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History > 2013 > USA > Police (I)




More Diversity

in New York City’s Police Dept.,

but Blacks Lag


December 26, 2013
The New York Times


It is among Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly’s prouder legacies: A majority of the police officers in New York City are now members of minorities, and have been since roughly 2006.

But as the Police Department has attracted an increasingly kaleidoscopic range of nationalities to its ranks in recent years — officers hail from Albania to Yemen — department statistics reveal a decline in new recruits among black New Yorkers.

The decline comes despite aggressive recruitment efforts in places like central Harlem and the Bronx, where the department regularly assigns friendly recruitment officers to visit.

In 2003, 18 percent of the Police Academy’s 2,108 graduates were black. Of the 1,247 recruits who started the academy this summer and will graduate on Friday, blacks make up about 10 percent, according to the department. By contrast, the percentage of Hispanic recruits has remained around 25 percent from 2003 till now, and the percentage of white non-Hispanic recruits has actually risen in recent years, to 57 percent from 52 percent in 2003.

There are many possible explanations for the decline, including demographic shifts in the city’s black population, a rise in the number of new immigrant applicants and possibly the highly publicized reduction of officers’ starting salary midway through the decade. (It was since raised to a base pay of about $42,000.)

The Police Department’s aggressive stop-and-frisk tactics may have played a role as well. As the percentage of black recruits to the Police Academy zigzagged downward over the last decade, the number of recorded street stops, mostly in minority neighborhoods, rose higher, sowing distrust of the police.

“I think most people are past saying ‘Oh, don’t be a cop,’ ” said Orayne Williams, 22, a senior at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who is from Flatbush, Brooklyn. “But it still does exist. People from the community have that mind-set.”

Standing nearby, his friend Parris Bailey cut in. “I like the stop-and-frisk idea; they need to be able to do their job,” said Ms. Bailey, 21, who lives with her parents in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and counts “Law and Order” among her favorite shows. But she said she never considered being a police officer.

“Defense attorney,” she said.

Mr. Williams said he was preparing for the Law School Admissions Test, not the police exam.

Police departments often struggle to diversify their ranks, and the New York Police Department has made strides over the last decade. It is roughly 30 percent Hispanic at the patrol level; it has more than doubled the number of Asian police officers since 2003; and it is slowly moving toward being majority minority across all ranks. (About 52 percent of the 34,000-member force was white at the start of 2013; 16 percent was black.)

By contrast, at the Port Authority Police Department, blacks make up a small part of each academy class. Out of 217 graduates in 2012, 13 were black. That is up from just four in 2008, the last year of new recruits.

Recruiters for the New York Police Department, who are officers themselves, pitch the job mostly for its benefits: compensation of over $90,000 after five and one-half years, the option to retire after 22 years with half pay and health care. The recruiting slogan is: “Be Proud.”

At the start of the Bloomberg administration, attitudes toward the police in minority neighborhoods softened in anticipation of a shift from the law-and-order approach of Rudolph W. Giuliani and a string of police shootings of black men. Under Mr. Kelly, the department pushed to increase diversity while requiring two years of college credit or military service to enter the academy.

Yet critics charge that police behavior in minority neighborhoods over the last decade has hindered efforts to attract black officers, alienating many young men and sowing broader resentment. “We had this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde recruitment strategy that played out in the community,” said State Senator Eric Adams, a retired police officer.

“I had a conversation with Commissioner Kelly around this,” he added. “He had to acknowledge that the Police Department is not doing well at recruiting black men.”

John J. McCarthy, the department’s chief spokesman, pointed to statistics showing the overall diversity of the department and that, since 2010, the percentage of blacks taking the Police Department exam had remained relatively constant, fluctuating between 17 and 20 percent of all test takers. Those who pass may not become officers for a variety of reasons, including residency requirements and background checks. (There is also now a two-and-a-half-year wait between the time an applicant takes the test and enters the academy, possibly dissuading some.)

“Although the N.Y.P.D. is smaller than it was over a decade ago, the agency is more diverse than ever before,” Mr. McCarthy said. “In fact, the N.Y.P.D. is the most diverse police department anywhere in the world.”

The incoming police commissioner, William J. Bratton, had to deal with similar apparent distrust in Los Angeles. Under his leadership, the department convened focus groups with African-American residents to learn of their concerns before trying aggressive recruiting. Some said they actively discouraged their children from joining the force.

“One group that was particularly adamant against young black men joining were mothers who saw their sons, and in some cases their grandsons, jacked around over the years,” said John W. Mack, a former head of the Los Angeles Urban League and then president of that city’s police commission during Mr. Bratton’s tenure there. “And why would you want your sons to join a police force who was doing that?”

The situation can be frustrating for black officers in New York.

“This is a great job,” said Detective Yuseff Hamm, the president of the Guardians, a black fraternal organization that dates from 1942. “This is a great career. This is an absolute benefit to the citizens of New York. But a lot of people don’t look at it that way in the community.”

Detective Hamm said the biggest challenge was attracting new black recruits who do not already have family members in law enforcement. Stop-and-frisk, he said, is just one of many concerns. “It comes up in them saying, ‘Is that what I would have to do?’ ” he said. More often, he said, the department’s educational requirements pose problems. “It’s necessary, but a hindrance at the same time,” he said.

Census data shows that the number of blacks who could be eligible to be hired by the Police Department — 21- to 35-year-olds with at least two years of college living in the city or surrounding eligible counties — has increased since 2000. At the same time, said Susan Weber-Stoeger, a demographer at Queens College, the number represents a smaller percentage of all New Yorkers who fit that criteria.

Outside John Jay College, Mitchell, 21, a black senior from Canarsie, Brooklyn, said he was in the process of joining the force in 2014. (He declined to give his last name for fear of violating department rules.)

“All the cops there on Utica Avenue, the white cops, look scared,” he said of a thoroughfare that cuts through some minority areas. “What are you scared of? The black cops you see there, they’re relaxed.”

    More Diversity in New York City’s Police Dept., but Blacks Lag, NYT, 26.12.2013,






When the Police Enter a Home


November 12, 2013
The New York Times


The home is “at the very core” of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable government intrusion, as the Supreme Court has said repeatedly. It is where a person’s expectation of privacy is greatest.

The first line of defense of this privacy is the warrant requirement. If police officers want to search a home without a warrant, they are required to get a tenant’s consent. If one tenant consents and another does not, the objector’s wish prevails.

But what if the police lawfully arrest the objecting tenant and remove him from the home, may they enter then? That is the question the Supreme Court is considering on Wednesday in Fernandez v. California.

In 2009, Los Angeles police investigating what they believed to be a gang-related assault and robbery saw one of the suspects enter a nearby apartment. They knocked on the door, and a woman holding an infant answered. She had a fresh wound on her face and blood on her hand and shirt. When the police saw the suspect behind her, they asked him to step outside. He said, “You don’t have any right to come in here. I know my rights.”

The police arrested the man, Walter Fernandez, on charges of domestic violence, and he was taken to the police station. An hour later, the police returned to the home and asked the woman, Mr. Fernandez’s girlfriend, if they could enter. She consented, and the subsequent search turned up a shotgun, ammunition and a knife allegedly used in the robbery.

Mr. Fernandez received an enhanced sentence of 14 years for the gang-related assault and robbery. He appealed, arguing that the enhancement was based on evidence collected in an unlawful search of his home. The state court rejected his appeal, finding that the police’s warrantless entry was legal because he was no longer there to object. Once he was gone, the state claimed that his girlfriend’s consent rendered the search lawful.

But there is no reason to complicate existing law in such circumstances. A tenant’s right to object to a warrantless search should not depend on whether he can permanently stand guard at his front door. If the police have probable cause to make an arrest, they will almost surely have the basis for a warrant as well. Warrants can be issued in a matter of minutes, and, in the meantime, the police can secure the home if they are concerned that evidence may be destroyed.

The state contends that obtaining consent is “simpler, faster and less burdensome” than getting a warrant. But that is precisely the point. By forcing the government to get a judge’s approval before intruding into a private home, the warrant requirement ensures oversight of law enforcement and informs citizens that the search has been authorized by a neutral arbiter.

The home, as the court has said, has long enjoyed “special protection as the center of the private lives of our people.” The justices should reaffirm that principle and require police who wish to search a home to get a warrant, even if the only person standing in their way is in a holding cell.

    When the Police Enter a Home, NYT, 12.11.2013,






Body of Suspect in L.I. Shootings

Is Discovered in the Hudson River


September 30, 2013
The New York Times


The body of the man who the authorities said shot two people at his former workplace on Long Island was discovered on Monday in the Hudson River, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department said.

A recreational boater came across the body of Sang Ho Kim, 63, around 8:30 a.m. near Iona Island, a marshy landmass just south of the Bear Mountain Bridge.

Mr. Kim’s widow said in a telephone interview that the location was near where his mother’s ashes were scattered several years ago.

His white Honda Pilot was found abandoned on Wednesday evening about eight miles away, near Cold Spring. That morning, the police say, he walked into Savenergy, a company in East Garden City, and shot his former boss, John Choi, and a store employee, Yong Jae Shin, in a dispute over money he believed he was owed. Mr. Shin died.

