Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
* Executive Producer: Melissa Dosher
* Web Producer: Bill Diven
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - One man is dead, another gone from the scene and an Albuquerque police officer is on leave.
The officer fatally shot Andrew Lopez, 19 early Sunday morning after he led Albuquerque police officers on a high-speed car chase lasting 11 minutes.
Police said Lopez had a gun.
After stopping near 51st Street and Rincon Road NW, Lopez and his unidentified passenger jumped out and ran away. Officers caught up to Lopez in a dark area.
Lopez then turned on one of the officers in an aggressive manner with something in his hand, according to Albuquerque Police Department spokesman John Walsh
The officer fired shots in response.
Police are still looking for Lopez's passenger and the gun they believe was in the car.
The officer who fired the shots has been identified as Justin Montgomery, 28, who has been with APD for 2 1/2 years.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Police ID Man Killed by Officer
By Jeff Proctor, Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
Police have identified the man fatally shot by an officer after an 11-minute pursuit through southwest Albuquerque early Sunday as Andrew Lopez, a 19-year-old suspected gang member with a felony warrant out for his arrest.
Albuquerque Police Department Officer Justin Montgomery, a 28-year-old just more than two years out of the academy, shot Lopez shortly after 3 a.m. after he and other officers backed Lopez into a corner, police spokesman John Walsh said.
Lopez "turned in an aggressive manner with an object in his hand" and was shot an undetermined number of times, Walsh said.
An "extensive search" of the area near the intersection of 51st and Rincon NW turned up only a silver-colored cell phone, he said. No weapon has been found.
A second man, who had been a passenger in Lopez's vehicle when police began to follow it, managed to get away and was still at large late Monday, Walsh said. He was around the same age as Lopez and was wearing dark clothing.
Police began following the vehicle, a beige 1980s-model two-door sedan, because it was driving with no lights on, he said. There had been calls of shots fired in the area that matched up with the vehicle Lopez was driving.
Officers pursued the vehicle for nearly 11 minutes, Walsh said, and, at one point, Lopez stuck his hand out the window with "an object officers believed to be a weapon."
The vehicle began to slow down as it approached 51st, and before it had come to a stop, the passenger bailed out and fled on foot, he said. The vehicle then came to a halt, Lopez got out and ran in the other direction.
He ran down a "darkened area," Walsh said and was eventually boxed into a corner by Montgomery and other officers. That's when Lopez turned around and was shot.
Police have been searching the several-mile area the vehicle and foot pursuits covered for weapons and witnesses, he said. So far, no weapon has been found, but several possible witnesses and acquaintances of Lopez have been interviewed.
Lopez had a felony warrant out for his arrest on drug and aggravated battery charges, according to court records.
Montgomery is on standard paid 72-hour leave while APD, the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department, State Police, the District Attorney's Office and the Office of the Medical Investigator complete their investigation, Walsh said.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
By GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER
In 1968, Amory Bradford penned a volume entitled Oakland’s Not For Burning, documenting the tinderbox that the city had become, and the lamenting the inevitability with which it would explode. But the assertion contained in the book’s title was hardly credible, coming as it was from a Yale-educated former Wall Street lawyer and New York Times general manager whose only business in Oakland came via the U.S. Commerce Department. Some forty years later, in the early hours of this year of ostensible hope, the reality of the persistence of racism in Oakland became devastatingly clear, sparking a powerful response the likes of which this city hasn’t seen in years. But luckily, the condescending voices of moderation, like that of Bradford a generation prior, seem have little traction with those who have seen enough police murder.
A New Year’s Execution
After responding to reports of “a fight” on a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train, BART police detained the train at the Fruitvale station, forcibly removing several young men from the train as dozens of bystanders watched. Several of the men, all young and mostly black, were lined up, seated, along the platform. Some were cuffed, Oscar Grant was not. As he was attempting to defuse the situation, BART police decided to detain him, placing him face-down on the platform, with one officer kneeling near his neck, and another straddling his legs. For some still unexplained reason, one officer, now identified as Johannes Mehserle stood up, pulled his gun, and fired a shot directly into Oscar Grant’s back.
