Tag Archives: Southern California

U.S. Marshals Schooled on the First Amendment Right to Film Federal Property in Public

The following videos and description were shared with the CopBlock Network anonymously by a California based CopBlocker, who goes by the pseudonym of “California Guardian.” It was shared via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

On the video, California Guardian can be seen filming outside the Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse, which is located in Santa Ana, CA. He is initially approached by a security guard. Soon after, two individuals who appear to be undercover police of some sort begin questioning him about what he is doing. Not long after that, a pair of U.S. Marshals arrive and also begin trying to demand his ID, while issuing threats about him getting arrested for filming on federal property.

California Guardian stands his ground, refuses to identify himself without them stating that is being detained (and providing a valid reason), and correctly informs them that the he has the right to film in public per the First Amendment and that this right has been upheld several times in court, including Federal Courts. Eventually, they are apparently informed that he is right and leave, walking back into the building.

The second video embedded below contains a follow up visit done by a group known as High Desert Community Watch, which shows that the guards now understand people are allowed to film in public. Instead of harassing the people filming, the security guard simply reports on his radio that there are some people who are “just filming.”

I know personally one of the questions I often get is some variation of why we “bother” the police by arguing with them over legal issues. These two videos present a great example of why that is and should be done. In the first video, someone not breaking any law or posing any threat is harassed and threatened by U.S. Marshals. In the second, someone is able to do so without that impediment to their rights. Also, in the first video (and oftentimes when members of NVCopBlock are out filming or doing actions) the people involved seem to genuinely not understand the law and appropriate constitutional rights. Making sure that they do in fact understand citizen’s rights and law enforcement’s responsibilities is something that not only eliminates future harassment, but potentially prevents something even worse from happening as a result of overzealous and uniformed public officials and/or security.

If you have a video, personal story involving police misconduct and/or abuse, or commentary about a law enforcement related news story, we would be happy to have you submit it. You can find some advice on how to get your submission published on the CopBlock Network within this post.

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On Oct 25, California Guardian, a CopBlocker and First Amendment auditor from Southern California, was recording outside the Reagan Federal Building in Santa Anna, CA. when U.S. Marshals, after being contacted by a guard working for Paragon Security, attempted to infringe on California Guardian’s First Amendment rights to film in public demanded his identification and threatened him with arrest. California Guardian stood his ground and continued recording, refused to be intimidated or to provide I.D. even after the marshals threatened to have him arrested by the Federal Protection Police. Ultimately the Marshals did the shameful Walk of Dishonor.

A couple of days later, High Desert Community Watch, accompanied by Teen4Justice and CaliGirl, returned to Santa Ana and video recorded in the same location at the Reagan Federal Building where Paragon and court officers did not bother them.

These two occurrences are proof that what Copblockers and First Amendment Auditors do to defend our rights does in fact make a difference. The security guards and the marshals at that location learned a lesson and have changed, for now, their dishonorable and shameful breaking of their oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States.

– California Guardian

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Update: Woman Beaten by LVMPD Officer For Littering Has Filed Civil Rights Lawsuit

In January, I posted about former LVMPD Officer Richard Scavone, who was caught on camera assaulting a woman. The immediate reason for his violent actions that day was that she had thrown a cup of coffee on the ground while he was in the process of profiling and harassing her. In reality, it was a case of “contempt of cop” in which the woman didn’t properly bow and scrape to his authoritah and possibly a bit of showing off to the corrections officer he was giving a ride along to at the time.

Now the woman he attacked and then arrested on trumped up charges to justify that arrest has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against him. In that lawsuit, Amanda Vizcarrondo-Ortiz names the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Officer Scavone, and former Corrections Officer Travis Buechler who was with Scavone at the time of the incident. Cal Potter, a Las Vegas civil rights lawyer, is representing Vizcarrondo-Ortiz in the lawsuit.

Via the Associated Press:

A California woman who authorities say was illegally beaten by a police officer wearing a body camera has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages from Las Vegas police, the former patrol officer and his partner at the time.

Officials have called the case one of the first to use body-camera video against an officer wearing the device.

Amanda Vizcarrondo-Ortiz of Los Angeles said in her lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas that she suffered permanent face, neck and back injuries during her January 2015 arrest on littering and loitering for prostitution charges. The charges were later dropped.

