Oct 24 2013

October 22 anti-police brutality rally at Lynn City Hall

Dr. Q

For years now, October 22 has been set as the “National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation,” a day when people gather around to country to hold grassroots rallies to protest police violence in their communities. I attended one such rally in Lynn, Massachusetts where family members of Denis Reynoso and their supporters gathered outside the Lynn City Hall.

Reynoso was an Iraq war veteran who was shot to death in his own home by Lynn police officers who entered without a warrant. Police have claimed that they shot Reynoso in self-defense after he tried to grab a police officer’s weapon.

The investigation into the shooting is being handled by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office, but the family has called for an independent investigation.

At the October 22 rally, people gathered outside city hall. After a while, an open mic (and later, a bullhorn) was set up. A number of people talked about Denis Reynoso while others recounted their own personal experiences. I recorded most of the speeches, but I made an amateurish mistake and ended up losing my video. A number of other people were recording the speeches, so I’ll post links to their videos if they are shared online.

There was also a rally for Reynoso on October 5 which I reported on. At that rally, protesters first gathered at the Lynn Commons then marched to the police station. Reynoso’s wife Jessica Spinney entered the police station and handed in a petition asking for an independent investigation and changes to the Lynn Police Department’s use-of-force policies.

The Daily Item reports that Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger has said that “If anyone else wants to come in and look at this [the shooting] — a legitimate entity or agency — you will have our full cooperation. We have nothing to hide.” However, James Lamanna, the attorney for the city, has refused to share records about the shooting with the family’s attorney, Howard Friedman. Lamanna told the Item that the DA advised him not to disclose the records yet.

You can sign an online petition calling on Lynn Mayor Judith Kennedy and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to provide an independent investigation of the Denis Reynoso shooting here.

Below, you can see some photos I took at the rally.






You can see a few additional photographs here.

Oct 7 2013

Rally for Denis Reynoso — Iraq war vet killed by the Lynn police

Dr. Q

On September 5 of this year, police entered the home of Iraq war veteran Denis Reynoso in Lynn, Massachusetts without a warrant and shot him to death. The police have said little about the shooting, but claimed that Reynoso was shot because he tried to grab a police officer’s gun. The shooting investigation is currently being handled by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office.

On October 5, exactly one month after the shooting, family members of Reynoso and their supporters gathered in Lynn to demand an independent investigation of the shooting. The protest began at the Lynn Commons where several people gave speeches criticizing the Lynn police. After the speeches ended, we all marched to the Lynn Police Station. Jessica Spinney, Denis Reynoso’s wife, entered the police station to hand in a petition calling for an independent investigation and changes to the Lynn Police Department’s use-of-force policies.

After Jessica left the police station, the protest continued on for some time. Many of the protesters eventually began marching a second time. I heard they were marching to the church the family attends, but I left the protest at this point.

I took dozens of photos at the protest and shot some video as well.

You can sign an online petition here calling on Lynn Mayor Judith Kennedy and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to provide an independent investigation of the Denis Reynoso shooting.

Raw videos:

The mainstream media’s reporting on the shooting:

Boston Globe:

Lynn Daily Item:

Lynn Journal:

Fox 25:


Sep 30 2013

State trooper charged with OUI in crash that killed mother and daughter

Dr. Q

The Boston Globe reports:

A state trooper is being charged with drunken driving in a head-on collision in Plymouth that killed a Carver mother and daughter last Sunday, Plymouth police said Saturday.

The trooper, 25-year-old John J. Basler of Kingston, will face charges of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and carrying a firearm while under the influence of liquor, according to Plymouth police, and more charges could follow.

Susan Macchi, 64, of Carver, and her 23-year-old daughter, Juliet Macchi, were killed in the crash, which occurred just after midnight last Sunday on Federal Furnace Road.

Basler, who was sworn in as a state trooper in March 2012, was not on duty at the time of the crash, said State Police spokesman David Procopio in a statement.

State Police have temporarily relieved Basler of duty and have revoked his license to carry a firearm, Procopio said.

Chief Michael Botieri of Plymouth police said it was particularly disturbing to learn through the course of the accident investigation that the tragedy appeared to be caused by a law enforcement officer.

“It’s very difficult,” Botieri said, “but none of these kinds of investigations are easy.”

Susan Macchi, who was driving the car at the time of the crash, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her daughter, Juliet, died later at Jordan Hospital in Plymouth.

Basler, who had been assigned to the State Police barracks in Milton, will be asked to appear at a duty status hearing early this week, where it will be determined whether he will be suspended while the criminal charges are prosecuted. Initially, police said they did not believe alcohol or speed were factors in the crash.

Because of Basler’s injuries, he will be summonsed to Plymouth District Court once he has had more time to recover. As police continue to investigate the crash, additional charges could be brought against him, Botieri said.

Read the rest of this article here.

