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Hullabaloo


Thursday, December 31, 2015

 

Can you say, WTF?

by Tom Sullivan

Yesterday it just hit overload. After this week's non-indictment on the Tamir Rice killing (the "perfect storm of human error"), things went to Category 5 when several other tales of human error by police came across Twitter.

“IM GONNA TAKE UR BITE IF U DONT HURRY UP.”

And this. The mother of a suicidal 18 year-old called North Port, FL police in July 2012 after his sister found a noose in the garage:

[Jared] Lemay, who was hiding inside a trash can at the time, has said he was depressed and contemplating killing himself. He was also wanted by police for violating his probation after being found guilty of unarmed burglary and “resisting an officer without violence.”

Before reaching the house, though, records show [North Port K-9 handler Keith] Bush sent a text message to another K-9 handler, Michael Dietz, saying, “COME GET UR [sic] BITE.” He sent a follow-up message a few minutes later saying, “IM GONNA TAKE UR BITE IF U DONT HURRY UP.”

After Dietz's dog dragged Lemay out of the trash can by his face, another officer texted, “CONGRATS” on the first "bite" by the Belgian Malinois named Cammo. Lemay wound up in the hospital with wounds to his face and back.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports this week:

Charles Mesloh, one of the nation’s leading researchers on police K-9 uses of force, called Bush’s messages to Dietz “horrifying” and said they should invite a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the North Port Police Department.

Andrea Flynn Mogensen, chair of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s legal panel, said the messages show what appears to be a premeditated attack on Lemay by police and an excessive use of force.

North Port Police Chief Kevin Vespia declined an interview with the Herald-Tribune about the paper’s findings, through city spokesman Josh Taylor. Taylor cited pending litigation involving the case.

“This is people deciding in advance deciding how they’re going to hurt someone,” Mesloh said:

In July, the Herald-Tribune reported that North Port’s K-9 handlers commanded their police dogs to attack more people from 2010 through 2014 than did the police K-9 handlers of neighboring municipalities Sarasota, Bradenton, Palmetto, Venice and Punta Gorda combined during the same period.

In total, 34 people were bitten by North Port’s police dogs over five years. Close to 37 percent of apprehensions made by the K-9 unit ended with a dog attack, which was higher than a 30 percent threshold that many American law enforcement agencies use to monitor their K-9 units’ performance for potential misconduct.

“My baby.”

But wait. There's more. Another dog attack from last January. Henderson, NV police responding to a report of a robbery stopped the wrong man. A witness said the suspect had gotten into a red SUV. But the car belonged to Arturo Arenas-Alvarez who worked at the Baja Fresh in the shopping center. He had parked just seconds earlier, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week:

The officers who were already there used the public address system to order anyone in the car to roll down the windows and stick his arms out.

Arenas-Alvarez didn't appear to understand, but stepped out of the car and — guided by one officer's rudimentary Spanish — walked toward the officers.

Immediately, police could see he was not their slim 6-foot-1-inch suspect, reported to be wearing a black and tan T-shirt.

"That's not him, dude. That's not a black man in a black shirt," one officer said to another. (Most of the officers are not identified in the videos.)

The officers politely reassured Arenas-Alvarez things were fine, with one telling him: "They thought that you were involved in a robbery. You don't look like the person, so it's OK now, OK?"

Except it wasn't. From across the parking lot, Sgt. James Mitchel released his police dog to search the car within 90 seconds of arriving. Arenas-Alvarez's infant daughter was still strapped into her car seat.

Although the dashcam video does not show what happened next, the audio is horrifying:

“My baby,” Arturo Arenas-Alvarez can be heard pleading with officers in broken English. “I’ve got my baby.”

An officer then yelled out, “There’s an infant in that car! There’s an infant in that car!”

But it was too late. By the time the cops realized that their immediate escalation to violence was unnecessary – the damage had been done.

Ayleen’s blood curdling and heart-wrenching screams of agony can be heard on the dashcam. The 4-year-old dog, Doerak, was ripping into the baby’s flesh. By the time the dog let go of the infant, her right arm had been mauled. She was left with nine puncture wounds and abrasions.

Oops, you know? It could have been worse, Mitchell tells another officer, "The last forearm, the guy didn't have anything left but bone." Yeah, that's appropriate. What was that suspect wanted for?

Brought to you by the Number 5

Excessive use of and rapid escalation to violence by police seems to be a theme lately. People we hire, train, and pay to maintain order are out of order. And not just out on the street either. In their own homes. David Waldman (@KagroX) tweeted yesterday (and provided links, thanks):

North Carolina: Wife of Winston-Salem Police Department employee in hospital after accidental shooting

Florida: Police: Fla. mom shot, killed daughter she mistook for intruder

Alaska: Boy, 4, accidentally kills self with handgun found in Bethel State Trooper Housing

Texas: DPS: SAM HOUSTON UNIVERSITY OFFICER ACCIDENTALLY SHOOTS GIRLFRIEND

Nevada: Off-duty Metro officer, husband accidentally shoot relative

"Boom, Boom, Boom"

A coda to the Tamir Rice shooting. You all know the story. You have seen the video. The black pre-teen was shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann less than 2 seconds after exiting the police car. He had been deemed “an emotionally unstable recruit with a ‘lack of maturity’ and ‘inability to perform basic functions as instructed‘ during a weapons training exercise” at the last police department where he worked. Loehmann thought Rice "looked older" and that the pellet gun he was holding was real. Rice's was another black life that didn't matter.

It is not clear whether that was the point 66-year-old Elaine Rothenberg (white) was trying to make last week in Torrington, CT where she bought a BB gun specifically because it looked real. She pointed it at officers at the police station and dared them to shoot her:

Rothenberg then took a position in front of a doorway where police enter and exit (employee only doorway) which is used for officers to get to their police cruisers and stood with the handgun raised and in a shooting stance.

Officers were immediately alerted of the heightened threat and police made contact with Rothenberg. Rothenberg yelled about hating the cops and stated “what are you doing, shoot me!” and “what are you scared?”

She raised the gun and pointed it at officers yelling “boom boom boom.”

After a brief standoff, Rothenburg was arrested without incident and charged with reckless endangerment, threatening, interfering with police, and breach of peace.

And a Happy New Year.