Ortiz’s lawyer, Cal Potter, called her beating and arrest unjustified “street justice” for offending the arresting officer, Richard Thomas Scavone, by throwing a cup of coffee on the ground and refusing to put her hands behind her back to be handcuffed.
“He videotaped his own misconduct,” Potter said of Scavone. “It’s our belief that there was no basis for the stop or the arrest…”
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LVMPD Sued By Man Shown on Video Being Attacked by Police at Hard Rock Casino

Ian Tuuamalemalo, a man who was visiting Las Vegas from Southern California, has filed a police brutality lawsuit over an incident in which he was violently attacked by a group of officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Tuuamalemalo had been attending a reggae concert at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in January of 2014 when the assault occurred.

Although it was claimed in the police report that Tuuamalemalo was acting aggressively, he was actually walking away from the officers when he was grabbed from behind and then punched in the face by one of the (as yet unidentified) officers. The rest of the officers then jumped on him and he appears to have been knocked unconscious before being carried away. Charges against him were later dropped.

The beating of Tuuamalemalo is shown on a surveillance video (embedded below) from the casino. Cal Potter, a local civil rights attorney who is representing Tuuamalemalo, has described the altercation as “an organized riot on the part of the police.” In addition, Potter states that the LVMPD ruled that a “policy violation” had been committed, although no details of what exactly that violation was or by whom it was committed had been provided.

Via KLASTV – 8 News Now:

“They could have killed me,” he said.

The video shows him being tugged on his shirt, followed by what may be a punch. He is shown being taken to the ground by police, restrained and carried out. Tuuamalemalo appears to be passed out.

“I don’t like being helpless,” he said.

The incident occurred January 26, 2014. The 34-year-old man says he was visiting from California for a reggae show at the Hard Rock, when he had a run-in with Metro Police…

They claim this is excessive use of force by police. Since there is no audio, it is unclear how this started and what was said between police and Tuuamalemalo.

A Metro report describes him as aggressive and refers to his size. He says, at the time, he was nearly 380 pounds, and stands 6’1”.

He says he was walking away, when someone tugged his shirt.

“I just remembered I turned around. Right when I turned around, that’s when I seen the officer. He just had a, just a full swing, just takes one to my face,” he said.

“There is no excuse for that,” Potter added.

Potter says he’s concerned about the tactics used to restrain his client.

“In a perfect world, the United States Attorney’s Office would pick up this case, and prosecute it and indict the officers that were involved,” he said.

Tuuamalemalo was arrested for resisting a public officer and destroying property at the Hard Rock. The charges were later dropped.

He says he complained to Metro Police. He received letter (sic) in January 2015 – approximately a year after the incident – stating a policy violation was found to be sustained. It does not state, however, what that violation is and who may have been held accountable.

“There is a blue wall of silence that we are all aware that work in the police misconduct business and civil rights violations,” Potter said…

Potter says he believes the person who may have thrown a punch is a Metro Police sergeant, but 8 News NOW could not confirm that.

Obviously, we all know this isn’t a “perfect world,” where cops are actually held accountable for their actions. That is certainly not the case for Las Vegas area police departments, where cops are free to do pretty much anything they want without any realistic fear of repercussions. He’s quite right that they could have killed him (on video) and easily gotten away with it.

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Questionable FBI Surveillance Aircraft Fleet Outed by Coalition of Journalists, Activists, And Techies

The following post was submitted to the CopBlock Network by Isiah Holmes, who has been featured several times previously on Cop Block, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. In this post, Isiah discusses the use of aircraft FBI to conduct surveillance and the role that private citizens (along with the media) played in uncovering and exposing the program’s existence and just how widespread its use is.

(Note: The FBI’s use of surveillance aircraft to spy on activists and protesters was also discussed by Asa J in an earlier post published in August of last year.)

Mice Chasing The Hawk

There exists a variety of stories notorious — amongst those whom it concerns — for their uncanny quality of illuminating hidden plights and unsung heroes. Such tales, unfortunately, rarely experience veneration in modern western society. For the sake of this piece, think not of the many examples of centuries old legends and fables. Instead, accept the challenge of recognizing just one of this variety’s countless modern manifestations. For instance, when a loose coalition of professional and citizen journalists, activists, and techies blew the lid off the FBI’s questionable, nationwide aerial surveillance program. Blew the lid–only to have the story locked into a press loop where it ultimately succumbed to starvation. This piece might be considered a functional revival of the tale.

