THE LASD WILL APPEAL RECENT HIGH $$ JUDGEMENT IN CASE OF DEPUTY SHOOTING OF PALMDALE TEENAGER WITH TOY GUN
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department now plans to appeal the recent $1.1 million judgement that a jury awarded 19-year-old William Fetters, who was shot by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy, Scott Sorrow, four years ago.
The award, which amounted to $1,127,600, included reembursement for medical bills, plus damages for pain and suffering. [Go here for our previous report on the case.]
On on May 10, 2009, Fetters—then 15-years-old—was riding his bike with his brother and friends, playing “cops and robbers,” on a residential street in Palmdale, when Sorrow said he saw the boy waving what he said he believed was a real gun.
The “gun” was, in fact, a toy cap gun . But, according to Whitmore, it was minus the orange tip that representational-looking toy firearms are required to have, thus making it look real when seen quickly.
[WLA obtained the photo above of Fetters' actual toy gun, taken at the scene.]
According to Fetters, he was riding his bike down the street toward a local baseball diamond, pretending to “shoot” back and forth with his brother and friends as they went. As the boys rode, Sorrow approached in his LASD patrol car and barked at Fetters to get off his bike and drop the gun. Scared, Fetters said he dropped the toy gun instantly, and tried to get off the bike, but the deputy shot him anyway.
Sorrow testified to the contrary that Fetters was brandishing what appeared to be a real gun, which he did not drop at all, but instead pointed it at the patrol car causing the deputy to fear for his life and that of his partner. As a consequence, he fired a single shot at Fetters.
The jury believed Fetters’ version of events.
According to Whitmore, after the incident, Fetters was convicted of the misdemeanor charge of pointing a firearm at deputies. “And, don’t forget, both our internal affairs investigation and the OIR [Office of Independent Review] found the deputy’s actions within department policy.”
Whitmore added, “This is not how anyone wants an encounter with a teenager to end.”
Whitmore also noted that the judge in the Fetters case excluded Fetters’ misdemeanor conviction from coming into court, thus the jury was unaware of it.
By the same token, the jury did not hear of another Palmdale incident also involving Deputy Sorrow that occurred in August 26, 2009, three months after the shooting of Fetters. This second incident resulted in Sorrow and two other deputies being sued by a local apartment manager, Noel Bender, for assault and battery, and civil rights violations. [See this Daily News story for additional details on that lawsuit.]
In the Bender case, the jury also decided in the plaintiff’s favor, awarding Bender $581,000 for “false arrest, battery, Civil Rights violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” after acquiting the other two deputies but finding that Sorrow had acted “with malice.”
In Fetters’ case, the jury could not decide whether or not Sorrow had acted “with malice,” thus that part of the matter will be retried later this month, according to Fetters’ attorney, Bradley Gage, who also represented Bender.
LA TIMES URGES “PAY THE DORNER AWARDS”
In an editorial on Sunday, the LA Times editorial board explained why reneging on the $1 million in awards offered for the capture of Christopher Dorner is a very bad idea.
WLA agrees. Here’s a clip:
….some of those who pledged reward money are interpreting the matter as one of contract and are looking for loopholes to withdraw their support. The city of Riverside, for instance, declared that “because the conditions were not met, there will not be a payment of a reward by the city.” That’s penny wise and pound foolish, not to mention a cavalier disregard of public safety. Officials should realize that it will undermine the efficacy of future reward offers if the public senses that the game is rigged. In an effort to save itself a few dollars in this instance, Riverside and others may end up paying dearly in the future when residents, told that a reward is on the table, decide to let police handle it themselves because the money may not be forthcoming.
Finally, there is this dystopian alternative to consider: If public agencies offer rewards for arrest or conviction and then withhold them in cases in which a suspect dies, they have, in effect, created a financial incentive for police to kill suspects rather than arrest them. That’s a troubling bit of motivation.
HOW MUCH DOES RACIAL BIAS FEED THE “SCHOOL TO PRISON PIPELINE?’
The Christian Science Monitor adds a new and disturbing story to the growing body of evidence that, not only are zero tolerence school discipline policies ineffective and damaging to overall student well-being but, statistically speaking, they are gravely biased when it comes to race.
Here’s a clip from the story by Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, which draws from extensive data gathered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
Two students set off fire alarms in the same school district. One of them, an African-American kindergartner, is suspended for five days; the other, a white ninth-grader, is suspended for one day.
•An African-American high-schooler is suspended for a day for using a cellphone and an iPod in class. In the same school, a white student with a similar disciplinary history gets detention for using headphones.
•Two middle-schoolers push each other; the white student receives a three-day, in-school suspension, while the native American student is arrested and suspended, out of school, for 10 days.
Civil rights groups have been saying for years that school discipline is not meted out fairly, citing examples like these reported last year from around the country by the US Department of Education.
Data from 72,000 American public schools in the 2009-10 school year, for example, show that while African-Americans make up 18 percent of the students in this large sample, they account for 46 percent of students suspended more than once, 39 percent of students expelled, and 36 percent of students arrested on campus.
White students, by contrast, represent 29 percent of multiple suspensions and 33 percent of expulsions – but 51 percent of the students.
Many people might assume the racial breakdown of discipline simply reflects higher rates of misbehavior by some groups of students, perhaps explained by factors such as poverty.
Research has shown that’s not an adequate explanation. “There’s quite a bit of literature that supports the finding that it’s not just about kids behaving badly,” says Russell Skiba, a professor at Indiana University in Bloomington and an expert on school violence and discipline.
His recent study of discipline data in one Midwestern state found that even after controlling for types of student behavior and poverty, African-Americans still had 1.5 times higher rates of suspension or expulsion than whites did….
I’m just scratching the surface with the clips. There’s lots and lots more to the story so