Archive for November, 2010

New Orleans Officer Says He Burned Body of Man Shot By Another Officer After Katrina

November 30, 2010

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS – A New Orleans police officer on trial for burning the body of a man who was fatally shot by a different officer testified Monday that he set the fire because he didn’t want to let another corpse rot in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.

“I was exposed to so much death, so many bodies,” said Officer Gregory McRae, one of two officers charged with burning the body of 31-year-old Henry Glover in the back seat of a car on Sept. 2, 2005.

Gregory McRae AP – New Orleans police officer Gregory McRae, who is charged with burning the body 31 year old Henry Glover 

McRae said nobody ordered him to torch the car or Glover’s body, and he denied setting the fire to cover up a police shooting. McRae said his decision was influenced by having seen other bodies floating in the flood waters that inundated New Orleans.

 “I had seen enough bodies. I had seen enough rot,” McRae said, choking up.

McRae says he now knows he has “done a wrong.”

“If you had to do it again today, would you do it?” asked his attorney, Frank DeSalvo.

“No, sir,” said McRae, one of five current or former officers on trial in federal court.

McRae and Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann are charged with burning Glover’s body after David Warren, now a former officer, shot Glover outside a strip mall. McRae and Scheuermann also are charged with beating persons who, seeking help for Glover, drove him in a car to a school that police were using as a makeshift headquarters. McRae denied beating anyone at the school.

McRae said one of his superiors told him to move the Chevy Malibu containing Glover’s body away from the school, but he testified the fire was his idea.

After driving the car over a nearby Mississippi River levee and into a wooded area, McRae said he tossed a flare into the car and started to walk away. Not seeing any flames, McRae said he shot out the rear window of the car to ventilate it. Only then did the car start to burn, he said.

McRae said Scheuermann had followed him to the levee in a truck but didn’t know he would burn the car. Scheuermann asked him why he had set the car on fire, McRae said. He recalled saying something like, “I wasn’t going to let it rot.”

“He seemed shocked,” McRae said of Scheuermann, who hasn’t testified.

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk pressed McRae to explain his actions.

“I had reached a point, your honor, where I was tired of smelling putrid human rotten flesh,” he said.

Another officer, Lt. Joseph Meisch, has testified that he saw McRae laughing after he burned the car — a claim McRae denied.

During a prosecutor’s cross-examination, McRae said he knows burning a body can hamper a homicide investigation. But he insisted that that wasn’t on his mind when he burned Glover’s. His cross-examination is expected to resume Tuesday.

Warren is charged with shooting Glover without justification. Former Lt. Robert Italiano and Lt. Travis McCabe are charged with obstructing the Justice Department’s probe of his death. All five of the current and former officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In other testimony Monday, a defense expert said Warren was justified in shooting Glover.

“He believed that his life was going to end right there,” said Alan Baxter, who testified as an expert in police procedures for Warren’s defense.

Last week, Warren testified he was guarding a police substation at the mall when two men pulled up in what appeared to be a stolen truck. Warren, who was standing on a second-floor balcony, said he ordered the men to stop as they ran toward a gate that would have given them access to the building, but he said they didn’t comply.

Warren testified that Glover appeared to have a gun in his hand when he shot him. Prosecutors, however, say Glover wasn’t armed and didn’t pose a threat to the officer or his partner that day.

Bernard Calloway, the other man with Glover at the mall, testified Glover was leaning against the truck and lighting a cigarette, with his back facing the strip mall, just before he was shot. When a prosecutor asked him about Calloway’s testimony, Baxter said, “It didn’t happen that way at all.”

“Were you there?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Magner asked.

“No, of course not,” responded Baxter, who said he based his conclusion that the shooting was justified on his interview with Warren.

“I formed the professional opinion that he was telling the truth,” he said.

Richmond Co., GA Sheriff: 2 SC Teens Killed Execution Style

November 30, 2010
From The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. — 

Two South Carolina teenagers found dead Thanksgiving morning were shot in the backs of their heads execution-style, Georgia investigators said Monday.

Angela Brooks, 19, of Warrenville and Ashley Cushman, 17, of Beech Island, were kneeling or lying side-by-side on the ground when they were shot, Richmond County Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Peebles said at a news conference.

Police are looking for Travis Lorenzo Berrian, 26, who was described as a person of interest earlier in the investigation but is now considered a suspect. Investigators also are looking for a second man who can be seen on surveillance video getting out of Cushman’s 1999 Cadillac Escalade at a convenience store early Thursday morning.

