Three police cars and two fire department trucks sustained damage. Huffman was in his patrol car writing a report at the time.
Fellow officers pulled out the windshield and dash off his car to rescue him, and brought out a “Jaws of Life” tool from one of the damaged firetrucks. Despite attempts to save Huffman, he was declared dead at the scene.
Records released Thursday say the driver was distracted by his cell phone, looking at numerous websites including Facebook, YouTube, female escort sites and porn sites.
While on Facebook, reports say Espinoza was looking at “photographs of several women in provocative positions, wearing little clothing … photographs of a woman in a low-cut dress,” and photos of a man “smoking something.”
In the video, Espinoza’s cell phone can be seen flying out of his hand in the crash. He allegedly placed his wallet over the phone in an attempt to hide it from his company’s dash camera.
Although federal law bans the use of electronic devices while driving a commercial vehicle, The Daily Star reports that Arizona does not have a distracted-driving law.
State Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, has been proposing such a law since 2007. The law would allow officers to stop someone for texting and issue a citation and fine.
“You can still save lives by not doing this,” Farley said. “Put down your phone. Turn it off if it’s too tempting.”
Senate President Andy Biggs of the Arizona State Legislature opposes a statewide texting ban while driving.
Espinoza now faces a litany of charges, including one count of second-degree murder, 13 counts of endangerment, and six of criminal damage. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Florida police officers embroiled in sex scandal after ‘groping employee, pressuring her for sex on-and-off duty and sending her graphic pictures over EIGHT years’
Sue Eberle is married with two children and admits having sex with up to a dozen officers
Detailed trysts they had in stations, patrol cars, motels and even a parking lot after a memorial service for slain officer
Said she has both consenting and coerced sex
Lakeland police Capt John Thomason, the highest-ranking LPD supervisor, retired after being named in scandal
DAILY MAIL / UK By Associated Press Reporter July 10, 2013
A sex scandal has erupted in Lakeland Police Department after an employee claims she was groped and pressured for sex by up to a dozen officers over eight years and detailed trysts in police and fire stations, patrol cars, motels and even in a parking lot after a memorial service for a slain officer.
Sue Eberle, 37, has told officials she had consensual and sometimes coerced sex with the officers and a firefighter and was once propositioned by a city worker in Lakeland.
Eberle’s accounts of the liaisons were largely corroborated by her sexual partners and others within the police department and published in a graphic, 59-page report written in an incredulous tone by the county’s top prosecutor.
It said the department’s problems investigating crimes might be caused by some high-ranking officers being more interested in having sex with Eberle – married mother-of-two – than doing their jobs.
‘The investigation revealed an extraordinary amount of sexual conduct that was committed both on-duty and off-duty,’ wrote Jerry Hill, Polk County’s state attorney, in the report dated June 25.
‘We find the conduct of a number of sworn officers, including some officers of rank, to be at best a waste of taxpayer dollars.
‘At worst their actions indicate a moral bankruptcy that exists amongst some individuals within the ranks at the Lakeland Police Department.’
Eberle, who has retained an attorney, recounted for Hill how she had sex in police cars, cemeteries and motels with different officers — and in the parking lot outside a reception that followed the December 2011 funeral of Officer Arnulfo Crispin, who had been fatally shot on duty.
She also said officers and some supervisors pressured her for sex, groped her while working and texted her photos of their genitalia.
‘She was a target. She was weak. And they knew that they could take advantage of that, so they preyed upon her. They preyed upon her, and that’s what’s so sick about it,’ Eberle’s attorney, David Linesch, said during a recent news conference.
Linesch’s spokeswoman said Eberle is not granting interviews at this time.
The Associated Press typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault but Eberle has gone public with her story, appearing alongside her attorney and husband at a recent news conference about the allegations.
The mother-of-two, is on paid administrative leave. Three city employees have resigned, and others – such as the former assistant chief of the department – have retired. Five other officers have been placed on either administrative leave or modified duty.
The scandal has stunned folks in Lakeland, a city of almost 100,000 people halfway between Tampa and Orlando.
‘It’s been devastating for the community,’ said Ellen Simms, who owns a framing shop in the city’s historic downtown.
‘The actions of a few are tarnishing the reputation of a good department. It’s heartbreaking.’
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating, while Hill’s office spent three months interviewing participants and witnesses.
