Should Orange County replace Mike Carona with another cop tainted by the stench of abuse and cover up?
Let’s take a look at the career history of Anaheim Deputy Chief Craig Hunter. Back in his day as the head of the gang unit, Craig earned himself the nickname “Head Hunter”, and it wasn’t for respecting the rights of those he served.
Court testimony indicates that Craig Hunter was involved in several senseless beatings of handcuffed teenage suspects after they were safely in police custody. There were two incidents involving Hunter on court record from the 90’s:
The first beating was 16-year-old robbery suspect named Jorge Alvarado. After arrest, the kid was turned over to two of Craig Hunters’ gang unit officers John Kelley and Mike Bustamante for a ride to the station. By the time they arrived at the station, the suspect had been severely beaten. When the witnessing officer complained to the unit commander, Craig Hunter, he was told to shut up.
Another beating happened a few months later after a teenage suspect named Jerry Sanchez was captured on the roof of an apartment by officers Craig Hunter and John Kelley. In testimony that we just received, officer Steve Nolan claims that “Craig Hunter actually cracked Jerry over the head with his flashlight while Kelly kicked him as he lied on the ground”. Later, while the suspect was bleeding severely from the head, Hunter and his partner allegedly taunted Sanchez in a stereotyped Latino accent.
In a later interview, the youth said “I was handcuffed, then hit in the head with a metal flashlight and kicked. I was bleeding all over and felt dizzy and dazed. My whole shirt was bloody.” The suspect’s account of the beating matched officer Nolan’s claims.
Officer Steve Nolan claimed to witness both beatings. He was so appalled at Craig Hunter’s behavior that he finally reported both incidents to a superior.
In response, Hunter launched an all-out assault to discredit Steve Nolan. False accusations were made against him, which were later rejected by an arbiter and then a jury. Nolan eventually won a $340,000 lawsuit against Hunter and the department for wrongful termination.
During the arbitration, the whistleblower received anonymous death threats from what he believed to be his former coworkers at the Anaheim Police Department. Shortly after he filed the lawsuit, someone shot at his wife while she was driving down the freeway near Anaheim.
Were Craig Hunter and his officers retaliating against the whistleblower for breaking the infamous code of silence? The jury said “yes”.
After the allegations of police abuse surfaced, the department was forced to launch an internal investigation. As expected, the department soon announced that all officers involved were innocent.
So why did the young suspects so frequently arrive at the station bloodied and bruised?
The internal investigators were never able to solve that mystery. In the age before in-car cameras and personal recording devices, officer oversight in the Anaheim PD was lax. Allegations of suspect abuse were frequently shoved under the rug, according to a local civil rights group called United Neighbors, an activist group that formed in response to the allegations of police brutality.
In the wake of the scandal, Hunter’s department was subjected to investigations by both the US. Commission on Civil Rights and the US Department of Justice. With the feds breathing down his neck, Craig Hunter orchestrated “the biggest cover-up I’ve seen in my life”, according to officer Nolan. The feds were never able to gather enough evidence to file charges against Hunter, although California Supreme Court Justices eventually acknowledged that Nolan had brought to light a legitimate problem within the Anaheim PD.
In the end, the whistleblower was threatened, intimidated and pushed out of the department, eventually moving on to become the Mayor of Corona. Meanwhile, the accused officers were promoted up the chain of command at the Anaheim Police Department. One of those officers was Deputy Chief Craig Hunter, and now he wants to be the elected Sheriff of Orange County.