Tag Archives: gun

Former St. Louis police officer sentenced for civil rights violations

A former St. Louis Metropolitan Police officer was sentenced to 52 months in prison for depriving a handcuffed arrestee of his civil rights by assaulting him and forcing a gun into his mouth.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson of the Western District of Missouri, announced the sentence.

Thomas Carroll, 52, of St. Louis, admitted during his plea hearing that he punched the victim, identified in court papers as M.W., in the torso while the victim was handcuffed.

Based on evidence presented at the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey of the Eastern District of Missouri found that Carroll forced his gun into M.W.’s mouth and that M.W. sustained painful and obvious injury.

“When law enforcement officers abuse their authority, they not only violate the law but they also threaten the ability of responsible officers to earn the public trust and do their jobs effectively,” Gupta said in a statement to the press.

Dickinson said, “It’s a sad day when a uniformed police officer is sent to prison for violating the constitutional rights of a citizen. No one is above the law, and no one has the right to take the law into their own hands. Now this disgraced officer will face the consequences of his violent crime.”

According to evidence presented at the plea and sentencing hearings, on July 22, 2014, M.W. was arrested at Ballpark Village near Busch Stadium in St. Louis because he was allegedly in unlawful possession of a credit card that belonged to Carroll’s daughter.

Carroll, who was on duty that night, responded to Ballpark Village and confronted M.W., who already was under arrest, handcuffed and seated in the backseat of another officer’s patrol car.

Carroll yelled at M.W., telling him that he made a “huge mistake” and that he “broke into the wrong girl’s car.”

Two other officers then drove M.W. to the central patrol police station and Carroll followed behind in his own patrol car.

Carroll admitted that despite orders from a superior officer to stay away from M.W., he entered the interview room where M.W. was handcuffed and being held.

Carroll began yelling at M.W., questioning him about who broke into his daughter’s car and threatening him.

Carroll then picked M.W. up and threw him into a wall.

While M.W. was on the ground and still handcuffed, Carroll punched M.W. in the torso.  Carroll then forced his department-issued service weapon into M.W.’s mouth and threatened to shoot him.  The gun chipped M.W.’s teeth and bloodied his lip.

M.W. also suffered significant pain and bruising to his torso and ribs.

In a separate but related case, Bliss Worrell, 28, of Clayton, Missouri, a former prosecutor for the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, was sentenced today to 18 months’ probation for concealing her knowledge of Carroll’s assault.

Worrell pleaded guilty on Oct. 26, 2015, to misprision of a felony.

Worrell testified at Carroll’s sentencing hearing that while she was working as a prosecutor, Carroll, with whom she had become close friends, bragged about assaulting M.W. and forcing his gun into M.W.’s mouth.

Worrell admitted that she filed charges against M.W. without disclosing knowledge of the assault to her colleagues, supervisors or the judge assigned to setting a bond.

She also admitted during her guilty plea that she allowed the charges to stand despite later learning that the facts supporting the attempted escape charge were fabricated to cover for injuries that M.W. sustained during the assault.

These cases were investigated by the FBI’s St. Louis Division, in cooperation with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

These cases were prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark of the Western District of Missouri, who has been appointed as special attorney to the U.S. Attorney General, and special litigation counsel Fara Gold of the Civil Rights Division.

Milwaukee jury orders gun shop owners to pay $6M for selling gun that wounded two officers

A jury today ordered a gun shop to pay nearly $6 million to two Milwaukee police officers who were seriously wounded after being shot by a gun that was purchased illegally at the store.

Jurors agreed with Officers Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch that Badger Guns was negligent and overlooked obvious signs that the gun was being sold to a “straw buyer,” a younger man who could not legally purchase the weapon.

The case has drawn attention because it could set gun law precedent in finding that gun shop owners can be held financially responsible for a crime committed with a weapon purchased at their store.

Attorneys defending the owner and operators of Badger Guns and its predecessor, Badger Outdoors, said in closing arguments Monday that their clients didn’t act negligently when they sold the weapon. James Vogts and Wendy Gunderson said their clients and the clerk who sold the gun were deceived by the straw buyer.

The officers’ lawyer, Patrick Dunphy, told jurors there were several tipoffs that should have been sufficient to cancel the sale, including improperly marked forms and the behavior of both the buyer Jacob Collins and the recipient Julius Burton, who was with Collins when the purchase was made. Dunphy also said the shop failed to verify Collins’ identification at the time of the transfer.

The case recently surfaced in the presidential campaigns after Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would push for a repeal of the George W. Bush-era gun law that lawyers say shields their client from liability claims.

