Thursday, February 21, 2008

bad cop? big problem

Holy crap! She fell? I don't buy it. Was she belligerent? yes. Was she disobeying lawful orders and commands? yes. Did she deserve what happened to her? No.

She was drunk, but she was handcuffed. It should go to a grand jury and let them decide whether or not the officer should be indicted and prosecuted.

We are supposed to be the good guys.

The following link is to the videotape. You decide.

Fired officer faces other allegations of excessive force
Following are key dates in the investigation into whether former Shreveport police Officer Wiley Willis beat Mooringsport resident Angela Garbarino during a drunken-driving arrest.Nov. 17: Willis takes Garbarino into custody on suspicion of drunken driving. She receives severe facial injuries while he tries to test her on a Breathalyzer.Dec. 10: Shreveport Police Chief Henry Whitehorn watches video of the arrest and files an internal complaint against Willis.Jan. 24: Whitehorn places Willis on paid leave.Feb. 5: Whitehorn fires Willis during a predisciplinary meeting.Source: Shreveport Police Department

Shreveport Police Chief Henry Whitehorn will hold a news conference about the Angela Garbarino case at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Police Assembly Room at the Police Department, 1234 Texas Ave.Return here for updates from the news conference.
Shreveport Police Department has received at least two other excessive force complaints against an officer who recently was fired amid allegations that he beat a Mooringsport woman during a DWI arrest.

The most recent case drew national attention following the release of a police video that shows the handcuffed woman lying in a pool of blood in an interrogation room.Wiley Willis, 30, was fired Feb. 5 after police investigated injuries, including a broken nose, to Angela Garbarino, who was arrested Nov. 17 on charges of DWI and hit and run. Willis’ attorney said Garbarino was injured during a fall.

An unrelated lawsuit, filed in Caddo District Court in 2006 by Shreveporter Darlene Atkins, alleges Willis put his gun to the head of her son Dillon Freeman in 2005.Atkins said Willis threatened to shoot Freeman if family members came closer to the pair. Her lawsuit states the incident happened after Willis pursued Freeman, who was riding a scooter, to the family’s home.

Another lawsuit filed in 2006 alleges Willis arrested Shreveporter Tomeka Bush and had her car seized as retaliation for a complaint filed against him about the incident involving Freeman. Bush’s lawsuit says she’s related to Atkins and Freeman.The lawsuit states video shot by Willis’ patrol car camera was available to the Police Department for review. Bush said the department investigated but didn’t discipline Willis.The city has denied Willis acted inappropriately. Both lawsuits are pending. Shreveport attorney Ree Casey, who represents Atkins, said she is still researching the issues and hasn’t talked to Bush.Willis, who joined the Police Department in 2004, was put on paid administrative leave Jan. 24 after Police Chief Henry Whitehorn filed an internal affairs complaint into his handling of Garbarino’s arrest. Willis was fired during a predisciplinary conference with Whitehorn.

The chief has said little publicly about the incident, and the department didn’t file charges against Willis. “After reviewing the evidence, we decided it was something that needed to be handled internally and that it was not enough to pursue criminal charges,” Whitehorn says in a prepared statement.Whitehorn, who has scheduled a news conference Wednesday, did not return calls from The Times today.Garbarino, 42, was taken into custody after someone saw her crash her vehicle into other cars in the Sam’s Town casino parking garage and a light pole on Clyde Fant Memorial Parkway, according to police. Video from the DWI room shows the woman in handcuffs and refusing to take a Breathalyzer. At one point, Willis slings her out of the camera’s view; but the audio track records what sounds like something hitting a file cabinet.Willis sits Garbarino down and walks away from her. Immediately after, Willis turns off the video equipment. When he turns it back on, the woman is lying in a pool of her blood, at times vomiting blood, the video shows.“Oh, God. Somebody help me,” the woman says on the audio accompanying the video. “Somebody please help me. He beat the living shit out of me.”

Paramedics took her to LSU Hospital in Shreveport, where she was treated for a broken nose, a fractured cheek bone and bruises on various parts of her body. Two of her teeth were knocked out.Willis’ attorney, Eron Brainard, was at the officer’s internal affairs hearing but said the exact reason for his firing remains unclear.

However, Brainard said he later heard that Whitehorn fired his client for the treatment of the woman in general, not her injuries.Brainard maintains Willis followed procedure and did not try to mistreat Garbarino. But she was “belligerent” and kept trying to leave the testing area, Brainard said.In dealing with a DWI suspect, officers turn on a video camera to record the breath testing, according to police. Once that’s done, they turn it off and go into another room for processing. The taping itself is to be used as evidence in court.“After her refusal to take the breath test, officer Willis turned off and saved the videotape in accordance with normal practice,” Brainard said. “The suspect again tried to leave the room. In the process of (Willis) stopping her, she fell and injured herself.”

Willis called 911 then turned the video camera back on, Brainard said. Blood was only on Garbarino and the floor, which supports Willis’ version, Brainard said.“Obviously, those pictures are brutal but he didn’t brutalize her,” Brainard said.Willis has appealed his firing and will go before the civil service board.

Attorney Ron Miciotto, who represents Garbarino, said his client was injured because the officer did not follow procedure in handling Garbarino.As for the charges against her, Garbarino pleaded not guilty Dec. 20. Her trial date is March 20.“There has not been an internal affairs complaint from Ms. Garbarino,” Mayor Cedric Glover said Tuesday.

As a state legislator, he sponsored bills that would have allowed Shreveport to create a citizens review board for complaints against the police.A series of shootings in which police killed suspects, some of whom weren’t armed, prompted a call for a closer look at the Police Department.

Today, Glover said his concern about a need for leadership in the Police Department prompted him to support the push for a review board.