It began in Baltimore in 2015, after Freddie Gray’s death in police custody and during the subsequent protests and riots. Cameras were everywhere, whether belonging to Baltimore PD, press, bystanders or active civic dissidents. No one, however, anticipated cameras and cell phone collection tech, for that matter, having circled above them for days. International Business Times reports, Benjamin Shayne, leader of the police radio site www.scanbaltimore.com, was among the first to notice unusual air traffic. Shayne took to Twitter: “Anyone know who has been flying the light plane in circles above the city for the past few nights?” The planes, according to IBT, which flew from April 30th-May 2nd 2015, appeared shortly after Baltimore initiated a city-wide curfew.

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Following Benjamin’s tip, a coalition of Twitter and Reddit users, including one former ACLU employee, united to monitor the planes. According to IBT, a trove of data on the aircraft was compiled through their combined talents. Exact flight paths, docking airports, and owners were tracked. The planes were now being watched back.

According to a Washington Post piece, although one plane appeared to lack a tail number, a second was tracked back to “NG Research.” The company’s website boasts of expertise in air quality, aerosol chemistry, and health effects, but speaks not on why its plane was over Baltimore that day.

Once questions started flooding web feeds, the FBI, surprisingly, released a statement glistening with trepidation. “The aircraft,” officials said; according to the Washington Post, “were specifically used to provide high altitude observation of potential criminal activity to enable rapid response by police officials on the ground.” An Improv Online investigation into suspicious planes had–undoubtedly–forced “The Man” to come forward publicly on this “program.” Perhaps it’s safe to say that information, or rather free information, is power.

Due to the government’s reluctance, as well as technology concerns, the ACLU filed several FOIA requests. In tandem with the ACLU’s push, the Associated Press launched their own in depth investigation on the aircraft’s purpose and origin. As it turns out, an entire FBI controlled surveillance-purposed fleet waited for them at the end of the rabbit hole.

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The manned planes, carrying both powerful cameras, including infrared cameras, and cell phone data collection technology reputedly operate above cities quite often. All the craft, the Huffpost reports, are superficially attached not to a government program, but to fictitious companies used as fronts. Many sources reported on the infrared camera’s capabilities of literally seeing people inside of homes. The very nature of the technology is rather wide reaching and indiscriminate, meaning non-targets frequently are recorded. A 2001 Supreme Court decision, Kyllo v. United States, Washington Post reports, held using thermal imagers to “see details” inside enclosed buildings without a warrant amounts to an unlawful search.

AP journalists also discovered that despite the program’s capabilities, deployments are rarely approved by a judge. In light of this fact, according to the Huffington Post, FBI asserts the planes are deployed only for specific, ongoing investigations. Exactly what sort of investigations is entirely unclear.

In fact, nearly a year later, even basic information on the program is vigorously withheld. In terms of explicit references, the HuffPost reports, little more than already heavily censored Justice Department Inspector General reports is public. “The FBI’s aviation program is not secret”, says spokesman Christopher Allen. “Specific aircraft”, he continues, “and their capabilities are protected for operational purposes.” Allen, according to the HuffPost, asserts the planes are not “equipped, designed, or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance.” The FBI also, apparently, allocates the fleet as air support for local departments, on-request.

fbi-spy-plane-2-bSuch statements downplaying the possibility of bulk data collection do nothing, however, to explain the plane’s flight patterns. The AP, the HuffPost reports, uncovered flights orbiting large, enclosed buildings for extended periods of time. These areas, such as Virginia’s Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Minnesota’s Mall Of America, made photo surveillance unlikely. Rather, electronic signals collection, the AP found, proves far more effective under such circumstances. The FBI planes, according to the AP’s flight data analysis, by 2015 had flown over at least 40,000 residents.

Conversely, officials did attribute gear capable of identifying people by their cellphones, even when not making calls, to the craft. Officials, the HuffPost echoed, say such devices, which mimic cellphone towers into providing basic subscriber information, are rarely deployed. The FBI’s cryptic program, sources claim, conjures memories of reports of suspicious planes circling US neighborhoods in 2003.

Through its investigation, the Associated Press was able to track 50 planes down to at least 13 fake companies. No, this is not hyperbole. They’re literally fraudulent, not real, lies, or whatever synonym you care to choose. FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR aviation, and PXW Services, according to the Huffington Post, were included among the AP’s findings. It’s interesting to note that, at least with these four companies, all have three letter acronym names. Not, of course, unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigations. A 2010 federal budget document, according to the HuffPost, verified the FBI’s fleet size at around 115 craft.

