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Posts Tagged ‘Grand-Jury’

Can embarrassment and personal demons be squelched with money?

It would seem so and that $169,800 is all that’s needed!

I’m referring to the Iron Pigs MC member and Seattle police detective Ronald Smith.

It probably comes as no surprise that Smith, who as you may recall shot a member of the Hells Angels MC in Sturgis a couple years ago has filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department.  The suit alleges the department disparaged him and negligently provided false information that led to his indictment on a perjury charge.

Disregard that all charges were dropped and why let any of the facts get in the way when Mr. Smith sees dollar signs.  The only thing missing in this little drama is an attorney to throw in the proverbial race card and get the ACLU marching.

I’ve blogged about this incident HERE, HERE and HERE as well as provided a number of updates.  A brief recap is during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Smith, who was in Sturgis with members of the Iron Pigs, a motorcycle club composed of LEO’s and firefighters shot and wounded a Hells Angels MC member, Joseph Patrick McGuire, in self-defense during a fight in the Loud American Roadhouse on Aug. 9, 2008. Smith was charged in Meade County, S.D., Circuit Court with the felonies of aggravated assault and perjury. He also was charged with a misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.

Now comes the pain and suffering.  Mr. Smith claims he was “guilty until proven innocent,” shunned and neglected.  Huh?  The lawsuit contends his reputation was harmed by the criminal charges and that shortly after the incident, the Seattle Police Chief at the time, Gil Kerlikowske said during a public-relations event that Smith was an “embarrassment” to the department and would “not be working for him much longer.”

That working for him part was absolutely correct!   Shortly after Mr. Kerlikowske became the “drug czar” or the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy for Obama.  He is responsible for advising the president on drug control programs, and for coordinating drug policies among all federal agencies.

My point?  While the various bloggers have raged back and forth between supporters of the police to distrust of the police and the justice system…could someone, even the Seattle Police Chief please just apologize to Mr. Smith before he continues to take all of your hard earned tax dollars.

Photo courtesy Flickr and Iron Pigs MC.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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DPSST Tactical Village

I arrive at the mock Rogue River Bar.  It could very well be your average motorcycle enthusiast bar, complete with pool tables, fridge and beer taps.  It’s all part of “Tactical Village” – a sprawling complex with faux buildings, roadways, cars, buses and the typical neighborhood debris you’d find in any urban environment.  This area was also referred to as Scenario Village which as the name implies is for various training scenarios to simulate real-world incidents.

Tactical supervisor Capt. Ed Thompson provided instruction as he led the group of exercises.  Today the press participants would be acting as a police officer in various situations.  We were briefed on gun safety, shooting and while the Glock’s only fired paint-pellet bullets they did have enough velocity to sting and leave substantial marks.

Demonstration by Lt. Daryl Tate (L) and Officer Jason Brown (R)

I’ve experienced confusion at motorcycle rallies when ask to respond to conflicting instructions from multiple law enforcement officials, but nothing prepared me for my first “routine” patrol stop.  The patrol car radio blasted a somewhat inaudible message about the ’96 Dodge Stratus with Idaho plates that I had pulled over for a traffic violation was involved in an arm robbery – I cautiously exited the patrol car collecting my thoughts as a rather large man (~300 pounds) exits the Dodge on the driver side – I shout out to stay in the automobile, the man doesn’t comply – I shout again for the man to stop, but he continues to walk toward me and the patrol car with one hand in a back pocket – I notice he has an angry and aggressive physical demeanor.   Now I’m using all the techniques from earlier in the day… defining the threat (Intent; Means; Opportunity) when at about 20 feet from the police car I see the man pull a gun.  My first thought was WTF? this can’t be happening.  In addition I had tunnel vision and didn’t see his partner exit the scene…I was so focused on that gun.  Having no police gun/holster experience didn’t help and my attempt to pull my firearm was delayed by safety snaps — Gunshots sounded.  The officer (me) was hit by 4 paint ball pellets.  No blood was spilled, but I was dead in less than 20 seconds!  It was about that time when one of the instructors stated “experience is the knowledge you needed 1 minute ago”… a bit flipant, but I’ve got to give ‘em that one.

