Police This week


CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Wildwood Police Sgt. David Romeo was sentenced Friday afternoon to five years in prison for official misconduct for kicking two handcuffed suspects while they were lying on the ground.
Romeo remains free on bail pending an appeal. He left the courtroom with his family Friday following a sentencing that lasted about five hours.
Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten imposed the sentence during a lengthy hearing in which he found that Romeo’s actions were measured, calculated and unprovoked when he kicked the two men.
“The defendant yet denies culpability, yet displays no remorse,” Batten said.
Romeo, 39, was convicted March 8 of second-degree official misconduct for kicking suspects Gilbert Haege and Louis McCullough in the head as they lay face down on the ground July 24, 2007, following their arrest in connection with a string of car burglaries.
During the trial, which began with opening arguments Feb. 18, Romeo testified that he did kick the two men, but he said it was because he saw a weapon, later identified as a Leatherman multi-purpose tool, lying on the ground between them.
“I saw the knife on the ground. It was a threat. I had to get the knife,” Romeo told the jury.
Three of Romeo’s fellow Wildwood officers — Walt Cubernot, Edward Ramsey and Roger Lillo — testified that the suspects were subdued and no weapon was present when they were kicked.


Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) – Some Las Vegas Metro Police officers are facing accusations after witnesses accuse them of smacking around a suspect. Witnesses say they watched officers drag a man out of his home and that’s when they say officers beat the handcuffed suspect.
Metro confirms at least two officers are under investigation but so is whether the suspect was fighting them every step of the way.
What started as a call to Metro about a loud party Thursday night turned into anything but a celebration. Officers ended up taking James Akins to jail for obstruction and quote unlawful acts related to human excrement. But his sister, Adreonna, says what happened in between was also a crime.
"The police officer comes in and charges my brother, and puts his hands behind his back, and then pushes him against the wall and starts hitting him on the door," explained Adreonna.
"When he was hitting him on the door, was he in handcuffs," asked Action News reporter Steve Ryan.
 "Yes," said Adreonna.
"The officer had already handcuffed your brother," asked Action News reporter Steve Ryan. 
 "Yes," said Adreonna.
 "Was he punching him with closed fists or anything like that," asked Action News reporter Steve Ryan
"Not until they got downstairs," said Adreonna.
That’s where witness, Marquita Hopkins, took pictures which are open to interpretation.
"The officer on the left side punched him about two three times. He was not resisting arrest or anything. He was not fighting back with the officers at all," said Marquita Hopkins, witness.
Patrol sources tell Action News Akins was in fact fighting, dodging officers inside, even spitting on them outside, and that his legs were unrestrained, posing more of a threat. Witnesses have a picture of Akins moment after being put in a patrol
Bradford woman files suit against state police
Says she was falsely arrested for DUI
Friday, May 21, 2010
By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A McKean County woman claims in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that a state trooper falsely arrested her for DUI because she and her relatives had spoken out against Pennsylvania State Police in their community.
Dianne M. Thompson, of Bradford, filed the complaint against Trooper Matthew Petrof, alleging violations of her First Amendment right to free speech; excessive use of force, malicious prosecution; unlawful search and seizure and unlawful arrest.
She is seeking $1 million in damages.
The state police declined to comment on the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Ms. Thompson owns the Corner Bar & Restaurant in Bradford, and she and her two brothers, Robert and Donald Cummins, have spoken out publicly against the state police. Last summer, her brothers each had opinion pieces on the subject published in the local newspaper.
The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Thompson was illegally pulled over on Oct. 31. According to the 11-page document, she left her bar about 1 a.m. and was pulled over almost immediately. Trooper Petrof pulled the woman over because she remained too long at a yellow traffic light and for littering, she said.
When he approached her car, the suit continued, the trooper claimed he could smell alcohol on her breath and that her eyes were bloodshot and glassy. He had her perform field sobriety tests, claimed that she failed and then took her to a local hospital for a blood-alcohol test.
The results were negative, the lawsuit said.
Trooper Petrof then handcuffed Ms. Thompson, returned her to her vehicle and gave her two traffic citations.
According to the lawsuit, Ms. Thompson’s brother, Robert, went out later that evening to determine if Trooper Petrof was purposefully targeting his family.
Mr. Cummins drove through the community and noticed the trooper following him. He then made turns without using his turn signal and was pulled over.
Again, according to the complaint, the trooper accused Mr. Cummins of driving drunk. He claimed he failed field sobriety tests but only charged Mr. Cummins with summary traffic counts.
Ms. Thompson was later found not guilty by a district judge on the charges filed against her
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe filed a $4.75 million claim against the county for alleged abuse of power by former County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
As our post about Thomas and Donahoe from yesterday explained, the abuse appears to be quite real. Donahoe was charged by Thomas with three felonies, including bribery, despite the inability of Thomas to explain what Donahoe had done.
A probable cause statement attached to the criminal complaint in December was a near word-for-word copy of a complaint letter about Donahoe sent a week before to the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct by Arpaio’s chief deputy, David Hendershott. When asked at a news conference to explain himself, Thomas stammered and asked for the media to help him explain it, adding that Arizona’s bribery law could be interpreted very broadly.
Thomas, now running for state attorney general, refuses to discuss the matter.
Michael Manning, Donahoe’s lawyer, writes in the chilling (though flowery) notice of claim that Donahoe’s reputation has been "irreversibly tarnished."