“The tragic violence in East Garden City and the search for Mr. Kim in our local community caused fear and apprehension for many folks,” the Putnam sheriff, Donald B. Smith, said in a statement. “Today’s events have at least allowed us to turn the page on what was a scary chapter for local residents.”

A manhunt led to lockdowns at several schools across the county, north of New York City, and involved over 100 law enforcement agents, some of whom were dropped from helicopters to search mountainous terrain.

Mr. Choi, the owner of the energy company, was in critical but stable condition on Monday, according to his family. A wake for Mr. Shin was held on Sunday in Flushing, Queens.


Jiha Ham contributed reporting.



This article has been revised

o reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 30, 2013

An earlier version of this article misspelled the given name

of the suspect in the shootings.

He is Sang Ho Kim, not San.

    Body of Suspect in L.I. Shootings Is Discovered in the Hudson River,
    NYT, 30.9.2013,






Judge Throws Out Officers’ Convictions

in Killings After Hurricane Katrina


September 17, 2013
The New York Times


NEW ORLEANS — Citing “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct” on the part of federal lawyers here and in Washington, a judge on Tuesday threw out the 2011 convictions of five former police officers who had been found guilty in a momentous civil rights case of killing two citizens and engaging in an extensive cover-up in the days after Hurricane Katrina.

In a heated 129-page decision, Judge Kurt D. Englehardt of Federal District Court here declared that federal prosecutors had created a “prejudicial, poisonous atmosphere” in making anonymous online comments before and during the trial at nola.com, the Web site of The Times-Picayune, and ordered a new trial for all five officers.

The decision represented the collapse, for now, of a case that was seen as symbolizing both the profound breakdown of law and order after the hurricane and a deep rot within the city’s police department that dated back well before the storm.

While a scandal over anonymous online commenting had already cut short the federal careers of two local prosecutors and the United States attorney himself, Tuesday’s decision identified another, previously unknown commenter: a veteran lawyer in the Department of Justice in Washington who had a role in preparing the case for trial.

“This case started as one featuring allegations of brazen abuse of authority, violation of the law and corruption of the criminal justice system,” the decision read. “Unfortunately though the focus has shifted from the accused to the accusers, it has continued to be about those very issues.”

The vacating of the 2011 convictions, which were hailed by the city’s officials and by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., was another setback for a wide-ranging federal campaign to reform the New Orleans Police Department and hold some of its officers accountable for past abuse. A consent decree mandating full-scale departmental changes, announced with fanfare by the city and the Justice Department last summer, is now being appealed by city officials, who said they were unaware of the costs of a separate decree being negotiated that concerns the troubled city jail.

The most notorious of several criminal investigations concerned the shootings on the Danziger Bridge on Sept 4, 2005, when the streets were still flooded and citizens were scavenging for basic supplies. Responding to a distress call, officers raced to the bridge and, according to testimony of witnesses, opened fire without warning, leaving four badly injured and James Brisette, 17, and Ronald Madison, a mentally disabled 40-year-old, dead. Trial witnesses described the cover-up that followed, beginning at the scene with the arrest of Ronald’s brother, Lance Madison.

The case wound its way through the system, first falling apart in state court over grand jury improprieties before being taken over by federal prosecutors in 2008. Four officers — Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon — were eventually convicted in connection to the shooting itself. Another, former Detective Arthur Kaufman, was convicted for his part in the cover-up.

Judge Englehardt, who declared a mistrial last year in the case of another officer involved in the Danziger case, had long been critical of the prosecution. At the defendants’ sentencing last year, the judge, an appointee of President George W. Bush, criticized federal prosecutors for the plea deals that had been offered to cooperating witnesses, among other things.

Some of these criticisms were raised in Tuesday’s decision, but the main objections concerned the behavior of prosecutors online.

That someone in the United States attorney’s office had been anonymously commenting on nola.com was first revealed in the spring of 2012 by lawyers representing the target of a high-profile corruption investigation. The revelations were the talk of New Orleans as lawyers identified a longtime assistant United States attorney, Sal Perricone, as a prolific and rather acerbic commenter under several handles. The targets of his commentary were varied and included the police department, which he called “corrupt,” “ineffectual” and “a joke.”

Several months later, Jan Mann, the office’s second-highest-ranking prosecutor, was also revealed to have been commenting anonymously. In the wake of this disclosure, Jim Letten, at the time the longest-serving United States attorney in the country, stepped down.

Neither Mr. Perricone nor Ms. Mann was a part of the federal trial prosecution team. But the defendants, citing Mr. Perricone’s extensive online comments about the case, had already requested a new trial.

After Mr. Letten’s resignation, the Justice Department announced that John A. Horn, a federal prosecutor from Georgia, would be investigating the office for misconduct relating to the commenting scandal. The judge describes his dissatisfaction with Mr. Horn’s findings, four times sending questions back that he wanted Mr. Horn to answer. It was over the course of this back and forth that Mr. Horn reported that Karla Dobinski, who since 1985 has been a trial lawyer in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, had commented several times on nola.com under the name “Dipsos.”

Ms. Dobinski had an important role leading up to trial, as the lawyer in charge of the so-called “taint team,” which among other things ensured that testimony given by police officers under immunity was not later used against them (the failure to do so is what fatally compromised the case in state court).

Ms. Dobinski was in Washington during the trial and did not appear to have made the sort of provocative online remarks made by Mr. Perricone or Ms. Mann. But in the last week of trial, she urged along certain nola.com commenters who were following the trial and were strongly in favor of the prosecution. Judge Englehardt suggested that the discovery of Ms. Dobinski’s commentary was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

In a statement, a Justice Department spokeswoman expressed disappointment with the ruling, saying that the department was reviewing the decision and considering the options.

“It’s almost unbelievable,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University, adding that the risks of social media are a frequent discussion topic among lawyers. “This is the most dramatic danger sign that we’ve had come along.”

In a statement, Dr. Romell Madison, the brother of Ronald and Lance, urged the Justice Department to appeal.

“This decision reopens this terrible wound not only for our family but our entire community,” his statement read. It concluded, “Our fight for justice continues.”

    Judge Throws Out Officers’ Convictions in Killings After Hurricane Katrina,
    NYT, 17.9.2013,






More Overreach by the N.Y.P.D.


June 23, 2013
The New York Times


The revelation in 2011 that the New York City Police Department was spying on law-abiding Muslims rightly attracted scrutiny from the Justice Department, which announced last year that it intended to review the program. The disclosure also raised troubling questions about whether the city was violating a federal court order that bars it from retaining information gleaned from investigations of political activity unless there are reasonable indications of potential wrongdoing. The purpose of that order was to discourage unjustified surveillance and prevent police from peering into people’s private affairs and building dossiers on them without legitimate cause.

Now comes a new federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Muslim citizens and organizations saying they have been subjected to illegal surveillance that has disrupted Muslim houses of worship, made it difficult for congregants and their spiritual leaders to worship freely, and inhibited Muslims from openly associating with lawful Muslim charities and civic groups and exercising First Amendment rights.

One striking case in the complaint involves Masjid At-Taqwa, a mosque in Brooklyn, where the Police Department is alleged to have installed a surveillance camera, clearly marked with the department’s insignia and pointed at the mosque door. This seems curious because the mosque’s longtime leader, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, was said in the complaint to be a clergy liaison for the N.Y.P.D. Community Affairs Bureau and a member of the Majlis Ash-Shura, also known as the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York.

The camera, which the complaint says was moved across the street but remains in use, raised fears among congregants that they were being targeted for deportation. Many refrained from attending communal prayer; some left the congregation. Concerned that their religious pronouncements might be misquoted by informants, the mosque’s spiritual leaders began recording sermons so that they would be able to defend themselves. They have said they avoided meeting with congregants individually because they feared the congregants might be informants.

Meanwhile, according to the complaint, a police informant who visited this and other mosques tried to lure congregants into inflammatory conversations that would then have been reported to the police. According to court documents, the informant tried the same strategy with a Muslim charity that distributed food to the needy. The group, which apparently did nothing illegal, lost credibility in the community once people learned that it had been a target of police scrutiny.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has responded to such complaints by insisting that the department’s surveillance program is perfectly legal and implying that critics are undermining public safety. This is the same response he offers when challenged on the stop-and-frisk program. This arrogant approach tries to discredit legitimate criticism while justifying further overreach by a department with a history of abusive behavior. It is up to the courts to determine whether the Muslim surveillance program and the stop-and-frisk program are constitutional. What already seems clear is that these surveillance policies create suspicion and mistrust, which does not help the Police Department or anyone else.

    More Overreach by the N.Y.P.D., NYT, 23.6.2013,






Albert Seedman,

Chief of Detectives in New York

for Short, Tumultuous Time,

Dies at 94


May 17, 2013
The New York Times


Albert Seedman, the New York Police Department’s chief of detectives in the early 1970s who became something of a celebrity as the savvy, cigar-chomping personification of the tough-guy cop while modernizing a tradition-bound force, died on Friday in Delray Beach, Fla. He was 94.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his granddaughter Alison Stiegler said. He lived in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Mr. Seedman oversaw New York City’s 3,000 or so detectives for only 13 months, but he seemed to be everywhere during a tumultuous time.

