Friday, January 18, 2008

Report: N.Y. Cops Joked About Dying Man

Appalling, absolutely appalling.

Report: N.Y. Cops Joked About Dying Man
From Associated Press
January 18, 2008 4:26 PM EST

NEW YORK - Police officers were taped joking about a dying, homeless Guatemalan immigrant after he was found on the side of a deserted road in their suburban town, a TV station reported.

"You wanna hear something really funny? ... He's alive," a Bedford police officer tells a sergeant on a taped phone call aired Thursday on WCBS.

The two go on to marvel - with the officer chuckling - that Rene Perez had apparently revived himself temporarily after authorities thought him dead. The station said Perez died an hour after the officers' taped exchange April 28.

In a phone call to another Bedford sergeant after Perez's death, a Bedford officer sings the title line from the 1966 Left Banke single "Walk Away Renee."

Chief Chris Menzel defended the department, telling WCBS, "We are not callous or indifferent." He said he could not comment further on the ongoing case.

Through a translator, Perez's brother, Anival Perez, called the taped conversations disrespectful.

A police officer in neighboring Mount Kisco is charged with manslaughter in Perez's death and has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say George Bubaris drove the drunken Perez to Bedford, dealt him a deadly blow to the abdomen and left him to die.

Perez, 42, had a history of making drunken 911 calls. He called Mount Kisco police complaining of stomach pain on April 28, and police records show Bubaris reported there was no need for further action.

Lawsuits filed on behalf of Perez's family maintain that Mount Kisco and Bedford made a practice of "dumping" each other's undesirables in the neighboring town. Bedford police had taken Perez into Mount Kisco hours before Bubaris allegedly took him to Bedford, about 40 miles northeast of New York City.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Canadian Police Watchdog Wants Taser Use Reined In

Source: Orlando Sentinel

Canadian police watchdog wants Taser use reined in

December 13, 2007

Article tools

OTTAWA - The national Canadian police force should drastically reduce its use of Taser stun guns, the country's main police watchdog said in a report released Wednesday. The Commission for Complaints Against the RCMP stopped short of calling for a moratorium on the use of Tasers. But it said they should only be used when suspects are "combative" or pose a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to police, themselves or the public. The report has been awaited since the Oct. 14 death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport. He was Tasered during a confrontation with Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers.

State Attorney Works to Clear a Backlog of Deadly Force Cases


State Attorney Lawson Lamar works to clear a backlog of deadly force cases for Orlando-area cops
Extra prosecutors were assigned to help get cases out of limbo.

Henry Pierson Curtis

Sentinel Staff Writer

(published) December 13, 2007

Twenty-eight Orlando-area cops who had been waiting up to two years for a prosecutor to evaluate their use of deadly force have been cleared during the past two months by State Attorney Lawson Lamar.

His office closed 15 of those cases during three days in mid-November, a week before the Orlando Sentinel reported that Lamar's office took months and sometimes years longer than other Central Florida state attorneys to review such cases.

At the time, Lamar's staff said no backlog existed. This week, it was disclosed that extra prosecutors had been assigned to resolve the cases.

"No case was forgotten, but there were a number of factors why the reviews were not completed in a timely manner, several of [them] . . . unacceptable," Chief of Investigations Randy Means wrote this week in an e-mail to the newspaper. "We have accomplished our goal of finishing the reviews and now have a better tracking method that should keep reviews up to date."

The Sentinel began looking into the backlog in September. Law-enforcement officials and union leaders subsequently told the newspaper that officers involved in shootings had to work under a cloud of doubt as they waited for Lamar's staff to decide whether they acted legally.

Means wrote that Lamar spoke with prosecutors "a few months ago" and told them to reduce the backlog of deadly force investigations. He said the process already was under way when the newspaper asked about the cases. He would not say when or how many prosecutors were assigned to clear up the problem.

Evidence of the recent urgency was found on a note pasted to one of the shooting files newly cleared.