The car was found abandoned before the bodies were found in a wooded area near downtown Augusta, police said.

Peebles says Cushman and Berrian had an off-and-on relationship and the teens went to visit him Wednesday night.

“They had had some significant issues leading up to Thanksgiving morning that I cannot get into,” Peebles said of Cushman and Berrian. “We have speculation, right now, and we have ideas on motives. We have many theories floating at this point.”

Shelby, NC Teen Charged With Hitting Woman, Spitting on Officer

November 30, 2010
From The Shelby Star
By Alicia Banks
A Shelby teen was arrested Sunday after allegedly hitting another woman in the nose and spitting on an officer.

Herbrea Keels, 18, from the 1800 block of North Cresent Circle, was charged with assault and battery, and assault on a government official.

 

                   Herbrea Keels

According to court documents, Herbrea hit a woman in the nose and took a Samsung cell phone valued around $80. Keels was allegedly trespassing at a house on the 300 block of Seattle Street.

Documents state Keels ran from Shelby Police Officer B.C. Nantz as he was answering an assault call. Documents state Keels damaged a radar unit in Nantz’s police car causing more than $200 in damage. She allegedly spit on the back leg of Officer B.C. Carpenter while he was trying to get her under control.

Keels was booked into the Cleveland County Detention Center under a secured $5,000 bond.

She faces additional charges including misdemeanor larceny, second degree trespass, resisting public officer and injury to personal property.

Shelby, NC Man Arrested After Fleeing Police, Breaking Officer’s Prescription Glasses

November 30, 2010
From The Shelby Star
By Alicia Banks
A Shelby man was arrested Friday after allegedly breaking an officer’s prescription glasses.

Spencer Byers, 37, from the 300 block of Black Street was charged with two counts of resisting a public officer and injury to personal property.

                      Spencer Byers

According to court documents, Byers disobeyed an officer’s command to put his hands on a car, and he ran from officers when they tried to place him under arrest. Police were responding to a domestic dispute call.

Documents also state Byers damaged the glasses of Officer M.B. Watson. The damage caused is more than $200. Byers allegedly resisted arrest from Officer D. R. Bivins by refusing to place his hands behind his back and pulling away from the officer.

According to the Cleveland County Detention Center’s website, Byers faces additional charges for failure to appear in court for possession with intent to sell / deliver cocaine, and failure to appear in court for selling /delivering a Schedule II controlled substance.

Byers was booked into the detention center under a secured $26,000 bond.

Cleveland Co., NC Sheriff Resigns: Coroner To Take Helm For Six Days, Fired Deputies To Be Rehired

November 30, 2010

From The Shelby Star

By David Allen

SHELBY – Raymond Hamrick, elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006, won’t complete his final term as sheriff. He’s retiring, County Manager David Dear said, effective Tuesday at 1 p.m.

                   Raymond Hamrick

The county received Hamrick’s resignation letter Monday detailing his intentions. Dear previously said Hamrick was unavailable for comment for several days.

Hamrick, who made more than $92,000 a year as sheriff, will draw more than $4,200 monthly in retirement benefits. If Hamrick worked a single day in December, he wouldn’t receive a check for that month.

“Back in early September, late August, I started my paperwork to retire Dec. 1,” Hamrick told The Star last week. Hamrick was unavailable for comment Monday.

State law says the county coroner will accept additional responsibility until the board of commissioners can appoint a new sheriff. Coroner Dwight Tessneer is prepared to do his best when he accepts the administrative role.

“I’m certainly going to do the coroner’s job to the best of my ability,” he said. “That’s what I was elected for. Whatever capacity that I’m serving in the sheriff’s office, I’ll do the same.”

 County government says Tessneer will swear in local law enforcement recently fired by Hamrick, Sheriff-elect Alan Norman included, and deputize them so they can be legal representatives of Cleveland County. That will stand in place until Monday when Norman is officially sworn in as sheriff.

 “If the county wants to go ahead and appoint Alan (Norman as sheriff), then that’s fine,” Hamrick said. “It doesn’t matter to me.”

 Under Hamrick’s orders, Hamrick’s secretary Millie Snyder fired Norman alongside Lt. Philip Todd, Lt. Joel Shores and Deputy Bill Hardin earlier this month. The deputies lost their jobs at an interview with office personnel. Snyder arrived for her interview with the sheriff’s office transition team and broke the news.

 ‘We’re looking forward to coming back to work’

 Norman remained optimistic over Monday’s announcement.

