announced by United States Attorney Steven Dettelbach in hopes of curbing some of the escalating tensions between the people and the police in a time of escalating police brutality. This comes on the heels of the acquittal of Michael Brelo after he stood on the roof of a car and fired at least 15 shots through the windshield at two unarmed victims victims, the upcoming case for the police killing of 12 year old Tamir Rice mere seconds after they arrived on the scene, as well as a scathing report issued by the Department Of Justice following a 21 month long investigation into the Cleveland Police Department that found systemic corruption in the department including:

  • The unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons;
  • The unnecessary, excessive or retaliatory use of less lethal force including tasers, chemical spray and fists;
  • Excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis, including in cases where the officers were called exclusively for a welfare check; and
  • The employment of poor and dangerous tactics that place officers in situations where avoidable force becomes inevitable and places officers and civilians at unnecessary risk.

At one point, the report even shockingly stated:

“We found incidents of CDP officers firing their guns at people who do not pose an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to officers or others and using guns in a careless and dangerous manner, including hitting people on the head with their guns, in circumstances where deadly force is not justified. Officers also use less lethal force that is significantly out of proportion to the resistance encountered and officers too often escalate incidents with citizens instead of using effective and accepted tactics to de-escalate tension. ”

Many instances of these abuses went unreported, and without an investigation. How there hasn’t been a clean sweep of the entire department is anybody’s guess. But none the less, the sweeping reforms aim to restrain the ability of police to use force and to make accountable those that break these new standards.

Some of the changes detailed within the 105 page settlement include:

  • Pistol whipping is now prohibited (can you believe they needed a set of drastic reforms for this!?!?)
  • Using force against those who talk back to police is now prohibited, as well as using force as punishment for running away from the police.
  • An independent monitor will track the police’s progress with these reforms
  • If the city refuses the reforms, they can be forced to accept them by a federal judge
  • A civilian will now head up the internal affairs division and to appoint an inspector general to investigate police misconduct and analyze policies and trends.
  • If a gun is so much as un-holstered, it must be documented.
  • Both an internal as well as a civilian review panel will be constructed to look into use of force cases, and to review policies.
  • Periodic checks on stun guns to ensure that the digital record of discharge within the weapon matches on paper reporting.
  • A coordinator will be established to compile date on use of force cases, weapon usages, as well as search and seizure cases.

How much would you pay to live in a world where armed maniacs weren't hired to roam the streets? What if we told you that just $1 a month could help us fight to make that a reality? Sound like a bargain? Click above.Those less critical of the police, even in the face of such a damning report, feel that these measures will make the police overburdened with paper work, which they already feel is too demanding. Nevermind that the DOJ found that these cops were firing their weapons and never telling anybody about it. Others say that the micromanaging of the police, such as reporting on when a gun is taken out of the holster, will discourage police from grabbing their guns and put them more at risk of bodily injury. Considering that 2014 was one of the safest years on record to be a police officer, violent crime is plummeting, and that over 1000 people are killed by police each year, I’d say it’s long over due that police are discouraged from using their guns.

2 Comments

The Case Regarding The Use of Lethal Force in Self Defense Against Law Enforcement

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Justin King, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law a bill in 2012 that authorized citizens to use deadly force to protect themselves from unlawful law enforcement activities. When he signed the law, the press and police unions had a field day describing the predicted effects of the law that they said declared open-season on cops. Since the law was signed, only one human police officer has been killed in Indiana. It was in the normal performance of the officer’s duties and completely unrelated to someone protecting themselves from unlawful intrusion or police brutality. Three police dogs have been killed in the same time period. Since its introduction, not a single officer was killed because of this law.

In fact, despite propaganda saying otherwise, police don’t have an extremely dangerous job. Law enforcement doesn’t even make the top ten list of deadliest jobs. So please, no emails explaining how dangerous the job is and how this would make it more dangerous. Also, forego the emails stating that law enforcement is there to protect the citizens. They aren’t. This was established by the Supreme Court.

While being a police officer isn’t that dangerous, it certainly seems like interacting with them is. Being a civilian that has contact with a cop is more dangerous than being a soldier in Iraq. Since the start of the Iraq war, estimates by the Department of Justice place the number killed by cops at over 5000. In all branches of service, the number of killed in action in Iraq is 4489.

These estimates only include those who actually had their lives ended by law enforcement. It does not include those that were simply beat, sodomized, or had their testicles crushed. In a just society, a young man who was stopped on the street and patted down with such force as to cause his testicle to rupture would have the legal option to defend himself against the assault. If the altercation happened between two civilians, lethal force would have been justified in order to protect from further serious bodily injury. It should have been justified in this case.

The legislatures of the various states need to produce laws that allow the citizens to protect themselves from the rogue elements of law enforcement within our society. If not, the people should petition the federal government to enact such a law. The police have failed to protect society from their own brutality. The oversight committees have failed to protect society from the police. The courts have failed to protect society by not severely penalizing these actions. The legislatures need not follow their examples.