Officer Jason Brown (L) Explains Scenario in Tactical Village

For several hours we responded to chaotic, dangerous or unpredictable situations in an effort to serve others. The exercises really hit home and made me re-think law enforcement’s role and the second guessing of intentions. With sincere respect to families of people shot by police, including Aaron Campbell’s, what most people killed by police have in common is that they were running from the law, threatening to harm someone or failing to obey police commands. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be shot, but it does complicate an officer’s job and forces the type of split-second decisions police make.   I believe Capt. Rau stated during training that “Nobody wins these situations, you survive them.”  We continued into the afternoon with the academy’s interactive video training program called MYLO (Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives) which used a Glock laser firearm vs. paint-pellets.   It’s a computerized model capable of running hundreds of scenario’s ranging from domestic disturbance to school shootings.  The situations are intense and life like even if displayed on a video screen.

Tactical Village

At the end of the day I was tired from the adrenaline rush and participating in a number of these scenarios (I was hit so many times I looked like a member in the Blue Man Group!).  Near the end of the day we received an overview from Michael Slauson (Sr. Assistant Attorney General, Oregon DOJ) on SB 111 (2007) and requirements for each county (36 in total) to have a deadly force plan which outlines a number of minimum requirements around police officer mental health and making information available to the public.  In all there were more than 25 people involved in delivering this training.  Unfortunately the mainstream media/press turnout was dismal.  Why?  Fox News (TV12), Albany, Corvallis (Gazettetimes.com) and a local neighborhood paper called The Skanner participated.  While the small class size made for high-quality individual training the absence and the opportunity for the mainstream press to help influence perceptions was a disappointment.

After all the scenarios I wasn’t so sure who would want to be a police officer?  Why would anyone be willing to serve, given the beatings the bureau gets from a rush-to-judgment public and the second-guessing of officers. Instead of officer retraining, maybe we should talk about citizen retraining, so critics will at least wait until they have all the facts of a case before calling in the high-profile, paid-to-incite activists.

Part 1 is HERE.

Tactical Village photo courtesy of Gazettetimes.com, other photos taken by author on scene.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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DPSST Admin Building

Earlier this week I attended a day-long training session at the Oregon Public Safety Academy (DPSST) about Deadly Force used in making an arrest.

It took some persistence, but I was able to convince the Department of Public Safety that independent bloggers DO have a community voice and should be included along with “mainstream” media. To that end I was afforded the opportunity to fully participate in the Salem event and want to provide a major shout-out to Cmdr. Cameron Campbell and PIO and OSP Trooper Lt. Gregg Hastings!

So why was I there and what’s the 411?

You may recall last month’s fatal shooting of Aaron M. Campbell by a Portland police officer which sparked intense scrutiny on the use of deadly force.  The 25-year-old African-American was shot and killed by a white police officer after he emerged from a Northeast Portland apartment where officers had been called to perform a welfare check on a suicidal, armed man.  The shooting prompted national attention, including public protests and marches by members of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, and a high profile drive-by visit to Portland by none other than the infamous Rev. Jesse Jackson.  I’m not going to cover all the details and anyone who wants to have an opinion about this police shooting really needs to read the nearly 500 pages of grand jury transcripts.  Or if you prefer The Oregonian can provide summary information HERE.

DPSST Admin Building (Back)

The law enforcement agencies were quick to realize that when a police officer shoots an unarmed person because the officer fears for her/his life – this is a huge contributor to the tension and distrust that the public might feel on the streets – so it prompted the Oregon Police Trainers to offer the media some unique training to learn about the realities in use-of-force incidents.  Basically in 8 hours we received what police officers receive during the 16 week training program.

Not surprisingly, a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp survey found that 56% of Americans think the government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to their rights and freedoms.  And with that, in some communities, there is a deep-seated distrust of police and a fear that interaction with them has the potential to turn violent.

Yes, I’m white and feel that police are here to protect me and work for me.  I can’t represent or fully appreciate through a racial lens what African-American people feel.  I can say that as a motorcycle enthusiast I’ve experienced law enforcement arrogance that allows an armed professional to be held less responsible than a typical citizen to control motorcyclists or rally crowds and make them stay “in their place.”  That mentality comes from people who believe that their time is more valuable than ours. It comes from an arrogance that says that our actions are supposed to make their lives easier, not the other way around.