  “We’re looking forward to coming back to work for the sheriff’s office,” Norman said. “We’re moving forward … and we’re not looking back.”

 Commissioner Eddie Holbrook wished Hamrick the best, emphasizing appreciation for years of service.

 “I congratulate David Dear and the board of commissioners in having a plan in place in case this happens and I think the plan is in place to be executed,” said Holbrook.

 Commissioner Ronnie Hawkins was surprised the resignation came in.

 “Since he has not been answering David’s (Dear) phone calls or messages,” Hawkins said of Hamrick. “I would not have been surprised or stunned if something different had come down.”

 Hawkins said he’s thankful for the resignation and looks forward to better days at the sheriff’s office.

 “I think things will run very smoothly soon.”

 Reach reporter David Allen at 704-669-3329

Timeline:

 Hamrick battled ongoing illness and kidney failure since 2007. He was defeated in the 2010 Democratic primary, receiving 2 percent of the vote.

 The race for sheriff included a candidate previously convicted of a felony drug charge who later pleaded guilty to assaulting a legislator, an incumbent sheriff who announced his candidacy on the last day of filing and after years of health problems, a public forum debacle that resulted in one watchdog agency citing potential First Amendment violations and an inter-office rivalry that led two high-ranking officers into leaves of absence.

 Nov. 2, 2009: Hamrick receives kidney transplant after years of health-related issues

 Feb. 26, 2010: Hamrick shocks the region by filing for office on the last possible day. Norman takes leave of absence campaign for sheriff while Chief Deputy Danny Gordon remains with office.

 March 10: Gordon takes leave of absence to campaign.

 March 23: Hamrick, Norman and Gordon withdraw from public forum. Hamrick silenced his rivals by citing policy that forbids participation in such a political event while still with the office.

 May 4, 2010: Hamrick loses to Norman with only 2 percent of popular vote. Norman and Gordon would return to work the next day.

 Aug. 31, 2010: Gordon retires and Norman, by suggestion of Hamrick, takes another leave of absence.

 Nov. 2, 2010: Norman wins sheriff seat over Republican Don Allen. Norman would return to work again the next day.

 Nov. 12, 2010: Norman and three other deputies are fired by Hamrick’s secretary. Hamrick said the four deputies wrongfully used county cars for personal reasons. Norman and crew said they had permission to use them for whatever they needed.

 Nov. 29, 2010: After days without contact, county government receives Hamrick’s resignation letter. Norman and crew are to be rehired and Coroner Dwight Tessneer takes over effective Nov. 30.

 Dec. 6, 2010: Norman set to take oath of office for sheriff.

Arden, NC Bar Surrenders Liquor License After State Agents Observed Sex Acts

November 30, 2010

From The Associated Press

ARDEN, N.C. (AP) — The owner of a western North Carolina night club has surrendered his alcohol license after state agents say they saw customers openly engaging in sex acts.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported Tuesday that North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement filed a notice of violation with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission about the Blu Lounge in Arden.

Thirty-nine-year-old Aaron Gabriel Dean of Hendersonville was arrested in July and charged with allowing sex acts at a business licensed to serve alcohol. Dean has a Dec. 15 court date on the two misdemeanor counts.

ABC Commission spokeswoman Agnes Stevens says Dean requested the cancellation of his alcohol permits.

The telephone number for the Blu Lounge has been disconnected and there was no answer at a phone listing for Dean.

 

Judge to Decide on Witness in Indian Reservation Slaying

November 30, 2010

By NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press Writer

RAPID CITY, S.D. – A judge is expected to decide if a potential key witness must testify in the trial of a man accused of killing an American Indian Movement activist 35 years ago.

Richard Marshall was once accused of providing the pistol used to kill Annie Mae Aquash, but he was found not guilty in a trial earlier this year. Now, prosecutors want Marshall to testify during the trial of John Graham, who they say shot Aquash in 1975.

Prosecutors have offered Marshall immunity, but his attorney argued Monday that state immunity wouldn’t protect Marshall from tribal courts, which are separate. Judge John Delaney said he was concerned about the same thing, but delayed his ruling until Tuesday.

Jury selection will also continue Tuesday, with opening arguments expected Wednesday.

York, PA Police: Couple Hid 5 Children From Society

November 30, 2010

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press Writer

YORK, Pa. – They lived outside society, hidden from the world in a squalid row house with no heat, electricity or running water. They had no birth certificates, no schooling, no immunizations or evidence of medical care — nothing whatsoever to prove their existence.

