Pubdate: Sat, 05 Feb 2005
Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Copyright: 2005 The Commercial Appeal
Author: Jacinthia Jones
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


Until Now, They Remained On Force Even After Jury Finding

Two-and-a-half years after a botched drug raid that led to a deadly
shooting, eight Memphis police officers have been suspended.

Narcotics officers Mark Lucas, Albert Bonner, Jeffrey Simcox, Felipe
Boyce, Veronica Crutchfield, Juan Gonzalez, Dariet Wallace and Lt.
Anthony Berryhill were put on paid leave Friday, police said.

The suspensions came the same day that The Commercial Appeal
reported that city attorneys and victim Jeffery Robinson's family are
negotiating a settlement of about $1 million.

City and police officials said Friday, however, that an ongoing state
probe and the Police Department's internal investigation prompted the

In October, a federal jury awarded $2.85 million to the family of
Robinson, a 41-year-old gravedigger and caretaker at Baron Hirsch Cemetery.

Testimony convinced jurors that three officers -- Lucas, Bonner and
Simcox -- wrongly killed Robinson and tried to cover it up. Jurors
found that Berryhill wasn't at fault.

Meanwhile, City Atty. Sara Hall said the city has tentatively reached
a $1.1 million settlement with Robinson's son, Jarvis Robinson, who
filed the wrongful death lawsuit.

In the 21/2 years since the shooting, the officers were never
disciplined and remained on the force even after the jury found the
three officers personally liable.

Police procedures prevented the department from taking action against
the officers before now, Hall said.

"Everything has to be done according to policy and procedure," she

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin called in the Tennessee Bureau of
Investigation last December to look into the shooting as well as
internal affairs' handling of the case because of "questions and
concerns about what really happened," Hall said.

Internal affairs is the arm of any police or sheriff's department that
investigates whether officers have done their jobs

Some of those concerns, that surfaced during the two-week

Testimony showed that the box cutter that officers said Robinson
threatened them with was never fingerprinted.

Former Shelby County Medical Examiner O.C. Smith testified that the
shooting couldn't have happened the way officers said. Blood spatter
expert Paulette Sutton also contradicted the officers' accounts.

And the shirt worn by the officer who did the shooting was lost, as
was one Robinson wore.

Instead of taking the shirt Robinson was wearing, officers picked up a
new polo shirt-- still in its plastic wrapper-- and booked it as evidence.

Hall said state investigators informed Memphis police brass this week
that they were indeed looking into the matter.

That prompted the suspensions, she said.

The suspensions are routine during ongoing investigations and aren't
considered discipline, Godwin said.

"We saw some things in this trial that led me to believe that we need
to go ahead and clear up any misconceptions," he said.

Godwin said he didn't know if criminal charges would be filed against
any of the officers.

"I certainly hope not," he said. "I really think we did a good

Hall said early Friday that some of the internal affairs investigators
could be suspended. But efforts to reach her later to ask about other
suspensions were unsuccessful.

A police statement issued Friday noted that the department's own
investigation found that the shooting was justified and that an
Attorney General's Office review also resulted in no charges.

But attorney Ted Hansom, who represented the officers, said Friday the
department's internal investigation was so badly flubbed that jurors
concluded there was a Police Department cover-up.

"I'm convinced this investigation was screwed up from the onset,"
Hansom said.

But, he said, Officer Mark Lucas believed his life was in danger when
he pulled the trigger.

"These things happen in seconds," Hansom said. "To this day, he
believes it happened the way he said it did."
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