The bullet went through Grant’s back, ricocheting off the platform and puncturing his lung. There are gasps from the bystanders and shock on the face of the other officers, who clearly didn’t expect the shot to be fired. Grant, who was begging not to be Tasered at the time of the shot, clearly didn’t expect it either. But this surprise notwithstanding, the decision was then made to cuff the young man as he lay dying. As an added precaution, BART police then sought immediately to confiscate all videophones held by the train passengers, in an effort to cover up the murder. Luckily for everyone but the BART P.D. and Mehserle, several videos managed to make it into the public domain, where they went viral and were viewed on Youtube hundreds of thousands of times in the following days. In a rare show of journalistic integrity, local Fox affiliate KTVU aired one of the videos in its entirety.
The standard protocol---deny, distort, cover-up---had clearly been disrupted, and BART spokesman Linton Johnson even went so far as to criticize the leaking of the video, arguing that rather than clarifying events, public access to the video would “taint” the investigation. BART was on a back foot, and popular anger was on the offensive.
A Corporate Police Force
BART Police are a notoriously problematic organization, existing in a gray area between public and private, funded by taxpayers but operating under a corporate structure which lacks all accountability and oversight. According to the San Francisco Bay Guardian:
The structure of the BART police force is a recipe for disaster. BART’s general manager (who is not an elected official and has no expertise in law enforcement) hires the BART police chief… There is no police commission, no police review board, not even a committee of the elected BART board designated to handle complaints against and issues with the BART police… There is, in other words, no civilian oversight.
And this “disaster” has been more than merely hypothetical: in 1992, a BART cop shot unarmed Jerrold Hall in the back of the head with a shotgun as he walked away, after firing a warning shot. In 2001, BART police shot a mentally ill man who was unarmed and naked. And according to Tim Redmond, writing in the same paper, “BART made a monumental effort to cover [the Hall slaying] up,” and in the end, “Nothing happened… BART called the shooting justified.” As of yesterday, BART hadn’t yet interviewed the officer, Johannes Mehserle, who insisted on invoking Fifth Amendment rights not to speak. And just when they claim to have compelled him to do so, he abruptly resigned, thereby ending any internal affairs investigation that may have taken place. There still remains, according to BART, a criminal investigation, but if the past is any indicator, this won’t get far.
But let’s not fool ourselves. Even publicly-run organizations like the Oakland Police Department, which has all the ties in the world to elected power, operates with an informal shoot-to-kill policy for black teenagers. This was as clear in the 2007 murder of Gary King as it is with Oscar Grant today. And since the district attorney responsible for bringing charges against the police works closely with these same police on a daily basis and in a shared enterprise of delivering convictions, we should not be surprised that not a single police murder in recent years has even seen disciplinary action. “No one we talked with,” writes the Chronicle, “from the district attorney's office to lawyers who work either side of police shootings - could remember a case in the last 20 years in which an on-duty officer had been charged in a fatal shooting in Alameda County.”
Does It Matter What Really Happened?
We have all seen the video, and rumors are swirling about how to interpret its contents. The officer clearly fires a fatal shot into Oscar Grant’s back while the latter is face-down on the floor. A flurry of “experts” have intervened to give their analysis. While such expert testimony usually functions to justify the police, even among these experts some are shocked and disgusted by what they see. One expert, after concluding that the gun had accidentally gone off, watched video from another angle, after which he changed his conclusion: “Looking at it, I hate to say this, it looks like an execution to me.”
Others are insisting that Mehserle meant to pull out his (less fatal) Taser, but this theory has since been discredited. Firstly, a Sig-Sauer handgun weighs three times what a Taser weighs, and the shape is completely distinct, and another expert noticed in the tape that the officer had previously withdrawn his Taser, located for safety reasons on the other side of his belt. In other words, he knew he was going for the gun. Hence the claim of accidental discharge, but this too raises a serious question of plausibility: when Mehserle drew his gun, Grant couldn’t see it, and so there could be no claim that it was meant to threaten the victim into passivity. In the end, if Mehserle is ever forced to give a statement, he will likely turn to the tried-and-true excuse that he “suspected” Grant had a gun in his pants.
But none of this matters, all the debate of the officer’s “intention” only serves to reinforce the fact that, while white cops are allowed to have intention, this is a quantity denied to their victims. This fact of racist double-standards is not lost on those who, realizing that there will be no “justice” in this case, have taken to the streets to demonstrate their rage at the unprovoked execution.