Retired Henrico officer charged with DUI in I-295 wreck

A retired Henrico County police officer was charged with DUI early today after his pickup truck drove through safety cones into an Interstate 295 work zone and seriously injured a highway paving contractor employee.

The ex-officer was returning home from a retirement party for another officer when the wreck occurred, a source said.

Robert M. Harrison, 41, of the 3200 block of Parkwood Avenue in Richmond was in serious condition at VCU Medical Center after being struck about 12:45 a.m., said Sgt. Thomas Molnar, a State Police spokesman.

Molnar said a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado driven by John R. Tucker III, 55, of 11000 block of Challis Lane in Sandston, went into a right-lane work zone on I-295 southbound after entering from Nuckols Road. Molnar said the right and center lanes were blocked, and the entry ramp was set up to feed traffic into the left lane. 

Tucker was charged with driving under the influence and refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test, Molnar said. He was taken to the Henrico County Jail.



Officer facing assault charge

By Samantha Perry For The Register-Herald

BLUEFIELD — A Bluefield police officer was charged with unlawful assault Monday after a weekend incident in Princeton in which he allegedly punched and struck an individual with a beer bottle.

Daniel Lambert, of Princeton, a patrolman with the Bluefield Police Department, was arraigned Monday afternoon before Magistrate Charles Poe and released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. A Hinton police officer, Theodore White, who was allegedly with Lambert during the incident, has not been charged.

According to court records, the incident occurred around 5 a.m. Sunday morning. The victim was traveling on Thorn Street when he “thought he was being pulled over,” according to Lambert’s arrest warrant.

After pulling his car over, the victim exited his car and asked the occupants of the vehicle behind him if they were police officers, according to the arrest warrant. After the occupants stated “no,” the victim asked: “Why are you impersonating a police officer?”

At that time, the victim states in the warrant, a passenger in the front of the vehicle used pepper spray on him. The victim said at that point he could not see;“however he felt being hit by what felt like a baseball bat and heard beer bottles breaking all around him,” according to the warrant.

The victim was able to get in his car, drive toward Mercer Street and call 911, according to court documents. The victim told police he recognized the driver of the vehicle, identifying him as White.



Denver police officer suspended during excessive-force investigation

Denver police Officer Michael Morelock has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation into allegations of use of excessive force.

Morelock, 30, began working for the Denver Police Department in 2006 and racked up 21 claims of excessive force against him over his first two years in the department, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week.

Last year he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol.

