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  • Despite wheelchair, man steps up to aid assaulted cop

    By Mark Fischenich The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.

    MANKATO, Minn. — Jacob Siem's plan on Oct. 15 was to roll into the South Street Saloon, meet some friends and have some food and drink.

    Instead, Siem came across a Mankato police officer in a dangerous struggle with a suspect, grabbed and held the suspect until police back-up arrived and ended up with one of the city's highest honors — the Award of Valor.

    Officer Dan Grassman was on foot patrol in Mankato's downtown entertainment district when he saw a fight and identified Bryan Austin Meuangsaksith, 22, of Mankato man as the aggressor. In attempting to detain Meuangsaksith, Grassman lost his footing and the man landed on top of the officer.

    "Grassmann then observed a male party wearing a dark-colored shirt push/tackle Meuangsaksith and knocked him to the ground off to Grassmann's right side," according to the criminal complaint. "... Grassmann further reports he observed the male... was holding onto Meuangsaksith's head in a headlock hold. Grassmann was then able to radio Blue Earth County dispatch and advise other officers that he was actively fighting and also pulled both of Meuangsaksith's hands behind his back."

    Siem doesn't have a wrestling background. Born with spina bifida, he uses a wheelchair. And he doesn't recall making an active choice to get between an apparently aggressive man and a cop who was in a vulnerable position.

    "I don't remember deciding to get involved," the Eagle Lake man said.

    With 15 years in a human services job, though, Siem said he has some experience with unstable people: "I call it 'Going into work mode.'"

    So, he was just trying to create some space between the officer and the suspect when the situation escalated.

    It ended with Meuangsaksith on the ground, Siem on top of him and the wheelchair on top of both of them. That was lucky, said Siem, who played wheelchair basketball in high school and he has substantial upper body strength.

    "I was able to hold his arms behind his back and hold him until the officer could call for backup," he said.

    Public Safety Director Todd Miller, in presenting the Award of Valor before a packed City Council chambers, said "the officer could have been seriously injured and/or the suspect could have escaped and continued to assault other innocent civilians. Jacob's quick actions undoubtedly prevented further injury while he risked exposing himself to danger."

    After Meuangsaksith, who is facing a gross misdemeanor charge of fourth degree assault of peace officer, was taken away, Grassman and Siem chatted briefly.

    "I made sure he was OK and he made sure I was OK," Siem said.

    Four months later, he said he appreciated the city's honor: "Basically, I was touched.... I made some jokes after (the incident) that I didn't even get my name in the paper."

    Siem was honored as part of a ceremony recognizing heroic acts in 2018 by employees of the Department of Public Safety and average citizens alike.

    Life Saving Awards went to three civilians and a firefighter who provided first aid to a motorcyclist following a crash on July 5th, and Life Saving Awards also went to three civilians, a firefighter and a police officer who performed CPR and saved the life of a heart attack victim at a local tire store.

    Brian Bentdahl of Mankato, Katie Fitzgerald of Kasota and Lacie Hersom of Wells, along with firefighter Jay Kopischke, responded when the motorcyclist and a vehicle collided at the intersection of Riverfront Drive and Madison Avenue on July 5.

    Miller said the man had a severe leg injury and was bleeding profusely. The three civilians witnessed the accident and immediately responded, devising a make-shift tourniquet to minimize the bleeding until firefighter Kopischke arrived.

    "Without the quick thinking and willingness to render aid by these individuals, the victim could have entered shock, suffered massive blood loss and potential death," the citation stated.

    Life Saving Awards also went to civilians Jessica Beyer of Mankato, Justin Willemsen of St. Peter and Ryan Jensen of Mankato; to firefighters Paul Wedel and Mark Bergman; and to police officer James Eggersdorfer for their response to a heart attack at Tire Associates on Sept. 29.

    "Beyer found the employee behind a service counter," Miller said. "She yelled for help and began CPR."

    With the man barely breathing, Beyer and Willemsen and Jensen, who are Tire Associates employees, performed CPR until police officer Eggersdorfer and firefighters Wedel and Bergman arrived. The first responders used a defibrillator and took over CPR, and assisted a Gold Cross ambulance crew until the man's pulse returned.

    "With the fast action of the customer and employees to begin lifesaving measures, as well as continuing efforts by Mankato Public Safety, the patient's life was saved," the citation stated.

    For the same incident, Distinguished Service Awards were presented to Tire Associates employee Zach Moehrke and police officer Katelyn Kaiser "for showing empathy, compassion and altruism to the civilians involved." That included caring for Beyer's pre-school daughter while Beyer assisted with CPR, moving her away from the traumatic scene to a quiet place with a television and snacks, Miller said.

    On Monday night, the heart attack victim was standing in the back of the council chambers, not far from the motorcyclist.

    "I'd like to thank everybody," he said.

    Miller offered a similar sentiment.

    "It takes an entire community to really make your community a safe and a healthy place," he said.

    ©2019 The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.)


  • NY court: Public allowed to see police body camera footage

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    By Michael R. Sisak, Associated Press

    NEW YORK — Police body camera footage is subject to public disclosure under New York law, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

    The Appellate Division panel rejected a police union's argument that body camera footage constitutes a personnel record and is therefore covered by a state law keeping police personnel records secret.