“I’m Feeling Pretty Violent Right About Now”
While friends and family were gathered for Grant’s funeral, a number of organizations called a demonstration where he was killed, at Fruitvale BART station. Circulating by internet and Facebook, the call reached many thousands, and in the end some 500-600 protestors and mourners came together to make speeches and lament this murder. At a makeshift memorial behind the BART station, candles are burning, and hand-written messages appear: “Oscar, we watched you grow up from a lil’ boy down the street into a man,” and “O., RIP, peaceful journey, God only pick da best.”
As an indication of the contrasting sentiments that divided the crowd, where someone had scribbled “Fuck the police,” another had covered the expletive with another message: “Forgive.” But forgiveness wasn’t on the minds of many. Several of the more radical protestors climbed onto the BART turnstiles, displaying a red, black, and green flag. One shouted:
I’ve got the mentality of my parents who were Black Panthers, I’m tired of talking, I’m thinking like L.A. in 1992. Y’all can have your megaphone speeches, I been through that, I’m black, I don’t need more speeches. Let’s take a stand today, because tomorrow ain’t promised!
While some on the mic attempted to soothe the crowd, insisting that burning up the city was “too easy” and “useless,” the message didn’t seem to resonate much with the crowd. And why should it? We were standing in the middle of “Fruitvale Village,” a corporate paradise in the middle of a historically Latino district, which clearly doesn’t belong to the local residents. It was clear where the momentum was going, as the biggest cheers went up for the more radical voices who seized the mic: “I’m feelin pretty violent right now,” one insisted, “I’m on some Malcolm X shit: by any means necessary. If I don’t see some action, I’ma cause a ruckus myself.”
While some remained to hear additional speakers, including hyphy hip-hopper Mistah FAB and the recently-founded Coalition Against Police Executions (CAPE), several hundred set out on a militant and rapidly-moving march north on International Boulevard. The police response was initially hands-off, despite the tenor of the chants: “No Justice, No Peace: Fuck the Police,” and “La Migra, La Policia: La Misma Porqueria.” If those in the passing cars and stuck in traffic were of any indication, the local population knew exactly what was going on, why we were protesting, and were largely sympathetic.
As the march wound around Lake Merritt, it turned sharply to the left, a shortcut to BART headquarters. This seems to have thrown off the police, who were clearly unprepared for what came next. A single police car, parked sideways at 8th and Madison to prevent access to the BART headquarters, became the target of the crowd’s increasing fury. Sensing the tone of the crowd, a cop reached in and grabbed her helmet before scurrying away. Within moments, the police car was destroyed and nearly flipped over, and a nearby dumpster was burning.
A few seconds later, the air was thick with teargas. Evidently, seeing their own property destroyed was too much for the police to stomach. (Note: there is no truth to the CNN report that tear gas was deployed to protect a surrounded officer). I get a noseful of teargas, and a protestor near me is shot in the stomach with a rubber bullet, and needs to be helped off, as the crowd quickly sprints north toward downtown. Passing through Chinatown, dumpsters full of fresh produce are emptied into the street to slow the march of a line of riot police. When the crowd reaches Broadway, there is momentary confusion, with some continuing straight to Old Oakland, some pushing left toward Jack London Square, and others urging a move rightward toward the city center.
The police took advantage of this momentary indecision, with a full line charge that send many of the furious demonstrators sprinting and left many arrested. When the crowd regrouped, it was promptly encircled at 14th and Broadway, and a standoff ensued. Either by design or by a predictable quirk of the police organization, nearly every riot cop in the street was white, some sneering defiantly. And if the crowd of demonstrators was largely multiethnic, it was clear by this point that the functional vanguard was composed largely of the young, black teenagers most acutely aware of their relationship to the police. There were chants of “We are all Oscar Grant!” and several protestors lay in the middle of the street with their hands behind their backs, mimicking the position in which Grant was executed.
Some small fires were set, and the police moved in again, pushing the crowd down 14th toward Lake Merritt. The spearhead of the demonstrators rushed forward to shouts of “We the police today!” smashing and torching vehicles, and while this was done out of anger it was far from irrational, as the press will certainly present it. Rather, it was the result of a very clear line of reasoning that goes something like this: we have to do something, and in the face of police impunity, this is all we can do. Nothing would be more irrational than a blind faith that the police will do the right thing, given all the historical evidence to the contrary. While the press is doing its best to find bystanders to decry the “vandalism” involved, it couldn’t ignore the testimony Oakland Post reporter Ken Epstein, who was writing an article on the killing when he looked out his office window to see his Honda CRV in flames: “I’m sorry my car was burned,” Epstein admitted, “but the issue is very upsetting.”
