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Tag: State Police

FBI Agent Shot by Booby-Trapped Wheelchair in House Rigged with Explosives

Gregory Rodvelt has been charged with rigging the house with explosives.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

An FBI special agent was shot by a booby-trapped wheelchair in a house rigged with explosive devices in southern Oregon.

“I’m hit!” the federal agent yelled as he profusely bled from his leg, the Oregonian reports, citing court records that described the house as “a scene from the movie ‘Indiana Jones.’” 

The agent and three Oregon state police bomb technicians were called to the house by a real estate lawyer who was responsible for selling the property in Williams, a town of 2,200 people.

Gregory Rodvelt, the 66-year-old man accused of placing elaborate and deadly booby traps throughout the house, has been charged in federal court with a felony count of assault on a federal officer.

The agent was injured when one of the law enforcement officials moved a wheelchair near the door, causing it fire a shotgun blast.

The driveway, mini-van and garage also were rigged with booby-traps.

Supreme Court Strengthens Qualified Immunity for Law Enforcement Officers’ Use of Deadly Force

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

It was a tough year for law enforcement officers. Line of duty deaths, especially intentional killings of police, were up dramatically. Several categories of violent crime, including homicides, rose significantly after two decades of steady decline in crime statistics. Recruitment of new officers is becoming difficult, and officers confronting deadly situations are justifiably wary about the public (and media) second-guessing life or death decisions that had to be made under pressure within seconds.

Heather MacDonald, in her recent book The War On Cops, blames these developments on an anti-law enforcement movement led by groups like Black Lives Matter, accentuated by media attention, and facilitated by the policies of the Obama Administration. Whether you buy all of her conclusions, she does make a persuasive case that the current atmosphere in some segments of the public about law enforcement has resulted in officers being less aggressive in discretionary policing and that is a factor in a new crime wave, especially in the nation’s cities.

Into this troubling and dangerous situation, a potential boost in law enforcement confidence came this month from an unlikely source, a per curiam opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Per curiam (Latin: by the Court) decisions are judgments by appellate courts as a whole in which no particular judge or Justice is identified as the author. In the Supreme Court per curiam opinions are almost always unanimous and usually represent brief rulings on non-controversial subjects. They tend to be short. They seldom set an important precedent or alter the rule of law.

But there are exceptions. In 1972 the per curiam opinion by the Court in Furman v. Georgia turned capital punishment upside down when it struck down every death penalty law and practice in the country as arbitrary and capricious under the 8th Amendment. It took four years for the states to re-institute death penalty statutes and, in many ways, the case began to diminish the role of the supreme penalty which continues to this day.

Bush v. Gore

In Bush v. Gore (2000) the Court issued a per curiam opinion in one of the most controversial cases in the Court’s history. The Court upheld the razor-thin Florida vote which gave the presidency to George Bush by a single electoral vote over Al Gore. The 5-4 vote followed party lines with the Republican appointed Justices in the majority, but the ruling was brief and unauthored.  Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz called it the “single most corrupt decision in Supreme Court history,” but others thought it was a profile in courage which preserved the republic.

new_mexico_state_police

Earlier this month the Court decided another per curiam opinion which has gotten much less attention but which could have profound implications, especially to law enforcement officers on the front line. White v. Pauly was an appeal from a civil ruling by a federal district court against New Mexico State Police Officer Ray White, who had shot and killed Samuel Pauley in a police confrontation outside of Santa Fe.

Witnesses had called 911 to report Pauley as a drunk driver. Two police officers went to his residence where he lived with his brother Daniel Pauly in a secluded area to talk with Pauly. They ordered him to open the door.  It was asserted in the complaint that the brothers had not heard the officers identify themselves. The Paulys got their firearms.

A few minutes after the initial confrontation, Officer White arrived at the scene outside of the Pauly residence. The Paulys yelled that they had guns and Daniel fired two shotgun blasts outside the back door. Samuel stuck his handgun outside a window in the front of the house and pointed it in the officers’ direction. All three of the officers took cover, White behind a stone wall. One of the initial two officers fired his gun at Pauly and missed. Officer White fired and killed Samuel Pauly.

In the civil suit the three officers asserted qualified immunity, But the plaintiffs responded that the defense was not available since court opinions in other circumstances had stated that a warning was required before the use of deadly force even under the threat of serious harm. Officer White could not reasonably assume that this warning had taken place before his arrival. The district court agreed and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling and ordered the case to go to trial. Officer White appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Court unanimously vacated this decision without oral argument in a brief per curiam opinion. Officer White had violated no clearly established law requiring a police officer facing an occupant pointing a firearm at him to identify himself and shout a warning before firing his weapon.

The Court pointed out that qualified immunity for law enforcement officers is important to society as a whole. Pre-existing law must give them fair and clear notice of impermissible conduct in order to invalidate the assertion of qualified immunity. Officer White’s conduct under the circumstances, especially his late arrival after the other officers had engaged the subjects, did not violate clearly established law. He could reasonably conclude in an ongoing police action that proper procedures had already been followed.

