Top 5 Police Blunders: Michael Pleasance's Family Gets $3 Million in Shooting Of Unarmed Man
Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 7:00 am
Four Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Officers were arrested this week for accepting what they believed to be stolen property. It was part of a sting operation run by the department's Internal Affairs office after they received a tip officers were paying cash for stolen property.
A cooperating witness (aka "the Stoolie") fenced televisions, iPads, and iPhones to Silvestre Bonilla, Guillermo Ortiz and Dioni Fernandez while they were on duty. Indeed, the officers put in their orders for more. ("Everything must go! Rock bottom pricing!!")
After Fernandez, 36, bought an iPad for $150, he offered to sell two more if the Stoolie could get them. Ortiz, 31, paid $250 for an iPhone and TV valued at $820, which he loaded directly into the trunk of his cruiser. A few days later he contacted the Stoolie asking for two 42" flat panels and any gold rings, watches and necklaces. (A Glenn Beck fan I see!) The Stoolie dropped them off at Ortiz's house, receiving $150 for the $1200 in merchandise. Bonilla collected several iPod nanos and an iPhone from the Stoolie, leaving a restaurant meet in uniform carrying a white Apple Store bag filled with (allegedly) stolen stuff.
But they are not the dumbest ones. That honor goes to 28-year old Jennifer Green, who received $600 in cash taken during a phony robbery, while she listened to the police scanner and kept watch. This was out of $1050 the Stoolie said he took. (Really? They gave you 60% of their take? Have you met a criminal before? Are you aware cash is generally untraceable?)
No this isn't Dawn of the Dead. This particular Reagan only believes it's morning in America, because it's darkest before the dawn. The 53-year old Reagan, who's the police chief in Wayne, Oklahoma, is accused of stealing money out of a Department of Human Services fund earmarked for victims of child abuse. ("What do they need with money? They're children!" *Cue Evil Laugh*)
The mayor of Wayne said he knew little about the fund -- Reagan was the only one with access. (Naturally.) The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was also looking into allegations that Reagan may have kept fine money paid by motorists he pulled over. (No proof to the rumor Reagan paid his $5000 bail with a wad of money he pulled out of his pocket.)
What's yours is mine. That's the policy of the two Michigan State Police lieutenants who ran the Omni Drug Task Force. Between March 2006 and December 2008, 48-year old Luke Davis and 42-year old Emmanuel Riopelle turned drug forfeiture laws into their own eBay, selling the drugs and valuables they took and pocketing the proceeds.
Indeed, once they walked into your house, it was like they were choosing items out of a Wheel of Fortune showcase. A local news station ran audio from a man who at the time of the bust was in the basement recording music with his band. Davis and company were unaware the mike was still hot. When they busted in, they moved everyone upstairs, and proceeded to raid the resident's fridge while they searched. ("Anyone want a beer? How about some leftover KFC?")
While they were in the basement, the cops can be heard wondering whether they should confiscate the drums and some of the other expensive recording equipment. They left with three pages worth of stuff from the house, including: a 52" flat screen TV, a DVD player, two computers, a camera and a bunch of DVDs. Under the law, police are only supposed to confiscate property that was purchased with money earned from drug sales. The victim claims they also took $400 and a gold ring that weren't listed in their report.
All they found at the victim's house were a quarter ounce of weed, twelve seedlings they claimed were pot plants, and half a pill the resident produced a prescription for. The bust was based on an anonymous tip and a marijuana stem they found in his garbage. (Hmmm. Hope this doesn't clog garbage disposal.)
|Accomplice Lawrence Dusseau|
Police were tipped off by a complaint from someone whose property Davis took. A raid of his house revealed a department store of booty, including drugs (vicodin, oxycotin, steroids), a wall covered with a large quantity of men's and women's jewelry, 30 designer purses, 22 cell phones, computers, televisions, motorcycles, and a golf cart. (Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life For Me! Arrr!)
Private investigator Christopher Butler and Norman Wielsch, commander for the Central Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team, are two peas in a pod. They first met while working together on the Antioch Police Dept, and they define the term, "Thick As Thieves." The two were arrested on drug trafficking charges. According to the indictment Wielsch, a 12-year vet of the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, passed drugs seized by the task force onto Butler who had a connection resell them, and they split the profits. They were arrested last month in an undercover sting.
