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September 1, 2011
New York -- NYPD cops have stopped and questioned people at an increasing rate this year that could lead the department to set an all-time high by year's end.
More than 317,000 people were stopped, questioned and sometimes frisked from Jan. 1 to June 30, NYPD stats show.
That's a 13.5% increase compared to the first half of last year, which ended with a record number of people - 601,055 - stopped and questioned.
"Incredibly, the NYPD keeps setting historic highs for the number of people being stopped and frisked" said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Dunn charged that cops are mainly targeting blacks and Latinos in the stops.
"Stops save lives," NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne responded, saying stops and other techniques have saved the lives of "2,500 young men of color" in the last 10 years.
December 10, 2010
The conviction of three New Orleans police officers Thursday, for the shooting and subsequent coverup of the death of Henry Glover in the chaotic days after hurricane Katrina in 2005, marks a victory for federal agencies working for more than a year to root out corruption and lawlessness within the city police department. Arguments that the officers were working under apocalyptic and confusing conditions proved to be not enough to sway the federal jury. The guilty verdict against former officer David Warren for shooting Mr. Glover, Officer Gregory McRae for burning his body in a coverup, and Lt. Travis McCabe for lying in a police report about what happened came after repeated testimony about the challenges – physical and ethical – that face the police during a major disaster. Two other officers were acquitted on charges that they beat two men who'd arrived at a central police precinct to get help for Glover.
Warren, who took the stand in his own defense, told the jury he was carrying an assault-style rifle – his own, as opposed to his city-issued weapon – while guarding a police substation at a strip mall as parts of the city were being looted. When Glover and a friend pulled into the parking lot in a stolen truck, Warren said he ordered them to stop, but they didn't. He said he fired at Glover after seeing what he thought was a weapon in Glover's hand, after the pair had left the truck and were rushing toward the mall. But another story emerged during the trial, along with revelations that officers initially lied to a grand jury before agreeing to cooperate with the FBI. Officer Linda Howard, Warren's partner, testified that the two men didn't pose a threat, and that Warren fired as Glover leaned against the truck, lighting a cigarette. The shot hit him in the back.
Federal prosecutors argued that the confusion and fear following Katrina did not justify acts such as firing at Glover from a second-floor balcony. The storm caused police officers to believe "that no one was watching and no one would care about Henry Glover," said assistant US attorney Tracey Knight in her closing statement. "But they were wrong."
The FBI opened a broad civil rights investigation of the New Orleans Police Department last year, after an exposé of post-Katrina vigilantism by the investigative news organization ProPublica. The New Orleans coroner's office has documented 23 unsolved deaths as the result of gunshot wounds to the head in the days and weeks after Katrina.
September 21, 2010
September 20, 2010
Relatives of Corey Ward, who was slain by an Atlanta policeman, criticize a ruling Monday that said the former officer, Raymond Bunn, will not have to stand trial. From Left: Ward's father, John Arnold; family spokesman Rev. Markel Hutchins; and Ward's grandmother Judy Atkins.
The family of an 18-year-old slain African American male by an Atlanta policeman vowed to fight a Georgia Supreme Court decision handed down Monday that said the cop cannot be tried for the killing. Raymond Bunn left the Atlanta Police Department before he was charged with murder for the July 14, 2002 shooting of Corey Ward. Bunn sought immunity under a state law that allows charges to be dismissed if he could show he acted in self-defense. Ward’s family criticized the high court's decision and vowed to keep fighting in the civil courts -- and all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. "By this ruling I feel like they shot him all over again," Ward's grandmother, Judy Atkins, said of Monday's ruling.