The crisp wintry air swirled and the lights twinkled along the surface of Lake Merritt as demonstrators demolished a local McDonalds, at which point a line had clearly been crossed: a police armored personnel carrier came tearing down the street at 45 miles per hour, firing rubber bullets and sending the crowd scattering. The scene was surreal, with padded riot cops leaping off the vehicle in an effort to win an impossible footrace with younger and fitter demonstrators.
Dellums Steps In, Steps Out
From the early moments of the demonstration, the position of the mayor, Ron Dellums, was at issue. Here was a mayor with a great deal of popular respect, with longstanding civil rights credentials, but who had done little to slow the pace of police killing, among the other ongoing ills plaguing postindustrial Oakland. With tear gas swirling and the APCs circling, the mayor decided to make his appearance at around 9pm, walking the few blocks from City Hall down to 14th and Jackson to address the angry crowd himself. Several times he attempted to scurry away under hard questions that he could not answer, with the standard responses: we should all take it down a notch; there will be an investigation.
I don’t remember what it was exactly that I yelled at the mayor, but it certainly got to him. As he was leaving the crowd, he turned and walked directly up to me, putting his face a mere inches from my own.
Dellums: What I want people to do now is calm down. I’ve told the police to stand down, and I hope you all can do the same. Both sides need to be peaceful right now so we can find out exactly what happened.
Me: But we know what happened! We’ve all seen the video: A cop pulled his gun and shot an unarmed black man in the back. And you know there are reasons that certain people have guns pulled on them and others don’t.
Dellums: There are two processes currently underway…
Me: The process is if I shoot someone, I’m arrested. But if a cop shoots someone, he gets put on paid administrative leave until everyone forgets about it.
Dellums: I’m asking both sides to be peaceful…
Me: Both sides? I haven’t killed anybody, this crowd hasn’t killed anybody. The police have killed somebody, and you’re in charge of the police! Who runs this city? When will the prisoners be released?
Dellums then returned to City Hall, surveying the damage. But as he entered, the angry crowd booed thunderously. And despite his claim that the police had been ordered to stand down, clashes broke out immediately on the same block, more fires broke out, and more teargas was deployed. The mayor’s intervention could do little to calm Oakland’s frazzled nerves. His claim that the people have lost faith in the police rings empty for people who never had such faith in the first place, people who have seen vicious police murder after police murder without so much as an indictment.
The demonstrators continued to express their pent-up rage, engaging in running battles until nearly 11pm, when a mass arrest seems to have quelled the resistance for the moment. All in all, official numbers show 105 arrests (including 21 juveniles), more than 80 of which occurred after Dellums claims to have told OPD to stand down. Who knows if his promise of a speedy release means anything at all. Support and solidarity demonstrations are scheduled this week for the prisoners’ arraignments, and with another mass mobilization scheduled for next Wednesday, this is far from over.
Intention as Privilege
As I have said, and at the risk of controversy I will repeat: it doesn’t matter if Mehserle meant to pull the trigger. He had already assumed the role of sole arbiter over the life or death of Oscar Grant. He had already decided that Grant, by virtue of his skin color and appearance, was worth less than other citizens. And rather than acquitting the officer, all of the psychological analyses and possible explanations of the shooting that have been trotted-out in the press, and all the discussion of the irrelevant elements of Grant’s criminal history, have only proven this fundamental point.
If a young black or Latino male pulls a gun and someone winds up dead, intention is never the issue, and first-degree murder charges are on the agenda, as well as likely murder charges for anyone of the wrong color standing nearby. If we reverse the current situation, and the gun is in Oscar Grant’s hand, then racist voices would be squealing for the death penalty regardless of intention. And yet when it’s a cop pulling the trigger, all the media and public opinion resources are deployed to justify, understand, and empathize with this unconscionable act. One side is automatically condemned; the other automatically excused.
For now, the fires are out. But despite the soothing words of Barack Obama and Ron Dellums, there is no lack of fuel and no lack of spark in Oakland.
George Ciccariello-Maher is a Ph.D. candidate in political theory at UC Berkeley. He lives in Oakland, and can be reached at gjcm(at)berkeley.edu.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
O R G A N I Z E!
