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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Did Veteran Affairs Police Kill Dialysis Patient Jonathan Montano?

     On May 25, 2011, 65-year-old military veteran Jonathan Montano sat in a chair with an IV shunt in his arm waiting for his dialysis treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Loma Linda, California. Norma Montano, Jonathan's wife of 44 years, waited with him in the federal medical facility located in San Bernardino County east of Los Angeles. After waiting four hours for his dialysis treatment, Mr. Montano informed a nurse that, tired of waiting, he had decided to seek dialysis at the VA hospital in Long Beach. Jonathan sent Norma to fetch the car.

     A VA nurse informed the patient that he was not authorized to leave the hospital. When it became obvious that Mr. Montano disagreed with that policy, and began to leave, the nurse called for muscle in the form of armed, uniformed officers with the Department of Veteran Affairs Police. (That's right, they have their own police force. The VA police exist to deter and prevent crime, and investigate criminal incidents within the VA system.)

     As the feeble veteran made his way to the hospital door, two VA police officers tackled him to the ground. The stunned patient's head bounced off the floor, and he ended up being pinned down with an officer's knee in his back, and the other officer's boot on his neck. The brute force caused the dissection of the veteran's carotid artery, and this led a blood clot that caused a stroke.

     Jonathan Montano had come to the VA hospital in Loma Linda for dialysis, and ended up being manhandled by in-house police. Apparently in the VA system, patients who express their disapproval of the poor service are punished. Mr. Montano would have been better off if he had been simply ignored, or at least to be allowed to find care elsewhere.

     As the VA cops were brutalizing her husband, Norma sat in the car waiting for him to walk out of the hospital. She had no idea that his walking days were over. When he didn't appear at the door, she re-entered the hospital to find him. Perhaps medical personnel were finally hooking him up to a dialysis machine.

     According to the VA doctor who spoke to Norma about her husband, the patent had fallen and suffered a stroke. This of course, was a lie, apparently standard procedure at VA hospitals. Norma learned of the doctor's lie when a nurse pulled her aside and informed her of really happened to Mr. Montano. (Thank God for government whistleblowers.)

     Jonathan Montano, on June 11, 2011, two and a-half weeks after being slammed to the hospital floor and pinned with a VA boot on his neck, died. Hospital authorities listed stroke as the cause, and natural as the manner of his death. As a result of this fabrication, no one in an official position called for a criminal investigation.

     In May 2014, Norma Montana and her two adult children filed a civil suit in federal court against the  Loma Linda VA hospital. The plaintiffs sought punitive, compensatory, and emotional stress damages for Mr. Montano's wrongful death at the hands of the VA police officers. The government stood accused, in connection with this veteran's violent death, of committing the torts of negligence and false imprisonment. There was also, and this shouldn't surprise anyone, a bureaucratic cover-up.

     The Jonathan Montano wrongful death action should trigger a criminal investigation by the FBI, but  that is unlikely. Bureaucrats are mainly concerned about people who commit crimes against the government. The government, however, doesn't commit crimes against the people. For example, IRS agents can do whatever they want. But if you don't pay your taxes, you are in big trouble. Apparently, veterans who try to leave dysfunctional VA hospitals for better care are also in big trouble. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Scotland Yard Detective Ryan Coleman-Farrow: Selling Out Sex Crime Victims

     Ryan Coleman-Farrow joined London, England's Metropolitan Police Department (commonly referred to as Scotland Yard) in 2000. As a bright and ambitious officer, he rose to the rank of junior detective, then became a detective constable (DC). Assigned to the Kingston-upon-Thames area in southwest London, DC Coleman-Farrow, as a member of a specialized unit, investigated sexual offenses.

     In late 2005, the detective and his wife were divorced, and less than a year later, Coleman-Farrow was diagnosed with skin cancer. Problems in a police officer's personal life are not supposed to affect his professional duties, but in this officer's case, they did affect his performance as a sex crime investigator.

     In 2010, investigators with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), in addressing numerous citizen complaints that DC Coleman-Farrow had neglected his professional responsibilities and had attempted to cover-up his failings, launched an investigation of the detective. The internal inquiry focused on 32 of DC Coleman-Farrow's cases during the period January 2007 to September 2010.