Update (10/3/2013): Basler has been suspended from his job indefinitely without pay.

The Boston Herald reported yesterday that:

A rookie trooper charged with killing a Carver mother and daughter in a head-on crash in Plymouth last month was suspended without pay indefinitely today, state police said.

The announcement was made following a duty status hearing for Trooper John Basler, 25, of Kingston, at state police headquarters in Framingham,

“Additionally,” spokesman David Procopio said, “the department’s Internal Affairs Section will open an investigation into Basler’s conduct to determine if he violated departmental rules and policies.”

Basler is charged with operating under the influence the night of Sept. 22. He will be summonsed to Plymouth District Court. As of this morning, no arraignment date had been set.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles has suspended his license to drive.

Update (10/11/13): Yesterday, The Boston Globe reported that Basler has plead not guilty to the charges against him.

John J. Basler, who has been suspended without pay from the department he joined last year, pleaded not guilty in his Plymouth District Court arraignment to operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and carrying a firearm under the influence of alcohol.

Basler, 25, walked into the courthouse with a cane and was accompanied by two attorneys and two men in suits.

The arraignment lasted less than two minutes, and there was no further information disclosed about the crash that killed Susan Macchi, 64, and her daughter, Juliet Macchi, 23.

Through his attorneys, Richard Rafferty and Michael Erlich, Basler waived the reading of criminal charges. The office of Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz did not ask for bail.

Judge Brian F. Gilligan ordered Basler released on personal recognizance with the requirement that he not drink alcohol or possess firearms.

Basler, who walked with a limp, was silent during the brief court appearance and did not speak to reporters as he left the courthouse and boarded a waiting SUV.

In a report released this week, Plymouth police said the crash happened shortly after midnight Sept. 22 when Basler was driving to his home in Kingston after attending a party in Wareham.

While witnesses at the party told police that Basler consumed one beer during the night, State Police said they later determined that Basler had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08, according to the report.

Video from CBS Boston here:

Sep 1 2013

Goodbye Officer Friendly – Hello ‘Warrior Cop’

Dr. Q

By Rick Holmes

Eurie Stamps was just one innocent victim of the militarization of local police

Just after midnight on Jan. 5, 2011, Framingham police smashed through two doors of Eurie Stamps’ home, threw a flash-bang grenade through a broken window and invaded. Stamps, a 68-year-old grandfather, was in his bedroom in his pajamas, watching sports on TV.

The assault on the modest home played out like a military raid. Within seconds, an officer had Stamps face-down on the floor, his M4 assault carbine inches away from his back, the safety switch turned off. Investigators later concluded that the officer stumbled over Stamps and his gun went off. Within seconds, he was dead.

Stamps was suspected of no crime; no guns were found in the home. Framingham police were serving a search warrant related to a non-violent drug offense. They captured their target, Stamps’ stepson, on the street outside the home before the raid was launched. They launched it anyway.

Friends called the retired transit worker a “gentle giant” and “a stand-up guy.” He left behind a large family, including 12 grandchildren.

The killing of Eurie Stamps Sr. wasn’t a mistake, and it wasn’t a tragedy. It was a symptom of what has happened to America’s police forces since government started declaring war on domestic crimes.

There are as many as 50,000 SWAT raids like that every year, according to academic studies, and very few of them involve hostage situations or violent threats for which SWAT teams were supposedly created. The vast majority of SWAT deployments are for serving warrants in non-violent drug cases, though the military tactics have also been used to break up charity poker and to bust bars for underage drinking.

Stamps is one of at least 50 innocent people killed in SWAT raids targeting non-violent consensual crimes like drugs and gambling, journalist Radley Balko says. All were killed when police, who are supposed to prevent violence, instead applied lethal force to situations where no violence was threatened.

We’ve become so used to these raids that it’s easy to forget that, not long ago, the idea of local police smashing down the door of a quiet house in the middle of the night was unthinkable. The principle that a citizen’s home was his castle, safe from unannounced raids by government agents, predates the Declaration of Independence.

Before Richard Nixon declared “war on crime,” followed by presidential declarations of war on drugs and war on terror, there was a clear distinction drawn between cops and soldiers. Police dressed in blue, with badge numbers or name tags identifying individual officers. They carried billy clubs and revolvers, weapons appropriate for walking beats on neighborhood streets.

SWAT teams today dress in black, with body armor and sometimes masks. It’s no wonder that when they crash into homes in the middle of the night, yelling obscenities and pointing guns at people – and often shooting family dogs, Balko reports – they are sometimes assumed to be criminal gangs.

Framingham’s SWAT team, like many, dresses in jungle camouflage, matching the camo paint on their military-issue armored personnel carrier. It’s a uniform I’ve never understood. Do they plan to hide out in the jungles of Massachusetts? Who would they be hiding from?

These fashion statements come with new laws, new tactics and a new attitude. Goodbye Officer Friendly. Hello “Warrior Cop.”