    Body camera video "is more akin to arrest or stop reports, and not records primarily generated for disciplinary and promotional purposes," the court said. "To hold otherwise would defeat the purpose of the body-worn-camera program to promote increased transparency and public accountability."

    The New York Police Department and police reform advocates welcomed the decision. The city's largest police union, which sued to block the disclosure of footage, said the court's decision was "wrong" and that it was considering an appeal.

    "This ruling is an important step forward for transparency and affirms what the NYPD believes," Police Commissioner James O'Neill said in a statement. "Not only is the public entitled to this information, but this footage overwhelmingly shows just how brave, skilled and dedicated our cops are every single day in service of the people of New York City."

    The Associated Press and other media outlets joined the fight to make police body camera footage public, arguing in court filings that the video is vital to police accountability.

    The Legal Aid Society, a public defender group, said the ruling underscored the need for state lawmakers to repeal the law known as 50-A, which currently prevents the release of certain information about officers, such as discipline records.

    The law "allows vague interpretation that is repeatedly exploited to serve certain agendas at the harm of our clients and other underserved New Yorkers," Legal Aid Society lawyer Tina Luongo said.

    The officers' union, the Police Benevolent Association, had argued that making the videos public could lead to an invasion of privacy and threats to the safety of police officers. It also argued that the videos have a personnel function because superiors use them when evaluating officers for promotions.

    "We believe that the court's decision is wrong, that it will have a negative impact on public safety and on the safety of our members. We are reviewing the decision and assessing our options for appeal," union president Patrick Lynch said in a statement.

    The court said the union raised valid concerns about officer safety and privacy, but that a broader interpretation of the law would mean things like arrest reports, summonses, and accident reports would be blocked from public view.

    The NYPD released its first body camera footage of a fatal shooting in September 2017. The appeals court halted the release of footage in July while it considered the matter.


  • Ky. officer shot in head and arm during robbery pursuit

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    By PoliceOne Staff

    HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky officer was shot in the head and arm by a robbery suspect during a pursuit Monday.

    According to local news station WBKO, police were pursuing two separate vehicles that had been involved in a robbery at a local Walmart. Hopkinsville Police Officer Jeremy Davidson attempted to stop one of the two vehicles when one of the suspects began shooting.

    Hopkinsville Police Chief Clayton Sumner said Davidson is in good condition at a hospital in Nashville.

    One of the suspects was later captured in Cunningham, Tennessee.

    Early Monday morning the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office provided mutual aid assistance to the Hopkinsville Police...

    Posted by Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Tennessee on Monday, February 18, 2019


  • Md. judge overturns $38M verdict in standoff¬†lawsuit

    Alison Knezevich The Baltimore Sun

    BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. — A Baltimore County judge has overturned the decision of a jury that awarded more than $38 million to the family of Korryn Gaines, the 23-year-old Randallstown woman who was shot and killed by county police in 2016.

    Judge Mickey J. Norman dismissed the family’s claims against the county and the officer who fatally shot Gaines. The case drew attention from across the country, and the jury’s award was one of the largest ever against a Baltimore-area police force.

    County officials declined to comment Friday. Norman’s decision came in response to post-trial motions filed by the county’s attorneys.

    J. Wyndal Gordon, an attorney for Gaines’ family, said they plan to appeal.

    “It’s devastating to a certain extent, but they’re a very faithful family,” he said. “It’s not over.”

    Norman presided over the civil trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court last year. His new decision comes almost a year after jurors found that the first shot fired by Cpl. Royce Ruby at Gaines — killing her and injuring her then-5-year-old son, Kodi — was not reasonable and therefore violated their civil rights under state and federal statutes.

    In a nearly 80-page ruling, dated Thursday and obtained late Friday by The Sun, Norman found that Ruby was entitled to qualified immunity, which shields law enforcement and government officials from civil liability when carrying out their duties.

    Norman, who is a former state trooper, wrote that Ruby’s actions were “objectively reasonable” and did not violate Gaines’ Fourth Amendment right against unlawful seizure, as her family had claimed.

    Ruby shot Gaines following an hours-long standoff at her apartment, also hitting Kodi in the face. The judge wrote in his opinion that Gaines, who was armed with a shotgun, “abruptly moved from a place plainly visible in the living room to partial concealment behind a kitchen wall.

    “The physical evidence is that she began to raise the shotgun, Corporal Ruby believed she was about to fire the shotgun,” which could have injured members of his team stationed in the hallway, Norman wrote. “Corporal Ruby was not required to be absolutely sure of the nature and extent of the threat Gaines posed.”

    Police initially went to Gaines’ home to serve warrants on her and her fiance. Gaines’ warrant was for an alleged failure to appear in court for charges stemming from a traffic stop.

    The month after the shooting, State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger ruled that it was legally justified, declining to bring criminal charges against the officers involved. Gaines’ family brought a civil lawsuit against the county and police officers. At trial, Gordon said police knew that Gaines suffered from mental illness.

