San Jose police avert possible mass killing
by Tracey Kaplan
San Jose police on New Year's Day averted a potential lethal situation by safely arresting a mentally disturbed, naked man armed with a samurai-like sword and a loaded assault rifle.
"This could have gone really, really bad," said Officer Albert Morales, a police spokesman, of the incident that began about 8 a.m. "Things could have turned out very differently."
At one point, 32 officers had descended on the scene at Southwest Expressway and Bascom Avenue, cordoning off the area and trying to negotiate for nearly two hours with the distraught man. He repeatedly yelled, "You're going to have to kill me," Morales said.
By 11 a.m., police had arrested Coco Bennett, 29. He was taken to the jail ward at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center for injuries he suffered after he leaped over a fence and fell, Morales said.
The successful arrest was a victory for San Jose police and its Crisis Intervention Team, which is trained to deal with mentally ill people.
The confrontation follows several less fortunate incidents in San Jose that ended with the assailant's death, including a situation in 2010 in which police killed a 42-year-old man who was wielding a 10-inch knife in an apartment building in South San Jose.
In 2009, San Jose police shot and killed a mentally ill man armed with a knife who had attacked his brother. In 2003, police killed a woman wielding a vegetable peeler, which an officer mistook for a cleaver.
The incident on New Year's Day began at 8:05 a.m. when police received a call about a man with an assault rifle in front of a residence near Ezie Street and Cas Drive. The caller was able to note a partial license plate number as the man drove away in a white pickup truck.
Police tracked the man down to Southwest Expressway and Bascom Avenue, where he'd stopped in a Valley Transit Authority parking lot.
Concerned about the assault rifle, police kept their distance and watched as the man struggled with something in the cab of his truck. It turned out he was taking off all of his clothes -- on a day when the temperature was a chilly 54 degrees.
Morales said the man emerged from the truck brandishing a large samurai-like sword, refusing to drop the weapon.
"We were lucky it wasn't the assault rifle, or things might have been a lot different," Morales said.
Officers were able to approach the truck and confiscate the gun early on. But they were locked in a standoff with the man for about an hour and a half, Morales said.
At one point, officers used a flash-bang device to distract the suspect, but Morales said it's unclear if that's what drove him to run away.
While jumping over a fence, the man fell on his head and dropped the sword. Police were able to grab it and arrest him.
Major streets that had been cordoned off, including parts of Bascom and Hamilton avenues, were reopened about 11 a.m.
Morales said investigators are trying to track down how the man obtained the rifle.
Anaheim chief: Police must work with community after unrest
A look at 2012 in Anaheim crime
by SEAN EMERY
ANAHEIM – With a tumultuous year coming to an end, Anaheim police Chief John Welter is focusing on "enhancing" trust in the police within the impoverished neighborhoods during the coming year and moving past the unrest that brought national attention to the city in 2012.
After starting the year with the arrest of a man suspected in a series of high-profile killings of homeless men, Anaheim police spent much of 2012 dealing with continued increases in violent and gang crime, a series of police shootings that roiled the community and heated protests that culminated in a near-riot in the city's downtown.
Welter recently sat down to discuss how he has responded to the community concerns over the past few months, his hopes for increasing the size of a department that has seen the departure of more than 50 officers over the past five years and his efforts to put more officers on the streets.
Q: Looking back at the past year, what lessons have you taken away?
A: We are starting to come out of the economic downturn, which is big. This year, for the first year in three years, we have seen an increase in staffing, at least budget-wise. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to keep up with attrition, because we are going to lose 12 to 15 people by the end of this year. Crime is unfortunately on its way back up, which is a challenge for policing, especially when we have lost cops and resources. The unrest over the summer was troubling, but at the same time, it provided an opportunity for us to reassess how much we are doing in some of these neighborhoods and what we are doing in those neighborhoods.
Q: Obviously, the community concerns and protests garnered the most attention. Leading up to that, did you get a sense that there was something in those areas that was building?