In his new book, “The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces,” Balko shows how this transformation took place. A procession of politicians exploited fears sparked by rising crime in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Compliant judges upheld new laws authorizing “no-knock raids” and forced entry warrants. Federal grants encouraged the flow of military hardware to local police departments. Asset forfeiture laws giving a portion of assets seized from criminal suspects to local police made it more profitable to spend police resources chasing drug dealers than those who commit violence or property crimes.

There were no paramilitary police units before 1969, when the first SWAT team was created in Los Angeles. Now they are everywhere. Balko estimates that 80 percent of communities with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 have SWAT teams.

And if you’ve got a SWAT team, and a warehouse full of military equipment – local police now get grants to purchase helicopters, tanks, even bayonets – you might as well use them. So the Framingham SWAT team showed up at the Stamps house in full battle gear, nearly two dozen officers, with paramedics and firefighters along for the ride. They smashed the doors with government-issue battering rams. They threw a flash-bang grenade into the apartment to scare every living thing into submission.

Winding back the policies encouraging militarization will be tough, Balko writes, but even more troubling is the mindset that has come with it. Police recruitment videos and popular culture celebrate breaking down doors and blowing things up. Police policies and rhetoric give force protection a higher priority than citizens’ rights.

Crime rates have fallen dramatically in the last 20 years, not because of aggressive police tactics – drug use, the main target of those tactics, has not noticeably declined – but in spite of them. But the militarization continues, and it is now being pushed by defense contractors and what Balko calls a growing “police-industrial complex.”

But there is hope. A new generation of political leaders is challenging the war on drugs and the mass incarceration model for criminal justice. They should all read Balko’s book, and begin an overdue discussion of the difference between a civilian police force and an army of occupation.

Rick Holmes, opinion editor for the Daily News, blogs at Holmes & Co. (http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/holmesandco). He can be reached at [email protected]

This article was originally published by The MetroWest Daily News. It has been republished under a Creative Commons license per MetroWest Daily News policy.

Jul 3 2013

State police kill drug suspect during raid

Dr. Q

The Telegram & Gazette reports that State Police killed a drug suspect during a raid in Orange this morning.

State troopers fatally shot an armed man on Mechanic Street early this morning when he confronted troopers during a drug raid, according to state police.

The shooting happened around 5 a.m. in a second-floor apartment at 18 Mechanic St.

Members of the state police Special Tactical Operations Team were attempting to search the apartment as part of a drug investigation into the alleged sale of Oxycodone and Percocet. Police said they had a warrant.

According to state police, the unidentified 23-year-old victim was known to have weapons. Authorities said they used the tactical team because of the possibility the target of the warrant would be armed.

State police have not publicly identified the man, a resident of the apartment..

An unidentified 25-year-old woman who also lived in the apartment – also a subject of the drug investigation – suffered an eye injury and is being treated at a local hospital.

This makes no sense. If the man was known to be armed, why would police break into his home at 5 in the morning? It’s almost as if the police wanted him to think they were burglars so he would grab his gun and they’d have an excuse to shoot.

Radley Balko, who has written extensively about so-called “no-knock” drug raids observes the following in his book Overkill:

[P]olice typically serve [no-knock] warrants just before dawn, or in the hours just before sunrise. They enter the residence unannounced or with very little notice. The subjects of these raids, then, are woken from deep sleep, and their waking thoughts are confronted with the prospect that their homes are being invaded. Their first reaction is almost certainly alarm, fear, and a feeling of peril. Disorienting devices like flashbang grenades only compound the confusion.

It isn’t difficult to see why a gun owner’s first instinct upon waking to a raid would be to disregard whatever the intruders may be screaming at him and reach for a weapon to defend himself. This is particularly true of someone with a history of violence or engaged in a criminal enterprise like drug dealing. But it’s also true of a law-abiding homeowner who legally owns guns for the purpose of defending his home and family.

When Whitey Bulger was arrested, the FBI didn’t kick down his door because they knew he was armed and dangerous. Instead, they used a ruse to lure him out of his apartment, then arrested him without incident.

The State Police could have done someone similar or they could have just waited for the man to leave his house before arresting him. Instead, they chose to kick in his door and now he’s dead because of it.

According to the Telegram, “The incident is under investigation by state police and the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.” Why is it that the State Police are allowed to investigate themselves when they kill someone?

I’ll try to post updates about this case as soon as more information becomes available.

Update (same day as original post):

For people who are unfamiliar with what these raids are like, I just wanted to include a couple videos. These are not videos of the raid in Orange, but they should give you some perspective. These videos are incredibly disturbing, so I wouldn’t watch them if you’re squeamish.

Utah police kill man for holding a golf club while breaking into his home at night (I’ve written about this raid before here):

Missouri police shoot man’s dogs, terrorize his family, and arrest him on marijuana charges after breaking into his home at night: