Click here to view the transcripts.
Click here to view the transcripts.
One of the most shocking things to emerge from the Preliminary Trial of Manny Ramos and Jay Cicinelli for the killing of Kelly Thomas are the statements made by Fullerton Fire Department personnel that the cops received attention to their miscellaneous scrapes as Thomas, whose face had just been bashed in, and who was suffocating in his own blood, lay ignored nearby.
For pure callousness, incomprehensible inhumanity, and well, evil, it’s pretty hard to beat this story. The images of minor scratches sustained by the Fullerton cops is comical, especially given the fact that were sustained committing a crime; juxtaposed to the image of Kelly Thomas’s shattered face they present ample evidence about the nature of the beat down delivered to the homeless man.
Hilariously, Manny Ramos was quoted as saying he’d been in “the fight of my life.” Given that he was seventy pounds overweight, notoriously lazy and obviously a coward, this may actually be a true statement. Certainly it will provide a good headline for Lou Ponsi. But Ramos’ injury received a bandaid and off he went. Kelly Thomas is dead. He was dying on the pavement, alone and unattended, as the cops that killed him got first aid.
And that is truly sickening.
Nearly a year ago FFFF started what would turn into a long string of investigations into the FPD Culture of Corruption by telling the tale of a young man who claimed that he was beaten and abused by Fullerton cops during a downtown arrest.
There were plenty of skeptics here, and there was a barrage of personal abuse leveled against the man by anonymous FPD goons. At least there was until we published the results of an internal investigation, here, in which at least part of the victim’s assertions were confirmed.
Well last week another of Pat McKinley’s chickens emerged on the horizon, coming home to roost. Andrew Trevor Clarke filed a federal civil suit against Fullerton PD employees Tong, Contino, Hampton, Bolden, Salazar and Sellers.
Sellers? Good call, but I wonder why Clarke didn’t include former Chief, present councilman Pat McKinley. After all, he will proudly tell us he hired all of ’em.
All I can say is the lawsuits are piling up so fast we’re going to need wings to stay above the legal paperwork. And I wonder how much this one is gonna cost us.
Guess what, Friends? Last month the City of Fullerton got sued again – stemming from an FPD incident in 2005. We have thoughtfully attached a copy of the complaint, below.
According to the complaint, some dude named Ernest Benefiel took some sleeping pills in a locked bedroom. Naturally, Benefiel fell asleep. His elderly father, concerned, called the paramedics because he thought his son was depressed. So far so good.
Unfortunately the paramedics called the good folks at the Fullerton Police Department who arrived on the scene, and because they learned that Benefiel owned a gun, decided to turn the place into some kind of hostage stand-off situation – even though there was no hostage. Some time elapsed and the cops, perhaps, became bored. To get Benefiel’s attention they deployed a flash grenade outside the guy’s window, followed a dozen shotgun “bean bags” blasts through the same window. Benefiel was hit by one of the rounds and finally woke up from his pill-induced slumber; and, thinking he was under attack from criminals, fired a pistol shot out the window and hit a street sign.The cops then started blasting blindly into the room.
A while later Benfiel finally got his bearings and climbed out the window and surrendered peacefully – even though he had committed no crime.
Now you would think that upon mature reflection the cops’ superiors would have recognized how their out-of-control underlings unnecessarily escalated a pretty harmless situation into a SWAT stand off, and just let the whole thing go. But no! The cops and the DA decided to prosecute Benefiel for firing on a police officer. In fact, they tried him twice, and each time the case was overturned on appeal.
Meantime, Benefiel had spent over five years in jail for the heinous act of simply defending himself. And now the taxpayers of Fullerton are staring at yet another FPD civil suit settlement.
If you read the complaint you will notice an inescapable fact: according to a police training expert FPD tactics violated procedure on the use of the flash grenade, the shot gun bean bags, and blindly shooting projectiles.
And who was boss of the FPD at the time and supposedly accountable for the actions of his boys? That’s right. Former Chief and current councilman Pat McKinley.
Fortunately we can help make sure this incompetent clown is not around after June 5th to vote for anymore settlements that would hush up embarrassing revelations about the Culture of Corruption he created while head of the Fullerton Police Department.
Yesterday, the OC Register did a story about the Fullerton jail house death of Dean Francis Gochenour, and the role played by Vincent Mater, who smashed his DAR against a steel door in order to destroy the evidence it contained.
Our Acting Chief, Dan Hughes, was unusually chatty.
For instance, he shares with trusted police scribe Lou Ponsi the fact that an internal investigation was concluded by June 20, 2011, that discipline was recommended by Hughes, himself, and then Mater quit on August 2: I made recommendations for discipline and in that process, he resigned,” Hughes said.