"Please assign to Robert Eagan ASAP!" a senior staff prosecutor wrote Oct. 22 on one file. Eagan, a former state attorney who still works in the office, helped resolve the more than two dozen open cases.

The veteran prosecutor took less than three days to review the inches-thick file and determine that five Orlando police officers had been justified when they killed an armed robber Aug. 31.

The man killed, 23-year-old Willie Lee Cliatt, had opened fire on the officers when cornered on Mercy Drive shortly after he robbed a Pine Hills business, crashed his getaway car in a high-speed chase and threatened to kill an Orlando woman in a failed carjacking, records show.

It was one of several cases Lamar closed this fall much faster than usual.

The promise of timely reviews pleased Orlando police officers and Orange County deputy sheriffs.

"We understand that, obviously, homicide cases and other infamous-type crimes could take precedent to review an officer's actions, but we feel it's just as important in most circumstances to get those officers' actions reviewed and let the public know they did their job or, in those rare cases, if they didn't do their jobs," said Sam Hoffman, labor-committee chairman of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 25 in Orlando.

"We are pleased that they have cleared up the backlog," Hoffman said. "And we'd like to see the cases more up to date."

The handling of the Mercy Drive case, resolved in less than eight weeks, contrasted with the handling of the Dec. 1, 2005, death of Jeffrey Earnhardt near Bithlo.

The victim, cousin of NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Jr., died after being stunned twice with a Taser by a deputy to keep him from running into traffic on East Colonial Drive. An autopsy determined that Jeffrey Earnhardt, 47, was dangerously high on methamphetamine, an illegal drug he had been arrested for trying to manufacture, records show.

Other long-unresolved cases had included a nonfatal shooting in August 2005 when truck thieves tried to run down several deputies, and fatal shootings in April and May 2006 when carjackers tried to kill deputies, records show.

Central Florida Police Benevolent Association President John Park, who represents about 1,300 Orange County deputies, said timely rulings help law-enforcement officers deal with the personal stress of having to use deadly force. Local deputies and police officers typically return to work within two weeks, even while waiting for prosecutors to decide whether a shooting was justified.

"With multiple layers of scrutiny on split-second decision making by law-enforcement officers, it's reassuring to hear the State Attorney's Office is going to give back a timely verdict on issues that weigh on the hearts and minds of deputies involved in these critical incidents," Park said. "We thank everyone involved in the process."

Henry Pierson Curtis can be reached at or 407-420-5257.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Woman Says Orlando Officer Pepper Sprayed Her, Beat Her For No Reason

Woman Says Orlando Officer Pepper Sprayed Her, Beat Her For No Reason

POSTED: 7:32 am EST November 29, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. -- An Orlando woman said she was beaten and pepper sprayed by an Orlando police officer after she tried to complain about him.

Eyewitness News learned officer ANTHONY MILLER has had at least eight complaints filed against him and five pending lawsuits. Freelance writer Karen Holbrook said she was walking to her car when Miller and another officer said she could not walk down the street.

She called 911 to report their behavior.

"When I asked him for his badge number he slammed me on the floor. And then Miller did some crazy wrestling move. He put his knee on my back and slammed me on the ground," Holbrook said of the attack.

Orlando Police Internal Affairs is investigating this incident. Miller has never been disciplined by the department because it said he has not violated any policy rules.

An attorney representing Holbrook plans to file a lawsuit in the next couple of months.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

UN: Tasers Are A Form Of Torture

Published on Sunday, November 25, 2007 by CBS News

UN: Tasers Are A Form Of Torture

“Stun Guns” Are Under Fire After Six Deaths This Week; Rallies Held Demanding They Be Banned

(CBS/AP) - A United Nations committee said Friday that use of Taser weapons can be a form of torture, in violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Use of the electronic stun devices by police has been marked with a sudden rise in deaths - including four men in the United States and two in Canada within the last week.

