Undersheriff and Captain Indicted on Federal Obstruction Charges

Originally published on May 16, 2015, at NationofChange.org

A former Los Angeles undersheriff and sheriff’s captain surrendered to authorities on Thursday after a federal grand jury indicted them on obstruction and conspiracy charges. Accused of corruptly influencing and impeding an FBI investigation into abuse and bribery within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and retired Captain William “Tom” Carey allegedly ordered deputies to secretly transfer an FBI informant under false names and engage in witness tampering. Former Capt. Carey has also been accused of providing false testimony in two separate trials.

In September 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report documenting over 70 instances of excessive force, misconduct, and sexual assault committed by deputies. A few months later, the ACLU sued the Sheriff’s Department accusing then-Sheriff Lee Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka of covering up and condoning violence against prisoners. After attempting several times to notify Baca and his staff about the abuses, corruption, and misconduct committed by deputies at Men’s Central Jail (MCJ) in Downtown Los Angeles, former sheriff’s commander Bob Olmsted contacted the FBI.

“I knew I had to act, and as a result, I notified the FBI of the department’s culture and acceptance of excessive force, inmate abuse, sheriff’s gangs, and corruption,” admitted retired Cmdr. Olmsted.

According to the indictment, a former deputy, an ACLU employee, numerous inmates, and a chaplain all reported witnessing deputies using excessive force against inmates. In May 2010, a former LASD deputy trainee reported to Carey that the trainee, his training officer, and several other deputies participated in a premeditated beating of an inmate with mental disabilities.

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10 Deputies Suspended for Excessive Beating Caught on Video

Originally published on April 11, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Ten San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, including a sergeant and a detective, were placed on paid administrative leave Friday after a news helicopter captured video of them savagely beating a suspect who had surrendered. After reviewing the video, San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon accused the deputies of using excessive force and suspended them pending an investigation into the incident. Although the sheriff admitted that the deputies involved in the initial pursuit had a history with the suspect, McMahon would not confirm whether the suspended deputies were familiar with him or not.

At 12:12 p.m. on Thursday, deputies arrived at Francis Pusok’s home in Apple Valley to serve a search warrant involving an identity theft investigation. According to sheriff’s department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman, Pusok was already sitting inside a car when the deputies approached his residence. Pusok fled in the vehicle prompting a near three-hour pursuit through the desert.

After Pusok abandoned his vehicle and ran into the desert, the sheriff’s department and California Highway Patrol deployed helicopters and off-road vehicles to continue pursuing him. A few minutes later, the deputies received a report that Pusok had stolen a horse from a group of people near Deep Creek Hot Springs. As the deputies tracked down Pusok and made contact with him around 3 p.m., Pusok fell off the stolen horse.

According to the sheriff’s department, deputies used a Taser on Pusok but it was rendered ineffective due to his loose clothing. But video shot from NBC4’s helicopter revealed Pusok surrendering to the deputies by lying facedown with his hands behind his back when one cop appears to repeatedly punch Pusok in the head. The other deputy kicked Pusok in the groin as he remained on the ground.

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Video Reveals Police Gunning Down Man for Throwing Rocks

Originally published on February 14, 2015, at NationofChange.org

A witness recorded three police officers chasing and gunning down a mentally disturbed man for throwing rocks at them on Tuesday. Although the Pasco Police Department claims the man struck two of the officers with rocks and withstood the effects of a Taser, an eyewitness and the video do not corroborate their account of the incident.

Around 5pm on Tuesday, Pasco police officers Adrian Alaniz, Ryan Flanagan, and Adam Wright responded to a 911 call concerning a man allegedly throwing rocks at cars and trucks. The officers approached Antonio Zambrano-Montes in the Fiesta Foods parking lot and ordered him to put down the rocks and surrender. According to a police statement, Zambrano-Montes threw rocks of various sizes at them pelting two of the officers with rocks. After a Taser failed to have any effect on him, the officers fired their service weapons to take down Zambrano-Montes.

But Pasco resident Benjamin Patrick, who witnessed the incident, asserts that he saw Zambrano-Montes struggling with an officer when two other officers drove up to help. Zambrano-Montes began yelling at the police when he picked up two rocks or dirt clods. Patrick recalled Zambrano-Montes throwing one at the cops but missing. Then an officer fired his Taser, but Patrick does not believe both darts connected with Zambrano-Montes.

As Zambrano-Montes pulled the ineffective dart from his arm, the officers fired five shots at him. According to Patrick, the officers hit Zambrano-Montes in the first volley of bullets. As Zambrano-Montes fled across the busy intersection, the officers chased after him. When he turned around to confront the officers, they fired at least eight more times shooting Zambrano-Montes to death.

