“Another Nigger fried. No big deal.”
-- April 16, 2011, Statement by New York City Police Officer Michael Daragjati, boasting of his false arrest of another African-American male.
Top News Story!
Posted: 11/15/12 09:14 PM ET EST - Updated: 11/19/12 11:14 PM PST
SPOKANE, Wash. -- Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr., 65 (pictured above, right) a former Spokane, Washington police officer was sentenced Thursday to more than four years in prison for his role in the 2006 death of Otto Zehm (pictured above, left) a mentally disabled janitor who died after being erroneously suspected of stealing money from an ATM. Thompson is a Vietnam veteran and a decorated 40-year veteran of law enforcement in Los Angeles, northern Idaho and Spokane, his attorney said. "This man before you is not a villain," his attorney told the judge. Thompson addressed the court, apologizing to Zehm's mother. "I did not intend to harm Mr. Zehm that night, and did not act in malice," he said. "I have dedicated my life to protection of the public." His Defense attorney argued for a sentence of zero to 16 months, saying there was no evidence presented that the actions of Thompson led directly to Zehm's death.
Federal prosecutors noted that Thompson attacked Zehm without warning, and struck him repeatedly with a 30-inch baton and also stunned him. "There were seven baton strikes in less than eight seconds," said Tim Durkin, an assistant U.S. attorney. "There is compelling medical evidence in this case that Mr. Zehm sustained serious bodily injury." Zehm had committed no crime. Prosecutors sought a sentence of nine to 11 years because of the seriousness of the attack on Zehm, and its impact on the community.
Thompson Jr., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle to four years and three months. Van Sickle also ordered that Thompson be taken into custody immediately, over the objections of defense lawyers, who wanted him to remain free while the verdict is appealed. Van Sickle said he hoped the sentence would begin to bring closure to Zehm's family and to the Spokane community, which has been at odds with the police department as a result of this case and others. "This had a significant impact on the community and how it viewed its police department," Van Sickle said.
Six years ago, Zehm was beaten and stunned by Thompson in a convenience store. He was hog-tied and sat on by other officers until he passed out. The 36-year-old died two days later without regaining consciousness. Thompson was convicted last year by a federal jury of violating Zehm's civil rights by using excessive force and then lying to investigators in the case.
Victor Boutros, a Justice Department attorney who helped prosecute the case, said it was important to remember that Zehm, a mentally ill janitor, had committed no crime. "He was just going in as he always did to buy his soda and his candy," Boutros said. Thompson's actions warranted prison time, he said. His last words were: "All I wanted was a Snickers bar," according to trial testimony. Prosecutors also alleged the case involved an extensive cover-up by police. That investigation is ongoing.
"A badge cannot equate to a free pass," Boutros said. "When officers abuse their power and lie to cover it up, it fundamentally undermines" their position of trust in the community, said Boutros.
On March 18, 2006, police received a report that a man matching Zehm's description might have stolen money from people at an ATM. Surveillance video showed that Thompson found Zehm inside a convenience store and immediately struck him repeatedly with a baton and shocked him with a stun gun. Other officers arrived and hogtied Zehm, put a rubber mask over his mouth, and sat on him. It was later determined that he had not committed any crime.
Anger boiled in the community over the death, but the Spokane County prosecutor's office declined to bring charges against any officers. Amid demands for justice, federal prosecutors eventually charged Thompson with violating Zehm's civil rights through use of excessive force and then lying to investigators.
Posted: 10/19/2012 02:46:36 PM PDT - Updated: 10/21/2012 05:38:28 AM PDT
San Bernardino County, CA -- Two San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies charged with misdemeanors after one allegedly assaulted a man and the other falsely impersonated another deputy have denied their involvement in the crimes. Deputy Michael Parham, 40, of Rancho Cucamonga, pleaded not guilty Monday to one count of assault by public officer for the May 20 beating of Mario Madrigal, according to court records. He is scheduled to be back in court on Oct. 29.
