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03/22/2014

FBI agent cleared in Fla. shooting of man tied to Boston bombers

The attorney involved won't bring charges against the agent who shot Ibragim Todashev, a 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter

By Eric Tucker
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A Florida prosecutor has cleared an FBI agent of any criminal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of a Chechen man as he was being questioned about a Boston Marathon bombing suspect, two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation said Friday.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity Friday because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about the case, said State Attorney Jeff Ashton won't bring charges against the agent who shot Ibragim Todashev, a 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter.

The circumstances surrounding Todashev's death have remained mysterious: Officials initially said the man had lunged at an agent with a knife while FBI agents and Massachusetts state troopers were questioning him about his friendship with suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Later, they said it was no longer clear what happened.

Todashev's father, Abdul-Baki Todashev, insisted during a May news conference that his son was unarmed and has maintained his son's innocence. He presented photographs, which The Associated Press could not authenticate, showing his son was shot six times in the torso and once in the back of the head.

The Washington Post first reported the prosecutor's decision. Ashton's office said in an emailed statement that he has not made a final decision regarding the investigation into Todashev's death and denied sharing any such decision with federal officials.

The Justice Department also has been investigating but has not yet released its findings. A third law enforcement official said the Justice Department is expected to reach the same conclusion, based on a recommendation from the FBI.

Federal prosecutors have said in court filings that Todashev named Tsarnaev as a participant in an earlier triple homicide in Massachusetts. The filings were made in the case against Tsarnaev's brother, surviving bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

According to the filings, Todashev told investigators Tamerlan Tsarnaev participated in a triple slaying in Waltham on Sept. 11, 2011.

In that case, three men were found in an apartment with their necks slit and their bodies reportedly covered with marijuana. One of the victims was a boxer and friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

The filing was prosecutors' attempt to block Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from getting certain information from authorities, including investigative documents associated with the Waltham slayings.

Authorities allege that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, and 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, ethnic Chechens from Russia, planned and carried out the twin bombings near the finish of the marathon on April 15. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction and 16 other charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a gunbattle with police as authorities closed in on the brothers several days after the bombings.

Shootings by FBI agents are almost never deemed unjustified, and the internal investigations into those shootings are typically not reviewed by outside agencies, said Samuel Walker, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha who specializes in police accountability and use of force. Walker pointed to FBI documents obtained by The New York Times under a Freedom of Information Act request last year showing that no FBI agents were found at fault in about 150 shootings between 1993 and 2011.

Most major police departments have several layers of review of officer shootings to improve tactics, training and policies, Walker said.

"It is my opinion that the FBI is still an insular organization. It's not part of the municipal police. There has been some real progress there in terms of post-incident review in shootings. That's what doesn't happen with the FBI, and that's what I think needs to happen," he said. "The FBI is not a part of that world. They think they're better, they are above that."

It's also very rare for any law enforcement officer to be charged with a crime in the shooting of a suspect, Walker added.

"The standard is so high in terms of proving criminal intent," he said.

The executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Florida, which has been working with Todashev's family and conducting its own investigation, said he wants to see the details of Ashton's report. Hassan Shibly pointed out that Todashev's live-in girlfriend and others connected to the case have been deported since the shooting.

"The DOJ's and the State Attorney's investigations relied on evidence gathered by the FBI, and the only person who can contradict first-hand their narrative is dead," Shibly said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press

Associated Press



An interesting perspective from a totally different culture...

China’s decision to ramp up the police’s use of guns against terrorists has come under fire after cases where officials were questioned for opening fire in the line of duty. 

The central government’s one-year crackdown on terrorism calls for the heavy use of force against threats. In the wake of bombings and “separatist” attacks, cities nationwide have beefed up their security, mobilising thousands of armed police to patrol the streets and raiding alleged terrorist dens.

Beijing, the capital, last month allowed its SWAT teams to shoot terrorists on sight.

However, the policy has drawn criticism after civilians were shot by police in recent months under “questionable” circumstances.

A petitioner protesting about land compensation died in Yunnan in mid-May after being shot four times by a SWAT member.

The petitioner was sitting in his truck, which was draped with protest posters, in front of a government building when he was shot.

Yunnan’s public security bureau defended the killing, saying the man was endangering onlookers. However, residents and netizens decried the “excessive” use of force.

Two weeks later, in Zhengzhou, a gun went off during a safety demonstration given by police at a local kindergarten on May 28. The bullet shattered the cement floor, lightly injuring a child and four parents and causing panic. It also prompted concerns about gun safety.

The Kunming terrorist attack in March, where eight people wielding knives killed 29 people and injured 143 others, was turning point for gun and anti-terror policy. Officials lauded a SWAT team captain’s rapid-fire response, shooting dead four assailants in 15 seconds, preventing more bloodshed.

The Kunming attack was among the deadliest in China’s history. It was later found that seven security personnel at the station were equipped with nothing more than batons.