In his report addressed to Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack, Hill also drew parallels between the sex scandal and other ‘shortcomings’ within the department, including recent problems with traffic stops, searches and investigations that have been detailed in The Ledger, Lakeland’s newspaper.
‘Had these members of your department been more focused on the important responsibilities of law enforcement, rather than pursuing sexual encounters with a civilian analyst, LPD might not be in the condition it is today,’ Hill wrote.
Womack wouldn’t comment on the report or the scandal – a Lakeland Police spokeswoman said all comments are being made from City Hall.
Womack was an outsider who had worked in Illinois and Texas when she became the department’s chief in March 2011.
‘Our hearts ache for Mrs Sue Eberle and her family, the citizens of Lakeland, and all the families and children who have been affected by this tragedy,’ Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields wrote in a statement.
Legislative leaders are furious and have asked Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to help get the department on track.
‘We find the State Attorney’s report on the behavior of the LPD officials to be shocking, revolting and a clear cause for action,’ wrote Rep Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland.
‘A culture which, at best lacks professionalism and at worst encourages the reckless behavior of LDP officials, is apparently pervasive and is an embarrassment to our community. This culture has unfortunately eroded the public’s confidence in the Lakeland Police Department.’
Eberle, through her attorney and in the state attorney’s report, said she was unable to fend off the sexual advances because she has been a victim of sexual assault in the past.
Initially, she didn’t want to speak with investigators – she balked at turning over her phone with text messages and photos, saying that it would hurt the officers’ families – but later decided to cooperate because she felt victimized and abandoned by the department.
Eberle also confided in a female officer friend, who initially doubted the stories until Eberle showed her some of the text messages and photos she had received from other officers.
The friend told Hill that she thought Eberle’s desire to please, inability to say no and sexual promiscuity made her a target.
While seven officers admitted to having sexual contact with Eberle, three other sergeants denied her claims and refused to take polygraph tests. Hill said he questioned the credibility of those sergeants.
The report also said that other employees knew about the encounters and didn’t report it to higher-ups.
The state attorney said he couldn’t prosecute the cases because of a lack of physical evidence and because so much time has passed since some of the sexual encounters.
However, Fields said the officers and employees involved are under an internal investigation and will be ‘disciplined to the fullest extent’ if found to have acted inappropriately.
Judd, the sheriff, wouldn’t discuss the legislators’ proposal for him to help the department. But in an email to the AP, he said he was willing to help Lakeland.
‘My whole family is from Lakeland. I grew up here,’ Judd wrote. ‘I care about Lakeland, its reputation, and the quality of life we enjoy here.
‘We cannot lose sight that there are many fine and hardworking officers at LPD who are outstanding public servants.’
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting a criminal investigation into the actions of Lakeland Police Department employees, FDLE and LPD officials confirmed this week, and it relates to two internal investigations by the department.
Lakeland Chief Lisa Womack requested help from FDLE investigators because of the seriousness of the allegations and the size of the investigation, Assistant Chief of Police Mike Link said.
“This was a pretty serious internal complaint that was lodged,” he said. “You also have to weigh these cases on the facts and merits. This was so large and complex and involved so many people, we thought it was best to request the assistance of an outside law enforcement agency.”
It’s not known when the criminal investigation will be complete, FDLE spokeswoman Deborah McDonald said. “There is a case we have (into LPD), but it’s still open.”
One of the internal investigations is ongoing, and no details were available, Link said.
The other was completed in January and resulted in the resignation of Officer Steve Sherman. In addition, crime analyst Sue Eberle was placed on paid administrative leave March 15. She remains employed by the department pending the outcome of the additional investigations, according to Link and records reviewed by The Ledger.
Sherman, 48, and Eberle, 37, did not respond to requests for comment made through the department.
Neither McDonald nor Link would comment on what potential illegalities might be involved in the criminal investigation or who it might target.
CARPENTERS WAY MEETING
The completed internal investigation stemmed from what Sgt. Jeff Gary saw while on a special assignment with the U.S. Secret Service on Sept. 8, according to investigative reports.
Gary was waiting for President Barack Obama’s motorcade to make its way down Interstate 4, and he was positioned to monitor the Carpenters Way overpass in North Lakeland. The motorcade was delayed for an hour, however, and Gary decided to drive around the area.
While driving around, he noticed a marked police car and a white sport-utility vehicle parked next to each other, but no drivers were in sight, reports said.