Parham was one of four deputies who responded to a report of vandalism at a home in the 4000 block of North F Street in an unincorporated area of San Bernardino shortly after 1a.m. During the call, he allegedly kicked the handcuffed man in the chest and groin, stepped on his head and laughed and joked about it while doing so, according to sheriff's reports. Deputy Shadia Adham, 33, of Yucaipa, was also arraigned Monday inside the San Bernardino Superior Courthouse. She pleaded not guilty to one count of false impersonation on Monday and is expected back on Nov. 15, according to court records. She is accused of falsely identifying herself and another deputy who responded to the call as other deputies who worked out of the sheriff's central station in San Bernardino, namely Lauren Mitchell and Galen Spears, respectively, according to the investigative reports.
The events that played out during that call resulted in an extensive internal affairs investigation by the Sheriff's Department, detailed in 315 pages of reports submitted to county prosecutors by a team of five investigators.
Parham and Adham work out of the sheriff's central station in San Bernardino. Parham made news in 2003 when he was critically wounded after being shot while on duty, and the man suspected of shooting him, Ricardo Alfonso Cerna, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head while sitting in an interview room at the Sheriff's Department.
Cerna's suicide, caught on video by a sheriff's security camera, was burned onto a DVD and circulated at a training seminar, which touched on the detaining of criminal suspects. The video wound up going viral on the Internet, resulting in disciplinary action being taken against multiple sworn personnel at the department. Parham spent a week at Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he recovered from his wounds.
Posted: Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - Updated: Tuesday, May 08, 2012 08:15:23 PM PDT
The Heroic Proof!
Fullerton, CA -- Police officer Manuel Ramos was charged with second-degree murder in Thomas' death, and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli faces involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force charges.
Security camera footage showing the police beating of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, at a Fullerton, California bus depot on the night of July 5, 2011. The altercation begins at 00:15:20 of the video.
Posted: Jan 20, 2012 - Updated: 3:27 PM PST, Thu May 24, 2012
"The only good nigger is a dead nigger and they should hang you in the town square to prevent any other nigger from coming in the area."
-- July 2011 Statement by Oakland, CA Public Schools Police Chief Pete Sarna, referring to an African-American police officer.
Melbourne, Florida -- Technicians in Florida have recovered dashcam video of a Melbourne police officer beating a 66-year-old man who suffers from dementia even though the officer deliberately tried to disable the recording. The video clearly shows Albert Flowers calmly walking towards the police cruiser before Middendorf suddenly delivers a kick to his midsection. Before Flowers is able to get up, the white cop drops to his knees and pounds his fists into the African-American man’s face. Flowers spent a month in the hospital after the encounter. An attorney for beating victim Flowers told media sources that his client was prepared to sue the city of Melbourne.
“He should be fired,” an attorney said of Officer Derek Middendorf. “Anyone who’s being pulled over by this officer should be terrified.”
“It’s clear (Officer Middendorf) tried to destroy all the video in this case. He thought he had turned off the camera, and that’s why he acted the way he did,” according to the same attorney.
“Information regarding the arrest of Albert Flowers was sufficient to indicate that an internal investigation was not warranted. Officer Derek Middendorf is a valued officer whose record since joining the department in 2005 reflects the fact that he has done a very good job for the city.”
-- Statement by Melbourne Police Chief Steve Mimbs in a press advisory before the video was released publicly.
Posted: November 17, 2011 | 6:34 am PST - Updated: 11/18/2011 03:28 PM PST
Berkeley, CA -- The UC Berkeley student shot and killed by UC campus police on November 15, was a motivational speaker who told audiences the story of how he turned his life around. Christopher Travis, 34, (pictured left) an undergraduate who had transferred to UC Berkeley's business school earlier this fall, died of his wounds at a hospital, officials said. He was shot Tuesday afternoon by a campus police officer in the school's computer lab after Travis allegedly pointed a loaded handgun at officers and refused orders to drop the weapon, authorities said.
