Top 5 Police Blunders: Andrew Ringeisen Pushes Perp Down Stairs, Leaves Him to Die
Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 9:00 am
The marines may be looking for "the few, the proud," but the only requirement needed to join the Middlesex County Sheriff's department are some deep pockets. Joseph Spicuzzo, elected Middlesex County Sheriff an unprecedented 30 years-running, and Middlesex County Democratic Party chairman the past 16, is accused of demanding cash bribes in exchange for investigator positions on the force or promotions for senior officers.
It's simply how business is done in New Jersey, a facet as endemic to the landscape as big hair. (Spicuzzo was a protégé of New Jersey state senator and Democractic party power broker John Lynch, who was convicted of corruption in 2006.) While sheriff officers are hired through the civil service system, sheriff investigators are appointed positions. Spicuzzo allegedly demanded as much as $25,000 in exchange for the positions, collecting bribes from three different individuals in 2007 and 2008. All three investigators are still on the job.
Meanwhile the 65-year old Spicuzzo has resigned his Democratic party post and plead not guilty to charges of bribery and official misconduct. (He announced last year he wouldn't seek reelection to his $126,000/year sheriff's post citing health concerns.) On Monday sheriff's officer and president of the local Police Benevolence Association, 45-year old Paul Lucarelli was charged with being Spicuzzo's bagman for the bribes.
In May 2009, Middlesex County paid nearly $1 million to settle a sexual harassment suit filed by five female officers against the county and Spicuzzo. If the cream rises to the top, what does that make this well-positioned bottom feeder?
|Suspended Ofcs. Pitts & Luther|
I'll generally acknowledge that crime doesn't pay (unless you're a politician), but neither than honesty if it means crossing that "Blue Line." In July of last year Rogers, Minnesota police officer Mike Miller was hot in pursuit of a motorcyclist, who was afraid of losing his license if caught. Miller had clocked him at 64 mph in a 50 mph zone. The cyclist accelerated to 80 mph as he tried to escape.
Officer Mike Hayen was position ahead, his squad parked in the middle of Diamond Lake Road's three lanes. As the motorcyclist made to swerve around him, Hayen gunned the vehicle just in front of him, sending the cyclist flying over the hood the police car as he hit it.
There was a witness to the action which violates state rules against police using deadly force except in extraordinary, life-threatening circumstances. (As it turns out the cyclist, the now 21-year old Dustin Taylor, injured his knee but otherwise escaped without permanent disability.) Miller and Hayen's reports failed to mention how Hayen maneuvered his vehicle in front of the cyclist.
The witness mentioned what he saw to Sgt. Joleena Pitts, an honored 20-year veteran of the force, while taking his son to a police open house. Pitt passed the information on to Police Chief Jeff Luther, a nearly 25-year veteran of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. According to one source, Luther was hired by Rogers in 2008 to "break away from small-town, good-old-boy, pat-on-the-back philosophy of the past." (So much for that plan.)
Luther brought the case before a closed City Council meeting that included newly elected Mayor Jason Grimm, laying out the case for firing Miller and Hayen. What happened? Hayen was placed on temporary administrative leave with no other action taken, while a month later Luther and Pitts found themselves on suspension in an apparent act of retaliation. It turns out Miller is the godfather to the new mayor's daughter. Guess who was made interim chief in Luther's absence? Yeah, Mike Miller.
When it comes to implicating your fellow officers, the message is loud and clear: You'll be seen and not heard.
Usually you have to have committed a crime before a cop attempts to coerce you into sexual congress. As Princeton, West Virginia police officer Christopher Winkler's a relatively new recruit, perhaps he didn't understand protocol.
According to the complaint, Winkler met a 17-year old boy in the parking lot of Grant's Supermarket and tried to get him to bob for apples. (As in "how you like them apples?") He offered to alleviate a monetary debt owed by the juvenile (not really sure who the debt was owed to or how Winkler knew about it).
When bribery didn't work Winkler moved on to intimidation. He threatened to file felony charges against the teen (who knew "failure to blow" was a felony offense?), which he said "would prevent the juvenile from getting a job and ruin the rest of his life." He also told the teen that if he did polish his knob, he wouldn't call Child Protective Services on his mother. Apparently he was ultimately able to scare the teen into cooperating. He's been placed on administrative leave, arrested, and charged with one felony count of bribery. (Hope it ruins his life.)
In April of last year, Winkler accused his instructors of beating him into unconsciousness and causing bleeding on his brain which required hospitalization during a multiple-assailant training exercise at the state police academy. (They apparently didn't hit him hard enough.)
When this occurred, his mother, a U.S. Army Reserve officer, spoke to the media on his behalf. "He doesn't drink, do drugs, smoke, curse. He served as a Christian missionary for six months. That's how I see him; that's how most people see him," she said at the time. "He's a good person with good morals, good values." File Under: Another Half-Ass Theory Shot To Shit.
|Columbus Police Chief Angelo Vega|
The mayor, police chief and a city trustee in the border town of Columbus, New Mexico were arrested this week in a huge ATF raid. Mayor Eddie Espinoza, Chief Angelo Vega and Village Trustee Blaz Gutierrez were accused of helping smuggle guns into the Mexican cities of Cíudad Juarez and Palomas, helping fuel the intense Mexican drug war.
Espinoza allegedly rented an apartment in El Paso where the stored guns bought from Chaparral, NM dealer Ian Garland, who was also arrested, primarily American Tactical 9 mm pistols and AK-47 style pistols, which resemble the rifles, but with shorter barrels and no rear stocks. Between January 2010 and March of this year they're accused of smuggling over 200 guns to the drug cartels in Mexico. Blas Gutierrez, and Police Chief Angelo Vega are also accused of working to outfit a village van so they could smuggle 600 pounds of drugs for the cartel.
In Espinoza's absence, Robert Gutierrez, a village councilman and Blas' father, was named acting mayor. It turns out Espinoza is his brother-in-law, and one of Gutierrez's daughters and nephews were also among the 11 persons implicated. The ATF raid occurred, ironically enough, exactly 95 years after Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa charged into town to seek revenge on local gun dealers who sold him faulty ammunition. The more things change...
In March of last year Andrew Ringeisen and two other members of the police force in Overland, MO, a St. Louis suburb, showed up at Ken Hamilton's brother house, hoping to question the unemployed 49-year old about an alleged road rage incident. The suspect had been driving a Jeep with an police siren to run people out of the way -- a description that officers were aware matched Hamilton's vehicle. (Perhaps this wasn't the first such incident?)
During the course of questioning the 34-year old Ringeisen got into a verbal altercation with Hamilton, and pushed/knocked him down a flight of stairs. (Hamilton suffered massive head injuries and died at the hospital five days later.) After Hamilton's fall, one officer suggested that Ringeisen arrest Hamilton, despite knowing he had done nothing to provoke an attack or an arrest. (Classic police work.)
Instead they fled without checking on Hamilton. They returned, evidently, a little later when one of Hamilton's brother found him, and called for help. They failed to mention at the time that they'd been there earlier. (It's unclear how this fact ultimately came to light.)
This week the city's insurance company reached $1.18 million to settlement to the family's civil lawsuit. Ringeisen, who resigned from the force in the aftermath of the incident, will go on trial for involuntary manslaughter in April.
Read last Thursday's Top 5 Police Blunders: Michael Pleasance's Family Gets $3 Million in Shooting Of Unarmed Man.