[Hpn] Cops Indicted in Dog Attack on Homeless Man: FBI/Justice probes may expand expand

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Thu, 21 Sep 2000 13:08:34 -0700 (PDT)


http://www.washingtonpost.com/cgi-bin/gx.cgi/AppLogic+FTContentServer?pagename=w
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2 PR. GEORGE'S OFFICERS INDICTED IN DOG ATTACK

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday , September 21, 2000 ; page A01

A federal grand jury in Greenbelt yesterday indicted two Prince George's
County police officers on charges that they had a police dog bite an
unresisting homeless man. A former Takoma Park detective -- now an FBI
agent -- was charged with covering up the assault by charging the man with
burglary.

The indictment alleges that Cpl. Anthony Delozier  asked a Takoma Park
officer if a county police dog could "take a bite" out of the homeless man,
one of two men officers had found on the roof of a Takoma Park printing
company during a stakeout for burglars.

Officer Stephanie Mohr then released her county police dog, which bit
Ricardo G. Mendez, now 27, according to the indictment.

Soon afterward, another officer, who was not identified in the indictment,
struck the second man who had been found on the roof, Jorge Herrera-Cruz,
now 36.

The indictment charges that Brian Rich, then a Takoma Park police detective
and now an FBI agent in New Jersey, helped cover up the assaults by
charging the two men with burglary, though there was no evidence against
them.

Attorneys for Mohr and Delozier said their clients are innocent. The name
of Rich's attorney could not be learned.

Maryland U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia said during a news conference
yesterday that details about the incident, which occurred five years ago
today, did not come to light until recently.

"It's distressing to all of us that we didn't know about this earlier,"
Battaglia said. The prosecutor said several officers besides Mohr, Delozier
and Rich were at the scene.

"There is the proverbial blue wall of silence that makes it difficult to
investigate these cases," said Michael Clemens, assistant FBI agent in
charge of the Baltimore field office, which investigated the case.

Bill Lann Lee, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division,
said, "No one is above the law, and no one is so humble that he or she
falls outside the protection of the laws."

The indictment was returned one day before the statute of limitations would
have expired. Officials would not say how they learned of the incident;
since April 1999, the Justice Department has been conducting a broad civil
rights investigation into whether the county police canine unit engages in
a pattern of brutality. The FBI and Justice Department are continuing to
investigate the canine unit and are considering whether to expand their
probes to the department as a whole, Justice officials said.

According to court records and interviews, officers in the Prince George's
police canine unit sometimes let their dogs loose to attack whomever they
encounter, and at other times order them to bite suspects who have been
handcuffed or otherwise subdued.

During the past decade, no canine unit officer has been disciplined by the
police department for excessive force, according to court records.

Mohr and Delozier are each charged with conspiracy and deprivation of
rights under color of law. Conviction on the conspiracy charge carries up
to five years in prison, while conviction on the civil rights charge
carries up to 10 years. Both charges carry fines of as much as $250,000.

Rich is charged with aiding and abetting and being an accessory after the
fact. Those crimes carry prison terms and fines of about half what Mohr and
Delozier face if they are convicted, officials said.

The criminal charges against the three officers come two weeks after
another Prince George's officer, Brian C. Catlett, was indicted on
voluntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges in the November
1999 fatal shooting of an unarmed man.

In addition, the FBI, Fairfax County police and Prince George's police are
investigating the fatal shooting on Sept. 1 of Prince C. Jones, 25, by
undercover Prince George's narcotics Detective Carlton B. Jones (no
relation) who had followed the unarmed man more than 15 miles from Chillum
to the Seven Corners area of Fairfax County.

In all, county police have shot 12 people in the last 14  months, killing
five of them. Two other men, both unarmed, died in physical encounters with
county police during the past 12 months.

Prince George's Police Chief John S. Farrell said after the indictment that
"the abuse of police authority will not be tolerated."

He said Mohr and Delozier, who has since been promoted to sergeant, have
been suspended with pay. Both will receive a departmental review hearing
today.

Farrell said his department will "continue to cooperate fully with this
investigation."

Clemens said Rich, an FBI agent for three years, was placed on
administrative leave with pay.

In recent months, Farrell has been under pressure as allegations of
brutality by his officers have mounted. Yesterday, county NAACP President
Edythe Flemings Hall, who is also a member of a special county task force
reviewing the police department, said: "I'm demanding change in the system
and in policies. If Chief Farrell can't usher that in, let's have someone
who can." Her criticism comes on the heels of a call Monday by state Sen.
Gloria G. Lawlah, a Democrat from Hillcrest Heights, for Farrell to resign.

Farrell, who became head of the Prince George's force 16 days before the
alleged 1995 incident, said yesterday that since then, the police
department has "dramatically changed its canine program."

County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D), who appointed Farrell, has scheduled a
news conference this morning with Farrell and county Public Safety Director
Fred Thomas. Curry has given no indication that he is unhappy with
Farrell's stewardship.

"I feel fairly comfortable we'll be able to defend Officer Mohr on all the
charges she's facing," said David M. Simpson, Mohr's criminal defense
attorney.

"This [indictment] comes as a shock to Sergeant Delozier and his family,"
said William C. Brennan, Delozier's criminal defense attorney.

According to the indictment, the incident occurred as Takoma Park police
investigated alleged burglaries at businesses on Holton Lane in Takoma
Park. Takoma Park police found Mendez and Herrera-Cruz on the roof of a
building and ordered them down, according to the indictment. Mohr and
Delozier, who at the time were both assigned to the canine unit, were
waiting in the back of the building; they had been called to assist Takoma
Park officers.

Following the orders of police, Mendez and Herrera-Cruz climbed down from
the roof and surrendered, according to the indictment.

At that point, Delozier asked if the county police dog could "take a bite
out of" one of the two men, according to the indictment.

Rich charged both men with burglary, though there was no evidence against
them, the indictment alleges. Herrera-Cruz pleaded guilty to one count of
fourth-degree burglary and was sentenced to time served, according to court
records and officials. It could not be learned yesterday what happened to
the burglary charge against Mendez.

In April 1999, The Washington Post reported allegations of brutality by the
canine unit contained in 18 civil lawsuits. A month after the article was
published, Curry and Farrell announced changes in canine unit training and
deployment designed to reduce excessive police dog attacks.

"Under the new procedures, canines are trained to find and hold the suspect
without biting," Farrell said yesterday. Since the county's canine unit was
established in 1961, dogs had been trained to apprehend suspects by biting
them.

Currently, seven canines are trained with the "bark and guard" technique.
The entire unit, which has 23 dogs, should be trained by July 2001, Farrell
said.

In an interview two weeks ago, Farrell said the department has had to
replace its corps of police dogs because the ones that were in the unit
were not taking to the new training method.

Mohr, who has been named a defendant in at least three civil lawsuits
involving other dog attacks, was reassigned from the canine unit to the
criminal investigations division in November 1998. She has been an officer
for seven years. Delozier, on the force for 11 years, is assigned to the
patrol bureau.

[Staff writer Jamie Stockwell and Metro researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed
to this report.]

Washington Post

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