Travis sustained multiple gunshot wounds during the incident with campus police officers. UCPD Capt. Margo Bennett who spoke to the media Wednesday afternoon, said when police entered the Haas computer lab, Travis looked up, saw police officers and pointed his gun at them. Campus officials announced that Travis, who was conscious after being shot, had died at Highland Hospital, where he had undergone surgery. The shooting occurred about 2:25 p.m. Tuesday, according to police. University police were responding to a 911 call from a staff member who had noticed the suspect with a gun in his backpack.
In April, Travis formed a company in which he worked as a certified life coach and speaker, people who knew him told media sources. "That is very sad. It's hard to believe," Newark Planning Commissioner William Fitts, who had met Travis at the Toastmaster speaking group, told the paper. "He was very engaging. He was a stand-up guy. He seemed pretty normal to me. There was nothing I knew about him that indicated something like this was possible."
Police are reviewing websites on which a man matching Travis' name and description says he was employed as a security guard who worked on "police emergency response," and discusses two suicide attempts, officials said. Police also are in touch with Travis' relatives in Lodi, Calif., and are interviewing nine students who were in the lab at the time. A video camera captured at least part of the incident. "We are looking into everything," including those websites, said UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof. Police said Travis had a permit for his weapon, a semiautomatic Ruger, that was issued in San Jose. They have not determined a motive in the incident. Attempts to reach Travis' family for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Posted: October 31, 2011 - Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 12:34 PM PDT
"When Should You
Shoot a Cop?"
Posted: 6:15 PM EST, Thu September 29, 2011 - Updated: 16:08 PDT, Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Murderer in O.C.!
"'You see my fist? Now they're getting to ready to Fuck you up[.]'"-- Statement made by Manuel Ramos, 37, a 10-year veteran of the Fullerton Police Department to Kelly Thomas before he proceeded to beat him to death, with the assistance of six other Fullerton Police Officers. Los Angeles, CA (WCJB) -- A Fullerton, California, police officer charged with second-degree murder in the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man was released from jail Thursday after posting a bond in lieu of $1 million bail, the Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman said. Manuel Ramos, 37 (pictured above, center) a 10-year veteran of the Fullerton Police Department, is also charged with involuntary manslaughter in the July death of Kelly Thomas, 37. Ramos' family and friends raised the $100,000 for the bond -- which typically is 10% of the bail -- to secure his release from custody, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County sheriff. Ramos was released shortly after midnight Thursday, Amormino said. "By the time they do the paperwork and things of that nature, many times it's that late in the morning," Amormino told media sources. Kelly Thomas (pictured left, after beating) a 37-year-old homeless man with schizophrenia, was beaten by police during an altercation July 5 and died five days later. Thomas' father, The case drew widespread attention to the police department of Fullerton, about 25 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Ron Thomas, 55, of Cypress, California, the father of Kelly, objected to Ramos' release and said Ramos should have been held without bail. "I don't want him released because he brutally murdered my son," said Thomas, who's a safety consultant for the construction industry. He was an Army Ranger in special ops for 10 years; a martial arts master, he now teaches hand-to-hand combat to Marines going to Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. Kelly's father, said Thursday he wants criminal charges against each of the other four officers, not charged in the incident. "Even if he just stood there and did absolutely nothing, that's what he should be charged with. He didn't prevent my son's death," Thomas said. One other officer charged in the Thomas case is Cpl. Jay Patrick Cicinelli. He is charged with involuntary manslaughter and felony use of excessive force. He was released last week on $25,000 bail. Both officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The two men are among six Fullerton police officers -- all men -- who were involved in the Thomas arrest and have been placed on involuntary, paid administrative leave. The FBI is also investigating the incident for civil rights violations. The Orange County district attorney's office said this month that no charges were filed against the other four because "the evidence does not show knowing participation in an unlawful act on the part of these officers." Since then, two other allegations of brutality at the hands of city police have surfaced, both regarding unrelated arrests in 2010. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and fellow prosecutors viewed 16 minutes of bus depot surveillance video showing what happened in the Thomas case, Rackauckas has said. Thomas suffered brain injuries, facial fractures, rib fractures, and extensive bruising and abrasions, the prosecutor's office said. The Orange County coroner listed his manner of death as a homicide and said he died after having his chest compressed, leaving him unable to breathe. Ramos had made initial contact with Thomas -- whom he knew as a "homeless drifter" -- after police received a call about a homeless man looking in car windows and pulling on handles of parked cars, Rackauckas said. "He lifted his fists to Kelly Thomas and he said, 'You see my fist? Now they're getting to ready to F you up,' " Rackauckas said, using "F" instead of the full profanity. The district attorney said Ramos' conduct was unacceptable and "not protecting and serving" the public. "Ramos had to know that he was creating a situation where Kelly Thomas feared for his life and was struggling to get away from an armed officer who was going to 'F him up,'" Rackauckas said. Cicinelli (pictured above, right) arrived at the scene later. He is accused of using excessive force when he allegedly assaulted and beat Thomas, including using the front end of his Taser to hit the victim on the head and face eight times while the man was pinned to the ground by other officers. At that point, Thomas was making no audible sounds, indicating that he was "down and seriously injured," the prosecutor's office said.