Three pairs of police officers were shot — four of the officers were killed and two grievously wounded — in ambushes by the Black Liberation Army. The underworld boss Joseph A. Colombo Sr. was shot in the head by a gunman who was himself shot to death seconds later at Mr. Colombo’s Italian-American Day rally in Columbus Circle. The mob leader Joey Gallo was fatally shot at a Little Italy restaurant. Gunmen posing as guests looted 47 safe deposit boxes at the Hotel Pierre.

The Police Department meanwhile faced a major corruption investigation in which Mr. Seedman was briefly caught up before being exonerated.

As chief of detectives from March 1971 to April 1972, he was often the department’s face, pleased to supply a quotation for the press though he might not be telling all.

Stocky and broad-shouldered, invariably chewing on a cigar, he wore white-on-white patterned shirts with “Al” embroidered on the sleeves, sported bejeweled rings on both hands and carried a pearl-handled revolver.

He may have evoked the style of an old-school detective, but he represented the changing ways of law enforcement. He graduated from the City College business school (now Baruch College) in 1941, received graduate degrees in public administration and oversaw what Patrick V. Murphy, the police commissioner who made him chief of detectives, called “the first major change in the force in half a century.”

Mr. Seedman was the prime architect of a major restructuring of the way detectives and patrol officers did their jobs. Instead of catching whatever case came their way at a station house, detectives were assigned to a specialty — perhaps homicides or robberies — while officers on patrol were permitted to investigate some crimes for the first time.

His ascendancy marked a change as well in the department’s aura.

“The Jewish cop was an alien in an Irish universe,” the crime novelist Jerome Charyn wrote in The New York Times in 2004. “Enter Albert Seedman, the first, last and only Jewish chief of detectives. It’s the 1970s and Chief Seedman is all over the place, tough, flamboyant and foul-mouthed, chomping on a cigar, appearing at the scene of important crimes. He seemed more Irish than the Irish, as if he had co-opted their territory, their language, their domain.”

Albert A. Seedman (the middle initial was solely that) was born on Aug. 19, 1918, in the Bronx, the son of a taxi driver. He liked to say that he first thought of becoming a police officer as a stairwell monitor in grade school.

He joined the department in 1942, returned to it after Army service in World War II.

By 1962 he was a captain, but his career almost fell apart over the “perp walk,” in which police officers paraded suspects for the benefit of news photographers.

Mr. Seedman was taking Anthony Dellernia, a suspect in the fatal shooting of two detectives during a Brooklyn tobacco shop robbery, out of a station house when he grabbed Mr. Dellernia under the chin and squeezed his cheek so photographers could see his face. The American Civil Liberties Union demanded that Mr. Seedman be disciplined for using inappropriate force in the interests of publicity.

Commissioner Michael J. Murphy publicly expressed regret about the incident, and Mr. Seedman’s expected promotion to deputy inspector was postponed. Mr. Dellernia was acquitted; two others were convicted.

Mr. Seedman handled high-profile cases even before becoming the detectives chief.

He oversaw the investigation that solved the 1964 Kitty Genovese murder, which had shocked the city when it was reported in the press that 38 neighbors had heard Ms. Genovese’s late-night cries on a Queens street without summoning help.

When he was chief of detectives for the southern half of Brooklyn in 1967, a 17-year-old girl was killed by a bullet fired through an open window of her car as she drove on the Belt Parkway near the ocean.

Mr. Seedman oversaw an investigation in which 2,400 people were interviewed. Detectives located a gas station owner who had fired a rifle from his fishing boat while taking target practice at a floating beer can. One bullet had evidently ricocheted off the water and gone through the car window. A grand jury ruled the shooting a bizarre accident.

In October 1971, while chief of detectives, Mr. Seedman found his integrity in question. A few days before the Knapp Commission, appointed by Mayor John V. Lindsay, opened hearings into police corruption, he was transferred out of his post when it was disclosed that he had accepted a free meal from the management of the New York Hilton for himself, his wife and two guests in March 1970. But Commissioner Patrick Murphy reinstated him a few days later.

Mr. Seedman retired in April 1972 to become chief of security for the Alexander’s department store chain.

His resignation came two weeks after Police Officer Philip Cardillo was shot with his own gun during a struggle inside a Nation of Islam mosque in Harlem, having responded to a 911 phone call — later determined to be a ruse — stating that a policeman was in trouble there. Officer Cardillo died of his wounds.

The police had left the mosque abruptly while suspects were still being held there, and no one was ever convicted in the killing.

An internal department report prepared in 1973, but not made public until 1983, found that it was Mr. Seedman who made the decision to allow 16 people being lined up for questioning inside the mosque to go free, under a promise from mosque officials that they would later be made available to the police. They never were. The report attributed the decision to break off the on-site investigation in part to the threat of a riot outside the mosque.

But in an introduction to a 2011 e-book edition of his memoir, “Chief,” Mr. Seedman said he had been ordered to remove the police from the mosque by Chief Inspector Michael Codd because of fears of racial violence. He said it was his anger over that order that compelled him to retire. Mr. Codd later became the police commissioner. He died in 1985.

A 1980 report by a state grand jury cited three police officials as having been derelict in curtailing the investigation, but their names were not made public.

Besides his granddaughter Ms. Stiegler, Mr. Seedman’s survivors include his wife of 43 years, the former Henny Joseph; a daughter, Marilyn Stiegler; two sons, Barry and David; five other grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Mr. Seedman spent his later years in the placid condominium belt of South Florida, but he retained touches of rough-and-tumble New York. He carried a replica of his chief of detectives gold badge. And Jack Kitaeff, author of the 2006 book “Jews in Blue,” said Mr. Seedman told him that in his late 80s he still carried a revolver “in case there is trouble.”

Al Baker and Jack Kadden contributed reporting.

    Albert Seedman, Chief of Detectives in New York for Short, Tumultuous Time,
    Dies at 94, NYT, 17.4.2013,






Violent Trail Adds 2 Victims,

Officers Linked

by Friendship and Dedication


April 19, 2013
The New York Times


The violent overnight trail carved through Greater Boston by the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings has left in its wake two more victims, both young police officers who became friends as classmates in a police academy. Now one officer is dead, and the other is hospitalized, fighting for his life.

The tragic intertwining of these four lives began around 10:20 Thursday night, when, according to law enforcement officials, the police at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology received reports of gunfire on the Cambridge campus. Responding officers soon found their colleague, an M.I.T. officer, Sean A. Collier, 26, dead from multiple gunshots after possibly being ambushed in his police vehicle.

As investigators were determining that two men — believed to be the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar, 19 — had shot Officer Collier, word came from another part of Cambridge of a carjacking of a Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle at gunpoint by two men who would release its owner a half-hour later.

Within two hours, some of the officers who had responded to the shooting at M.I.T. were racing to Watertown, about five miles to the west, where the local police had tried to pull over the carjacked vehicle. In the ensuing shootout, the older Mr. Tsarnaev was shot dead, and a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority police officer, Richard H. Donohue, 33, was seriously wounded.

Throughout the night and into the day, most of the nation focused its attention on the search for the younger Mr. Tsarnaev, a dragnet that had the Boston area in a nerve-jangling lockdown. Meanwhile, friends and family members of the two officers mourned and worried on the sidelines of an unfolding international event.

Officer Collier was a compact man with a crackling intellect who seemed born to be a police officer. “People come into police work for a lot of reasons,” the M.I.T. police chief, John DiFava, said. “He was one of those who came on because it was really what he was meant to do with his life.”

Sean Collier grew up in Wilmington, a leafy town of about 22,000 people less than 20 miles north of Boston. After high school, he graduated from Salem State University with a degree in criminal justice and eventually began working as an information-technology employee for the Police Department in Somerville, a congested blue-collar city hard against Cambridge.

According to Somerville’s mayor, Joseph A. Curtatone, everybody in the city seemed to know Mr. Collier, even though he was a kid from Wilmington. In addition to vastly improving the Police Department’s Web site, he immersed himself in the community, volunteering, for example, with the Somerville Boxing Club, a youth-outreach program, the mayor said.

“It’s like he was a lifer here,” Mr. Curtatone said.

But he yearned to shed civilian garb for a police uniform. When Mr. Collier applied for a job with the M.I.T. police, Chief DiFava had already received high recommendations for this young man from the chief’s neighbor, a Somerville deputy police chief, and a cousin, a Somerville police officer.

In January 2012, Mr. Collier joined the ranks of nearly 60 M.I.T. police officers, all armed with semiautomatic pistols. Their job is to keep safe a small city of 11,000 people, many of them foreign graduate students who, Chief DiFava said, “come from places where the cops are not their friends.”

But the chief said Officer Collier won over many students, in part by joining the Outing Club, whose members hike, ski and explore the New England outdoors.

“And I’ll tell you, they loved him,” Chief DiFava said.

That affection is reflected in many online reminiscences from students who recalled his easygoing but protective nature. Among the outdoors crowd, he was known for his willingness to yodel, for sharing his pepperoni snacks, and for making the most of every moment, as when he wrote a note inviting people to hike a part of the White Mountains on the anniversary of an ascent of Mount Everest by the Polish mountaineer Krzysztof Wielicki:

“... so feel free to bring any Polish dishes, wear Poland’s colors (red and white), bring a Polish flag (because you know you have one laying around your apartment), or just actually be from Poland (cool!) to commemorate this awesome feat.”