The case has been criticized as giving police a “license to kill.” But Supreme Court Justices are aware of the issues of the day. They watch TV. Maybe they are sending a signal that the courts should not second-guess law enforcement officers who have to make split second decisions on the use of deadly force by weakening qualified immunity.

Or perhaps they are just tired of the judiciary being asked to make social policy on confrontations between police and potentially dangerous subjects in the context of law suits against police.

Or maybe, like most garden variety per curiam opinions, the case represents a narrow ruling on a unique set of facts with little or no policy-making implications.

Widow of Rancher Shot During Wildlife Refuge Protest Is Suing FBI, State Police

Scene at federal wildlife refuge six weeks ago.

Scene at federal wildlife refuge earlier this year.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI and Oregon State Police are the targets of a potential lawsuit over the shooting of a rancher during a standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge.

The widow of Robert “Lavoy” Finicum said she plans to sue the state police and two FBI agents over the shooting near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Finicum, 54, acted as the spokesman for the anti-government protesters who occupied the refuge to protest charges filed against local ranchers.

Brian Claypool, an attorney for the widow, Jeanette Finicum, said he was motivated to file the suit after new evidence emerged in the case, including what appears to be shell casings from the FBI, which had denied pulling the trigger.

Finicum’s family said the man was “executed in cold blood.”

Family of Armed Militant Fatally Shot by Officers Outside Wildlife Refuge Claim Coverup

Burns, Oregon

Burns, Oregon

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The family of the man fatally shot by law enforcement officers after participating in the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon is claiming that the shooting was “unjustified” and the circumstances of his death are being covered up.

Reuters reports that relatives of Robert “LeVoy” Finicium issued a statement that claims the FBI and Oregon state police were “seeking to manipulate and mislead the media and the American public about what really happened.”

The FBI declined to comment on the claims but pointed to the aerial video of Tuesday’s shooting, which they have contended shows Finicium reaching for a gun in his coat pocket .

The family is demanding the release of any video footage recorded by police body cameras or dashboard cameras, as well as any audio recordings.

Secret Service Officer Accused of Soliciting Sex from Minor Suspected of Texting Others

Lee Robert Monroe

Lee Robert Monroe

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Secret Service officer accused of sending lewd photos to a Delaware State Police detective whom he believed was a minor is suspected of texting at least 10 minors, The Delaware News Journal reports.  

The new allegations are likely to make it more difficult for Lee Robert Monroe, 37, to get released from jail pending his trial.

Monroe is accused of soliciting sex online in the Delaware State Police case.

But authorities believe that may only be the beginning after allegations surfaced that he texted other minors.

FBI Task Force Cracks Down on 2 Gangs in Milwaukee

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI teamed up with police to crack down on gang activity in Milwaukee, resulting in eight search warrants and more than a dozen arrests beginning just after dawn Tuesday.

The MPD-FBI Gang Task Force recovered 10 guns, drugs and tens of thousands of dollars in alleged drug money, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. 

By Tuesday night, authorities were still searching for four men.

The focus of the task force was ATK, or Atkinson Ave., and HPT, or Hustlers, Pimps and Thugs.

“The hope is to significantly impact these two violent street gangs, to disrupt their operations, so we can restore some order to the neighborhoods where they operate,” said Capt. Thomas Stigler of the Milwaukee Police Department.

Expert Criminal Profiler Weighs in on How to Find Cop-Killing Suspect Eric Matthew Frein

Eric Frein

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

So how do you capture a cop-killing survivalist who has managed to elude police in Pennsylvania for 42 days?

Not many people would know more than Gregg O. McCrary, a retired criminal profiler for the FBI who spoke to the Scranton Times-Tribune in a report published Friday.

“He may be in one of those situations as ‘this is what we’re down to,'” McCrary said. “What places are he comfortable and familiar with? Eventually, they can flush him out into areas he’s not familiar with and that could be the end of the hunt.”

Eric Matthew Frein has been on the run after being accused of killing Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II, 38, of Dunmore, and wounding of Trooper Alex T. Douglass, 31, of Olyphant.

Authorities believe he has disappeared in the thicket of the Pocono Mountains.

Other Stories of Interest

Will Investigators Find Pennsylvania Fugitive Frein? Survivalists Have Record of Eluding Authorities

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When it comes to capturing survivalist fugitives, law enforcement has a spotty record, Reuters reports.

So when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett pledged to quickly capture Eric Matthew Frein, who is accused of gunning down two state troopers, some experts were naturally skeptical.

Law enforcement officials believe Frein is hiding in the Pocono Mountains after he’s been added to the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.”

Turns out, a third of the fugitives on that list “are avid outdoorsmen with skills to hide for years – if not a lifetime – in the wilderness,” Reuters wrote.

“He may have an elaborate plan that had multiple caches and multiple hides and be set up for a number of years. It doesn’t look like he just did it on a whim,” said Pat Patten, who owns Tactical Woodland Operations School in Franklin, North Carolina, which trains police to catch fugitives in the outdoors.

The FBI, for example, is still on the hunt for a skilled hunter, William Bradford Bishop Jr., who disappeared nearly 40 years ago, after the beating deaths of his wife, mother and three sons in Maryland.