Schedule for the conference on building community, rejecting war, and having fun
Sponsored by Food Not Bombs Albuquerque
Friday October 24, 2008
Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center 202 Harvard SE
6:00 p.m. Registration, opening remarks, introductions, and Potluck dinner
7:00 Presentation on Coalition of Immokalee Workers and report back of trip to Immokalee, Florida by Alexandra Smith and Mike Butler
7:45 Open Mic and Open Forum
8:40 clean up
Saturday October 25, 2008
Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center 202 Harvard SE
3:00 p.m. Registration, opening remarks, and introductions
3:15 first workshops/discussion groups
No borders, Fair Trade, Zine Making, Climate Change,
4:00 dinner prep
4:15 second workshops
Copwatch Abq, Nuclearism in New Mexico, The Death Penalty,
5:10 Dinner and discussion groups
Student Labor Coalition, Fair Trade, Zine Making,
6:00 Demilitarize UNM
7:30 Social gathering(pajama party) begins at Trinty House: 1925 Five Points Road SE
8:30 showing of Film on Oaxaca Uprising in 2006 @ Trinity House
12:00 Midnight Bike Ride from Trinity House
Sunday October 26, 2008
Food Not Bombs Meal Sharing
Trinity House Catholic Worker 1925 Five Points Road SW
9:00 am Soup prep: cutting veggies, adding spices, etc.
11:00 Fruit salad and tea prep
1:00 p.m. Share Meal at Soldiers and Sailors Park (13th and Central)
2:00 Clean up @ Trinity House
More info: email@example.com foodnotbombsburque.blogspot.com
mutualburqaid.lovarchy.org or mike @ (505) 242-0497
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Marvin Gladstone is an 80-year-old retired attorney with gray hair and a heart condition. His 69-year-old wife, Patti, is a semiretired accountant and an amputee who uses a prosthetic leg to walk.
Earlier this summer, Marvin Gladstone was considered a "threat" by Albuquerque police. He was handcuffed, arrested, charged and put in the back of a squad car. In a separate altercation with police later that afternoon, his wife was handcuffed, arrested and carted off to jail.
During his arrest, Marvin Gladstone suffered a heart attack and had to be rushed to the hospital, his attorneys say.
Patti Gladstone was arrested at the hospital after police apparently thought she was trying to break her husband out of custody when she rolled him away from officers in a wheelchair — although she said she was just looking for a place to sit.
When police tried to book Patti Gladstone into jail, her blood pressure was so high that the medical staff at the Metropolitan Detention Center wouldn't take her.
The couple's alleged crimes? Assaulting an officer, refusing to obey an officer, disorderly conduct and cruelty to an animal.
While they await court dates on the various criminal charges, they are considering filing a lawsuit against the Albuquerque Police Department.
APD officials say the officer, Lena Deyapp, acted appropriately and did everything she could to avoid cuffing the Gladstones but was left with no option because they continually assaulted her.
"Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone felt they were above the law and could do whatever they pleased," police spokesman John Walsh said. "The last thing our officer wanted was to take them into custody, but they chose to escalate the situation, act the way they did and, quite frankly, they should have known better."
Dog in an SUV
The encounter occurred June 18 at a Foothills supermarket. According to attorney Mary Han, Patti Gladstone went inside to shop while Marvin Gladstone stayed in the couple's sport utility vehicle with the family dog, a large mixed breed.
After several minutes, the dog's water was running low, and Marvin Gladstone went into the store to get more, Han said. He left the windows cracked and shut off the engine.
How long the Gladstones left the dog unattended and how hot it was in the car are in dispute.
Han claims that it was still cool inside the vehicle; a city vet says that, based on outside temperatures and what is usually safe, he believes that the animal was in danger of dying. It was about 2 p.m and police dispatchers noted the temperature as 94 degrees.
After Marvin Gladstone left the vehicle, someone called 911 and reported that the dog was panting, in distress and that the windows were "slightly" cracked, police say.
Han said Gladstone was only gone about 10 minutes, but, according to dispatch reports, it took 19 minutes for an APD officer to get to the vehicle.
APD officials said the officer couldn't find the vehicle's owners, tried to have them paged inside the store and made contact with them 32 minutes after the 911 call — about 13 minutes after she arrived at the scene.
Han says the Gladstones' veterinarian will testify that they are "very responsible" pet owners.
