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.
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.
The word was that the jailarresting 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 he 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 he 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 his 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, had 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.
Update: Added one “Officer N” who was accidentally left out of the FPD report, bringing the total to 9 officers.
These days there are quite a few Fullerton cops getting paid to surf the couch and watch CHiPs reruns while the rest of the crew are picking up extra overtime to cover their shifts. That pays out at time-and-a-half.
In the last two months, there were NINE Fullerton police officers chilling out on paid leave while their conduct is supposedly being investigated.
The systemic pattern of abuse that defines the Fullerton Police Department is well-established. But the allegations detailed in this newly emerging case might give even hardened FFFF readers pause. There seems to be no end to accounts of thuggish, sadistic Fullerton cops getting their sick jollies by brutalizing innocent citizens.
Fullerton College student and Fullerton resident Christopher Spicer Janku, 23 at the time, was with 4 friends around 1:30 AM on the night of August 17, 2008 when the car one of them was driving was pulled over for purportedly running a stop sign on Wilshire Avenue, in Downtown Fullerton. Chris tells his story:
All rookie looking officers who were looking for fun, I’ve never heard so much rude language from any cop. They arrested me on false charges of being drunk in public, (even though they wouldn’t give me a sobriety test even after I asked them to give me one because they knew I wasn’t intoxicated). I was sitting on the curb with my hands behind my back, a cop came over to put hand cuffs on me, he told me to put my hands behind my back, but they already were. Before I could even say “officer my hands are already crossed behind my back” the officer grabbed my neck and slammed my face into the curb while yelling out “stop resisting!” Another officer grabbed me by the legs and dragged me by the knees, shredding my knee caps.
There were five officers at the scene. The gangleader and arresting office was one Officer Perry Thayer. Janku goes on to describe his torture at the hands of this dedicated public servant:
Another officer then TOOK HIS BOOT and slammed it on my head, pinning it between the curb and used it as leverage to squeeze pressure on my head. I HONESTLY THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE, I WAS SCREAMING PLEASE STOP I’M NOT RESISTING, I THOUGHT MY HEAD WAS GOING TO CAVE IN. I still have migraines to this day. another cop came over and dropped kneed me in the back. Everybody watching was in awe, THEY KEPT YELLING OUT “PLEASE STOP, HE’S NOT RESISTING!”
He (Thayer) was the one who slammed me face first into a curb and then put my head in the gutter face first with his boot on my head. He purposely put my face into a gutter full of disgusting dirty gutter water to the point where I was almost choking on it, and pushed down on my head to the point where my head almost caved it and I was screaming for my life. If you look at my mug shot, there is nothing but dirty, muddy gutter water and blood all over my face.
Next, our helpful Bobbies – Officer Thayer and his partner Officer Anthony Diaz – took Janku on a joyride from hell. Chris explains:
They put me in the squad car without seatbelting me in and went on a joy ride while blaring satanic heavy metal music in my ear until my eardrums almost exploded. Around 6-7 times they would hit the gas and then slam on the brakes, so that I was forced to keep cracking my face on the cage.
FFFF readers will recall that although clearly unconstitutional, this is a common FPD procedure, informally known as a “screen test.” Spicer remembers seeing the car pass the Police station, and asked the cops where they were taking him. Their response: “Shut the F up.” After the brake-checks:
I came to the department and automatically filed a complaint about the brutality. They put me in a jail cell bleeding from my head down to my feet and bruised and battered WITHOUT EVEN GIVING ME MEDICAL AID.
Janku was unable to figure out what exactly had set Thayer off. Maybe when he asked Thayer to not thumb through the photos on his cell phone? Or perhaps this cretinous goon needs no excuse to assault, batter, and violate the civil rights of the taxpayers who pay his ample salary? Janku’s friend was arrested as well, for simply asking for his ID back from the cops who had taken and failed to return it.
As for the police brutality complaint? A complete and total stonewall. The detective in charge deliberately misinterpreted the clear audio recording of Janku’s friends yelling “he’s not resisting!” and asked him “why were you resisting?” He also had the temerity to ask Janku why he had blood and mud all over his face.
After checking regularly for months and getting no response, Janku was told recently that he had better contact an attorney. Of course, this is after the statute of limitations had run out and a lawsuit is impossible. What is Janku left with, besides the bruises and migraines? Just the awful memories:
I’ve been afraid to go outside my house ever since, I have nightmares and panic attacks from the injustice.
Janku adds that he is unwilling to go to downtown Fullerton since the incident, and one of his friends there that evening is so terrified he refuses to set foot in Fullerton, period. Way to help out our local economy, coppers!
Unlike the marginally more fortunate Veth Mam and Edward Quinonez, Janku is unable to sue the City and make them pay for their abuses. And Officer Thayer? Why, he went on to win the coveted Turkey Bowl police football championship along with his buds – the noted false arrest/perjury specialists Kenton Hampton and Frank Nguyen, of Veth Mam lawsuit fame.
