Things That Matter

A Man Seated In A Vehicle Was Attacked By A K9 Unit And The Community Wants Answers

Police officer Dan Lesser resigned from a K-9 unit after using threatening language on a suspect who was inside a vehicle, then releasing a police dog on him. The Spokesman-Review discovered numerous revelations following the release of public records regarding the investigation into the officer’s conduct. 

The Washington paper discovered that a U.S. marshal and many of Dan’s supervisors did not approve of his actions, but failed to file formal complaints with internal affairs. 

The Spokesman-Review parsed through hundreds of pages of records of an internal investigation into Dan’s conduct. 

“The result of that meeting on 2-13-19 was that Officer Lesser resigned from the K9 unit,” Capt. Tom Hendren wrote in a report. “His resignation was accepted and he has since been reassigned to patrol.”

Dan used a police dog to attack a suspect in a vehicle. 

Dan, who was with his nephew and fellow officer Scott Lesser, was found to have violated his department’s policy when he threatened to kill a suspect. Dan and Scott were also reprimanded for not turning on their body cameras soon enough.

“I’m going to put a bullet in your brain,” Lesser told the suspect Lucas Ellerman. “I’m done f***ing with you.” 

Dan broke the windows of Ellerman’s vehicle and continued to threaten to kill him before telling Scott to get his police dog. 

“I’m coming. Please, don’t,” Ellerman says holding his hands up while climbing out of the backseat. “I’m coming. I’m coming. I’m coming.”

As the dog came closer, Ellerman insists that he doesn’t have a gun. Dan and Scott sicced the dog on Ellerman telling the dog “fass” which is the German command to bite. Ellerman was left with multiple puncture wounds on his leg which later got an infection. 

“I think at that point I’d already made a decision in my mind to already deploy my K-9,” Dan told internal affairs investigators. “Based on all the factors. Based on his active resistance. Based on the crimes. Based on the threats. Everything that I was told, he was armed with a handgun.”

Dan was faulted by supervisors for making violent threats at the suspect and failing to activate his body cam in time but they exonerated Dan for siccing the dog. 

However, the investigation records revealed that three superiors expressed dismay about Dan’s deployment of the animal, but none filed formal complaints with internal fairs as was required. 

Dan’s supervisors face criticism for failing to file formal complaints.

A U.S. marshal who chose to remain anonymous told police Ombudsman Bart Logue, who is an advocate for more oversight of internal affairs investigations, that they questioned Dan’s judgment in releasing the dog. The marshal also expressed serious concerns over the conduct of the police department’s Patrol Anti-Crime Team of which Dan belonged before he resigned. 

Three months before the department’s official investigation, Lt. Rob Boothe sought a second opinion on Dan Lesser’s conduct. Boothe who had been involved with several disciplinary reviews of Lesser feared he might be biased. With Sgt. John Everly’s approval he came to his decision. 

  1. “It is my belief that the suspect posed a potential threat of violence or serious bodily harm, but that threat was not imminent at the time of the application of the canine,” Boothe concluded in his report.

Another supervisor, Sgt. Sean Wheeler was also unconvinced that Ellerman posed a threat to Dan. 

“Ellerman eventually put his hands up and stated he was coming out as he crawled toward the front seat,” Wheeler wrote eight days after the arrest. “This is when Officer D. Lesser deployed his K9.”

While these supervisors were correct to take note of Dan’s behavior, they failed to file an official complaint as the department policy mandates. 

Logue finds the lack of transparency in the case unsettling. 

Because the supervisors failed to file formal complaints the ombudsman was not able to participate in interviews conducted by internal affairs investigators. Logue believes a lack of transparency is a major issue. It is unclear if Dan resigned of his own volition or received pressure from the department to do so — because the records don’t specify either way. 

“There should be nothing off the record” in an internal investigation, Logue said. “Thankfully we don’t have these kinds of cases a lot. But when we do, it seems critical to have all of these things happen aboveboard.”

He believes all of the interviews and conversations conducted should have been meticulously documented. Logue says the investigation “was not being done correctly and in accordance with policy,” until he filed a complaint of his own after being tipped off. 