     Investigators with the IPCC, in reviewing DC Coleman-Farrow's work in the 32 cases involving rape and pedophilia, found that this officer had deliberately sabotaged prosecutable crimes just to lighten his caseload. In several instances, the Scotland Yard detective had falsely informed victims that their cases had been dropped for lack of evidence. Coleman-Farrow had also reported to his supervisors that victims in these cases had withdrawn their criminal complaints. The detective failed to submit crime scene evidence for crime lab analysis, and fabricated forensic reports that indicated negative results.

     When questioned by IPCC investigators, Coleman-Farrow admitted that he had lied to his supervisors and to crime victims. He also confessed to destroying physical evidence, and to fabricating crime lab reports. The author of the IPCC report described Coleman-Farrow as "a rogue officer who deceived his colleagues and concocted evidence to cover his tracks."

     The IPCC findings led to DC Coleman-Farrow's dismissal from Scotland Yard. In May 2012, a month after his firing, the Crown's Prosecution Service charged the former officer with 13 counts of misconduct in public office. According to prosecutor Mark Heywood, the defendant had "wilfully engaged in conduct amounting to an abuse of the public's trust."

     In September 2012, the 30-year-old former sex crime detective pleaded guilty to all 13 counts of public office misconduct. At his sentencing hearing on October 23, 2012, Coleman-Farrow's defense counsel, Robert Atchley, in arguing for leniency before Judge Alistair McCreath, said, "This was not corruption and not even laziness....These failures were due to poor health over part of three years. His [Coleman-Farrow's] major failing is not sharing it [his health problems] with anyone else, and in particular those he worked for." (It seems to me this officer's "major failing" was letting rapists and child abusers off the hook. One of these offenders had raped his 96-year-old mother.)

     Judge MCreath, before handing down his sentence, said this to the defendant: "In all 13 cases you failed to take steps that were appropriate and necessary for a full and proper investigation whether by failing to take statements or to gather exhibits [physical evidence] or to pass material on to other agencies for further investigation or analysis."

     Judge McCreath sentenced Ryan Coleman-Forrow to sixteen months in prison. In my view, the former investigator got off light.    

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Cypress, Texas Rape Case: Why No Arrest?

     Shortly before midnight on Tuesday, February 5, 2013, movie-goers leaving a theater in Cypress, Texas, a Houston bedroom community in northwest Harris County, saw a teenage girl walking aimlessly about the Cinemark Cypress parking lot. The nude, unnamed 16-year-old was drenched in blood from a severe head wound. The theater security guard called 911 while several of the theater patrons attended to the dazed girl. Paramedics transported the Cypress Woods High School student by helicopter to a Houston hospital where she remained in critical but stable condition.

     According to the victim, she had left her home around eleven that night after an argument with a family member. While walking along Spring Cypress Road not far from the high school, a man knocked her to the ground with a hatchet. He dragged her into the woods where he raped her while she played dead. She described the man who ambushed her as a white male in his early twenties who was thin, muscular and between five-foot-seven and five-foot-ten inches tall. He work dark-colored clothing. After the assault, the victim walked a half mile to the theater parking lot.

     K-9 officers with the Harris County Sheriff's Office searched the rape site for the suspect. If the deputies came across physical evidence pertaining to the rape or the attacker, they did not reveal this information to the media.

     A woman told the police she had seen a suspicious man that night at a grocery store. The witnesses said that this man's knuckles were bloody. "Not overly bloody," she said, "but you could tell he'd been in a scuffle." Presumably, detectives followed up on this lead.

     A second witness reported seeing a sweaty man in the area that night. Described as thin and wearing a gray shirt, he walked with his head down. The witness, before she learned of the rape, assumed this man had come out of a nearby 24-hour fitness center.

     A third witnesses claimed to have seen a man in bloody clothes enter a gas station restroom. According to this witness, when the man came out of the restroom he was wearing a clean set of clothing. It is not known if detectives were able to identify this man.

     On February 10, 2013, the Harris County Sheriff's Office released a composite sketch of the rapist. This was not good news because it indicated that the police, five days into the investigation, did not have a suspect.

     Two and a half years have passed since the movie-goers saw the bloody teen walking about in the parking lot. There has been no arrest in the case, or a sign that detectives have a suspect. Moreover, there has been nothing in the papers or on television about the status of the investigation. This apparent lack of police progress and media silence has created frustration and fear in the community. Could there be a serial rapist on the loose?