Authorities have said more than 500 firearms recovered from crime scenes had been traced back to Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors, making it the “No. 1 crime gun dealer in America,” according to a 2005 charging document from an unrelated case. A former federal agent has also said the shop fails to take necessary precautions to prevent straw purchases.

Norberg and Kunisch were shot after they stopped Burton for riding his bike on the sidewalk in the summer of 2009. A bullet shattered eight of Norberg’s teeth, blew through his cheek and lodged into his shoulder. He has remained on the force but says his wounds have made his work difficult. Kunisch was struck several times, losing an eye and part of the frontal lobe of his brain. He says the wounds forced him to retire.

Vogts, representing Adam Allan, the owner of Badger Guns at the time of the sale, said the officers had to prove sales clerk Donald Flora knew he was committing a crime when he made the sale but that the evidence didn’t support that. He said Collins and Burton went out of their way to dupe him.

Flora testified earlier in the trial that he didn’t remember the transaction.

Gunderson, representing Walter Allan, Mick Beatovic and Badger Outdoors, emphasized that her clients weren’t negligent, since they sold their stake in the operation to Walter Allan’s son Adam Allan.

Both defense lawyers pushed back against the assertion that their clients engaged in a conspiracy.

“Adam Allan did not buy his father’s gun store with the intention he was going to sell guns to criminals,” Vogts said.

The jury began deliberations yesterday.

Burton pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree attempted intentional homicide and is serving an 80-year sentence; Collins got a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to making a straw purchase for an underage buyer.

2-year-old kills mom in conceal-and-carry accident at Idaho Walmart

A 29-year-old woman described as a “beautiful, young, loving mother” was fatally shot by her 2-year-old son at a northern Idaho Walmart in what authorities called a tragic accident.

The boy reached into Veronica J. Rutledge’s purse and her concealed gun fired, Kootenai County sheriff’s spokesman Stu Miller said. The woman was shopping on Dec. 30 with her son and three other children, Miller said.

Rutledge was from Blackfoot in southeastern Idaho, and her family had come to the area to visit relatives.

She was an employee of the Idaho National Laboratory, The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Washington, reported. The Idaho Falls laboratory supports the U.S. Department of Energy in nuclear and energy research and national defense.

The woman had a concealed weapons permit. Miller said the young boy was left in a shopping cart, reached into his mother’s purse and grabbed a small-caliber handgun, which discharged one time.

Deputies who responded to the Walmart found Rutledge dead, the sheriff’s office said.

“It appears to be a pretty tragic accident,” Miller said.

The victim’s father-in-law, Terry Rutledge, told The Associated Press that Veronica Rutledge “was a beautiful, young, loving mother.”

“She was not the least bit irresponsible,” Terry Rutledge said. “She was taken much too soon.”

The woman’s husband was not in the store when the shooting happened at about 10:20 a.m. Dec. 30. Miller said the man arrived shortly after the shooting. All the children were taken to a relative’s house.

The shooting occurred in the Wal-Mart in Hayden, Idaho, a town about 40 miles northeast of Spokane. The store closed for the rest of the day.

Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for Walmart, said in a statement the shooting was a “very sad and tragic accident.”

“We are working closely with the local sheriff’s department while they investigate what happened,” Buchanan said.

Idaho National Laboratory senior chemical engineer Vince Maio worked with Rutledge on a research paper about using glass ceramic to store nuclear waste, The Spokesman-Review said.

Maio said he was immediately impressed with her.

“She had a lot of maturity for her age,” he told the newspaper. “Her work was impeccable. She found new ways to do things that we did before and she found ways to do them better.”

“She was a beautiful person,” he added.

There do not appear to be reliable national statistics about the number of accidental fatalities involving children handling guns.

In neighboring Washington state, a 3-year-old boy was seriously injured in November when he accidentally shot himself in the face in a home in Lake Stevens, about 30 miles north of Seattle.

In April, a 2-year-old boy apparently shot and killed his 11-year-old sister while they and their siblings played with a gun inside a Philadelphia home. Authorities said the gun was believed to have been brought into the home by the mother’s boyfriend.

Hayden is a politically conservative town of about 9,000 people just north of Coeur d’Alene, in Idaho’s northern panhandle.

Idaho lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year allowing concealed weapons on the state’s public college and university campuses.

Despite facing opposition from all eight of the state’s university college presidents, lawmakers sided with gun rights advocates who said the law would better uphold the Second Amendment.

Under the law, gun holders are barred from bringing their weapons into dormitories or buildings that hold more than 1,000 people, such as stadiums or concert halls.

Wisconsin congresswoman asks Justice Dept. to help prevent gun violence in Milwaukee

Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to partner with local officials to reduce and prevent gun violence in Milwaukee.

Moore, on July 14, said, “Gun violence is a plague that steals the lives of far too many in our community. Each time we lose a life, our hearts break and the violence continues.”

She continued, “We must all work together, on the local, state and federal levels, to thwart these crimes. While common-sense gun violence reduction measures sit in legislative limbo, I am taking additional action now. I have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to provide resources and support to our community. I know that these efforts alone will not solve our horrific problem, but neither will inaction.

“While I wait for his response, we must look to one another. Every one of us has an invested interest in ending this senseless violence. I implore everyone to do our part to keep our children and our community safe.”

The congresswoman, in her letter to Holder, said from January through mid-June, 30 children had been shot in Milwaukee. She said there had been 185 nonfatal shootings in the city during that time and 30 homicides.

The letter cited data from the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission that showed a spike in recent gun violence: 78 people victimized between May 18 and June 15, with 71 percent of the victims falling between 18 and 34 years of age. Seventy-four percent of the suspects range between 18 and 34 years of age.

“As you can imagine, community leaders and many of my constituents are concerned that we could experience a trend of violence continuing through the summer months in Milwaukee,” Moore wrote to Holder. “Youth gun violence is particularly troublesome to me, because it not only snatches away the hopes and dreams of so many of our children, but it also devastates the families, friends, and neighbors who bear witness to our children being killed or taken from us.  Moreover, the loss of our children to gun violence snuffs out our potential for so many talented youth who would be great contributors to our city and the country as a whole.  We must put every option on the table to immediately halt this senseless violence that is plaguing our community.”

She asked the Justice Department to “do everything in its power to assist Milwaukee in its efforts to reduce and stop gun violence.”


Child with gun says voices told him to shoot boy for taunting friend

An 11-year-old boy who took a gun and ammunition to his middle school heard voices in his head telling him to shoot another boy that he thought was bullying his friend, police said in a court document released last week.

In the affidavit released as the boy appeared in Washington state’s Clark County Juvenile Court, police said he claimed in the presence of school officials that a “voice in his head” was telling him to kill another 11-year-old student “for calling his friend … ‘gay.'”

Commissioner Dayann Liebman ordered a mental competency hearing. The Associated Press is not naming the suspect because of his age.

Prosecutors are still gathering information from the police investigation and can’t say yet when the boy will be charged, said Kasey Vu, the senior deputy prosecutor supervising the juvenile unit. There will likely be more hearings on his competency, he said.

The boy was arrested last week after police said he was found with a gun, knives and more than 400 rounds of ammunition at Frontier Middle School in Vancouver, Wash. No one was hurt, and the school returned to normal after a two-hour lockdown.

Police said the boy was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, but court documents indicate the court found probable cause only for attempted assault, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a weapon at school.

The boy’s mother called the school and said her son had taken some kitchen knives. The school resource officer took him to the principal’s office where police said they found a .22-caliber handgun in his pants pocket and two loaded magazines in another pocket.

More ammunition and the knives were found in the backpack, police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said.

Police said in the affidavit the boy told authorities he planned to shoot the student he felt was bullying his friend “in the arm and then shoot himself in the head.”

The school, which has 900 students, and nearby Pioneer Elementary School, which has about 600 students, were declared safe after a two-hour lockdown.

Parents were notified through social media and a letter sent home with students, said Evergreen Public Schools spokesman Kris Fay.

The boy has been expelled. He did not have a reputation as a troublemaker, Fay said.

“This kid has not been on the radar for this,” he said.

The school will review the incident, but Fay said it appears all the protocols were followed.

“From the safety standpoint, everything went well yesterday,” he said.

Woman gets 25 years for gun in vagina, meth in butt

An Ada, Okla., woman was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading no contest to methamphetamine possession with intent to distribute, gun possession by a convicted felon and bringing contraband into jail, according to The Smoking Gun.

While being booked in March for drug possession, Christine Harris was discovered to have hidden a 5-shot revolver in her vagina and two plastic baggies containing crystal meth between her buttocks.

Police apprehended Harris along with another woman in the parking lot of the Dairy Lou Drive Inn, known as “Home of the Hercules.” The other woman had a hypodermic needle in her shoe.

While the women were being searched during booking, officers noticed “a wooden and metal item sticking out from (Harris’) vagina area.”

“It would seem to be a very dangerous place to carry a loaded firearm,” said the Pontotoc County District Attorney. “If it goes off it’s only going one place.”

Both women had long criminal records, according to reports.

$1 million bond in Wisconsin murder case

A $1 million bond has been set for a Minnesota woman accused of the 2007 Wisconsin murder of a Wisconsin woman.