Canadian authorities are taking a second look at them, and in the United States, there is a wave of demands to ban them.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture referred Friday to the use of TaserX26 weapons which Portuguese police has acquired. An expert had testified to the committee that use of the weapons had “proven risks of harm or death.”

“The use of TaserX26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use,” the committee said in a statement.

Tasers have become increasingly controversial in the United States, particularly after several notorious cases where their use by police to disable suspects was questioned as being excessive. Especially disturbing is the fact that six adults died after being tased by police in the span of a week.

Last Sunday, in Frederick, Md., a sheriff’s deputy trying to break up a late-night brawl tased 20-year-old Jarrel Grey. He died on the spot.

“I want to know what he did that was so bad,” the victim’s mother, Tanya James, said. “Did the deputy think that their life was in danger? Did he have a weapon?”

The death came just weeks after Frederick police used a Taser to subdue a high school student.

Black leaders held a rally Tuesday calling for the department to ban Tasers, at least until there is a clear policy on how they are used. The NAACP says it appears the sheriff’s office is using Tasers routinely, rather than as a weapon of last resort.

Also this week, in Jacksonville, Fla., in two separate cases two men died after being stunned.

One suspect, who fled a car crash and tried to break into a nearby home, struggled with a policeman, prompting the officer to tase him three times. The man continued to fight, and tried to bite the officer, while he was being tased. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Another man died Tuesday after a Jacksonville officer pulled over his car. When the officer approached it, the man took off running. When the officer caught up with him, during a struggle, authorities say the officer used his Taser to subdue the suspect.

After being placed in the back of the police car the suspect became unresponsive. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Last Sunday, in New Mexico, 20-year-old Jesse Saenz died after Raton police used a Taser to subdue him. Police say Saenz was struggling and fighting with them as they attempted to take him into custody.

Saenz died after being transported to a county jail.

In Nova Scotia, a 45-year-old man who was jailed on assault charges jumped a counter and ran for the door as he was being booked. He died yesterday, about 30 hours after being shocked.

And in Vancouver, where Royal Candian Mounted Police have been criticized for their use of a Taser against an irate airline passenger at Vancouver Airport last month, 36-year-old Robert Knipstrom died in a hospital four days after police used a Taser, pepper spray and batons to subdue him.

Police earlier said Knipstrom was agitated, aggressive and combative with officers. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

More than a dozen people have died in Canada after being hit by Tasers in the last four years.

The reported incidents this week did not have cameras documenting the use of the Tasers, but in British Columbia, a tourist’s video camera recorded the death of a man tased twice while in custody at the Vancouver Airport last month.

That horrifying video shows Robert Dziekanski, a Polish man who spoke no English, become increasingly agitated. He was shocked twice, and then died.

The stun guns were denounced at memorial rallies in Vancouver and Toronto for Dziekanski.

Among the 1,000 people at the Vancouver rally was Paul Pritchard, who shot the video of the confrontation at the city airport.

The crowd gave a hero’s welcome to Pritchard, who said he “saw the life drain out of a man’s face” and heard “blood-curdling screams.”

A rally in front of the Ontario legislature in Toronto drew several hundred people, including Bob Rae, a Liberal candidate in the next federal election.

Rae said the events leading up to Dziekanski’s death must “never, ever be allowed to happen again.”

The prominent - and sensational - reports of deaths following the use of Tasers has increased attention to their legitimacy, and prompted a bold defense by their manufacturer.

Taser International, based in Scottsdale, Az., released a statement following the Vancouver Airport incident saying no deaths have ever been definitively connected to what the company describes as: “the low-energy electrical discharge of the Taser.”

That’s 50,000 volts.

“The video of the incident at the Vancouver airport indicates that the subject was continuing to fight well after the TASER application,” Taser International said. “This continuing struggle could not be possible if the subject died as a result of the Taser device electrical current causing cardiac arrest. [Dziekanski’s] continuing struggle is proof that the Taser device was not the cause of his death.