Gary drove around looking for the drivers but didn’t find anyone, reports said. He knew the area was patrolled by Officer Steve Sherman, who he knew was on duty that day. Gary looked up the registration information for the white SUV and found it belonged to Eberle.
Gary decided to monitor the vehicles from about 200 yards away. About 10 minutes later, he heard a call for Sherman and another officer to check on a reported residential burglary, reports said.
Gary heard Sherman respond he was on his way to the call, but Sherman’s radio transmission “sounded odd,” Gary told investigators. He said the sound was “very distinct” and that it had an “acoustical echo,” like a person who was inside a building.
Gary, who was still parked away from the vehicles, soon saw Sherman and Eberle coming out of one of the four buildings in the Carpenters complex, which is now owned by Without Walls International Church, reports said.
By the time Sherman got to his patrol car, he had been called off the burglary, Gary told investigators. Gary said he couldn’t determine which direction Sherman and Eberle had come from because of foliage that partially blocked his view.
The buildings on the church property had been ordered vacated by the Lakeland Fire Department in 2011, and numerous signs were posted on the buildings, according to reports and photographs in the investigation.
Sherman and Eberle told investigators there was nothing inappropriate with their relationship and that they were only friends, reports said.
Sherman’s account of what happened and how he responded to the call was different than Gary’s. Sherman said he responded appropriately until he was canceled from the call.
Investigators asked Eberle whether they could search her phone because she and Sherman had been text messaging each other, but she declined to cooperate. Eberle said she was text messaged by Sherman, who asked her if she wanted to tour the inside of the vacant buildings.
Investigators also noted in their report that there were many instances when Sherman’s and Eberle’s stories differed.
“There were several noted discrepancies between witness testimony obtained and statements made by both subject members involved in the investigation,” according to LPD’s internal investigators.
TOURS, FOOTBALLS AND GOLF CARTS
During the four-month investigation, investigators also learned Eberle wasn’t the only one who received a tour of the buildings, reports said.
Lakeland police Public Safety Aid Erica Link and her younger brother, Michael Link, who does not work for the department, were also given tours of the buildings by Sherman, according to reports. Both are the children of Assistant Chief Link.
During questioning, investigators learned from Erica Link that Sherman took several footballs and packages of light bulbs from inside one of the church buildings, but she hadn’t reported the incident because she didn’t know whether he had permission to do that, she told investigators.
Sherman said he just wanted to show them the inside of the buildings and that he didn’t know who the footballs belonged to, reports said.
During a separate incident, investigators also learned Sherman had accepted a golf cart as a gift from Without Walls Pastor Randy White, reports said.
Sherman had seen the broken-down golf cart on the church grounds and offered to make a donation to the church in return for it, but White gave it to him as a gift for his police service, investigators confirmed.
But once investigators talked to White, they also learned Sherman had never been given permission to enter any of the buildings or take any of the contents inside them.
The investigators’ findings were that Sherman violated the department’s general orders for job knowledge, competency and performance; conduct unbecoming; neglect of duty; unlawful conduct; and gratuities, reports showed.
Because of inconsistent statements and a lack of other witnesses, investigators gave a finding of “not sustained” on whether he violated the general order dealing with untruthfulness.
After reviewing the report, Chief Womack recommended firing Sherman, but he resigned in January before that could happen.
The State Attorney’s Office reviewed the case because of alleged criminal conduct by Sherman, but White did not want the matter prosecuted, Assistant State Attorney Brian Haas said.
The issue is a separate matter from what FDLE is investigating.
Sherman was hired by the department in 1997 and was paid about $64,000 a year.
The investigators’ findings were that Eberle had violated numerous policies, including required conduct and participation in an investigation; untruthfulness; and conduct unbecoming.
A preliminary finding of “other” was noted in the report for possibly violating the general order for unlawful conduct by Eberle, who was hired by the department in 2000 and makes about $42,000 a year.
“Ms. Eberle’s conduct impaired the operation of the department and the efficiency of another department member (Officer Sherman),” investigators said.
“Additionally, Ms. Eberle’s conduct during this incident and subsequent administrative investigation brings the department into disrepute, damages Ms. Eberle’s credibility, and reflects unfavorably upon her as an employee with the Lakeland Police Department.”