Kandi Siveny, of St. Paul, is among three women charged with the murder of Lara Plamann. The 34-year-old made her first appearance in Outagamie County on March 1.

According to the criminal complaint, Kandi Siveny shot 30-year-old Plamann for her mother Dianna Siveny, who thought Plamann was cheating on her.

Fifty-three-year-old Dianna Siveny of Appleton, Wis., and her daughter are accused of hiring a third woman, 38-year-old Rosie Campbell, to kill Plamann but Campbell decided against pulling the trigger at the last minute.

All three are charged with first-degree homicide.

WLUK-TV reports (http://bit.ly/13wXsgm) Campbell is set to make her first court appearance today (March 4).

Pistorius cut from ‘It Gets Better’ campaign in South Africa

Oscar Pistorius, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend, has been ousted from a pro-gay “It Gets Better” campaign being launched in Cape Town, South Africa.

In a video cut from the campaign, Pistorius says, “You don’t have to worry. You don’t have to change. Take a deep breath and remember, ‘It will get better.'”

Pistorius also has been ousted from an advertising campaign for Clarins Group, which owns Thierry Mugler Perfumes. The company said in an email that “out of respect and compassion for the families involved in this tragedy, Thierry Mugler Perfumes have taken the decision to withdraw all of their advertising campaigns featuring Oscar Pistorius.”

The announcements came on Feb. 19, as Pistorius appeared in court with his defense lawyer, who read the athlete’s account of how he shot his girlfriend to death on Valentine’s Day. He claim he mistook her for an intruder.

Prosecutors, however, told a packed courtroom that the double-amputee known as the Blade Runner intentionally and mercilessly shot and killed 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp as she cowered inside a locked bathroom. 

The Valentine’s Day shooting in Pistorius’ home in Pretoria shocked South Africans and many around the world who idolized him for overcoming adversity to become a sports champion, competing in the London Olympics last year in track besides being a Paralympian. Steenkamp was a model and law graduate who made her debut on a South African reality TV program that was broadcast two days after her death.

In a major point of contention that emerged during the bail hearing, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Pistorius took the time to put on his prostheses, walked from the bed to the enclosed toilet inside his bathroom and only then opened fire. Three of the four bullets fired hit Steenkamp.

Pistorius said in his sworn statement that after opening fire, he realized that Steenkamp was not in his bed.

“It filled me with horror and fear,” Pistorius said. The 26-year-old Olympian said he put on his prosthetic legs and tried to kick down the door before bashing it in with a cricket bat. Inside, he said he found Steenkamp, slumped over. He said he lifted her bloodied body into his arms and tried to carry her downstairs to seek medical help. 

“She died in my arms,” the athlete said.

Nel charged Pistorius with premeditated murder and said the athlete opened fire after the couple engaged in a shouting match and she fled to the bathroom.

“She couldn’t go anywhere. You can run nowhere,” Nel said. “It must have been horrific.”

Outside the court, several dozen women protested against domestic violence and waved placards urging that Pistorius be refused bail. “Pistorius must rot in jail,” one placard said.

South Africa has some of the world’s worst rates of violence against females and the highest rate in the world of women killed by an intimate partner, according to a study by the Medical Research Council. Professor Rachel Jewkes of the council said at least three women are killed by a partner every day in the country of 50 million.

Steenkamp campaigned actively against domestic violence and had tweeted on Twitter that she planned to join a “Black Friday” protest by wearing black in honor of a 17-year-old girl who was gang-raped and mutilated two weeks ago.

What “she stood for, and the abuse against women, unfortunately it’s gone right around and I think the Lord knows that statement is more powerful now,” her uncle Mike Steenkamp, the family’s spokesman, said.

5 arrested in Milwaukee in slaying of transgender rapper

Milwaukee police have now arrested five people in connection with the death of transgender rapper Evon “Yung LT” Young, who was reported missing on New Year’s Day.

The 22-year-old transgender man was reported last seen in public near North 52nd Street and West Custer Avenue later on Jan. 1 and did not report for work. Young’s mother filed a missing person report with the Milwaukee Police Department on Jan. 2.

On Jan. 23, the arrest of three people in connection with the case — Victor Stewart, 27, Ashanti Mcalister, 19, and Billy R. Griffin, 26, Young’s roommate. Later on the day, the arrests of Ron Joseph Allen, 37, and Devin L. Seaberry, 23, were reported.

The Milwaukee District Attorney’s office has charged all five with first-degree intentional homicide.

The criminal complaint states that investigators suspect Young was killed in the basement of the residence he shared with Griffin in what began as a gang re-initiation test for Griffin.