Posted: September 22, 2011
SANTA ANA, Calif. – Two police officers were charged Wednesday in the death of a mentally ill homeless man Kelly Thomas, who was beaten and on July 5. Officer Manuel “Manny” Ramos and Corporal Jay Cicinelli have been charged with second degree murder and excessive force respective. Cicinelli lost one of his eyes while he was an officer with the Los Angeles police department, in 1996, when shot during an off-duty attack in South Los Angeles. Although the incident with LAPD placed him on disability, he was able to land a job with the Fullerton police.
Ramos was taken into custody in leiu of $1 million bail and $25 thousand bail for Cicnelli. Ramos faces 15 years in prison and Cicinelli faces four years in prison.
O.C. Murder Cops!
August 10, 2011
"As far as intentional killing ... I have not seen any evidence of that in this case." -- Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas on the beating death of Kelly Thomas by six (6)Fullerton Police Officers.Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas on Monday said that he's seen no evidence so far suggesting Fullerton police officers intentionally tried to kill homeless man Kelly Thomas, but that his office is still trying to determine whether the officers used excessive force in his death. Thomas, 37, died several days after he was confronted by six Fullerton officers at the local bus depot last month. As they tried to search the schizophrenic homeless man, a violent altercation ensued that left him in a coma. Witnesses have described officers repeatedly striking him and shocking him with a stun gun. Rackauckas (pictured left) speaking about it publicly for the first time, said the investigation is in its early stages and his office has yet to get a cause-of-death determination from the Orange County coroner's office. "As far as intentional killing ... I have not seen any evidence of that in this case," Rackauckas said. Rackauckas' comments come as Thomas' father revealed new details about his son's injuries. The D.A. said he did not want to speculate on possible criminal charges — whether they be manslaughter or excessive force — until "all the evidence is in."
August 3, 2011
SANTA ANA, Calif. (WCJB) - Residents in Fullerton, Calif., are outraged after a mentally-disabled homeless man (pictured above, center) died following a physical confrontation with five police officers. In surveillance video taken aboard an Orange County Transportation Authority bus, passengers say officers pounded 37-year-old Kelly Thomas' face and hogtied him as he cried out for his father. The video was made public on Tuesday. According to media affiliates, officers confronted Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia, on July 5 while investigating reports of a man burglarizing cars near the Fullerton Transportation Center.
You Said Hero!
August 4, 2011
Orange County prosecutors said they have reviewed a videotape that shows parts of a deadly altercation between homeless man Kelly Thomas and Fullerton police. The Orange County district attorney has more than two dozen investigators working on the case. Officials have already interviewed 80 witnesses and plan to interview more than 100 people. “You understand why the public is upset. We are doing the investigation as quickly as possible. We are waiting for the toxicology and the cause of death,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, the district attorney’s chief of staff. “The D.A. has made it very clear. This is a priority. We have two dozen investigators involved in the investigations.... It is such an important case. The public wants the answers as soon as possible but the public does not want a rush to judgment."