So really, to what extent is the federal law enforcement organization being brazenly, shamelessly deceptive? The FBI, according to the HuffPost, did ask the AP to not include any company names in its reporting. The bureau reputedly used the taxpayer dollars which would go towards replacing the disclosed companies as a kind of blackmail. Classy. The AP, of course, declined the FBI’s request as only publicly accessible information was used.

Most of the aircraft, despite belonging to different “companies”, were registered under a specific name–Robert Lindley. Registration documents signed by Lindley’s hand, HuffPost reports, display at least three distinct signatures. Hoping to verify the man’s existence, the AP has tried and failed to reach Robert through multiple Washington-area phone numbers under that name. FBI officials, to this day, refuse to comment on whether or not Lindley is a government employee.

By analyzing the plane’s flight data, journalists discovered the FBI fleet flew over more than 30 cities over a 30 day period. Since April 2015, two months before the Huffington Post piece, at least 100 flights circled both major cities and rural areas. Associated Press photographers even captured an image of a plane circling like a ghostly hawk in northern Virginia’s skies. The aircraft, the HuffPost reports, sported both a variety of suspicious antenna under its fuselage and a mounted camera.

Cities on the FBI’s flight list include: Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, and southern California. Some of these cities, a quick google search reveals, were subject to recent protests and/or civil unrest, such as California, Chicago and, of course, Baltimore. Despite any such public data professional and citizen journalists, analysts, or researchers may gleam, fundamental questions abound. What precisely is the purpose or function of this specific program? How long has it been operational, and under what laws is it bound or regulated? Where does excess data and footage go? How far is too far?

FBI Surveillance BaltimoreDespite the FBI’s recent downplaying of its surveillance program, its statement before congress in 2009 really says it all. “Aircraft surveillance has become an indispensable intelligence collection and investigative technique which serves as a force multiplier to the ground teams.” According to the Huffington Post, this was part of the FBI’s bid to Congress for $5.1 million in funding for the so-called “spy plane” program.

Ask yourself, what does this statement and the amount of money the FBI requested, taken either alone or together, say about the program? Does it seem like its aircraft and the technology they’re equipped with would be so rarely utilized as officials claim? “A lot of questions are unclear”, says ACLU staff attorney Nathan Wessler, the Washington Post reports.

Is it safe to suppose at least part of the programs mandate involves surveillance of generously populated protests, rowdy or otherwise? Almost sensing the question lurking about its flank the Justice Department, the HuffPost reports, maintained its “drones” don’t deploy “solely” to monitor First Amendment protected activity. In Baltimore’s case, according to FBI and Federal Aviation Administration documents, both night vision and inferred tech scanned crowds below. The documents, Washington Post reports, were obtained by the ACLU through Freedom Of Information Act requests.

An FBI official, under anonymity due to the programs sensitive nature, claimed the planes were ensuring public safety. The official, according to Washington Post, used a “potential for large scale violence and riots” as justification. “Potential”, suggesting the planes were in the air before the ground atmosphere went agro. In case you’re wondering, documents also showed no evidence of a warrant being obtained prior or after the Baltimore operation.

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If there’s at all a silver lining in any of this, it’s how much independent people really contributed to the story. Most of the information used to track, verify, and ultimately link the planes to FBI’s program hid within a slush of online data. Even the Associated Press wouldn’t have conducted an investigation had Benjamin Shayne not first tweeted about the suspicious planes. A decentralized online contingent of bloggers and Reddit users, not the organized press, was the first to conduct any serious inquiry. It’s an utter travesty that the same headline, “FBI behind mysterious surveillance aircraft over cities”, along with nearly the same AP articles, were published across the board. If that’s not a press loop then a challenge goes out to anyone who can give a more textbook example.

For anyone interested conducting a more concurrent investigation, technologist John Wiseman, Fusion.net reports, has some tips to offer. Wiseman himself used public records to get flight routes, some of which can be found online. One would be surprised what kind of legitimate information floats about the slush untouched simply because no one, except those who care, bothers to look. John also reputedly used a modified radio receiver to pick up aircraft transmissions, and tracked tail numbers, provided by the Washington Post, to a fake company. Wiseman, Fusion.net reports, recommends sites like flightradar20 and flightaware for tracking aircraft registration numbers.