The family will continue with a lawsuit that previously was filed, said family spokesman the Rev. Markel Hutchins. And he said they may petition the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Georgia court's ruling. He said that if Atlanta had fired Bunn after he hit a young woman and broke her eye socket, Ward would be alive today. And he said Georgia's high court had done a “gross injustice, not only to this family but also to this community.” Earlier this year, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk granted the dismissal motion that was upheld Monday in a 6-1 decision that included a sharp dissent. Fulton prosecutors contended the physical evidence showed Bunn was not in front of the Tahoe when he shot Ward, so he was in no danger of being struck.
Writing for the court's majority, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein (pictured left) noted that, under the law, Bunn needed to show he acted in self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence, the lowest legal threshold for burden of proof. Even though there was conflicting evidence, Hunstein said Bunn met the preponderance standard. Justice Robert Benham disagreed. He found "troubling evidence" in the case and noted that Bunn had previously been found liable in a civil suit for punching a woman in the face during a routine traffic stop. Benham didn't name the woman, but Ylia Lavender's eye socket was broken by a blow from Bunn.
Clearing Bunn of all charges will make it more difficult to prosecute law enforcement officers who are alleged to have used excessive -- even deadly -- force, he wrote. "Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so."
But Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard said he believed the state high court had substantially erred in its decision. He said he would ask the court to reconsider its decision and is exploring an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ward's grandmother said the court rendered an unjust ruling.
"Someone said the other day that I should be over the hurt, but there is no closure," Atkins said. She wants Bunn to face a jury. "Corey will never have a family because of him," she said. "Corey will never experience things in life because of him."
Supreme Court of Georgia
Supreme Court of Georgia.
Decided: September 20, 2010.
By: Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein (Jew).
Raymond Bunn (pictured above, center) was indicted in Fulton County on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and violating his oath as a public officer by committing murder, felony murder and aggravated assault. These charges arose out of the shooting death of Corey Ward by Bunn, which occurred while Bunn was an Atlanta Police Department officer on patrol. After his indictment, Bunn filed a motion for immunity from prosecution under OCGA § 16-3-24.2 on the basis that he reasonably believed his actions in shooting Ward were necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily injury to himself or his partner pursuant to OCGA § 16-3-21 (a).
The original trial judge, stating that she could not "determine as a matter of law that [Bunn] was justified in killing" Ward, denied the motion. Bunn appealed this and other rulings to this Court. In Bunn v. State, 284 Ga. 410 (3) (667 SE2d 605) (2008), we held that a defendant need only prove he is entitled to immunity under OCGA § 16-3-24.2 by a preponderance of the evidence. Because the wrong standard had been used, we remanded the case to the trial court to allow it to analyze Bunn's motion under the preponderance of the evidence standard. Bunn v. State, supra. On remand, the case originally handled by Judge Lane was reassigned. The trial court subsequently entered an order in which it stated that, after reviewing the record, it adopted Judge Lane's findings of fact and that, after applying the preponderance standard in Bunn v. State, supra, it found Bunn carried his burden of proof and granted his motion for immunity from prosecution. By so ruling, the trial court in effect dismissed the entire indictment. See State v. Yapo, 296 Ga. App. 158 (1) (674 SE2d 44) (2009) (grant of immunity from prosecution is in substance a dismissal of the pertinent counts of the indictment). The State appeals. See OCGA § 5-7-1 (a) (1); State v. Burks, 285 Ga. 781 (684 SE2d 269) (2009).
The State asserts that the trial court erred by granting Bunn's immunity motion because justification was not shown by a preponderance of the evidence. The same record was before this Court in Bunn v. State, supra, in which we stated that [t]he record shows that, on July 14, 2002, Bunn, a City of Atlanta police officer, was on routine patrol with his partner. Upon spotting an apparent vehicle break-in, the officers moved their vehicle so as to block one of the exits from the parking lot where the break-in was allegedly taking place. The alleged burglar jumped into a van, which began to move toward the officers, who were shouting for it to stop. The van continued toward the officers, and Bunn shot and killed the van's driver, Corey Ward.