Police in this south-central Pennsylvania city are still piecing together how the parents of five children — ranging in age from 2 to 13 — managed to conceal them for so many years. And why.

“I don’t know what would possess them at all,” said detective Dana Ward Jr., who tracked down the children after a child welfare agency received an anonymous tip about the clandestine family.

Ward charged Louann Bowers, 33, and Sinhue Johnson, 45, with five felony counts of child endangerment. They are scheduled to be in court Friday, though Bowers‘ lawyer said she will waive her right to an arraignment. Both are locked up in York County Prison.

Bowers ran away from “a very chaotic household” when she was 16 and “didn’t want to be found,” attorney Ronald Gross said.

“I think, unfortunately, Mom’s desire to not be found by her family impacted the children’s growth,” he said. “She realizes now, `I should have done it differently.'”

Johnson’s public defender did not return a phone message seeking comment on the case, which was first reported by The York Dispatch and York Daily Record.

Years of isolation have taken their toll on the siblings. Now living in foster homes, “some of the children suffer health and vision issues,” Ward wrote in an affidavit. “None of the children are at their expected education levels, and there are possible mental health issues.”

Since their discovery, the children have been vaccinated and the older ones have been enrolled in school.

York County Children and Youth Services became aware of the family through anonymous tips in 2003 and again in 2007, but police said Johnson refused to cooperate with caseworkers.

The agency got another anonymous referral in 2009, this time from someone claiming to be a family member who had seen the children. The agency contacted Johnson again, but he remained uncooperative, court documents state.

That led caseworkers to obtain a court order granting them permission to enter the dilapidated house on South Duke Street. By the time they arrived, the family had fled.

Ward said it appeared that all seven family members had lived in a single room on the second floor. He said all the utilities were shut off. Rainwater came through the leaky roof and was collected in buckets.

Police tracked the family to a hotel outside York. Johnson was gone, but Bowers opened the door, her head concealed by a dark veil. The detective found the children hiding in a bathroom, three girls and two boys. They hadn’t bathed and appeared unkempt. They left with investigators without saying a word — and refused to provide any information.

“They did say that they were not permitted to talk about the family or the living conditions,” Ward said.

The lack of cooperation from either the children or Johnson and Bowers has stymied investigators’ efforts to learn more about the family’s circumstances.

The fact that almost no one knew about the children is even more puzzling because of the urban setting in which they lived. Neighbors say they never saw them, not even once.

Charlton Shaw, 56, a roofer who lives several doors down, said he was unaware of the children’s existence until Johnson and Bowers were arrested. “I said, holy heck, how did they do that? You never heard a sound. No kids crying, no kids coming or going,” said Shaw, who has lived on the block for 10 years. “How do you mess up the kids’ futures like that?”

Gross disputed the notion that his client was hiding her children but acknowledged the family maintained a “very close network of individuals.”

Gross said the children were home-schooled, but Ward said he could find no evidence of it. Parents of home-schooled children are required by law to register with the district in which they live, provide evidence of immunizations and follow approved curricula.

Gross said Bowers has studied more than 70 religions and adheres to a faith related to Islam.

“She essentially doesn’t show her face, except to her husband,” Gross said. He said the family opposes vaccinations “based on some beliefs about impurity and pricks of the skin.”

He declined to comment about the apparent lack of birth certificates.

“She understands she had some shortcomings as a parent, but her love and desire to have the children and wanting to be there for her children has not changed,” Gross said.

Gross said Johnson was in the midst of rehabbing the house on South Duke Street, and that the family spent most of its time in Washington, D.C. But Ward said he could find no evidence the family ever lived in Washington.

“There are still a lot of unanswered questions from our end,” Ward said, “because no one will talk to us.”

2 Year-Old Girl Thrown From Shopping Mall Walkway; 50 Year-Old Relative Charged With Murder

November 30, 2010

From The Associated Press

McLEAN, Va. – A toddler has died after police say she was thrown six stories off a shopping mall walkway in Virginia by a woman believed to be her grandmother.

Police said the 2 1/2-year-old girl fell Monday night from a walkway that links the mall to a parking garage at Tysons Corner Center. The girl was taken to a hospital where she later died.

Fairfax County police spokeswoman Tawny Wright said 50-year-old Carmela Dela Rosa of Fairfax was arrested and charged with aggravated malicious wounding. Wright said the charge will be amended to murder now that the girl, Angelyn Ogdoc, has died.