Kang Schroeder said the facts will either come out at trial or in a detailed report issued by the district attorney’s office. Kang Schroeder said investigators possess a video of much of the incident.
“The camera at the bus depot was controlled by Fullerton police. It shows certain things but [does] not completely show everything" that happened. But she said they won’t make it public. “The reason why we are not releasing the video is we want to make sure that any witnesses who come forward testify to what [they] saw in person, not what they saw in the media.”
Kang Schroeder added: “Your heart goes out to family. You hear the crying, Dad, Dad ... but our office has a very important job to do and we will apply the applicable laws objectively.”
At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, hundreds of angry citizens jammed into the overflowing council chambers, criticizing police for the death of Thomas, 37, and demanding that the city explain what happened. In response to the increasing chorus of public criticism, the Police Department issued a statement Wednesday saying only: "This was tragic for our community. We are in the midst of an investigation."
Although the Police Department remained largely silent, the attorney for the six officers spoke out in their defense. Michael D. Schwartz said Thomas was combative with officers. He said that contrary to the statements of at least one witness, the officers did not use a flashlight as a weapon. Schwartz also said there was "no excessive use" of a Taser by the officer on Thomas -- rebuffing claims made by several witnesses.
“Unfortunately, public perception of officer's trying to control a combative, resistive suspect rarely conforms to those officers' training, experience, [and] what those officers were experiencing at the time or reality,” he said. “This seems to be a case in point.”-- Attorney Michael D. Schwartz whose law firm represents the six officers. One Fullerton City Council member called for the police chief's resignation Wednesday, criticizing the Police Department for refusing to answer questions in the case.
August 8, 2011
"Let's not do any big search over there," the supervisor said. "Let's stay with the victim and see if we can identify (the suspect) that way. We can put one in the area, but let's concentrate on getting the info from the victim." Shortly after a supervisor told Daniel Alvarado to stay with the victim of a minor assault and not search for the suspect, the school district officer ran into the backyard of a Northwest Side home with his gun drawn. Moments later, Alvarado fired his weapon, killing an unarmed 14-year-old boy, Derek Lopez (pictured below, left).
Someone had jumped over her fence in the 200 block of Roswell Canyon and entered her small shed, where her husband stored Christmas decorations, paint cans and a sledgehammer. The retired nurse was inside with her two daughters and 3-year-old granddaughter. "He went into the shed and I feared that he was going to get something and come after us," she recalled in a deposition. The person in the shed was Lopez. Despite his supervisor's directive, Alvarado was speeding down the suburban street in pursuit. No one saw the shooting. But inside the house, the homeowner and her daughters heard a gunshot about 45 seconds after Alvarado entered the backyard. The homeowner saw the officer carrying the boy out of the shed and putting him "on the grass, on the ground," she said. She grabbed a bath towel and ran outside. Applying pressure to the wound with the officer, she asked, "Why did you shoot him?"
"He came at me," he told her.
The November incident was not the first time the officer had ignored an order, according to records recently obtained by local San Antonio media sources. Since 2006, Alvarado's supervisors at the Northside Independent School District Police Department had reprimanded or counseled him on at least 12 occasions — six for not following orders. In other cases, Alvarado failed to show up for assignments, and his bosses appeared to suspect him of lying. Alvarado was suspended at least four times, and his supervisors warned of impending termination four times — once even recommending it. In two separate cases, Alvarado was suspended for collecting evidence that disappeared, including an MP3 player and fingerprint cards.
San Antonio School
August 6, 2011
Media sources reports that 13-year-old Jimmell Cannon was in serious to critical condition late Monday after being shot eight times by Chicago police officers, who say he was holding a BB gun. His family tells a different story: The 13-year-old boy (pictured above, center - hospitalized and handcuffed) whose parents describe him as a fun-loving, "straight A-B student," wasn't the victim of gang violence or a crazed attacker. Instead, the gunmen were Chicago police officers.