“There is such a huge difference between an internal affairs investigation and a chain-of-command review,” Logue told the Spokesman-Review.

A Texas Police Officer Gave A Homeless Man A Sandwich Made From ‘Dog Feces’ And He’s Back To Work Already

Things That Matter

A Texas Police Officer Gave A Homeless Man A Sandwich Made From ‘Dog Feces’ And He’s Back To Work Already

@KoltenParker / Twitter

Congressman Joaquin Castro called out a San Antonio police officer who was fired after colleagues reported him for feeding a dog feces sandwich to a homeless man but who successfully appealed his case. The incident happened in 2016, but Castro was reacting to an investigative journalism series on KSAT-12 called “Broken Blue.” 

Matthew Luckhurst, a bicycle patrol officer, was placed on indefinite suspension after the act was reported. However, Luckhurst won his case appeal through a loophole last March. San Antonio authorities insist he is still suspended and has not been reinstated to his job. 

Joaquin Castro calls out the San Antonio Police Department.

“One police officer gave a feces sandwich to a homeless man, was fired, appealed, got his job back,” Castro said of the importance of the “Broken Blue” series’ examination of San Antonio police corruption. 

The Texas representative believes law enforcement unions court public distrust when they side with bad officers.

“Police unions too often stand by bad officers regardless of how bad they’ve acted. It severely undermines public trust. I also believe the umbrella unions, such as the AFL-CIO, have a responsibility to speak up to help change this,” Castro continued. “These are some of the reasons I cannot support the further expansion of collective bargaining specifically for police unions across the country. Not until the disciplinary process is fixed and bad officers are properly held accountable.”

City Manager Erik Walsh echoed Castro’s feelings on collective bargaining to KSAT news

“Current collective bargaining agreement limits the Chief’s ability to appropriately discipline officers that deserve to be disciplined. We intend to bring those issues to the next contract negotiation with the police union,” he said.

The San Antonio Police Association (SAPOA) responds to Castro’s tweets. 

SAPOA released a statement saying the “Broken Blue” series was nothing short of an attack on the San Antonio police. The statement called the series “misleading and sensationalistic” and said that the cases featured were old and resolved several years before. 

“This series attacks SAPOA and our members by saying we’re too powerful and that we make it difficult to remove ‘problem’ officers,” Michel Helle, president of SAPOA, said in a statement. “While I agree we’re a strong organization when it comes to the discipline and appeals process, our role is simple and transparent: ensure that the rights of officers are observed and protected.”

SAPOA claims that in 10 years there have only been 40 “indefinite suspension” cases with 2,300 total police officers, making up .00017 percent of the force. Skeptics might say a lack of disciplinary action doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of wrongdoing, which is precisely the issue many critics of law enforcement have.

In the Atlantic’s 2019 piece about police accountability, reporter Ted Alcorn suggests that local police departments lack the transparency that allows public scrutiny. 

“Compared with other institutions of municipal government, police departments are unusually insulated from scrutiny,” Alcorn wrote. “Whereas other agencies give the public an opportunity to comment on policy changes before they go into effect, the decisions of law enforcement may be shared only after the fact, if at all. While the police chief usually answers to the mayor, city councilors, or members of a police commission, those officials can be reticent about second-guessing their public-safety officials.”

Luckhurst was able to win his appeal through a legal loophole. 

Colleagues reported that on May 6, 2016, Luckhurst fed a dog feces sandwich to a homeless person while on bike patrol. While there were no witnesses to the incident or bodycam footage, police officers found out because Luckhursthad been allegedly bragging about it. 

At first, Luckhurst challenged the events. Instead, he claimed that while clearing an encampment filled with litter, he told a homeless man to toss a piece of feces with a piece of bread he had picked up. Then, Luckhurst challenged the May 6 date. He claimed he had medical documents that meant he wouldn’t have been able to bike from April 6 to June 14, 2016. 

An arbitrator decided that because of the date flub and a lack of evidence that Luckhurt’s indefinite suspension should be voided. His indefinite suspension was shortened to only five days. Last May, Chief William McManus said they overturned the decision because a policy requires punishments to be doled out with 180 days of the incident. 