     The lack of information in the Cypress rape case has also fueled speculation about a possible cover-up, and rumors that the rapist was a football player who is enrolled at Cypress Woods or Cypress Ranch High School.

     Residents of the Cypress community, in the absence of an arrest, would at least like to know if investigators have recovered the hatchet. Did they find the girl's bloody clothing in the woods where she said she had been raped? Did the rapist leave behind trace evidence to confirm sexual intercourse, evidence that would link him to the assault through DNA? Did the police employ a rape kit? Is there any chance the victim knew the person who assaulted her? And finally, with whom did she have the argument that night, and what was it about?

     The lack of information and apparent progress in this case could mean several things, all of them bad. If the few pieces of information known about this crime are true, the rapist should have been caught by now. The rapist must have been covered in physical evidence that would link him to the victim. Someone would have noticed this, and notified the authorities. DNA analysis would then confirm or not confirm the suspect's guilt.

     Let's hope the Cypress case hasn't been bungled. If it hasn't been mishandled, there is a possibility investigators have problems with the victim's story. The fact the media isn't demanding answers in the case makes you wonder about the status of journalism in the Houston area.


     

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Police Sergeant Scott Biumi Blows Top and Pulls Gun at McDonald's Drive-Thru

     A frustrated cop with a short fuse and a gun can be dangerous. Being threatened at gun-point by an out-of-control police officer isn't any less frightening than being mugged by an armed robber. It may even be worse because if you're killed by a cop, people will assume you were doing something wrong. If you're not killed, and complain, who's going to take your word over a police officers? That's when it's helpful to have credible witnesses, and better yet, surveillance camera footage.

     Eighteen-year-old Ryan Mash, on April 9, 2013, was in his pickup truck with two friends at a McDonald's in Forsyth County, Georgia. As he waited at the take-out window for his order, Scott Biumi, a sergeant with the Dekalb County  Police Department, got out of the vehicle idling behind the pickup. Biumi approached the truck and stationed himself between Mash and the McDonald's service window. The young men in the truck noticed a police badge attached to the belt of the angry McDonald's customer yelling at Mash.

     "Stop holding up the drive-thru," the officer screamed. As the stunned young men tried to comprehend what was happening, a berserk Biumi continued to chew-out Mash. At one point in the tirade, he said, "You never know who you're dealing with."

     "No sir, I don't," Mash replied.

     "Keep you're mouth shut!" Buimi warned.

     "I'm sorry for the inconvenience," Mash replied.

     The 48-year-old officer returned to his vehicle, but before the McDonald's food came out of the window, Buimi came steaming back to the driver's side of the pickup. (Mash must have felt like he was in a horror movie.) This time the officer pulled his gun and pointed it at the terrified driver. "You don't want to mess with me!" Biumi shouted. After dishing out another thirty seconds of verbal abuse, the gun-wielding cop returned to his vehicle.

     Before pulling out of McDonald's (on this day not a happy place), one of Mash's passengers jotted down the license number to the gunman's car. The entire confrontation was also recorded by a McDonald's surveillance camera.

     Later in the day of the McDonald's drive-thru blowup, deputies with the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office took officer Biumi into custody on the charge of aggravated assault. The following day, the Dekalb County police officer was released from jail on a $22,000 bond.

     Sergeant Biumi was placed on administrative leave with pay. The incident, in addition to an investigation by the Dekalb County Internal Affairs Office, was looked into by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council.

     The  Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council suspended Biumi's law enforcement certification which denied him employment as a police officer in the state. In December 2013, after Biumi's guilty plea, a judge sentenced the ex-cop to ten years probation.

     In March 2014, a year after officer Biumi's meltdown in the McDonald's drive-through, an Atlanta television station aired an update on the case. According to the piece, officer Biumi had struggled with mental illness, serious depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety for 25 years while he was on the force. During this time he also had suicidal tendencies.

     Buimi's McDonald's incident victim, Ryan Mash, told the TV reporter that, "I was terrified. The second I saw the gun I blacked out. If it had been me that pulled a gun on somebody, I would be in jail right now.

     To the reporter, Mark Bullman, Mash's attorney, sarcastically asked, "Someone who disassociates himself from reality is a person you give a gun to and expect to enforce the law? I believe the county bears a significant responsibility."