Id., 284 Ga. at 410.[ 4 ] The State does not deny that Bunn adduced evidence that supported the above sequence of events, which are also found in Judge Lane's order. Based on these findings of fact, the trial court expressly found that Bunn reasonably would have held the perception that the driver of the vehicle would not stop, and that he posed an imminent threat to his life and physical well-being. The only effective means [Bunn] had to attempt to stop or pre-empt the danger was his weapon. [Bunn] fired his service weapon in his own self-defense at the driver and was justified in doing so.
The State argues that the trial court was not authorized to reject Judge Lane's conclusion that the evidence did not show justification because Judge Lane heard the actual testimony of the witnesses and noted in her order that certain conflicting fact questions remained. As to the actual testimony of the witnesses, the trial court expressly adopted those factual findings that were made by Judge Lane in her order. As to the evidentiary conflicts regarding certain matters noted by Judge Lane, aside from the fact that most of them were irrelevant to an assessment of Bunn's claim of immunity from prosecution based on a justification defense,[ 5 ] those conflicts were assessed in light of Judge Lane's improper legal conclusion that Bunn was required to prove "as a matter of law" that he was justified in killing Ward. That error by Judge Lane was corrected when this Court held in Bunn v. State, supra, that the proper standard of review was the preponderance of the evidence. Id., 284 Ga. at 413 (3).
"Preponderance of evidence" means that superior weight of evidence upon the issues involved, which, while not enough to free the mind wholly from a reasonable doubt, is yet sufficient to incline a reasonable and impartial mind to one side of the issue rather than to the other.
OCGA § 24-1-1 (5). Nothing in this standard requires the elimination of all fact disputes as a matter of law. Rather, "[t]he standard requires only that the finder of fact be inclined by the evidence toward one side or the other." Murray v. State, 269 Ga. 871, 873 (2) (505 SE2d 746) (1998).
On appeal of an order denying a motion for immunity from prosecution, we review the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling, and we accept the trial court's findings with regard to questions of fact and credibility if there is any evidence to support them. [Cit.] Mullins v. State, 287 Ga. 302 (1) (695 SE2d 621) (2010). See also State v. Yapo, supra, 296 Ga. App. at 159-160 (2). Based on the facts set forth above, the trial court's determination that Bunn is immune from prosecution because he acted in self-defense in discharging his service weapon, although based upon conflicting evidence, was supported by a preponderance of the evidence. Accordingly, the trial court did not err by granting Bunn's immunity motion.
Judgment affirmed. All the Justices concur, except Benham, J., who dissents.
BENHAM, Justice, dissenting.
On the night of July 14, 2002, Raymond Bunn, a plain clothes police officer who was patrolling an Atlanta neighborhood in an unmarked vehicle, fired fatal shots into the driver-side window of a Chevy Tahoe twice wounding its driver 19 year-old Corey Ward, an African-American male, on the left side of his head. Those facts are certain. Otherwise, the evidence is conflicting as to where Bunn was standing in relation to the Chevy Tahoe Ward was driving;[ 6 ] how fast Ward's vehicle was moving;[ 7 ] and whether Ward and his passengers knew Bunn and his partner were police officers.[ 8 ] There are also discrepancies with Bunn's incident report in which he alleges his knee was "pinned" by Ward's vehicle. Specifically, there is no physical or medical evidence of any injury to Bunn's knee and Bunn's partner did not actually see Bunn being hit by Ward's vehicle. There is also troubling evidence that Bunn previously used excessive force for which he was found civilly liable for damages stemming from an incident in which he punched a woman in the face during a routine traffic stop.