China’s gun regulations are vague and security forces may need more training to effectively decide when – and who – to shoot, according to legal experts.

“The relevant regulations stipulating the choice of gun usage are not defined clearly enough,” Yu Lingyun, deputy department head of the Tsinghua University Faculty of Law, told the South China Morning Post today.

“Chinese policemen’s gun usage is stipulated by the Regulations on Use of Arms by the People’s Police, but some of the provisions are too rigid,” Yu said.

“As a result police officers are hard [up making] a decision in reality,” Yu said.

On May 30, in Yunnan province, an allegedly drunk police officer shot dead a villager during a local dispute. An internal investigation concluded the gun went off by accident and that the officer was sober at the time. However, some were unconvinced.

Yu said making the correct snap decision in such threatening situations requires long-term and stringent training. “This requires training combining aspects of techniques, laws, as well as mentality,” Yu said.

Qu Xinjiu, head of the China University of Political Science and Law’s Criminal Justice College, said in a CCTV interview that security forces face complicated situations.

“They must follow regulations and laws, but also have to make a prompt decision based on the crime scene, which requires high professionalism,” he said. “Police officers, especially those serving on the front lines, must strengthen their training.”

There were similar concerns in Hong Kong last month, when a 21-year-old man threatened his wife with a knife, until police officers fatally shot him in the head. Relatives of the suspect questioned if the action was necessary.

Qu urged prosecutors to supervise the police’s gun use and step in when the public demands an impartial review of a shooting case.

“A procurator’s [office] should draw its own conclusion from independent investigations on whether the police’s gunshots were legitimate, justified – or abusive”, he said.


Felony Spitting and a Force Response
Interesting case from Seattle.  SPD is under close 
scrutiny with a recent DOJ investigation and a "host of reforms."  Take the time to watch the video and listen to the audio.  I am confident that there is more to this incident than can be seen in a static video camera.  Also remember, some states are now charging individuals with felony assault or more serious charges if a person intentionally spits on another person.  In this encounter, we have a drug addict (who later dies from a drug overdose) spitting on the police officer.  Isn't it true that drug addicts have a higher incident of transmittable diseases due to their methods of use?  californiapolicelawyer.com 


SPD officer suspended for escalating confrontation, excessive force

Police chief’s discipline addresses the type of issues raised by the Department of Justice when it found Seattle officers too often resort to excessive force.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Interim Seattle police Chief Jim Pugel has handed an eight-day suspension to a patrol officer, finding the officer used excessive force and unnecessarily escalated a confrontation with a man suspected of hit-and-run driving, according to newly released records.

The discipline, imposed on Officer Eric Faust, addressed the type of broad issues raised by the Department of Justice when it found in 2011 that the Police Department had engaged in a pattern or practice of constitutional violations regarding use of force. The finding led to a landmark settlement last year in which the department agreed to make broad reforms.

Pugel’s findings, outlined in a June 7 disciplinary-action report, were disclosed Tuesday in documents released to The Seattle Times under a public-records request. One day of Faust’s suspension was held in abeyance for two years if he doesn’t have the same or similar misconduct.

Faust, 37, who joined the department in 2006, is appealing the suspension without pay.

The case, which first attracted attention last year when the Police Department released dashboard-camera video of the Oct. 6, 2012, incident, took an unusual turn when the man who was stopped, Leo Etherly, later died at age 34 of what his attorney described as a drug overdose.

Faust and his partner, Ron Campbell, were dispatched to a hit-and-run accident involving a bicyclist and a white van in the Central Area.

While en route, the officers saw a van matching the description and followed it to a nearby parking lot.

The officers contacted Etherly as he walked away from the van as a third officer, Jonathan Chin, arrived.

“Upon contact, the subject was belligerent and uncooperative with the officers,” according to a report by the department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA).

Video from Chin’s patrol car indicated Campbell persuaded Etherly to place his hands on the patrol car’s hood.

But Etherly kept trying to remove his hands, complaining the hood was hot. Etherly suggested he would sit on the bumper, with Campbell and Chin seeming to go along with the request, according to the OPA report.

Faust, in a statement made later to the OPA, said he had gone to inspect the van and that when he returned he heard Etherly raising his voice but no longer acting aggressively.

Yet Faust “interjected himself in an aggressive manner in an unsuccessful effort to gain control of the subject,” OPA found.

When Faust asked Etherly his name, Etherly became hostile but remained seated on the bumper.

After Etherly refused to give his name, Faust decided to handcuff him to protect everyone’s safety.

But other than shouting and expressing hostility, Etherly “had done nothing physically aggressive or combative,” according to the OPA report.

“An arrest based upon the vehicle-related crimes was premature” since little was known about the facts, OPA found.

With three officers present and Etherly “in a position of disadvantage,” the OPA report said, the use of force seemed premature when little verbal persuasion had been attempted.