Lawmakers should immediately enact laws that allow the citizens to protect themselves from failures that ultimately belong to the government. This is not giving a green light to violence against law enforcement. It is giving citizens a final recourse to make sure the violence is directed at the offending officer, rather than whatever officer is caught in the middle of the riot or protest that follows yet another cop walking free after brutalizing an innocent person. It has been shown in Indiana that laws like this only serve to slow police violence, not escalate violence against police. Lawmakers owe their voters the right to defend themselves against the fast approaching tyranny.

It is an almost certainty that this will be read in law enforcement circles, and many of the cops that abide by basic standards of human decency will be offended. Good. Be offended. The American people need you to start waking up and speaking up. While it may seem hard to break the thin blue line when you witness brutality, understand that the life you save may be your own. If there is one thing the recent events in Ukraine have taught us, it is that violent and brutal police action will eventually lead to violent and brutal action against the police.

Many activists in the United States felt a personal connection with the protesters in that seldom thought of Eastern European country. Just as it is assured that some law enforcement in the United States felt a personal connection to the cops. The odds are that the Ukrainian police officers that were set on fire committed no action that deserved that fate, but when mob violence occurs against the state it is indiscriminate. The odds are that the worst those particular officers did was remain silent about the brutality and miscarriages of justice they witnessed, but a time comes when silence is betrayal. If you remain silent after witnessing brutality and injustice, you have chosen your side.

History has shown without exception that those who claim “I’m just doing my job,” or “I was just following orders,” end up committing the worst atrocities known in all of human history. It has also shown that the excuse falls on deaf ears when those who were victimized finally achieve power. If you consider yourself one of the good cops, it is time to start speaking out. It is time to begin lending your voice to those beaten masses that are crying out for justice and, in some cases, retribution.

– Justin King

About the Author:
Justin King is an independent journalist whose work has been seen on digitaljournal.com, cnn.com, theblaze.com, as well as other outlets. Much of his work deals with the advancing police and surveillance state.

His sites are:
http://justinkingnews.com
http://facebook.com/justinkingnews
http://twitter.com/justinkingnews

116 Comments

Justice for Stanley Gibson or Just an End-Around Coroner’s Inquest Reforms?

Stanley L. Gibson

Stanley L. Gibson, a disabled Army vet, was murdered by Ofc. Jesus Arevalo on Dec. 12, 2011

Within the last few days, it’s been reported that Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson is close to reaching a decision regarding the murder of Stanley L. Gibson by a member of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Additionally, reports have stated that Wolfson is “99% sure” that he will seek an indictment against Jesus Arevalo, the officer that fired 7 shots from an AR-15 into the Gibson’s back as he sat unarmed and clearly visible inside his car, which had been pinned and immobilized by several police vehicles. While there has been no official statement regarding what exactly this imminent decision might be or what charges may be sought, informed sources have indicated that within the next sixty days Wolfson will make up his mind whether the case will be put before a grand jury for a possible indictment against Arevalo.

At first glance, putting things in the hands of a grand jury would seem to be a step forward, in that it at least presents a possibility of Ofc. Arevalo being held accountable for his actions that day. Las Vegas police have a long and storied history of avoiding any sort of consequences for their heavy-handed tactics, no matter how blatant and deadly they have been. Steve Wolfson himself hasn’t exactly risen to the occasion when given the opportunity to make Las Vegas area law enforcement pay for their misdeeds.

A large part of the blame for this lack of accountability can be attributed to the long standing practice of determining whether police shootings were justified through the quasi-judicial Coroner’s Inquest process. Badly weighted in favor of exonerating the police rather than investigating the circumstances involved, the Coroner’s Inquests functioned more as a dog and pony show to construct a cover story than a fact finding  effort. As such, it should come as no surprise that only one single police killing was ever found to be unjustified (the DA still declined to prosecute the cops involved). The sheer odds of that being true over the course of 40+ years, including 378 shootings since 1990 alone, attest to the imbalance inherent in such a system.

William Mosher testifies during Coroner Inquest into the shooting of Erik Scott

Accelerating rates of officer involved shootings, many resulting in killings, along with outrage generated by the subsequent questionable exoneration of the police, led to demands to amend the Coroner’s Inquest. An overhaul of the Coroner’s Inquest was approved by county commissioners, including provisions to have victims represented by independent council in order to make the process more fair. However, this revised system of investigating shootings has never been implemented, due to the union representing Las Vegas area police (who not coincidentally believe Arevalo did nothing wrong) has advised them not to participate in Coroner’s Inquest proceedings because of their “adversarial nature.”

However, many of the original flaws within the Coroner’s Inquest system continue to exist and in some cases are even worse when grand juries are used to determine whether police and other officials should be prosecuted for questionable actions. Like the Coroner’s inquest, grand jury proceedings are conducted exclusively by the District Attorney’s office, who works closely with, and is often dependent on the cooperation of, police officers in order to secure convictions in cases they bring to trial. It is entirely up to them what evidence will be presented, who is called to testify, and how those witnesses  are questioned. In the past, prosecutors have often displayed a tendency to construct their cases in such a way so as to paint police in a favorable light. This conflict of interest was one of the most cited issues with the Coroner’s Inquest.