The first judge, who listened to the live testimony and presentation of evidence, determined that Officer Bunn was not entitled to immunity based on the evidence presented. On remand, the second judge, who was not privy to the live presentation of evidence and who was given direction by this Court to apply a preponderance of the evidence standard, found that Officer Bunn was justified in using lethal force against Ward and, therefore, immune from prosecution for Ward's death under OCGA § 16-3-24.2. I find the conflicting evidence and conflicting outcomes troubling in this pre-trial matter and cannot in good faith join the majority's decision to affirm this latest ruling by the trial court. Not only does the affirmation of the trial court's decision deprive Corey Ward's family of their day in court and the citizens of a public trial of this controversy, but this decision will also make it more difficult to prosecute law enforcement officers who are alleged to have used excessive and/or deadly force in the apprehension of suspected criminals.
OCGA § 16-3-24.2 is seemingly applicable to any ordinary citizen walking the streets who may need to defend himself or herself in certain situations. Police officers, however, are not the typical "objective reasonable persons," as suggested by the majority's reference to Lewis v. State, 270 Ga. 891, 893 (2) (515 SE2d 382) (1999). Police officers receive special knowledge and training (i.e., training on weaponry, tactics, and the use of deadly force) to which the every day person is likely not exposed. In addition, police officers are not treated as ordinary suspects when they use deadly force against suspected criminals. Here, the investigating officer admitted that Bunn was not treated as any other homicide suspect, but as a police officer regarding a police-involved shooting.[ 9 ] The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the use of deadly force by the police during the apprehension of a suspect must be reviewed pursuant to reasonableness standards under the Fourth Amendment. Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 7 (105 SC 1694, 85 LE2d 1) (1985).
The use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so. It is no doubt unfortunate when a suspect who is in sight escapes, but the fact that the police arrive a little late or are a little slower afoot does not always justify killing the suspect. A police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead.
Id. at 11. See also Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394-395 (109 SC 1865, 104 LE2d 443) (1989). Thus, the overarching question at issue is what would a reasonable police officer do in a situation where, as here, the only suspected crime in progress is the attempted theft of a car and/or the property therein (a nonviolent felony). See Robinson v. State, 221 Ga. App. 865, 866 (473 SE2d 519) (1996) (the police are not ordinary citizens when acting in the line of duty). See also Geoffrey P. Alpert, How Reasonable is the Reasonable Man?: Police & Excessive Force, 85 Crim. L. & Criminology 481, 486-487 (1994) (noting that model policy from International Association of Chiefs of Police would ask what a reasonable police officer would do.) It does not appear the trial court at any point considered or applied the dictates of Tennessee v. Garner.
Given the amount of conflicting evidence in this case concerning whether deadly force was necessary, the conflicting rulings by two trial court judges evaluating the same evidence, Officer Bunn's failure to testify when he had the burden of proof as to why he was justified in using deadly force, and the failure to consider United States Supreme Court precedent, I do not believe there has been a showing that the officer acted as a reasonable police officer under the Fourth Amendment or was justified in his actions by a preponderance of the evidence or any other evidentiary standard. Moreover, allowing the outcome of this case to stand necessarily ensures that alleged victims of excessive or deadly force by law enforcement will be unable to sustain criminal recourse in Georgia courts.[ 10 ] Accordingly, I would reverse and allow the criminal case to proceed and the matter be tried before a jury.
Thursday, March 4, 2010 - 8:16 a.m.
(Prior to his appointment to the Fulton State Court bench, Judge Henry Newkirk (pictured left) served thirteen years as an Assistant District Attorney in Fulton County and two years as an assistant solicitor in DeKalb County. After receiving his B.S. degree from Florida State University, he served as a police officer for three years with the Tallahassee Police Department and the Gwinnett County Police Department.) A Fulton County judge ruled that former Atlanta police officer Raymond Bunn fired in self-defense in 2002 when he shot an 18-year-old black male, Corey Ward, driving an SUV that allegedly struck the officer. More than three years later, on Dec. 2, 2005, Bunn was indicted for murder. Judge Henry Newkirk’s decision was based on a 2006 law that allows a judge to rule on a self-defense claim before the case is taken to trial and a jury. Bunn’s lawyer told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday that justice was served, but the grandmother of the shooting victim said a killer was “let off on a technicality.”