So let us ponder a few things. Mater destroys his DAR in mid April, and disciplinary action is started over two months later? And what is this disciplinary “process?” Hard to say; it may have included firing the creep, but if so the process is designed to permit the perp to quit first. And that’s a shame because in the case of Mater we already know he was considered by the DA to be a Brady Cop, (i.e. unfit for court testimony due to unfamiliarity with the truth). We also know that he was complicit in some way in the wrongful incarceration of Emanuel Martinez.
Whatever this so-called discipline process entailed (including, no doubt, union exacted rights for appeal hearings, ad nauseam), Mater decided his best option was to walk away, perhaps to try his luck as a cop somewhere else. So Mater quietly went his merry way on August 2, 2011 – curiously, just as the Kelly Thomas murder protests were starting in earnest.
And now, for the $64,000 question: what was going on between the FPD and the DAs office between August 2 2011 and March 13, 2012? Seven and a half months had passed since Mater’s departure; eleven months had passed since the original crime. It would appear to the outsider that nothing was going to happen at all.
And then somebody changed their mind. I wonder why.
And how are they going to do it?
There are a lot of things wrong in Fullerton and a lot of issues at stake in this race. But one looms over them all.
What are we going to do about our assault-happy cops?
The Kelly Thomas murder was just the culmination of an escalating pattern of brutality and sadistic violence committed by our city enforcers of the law. This is not exaggeration or casting aspersion as has been documented on this blog with precision and accuracy. These are not all official facts ; they are all well-documented facts.
Unfortunately here is how the system works. When a cop decides that for the fun of it he’s going to slam your head into a concrete wall or into the pavement with all his force and then arrest you for Resisting Arrest, you can file a form about it. That form gets “investigated.” The results of the investigation are minimal, the officer is usually exonerated, or the complaint is closed without comment. The record of the cop who did it is unavailable for review by anybody but the Chief or an attorney who needs this information in a court of law. What we know for a fact this means is that any random police officer can build up a record of brutalizing and seriously injuring random citizens for any reason with virtual impunity.
Also, there is the “respect” thing. Numerous anecdotes confirm that pre-Kelly Thomas days, giving a Fullerton police officer a little bit of lip meant you were giving up your civil right not to be battered into a bloody pulp and thrown in a cell for good measure. Because of course people who would do something like that to their fellow human beings because they feel disrespected are so deserving of our respect. Or something like that.
That’s the FPD.
What I want to know from our fearless candidates is: what are you going to do about this? And how are you going to do it?
Update: When you’re trying to pierce the veil of secrecy in a police department bent on concealing its officers’ misdeeds, some of the details come through a little fuzzy. I recently received some corrected information on officer Mater’s role in the arrest, highlighted in red below. Note that Mater is still the officer who (allegedly) destroyed his audio recording and was later fired.
I’ve also noticed that almost an entire year has gone by, but Officer Mater has not been charged with destruction of evidence. The DA is reportedly still “working on the case.”
A Brady Officer is a cop with a sustained record for knowingly lying in an official capacity. A Brady cop’s testimony in court is almost worthless, which makes you wonder why a police department such as Fullerton would bother to employ one.
But on to the story. Remember that odd Fullerton jail suicide of Dean Francis Gochenour last year?
The word was that the
jail arresting officer by the name of Vince Mater had broken apart his audio recorder and smashed the chip containing a recording in the immediate aftermath of the suicide. Whatever was captured on that recording before and during the arrestee’s suicide, we’ll never know.
A few months later, Officer Mater was quietly fired.
Well, now we’ve found new state court docs revealing that the DA had also declared Mater to be a “Brady officer.”
We don’t know how Officer Mater earned his status as certified liar, but if it was so bad that even the FPD couldn’t look the other way, well…it must have been pretty bad.
Mater’s name did appear in an OC Register story in November 2010 about the wrongful incarceration of Emanuel Martinez at the hands of the FPD, in which Mater was johnny-on-the-spot with a gang tag that helped send the wrong guy to jail.
Fast forward to 2011, when the FPD ends up with a dead guy in jail, a smashed recorder, another cop on paid leave and presumably another set of lawsuits.
Oh, and one more thing: for all the City’s talk of transparency and its employment of several highly-compensated Public Information Officers, all of this information was kept from the public until…well, today.
A few weeks ago we told you all about the Fullerton Police Department’s attempt to protect the city’s tow monopoly through harassment of AAA tow truck drivers.
Now the OC Weekly is reporting that a suit has been filed against the FPD claiming that police officers harassed and intimidated tow truck drivers for competing against the city’s preferred tow vendor.