Direct Link: http://www.theledger.com/article/20130426/NEWS/130429456?p=1&tc=pg
Firefighter arrested for attacking cop outside Queens T.G.I. Friday’s
Lower East Side firefighter Angel Valerio and two pals mugged the off-duty copy and tried to swipe his gun at the Forest Hills eatery. Valerio faces seven years in prison if convicted. The other two men were still at large on Friday night.
New York Daily News by Kerry Burke & Thomas Tracy July 6, 2013
This member of New York’s Bravest had his Finest moment — but not in a good way.
Detectives busted Lower East Side firefighter Angel Valerio after he mugged an off-duty cop in Queens — and tried to run off with his gun, law enforcement sources said Friday.
The five-year FDNY veteran and three friends jumped the cop Sunday after a night of drinking at a Forest Hills T.G.I. Friday’s on Austin St. near 70th Road.
Incredibly, Valerio’s victim ID’d himself as a police officer and walked away — giving his assailants a free pass, the sources said. But the wolf pack instead followed the cop down the street, pummelled him and tried to run off with a backpack full of personal items, as well as the cop’s revolver, sources allege.
The boozy brawl began about 11:45 p.m. when Valerio and his friends stumbled out of the restaurant and clashed with the unnamed member of New York’s Finest on his way home from work.
Within moments, one of Valerio’s crew punched the cop, a complete stranger, sources said.
“The whole thing started off as a fight,” according to one source.
No NYPD equipment was in the backpack, sources said.
The cop managed to break free and run off, sources said. He was taken to a nearby hospital with bruises and scratches.
Sources said detectives connected the thieving crew to the T.G.I. Friday’s and finally to Valerio, who was charged at his arraignment with attempted robbery, assault and attempted criminal possession of a weapon for trying to grab hold of the cop’s weapon.
Valerio’s accomplices remained at large Friday night.
The firefighter was set free just before midnight after paying $1,000 in bail Friday night and is due back in court on July 29, according to a spokeswoman from Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office.
If convicted, he faces seven years in prison.
His family didn’t know what to make of the arrest.
“We don’t know the full story yet,” Angel Valerio Sr. said from the family’s Bushwick home before hurridly hanging up the phone.
Valerio, who makes roughly $45,000 a year, is assigned to Engine Company 15 on Pitt St. in Manhattan.
An FDNY source said Valerio’s expected to be suspended now that he’s been arraigned.
Police dog paws his final farewell at casket of fallen master
Figo saw his K-9 trainer Jason Ellis die 5 days earlier in an ambush in Bardstown, Ky. The town’s police chief told the Daily News that Ellis and Figo helped reduce the drug problem in their community over the past few years.
New York Daily News by Michael Walsh June 3, 2013
Man’s best friend and a brother in blue — two unbreakable bonds, even after death.
Figo, a police dog, bowed his muzzle and reached his paw out to touch the smooth wood of a casket. On the other side lay K-9 Officer Jason Ellis, 33, who died five days earlier in an ambush.
As a canine, Figo could never understand all that goes into keeping Bardstown, Ky., safe. But the human toll in the line of duty, the loss of a friend… he got that.
“Figo was almost giving him that final hug goodbye. I think that picture brought more tears than anything,” Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin told the Daily News.
Their connection was palpable before Ellis’ burial at High View Cemetery in the nearby town of Chaplin. Together, Ellis and Figo made a dent in the local community’s drug problem over the last few years, McCubbin explained.
“Ellis knew that Figo was a great partner,” McCubbin said. “When you are a canine cop you have one of the best partners in the world. He had the dog for several years and his boys basically grew up with Figo around.”
McCubbin retired Figo from service Friday so he could live with Ellis’ family, providing the young boys a connection with their father.
In the days after his death, officers transformed a cop car parked in front of their station into a memorial. Other well-wishers held candlelight vigils, organized a fund for Ellis’ family and established a scholarship for students wishing to pursue law enforcement.
Another memorial service took place on the Glen Este High School baseball field, where Ellis wore No. 5 before playing minor league baseball.
Anyone with information concerning Ellis’ death is asked to contact the Bardstown Police Department 502-348-6811, Kentucky State Police 800-222-5555 or Nelson County Dispatch 502-348-3211. As of June 3, the award for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for his death is $125,000.00.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #43 and Ellis’ family established the Officer Jason Ellis Memorial Fund and Officer Jason Ellis Reward Fund. Contributions may be made through the Wilson & Muir Bank & Trust Co.