There had been a rash of car break-ins in the Buckhead bar district that summer. According to reports of the shooting, Bunn and his partner were patrolling in an unmarked car when they heard glass breaking and a car alarm. They saw a man get out of a Buick SUV with a broken window and jump into the back seat of a Chevy Tahoe driven by Ward.
The officers, both wearing dark shirts with the words “Atlanta police” on the front and back, ordered Ward, the driver, to stop. The SUV continued forward. The partner, Terry Mulkey, got out of the way, but the Tahoe bumped Bunn and Bunn shot, hitting Ward in the head. The Tahoe belonged to Ward’s mother.
The shooting during the early morning hours of July 14, 2002, polarized the community then and is still sprouting claims that decisions were made based on politics. When she heard Newkirk’s decision, Judy Arnold-Atkins, Ward’s maternal grandmother, said “it was like a bomb went off inside. It’s taken seven years, almost eight. “I don’t know how he [the judge] came up with the facts to say he [Bunn] was justified in the shooting because he’s [the judge] never heard the case," Arnold-Atkins said. “I just think it’s political to let someone off on a technicality for murder when he had been indicted. I’m asking [District Attorney] Paul Howard and his office to please do an appeal.” No one from Howard's office was available for comment Wednesday evening.
The case was initially assigned to another judge who rejected defense lawyers' various arguments for dismissing the charge, including that the shooting was justified. A change in Georgia law in 2006 allowed for a pre-trial on that claim. Initially, Bunn's argument was rejected but the Georgia Supreme Court in 2008 ordered the trial judge take another look at the self-defense argument using the lower test of a “preponderance” of the evidence as a guide.
By then the case had been assigned to another judge, Newkirk. He based his decision on transcripts from the hearings before the other judge. Newkirk wrote that Bunn perceived he was in danger and his only means for protecting himself was to shoot. Bunn “was justified in doing so… and he was immune from prosecution because he acted in self defense,” Newkirk wrote in the order filed Tuesday.
Bunn resigned from Atlanta Police in 2004. He is now in the Army, according to his attorney.
June 5, 2009
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York City Department of Correction is looking into an allegation that the man charged with breaking into police officer Omar Edwards' car was beaten by guards at the Rikers Island jail. Miguel Goitia has been indicted on a charge of felony criminal mischief, auto stripping and attempted petty larceny. He is due in court June 30.
On Friday (June 5, 2009), Goitia claimed he had been beaten by Rikers guards. Correction spokesman Steven Morello says there is no such report. If it did happen, Morello wishes that Goitia would've told authorities and says inmates should always bring concerns to the attention of the jail management. Police say Goitia broke into Edwards' car. Edwards chased after him with his gun drawn and was killed by another officer who mistook him for an armed criminal.
See Update: Cops or Killers?
May 29, 2009
A New York City police officer who had just gotten off duty was fatally shot late Thursday night in East Harlem by a fellow officer who mistook him for an armed criminal. The slain officer, Omar J. Edwards, 25, who was assigned to patrol housing projects and was wearing plain clothes, was shot in the arm and chest after a team of three other plainclothes officers in a car saw him chasing a man on East 125th Street between First and Second Avenues with his gun drawn, Mr. Kelly said.
Andrew Dunton, a four-year veteran of the force from Long Island has been identified as the officer who fired the fatal shots.
The string of events began when Officer Edwards left (pictured left) duty about 10:30 p.m., approached his car and saw that a man had broken the driver’s side window and was rummaging through the vehicle. The two scuffled, and the man escaped Officer Edwards’s grip by slipping out of his sweater. Officer Dunton and the two other officers assigned to the anticrime unit in the 25th Precinct got out of their vehicle and confronted Officer Edwards. Two of six bullets fired from the Officer Dunton's 9-millimeter Glock struck Officer Edwards, who had just come off duty and was not wearing a bulletproof vest. Officer Edwards, a recently married father of two from Brooklyn, was taken to Harlem Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead at 11:21 p.m. No one else was injured.