"The dog was within minutes of being dead," said Craig J. Mabray, chief of veterinary services for the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department, who didn't examine the pet, which was ultimately allowed to return with the Gladstones. He based his comments on a formula for how long animals can safely be in an enclosed area at a certain temperature. "This dog was in trouble."
The city has been cracking down on people who leave pets unattended in vehicles, and police have made such calls from citizens a top priority. Under city law, it's illegal to leave an animal or child in an enclosed vehicle for a period of time that could result in danger.
Patti Gladstone told police that they had been gone 10 minutes.
When the officer went back to her squad car to wait for animal control officers, Marvin Gladstone approached her and said, "How long is this going to take? We have stuff to do," according to APD reports.
Deyapp told him that animal control was on its way and to get back in his SUV. For "officer safety reasons," Deyapp walked him back to his vehicle, where his wife also told the officer that the couple had things to do, including a doctor's appointment. The dog remained in the car with the Gladstones with the air conditioning on.
Marvin Gladstone approached the officer again a short time later. This time, the conversation escalated.
Marvin Gladstone asked the officer, "Is there anything I can do to expedite the situation?" according to police reports.
Deyapp replied, "No sir, and I am giving you an order to stay inside your vehicle."
Police say Marvin Gladstone became irate, began to yell and told Deyapp that she was a disgrace to the police department. He was a few inches from her and pointed at her face.
Deyapp wrote in her report that she took a step back because she was in "immediate fear of battery."
Deyapp said Marvin Gladstone said, at one point, that he wanted to go to jail.
Police reports don't make it clear how long it took for an animal control officer to arrive. When the officer arrived, it was determined that the dog was OK. But the officer cited Patti Gladstone, who was driving the vehicle, for cruelty to an animal.
APD officials said city ordinance requires that dogs left unattended in a car must have an opening large enough for the dog to get its head out.
After the citation, police say Marvin Gladstone got out of his vehicle again, approached Deyapp in an "aggressive manner" and asked for her name and badge number.
Deyapp says she provided the information, then placed him under arrest for refusing to obey because he didn't stay inside his vehicle.
"Our officer was placed in a position where she had to take action because of his irresponsible acts," Walsh said.
While sitting cuffed in the back of a police car, Marvin Gladstone, who has had triple bypass surgery, started to have chest pains. An ambulance took him to the hospital, where he was treated for a heart attack, Han said. A doctor's note showed that he had suffered a mild heart attack.
Han said officers refused to let Gladstone take nitroglycerin tablets, which she said might have prevented the attack.
Patti Gladstone took the dog home and met her husband at the hospital. Three officers also showed up.
'Out of control'
While there, police say they told Patti Gladstone that her husband couldn't leave their custody.
A surveillance video of the emergency room waiting area shows her pushing her husband's wheelchair away from the group of officers. It appears she was looking for a seat.
The officers didn't appear to be concerned at first. Suddenly, all three approached her, forced her away from the wheelchair and rushed her outside.
Han says Patti Gladstone was thrown against a wall, cuffed and arrested for acting disorderly. She was taken to the county jail, where staff refused to book her.
According to Deyapp's report, Patti Gladstone was told that she couldn't move away from the officers, refused to return when ordered and insisted she needed to sit down.
When the officers grabbed the wheelchair, she shouted at them, "No, you will not." Police say she wouldn't let go of the wheelchair.
Marvin Gladstone wasn't booked but was given a summons to appear in court. He was treated and released several hours later. He has been charged with refusing to obey a lawful order and assault upon a peace officer.
Police also settled on giving Patti Gladstone a summons after jail staff refused to book her. She has been charged with refusing to obey an officer, cruelty to an animal and disorderly conduct.
"APD is out of control," Han said. "Imagine that this was your mom or your father. It's pretty outrageous, isn't it?
"One person is an artist, a grandmother of seven, and the other is a retired lawyer. These are people who believe in the system."
Friday, September 26, 2008
It was the second time in the dead of that cold autumn night that Angela Saiz woke her husband, Mark, because somebody was pounding on their door.
The first time, it was urgent knocking, but no one was there.
This time, it sounded like someone kicking in the front door, determined to break in.
Twice in the last three months, thieves had broken into the insurance office of Mark Saiz's father, which is adjacent to their home on Sarah NW. Maybe, they thought, the thieves had returned.
Maybe it was juvenile thugs roaming the North Valley.