Then I spent two hours in a class room with Lorraine Anglemier (Deputy DA and Judge) getting a comprehensive overview on the use of force and Oregon statues and my views started to evolve.  The conversation went well beyond typical discussions of force continuums or matrixes.  The focus was on how the use of force must be understood in a comprehensive manner to ensure proper force decision making.  She covered statutory authority and limits, State and federal case law, prevention and tactical consideration.  We were reminded of the Bill of Rights and the 4th Amendment along with the Oregon equivalent (Article 1, Section 9).  Then came State v. Bates, 304 OR519 (1987) followed by Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) and how excessive force is analyzed (deadly or not) under the 4th Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” standard.  Then we dissected the “Graham Factors” and whether the totality of circumstances justifies a particular sort of action.  Yeah, it was heady stuff and as a person who has trouble with a motorcycle rental agreement this had my head severely spinning.

After another 30 minute presentation by Capt. Raymond Rau on the physical effects of being in a high-stress situation and the traumatic effects of being involved in a shooting I made my way down to the “Tactical Village” … I’m fitted with face protection, a bullet proof vest, holster, a Glock firearm and extra clips/bullets (paint balls) to undertake my urban training scenario’s … I kept replaying what Ms. Angelmier stated… the standard “reasonableness at the moment” applies not with 20/20 hindsight in my head.

This is a multi-post article… Part 2 HERE on Tactical Village.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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From the movie Righteous Kill the tag line is “There’s Nothing Wrong With A Little Shooting As Long As the Right People Get Shot“…sure that’s Hollywood, but it seems this could be applied to the law enforcement investigation of Seattle Detective Ron Smith whose felony assault charges for shooting a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle club in Sturgis were dismissed yesterday.

Dropped because as Jesse Sondreal (Meade County State Attorney) states:

“the investigation that I have reviewed indicates he (Smith) was assaulted and it was premeditated.”  The investigation established that Detective Smith was defending himself from a violent pre-meditated attack and he responded in a manner which was neither excessive nor unreasonable under the circumstances.

DeNiro Target Range

DeNiro Target Range

While the case illustrates reserving final judgment until all facts are examined it leaves some unanswered questions about how much, if any, the Sturgis incident was influenced by Smith’s testimony in a Hell’s Angel federal racketeering and murder trial in Seattle last year which sent several former and current members of the motorcycle “club” to prison ranging from seven years to life without parole. Or how much the decision to dismiss the assault charges were based on the lack of cooperation of the HAMC who wouldn’t testify before the grand jury?

The Seattle Times (Jennifer Sullivan) reports HERE that Court records and police testimony indicate Smith has clashed with another Hells Angel back in 2005.  Authorities filed charges alleging that Anthony James Magnesi, a member of the Washington Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels, had threatened Smith over the phone.  The end result from an internal investigation dismissed misdemeanor charges filed against Magnesi and Smith was referred to his supervisor for a training issue.  Much more on the Magnesi clashes HERE.

Detective Smith will return to full active duty (he was on administrative leave pending results) and obviously the Seattle Police Officers Guild is happy with the outcome and issued a press release HERE.

For more background information look at:

  1. Northwest Harley Blog Archive | Iron Pigs Ride The Northwest
  2. Northwest Harley Blog Archive | When Iron Pigs Fly
  3. Northwest Harley Blog Archive | Sturgis Ends With First Shooting In 20 Years
  4. NEW – Northwest Harley Blog Archive | Behind The Scenes Of The Sturgis Shooting
  5. NEW – Northwest Harley Blog Archive | Cash Is The Icing On Iron Pigs HR218 Cupcake

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit conflicted and feeling this outcome is anti-climatic.  Does this mean the Iron Pigs won’t return to Sturgis next year?  Can the motorcycle events industry afford yet another motorcycle “club” clash?

Operator, I need Mr. Happy.  Now!

Update: November 18, 2008 – Weapons charges dropped.  See HERE for more info.

Update: May 7, 2010 – Detective Ronald Smith has filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department.  Even though all charges were dropped the suit alleges the department disparaged him and negligently provided false information that led to his indictment on a perjury charge.  This was an embarrassment and the lawsuit contends his reputation was harmed.

Photo courtesy of the movie Righteous Kill web site.

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Flying Pigs

Flying Pigs

“When pigs fly”…is an idiom or a popular saying used to indicate that something will never happen.  So, when will the “Law Enforcement” spin stop on this Sturgis shooting?  No time soon it would seem…

The Seattle Times is reporting that the off-duty police officer who shot Hells Angel member Joseph Patrick McGuire (33, of Imperial Beach, Ca.) at the Loud American Roadhouse in Sturgis was forced to open fire after being attacked and pinned to the floor by up to three members of the outlaw motorcycle gang.