Wright said the toddler and Dela Rosa were leaving the mall with family when Dela Rosa allegedly picked the girl up and threw her off the walkway.

Swastika Case Another Race Issue for New Mexico Town

November 30, 2010

By TIM KORTE, Associated Press Writer

FARMINGTON, N.M. – Three friends had just finished their shifts at a McDonald’s when prosecutors say they carried out a gruesome attack on a customer: They allegedly shaped a coat hanger into a swastika, placed it on a heated stove and branded the symbol on the arm of the mentally disabled Navajo man.

This undated photo released by the Farmington, N.M. police shows a swastika shaved on the head of a 22-year-old mentally disabled Navajo man after an AP – This undated photo released by the Farmington, N.M. police shows a swastika shaved on the head of a 22-year-old 

Authorities say they then shaved a swastika on the back of the 22-year-old victim’s head and used markers to scrawl messages and images on his body, including “KKK,” `’White Power,” a pentagram and a graphic image of a penis.

The men have become the first in the nation to be charged under a new law that makes it easier for the federal government to prosecute people for hate crimes.

The case also marked the latest troubling race-related attack in this New Mexico community, prompting a renewed focus among local leaders on improving relations between Navajos and whites.

The defendants are accused of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and could face 10 years in prison if convicted. The sentences could be extended to life if the government proves kidnapping occurred.

Federal prosecutors say they were able to bring the case because the 2009 law eliminated a requirement that a victim must be engaged in a federally protected activity, such as voting or attending school, for hate crime charges to be leveled.

The law also expanded civil rights protections to include violence that is based on gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The swastika branding has also put the spotlight back on Farmington, a predominantly white community of about 45,000 residents near the Navajo Nation.

Farmington leaders signed a historic agreement earlier this month with the Navajo Nation in which both sides pledged to work toward improving race relations.

The signing ceremony was held at City Hall and included a blessing by a Navajo medicine man who prayed for a strong, stable and long-running agreement. City officials sat cross-legged on the floor alongside Navajos during the service.

“Mistreatment of fellow humans is a learned behavior. The only thing that will address that directly is education,” said Duane “Chili” Yazzie, chairman of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and a participant in the signing ceremony.

The signing was significant because it put into writing what both sides have long expressed. Negotiations took almost a year as the parties discussed wording and language.

Navajo and city leaders agree race relations have improved dramatically since May 1974, when the beaten and burned bodies of three Navajo men were found north of town. Three white high school students were linked to the crime and sent to reform school, outraging the Navajo community.

More recently there were other events.

There was the 2006 kidnapping and beating of a Navajo man by three young white men. Six days later, a Navajo man was shot to death in a Walmart parking lot by a Farmington police officer responding to a domestic violence call.

The shooting was ruled justified by sheriff’s investigators and the Justice Department determined there was no basis for a civil rights investigation. Still, the incident touched off a round of protests by angry Navajos.

When a New Mexico advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights visited Farmington in 2004 to assess the city’s progress 30 years after the canyon murders, several speakers at a forum complained that harassment of Indians by white youth continues.

In the current case, defendants William Hatch of Fruitland and Paul Beebe and Jesse Sanford, both of Farmington, have pleaded not guilty. Their court-appointed lawyers have declined comment. They have also been charged with state crimes.

Yazzie and Mayor Tommy Roberts said despite the history of problems, there is evidence of substantial progress in Farmington, including the recent agreement between city and tribal leaders.

The consensus after the ceremony was that people who discriminate in Farmington — both Anglo and Navajo — are in the minority.

“There are thousands of interactions every day between people of different cultures in Farmington,” Roberts said. “Most of those occur without any problems.”

Roberts said the city has made decisive efforts to address and improve race relations in Farmington, a center for oil and natural gas production and commerce that draws shoppers from southwestern Colorado and across the Navajo lands of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

In recent years, Farmington has hired more Navajo police officers, opened an Indian center to showcase cultural heritage, supported an alcohol treatment center and established a community relations commission that looks into Navajo complaints.

But Roberts said it’s not realistic to expect the community to fully eliminate bias and prejudice, and he said it’s unfortunate that periodic racial incidents are likely.

“There will always be people who just don’t get it,” Roberts said. “They’re not going to change their attitudes and at some point they’ll carry out their beliefs in a way we all find real troubling. But what we do have now is a greater understanding of culture in our community, and I think that understanding runs both ways.”