Danville, CA police officer Stephen Tanabe was arrested last week on charges he participated, and investigations are continuing into up to four other officers in other Bay Area agencies. Tanabe worked briefly with Butler and Wielsch while they were on the Antioch force.
In another of Butler's shady set-ups, he and up to eight of his employees -- including one carrying a videocamera -- masqueraded as Antioch cops, and fake arrested a young man at the request of his mother, who believed him to be doing drugs. They handcuffed the man at gunpoint while Wielsch watched and took him to his home, where they searched and recovered 4000 Xanax pills, which were later recovered from Butler's safe.
Butler and Wielsch are charged with 28 felonies and face up to 25 years (is that all?) in prison if convicted. With cops like these, who needs criminals?
Alvin Weems arrived 15 minutes late for work almost 8 years to this day, on March 8, 2003. His partner in patrolling the 95th Street Red Station train stop was even later, and didn't show up for another half-hour. Unfortunately trouble wasn't waiting for him to clock in. When Weems arrived there was already an allegedly gang-related altercation at the station turnstiles involving as many as six men. (Though considering the veracity of Chicago police reports on the matter, it could've been as few as two.)
In video surveillance footage that was long withheld from the public, you can see Michael Pleasance walking around holding his buddy's coat. His friend, the 5'7", 210 lbs. Patrick Anderson, 30, can be seen charging at least twice back into the fray. Indeed, the 23-year old Pleasance looks more like a medieval knight's men-at-arms watching his horse.
Weems, upon seeing the fight as he pulled up, dropped his equipment bag (containing his police hat, badge, radio, pepper spray, baton and duty weapon) on the ground, pulled out his off-duty weapon, a Ruger SP 101, and dashed to break-up the fight. Waving his gun around, he pulled Anderson away and pushed him to a wall. Pleasance stood nearby.
Weems had a stocking cap and a coat over his CPD shirt, leaving him unrecognizable as a cop, though he did allegedly identify himself as thus. According to witnesses, Pleasance pleaded, "Put the gun up, you don't need to do that," and "I don't care if you are the police, put the gun away." Pleasance can be seen standing near his friend, who's against the wall motioning with his arm, but making no aggressive moves toward Weems, when Weems levels his gun at Pleasance and shoots him point blank in the face.
Initially this was treated as just another gang incident. Weems claimed to have been surrounded. His report claims Pleasance said, "I don't care if you are the police, you ain't taking him, motherfucker. We are going to fuck you up," and came up behind him with a closed fist before Weems shot him in self-defense. Other lies riddle the reports and new coverage in the immediate aftermath -- lies that became pretty readily apparent when the footage was finally released. (It's shocking, honestly. The shooting seems to come out of nowhere.) Weems received no punishment.
The police fought the release of the tapes (for obvious reasons, aside from their own mendacity) but they couldn't stop it. Police Superintendent Phil Cline ignored the recommendation of Lori Lightfoot, then chief administrator of the Office of Professional Standards, that Weems be fired. (It turns out Cline and Weems had served on the West Side's 11th district together.) Weems was suspended for 30 days, and later, in 2005, promoted to detective. (Not bad with an unjustified homicide on your record.)
But the family sued, and the tapes came out. Shown the tapes, Weems recanted his report and confessed under cross-examination that there was nothing to justify the shooting. In 2007 an eight-person jury awarded the Pleasance family $12.5 million. But like a continuing tale that won't end well -- Chicago's corrupt system bit back. The Illinois Appellate Court overturned it in 2009, saying "the trial jury had been prejudiced by repeated use of the term 'willful and wanton' to describe the officer's conduct."
Last Friday the family finally closed this sad chapter by accepting a $3 million settlement from the city. Weems - despite lying in reports and shooting an unarmed man for no reason -- remains on the force. At a detective's rank. Justice, it would seem, is a fickle bitch.
Read last Thursday's Top 5 Police Blunders: Baltimore Cops Beat, Cheat & Harass; All in a Day's Work.