A: Well, no, I didn't anticipate there would be unrest going into the summer. I do know a number of these neighborhoods are stressed. And I think the economy the last two or three years hasn't helped that. You have parents trying to make ends meet and they can't, or a single parent working two jobs with one two or three kids, and because of that, they are not around for their children after school to help them with schoolwork. I'm aware that over the last couple of years we are seeing an increasing number of kids dropping out of school, which concerns me. That is why we started GRIP, our gang-reduction intervention. Our parents-helping-parents clubs were out there working well together. Our afterschool programs with Cops 4 Kids was working well. Our junior cadet program was expanding, and there were more and more families engaged in that. So, I figured that we are doing a pretty good job of providing alternatives to kids just standing in alleys looking for something fun to do. What I didn't realize was the control those gang members had over the neighborhoods
Q: In the aftermath of that unrest, what specific steps have you taken and the department taken to rebuild that trust with those portions of the community?
A: One of the things we have done is reached out to a number of different community groups, the neighborhood groups that meet. I've assigned officers to work foot patrol and foot beats, even though it is really not cost-effective given the number of calls for service. We have taken detectives out of investigation to put them in patrol so we can continue to manage our calls for service. We've gone in the neighborhoods with our cops-for-kids program mobile now so that young people and parents see us coming in the neighborhood for something other than trying to arrest someone.
Q: What's the outlook for the budget and police staffing looking forward?
A: I think the outlook is good. I think we have finally started to turn the corner. But again, we have some real challenges for this council and this government. We've got a number of neighborhoods that are working poor. Every time we see increases and tourists that come to the city, that means more hotels, which is great for our revenue, but also means more workers that are making a minimum wage and many of these people are raising kids. It's always going to be a challenge for us to find ways to get to the parents and the young people before it gets too far down the road and they can't get out of the gang or violent crime lifestyle that they get engaged in. But I think our future is bright. Our job here is to not look at the police department as "let's build it the way it was." When we start rebuilding, we need to look at how to be more effective at preventing crime, at engaging the residents to be supportive and not just stand back and be critical of police. The police are only going to be as successful as the community that supports them. And I challenge them when I go to community meetings and they say 'Hey, chief, what are you doing about graffiti or gangs or drugs or burglaries?' I look at them and I say 'Here is what I'm doing, here is what this police department, your police department is doing to stop this. What are you doing about it?' Now, how many people did we have demonstrate over officer involved shootings? I didn't see all these people show up when there was trouble with gang violence going on in these neighborhoods. We need support from parents, from business owners, schools, politicians. If everyone got together behind 'Let's start preventing some of these crimes' rather than 'Why aren't the police doing more and why are they shooting so many people?' I think we'd be much better off.
Q: With everything else going on, was there anything that you felt was overshadowed?
A: A good example is the serial killer suspect, where all law enforcement came together and in a short period of time took a serial killer off the street. We have our Cops 4 Kids program. We have Girls Club, which are girls in school who are failing, who are associating with gang members, who are ruining their lives for the long-term. Those kind of small wins are overshadowed by what I consider to be a flash-in-the-pan unrest. And it's not that I want to minimize the unrest. I think the unrest was kind of the tip of the iceberg of a lot of problems that are occurring, social as well as others. The police are the face of the community, and so they naturally are going to get the brunt of it. I think the officers showed great restraint at many times and many occasions I saw. We learned some lessons on how to best deploy when you bring a number of agencies from across your county in. You really don't know how they are going to be perceived. Driving down streets in armored vehicles and camouflage and semiautomatic weapons hanging on the side of vehicles, that is not something I expected to see, and when I did see it, I took corrective action immediately. But that aside, I think we've been doing a great job with the limited resources we've had at this department.
Q: What is your focus moving into next year?
