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Sirens & Gavels

Archive for August 2013

Kellogg man impersonates officer, faces charges

Halloween came early for a Kellogg man accused of impersonating a police officer, but the trick ended with no treat.

John A. Mendy was arrested by the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, according to a news release. For about two weeks, Mendy would dress in a green law enforcement uniform, telling citizens he was an Idaho Fish and Game officer. Mendy also wore a gun that shot plastic BBs.

During that time, Mendy issued several suspicious-looking citations, but those who received them weren’t fooled, according to the release. The sheriff’s office received several reports of the questionable officer and investigated, along with Idaho Fish and Game, for about two weeks.

On Friday, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Mendy’s residence, finding the fake uniform and law enforcement duty gear, according to the release. He faces charges of unlawfully exercising the functions of a peace officer.

Jailed Ridpath developer wants trial moved

Spokane developer Greg Jeffreys, who is jailed on federal charges alleging that he defrauded investors of millions of dollars, has asked a judge for a change of venue for his trial, arguing that local media “has saturated the Spokane area with prejudicial and inflammatory remarks.”

Citing primarily Spokesman-Review coverage, Jeffreys argued that half of the county’s potential jury pool had been tainted with information unrelated to the trial. The motion also cited the case against former Spokane Police Officer Karl Thompson, in which Thompson’s trial was moved to Yakima in 2011 after five years of “intense media coverage.” Thompson was found guilty of excessive use of force for his role in the death of Otto Zehm in 2006.

In a response to Jeffreys’ request, the government, through U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby, said claims of a prejudiced jury pool were “wholly overstated” and asked the judge to reject the request.

U.S. District Judge Rosanna Peterson will hear the request on Sept. 10 at 10 a.m.

The judge will also hear a motion from Jeffreys to suppress evidence, including oral statements from Jeffreys, because they were a “direct result of an illegal search and seizure” of Jeffreys’ 10,000-square-foot home by 24 law enforcement agents on July 19, 2012, as well of Jeffreys’ person when he was arrested at the airport on Jan. 30.

Jeffreys is known for his central role in a development plan of the Ridpath Hotel. He faces 73 felony charges ranging from bank fraud to theft, though none relate to the shuttered downtown high-rise.

After violating previous orders by a judge and threatening a business associate and FBI special agent, Judge Peterson ruled that Jeffreys must remain in jail until his January trial.

Suspected killer’s FB page gets a makeover

Suspected teen-age killer Kenan Adams-Kinard appears to be getting a digital makeover.

The boy's FaceBook page, which earlier this week featured divisive messages of support from friends and relatives, has been spruced up and apparently locked down.

The new cover photo shows Adams-Kinard with his basketball team and his new profile photo shows him in glasses and wearing a breast-cancer awareness cap. There's also baby photos and he's listed as currently living in “South Seattle,” though his hometown is still listed as Spokane.

Gone from public view are things like the linked rap video that features explicit lyrics critical of police and the criminal justice system, multiple postings referring to partying and drug use and messages from supporters urging him to stay strong and fight the charges.

Adams-Kinard and another 16-year-old boy, Demetruis Glenn, are accused of killing 88-year-old World War II veteran Delbert “Shorty” Belton during a robbery last week outside the Eagle's Ice Arena in north Spokane. They are charged as adults with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery. Adams-Kinard claims Belton was a drug dealer who had shorted him in a crack cocaine deal, which the retiree's friends and family members say is preposterous.

It's unclear who is making the changes to Adams-Kinard's FaceBook page, since he's being held at the Spokane County Jail in lieu of $3 million bond since being found by police Monday hiding in a friend's apartment. Glenn, who went by the nickname “D Money” and turned himself in to police last week, is being held in lieu of $2 million bond.

Playmates demand justice in Belton beating death

Playboy models Shane and Sia Barbi, more popularly known as the Barbi Twins, have joined the call for justice in the beating death of WWII vet Delbert “Shorty” Belton last week in Spokane.

And they quickly called BS on claims by one of the accused teen-age killers that Belton was a geriatric crack cocaine dealer: “I'm blonde but not that stupid! .. ,” one of the identical twins declared yesterday via their shared Twitter handle, @Barbi_Twins.

Last week, the sisters were among the first celebrities to begin using social media to call attention to the brutal North Spokane robbery-turned-homicide.