The suit alleges that drivers from a Bob’s Towing were singled out and cited over 40 times for frivolous reasons while other companies’ drivers went untouched. Officers Hagen and Ledbetter are accused of turning off their audio recorders for “off the record” conversations constituting harassment. Drivers have quit and left the city in fear.
Is the FPD violating these folks’ constitutional right to equal treatment under the law? That seems to be par for the course.
Of course, if the PD has been systematically denying it’s own citizens the benefits of fair competition, then this has undoubtedly caused drivers to be left stranded while AAA scrambles to find tow truck drivers willing to face the FPD.
And then there’s that big question we keep having to ask: Can a single month go by without the FPD drawing taxpayers into a major lawsuit?
Friends, over the past couple of months you may have noticed anonymous comments on some of our posts referring to “George” and “Jorge” and some sort of hit-and-run issue. Those comments referred to my brother George and came from inside the FPD. I let them go. Then. But not now.
This is a cautionary tale about a Culture of Corruption in the FPD that encourages the harassment of law abiding citizens. Getting a ticket from Barry Coffman for “excessive horning” is bad enough. Getting prosecuted for a non-existing “crime” is intolerable. Unfortunately this sort of thing has become business as usual with the FPD. It appears to be not only tolerated, but encouraged. And that’s what happens when the civilian authority abdicates its responsibility to oversee the cops.
Here’s the story.
Back on the morning of February 28, 2011 my brother George was driving east down Walnut Avenue, and turned right into the driveway of our office building parking lot. A car had parked quite close to the entry of the driveway, and as he turned in I heard a distinctive sound. After parking he noticed that the front bumper of the car was lying in the street.
He was pretty sure he hadn’t hit the car in any way, and there was no other damage to that car, or to his own vehicle; and he noticed that the bumper had been jerry-rigged at some point to stay on with sheet metal screws. He believed his right front tire just hit the thing as it lay in the roadway.
George kept watch on the car, and later in the afternoon a woman came to pick it up. He explained the situation and told Mrs. Bumper that he didn’t think I was responsible, but that he would help put the bumper back on with secure connections to the chassis the next day. She was grateful and drove off.
The next day her husband showed up and demanded that George buy him a new bumper. George suggested he go away and take his bumper with him.
Mr. Bumper filed a police report and soon George was interrogated by a couple of FPD cops. He told my story for the third time. The next thing he knew he was being charged by the District Attorney with Hit and Run, Unsafe Turn and Illegal Tampering With A Vehicle!
Story recap: No hit. No run. No unsafe turn. No tampering. No evidence. No witness. No nothing. Yet our esteemed DA, following the advice of FPD, and decided to prosecute my brother.
Of course George had to hire a lawyer who made six different court appearances on this idiotic “case.” Finally the DA blinked and offered George the DNA “spit and acquit” deal he makes with campaign-contributing food poisoners. George said no. With a trial date looming the DA’s office just dropped the whole thing on September 20th.
Too bad, in a way. I really looked forward to seeing those FPD clowns on the stand to explain and defend their evidence. Now the public will never see the facts behind what can only be described as a malicious attempt to intimidate and harass me through my brother.
Well, guess what, boys? It didn’t work.
How much police, DA and court time and money was completely wasted in this effort to try to push around a citizen and taxpayer? Who knows? Five different DA employees had their spoons in this soup, as well as judges, bailiffs, court scribes, etc.
But I know one thing. There is an entrenched Culture of Corruption in the Fullerton Police Department that runs pretty deep, and it needs to end soon!
The OC Weekly’s Marisa Gerber has just written a detailed and painful catalog of offenses perpetrated by the Fullerton Police Department over a period of many years. It’s on the cover of this week’s edition.
No reasonable person can read this litany of arrogant terror and error, without concluding that the FPD sank deep into a Culture of Corruption under former chief and current councilmember, Pat McKinley; and that McKinley’s diseased poultry is still coming home to roost – two and a half years after his retirement.
But, as they say, where there is a will, there is way, and the anti-recall clowns will never acknowledge any of this scandal. They have far too much at stake – financially and emotionally.
Well, they can bury their heads in the sands, but the denial isn’t going to help. Their “esteemed” councilmen have dozed away, and looked the other way when all this was happening. It seems they thought their job was to attend ribbon cuttings, enjoy free drinks at Chamber of Commerce mixers, and give away millions of dollars worth of property to their campaign contributors.
And having everyone kiss your pale, withered butt means never having to say you’re sorry.
For Bankhead, Jones, and now McKinley, there has never been a thin dime’s worth of accountability.