A: My focus is to get us by the unrest, because I still think that is on people's minds as these cases are being released from the district attorney. Some will continue to be upset regardless of the outcome. I look forward to the investigations concluding. But I also realize this is part of our job. We are continually engaged in controversial behavior and activities because that is the nature of the business we are in. I think next year I look forward to the opportunity to start rebuilding the department in a new direction, or building it further in the direction we have been heading, with more foot patrols and strategies to interact more with community members so that when there is a shooting – because there will be – or when there are the major narcotics or gang sweeps, people know they can trust the police, and we aren't after kids that are running through the alley playing games. It was very disheartening to hear from people when we went in to do those arrests in the sweep, the rumors that were going around is that the police were in the neighborhood arresting any kids, any young people they could find. My job is to do everything I can over the next year to see that trust is enhanced.
2012 Murder Rate Shows Steady Increase
by Natasha Chen
(Memphis) The murder rate in the city of Memphis has continued to climb for three consecutive years, with a total of 157 people killed in 2012. That amounts to one murder every two to three days of the year.
Of those 157, 16 of them are ruled “justifiable,” where someone may have acted in self-defense and will therefore not be charged with a crime.
That number has decreased from the 28 justifiable homicides in 2011.
Taking the justifiable homicides out of the mix, the murder rate increased more than 18 percent from 2011 to 2012. If one includes the justifiable homicide, the overall rate increased by nearly seven percent.
Similar increases happened from 2010 to 2011.
Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said in a statement:
“It is unfortunate that murder is not a crime that can be tracked through statistics. Due to the fact that most homicides occur between a known victim and suspect, we cannot predict where the next one will take place. As a community, we must work together to find the root problems that cause this type of crime to occur. Hopefully through community policing, realignment of manpower throughout the City of Memphis, and by bringing our resources to every precinct (such as investigative bureaus), we will see a difference in 2013. Together we can change not only the perception, but the reality of a better quality of life for our entire community.”
For Herbert Stein Barnett, the grandmother of an 18-year-old gunned down outside the Westwood Community Center in September, change cannot come soon enough.
“I don't have a solution to the problem. But I'm a voter. I wish somebody would just hear me. Hear my plea,” she said.
Devail Lewis is the second grandson she's buried.
“I'm 67 years old. My children are supposed to be burying me. I'm not supposed to be burying my grandkids.”
It's been three months since her grandson died, but the pain doesn't go away.
“We got Christmas, we had Thanksgiving, and my grandson wasn't there. And I sit, and look across that field, and think he'll come, but he …We got to do something. We got to get these guns off the street.”
Barnett said the easy access to guns is a major part of the problem. She observes too many people resorting to gun violence as a means of ending disputes.
She said whatever the solution may be, she's tired of seeing young people die.
Ridge communities' interlocal agreement to fight gangs, drugs is the right approach
Nearly seven years after the Good Government initiative outlined a study and recommendations for cost savings and consolidation of government resources among the region's municipalities, it is encouraging to see the spirit of the study at play in 2013.
The Ridge Road communities of Munster, Highland and Griffith recently took a very sensible step in the combining of resources to battle violent crime. The newly minted interlocal agreement, just signed by the Munster Town Council last week, pledges that the communities will share data and police manpower in targeting concentrations of increasing gang and drug activity along the corridor.
With recent accounts of gun violence and drugs — including shootings at the Mansards in Griffith — this is a proactive step that has the potential for cost savings and increased crime fighting in the same stroke.
Positive steps are being taken at the community level as well. Griffith's interim police chief, for instance, recently sent a message that drug dealing in his town will not be ignored, with a pre-dawn raid of an alleged dealer's apartment. That raid included a cooperative use of resources between Griffith police, the Lake Station police dog unit and a regional SWAT team.
The recently singed interlocal agreement follows in that vein, increasing the participating communities' ability to share knowledge of gang and drug movements, making it far more likely to catch the bad guys.
Even better, the funding for this cooperative effort — particularly overtime pay for officers manning the interlocal ship — is slated to come from an existing $35,000 Criminal Justice Institute grant. Better policing capacity through shared resources without increasing costs to taxpayers is a no-brainer.
We can only hope this spirit of cooperation spreads to include other cities and towns in Northwest Indiana. Crime knows no boundaries. Criminals from south county drive to north county and from north to south. And the fiscal belts of local governments are sure to continue tightening in the new year. This type of cooperation makes so much sense on so many levels.