But Officer Collier harbored his greatest passion for police work. An M.I.T. colleague, Officer Robert Molino, recalled that the young officer arrested a “bad egg” shortly after he was hired, so impressing some Boston police officers that they called him Cobra, a nickname that stuck.

Officer Collier recently bought a Ford pickup truck, and he was hinting to friends that he was about to leave M.I.T. for another job. Mayor Curtatone of Somerville confirmed that the city was about to hire Officer Collier as a police officer.

“He would have been a superstar for us,” the mayor said.

On Thursday, Officer Collier once again donned the light blue shirt and dark blue trousers of an M.I.T. police officer. Toward the end of his shift, the officer who had a way of putting foreign students at ease was shot and killed, the police say, by brothers from another country.

A few hours later, Officer Donohue — Officer Collier’s friend from the M.B.T.A. Transit Police Academy’s 25th Municipal Police Officers Class, in 2010 — was shot once during a gunfight with the two brothers. He was taken to Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, where he was listed Friday night in critical but stable condition.

Officer Donohue grew up in Winchester, a pleasant suburb several miles north of Boston. After high school, he attended the Virginia Military Institute, where a schoolmate, Jake Copty, remembered him as “a fun and laid-back cadet with a wicked sense of humor.”

According to The Boston Globe, Officer Donohue and his wife have a 7-month-old son and live in Woburn, where neighbors say he is a good athlete and runner. The Globe also reported that his former neighbors in Winchester had honored him by lining their yards with small American flags.

Just three months ago, the M.B.T.A. transit police chief, Paul MacMillan, awarded Officer Donohue a certificate of commendation for rushing to the aid of a man stabbed in the throat in Boston’s Chinatown station. On Friday, Chief MacMillan was honoring the officer again.

“Facing extraordinary danger, Officer Donohue never hesitated in fully engaging the terrorists in order to protect the citizens of the commonwealth,” the chief said in a statement. “I am extremely proud of him, and cannot say enough about his heroic actions.”

Meanwhile, the Collier family members issued a statement of their own, expressing heartbreak over the loss, and saying the only solace is in knowing that their Sean had died doing what he had committed his life to do, and bravely.


Dina Kraft contributed reporting from Cambridge, Mass.

    Violent Trail Adds 2 Victims, Officers Linked by Friendship and Dedication, NYT, 19.4.2013,






Man Accused of Rape and Murder in Syracuse

Is Beaten in Jail


March 16, 2013
The New York Times


SYRACUSE (AP) — A man accused of killing a Syracuse woman and raping her 10-year-old daughter during a carjacking was beaten and his nose was broken on his first day in jail, the authorities said.

The man, David Renz, was arraigned Friday morning at a court in East Syracuse on charges that he abducted the mother and daughter as they left a gymnastics class in Clay, N.Y., a Syracuse suburb.

The police said the girl was raped and her mother was stabbed to death before their attacker fled into the woods. The 10-year-old girl was found by a passing motorist, who called 911. Mr. Renz was captured a short time later.

Mr. Renz had a swollen face and tissues stuffed up both nostrils when he appeared in federal court on Friday to face a probation violation charge.

“I have a broken nose,” he told his lawyer, according to The Post-Standard in Syracuse.

His lawyers, James Greenwald and Kenneth Moynihan, said Mr. Renz had been assaulted by other inmates at the Onondaga County Justice Center, where he was taken after his arrest on Thursday night.

Sheriff Kevin Walsh of Onondaga County told the newspaper that he was looking into why Mr. Renz had been put into a holding area with other prisoners — not the usual practice in holding someone facing such accusations.

Sheriff Walsh said Mr. Renz has been segregated from other prisoners and was being watched around the clock. “We’re dealing with a man who is innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “He’s got to be protected.”

At the time of the attack, Mr. Renz was awaiting trial on federal child pornography charges and was supposed to be wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet tracking his whereabouts.

The authorities said they believed Mr. Renz had cut the device off. Tampering attempts with those devices are supposed to sound an alarm, and probation officials were investigating what went wrong, said John Duncan, an executive assistant United States attorney.

    Man Accused of Rape and Murder in Syracuse Is Beaten in Jail, NYT, 16.3.2013,






TV Anchor Accused of Choking His Wife


February 18, 2013
The New York Times


Rob Morrison, a news anchor for WCBS-TV, was arrested Sunday on charges of choking his wife during a domestic dispute at their Connecticut home, the police said on Monday.

Mr. Morrison was charged with strangulation, threatening and disorderly conduct. He was released on $100,000 bail. He was scheduled to appear in Superior Court in Stamford, Conn., on Tuesday.

He and his wife, Ashley Morrison, a CBS MoneyWatch reporter, issued a statement through their lawyer calling the charges “greatly exaggerated.”

“Rob and Ashley Morrison are cooperating fully with the authorities to insure that all of the information necessary to properly evaluate this unfortunate incident is made available,” the statement said.

Police officers arrived at the Morrisons’ home in Darien, Conn., about 1:30 a.m. on Sunday after receiving a call from Ms. Morrison’s mother.

“Upon arrival, it was ascertained that Morrison had been becoming increasingly belligerent toward his wife during the course of the evening, culminating in his choking her by the neck with both hands,” the Darien Police Department said in a statement.

While being arrested, Mr. Morrison threatened to further harm his wife, the police said.

Ms. Morrison was not treated for any injuries, though the police said officers observed red marks on her neck consistent with being choked.


Rachel Ferguson, a spokeswoman for WCBS,

said the station would not comment on Mr. Morrison’s arrest,

“because this is a personal matter.”

    TV Anchor Accused of Choking His Wife, NYT, 18.2.2013,






Rise of Drones in U.S. Drives Efforts

to Limit Use by Police


February 15, 2013
The New York Times


They can record video images and produce heat maps. They can be used to track fleeing criminals, stranded hikers — or just as easily, political protesters. And for strapped police departments, they are more affordable than helicopters.

Drones are becoming a darling of law enforcement authorities across the country. But they have given rise to fears of government surveillance, in many cases even before they take to the skies. And that has prompted local and state lawmakers from Seattle to Tallahassee to proscribe how they can be used by police or to ground them altogether.

Although surveillance technologies have become ubiquitous in American life, like license plate readers or cameras for catching speeders, drones have evoked unusual discomfort in the public consciousness.

“To me, it’s Big Brother in the sky,” said Dave Norris, a city councilman in Charlottesville, Va., which this month became the first city in the country to restrict the use of drones. “I don’t mean to sound conspiratorial about it, but these drones are coming, and we need to put some safeguards in place so they are not abused.”

In Charlottesville, police officers are prohibited from using in criminal cases any evidence obtained by drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles. Never mind that the city police department does not have a drone, nor has it suggested buying one. The police are not barred from using drones for other efforts, like search and rescue.

Mr. Norris said the advent of new policing technologies poses new policy dilemmas for his city.

Charlottesville permits the police to install cameras temporarily in areas known for drug dealing, but it has rebuffed a police request to install cameras along its downtown shopping corridor. It has also chosen not to install cameras at traffic lights to intercept speeding cars, as is common elsewhere.

“Drones are capable of taking surveillance to a whole new level,” Mr. Norris said.

Last week, the Seattle Police Department agreed to return its two still-unused drones to the manufacturer after Mayor Michael McGinn answered public protests by banning their use. On Thursday, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in Oakland, Calif., listened to the county sheriff’s proposal to use federal money to buy a four-pound drone to help his officers track suspected criminals — and then listened to raucous opposition from the antidrone lobby, including a group that uses the Twitter handle @N.O.M.B.Y., short for Not Over My Back Yard.

This week, members of Congress introduced a bill that would prohibit drones from conducting what it called “targeted surveillance” of individuals and property without a warrant.

A federal law enacted last year paved the way for drones to be used commercially and made it easier for government agencies to obtain them. The Department of Homeland Services offered grants to help local law enforcement buy them. Drone manufacturers began to market small, lightweight devices specifically for policing. Drones are already used to monitor movement on the United States’ borders and by a handful of police departments, and emergency services agencies around the country are just beginning to explore their uses.

The Federal Aviation Administration has received about 80 requests, including some from police and other government agencies, for clearance to fly drones, according to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which seeks to limit their use for police surveillance.

Law enforcement authorities say drones can be a cost-effective technology to help with a host of policing efforts, like locating bombs, finding lost children, monitoring weather and wildlife or assisting rescue workers in natural disasters.

“In this time of austerity, we are always looking for sensible and cost-effective methods to improve public safety,” said Capt. Tom Madigan of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. “We are not looking at military-grade Predator drones. They are not armed.”

For now, drones for civilian use run on relatively small batteries and fly short distances. In principle, various sensors, including cameras, can be attached to them. But there is no consensus in law on how the data collected can be used, shared or stored.

State and local government authorities are trying to fill that void. As they do, they are weighing not only the demands of the police and civil libertarians but also tricky legal questions. The law offers citizens the right to take pictures on the street, for instance, just as it protects citizens from unreasonable search.

State legislatures have come up with measures that seek to permit certain uses, while reassuring citizens against unwanted snooping.