Here’s where this blog gets functional! Anyone willing, able, and/or both are by all means invited to rehash the investigation. Larger news organizations might feel subliminal pressure from the feds to keep quiet, edit stories, or what have you, but the people will not. How hard would it be to, say, check up on new data on the already “found out” planes? Where are they now? Have they traded hands or do the front-companies still stand? Speaking of the “companies”, they’re fair game too! NG Research, for example, has a website which can be easily found by googling the company name. No, there isn’t any product listings on the page. No, the page hasn’t changed for over a year despite it apparently being an actual company. A functional revival of the FBI’s surveillance program, even if not published, may prove uniquely valuable in the days to come.

– Isiah Holmes

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False Arrest by Riverside Sheriffs Leads to Stolen Property/Inability to Work

Jeremy White shared the content below, about the “service” he received from those at the Riverside (CA) police outfit, which negatively impacted his ability to earn a living via the Cop Block Submissions page.

Riverside County Sheriff patchDate of Incident: March 11, 2014
Individuals Involved: Deputy Sell, Deputy Garcia, Detective Pierson
Outfit: Riverside County Sheriff’s Department
Phone: 800-950-2444
Email: Riverside Sheriffs’ Feedback Form
File a Complaint: Complaint Filing Process
Website: https://www.riversidesheriff.org/
Area Cop Block Affiliate: There are multiple Cop Block Affiliates in Southern California, including one in the Los Angeles area. To find the appropriate local group in your area, consult the Cop Block Groups page.

On March 11 of this year (2014), I was cleaning my truck before work when I was approached by a Riverside County Sheriff. He asked me why my registration wasn’t current when it actually was. Next, he told me to stand up and asked if I had anything on me.

At this time, two more sheriffs pulled up – Deputies Sell and Garcia. Sell is known in the area for harassing everybody. They then tell me I’m under arrest. I ask what for and I am told “we don’t know yet”. I replied “then how am I under arrest”? Then I was told “how about receiving stolen property?” I was placed in the police car and a tow truck was called to take my truck.

In the back of my truck was a large black plastic toolbox full of my tools for work, I am – or was – a general contractor and all my tools were in my toolbox, along with around $3000 worth of custom built tattoo machines I have collected over the years.

I was transported and asked if I had any dope on me. Then deputy Sell told the corrections officer at booking I may have drugs in my rectum. So I was subjected to a strip search, where over and over I am told to spread my cheeks with my hand and cough.

After I bailed out and tried to get my truck out of impound, I was told it had been taken for evidence. About a week later, I got a call saying my truck is released, only to be told it would cost almost $1500 to get back from Stagecoach Towing. I am told that they towed it three times, so the fee was for three tows and storage per day. I was also told that my truck was taken for radiation testing with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Since my work truck, which is a custom lowered truck with fully adjustable air suspension, was in custody of the tow company I couldn’t get to work, or do any of the work even I had found a ride, since I had no tools.

I argued with a detective Pierson who finally called Stagecoach Towing to release my tools out of the truck only to find out they were all gone and so was my toolbox. The tow company said that there were no tools in my truck, the EPA said that my box was destroyed during testing but the contents were put back in the truck and the sheriffs deputies who arrested me never took an inventory of my belongings.

I ended up losing my construction business. I still cant afford to get another truck, but slowly I am getting some more tools. The tow fees were so much I ended up giving my truck away to a friends’ cousin, because he had the money to pay the tow fees and I’d rather he had my truck than the people who stole all my things.

To date, I have not been compensated and no charges were ever filed on me. None of my complaints have even been responded to. I am waiting for them to file charges just in spite of my complaints. I have been pulled over and harassed and kicked out of my house by the Riverside County Sheriffs. I cant count how many times I have had police contact with these people and no charges were ever filed. They just wanted to steal my truck and my tools. I don’t have money for a lawyer, so I guess that’s it. I never bothered with a police report, because we know how that will go.

The Riverside County sheriffs are mostly corrupt to the core. They take peoples property, peoples animals for ransom with the threat of killing them for money, they lie, steal, cheat, and murder. It’s a huge organization and hard to fight when you have nothing (thanks to them). This has been devastating to me and my family that I also lost, because of my situation. Quality of life isn’t very good anymore. So much for the American dream.

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