When the Government Prosecutes One of Its Own, the Scales of Justice are Tipped Heavily Against the Truth Coming Out

Even worse is the secrecy of grand juries. Nevada conducts their grand jury proceedings under what amounts to a full gag order. Nobody involved in a grand jury may  publicly disclose any of the evidence presented to the jury, information obtained by the jury, events or statements occurring in front of the jury, or even the results of an investigation by the grand jury. The lone exception to this is individual witnesses, who are limited to discussing their own personal testimony. Breaking these restrictions is a criminal act.

What this effectively means is that the DA’s office and the courts have complete control over what information goes before the jury and what is disclosed to the public afterwards. As lopsided as the Coroner’s inquest was, at least it was a public spectacle that was available to be scrutinized by the community at large. No such transparency exists with grand juries. Basically, a prosecutor can call only sympathetic or unconvincing witnesses and do a half-hearted  effort while questioning them to ensure the jury doesn’t find enough evidence to support a criminal charge and then hold their failure to issue an indictment up as  proof that a shooting was justified. Nobody outside of the grand jury room would be able to refute this assertion since everything took place behind closed doors and none of them are allowed to speak about what they saw.

Fact is, using a grand jury to determine whether police shootings should be prosecuted violates pretty much every aspect of the proposed reforms (from the Nevada ACLU) for the Coroner’s Inquest:

  • Allow the attorneys for both the officers and the victims to participate directly in the process and ask questions during the inquest;
  • Have a neutral presenter of facts that is not the District Attorney’s Office;
  • Be limited to relevant questions about the decedent and the involved officers;
  • Make determinations of fact and leave decisions about whether criminal charges should proceed to the District Attorney;
  • Follow the same Rules of Evidence used in courtrooms (this is one singular exception); and
  • Be fully transparent and open to the public.

Historically, indictments of police through the grand jury have been hard to come by. In general, bringing cases before the grand jury are the exception rather than the rule and there’s a reason for that. As stated by the attorney for the family of a man murdered by police in White Plains, NY after the grand jury decided not to indict the cops:

“…the grand jury is often used to cover politically for a figure, for a district attorney. So if the grand jury indicts, it’s not the district attorney’s fault. They simply presented the evidence, and the grand jury indicted. If the grand jury chooses not to indict, well, then the grand jury essentially is blamed, but that’s an anonymous group of 23 individuals.”

Nor is the idea that grand juries might be used as a smoke screen to protect rather than punish police a new concept. Just a few months ago Albuquerque, NM. suspended the use of grand juries to investigate police shootings after criticism of their use and the fact that (like Vegas) not one single shooting has ever been ruled unjustified:

For more than two decades, police officials have countered criticism of dozens of officer-involved shootings in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County by noting that every case is reviewed by a grand jury…

No one involved in the process can recall a single “unjustified” finding since the process was put in place in the late 1980s in response to criticism of police shootings at the time — even in a case in which the officer was fired and the city paid big bucks to settle a civil lawsuit.

Critics say that’s by design.

“It looks to me like a device that’s designed to give police a pass on shootings,” said Ray Twohig, a longtime civil rights attorney. “The public should have no confidence whatsoever in this process — there’s no independent investigation … The goal is: ‘Let’s not indict any cops…’ ”

Attorney Shannon Kennedy said…it is designed to treat officers differently from ordinary citizens.

“They are basically operating above the law,” she said. “Officers in APD know about this process; they know they will be exonerated. This contributes to more and more police shootings, because there is this culture of no accountability.”

District Attorney Wolfson himself hasn’t exactly inspired a lot of faith that he will do the right thing in cases of police abuse. In “DA statements” that have taken the place of the Coroner’s Inquest since they were put on hold, Wolfson has determined that cops shouldn’t be punished for kicking a restrained man suffering from diabetic shock in the head first because it “wouldn’t be in the community’s best interest” and later because Henderson cops are trained to kick people in the head while arresting them.

That there is enough evidence to support charges shouldn’t be in doubt being that there is a video of the shooting clearly showing that Stanley Gibson didn’t represent an imminent threat and statements by sources within LVMPD have confirmed that Jesus Arevalo knew about the plan to force Gibson from the car without using deadly force. If there was a video of anyone else unnecessarily shooting an unarmed person, that person would be sitting in jail awaiting a trial, not sitting at home on paid vacation like Jesus Arevalo is right now.

To ensure that there isn’t even the appearance of any sort of official favoritism being extended to police officers (or other government employees) Wolfson needs to do the right thing by charging Arevalo directly and placing this case in the hands of a trial jury, rather than gambling on a grand jury issuing an indictment first. A gamble that members of this community aren’t so sure he is willing to go “all in” on. Furthermore, any charges brought should include charge of murder, since that’s what truly happened that day.

56 Comments