Virginia is furthest along in dealing with the issue. In early February, its state Legislature passed a two-year moratorium on the use of drones in criminal investigations, though it has yet to be reviewed by the governor.

In several states, proposals would require the police to obtain a search warrant before collecting evidence with a drone.

Arizona is among them. So is Montana. The bill’s sponsor there, Senator Matt Rosendale, a Republican, said he had no problems with drones being used for other purposes, like surveying forest fires, but he was especially vexed by the prospect of government surveillance. The manufacturers, he added, were marketing the new technology to government agencies, but neither federal nor local statutes specified how they could be used. “The technology was getting in front of the laws,” Mr. Rosendale said.

An Idaho lawmaker, Chuck Winder, said he did not want to restrict law enforcement with a search warrant requirement. He said he was drafting language that would give law enforcement discretion to evaluate if there was “reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.”

The attention by lawmakers has delighted traditional privacy advocates. “I’ve been working on privacy issues for over a decade and rarely do we see such interest in a privacy threat that’s largely in the future,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington. “Drones are a concrete and instantly graspable threat to privacy.”

A counterargument has come from an industry group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which downplays fears about wholesale surveillance. The drones for sale for civilian use, it says, are nothing like the armed military grade aircraft used in wars overseas.

“They’re another tool in the law enforcement representative’s tool kit,” said Gretchen West, the group’s executive vice president. “We’re not talking about large aircraft able to surveil a large area.”

The F.A.A. is drafting rules on how drone licenses will be issued. On Thursday, it announced the creation of six sites around the country where drones of various sorts can be tested. Pressed by advocacy groups, it said it would invite public comment on privacy protections in those sites.

The agency estimates that the worldwide drone market could grow to $90 billion in the next decade.

    Rise of Drones in U.S. Drives Efforts to Limit Use by Police, NYT, 15.2.2013,






Los Angeles to Reopen Its Inquiry of Officer


February 9, 2013
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department will reopen its investigation into the 2007 episode that led to the firing of Christopher J. Dorner, the former police officer who is wanted in three killings, department officials said Saturday night.

Mr. Dorner pledged revenge against Los Angeles police officers in a manifesto he posted online, in which he also claimed that racism in the department had led to his dismissal. He is wanted in connection with the killing of a former police captain’s daughter and her fiancé last Sunday and the shooting death of a Riverside, Calif., police officer on Thursday morning.

“I am aware of the ghosts of the L.A.P.D.’s past, and one of my biggest concerns is that they will be resurrected by Dorner’s allegations of racism within the department,” Chief Charlie Beck said in a written statement.

“Therefore, I feel we need to also publicly address Dorner’s allegations regarding his termination,” he said. “I do this not to appease a murderer. I do it to reassure the public that their Police Department is transparent and fair in all the things we do.”

The killings and Mr. Dorner’s online manifesto have reopened old wounds for some black residents here, even as they condemned the violence. For decades, the Los Angeles Police Department was known nationwide for racism and corruption. And memories are still fresh of the riots in 1992 that followed the beating of a black man, Rodney King, by white police officers. The beating was caught on videotape and broadcast around the country.

In explaining why he chose to reopen Mr. Dorner’s case, Chief Beck acknowledged his department’s difficult history.

“The Los Angeles Police Department has made tremendous strides in gaining the trust and confidence of the people we serve,” he said in his statement, and he conceded that “Dorner’s actions may cause a pause in our increasingly positive relationship with the community.”

Mr. Dorner, who joined the Police Department in 2005, was fired in 2008 for giving false statements, after he accused his training officer of kicking a suspect. He sued the department for wrongful termination, and lost at trial and again on appeal.

The decision to review Mr. Dorner’s termination marks a reversal from the tone Chief Beck struck just two days ago, when he was asked about Mr. Dorner’s accusations of racism at a news conference.

“You’re talking about a homicide suspect who has committed atrocious crimes,” he said. “If you want to give any attribution to his ramblings on the Internet, go right ahead. But I do not.”

Asked about Mr. Dorner’s efforts to clear his name, Chief Beck said, point blank, “It’s not going to happen.”

Joe Domanick, at professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism, and author of “To Protect and To Serve,” a history of the Los Angeles Police Department, said that Chief’s Beck and his predecessor as police chief, William Bratton, had gone a long way toward repairing relations with the black and Latino communities in Los Angeles.

But, he added, “Old suspicions die hard.”

“The history of the L.A.P.D. with the African-American community has been so fraught with mistrust and abuse and hatred on both sides,” Mr. Domanick said. “Charlie Beck is a very savvy guy, who really understands community relations and community policing. Right now, it’s in his interest to quell these rumors.”

An episode on Thursday morning, in which two women delivering newspapers in Torrance, Calif., were shot by Los Angeles police officers who mistook their vehicle for Mr. Dorner’s pickup truck, made the need for Chief Beck to reach out to the community even greater, Mr. Domanick said.

One of the women, Emma Hernandez, 71, who was struck by two bullets in her back, was released from the hospital on Friday night, according to her lawyer. Her daughter, Margie Carranza, 47, suffered an wound to her hand. Chief Beck met with the two women on Saturday and told them that the department had arranged for the donation of a new truck for them, Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.

Their lawyer, Glen T. Jonas, said their pickup truck was hit with dozens of rounds, though he could not confirm exactly how many. Los Angeles police officers were investigating the shooting, officials said, and would not release details.

Police officials here on Saturday also announced the formation of a task force that will bring together officers from Los Angeles, Irvine, and Riverside as well as from the F.B.I., the United States Marshal Service and other agencies in the hunt for Mr. Dorner.

The search has already taken law enforcement officers from dozens of agencies, including from San Diego and Riverside and Nevada.

    Los Angeles to Reopen Its Inquiry of Officer, NYT, 9.2.2013,






Shooting Suspect’s Racism Allegations

Resound for Some


February 8, 2013
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — For the Los Angeles Police Department, the allegations of departmental corruption and racism by a former police officer now accused of a revenge-fueled killing rampage are the words of a delusional man, detached from the reality of the huge improvements the force has undergone over the years.

“These are the rantings of a clearly very sick individual,” William J. Bratton, a former department commissioner, said Friday. “It would be a shame if he was able to rally to his cause people who remember the bad old days of the L.A.P.D.”

Yet for whatever changes the department has undergone since the days when it was notorious as an outpost of rampant racism and corruption, the accusations by the suspect — however disjointed and unhinged — have struck a chord. They are a reminder, many black leaders said, that some problems remain and, no less significant, that memories of abuses and mistreatment remain strong in many parts of this city.

“Our community doesn’t need this,” said the Rev. William D. Smart, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California. “We don’t need something like this opening old wounds.”

“While there been a lot of improvements, there’s still room for improvement,” he said. “There is still one segment of our community that historically distrusts the police force.”

Indeed, in posts on Facebook and in interviews, some black residents offered at least a partial endorsement of the sentiments expressed by the suspect, Christopher J. Dorner, in a manifesto posted on his Facebook page, even as they made it clear that they did not condone the violence he is accused of. Mr. Dorner, the subject of a manhunt, claimed that racism was a factor in his dismissal from the department in 2008, and that it was as endemic in the force as ever.

“We look at the police differently from the way you look at the police,” said Hodari Sababu, 56, a tour guide who has lived in the South Central section of Los Angeles for 40 years. “In your community, the police is there to protect and serve; in my community, the police are there to harass and to insult and to kill if they get a chance.”

Charles Hutchinson, 72, a tennis coach who lives in Los Angeles, said he believed Mr. Dorner’s story that he had witnessed a fellow officer kick a suspect. Mr. Dorner was dismissed on charges that he had falsified that report.

“These things happen all the time,” he said. “I truthfully think that he was wronged by the Police Department. I think that senior officer kicked that homeless guy, they do that all the time.”

Yet even as he said that, Mr. Hutchinson was quick to add that the situation had improved markedly from the days when William H. Parker III ran a force notorious for profiling and beatings. And no matter the lingering perceptions, the evidence reflects that change.

As Mr. Bratton noted, polls have increasingly shown the department’s image has improved across the board, including among blacks and Latinos. Whites now make up less than one-third of the force, a sharp turnaround from 30 years ago.

“There has been a huge change,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, who wrote a report on departmental abuses, in an e-mail. But, he added, “It would be naïve and misguided to say that racism in any institution is entirely a thing of the past.”

Charlie Beck, the police chief, said he did not give any credence to the claims Mr. Dorner made about racism in the department.

“You’re talking about a homicide suspect who has committed atrocious crimes,” he said. “If you want to give any attribution to his ramblings on the Internet, go right ahead. But I do not.”

Mr. Dorner was dismissed on the recommendations of a police board that found he had filed a false report claiming to have witnessed a partner kick a homeless man in the process of an arrest. Mr. Dorner sought without success to have the court overturn his dismissal.

Three witnesses to the arrest said that they had not seen the alleged assault; the father of the homeless person said that his son told him that he had been kicked.

Chief Beck — and Mr. Bratton, who said he had also reviewed the file — said he had no doubt that Mr. Dorner’s dismissal was appropriate.