According to media sources in Chicago, police arrived at a park near the Piccolo Specialty School where Jimmell attends to respond to a call of shots fired. They claim Jimmell matched the description of the shooter, so they came after him. He appeared to be holding a weapon in his hand, police say, and when they asked him to lower it, he refused. When he pointed the weapon in the officers' direction, they opened fire. Apparently, eight rounds were required to subdue the 13-year-old. The weapon they allege he was holding was a BB gun, but the Fraternal Order of Police says that officers handled the situation correctly because toy guns and real ones can be indistinguishable even to trained police officers.
Meanwhile, Jimmell's family says his hands were in the air when he was shot, and he wasn't holding a gun of any kind. Will a weapon be recovered? If there was a BB gun, should police have known it wasn't a real one? How many shots does it actually take to subdue a 13-year-old kid? This story raises endless questions.
But regardless of the answers, here's the real tragedy: Against the backdrop of seemingly endless stories about the police beating or shooting unarmed people, claiming their victims have weapons that are never discovered, and attempting to destroy evidence of their conduct, whether "officers handled the situation correctly" -- particularly when the victim is black -- is always an open question. And that's a shame.
July 11, 2011
HOUSTON, TX (WCJB) -- Two people are dead following a fight in northwest Houston. One of those deaths came at the hands of an off-duty police officer. It happened near the El Chaparral Club, which is located in the parking lot of the Northwest Mall near West 18th Street. Around 2:15am, when the club was letting out, two officers who were directing traffic noticed a fight at the gas station next to the club. They believe the men who were fighting came from the club. The officers went over to try to break up the fight. At some point during the scuffle, police say one man got a knife from his car and stabbed another man.
According to investigators, Officer Charles E. Hightower, then yelled for the man to drop the knife. Police say he ignored the officer and that's when Hightower fired his weapon several times, striking the knife-wielding man.
Posted: 07/22/2011 04:19:52 PM PDT
Updated: 07/23/2011 07:48:26 AM PDT
MARTINEZ, CA -- More than six years has passed since Pittsburg police officer Larry Lasater was killed chasing a pair of grocery store robbers, but the pain remains fresh to the dozens who filled a Contra Costa courtroom Friday to watch one of the convicted killers get resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"I thought I would never have to see Andrew Moffett ever again, but here we are," said Lasater's widow Jo Ann, who was pregnant with the couple's only child when her 35-year-old husband was fatally shot April 23, 2005. "The decisions he made that day destroyed my family."
Because Moffett was not present when his co-defendant Alexander Hamilton fired the fatal shot, the First District Court of Appeal in November struck down a special circumstance attached to his first-degree murder conviction and called for his re-sentencing. Because Moffett was a few months shy of his 18th birthday when the officer was killed, trial Judge Laurel Brady had the option of re-sentencing him to 25 years to life. Moffett was "very actively involved in the series of events" and had a violent history before the killing, Brady stated as her reasons to reinstate the original sentence.
Two Years & No Charges!
(Pictured left to right Trial Judge Robert Perry, Johannes Mehserle, Oscar Grant and ex-Officer Tony Pirone)
Mehserle & Pirone!
Lasater's family gave impassioned pleas before the sentence was delivered, expressing anger for Moffett's continued lack of remorse and their daily suffering from losing the Marine Corps veteran who had dreamed of becoming a police officer since grammar school. Numerous officers in the audience shed tears as Jo Ann described how her 6-year-old son Cody leaves handwritten notes to his father on grave stones and memorials. "At least I have memories of our time together," Jo Ann said. "Cody doesn't have that." Many said they believed Moffett would not hesitate to return to a life of crime if he were paroled. "It's just not true. They just don't know me," Moffett said in response to those comments. Regarding his apparent lack of remorse, he said, "I'm innocent and I have a right to plead my innocence." Moffett's attorney said Moffett is an angry young man now, but he believes he will be changed for the better in 30 years. "If Andrew really is the prince of darkness, evil incarnate, he will never be up for parole," his attorney said. "Just because he is eligible for parole doesn't mean he'll ever get it." Prosecutor Harold Jewett said it would be unjust for the Lasater family to have to worry about that possibility. The judge pointed out that if a bill proposed by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, changes state law so that juveniles charged as adults could not receive life without parole, that would happen anyway. See: - Corrupt Justice™: Antioch, CA Police Department - Racism
Posted: 09/17/2011 03:33:23 PM PDT
Updated: 09/19/2011 09:15:20 AM PDT
Oakland, CA -- An African-American, 14-year-old boy has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter and a woman is mourning the loss of her husband. All over two bottles of Grey Goose vodka. This tragic story begins with a 14-year-old boy (he is not being named because he is a juvenile) and two teen girls who should have been in school. But like thousands of Oakland high school students on any given day, they decided to cut class.