“The use of force at this point was not necessary,” OPA concluded, noting that Faust’s actions seemed to expose him to “far greater threat of assault or injury” than leaving Etherly seated on the bumper encircled by three officers.

In the video, Etherly can be seen trying to yank his left hand free as the three officers tried to handcuff him. Faust then put a hand to Etherly’s neck and pushed him back onto the hood of the patrol car.

When Etherly complained of being choked, Faust responded: “I’m not choking you. I’m getting your head away from me.”

Etherly then appeared to turn his head and spit at Faust, who along with the other officers was hit with saliva. Etherly’s attorney, James Egan, has said Etherly was breathing his own saliva and didn’t intend to spit.

It was at this point Faust used his forearm to strike Etherly in the head, as Etherly continued to resist being handcuffed. As the officers took Etherly to the ground, mostly out of camera’s view, Faust appeared to deliver a second punch to Etherly’s head.

The two blows to stop spitting or aggression were “not reasonable under the circumstances,” OPA found.

In Pugel’s disciplinary report, he wrote that Faust properly detained Etherly.

“However, you escalated the detention of the suspect which resulted in the suspect spitting at you,” Pugel wrote. “You then responded by punching the suspect in the face.”

The Justice Department, in its 2011 findings, concluded that Seattle officers “escalate situations and use unnecessary or excessive force when arresting individuals for minor offenses.”

It also found the department often used excessive force against people who are already under control, as well as against people who talk back to officers.

Sgt. Rich O’Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG), said Tuesday that Faust’s suspension has been appealed to a three-member Disciplinary Review Board.

Though Faust’s chain of command — his sergeant, lieutenant and captain — all found Faust’s conduct fell within department policy, O’Neill said, it was the OPA that decided to sustain the allegation regarding use of force.

“The investigation was very flawed,” he said. “The analysis done on it did not equate to a sustained finding,” especially given Etherly’s actions.

O’Neill said the Department of Justice’s settlement with the city undoubtedly played a role in the decision to discipline Faust.

“Everything is related to DOJ,” he said. “It’s just the reality of where we are right now, especially if it has force connected to it.”

Faust’s appeal could be heard in six to eight months, when a state arbitrator is free to hear it, O’Neill said. But SPOG is meeting with city officials and a mediator later this month to try to reach a settlement on 18 to 20 pending appeals and grievances filed by the union, so Faust’s disciplinary appeal could be resolved as part of that process, he said.

Faust also called Etherly an “(expletive) idiot” during the incident, but misconduct findings related to the profanity were lifted and changed to training referrals at the urging of Assistant Chief Nick Metz.

Etherly agreed to a “dispositional continuance” in March for hitting the bicyclist, who was not seriously injured, and leaving the scene.


Canadian Use of Force Cases

Recently, many high profile use of force cases have been surfacing in Canada.  There was a lot of controversay regarding the use of tasers by police officers in Ontario, Canada.  Interestingly, their usage was just approved for patrol officers in Ontario and within hours this encounter occurred.  Just from the bare minimum facts provided by a newspaper, this case should be an interesting test for taser application in Canada.  (www.californiapolicelawyer.com.  http://californiapolicelawyer.com/Home.html)

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Ontario’s police watchdog is investigating an incident in which they say an 80-year-old woman suffered a fractured hip after she was struck by police with a Taser. Special Investigations Unit spokeswoman Monica Hudon said three Peel region police officers approached the woman around 3:30 a.m. last Wednesday as she walking along a road in Mississauga.

Hudon said officers spoke with the woman until “at some point” in the incident an officer fired his Taser.  Hudon said the elderly women fell to the ground and was rushed to Credit Valley Hospital for treatment of a fractured hip, among other injuries.  The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.  The incident occurred one day after the province announced it would permit all front-line police officers to carry stun guns.

The use of force by police in Ontario has come under scrutiny after Sammy Yatim, 18, was shot multiple times and Tasered by police during a confrontation on an empty streetcar.  Videos of the incident prompted hundreds of people to take to the streets to demand justice.

Another high profile case that brought the police use of Taser under public scrutiny was the 2007 death of a Polish immigrant at Vancouver’s airport.  Robert Dziekanski died after being stunned with a Taser by RCMP officers. A public inquiry found that the officers were not justified in using the Taser.  The move by the Ontario government to permit all front-line officers to use the stun gun means it’s now up to local police services in the province to decide whether they want to equip all their officers with Tasers, which are currently restricted to supervisors and specialists, such as tactical units and hostage rescue teams.

Police forces will also have to foot the bill if they want to arm their officers with Tasers — costing about $1,500 each — which will put pressure on municipal budgets.

Ontario police chiefs and associations have been pushing the government for years to expand the use of stun guns, to no avail. Coroner’s inquests have also recommended expanding the use of stun guns since 2004.  Many police forces, including the Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto Police Services, have said they plan to train and equip their officers with stun guns, in addition to the sidearm, extendable baton and pepper spray that they currently carry.



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