“He is still facing a separate indefinite suspension and we will vigorously defend the decision to terminate him,” McManus said.

However, Luckhurst has not returned to work because of a different incident where he was placed on indefinite suspension. In June 2016, police allege that Luckhurst defecated in the woman’s bathroom stall at the police department’s Bike Patrol Office. Officers say he spread “a brown, tapioca-like substance” on a toilet seat, according to My SA. 

Luckhurst is currently on indefinite suspension while he awaits the outcome of this arbitration. 

A 6-Year-Old Girl Was Raped And Murdered And Her Suspected Attacker Was Burned Alive By Angry Residents

Things That Matter

A 6-Year-Old Girl Was Raped And Murdered And Her Suspected Attacker Was Burned Alive By Angry Residents

@WagingNonViolence / Twitter

Content warning: the following story contains details on two horrific crimes, including sexual abuse and violence against minors. Please reconsider reading this article if these issues are triggers.

A suspect pedophile and murderer was burnt alive by an angry mob in Chiapas, Mexico, after he was accused of ending the life of a 6-year-old girl.

Credit: SPD / Federal File

It is almost too gruesome and cruel to be believed. Alfredo Roblero, a 37-year-old man  from the municipality of Faja de Oro, was accused of sexually abusing and then decapitating Jarid N., a 6-year-old girl who was reported as missing on Thursday night.

Police officers from the neighboring city of Tapachula were called in and arrested Roblero. However, an angry mob pulled him out of the police vehicle. The mob took him to a public park, badly beat him, poured gasoline over his body and set him on fire. Some reports argue that the Tapachula police didn’t try to stop the attack.

As Mexico News Daily reports, the authorities later released a timid statement: “State police officers later arrived on the scene with forensics experts from the Chiapas Attorney General’s Office (FGE) to investigate. The FGE said it would ‘not allow the public to carry out justice by its own hand.” Sounds like too little, too late.

Sexual violence and murders against women is a sad and constant presence in Mexico’s social life, cases like this are a symptom of a much more generalized problem.

Credit: @WagingNonViolence / Twitter

There is no denying that to be a woman in Mexico is to be vulnerable. From archaic practices that see families basically selling their preteen daughters into marriage or prostitution to feminicides in various hotspots in the country including Ciudad Juarez and the State of Mexico, cases like Jarid N’s are scandalous but far from surprising.

There is a clear power imbalance when it comes to gender and physical threats to women are exacerbated by patriarchal discourses that basically shut down any form of political expression from women. In recent months, women have taken on the streets to protest, even painting over monuments that have long been held “sacred” by the State. But isn’t a woman’s life much more sacred than a piece of chiseled stone?

We would never condone such an act as violent and unlawful as lynching, but we gotta get some context on the justice system in Mexico.

Mexico has seen a rise in lynching in the last decade as corruption has seeped into every level of government and people have grown increasingly desperate when it comes to true justice being served. Oftentimes criminals just walk away after giving a juicy mordida (slang for bribe, but literally meaning “bite”) to the authorities, or just due to negligence or mismanagement of files and witness accounts.

Added to this, potential witnesses often feel intimidated by the authorities or the perpetrators and prefer to remain silent even if this means that unspeakable acts will go unpunished. So before you get on your high horse, take this context into account. As we said, we don’t condone this acts but the lawlessness in which vast sectors of Mexican society have survived helps explain why some see this as the only possible way in which justice can be served for someone who raped and severed the head of a little girl. 

There is also an ages-long mistrust of the government in Chiapas

The lynching of this man, as we said, is a crime in itself. It is important, however, to get some context. Chiapas, the southern state in which the lynching occurred, has a long history of mistrust of the Mexican government at one point the state even sought independence. Chiapanecos have been let down by everyone: members of every major political party (PRI, PAN, PRD) have governed the state and they have all come short on their promises. It is no coincidence that the now legendary Zapatista rebellion was born in this state. It would be a gross and big claim to say that all of this is directly related to the lynching, but these factors have certainly lay a fertile ground for citizens taking matters into their own hands.