People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Gambling West Linn Chief Pleads Guilty
In a surprisingly emotional op-ed piece in the May 27 Oregonian, former West Linn Police Chief Larry Gabel outlined the gambling addiction which led to his ouster from office (see PPR #17). Gabel plead guilty on May 21 to charges of official misconduct and theft of city equipment. The op-ed was Gabel's statement upon being sentenced to 60 days in jail and $8360 in restitution.
"I stole to satisfy my addiction," wrote Gabel. "I bought a gun with city funds one day and would pawn it another. I knew full well a paper trail was very evident, but all that mattered was dollars in my hand and the very friendly machine that I had a full-time relationship with."
Considering suicide at first, Gabel called the gambling addiction hotline and received mental health
counseling. His most important messages: "If you have significant issues and problems, don't
hide. Deal with them. ... I have to face the consequences for my actions."
Gold Hill Chief Convicted
Police Chief David M. Crawford of Gold Hill resigned on June 7 after being convicted of attempted coercion and for assault and harassment of a dirt biker. As Gold Hill's only police officer, Crawford was being temporarily replaced with Jackson County Sheriff's Deputies (Associated Press, June 9).
Apparently, the threats to George and Patricia Warner came after a short spurt of "road rage" where the menacing car turned out to be Crawford's; upon leaping from his car he allegedly said "I can find you. I can get you...I can burn down your home." (AP June 3).
Bend Family Sues
The family of Adam Gantenbein, a 21-year-old shot by Bend police in February (see PPR
#17), filed a lawsuit for negligence against Officer Al Campbell and the City of Bend.
was killed by 7 of the 15 bullets fired at him. Gantenbein's father Calvin, a former Portland Police
Officer and currently a criminal defense attorney, maintains that Campbell should not have fired his
weapon through Adam's windshield, based on eyewitness testimony and crime scene evidence
(Oregonian, June 2).
Shooter Ex-Cop Strikes Again
Former Portland Police officer Steven Gomez will face a grand jury on second- and third-degree
assault charges. Gomez was forced to resign from the force after "playfully" shooting his wife in
the buttocks (resulting in the amputation of her leg) in Febuary 1997 (see PPR #12). He
attacked his former wife again on July 4. After reportedly arguing with her about her successful $5
million lawsuit against him, Gomez slapped and choked her unconscious. He then called 911 and
surrendered himself to the local authorities, going so far as to remove his wristwatch to make
cuffing him easier (Oregonian, April 16).
Police Volunteer Indicted
Louie Lira Jr., a volunteer "gang outreach worker" with the Portland Police, was indicted by a
federal grand jury in April for armed bank robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a
felony. As reported in PPR #17, Lira had earlier been sentenced to federal prison
violating immigration laws. The robbery indictment stems from his alleged use of Police equipment
to assist in a November, 1998 bank heist (Oregonian, April 16).
"Grow Light" Store Busted After Filing Suit
Last spring, American Agriculture, an indoor gardening supply store, filed a federal lawsuit against the Portland Police for violations of civil rights. Police have been using a "trap and trace" on American Agriculture's phone for four years, giving phone numbers of incoming callers to the police without the store's knowledge or permission (see PPR #17). Police identified suspected marijuana growers, and then monitored power usage to determine likely candidates for "knock and talk" style searches, in which police bluff their way into private homes. Other strategies in use are the "sniff and sieze," the "talk and grab," and the "spray and cuff."
In June, police raided the store and the home of the manager. Officers siezed computers and documents, but no arrests were made. Capt. Ferraris, head of the Drugs and Vice Division, said that there is no connection between the timing of the lawsuit and the raid (Oregonian, June 5). The investigation continues, despite Circuit Judge Michael Marcus' questioning why, after investigating around 500 suspected growers, police are still collecting evidence. According to the Oregonian, "Marcus compared the four-year investigation to planting petunias in a hole so deep that you need a ladder to climb out."