“Specifically in Canada, while previous incidents were widely reported in the media as ‘Taser deaths,’ the role of the Taser device has been cleared in every case to date,” Taser said.

The devices are used by about 12,000 police departments, often in chaotic situations.

Retired police officer Paul Mazzei told CBS News correspondent Joie Chen, “Minus the Taser, they would have to use an impact weapon like a baton, possibly pepper spray or in some extreme cases of violent behavior they might even have to use deadly force to control that individual.”

In fact, in New Mexico earlier this month, the parents of a suicidal woman who was shot to death by Bernalillo County deputies two years ago are suing, contending that the police should have used Tasers instead of firearms.

Brittany Wayne was killed in her bedroom 23 seconds after police arrived.

And in Utah, a patrol car’s dashboard camera caught an officer tasing a driver who refused to sign a speeding ticket. The officer is now under investigation, accused of being too quick on the draw.

Amid a growing outcry, civil rights groups are urging police to put down their Tasers until more research is done.

“The danger of Tasers is that they seem safe, they seem easy and therefore I think it’s natural that police will be inclined to use them much more quickly than they would ever use a gun,” Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox told Chen. producer David Morgan contributed to this report.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Ministry complains to police
Orlando's investigation of the use of Mace after the Florida Classic could take 3 to 6 months.

April Hunt and Willoughby Mariano |Sentinel Staff Writers
November 20, 2007

A representative for a black evangelical church filed a formal complaint with Orlando police Monday, accusing an officer of roughing up church members after the Florida Classic football game.

Members of J.U.M.P. Ministries International were evangelizing in downtown Orlando early Sunday after the game between historically black Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M universities when officers pushed two church members and sprayed the group with Mace, they said.

Police said they used the spray to keep a crowd of 10,000 from getting dangerous.

The Police Department's internal-affairs division is investigating the case, and it may take three to six months to complete the probe.

Church member Celine Cannon, a Winter Park attorney, met with Orlando police investigators Monday and handed over unedited video footage in addition to filing the complaint. She said her group was not blocking traffic or causing trouble and clearly identified themselves as members of a church.

The evangelical group regularly preaches to revelers at Black College Reunion and spring break in Daytona Beach. They videotape their efforts to air on television.

Durone Hepburn, bishop of J.U.M.P. Ministries, said he worries that police showed no regard for the fact his church members were trying to preach to the crowd. He thinks that the officer's response was, in part, racially motivated. Police have said race had nothing to do with it.

Members of the church group are consulting with the Central Florida ACLU and the Orange County NAACP.

A police report released Monday shows four officers sprayed thousands of revelers just after the bars closed early Sunday to break up what they called a hostile crowd.

About 2:15 a.m., fights broke out around Orange Avenue and Central Boulevard, the report states. At the same time, an officer heard gunshots in the parking garage on West Central Boulevard.

One officer had begun to arrest a suspect near the parking garage when "thousands of people began to encircle" the officer, the report states.

That officer and four others then sprayed Mace toward the crowd to disperse it.

"The chemical agent had the desired affect [sic] which created a mild irritant to those present and safely cleared the streets preventing injuries to the officers and the public," the report states.

Cannon, who saw the incident, said an officer shoved two members and sprayed Mace, making people gag. There was no brawl near where church members were filming, she said. Cannon said the officer sprayed without warning, but other church members said he asked them to leave and then sprayed.

The spray is considered a use of force by the department and is allowed in certain situations, said Sgt. Barbara Jones, an Orlando police spokeswoman.

April Hunt can be reached at

Willoughby Mariano can be reached at
or 407-420-5171.


Ministry outraged after members say Orlando cop sprayed them with Mace

April Hunt, Susan Jacobson and Willoughby Mariano |Sentinel Staff Writers
6:08 PM EST, November 19, 2007

A representative for members of an evangelical church who claim that an Orlando police officer abused them during a post-Florida Classic celebration Sunday filed a formal complaint with police Monday.