The Rapid City Journal identified the Seattle police officer as Ronald Smith (43, of Seattle, WA). He is assigned to the departments pawnshop unit.  In grand-jury investigation statements he said:

The detective said one Hells Angel member “got in my face” and began an argument.  “I was cold-cocked on the left side of my face by at least one, if not three, Hells Angels,”…”I woke up on the ground pinned against a bar stool by a Hells Angel in a red bandanna,”…”I was receiving fists and feet from the top during this.”… “I tried to wriggle free, but didn’t have any leverage.”…”The Hells Angel in the bandanna tried to grab my gun just as another man was choking me… “I then pulled the handgun from my hip and opened fire.”

According to the newspaper, 25 people testified during the seven-hour court hearing.  No arrests have been made and the investigation could continue until the grand jury reconvenes on Aug. 27th.

Not everything is as tranquil as they would want us to believe…new information has been released on the detective involved in the Sturgis shooting has twice been investigated by the department of Office of Professional Accountability, a civilian police-oversight group, during his 15 years on the force. Both complaints were confirmed by the group.  One investigation stemmed from a verbal argument he got into with a Seahawk fan while working an off-duty assignment at Qwest Field in 2004. He also got into an argument inside a Pierce County restaurant in 2005 with a restaurant employee who was taunting and threatening him and his then-fiancée.  He received a two-day suspension for the incident with the Seahawk fan and a written reprimand for the other incident.

I’ve received a number of questions about whether it was legal for Smith to have a gun on him in the Loud American Roadhouse, because he was off duty at the time.  According to South Dakota law, people with concealed-weapons permits cannot carry firearms into bars. Police officers are exempt from this rule if they have written permission from the county sheriff, according to the law. However, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (a federal law) enacted in 2004 supersedes the state law, allowing off-duty law-enforcement officers to carry weapons anywhere they choose, but it requires that the weapons handler not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

So let the spin continue as nothing has been reported about sobriety tests conducted after the shooting…

Update:  August 14th – Seattle PI is reporting that Hells Angel member Joseph Patrick McGuire was arrested Jan. 18, 2007, as part of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the San Diego Police Department. Police served warrants on two San Diego-area homes that belonged to the president of the Hells Angels’ local chapter.  McGuire is the chapter treasurer and was arrested at one of the homes in Pacific Beach, Calif. Police seized a pound and a half of marijuana, in addition to hydrocodone and oxycodone pills, and $5,000 in cash.  The San Diego chapter president and vice president were charged in separate cases in the investigation.  McGuire was released on bond and scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Aug 20 in San Diego County Superior Court, with his trial set for September.  He was charged with possession of marijuana for sale and two counts of illegal possession of narcotics.

Update: September 5th – The Argus Leader is reporting that both men (McGuire (HAMC) and Smith (Iron Pigs)) are charged with alternative counts of aggravated and simple assault.  Smith was also charged with perjury.  In addition, misdemeanor gun charges were also brought against the four other fellow bikers with Smith (also part of the Iron Pigs): Scott Lazalde (Bellingham, WA); Dennis McCoy (Seattle, WA); Erik Pingel (Aurora, CO) and James Rector (Ferndale, WA).

Update: September 9th – The Seattle.pi is reporting that the perjury charge has been dismissed against Smith.  The grand jury indicted Smith last month on charges of aggravated assault, perjury and illegal possession of a concealed weapon.  Smith initially stated he was carrying his personal firearm, but the Seattle Police Department records contradicted him, showing that it was a department-issued gun.  This was the evidence that was presented which resulted in the perjury charge.

Update: September 17th – Aggravated assault charges dropped.  See HERE for more info.

Update: November 18, 2008 – All weapons charges dropped.  See HERE for more info.

Update: February 25, 2009 – In a plea agreement Joseph McGuire (HAMC) pleads no contest to simple assault (versus aggravated assault) and was sentenced to one year in the Meade County Jail.  According to Rapid City Journal, McGuire’s sentence was suspended as long as he does not break the law.  No fines were imposed, but he can not attend this years rally.

Photo courtesy Flickr.

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