Denver police spokesman John White said an internal investigation began Feb. 11. Morelock has been suspended with pay since then.

Manager of Safety Al LaCabe said a decision on Morelock’s employment status has not been made pending the outcome of the investigation.

Lawsuit cites lie, beating

On Wednesday, Denver resident Tyler Mustard filed a federal lawsuit against the city and county of Denver, Morelock and Officer Kimberly Thompson.

The claim says Morelock beat him without provocation and lied about being hit by Mustard during the arrest.

Mustard claims Thompson helped Morelock beat him near East 12th Avenue and Pearl Street on June 17, 2008, because they suspected he spray-painted a van.

Mustard’s lawsuit says he had head injuries and a collapsed lung after he was beaten with a flashlight or a baton.

Denver prosecutors charged Mustard with assaulting a police officer.

During a preliminary hearing in that case, Morelock testified that Mustard struck him in the head with a blunt object and said he almost lost consciousness.

Mustard’s suit says Morelock didn’t tell medical personnel that his head was injured and claims he made it up to justify the beating.

A Denver judge dismissed the criminal case against Mustard.

Mustard’s lawsuit claims that just hours before Morelock arrested him, the officer was questioned by internal affairs about an excessive force allegation made by Alonzo Barrett.

Barrett told police that Morelock beat him with a billy club and that witnesses saw Morelock break his own patrol car window during the incident. Morelock contended Barrett broke his window, the suit claims.

The internal affairs bureau referred the Barrett case to the Denver district attorney. Prosecutors declined to prosecute Morelock, the suit says.

Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the district attorney, said prosecutors could not locate the file late Friday but said it’s likely charges could not be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Other allegations

In October 2009, Morelock and three fellow officers — Adam Barrett, Sgt. Stephen Kenfield and Eric Golladay — were sued by Nick Lynch, of Lakewood, who was arrested March 29, 2008, after a fight in Lower Downtown.

Lynch claims he was beaten during his arrest and that Morelock, who witnessed the arrest, declined to identify the arresting officer.

In February 2009, the Colorado State Patrol arrested Morelock in Commerce City for driving under the influence. He pleaded guilty to the charge.




Police Use Stun Gun On Wrong Guy
Josue Tapia Was Pulled Over And Taken Into Custody After Mixup Over Warrant; Man Says He’s Not a Gang Member
Josue Tapia was stunned with a Taser in an apparent mixup involving another man’s arrest warrant. Tapia says the experience has been a "nightmare."
He was zapped by a Chicago Police stun gun at least five times.

Josue Tapia still has the marks on his body to prove it. The problem is: Police got the wrong guy.

CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot talked to him in his hospital room.

Tapia shows marks he says were caused by a stun gun used by Chicago police. Tapia says he’s been hospitalized for the past six days and was shackled to his hospital bed.

"I remember the voltage, because I was screaming," he says. "I just remember being on the floor all the time, pain in my back, you know, being stomped on."

Tapia says he was with his wife, Marlyn, Saturday night in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. They had just bought milk for their one-year-old child. They were pulled over by police for a traffic stop.

"They said they ran his name and he didn’t have no warrant, so that’s the reason why they let him go," Marlyn recalls.

According to the police report, moments later, the computer in the squad car showed there was an active warrant for Tapia’s arrest, matching his description. Officers turned around because they had probable cause to stop him.

Josue Tapia says he thinks police then told him there was a warrant out on him. Things went bad from there, the couple says.

"All my husband did was turn around and say, ‘What’s going on officer?’" Marlyn said. "That’s when the officer grabbed him and threw him there and said, ‘Stop resisting!’"

She said police were "on top of him, attacking him." Police used a stun gun on him five times, the wife says.

The police report says, after further investigation, the warrant that officers were investigating, was not for Josue Tapia. Instead, a "Juan Tapia" with the same date of birth was wanted on a warrant.

Josue Tapia says the mixup has been a "nightmare" for him.



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