“That case was thoroughly adjudicated; it was reviewed at multiple levels,” the chief said at a news conference. “In the final analysis, you’ll find Dorner’s statements to be self-serving, and the statements of someone who is thoroughly unhappy with his lot in life.”

Still, in some black neighborhoods, where the case has been followed extremely closely, there was evidence of skepticism about how Mr. Dorner was treated by the department.

“Black people feel like we’ve been targets for so long, we’ve always felt that the L.A.P.D. was corrupt,” said Kim Pace, 45, a bus driver from Carson. “So for us, it’s like, O.K., they pushed him over the edge.”

Mr. Sababu, the tour guide, said the sight of a police officer kicking a suspect was not uncommon in the history of South Central Los Angeles. “Here you have an officer that’s actually standing up for a citizen and saying, ‘That’s wrong, why are you kicking that guy in the face?’ and for his efforts, he’s fired,” he said.

Mr. Bratton expressed concern at the fallout of Mr. Dorner’s statements, suggesting that they might become a rallying cry for the disaffected. “Just look at the Facebook postings around this issue and some of the crazies that come out of the woodwork who are rallying to this guy’s cause,” he said.

Mr. Smart said there had been significant improvements in the Police Department’s standing with minorities over the past decade, even if some problems remained. He expressed concern that the nuances of that situation could be lost.

“While there’s been a lot of improvement, there’s still a need to make better relations,” he said. “Whether or not all these things happened to him or not, this is causing some people — you can see this on Facebook, on the articles online — to say, ‘I told you so.’ ”

Noah Gilbert and Nuran Alteir contributed reporting.

    Shooting Suspect’s Racism Allegations Resound for Some, NYT, 8.2.2013,






Small Town Wins Its Standoff With a Kidnapper


February 5, 2013
The New York Times


MIDLAND CITY, Ala. — In the front seat of Bus 04-02 sat a boy named Ethan.

The driver, a quiet 66-year-old man named Charles Albert Poland Jr., assigned him the seat because that’s where he wanted younger children and those with behavioral problems. Ethan, who according to a great-uncle had already experienced a share of turmoil in his short life, had been found to have Asperger’s syndrome. So he sat up front. He even had a name tag on his seat.

It seems unthinkable that even a man with a conspiratorial bent like Jimmy Lee Dykes, Ethan’s kidnapper, would bear a violent impulse against the familiar small-town universe of school buses and name tags. And it seems hard to imagine, in turn, that this universe could stand up under Mr. Dykes’s sort of violence. But over the past week, as the world of pot luck dinners and prayer meetings joined with the lethal efficiency of elite law enforcement, Mr. Dykes fought and lost.

“I’m happy that the baby is back with his parents,” said the Rev. Melvin White of Clio Community Church, who had hauled two barbecue smokers to the scene of the standoff to make ribs for reporters and anyone else who happened by. “Sometimes we forget how crazy the world is until this happens here.”

Sheriff Wally Olson of Dale County was home with a cold when he got a page that a gunman was on a school bus. By the time he was on the road, the news had changed. The driver was dead and, while 20 children had escaped because of his actions, the killer had taken a child into an underground bunker.

From the beginning, Mr. Dykes wanted to talk. According to local officials who had been briefed on the operation, Mr. Dykes was demanding a TV news reporter, preferably a woman, and a camera operator to whom he could deliver his message. Exactly what he was going to declare was unclear, though he had long harangued his neighbors with diatribes about the government and the inviolability of his property.

Early ideas were proposed and dropped. Filming the scene from across the highway was a man named Rickey Stokes, a local bail bondsman who runs a blog on happenings in the area,
RickeyStokesNews.com. Officials invited Mr. Stokes over, and discussed having him either go into the bunker with a camera, or teach a female F.B.I. agent to use his camera and go in.

Both of those notions were scrapped quickly. In any case, Mr. Dykes, wary of being tricked, insisted that his speech be live-streamed, not prerecorded.

Kirke Adams, the district attorney for Dale County who had been called to the scene from coaching high school girls’ soccer practice, said Mr. Dykes never gave an inch.

“The demand he made was impossible to accomplish in the way he wanted it done,” Mr. Adams said. “And he would accept no alternative.” He added, “It was the consensus of the experts that this was going to be a long haul.”

As the days wore on, the operations on Private Road 1539 grew. A bland-looking charter plane full of special agents landed at the little airport outside of town last Wednesday evening, prompting a flurry of local phone calls.

The Destiny Church, which sat down the grassy hill from the bunker, became something of a base of operations. Meals came in shifts: fried chicken, green beans, and macaroni and cheese from the Baptists; casseroles and sweet tea from the Methodists.

“One morning we had a different group of people coming in, a higher group I guess,” said Tiffany Melansen, a fifth-grade teacher who helped run the volunteer support efforts. “It got to me that they wanted a big breakfast for them so I ordered 30 Big Breakfasts from McDonald’s in addition to the 50 biscuits.”

The man and the boy remained in the bunker. Federal agents had managed to smuggle a camera inside, and sent in a phone that Mr. Dykes was instructed to use for communication. But while agents were able to keep watch over Mr. Dykes, he was also able to watch them on the television in his bunker.

Across Highway 231, between a small dirt car lot called Garrett’s Automotive and an abandoned building that had once been a strip club, an army of TV trucks began to form. Mr. Dykes’s neighbors often wandered over to the cameras to offer their opinions of “the mean man” or “the shovel man” who had menaced those around his patch of soil for nearly two years. Mr. Dykes could see these interviews, too, and, according to people familiar with the operation, was not happy about it.

Sheriff Olson, the sole official voice of the authorities, kept his statements to the news media brief, and even thanked Mr. Dykes for allowing officials to pass coloring books, Hot Wheels cars, potato chips and medication to Ethan. He never left the scene of the standoff, he said in an interview, other than for a short time on Saturday afternoon when he went to watch his 7-year-old daughter compete in a beauty pageant in nearby Skipperville.

That same day, behind a wall of blue tarp and just a few dozen yards from where reporters were parsing the frustratingly brief statements from officials, agents built a mock-up of Mr. Dykes’s bunker, down to the hinges on the door. Only after the raid would they learn that Mr. Dykes had at least two explosive devices, one inside the bunker and the other in a plastic pipe that extended from it. Members of the F.B.I.’s elite Hostage Rescue Team practiced on the mock-up, devising ways to exploit the rare openings Mr. Dykes provided. On Sunday night, it became clear that the practice would become real sooner rather than later.

Teams of negotiators and behavioral analysts began seeing a change in Mr. Dykes that suggested the boy was in imminent danger.

“Big decisions had to be made fairly quickly,” said Mr. Adams, the district attorney. “Law enforcement became very concerned.”

The standoff ended on Monday afternoon, nearly six days to the hour after it began. When an opportunity presented itself that would not jeopardize the boy — two people who had been briefed on the operation said that Mr. Dykes had approached the entrance as he had done regularly to retrieve supplies left for him — two flash grenades were thrown inside. With Mr. Dykes disoriented, four men moved in, engaging in a brief firefight. Mr. Dykes was killed.

Ethan’s mother, who asked in a statement that the family’s privacy be respected, expressed gratitude to those who freed her son. Ethan turns 6 on Wednesday, and people are talking about having a birthday party at the high school football stadium. Some local officials did the national morning talk shows. And the media encampment began to disassemble.

Ms. Melansen said that meals were ready for another day or so and then her operation would wind down.

As for Bus 04-02, it has been retired from duty.

    Small Town Wins Its Standoff With a Kidnapper, NYT, 5.2.2013,






Mishandling of DNA Evidence Is Found

in Over 50 Cases at Crime Lab


January 31, 2013
The New York Times


The New York City medical examiner’s office said Thursday that it had discovered more than 50 cases in which it failed to upload critical DNA evidence samples from crime scenes to the state’s DNA database, preventing those samples from being compared to genetic material from convicted offenders.

The error was found during an extensive review undertaken after the office learned that one of its laboratory technicians had missed detecting DNA evidence in at least 26 rape cases — an embarrassing oversight for an agency at the forefront of forensic technology, but one that the office said at the time was isolated and unprecedented.

The new discovery has led to the firing of the office’s deputy director of quality assurance in the lab and the suspension of the director of the office’s department of forensic biology, Dr. Mechthild Prinz.

The suspension of Dr. Prinz was made “pending further review of her management practices,” according to a statement from Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office. The name of the deputy director could not be immediately determined.

In some 55 instances, the medical examiner’s office had entered DNA samples taken from crime scenes into a database maintained by the city, but did not do the same for the state database, according to the statement, which did not account for how the lapse occurred.

Although the city is able to compare DNA it has collected from suspects against samples taken from local crime scenes, the city’s database is much smaller than the statewide database, which is linked to a national network of other states’ records as well. As a result, the 55 samples were not searched against a larger pool of profiles of convicted offenders.

Once the 55 DNA profiles were uploaded, there was apparently one instance of a DNA hit. Ms. Borakove said that a DNA sample from a 2006 burglary resulted in an “investigative lead” after it was entered into the statewide system. The remaining 54 samples did not supply any new evidence for a criminal prosecution, she said.

“While 55 represents a minuscule percentage of the overall total of 25,000 profiles entered since 2000 (when the system was implemented), all profiles must be uploaded and the failure is not acceptable for a world-class DNA lab that prides itself on accuracy and attention to detail,” the statement said.