According to the complaint, Young and Griffin were home when the door bell rang. Stewart and Mcalister were at the door, along with Allen and Seaberry. The men entered and went into the kitchen, where an argument ensued.

Griffin allegedly told police that the men began to punch Young and said the victim could not be trusted. Young then was led to the basement, where the attackers choked Young with a chain. Then they placed a plastic bag over his head, rendering Young unconscious. The assailants beat and shot Young, possibly as many as three times. Mcalister allegedly fired the weapon.

Authorities allege the basement was cleaned with beach. Evidence collected in the crime includes DNA, blood, burned clothing and a chain.

Both Griffin and Stewart allegedly made admissions to police, who were searching a landfill on Jan. 23 for Young’s body, which the men allegedly placed in a Dumpster.

The defendants are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 31.

In a statement on Jan. 23, FORGE, a transgender rights and support group, said, “FORGE sends its condolences to Young’s family and friends. We also recognize that when anyone is killed or harmed, those who share the victim’s identity may react with intense grief, anger or fear. We ask our community to be caring, compassionate and supportive of each other as we acknowledge the pervasiveness of violence in our culture, and the accompanying sorrow many of us are feeling.”

Regarding reports on Young’s life and death, FORGE asked for accuracy and respect in coverage. The statement said, “Several media outlets have inaccurately characterized Young’s gender. In interviews with his mother, (Annette) Cross-Perry has consistently referred to her child as male and with masculine pronouns and name. FORGE encourages all media and individuals talking about this case to respectfully use masculine pronouns (he, him, his) and name (Evon, or his rapper name YuNG LT).”


Reno police chief hires investigator for sex harassment case

The chief of police in Reno, Nev., has called in an independent investigator to look into internal allegations of officer misconduct and claims of corruption that emerged in a series of departmental probes and sent one veteran sergeant packing.

Sgt. James Stegmaier retired last month after Chief Steven Pitts recommended the 23-year member of the force be fired for allegedly pointing his loaded handgun at two fellow officers at police headquarters.

Stegmaier’s lawyer, Ken McKenna, says his client was targeted in retaliation for reporting corruption and misconduct within the Reno Police Department.

McKenna said in a statement this week that the misconduct included sexual harassment, “gay bashing” and command officers having sex while on duty.

“It is so blatant retaliation for whistle-blowing,” McKenna said. “It’s such an attempt to discredit him.”

Pitts told the Reno Gazette-Journal he launched four separate internal probes since June looking into those and other claims. He said he also recently hired a nationally recognized independent investigator to assist.

“There’s an allegation in (McKenna’s statement) about me that said when Pitts hears about this heads are going to roll,” Pitts said. “You’re damn right they are, and that’s exactly what we did … There will be accountability.”

The investigator, Ronald Glensor, is a former assistant Reno police chief considered an expert in community policing, Reno’s Chief Deputy Civil Attorney Tracy Chase said Thursday.

Glensor, who served on the Reno force from 1981-2009, has written  books on police supervision and problem solving, and consulted for more than 700 law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

Chase said Glensor has begun his work, but she could not discuss any other details and did not know how long the internal investigation could last.

Stegmaier, 50, received a medal of meritorious service at a shooting inside a Reno Walmart in 2010. He retired last month rather than appeal his recommended firing and risk loss of some benefits, McKenna said.

The gun pointing incident was investigated by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant District Attorney John Helzer confirmed he is reviewing the case, but has declined further comment.

McKenna said Stegmaier was simply practicing a “quick draw” technique when the two officers walked into the office. Pitts said his interviews with officers disputed that.

While many of Stegmaier’s allegations are broad, he identified some of his former colleagues by their positions – accusing his supervisor of sexual harassment, a deputy police chief of asking him to lie to internal affairs investigators and a member of the internal affairs team of sending a pornographic video to his cellphone.

He said several members of the department engaged in “gay bashing on a regular basis.”

“The whole thing just kind of went sideways, and Jim’s intent from the beginning was to never disclose any of this publicly and just to get an investigation (into the gun pointing incident) that was fair and unbiased,” McKenna told the Gazette-Journal.

Reno Deputy City Attorney Jack Campbell said Stegmaier tried to use the allegations against his colleagues as leverage in an attempt to get his job back.

“The only time he complained about this – quote, alleged corruption, unquote – is when he attempted to manipulate this department and otherwise avoid the discipline that was recommended to him, and it didn’t work,” Campbell said.

Campbell said the vast majority of claims made by Stegmaier are “untrue” and a “misrepresentation of what’s happened so far” based on evidence he’s reviewed from the ongoing internal affairs investigations.