“Let's all give final salute to -WWII veteran hero-killed by teens! Prayers to your family … ” the models tweeted as news of the tragedy began sweeping the nation.

Other celebrities taking up the cause include actor James Woods and country singer Charlie Daniels.

Woods (@RealJamesWoods) called his push to bring national attention to the Belton case, “Best thing I've done all week” and declared coverage of his efforts as “better than any movie review.”

On yesterday's claims by accused killer Kenan Adams-Kinard that Belton had been selling crack cocaine, Woods dismissively tweeted: “Riiiiight.”

Three men facing charges for drug sales near Grant Elementary

The three Spokane men implicated in a drug-selling operation based out of a repair shop near Grant Elementary School remain mired in legal proceedings, as the building — sold in May — falls into disrepair.

Gerry Elerding, 41, was in Spokane County Superior Court on Wednesday after failing to meet with his attorney as scheduled ahead of a court date later this month. Elerding faces a charge of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance after undercover informants reportedly bought hydrocodone pills from him in March at Lonnie's Auto Repair, 826 S. Perry Ave. Elerding initially pleaded guilty to the charge, earning a year in prison, but he asked for that pleading to be thrown out in July. The state asked Elerding be held without bail Wednesday.

The previous owner of the property, Lonnie Sandros, 59, was arrested in a police bust that occurred May 15. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of unlawful use of a building for drug purposes and is set to appear at trial in September. Sandros sold the garage, which was closed for code violations early in May, to R & G South Perry, LLC, shortly after his arrest, according to tax documents filed with the Spokane County Assessor's Office.

Police arrested Joseph Johnson, 52, in the raid and found a white pill on him later identified as hydrocodone, according to court documents. Detectives say Johnson sold crystal meth to an undercover informant at the body shop in March. Johnson pleaded not guilty to possession of the hydrocodone and delivery of the methamphetamine. His trial is set for October.

Elerding, Sandros and Johnson have lengthy criminal histories, according to court records. Elerding was accused of attacking a police K9 unit in August 2011.

The Lonnie's sign still hangs above the building at 826 S. Perry, though it is unoccupied and the walls show signs of wear.

Spokane police watchdog reappointed, details jump in internal complaints

Last night was a big one for Tim Burns, the Spokane Police ombudsman.

He was reappointed for another one-year term, setting him off on his fifth year as the civilian watchdog for Spokane police. Burns was appointed for a three-year term in 2009 by then-Mayor Mary Verner. His one year extension last night came from Mayor David Condon and a unanimous vote by the City Council.

Burns also unveiled his 2013 mid-year report, which contained some surprising numbers.

First, of the 142 complaints against the department in the first six months of the year, 75 were classified as formal. Of those 75, 15 came from within the department. This is a huge jump when compared to the same time period last year, when just three complaints were internally generated, of 46 total complaints.

Burns told the City Council the increase was notable, but he was unable to say what might be driving the change. 

Burns also noted a decrease in taser use by police, which happened 14 times in 11 incidents this year. In the first six months of 2012, a taser was used 25 times in 21 incidents.

Finally, Burns said he was concerned by the increase in SWAT activations. In the first half of 2012, SWAT was called out 21 times. This year, it happened 29 times.

Check out the whole report on the ombudsman's website, or read it here.

Graffiti takes aim at Target developer: Your reactions

Vandals appear to have taken aim at developer Dave Black, who is developing a 15-acre site at South Regal Street and Palouse Highway for a new Target store. Black woke up Friday morning to find the familiar logo spray-painted on the sign for his housing subdivision. The project has drawn opposition from the Southgate Neighborhood. We asked for your responses, and you came out in full force to share your thoughts. Check out some of the responses in this Storify.

Crime Stoppers identifies ten new fugitives

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Crime Stoppers of the Inland Northwest are looking for ten fugitives, three of whom are active, repeat offenders.

Repeat offender suspects are those criminals considered by law enforcement to be the most active offenders in the community, according to Crime Stoppers. There is a double reward for repeat offenders.

Crime Stoppers fugitives are wanted criminal suspects avoiding police capture. Do not approach them. They should only be contacted by law enforcement.

Anyone with information about these fugitive's whereabouts is asked to call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS. Tipsters don't have to give their name to collect the fugitive reward.