For kicks, they went down to Oak Knoll Market on Mountain Boulevard at the base of the Oakland hills. Dong Suk Kang, the owner, had warned the boy to stay out of his store. The teen was a bad actor who in the past had knocked over display cases, harassed store employees and refused to pay for items that he claimed cost too much. He came back anyway. On the morning of May 31, he tried to steal two bottles of vodka. Kang, 57, confronted him.
The teen slammed Kang against a counter and punched him in the face while his wife looked on helpless. Eventually, the boy fled. (It's unclear what the girls were doing all this time, but they were not charged with a crime.) Kang told his wife to call the police. Then, he jumped in his Toyota in pursuit of the boy. What would possess him to chase down a clearly violent teen who could very well have had a gun -- over two bottles Grey Goose?
A few blocks from the store, Kang had a heart attack and crashed into the curb. He died at Highland Hospital. The Alameda County District Attorney charged the teen with robbery and murder.
Murder because, prosecutors say, the store owner died from a heart attack triggered by the exertion and anxiety that he suffered during the attack. The state penal code states that if someone is killed during the commission of certain types of felonies, the perpetrator may be charged with murder. Even if he didn't intend to kill anyone. Robbery is one of the criminal offenses that can trigger the so-called felony murder rule. It can also apply after the commission of the felony. For example, if a person is attempting to escape from the scene of his crime and accidentally causes someone's death, he can be charged with murder.
In January, an appellate court upheld a felony murder conviction of a Long Beach man stemming from a freak accident. Cole Wilkins was fleeing from the burglary of an appliance store. A stove that he had stolen fell off the back of his pickup truck onto the highway. A big rig swerved to avoid it and crashed into a sheriff's deputy's Crown Victoria. The deputy was killed. There is no question that there was a direct correlation between the earlier burglary and the stove falling on the highway -- which led to the fatal collision.
Yet it's not as cut and dried to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the teen caused Kang to have a heart attack.
There's no question that the boy's behavior subjected Kang to undue stress. But should the teen be legally held responsible for murder? I don't believe so. This was a serious crime. The teen robbed and assaulted a man in his place of business. But murder after the store owner left the premises in pursuit of the youth -- then had a heart attack? Could the youth have reasonably concluded that his actions would cause Kang's death in this instance? Would medical testimony have conclusively supported a murder charge?
The point is moot now since the teen has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge -- involuntary manslaughter. Under a plea bargain, he agreed to admit that his conduct played a role in Kang's death -- but the death is legally considered unintentional.
Why prosecutors chose to charge this case as a murder given the circumstances remains up for debate. It might fall within the letter of the law, but murder by heart attack is a stretch.
Black Goose! Reader Pageviews by Country
Movie Intermission! Ghost Month (2007)
Description: Deathbed director Danny Draven takes the helm for this supernaturally driven shocker about an unassuming housekeeper drawn into a terrifying world of vengeful apparitions. According to the Chinese calendar, the seventh month of every year marks the time when the restless spirits of the dead break free from the gates of hell to mix among the mortals. During this time, specific rules must be followed to avoid falling prey to the spirits of the damned. When a solitude-seeking housekeeper arrives at the desert home of a superstitious Chinese woman and her devoutly religious aunt, death senses an opportunity to extend its grip into the mortal realm. (Runtime: 01:41:04)