Ms. Borakove said that there was a delay between when the cases were first discovered and when the executive management of the medical examiner’s office was alerted to the lapses.

She said the office would retain an outside expert to review the lab’s management and that several new procedures had been put in place. Those procedures include requiring supervisors to be present in evidence exam rooms at all times, as well as the automatic uploading of all eligible DNA profiles to the state database.

The latest disclosure comes as the medical examiner’s office is concluding a nearly two-year review of its handling of 800 rape cases. That review began after supervisors discovered that a longtime technician had overlooked DNA evidence on items from at least 26 rape kits, incorrectly reporting that they contained no relevant evidence. In addition, the technician is believed to have misplaced 16 pieces of evidence, returning them to the wrong rape kits, according to documents describing the office’s review.

On Monday, a City Council hearing is scheduled to examine the former technician’s errors.

“We want to know why it happened, what they have done to fix the problem, and how quality control procedures have been improved,” a spokesman for Speaker Christine C. Quinn said.

    Mishandling of DNA Evidence Is Found in Over 50 Cases at Crime Lab, NYT, 31.1.2013,






New Hampshire Police Chiefs

Hold a 31-Gun Raffle for a Training Program


January 26, 2013
The New York Times


NEWPORT, N.H. — When the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police was looking to raise money for an annual cadet training program, it sold raffle tickets for $30 apiece. The drawing was scheduled for May, but by Jan. 12 all 1,000 tickets had been sold.

The prize: 31 guns, with a new winner drawn each day of the month.

The fund-raiser, sponsored by the association in partnership with two New Hampshire gun makers, Sig Sauer and Sturm, Ruger & Company, has prompted a chorus of protests from lawmakers and gun-control advocates questioning why the police are giving away guns, even in the name of a good cause.

Some in law enforcement have also raised questions. When Chief Nicholas J. Giaccone Jr. of Hanover pulled up information about the raffle on the Internet, he said, he was flabbergasted.

“I looked at the first weapon and Googled that one,” said Chief Giaccone, who recalled using an expletive when he pulled up information about the Ruger SR-556C, a semiautomatic weapon. “It’s an assault rifle.”

In a letter to the editor of The Eagle-Tribune, which covers southern New Hampshire, Richard J. O’Shaughnessy of Salem wrote, “People who should know better are adding to the glorification of the gun culture in this state.”

And referring to the shootings last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, State Representative Sharon L. Nordgren, a Hanover Democrat, said, “They’re just the same kind that were used in Newtown.”

The Ruger that caught Chief Giaccone’s attention is an AR-15-style rifle, which is the most popular style of gun in America, according to dealers, and was the type used by Adam Lanza to kill 20 children and six adults at the elementary school. Another gun in the raffle, the Sig Sauer P226 handgun, was also carried by Mr. Lanza, according to the Connecticut State Police.

“It’s just ironic that that would be their choice of the kind of gun that they’re raffling,” Ms. Nordgren said.

Organizers of the raffle are standing firm. In a statement released this month, Chief Paul T. Donovan of Salem, the president of the association, defended the fund-raiser, saying that all winners would be required to meet all applicable rules for gun ownership.

“While this raffle falls on the heels of the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police extends their deepest sympathies to the families and first responders,” Chief Donovan wrote. “New Hampshire Chiefs of Police feel the issues with these tragic shootings are ones that are contrary to lawful and responsible gun ownership.”

The proceeds from the raffle go toward a cadet program involving participants ages 14 to 20 who are given instructions in various kinds of police skills and procedures. Some of them go on to pursue careers in law enforcement.

The guns will be distributed through another raffle partner, Rody’s Gun Shop, a windowless outpost here in Newport, a town that comes to life when employees of Ruger, which is one of its main employers, leave work for the day.

“Around here, most people are into guns,” said Michael Gaffney, an employee of a nearby hardware store who won a rifle in a raffle years ago. “You get a chance to win a free gun! It’s like any raffle, very much akin to trailer raffles, snowmobile raffles or turkey raffles.”

On a recent weeknight, the Rody’s parking lot was filled with idling cars, their occupants waiting for the store to open at 6 o’clock. The store filled up immediately. Customers, some with their children in tow, browsed the shotguns and rifles on the walls and discussed the possibility of gun bans. While the shop’s owner would not comment on the raffle, his customers were nonchalant.

“Honestly, I don’t see what the big deal is — they’re just talking about it because of Sandy Hook,” said Lorraine Peterson of Litchfield. “I don’t mean to sound insensitive. This is New Hampshire. This is a sport.”

Gun raffles are business as usual here and in many other parts of the country — frequently used by hunting clubs and sometimes by athletics booster clubs to raise money and anchor galas.

“We host raffles like this all the time,” said Richard Olson Jr., the president of the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation and the Londonderry Fish and Game Club. “Anybody that’s speaking up is using the Newtown massacre as a pretext to poke at the issue negatively.”

Mr. Olson said that he once planned a gun raffle to raise money for a fishing derby and that he was considering using one to raise money for the wildlife federation’s conservation efforts on New England cottontail rabbits.

Shifting economic and political conditions have spread gun raffles to other spheres, too. Josh Harms, a Republican state representative in Illinois, intends to raffle three guns in March to raise money for his campaign treasury.

Greg Hay, a firefighter from Quincy, Ill., said his union decided last January to hold a gun raffle to replenish its accounts after a drawn-out arbitration. He said the sluggish economy had limited fund-raising from the union’s annual country music concert.

“We didn’t really want to have any more assessments, so we needed to start looking at better moneymakers,” said Mr. Hay, who expects the union, Quincy Firefighters Local 63, to take home about $25,000 from the raffle, which started last June and awards one gun per week for a year.

The fund-raiser has been so successful that the union had planned to sponsor a second one until a recent increase in gun prices — fueled by increased demand amid fears of gun bans in the wake of the Newtown shooting — made the effort less promising.

“Maybe we’ll hold off until gun prices go down and start to go back to a decent level,” Mr. Hay said.

Opponents of the raffle in New Hampshire are quick to say it is not the guns they oppose, but the fact that the police are conducting it.

“I think in some respects it shows the wrong message,” said State Representative Stephen Shurtleff, Democrat of Merrimack. “For law enforcement, normally they’re dealing with firearms in a negative way. For that reason, it’s just not an appropriate thing. We’re trying to get guns off the street.”

    New Hampshire Police Chiefs Hold a 31-Gun Raffle for a Training Program, NYT, 26.1.2013,






A Cold Case of Cold-Blooded Murder


January 11, 2013
The New York Times


ON a hot July day in 1977, one of New York’s ugliest summers, my 23-year-old cousin, Ellen Hover, left her Third Avenue apartment. She had an appointment with a young photographer who had asked to take pictures of her. His name, he’d told her, was John Berger.

She never returned. Posters of Ellen’s face went up all over Midtown Manhattan. Private detectives were hired. I was racked with guilt: because of a family argument, I hadn’t seen my cousin in years. Now I never would. Eleven months later, her bones were found on the grounds of the Rockefeller estate in Westchester County.

It was around this time that the police knew for sure that John Berger’s real name was Rodney Alcala. By then, a confluence of factors — lack of communication between law enforcement agencies, the lowly budgets and low-tech forensics of the ’70s, and the killer’s aggressive wiliness — had combined to make him elusive. It was not until July of 1979 that he was arrested in California on charges of murdering a 12-year-old girl named Robin Samsoe. He was tried, convicted, sentenced to death and remanded to death row in San Quentin State Prison in California the following year.

We didn’t know then that he had killed another New York woman — Cornelia Crilley, a beautiful flight attendant — six years before he killed Ellen. Before that, he had been in prison in California for molesting and beating an 8-year-old girl, but he’d been released on good behavior after just 34 months. Within two years of Ellen’s death, he murdered four other young women in California, in heinous and brutal ways including biting, strangulation and rape.

When DNA science caught up with him, he was eventually charged with those four other killings. But there was little usable DNA evidence from Ellen’s murder, and besides, the last thing California wanted was for its cases to be muddied by investigators from another state having access to its prisoner. So while the California cases went forward, Ellen and Cornelia Crilley would have to wait. We understood that. What we didn’t understand was how long.

Over the years Rodney Alcala’s lawyers managed to twice overturn, on technicalities, his conviction for the murder of Robin Samsoe. He aggressively fought the use of DNA evidence against him, but ultimately lost. Finally, in February 2010, a jury re-re-convicted him of the murder of Robin Samsoe, along with the other four California women. He has not stopped fighting his execution sentence and suing the state for things like failing to provide him with a low-fat diet.

Since Ellen was killed, both of her parents have died; her brother has died; her aunt, my mother, has died. In all those years, Rodney Alcala was never charged with her murder. Many of Ellen’s friends and family members felt a measure of justice when he was convicted in California in 2010 — at least we felt it was the best we could ask for. We acted as if those acknowledged victims included Ellen: we wrote one another e-mails with exclamation points and thanked the Orange County prosecutor, Matt Murphy. But there was no trial for Ellen, and I don’t think anyone ever expected there would be. I certainly didn’t.