Wild SPD chase ends with arrest, nap

It started with what appeared to be a drug-fueled joy ride in a stolen pickup truck. It ended with a nap.
Spokane police arrested Benjamin P. Aleto, 27, Tuesday night after they say he fled from Officer Ron Van Tassel through a north Spokane residential area, according to an affidavit. Aleto had a woman in his car, who later said she knew Aleto from high school, but couldn’t remember his first name.
Van Tassel was driving north on Napa Street when he saw Aleto driving a stolen Toyota pickup southbound, according to an affidavit. Aleto shifted into Van Tassel’s lane, traveling toward him at a high rate of speed, court documents say. Van Tassel flashed his lights, but Aleto didn’t slow or stop.
 At the last minute, Aleto turned west onto Boone Avenue, narrowly avoiding Van Tassel’s patrol car, police said. Van Tassel began chasing Aleto. The woman begged Aleto to let her out, but he refused, the documents say.
The chase finally ended at Columbus Street and Mission Ave; or at least, Van Tassel tried to end it. The officer performed a PIT maneuver, attempting to hit the back end of the truck to turn it around, according to the affidavit. Aleto didn’t stop, however. He attempted to drive in reverse on Mission. 
Van Tassel attempted another PIT maneuver, but his patrol car somehow became attached to the truck, according to the affidavit. Aleto continued to attempt to flee, dragging the patrol car about seven feet.
Aleto refused to exit his vehicle, instead staring ahead with a “crazed look on his face,” according to the affidavit. Van Tassel said he had to drag Aleto out of the vehicle in order to arrest him.
Aleto, who appeared to be high, then closed his eyes and went to sleep in the roadway, according to the affidavit.
Officers found methamphetamines and a glass pipe in the truck, as well as a key ring with shaved keys on it, according to the affidavit. The truck had been reported stolen Aug. 9, according to the affidavit.
No officers were injured, police said. Aleto suffered minor injuries and was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Aleto was booked into Spokane County Jail on charges of attempting to elude police, unlawful imprisonment, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and driving with a suspended license. His bond was set at $35,000. 

Crime Stoppers offers cash reward for Coeur d’Alene armed robbery suspect

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Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward for information leading to a man believed to have robbed a gas station in Coeur d'Alene early Tuesday morning.

At about 3:20 a.m. Tuesday, a man entered a Mobil Jifi Stop at 502 W. Appleway Ave., displayed a gun and demanded money, according to a Crime Stoppers press release. The man fled on a small BMX bicycle with cash. He was last seen traveling east on Appleway.

The suspect has a “small build,” according to the release. He was wearing a dark green hooded sweatshirt, black pants, dark colored shoes with white soles and a dark ski mask covering his face.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 208-667-2111 or 1-800-222-TIPS. Information can be submitted online at Callers can submit anonymous tips and still be eligible for the reward.

Correction: A previous version of this story said the incident took place in Spokane Valley. The robbery occurred at a Coeur d'Alene gas station.

Scammers promise a clear criminal record

A recent string of scam calls promises Spokane County residents that a clean criminal record is just a phone call away.

Over the past several months, citizens have received calls from scammers claiming to be from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office saying there’s a warrant out for their arrest and that whoever they’re living with may be charged for harboring a wanted person, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release. The caller says that if they pay a fee their record will be cleared.

When the scammers call, caller identification will display the sheriff’s office administration number. The Federal Communications Commission has released a guide to this scam method, known as “spoofing.”

The Sheriff’s Office never tells people they can pay their way out of a warrant, Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.

“We either go find them, or when we contact them and find out they have (a warrant),” Chamberlin said, “that’s when we take them to jail.”

Victims or anyone with information about the scam are asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Spokane County crime analyst upset by implications of doctoring numbers

Leslie Brockman, a crime analyst with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office, says she and her coworkers have been pulled into a political spat by members of a political action committee critical of Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Knezovich appeared on several area television newscasts blasting as politically motivated efforts of Integrity First, a group made up of former sheriff's department employees, to obtain public records related to residential burglaries occurring in rural Spokane County during the first half of 2012.

Brockman said Thursday the requests imply that crime analysts somehow cooked the books, a charge she called “insulting.”

“They're insulting the whole department,” Brockman said.

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