Maybe it was worse.
Mark Saiz, clad in T-shirt and boxers, grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun from the closet. Through a window, he saw movement in the darkness outside, the black blur of intruders scurrying behind the garage.
He opened the door, fired a warning blast of birdshot into the sky and shouted for the intruders to go away.
"I was so scared, very scared," Angela Saiz says.
But what the Saizes say happened next that October 2006 night was scarier still.
For the next three hours, Mark Saiz says the intruders humiliated, intimidated and emasculated him. He contends he was handcuffed and forced to the ground, punched twice in the face while restrained. He was called a "vigilante son of a bitch" and other angry vulgarities. He was pulled barefoot across his graveled yard. His shoulder was dislocated.
Worst of all, Saiz, 49, says he was helpless to protect his family and property.
All the while, he had no idea what the intruders wanted.
Then Saiz, a gentle and proud man who had never incurred more than a traffic offense, was tossed into the Metropolitan Detention Center on four felony counts of aggravated assault against a peace officer.
Yup. The four intruders that surreal night were Bernalillo County sheriff's deputies.
This week in a federal courtroom in Albuquerque, Saiz and the deputies squared off in the latest legal battle over whether homeowners have the right to protect their domiciles even if it means pulling the trigger — and even if the invaders are law enforcement agents.
Saiz's federal lawsuit accuses three deputies (one deputy, Chris Romero, was dismissed from the case at the end of trial) of violating his civil rights by their use of unreasonable and excessive force.
The deputies, including the alleged potty-mouthed pugilist, are also accused of battery.
Saiz testified that the deputies had not identified themselves as law enforcement agents. There had been no squad cars visible, no lights or sirens.
Once he knew, however, Saiz says he complied with all their commands.
It didn't matter. He had already incurred the wrath normally reserved for cop killers, baby rapers and defense attorneys.
"It's not enough I have to be worried about the criminals out there, I have to be worried about being shot by you!" one deputy shouts in a recording from a deputy's belt tape.
Deputies David Priemazon and Jason Foster and then-trainee Matthew Ray blamed their agitated moods on their own fears that night.
"I was very angered, very upset and very scared," Priemazon, the deputy accused of punching Saiz, testified. "I was almost shot."
Priemazon, who cops to the vulgar diatribe, says he had seen the glint of Saiz's glasses in the dark house and the shotgun barrel aimed straight at Romero's head.
The deputies ran for cover, but Priemazon was trapped by the "fatal funnel" of a walled courtyard with no defensive cover. He swears the gunfire came so close to his right shoulder that he had initially believed he was hit.
But no small projectiles found in the birdshot slug — the same stuff Dick Cheney fired in the face of his hunting buddy — were recovered from the walls where Priemazon had cowered, as one might have expected had Saiz aimed at him and not the air.
Maybe that's why a grand jury refused to indict Saiz on the felony assault charges but merely for negligent use of a deadly weapon, a petty misdemeanor.
That charge evaporated, too, when the District Attorney's Office asked to dismiss the case "for the reason that after reviewing the evidence the state believes that it is not in the state's best interest to pursue the indicted charge."
Priemazon, now a violent crimes detective, denied the punches. Ray, so terrified that he considered quitting the force, denied dislocating Saiz's arm. Lt. Jason Katz, the deputies' supervisor that night, denied telling the Saiz family that what had happened had been one big misunderstanding.
You remember Katz, who two months before the Saiz incident was one of three deputies accused of plucking Al Unser Sr. from his vehicle and tossing him face-first into a patch of goatheads during another one of those big misunderstandings.
What happened at the Saiz home had not been a misunderstanding but a mistake from the start, launched as a welfare check on a possible domestic violence victim who had made a 911 call on a cell phone that abruptly ended.
The phone number had been traced to Sarah NW, but, oops, she didn't live there anymore.
On Thursday, after just 1 1/2 hours of deliberation, jurors sided with the deputies, apparently convinced that whatever brutality had been rained on the Saizes that night was part of the job.
No death, no foul, no money.
The job of a law enforcement officer is dangerous and tough, and we've attended too many funerals for too many men and woman killed in the line of duty to think otherwise.
But when justified caution gives way to the unbridled bravado of the badge, especially in the sanctity of our own homes, it harms not just the public but the image of those who truly protect and serve without provoking and savaging.
You can reach Joline at 823-3603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.