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SWAT Grenade Severely Burns Toddler and Leaves Innocent Family with $1M in Medical Bills

Originally published on December 21, 2014, at NationofChange.org

While executing a no-knock search warrant on the wrong house, a SWAT team from the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office nearly killed a 19-month-old toddler sleeping in his crib. Scarred with multiple burns and a collapsed lung, the toddler was rushed to the hospital and placed in a medically induced coma. A grand jury declined to indict the sheriff’s deputies involved in the raid, and city officials refuse to pay his exorbitant medical bills.

After a fire destroyed their home in Wisconsin earlier this year, Bounkham Phonesavanh, his wife Alecia, and their four young children temporarily moved in with Bounkham’s sister in Cornelia, Georgia. Two months later, they found a new house in Wisconsin and were planning to return home when a SWAT team raided their bedroom in the middle of the night.

Around 2am on May 28, the SWAT team broke down their door as Habersham Deputy Charles Long threw a flashbang grenade into their bedroom. The grenade landed in the crib of 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh, Jr., blowing a hole through his chest and leaving third-degree burns along his face and torso. After slamming her husband to the floor, deputies ordered Alecia to sit down and shut up as she asked to hold her screaming child.

Instead of allowing Alecia to see her wounded son, Habersham Deputy Jason Stribling picked up the toddler, left the room, and waited outside for an ambulance. As the deputies detained the family and searched the house for drugs, Alecia and her husband discovered a pool of blood and burn marks in the crib. Their son’s pillow had been blown apart.

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Seven Corrupt Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies Sentenced to Prison

Originally published on December 17, 2014, at NationofChange.org

Seven Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies have been sentenced to federal prison for obstructing an FBI investigation into their department. Upon discovering an inmate working as an FBI informant, the deputies illegally concealed the prisoner, threatened an FBI agent, and attempted to influence witnesses. Although the deputies repeatedly asserted they had been following the orders of former Sheriff Lee Baca and then-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, no charges have been filed against Baca or Tanaka.

As a sheriff’s commander under Baca, Bob Olmsted attempted several times to notify Baca and his staff about the abuses, corruption, and misconduct committed by deputies at Men’s Central Jail (MCJ) in Downtown Los Angeles. In 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the Sheriff’s Department accusing Baca of covering up and condoning violence against prisoners. In 2011, the ACLU released a report documenting over 70 instances of excessive force, misconduct, and sexual assault committed by deputies.

“I knew I had to act, and as a result, I notified the FBI of the department’s culture and acceptance of excessive force, inmate abuse, sheriff’s gangs, and corruption,” admitted retired Cmdr. Olmsted.

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Autopsy Reveals Cop Shot Mentally Ill Man in the Back

Originally published on December 3, 2014, at NationofChange.org

In response to the district attorney’s lethargic investigation, the family of a mentally ill man who was shot 14 times by a Milwaukee police officer has released his autopsy report this week. According to the medical examiner, seven of the gunshots were fired in a downward trajectory and one of the bullet wounds proves he had been shot in the back.

On April 30, Dontre Hamilton took a nap next to the statue in Red Arrow Park while waiting for his brother, Nate, to give him a ride. Following company policy, a Starbucks employee called 911 to report someone sleeping in front of the store. Around 1pm, two Milwaukee police officers responded to the call and approached Hamilton.

The officers spoke with Hamilton for a few minutes and left without arresting him. A Starbucks employee called 911 again asking officers to remove Hamilton even though he was not panhandling or bothering anyone. Several minutes later, the same two officers returned and approached the coffee shop.

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UN Torture Report Condemns US Human Rights Abuses

Originally published on December 1, 2014, at NationofChange.org

The United Nations Committee Against Torture released a report addressing a myriad of human rights violations committed by the U.S. government. While commending President Obama for qualifying enhanced interrogation techniques as torture, the U.N. Committee decries his administration’s lack of transparency, refusal to prosecute, and inability to prevent rampant abuse.

In its first review of the U.S. since 2006, the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment held hearings in Geneva throughout November. U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council Keith Harper and State Department Acting Legal Adviser Mary McLeod gave statements during the proceedings, while the parents of Michael Brown testified against police brutality.

“The United States is proud of its record as a leader in respecting, promoting, and defending human rights and the rule of law, both at home and around the world,” stated McLeod. “But in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we regrettably did not always live up to our own values, including those reflected in the Convention. As President Obama has acknowledged, we crossed the line and we take responsibility for that.”

In the conclusion of its report, the Committee applauded President Obama’s statements qualifying enhanced interrogation as torture at a press conference on August 1. The president admitted, “In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did things that were contrary to our values.”

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