Just another night of death-metal mayhem, beating, torture, false arrest, and random abuse of the public by Fullerton’s Finest. No pattern to see here, folks. Move along, now. No need for that department-wide Department of Justice investigation of police brutality and misconduct. Keep moving.
Last April I wrote this look back at what sure seemed like monkey business on the part of FPD spokesorifice Andrew Goodrich. Knowing what we know now about the lawless way that FPD operates when so inclined, the idea that they leaked potentially embarrasing information about someone they considered a political enemy is in no way surprising.
Many have wondered how Goodrich, after having failed to tell a single truth at any juncture of the Kelly Thomas murder epsiode, kept his job. The obvious answer is that the City Council, the City Manager, and the Acting Chief think he is doing a good job.
It could also be that because the estimable Goodrich is an officer in the police union they don’t have the guts to take this valuable piece of manpower and put him back on the street.
– Joe Sipowicz
The other day, our Travis Kiger engaged in a comical e-mail exchange with Fullerton PD’s $130,000 per year spokesperson, Sergeant Andrew Goodrich. Here it is:
Note that according to Goodrich, FPD policy is that the police log book may be perused at the station – but not copied. When unexpectedly queried as to how the Voice of OC(EA) managed to get a copy of a domestic dispute entry involving Assemblyman Chris Norby last September, the good Sergeant noted that it was due to the “constant” requests they had from the media. Hmm. Well, that makes so little sense that we may as well backtrack to review what happened. Something ain’t quite kosher. In fact a smell is emanating from this pile of Goodrich road apples.
Last fall, 72nd Assemblyman Chris Norby seems to have gotten into an argument with his wife. Some sort of delivery person, adventitiously arriving at the front door of Casa Norby, called the cops, who arrived, took a statement, and left. The date of the incident was September 2nd.
The Voice of OC(EA) finally got around to posting about the issue, here, on September 27 – almost four weeks after the fact.The Register followed up with a story a couple of days later. Other than that, general media silence. Wow, Andy, what a feeding frenzy!
Now that we know Goodrich’s excuse for violating FPD policy is nonsense, we are entitled to ask why Goodrich was so cavalier about passing out copies of the log – against policy; and further, we ought to ask how and why the Norby episode came to light at all.
Note that the report posted by the Voice of OC(EA) was time stamped September 20, seven days before it was published. This means that they either sat on the story for seven days, or they received the document several days after it was printed. Hmm. And remember, according to Goodrich, the log is regularly purged.
Although it is possible that the Voice took a week to getting around to publishing its story, is it at all likely that an intrepid Voice reporter came across an FPD log entry in the course of his typical day’s toil? Or is it a whole Hell of a lot more likely that an employee of the Fullerton Police Department, growing tired of waiting for some lucky journalist to discover what would surely be an embarrassment for Norby, leaked it to a pro-union news source?
Mr. Goodrich could help clear this up by sharing his records of media requests for this information, and explain the date on the printout.
Of course it is possible that some other party reading the log came across the item, recognized Norby’s address, and passed it on to the Voice; but that would be supported by pretty long odds.
In any case, there certainly is an object lesson here for all of us, Friends. Privacy seems to be selectively practiced by the Fullerton Police Department. And mostly it is not practiced to protect the public – but them.
Here’s the story we reported at the end of June, a truly embarrassing tale of theft and utter stupidity perpetrated by one of Fullerton’s Finest. And a harbinger of things to come. Forget the final sentence. We now know very well about the moral turpitude that pervades pat McKinley’s police force.
– Joe Sipowicz
The following report confirms that an off-duty Fullerton police officer was arrested for stealing an Apple iPad at a Miami International Airport TSA checkpoint last month. According to court documents, FPD Officer Kelly Mejia was caught on surveillance video taking an $800 iPad from another passenger just after it had passed through the x-ray machine in the presence of TSA security agents.
After the security footage was reviewed, Miami police canvassed the airport and discovered Mejia holding the iPad at the boarding gate. Mejia initially stated that she found the iPad and that she intended to keep it. Upon further questioning, the arresting officer says that Mejia confessed to taking the iPad and was placed under arrest for 3rd degree grand theft (a felony in Florida.)
The arrest report refers to Mejia’s occupation as a police officer and lists the address for FPD Headquarters as her place of employment. Kelly Mejia has been working with the Fullerton Police Department for at least six years and earns about $86,000 per year as a patrol officer.
It’s hard to imagine that this type of brazen theft in a high security zone would be anyone’s inaugural venture into pickpocketing. The authority granted to the occupation of police officer certainly presents many opportunities to bring home a little something extra on the side. I wonder if anything else is missing around here?
And how many pending criminal cases in Fullerton will be called into question if this officer loses her credibility in court? Will this officer be fired or just slapped on the wrist? Is this another indicator of ethical problems within Fullerton cop culture?