Investigators were interviewing the two officers in the car — one of them a sergeant — who did not fire at Officer Edwards. The department does not interview officers involved in fatal shootings until a prosecutor determines whether criminal charges will be brought.
The department [is said to be] investigating whether the officers had identified themselves or demanded that Officer Edwards drop his weapon before Officer Dunton opened fire. The shooting has once again raised questions again about departmental procedures involving communications among plainclothes officers — particularly those in different units — as well as issues of race.
Officer Edwards was black, and Officer Dunton is white.
[A] source in a position to know said that he had come across nothing so far that raised questions about the conduct of Officer Dunton or his fellow officers[.] However, [civil rights advocates] said there was [a] “concern[...] of a growing pattern of black officers being killed with the assumption that they are the criminals.”
“This calls for federal investigation and intervention to sort out the facts and bring about a just resolve,” [Those same civil rights advocates said]. “Can police investigate themselves fairly and impartially? It would seem very difficult at best and unlikely in fact.”
There have been at least two cases of off-duty police officers being shot by colleagues in the New York region in recent years.
In January 2008, a Mount Vernon officer, Christopher A. Ridley, 23, (black) was killed by Westchester County police officers in downtown White Plains as he tried to restrain a homeless man whom he had seen assault another person.
And in February 2006, a New York City officer, Eric Hernandez, 24, (Hispanic) was fatally shot by a fellow officer while responding to a 911 call about a fight at a White Castle restaurant in the Bronx.
Officer Edwards, who joined the force in July 2007, was working as part of an Impact Response Team, a roving team of officers that supplements the department’s prime crime-suppression program: Operation Impact. The program teams new officers with seasoned supervisors to flood areas where crime is surging.
C.J. Note: So if you are an "Uncle Tom," Super heroic, black police officer, ... remember, once you take that uniform off, you're no different than any other black man walking down the street, ... fair game for White/Hispanic police officers.
See Update: Cops or Killers?
May 22, 2009
Former sheriff's deputy Chris Jones stood and watched stoically Friday [May 22, 2009] afternoon as a jury declared him guilty of second-degree murder, rejecting his claim of self-defense in a karaoke-bar killing last year. Jones testified Thursday [May 21, 2009] that he was faced with a growing number of hostile customers who had threatened to kill him and he was forced to use his .45-caliber pistol to defend himself. Jones, 41, an off-duty sergeant at the time, now faces 15-48 years in prison for the shooting during an after-midnight melee in which Donald "D.J." Munsey was killed when he tried to intervene.
Jones (pictured left - in grey suit), a 1989 graduate of Skyview Academy, joined the Shelby County Sheriff's Department on Feb. 1, 1991, and resigned on March 19, five days after the shooting. His assignments included narcotics, DUI, fugitive and patrol bureaus. He had been assigned to the West Tennessee Drug Task Force since Jan. 12, 2008. The trial played out this week to a packed courtroom and some noticeable tension between friends and family members of both Jones and Munsey. Jones faced life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.
The Criminal Court jury of eight men and four women deliberated for six hours before returning their guilty verdicts, which also included attempted second-degree murder, attempted voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges.
Several customers, including some who were drunk that night and some who were not, testified that Jones had threatened to kill people and that he said he had nothing to lose because of his recent divorce.
After shooting Munsey, Jones shot customer Justin Smith, 23, in the buttocks as he ran out the door. He had earlier threatened to kill customer David Eagan, 40, by placing a gun to his head.
The dispute began when Smith and Eagan, both of whom were intoxicated, complained to Jones that his truck was blocking Smith's vehicle in the parking lot at the Windjammer Restaurant and Lounge at 786 E. Brookhaven Circle in East Memphis.
The shooting occurred at about 12:30 a.m. March 14, 2008.