Shortly after that, though, a detective let me see some of the New York Police Department’s files on Rodney Alcala. In a dank office in Brooklyn, I listened to a tape of investigators questioning the killer’s long-ago girlfriend; I saw detectives’ notes on ancient tollbooth receipts. I realized there were people in the N.Y.P.D. and the district attorney’s office — people who’d amassed that yellowed, flyspecked file — who had always wanted to open Ellen’s case. Cyrus Vance Jr., who had recently been sworn in as Manhattan district attorney, ending the 35-year term of Robert Morgenthau, had made the opening of cold cases a priority. Suddenly it seemed Ellen had not been forgotten.

But it is not easy to open a case from the ’70s. Evidence lockers had been cleaned out; documents were moldering; investigators and prosecutors spent weeks and months tracking down witnesses, only to find out they were dead, whereupon they’d politely ask spouses and grown-up children if they could dig up old files. “Looking for something from 1971,” Melissa Mourges, the chief of the Cold Case Unit, told me about Cornelia Crilley’s case, “we might as well have been looking at something from 1871.”

For two years investigators worked to turn Ellen’s cold case warm. Despite the fact that her killer was already sentenced to death and would never be released, despite the time and the resources and the terrible memories involved, they didn’t give up. Eventually, their painstakingly obtained evidence built a timeline of Rodney Alcala’s whereabouts, his route before and after murdering Ellen. It seemed to me like a devotional act.

Every victim deserves her own day in court, no matter what else the culprit has been arrested for, no matter how long ago the crime: this is the pure integrity of opening a cold case. There are hundreds of thousands of cold cases in the United States. Approximately 14 percent of all unsolved homicide cases and 18 percent of unsolved sexual assault cases contain forensic evidence that has not been sent to a crime lab for analysis.

One way to close more cold cases would be to enable more states to enter into national databases the DNA information of everyone they arrest, at least for violent crimes. Next month the Supreme Court will hear a case, Maryland v. King, that could open the door to this, by deeming such entries constitutional. Currently, in part because of concerns about civil liberties, about half the states, including New York, enter into national databases only the DNA of people convicted of certain crimes — a much smaller pool of potential matches. On the bright side, New York at least does appear to be investigating and solving more cold cases than ever before.

LAST year, when I heard that Rodney Alcala was actually going to be extradited to New York to face a grand jury on Ellen’s case, I remembered something a clergyman had said at the first service after 9/11: it was too overwhelming, and unfair to the victims, to think of 3,000 people dead. The best way to honor them was to think that “one person died,” three thousand times. When justice is broken down to individual victims, humanity is restored.

In a Manhattan courtroom last month, Rodney Alcala, now 69, pleaded guilty to Ellen’s and Cornelia Crilley’s murders. After 35 and 41 years — much longer than the young women lived — he pleaded out, just like that. It was the first time in his long criminal history that he had ever confessed to a killing. The collapse of his resistance seemed taunting to all of us: Sure I killed them. What took you guys so long?

On Monday I attended his sentencing. At one point, the judge broke down, saying she had never had before her a case with such brutality and hoped she would never again. The sentence for the two murders was, of course, symbolic — a concurrent 25 years to life. The important punishment will take place in San Quentin when Rodney Alcala is finally executed — if he ever is.

During the hearing he never once turned to face us, the family members. He simply clutched his orange Department of Corrections jacket, protection against the cold on the short trip from court to van and from van to Rikers. All I could think was: a coward to the end.

Meanwhile, police in Washington State and New Hampshire have been calling the N.Y.P.D. — there seem to be two other murders. That would make nine dead women, as far as we know, and their cases are probably just as cold as Ellen’s was. I want to tell these women’s friends and families: push for the cases to be reopened. Get your loved ones’ names in the paper to prod — even shame — the authorities. No matter how many times a serial murderer has murdered, every victim deserves her singular justice, as late as it may be in coming, as much a formality as may be the punishment, and as hard as investigators must work to bring it to pass.


Sheila Weller is the author of “Girls Like Us.”

    A Cold Case of Cold-Blooded Murder, NYT, 11.1.2013,






Man Sets Fire in Building,

Killing One, the Police Say


January 10, 2013
The New York Times


After arguing with the mother of his child, a man set a fire in the second-floor hallway of his Manhattan apartment building on Thursday night, igniting a rapidly spreading, five-alarm blaze that killed one person and injured at least nine, the authorities said.

The suspect, 45, was seen starting the fire in the five-story building at 41 Spring Street, near Mulberry Street, in the heart of NoLIta, around 6:40 p.m., the police said.

The man, whose name was not released by the authorities, fought with first responders, trying to stop them as they tried to battle the blaze, the police said. He was arrested and taken to New York Downtown Hospital with bruises. The mother and child were taken to a police station “in good health,” said Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the police.

The dead person was found on a third-floor fire escape, but the authorities said they did not know if the person lived in the building or even whether it was a man or a woman. The body was “burned beyond recognition,” Mr. Browne said.

It took nearly 200 firefighters two and a half hours to bring the fire under control, fire officials said; the building has a Pinkberry shop on the ground floor and apartments above.

“We had an extraordinary amount of fire,” said James Esposito, chief of operations for the Fire Department. It burned upward to the roof, destroying the interior staircases, so firefighters had to use fire escapes and ladders. “It was an extremely intense operation,” Chief Esposito said. “The fire encompassed all the walls, all the floors,” he said. “We have a partial collapse inside the building right now. It’s essentially destroyed.”

Seven firefighters and at least two other people were injured. A police officer broke his hand in the fight with the suspect.

William Bray, 25, a chef who lives a block away, said he ran into the street when he saw flashing lights coming from the building. “There were flames coming out of the second-floor window,” he said. “Then, soon after, we began to see smoke billowing out of the third-floor windows.”

He said he saw the suspect being led from the building in handcuffs. He was not wearing shoes, had blood on his shirt and a black eye, Mr. Bray said. He said he recognized him as someone who frequented the park opposite the building with a young son.


Wendy Ruderman contributed reporting.

    Man Sets Fire in Building, Killing One, the Police Say, NYT, 10.1.2013,






3 Officers Are Wounded in 2 Shootings; a Gunman Is Killed


January 3, 2013
The New York Times


Three New York City police officers were shot Thursday night in two separate encounters, including one at a Brooklyn subway station that left a gunman dead.

In that shooting, just after 7:30 p.m., two plainclothes transit officers, Michael Levay, 27, and Lukasz Kozicki, 32, saw a man moving between cars on the Brooklyn-bound N train at Fort Hamilton Parkway subway station in Brooklyn, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at a news conference late Thursday.

The officers approached the man, removed their shields from under their bulletproof vests, explained that moving between the cars was not allowed, and asked him to accompany them off the train, Mr. Kelly said. He moved as if to comply, the police said, but pulled a gun and shot Officer Kozicki once in each thigh and in the groin, and Officer Levay once in the back.

Officer Levay, whose vest prevented serious injury, according to Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman, returned fire with seven bullets, killing the man. The gunman, whose name was not immediately released, landed with his feet on the platform and his body on the train, the police said. He had at least five previous arrests, including one for “assault with a knife,” Mr. Browne said. Both officers were in stable condition Thursday night at Lutheran Medical Center. One bystander received a graze wound to the leg, the police said.

Earlier, around 6:30 p.m., four men, one with a gun, approached a car dealership on Boston Road in the Allerton section of the Bronx owned by the family of Officer Juan Pichardo, 34, and announced a robbery, the police said.

Mr. Pichardo, who was off duty, and another employee were held at gunpoint while one of the men ransacked the premises, the police said. Mr. Pichardo rushed at his assailant and was shot in the lower leg, the police said, but despite the wound, he and the employee subdued the gunman. The gunman and three accomplices, two waiting in a car outside, were later arrested, the authorities said. Officer Pichardo was taken to Jacobi Medical Center. His wounds were not considered life-threatening.

The shootings of the three police officers underscored a violent first few days of the new year, prompting officers working the late shift Thursday night at Police Headquarters to shake their heads.

“In recent weeks we’ve heard that what stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said on Thursday night at the news conference, held at Lutheran Medical Center. “But sometimes the good guys get shot.” Mr. Bloomberg renewed his call for stronger gun restrictions.

The shootings fanned an already boiling debate about gun control. The gun used to shoot the off-duty officer in the Bronx was reported stolen in North Carolina in late December; the subway assailant’s gun had been purchased in Pennsylvania in 2011.

Thursday’s attacks followed two other police-involved shootings so far this year. In one of those, on Wednesday, an officer shot and seriously injured a 40-year-old man who was wielding a pair of scissors and threatening a woman in a Brooklyn apartment.

In 2012, the police said, 11 New York City police officers were shot while on duty, and one while off duty. None of the shootings were fatal. In 2011, three officers were shot, and one died.

“This is another reminder of how hard we have to work on a nationwide level to keep illegal guns out of New York City,” Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said on Thursday night.

The exchange of gunfire in Brooklyn was the latest in a series of deadly encounters at subway stations. In December, two men were pushed to their deaths underneath subway trains. Suspects have been arrested in both cases.


Christopher Maag and Angela Macropoulos contributed reporting.

    3 Officers Are Wounded in 2 Shootings; a Gunman Is Killed, NYT, 3.1.2012,





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