The woman from J. U. M. P. ministries also met with Internal Affairs investigators on accusations that an officer sprayed her group with Mace and pushed two of her group during the downtown celebration and sprayed them group with Mace. She provided an unedited copy of the video as well.
Her name was not immediately available.

A newly released police report shows that four officers did spray "thousands" of revelers just after the bars closed, to break up a ["]hostile["] crowd. Internal Affairs investigators have up to 180 days to make a determination if the use of force was justified.

"They have got to be thorough and determine whether the spray was deployed properly," said Police Sgt. Barb Jones.

Churchmembers said they were videotaping a wrap-up of the night's events between 2:30 and 3 a.m. when an officer approached them.

That is when the officer shoved two members and and sprayed the Mace, causing people's eyes and noses to burn and making them gag, said Celine Cannon, a lawyer and a church member who was there.

"This is outrageous," said Cannon, who promised to file a complaint against the officer.

A police report shows that two officers were working crowd control from about 10:30 p.m. to closing time at 2 a.m. around downtown clubs.

At about 2:15 a.m., the report notes that several fights broke out around Orange Avenue and Central Boulevard. At the same time, an officer heard gunshots in the parking garage on West Central Boulevard.

One officer had begun to arrest a suspect near the parking garage when, "thousands of people began to encircle" the officer, the report states.

That officer and four others then sprayed Mace toward the crowd, to disperse it.

"The chemical agent had the desired affect (sic) which created a mild irritant to those present and safely cleared the streets preventing injuries to the officers and the public," the report states.

The spray is considered a use of force by the department and allowed in certain situations, Jones said.

"It is a tool that, if I witness a fight or am outnumbered, if people resist, I can use," Jones said. "Unfortunately, if it gets into the air, it spreads."

Some members of her group think the incident was racially motivated. Many black people were downtown after the football game between Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman, two historically black universities.

Orlando police Lt. Rich Ring denied that race played any part in the actions.

"We're going to use the same techniques on you whether you're polka-dotted, black, white, Hispanic or a mix of black and white," Ring said. "We have to maintain civil order."

Witnesses had conflicting stories about the number of officers present and exactly what happened. Cannon said the officer sprayed without warning, but others said he asked them to leave and then sprayed.

Darrell Walker, 29, said he and the member with the video camera chased an officer to ask on tape why they were sprayed, but the officer would not answer.

"It was crowd control," Walker said. "But when we turned to them and told them we were with the church, they shouldn't have done that."

Jones said investigators will review the video and wait to see if a formal complaint is submitted.

"If somebody did something wrong, they will address it," Jones said.

Ring said about 75 officers were policing a crowd of 10,000 downtown and used accepted procedure to avoid injury to officers and civilians. He said there were some arrests, but none related to this incident.

"If this one blast of a gas has got them upset, I'm sorry," Ring said. "But I'm proud of what my guys did last night."

The Rev. Randolph Bracy, president of the Orange County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the church contacted his group and he is looking into its claims.

Sarah Langbein of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.


Suspect dies after Jacksonville police Taser him

Associated Press
11:47 PM EST, November 20, 2007 (via Orlando Sentinel)

JACKSONVILLE - A man died Tuesday after police Tasered him because he fled a car crash and tried to break into a nearby home, authorities said. It was the second Taser related death for the agency in three days.

The man, who was not identified, crashed a car into a parked sport utility vehicle and then tried to enter an occupied home.

Authorities said the suspect struggled with an officer, prompting the officer to Tase him three times. The man continued to fight and tried to bite the officer while he was being Tased, The Florida Times-Union reported.

The man was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Another suspect died Sunday after Jacksonville police Tased him during a struggle. Authorities said Christian Allens shoved an officer who pulled over his truck for loud music before he and his passenger ran away. Firefighters cleared Allens medically after the incident, but he went into cardiac arrest a short time later and died. Allens was carrying a loaded handgun.

A telephone call to police Tuesday night by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.