Lawyers for American Agriculture believe police are illegally gathering evidence and that the suspicious timing of the court cases and the search warrants is an attempt at intimidation.
This case is particularly significant because it is probably the Marijuana Task Force's surveillance
of American Agriculture which led them to the raid on Stephen Dons' house in January 1998,an
event that ended with one dead officer and a wounded Dons who later died in police custody (see
NYPD Officers Indicted in Diallo Shooting
A grand jury has indicted the four officers who shot Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo 41 times,
killing him in his Bronx apartment building (see PPR #17). The officers are part of the
Street Crimes Unit whose all-white members wear plain clothes and travel in unmarked cars. The
case drew increasingly boisterous protests, with over 1000 people getting themselves arrested,
including Jesse Jackson and actress Susan Sarandon. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani eased his
confrontative support of the officers as the protests have grown, and most of the protesters had
their charges dropped. (New York Times, March 27 and Associated Press, April 3).
NYPD Officer Admits Sodomizing Louima
Officer Justin Volpe has admitted to shoving a stick into Abner Louima's rectum while the
handcuffed Haitian immigrant was held by another officer in a precinct bathroom. Volpe said he
was mad and intended to humiliate Louima because he mistakenly thought Louima had struck him
during a struggle at a nightclub. After other officers testified to seeing Volpe go into the bathroom
with a stick and brag later about his acts, Volpe pled guilty to avoid a life sentence. Mayor Giuliani
used this testimony to prove his claim that the "blue wall of silence" is a media myth. Only one of
the other officers charged in the incident, Charles Schwarz, was found guiltyof civil rights
violations (New York Times, May 26 and stop-polabuse listserv June 8).
Millions Organize, March For Mumia
On April 24th, 15,000 people congregated in San Francisco to take part in the Millions for Mumia march. There was a simultaneous demonstration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were there to ask that Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a police officer and is on death row, be given a new fair trial. Mumiadespite being on death rowhas spoken out against injustices such as police brutality, the prison-industrial complex, and the criminalization of the poor. Mumia knows from experience just how unfair the "justice system" can be because when he was first brought to trial he was too poor to afford adequate legal defense and the necessary invesitgators. He has been fighting for 17 years to receive a new trial. During this time much evidence has come forth which could prove his innocence. Unfortunately, the prosecutorial misconduct that his first trial reeked of is all that will be reviewed in the appeals process if he does not receive a new, fair trial.
This situation compelled demonstrators to take to the streets, chanting slogans like "we're going to tear down the prisons wall for wall!" and "Free Mumia." Throughout the march, the police were decidedly quietdespite how forcefully the police associations have come out against Mumia. After the march there were speeches by such notable speakers as Angela Davis, and a tape from Mumia thanking everyone for coming out. By the end of the event, it was clear that people had to go back to their towns and do solid organizing work.
That was what the Portland Free Mumia Coalition had in mind when they cosponsored the "Open to the Truth" conference against the prison-industrial complex April 10-11 at Portland State University. The conference served as precursor to the Millions for Mumia march. Copwatch was invited to give a training workshop at the event. The event turned out well, but in order to free Mumia it is going to take much more grassroots support. It is truly an urgent situation for Mumia: his last state appeal was denied and his health is in a fragile state.
Copwatch and CUSPR: Organizing for Police Accountability
In addition to our presentation at the Prison-Industrial Complex/Mumia gathering in April, Copwatch held a training in July at the Spurkraft warehouse.
At this time we are putting a call out to individuals and organizations involved in Communities United to Stop Police Repression (CUSPR), the Coalition that organized last October's march from NE Portland to the Justice Center. We hope that people will organize another event for this fall.
If you'd like to be involved in planning an event, or if you'd like to schedule a "Your Rights and the
Police" seminar or Copwatch training, please be in touch with Copwatch by mail, phone or email:
PO Box 42456/Portland, OR 97242; (503) 236-3065; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.