    After the trial, county attorneys argued in court filings that jurors based their decision more on “guesswork, speculation and sympathy” than on the evidence.

    Jurors awarded more than $32 million to Kodi in damages, and $4.5 million to his sister, Karsyn. Gaines’ parents and her estate also were awarded smaller damages.

    Norman vacated the jury’s finding that Ruby committed battery against Kodi.

    “A partial bullet fragment from Corporal Ruby’s first shot, struck, but did not penetrate Kodi’s cheek,” he wrote. “That injury was unintentional and was the unforeseen consequences (sic) of Corporal Ruby’s lawful act.”

    Kenneth Ravenell, who represents Kodi, called the judge’s decision “factually wrong and legally flawed in many respects.”

    “Justice was not done today,” he said in a statement to The Sun. “We will appeal on behalf of young Kodi Gaines. We will have more to say in the near future.”

    T.J. Smith, a spokesman for County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., said he had no comment on the case at this time. Police department officials also declined to comment. Ruby remains employed by the agency.

    Gordon, the Gaines family attorney, said that in the appeal, he hopes to revive legal issues the jury did not get to consider because Norman dismissed them before trial.

    “Were not happy about it, but the bottom line is we get a chance to have a full hearing before an appellate court,” he said.

    ———

    ©2019 The Baltimore Sun


  • Spotlight: American Police Hall of Fame & Museum

    Author: PoliceOne Sponsors

    Company Name: The National Association of Chiefs of Police Headquarters: Titusville, FL Website: https://www.aphf.org/

    1. What was the inspiration behind starting your organization? A desire to provide compassionate support, enhanced training, and better solutions for law enforcement nationwide.

    2. What is your signature product and how does it work? NACOP focuses on educating LEOs about advancements in training and police work, providing funds for K9 units to smaller agencies across the country, providing support for officers disabled in the line of duty, and educating/inspiring the public about the essential role of LEOs nationwide through the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville, Florida. We also publish Chief of Police magazine and are getting ready to offer college-credit continuing education to LEOs through a partnership with Eastern Florida State College.

    3. Why do you believe your products are essential to your vertical (Police, Fire, EMS, Corrections, Government) community? We are one of piece of the puzzle that provides support, education and encouragement to our law enforcement professionals nationwide. While we have traditionally focused on our K9 program, the museum, honoring fallen officers and several other areas, we are redoubling our efforts to get the word out about our scholarships, gift program and other services available to the families of disabled officers and the officers themselves. Likewise, we hope to help address issues regarding the challenges faced by officers who are suddenly disabled and separated from their purpose and like-minded associates -- and we hope to create a resource database so that no disabled officer ever has to wonder where to find support, whether emotional, financial or professional. We have also expanded our educational efforts, offering state-of-the-art tactical training conducted by some of the nation's best-known trainers. Stay tuned for great announcements and activities geared toward making sure our LEOs are as prepared and well-trained as possible for every encounter!

    4. What has been the biggest challenge your organization has faced? As a non-profit, the challenges are unique and involve balancing the cost of constant fundraising (something you have to do when you are administering programs at the national level) with the importance of providing enduring and essential program services. In our case, we are also maintaining a large facility and working to get the word out to civilians about personal safety and about the key role that law enforcement plays in any civil society. To that end, we must have compelling local/regional programs as well as a meaningful national message. We have a small staff (25 full and part-time people) who are LE family members or retired LE themselves, working hard to grow the organization and the services it provides. It is challenging but well worth the effort. When we receive thank-you cards and emails from the children and families of disabled officers, it truly inspires us to work even harder to build something of lasting value for our LEOs nationwide.

    5. What makes your company unique? Our emphasis on disabled officers and our K9 program receive a lot of attention, as well as the high quality of our tactical training classes and the caliber of special trainers that we bring in (people like Dave "Boon" Benton - one of the Benghazi heroes, Ed Mireles - retired FBI agent involved in the 1986 Miami firefight, Shannon "the canon" Ritch- MMA fighter and trainer in hand-to-hand combat, Gary O'Neil - former special forces and author of “American Warrior,” and many others).

    6. What do your customers like best about you and your products? Our LE families and disabled officers love the fact that we are with them for the long haul. When we learn of an officer disabled in the line of duty, we begin sending holiday and birthday gifts to their children. This continues from ages 0-18 -- and, at age 18, the children become eligible for college scholarships. So we have families with whom we have been connected for 20 or more years. Likewise, we offer summer camp scholarships for the children of disabled officers and medical reimbursement for certain health related expenses. The fact that we stay with the families and support them over the long haul seems very significant to officers who sometimes feel like they are forgotten once they are no longer active duty.

    7. What is the most rewarding part of serving the first responder/local government community? Most of us who work for this organization have family members who are in law enforcement, so it is the satisfaction of serving those who serve us! It is a way to show our loved ones how much their service and sacrifice means and a way to show support for all those men and women who risk their lives each day to keep us safe.

    8. Do you support any charitable organizations within public safety/community? Tell us more. Well, as a 501(c)(3) IRS-approved agency, we do support ourselves! But we also support larger "competitors" like COPS (Concerns of Police Survivors) because they do so much for the families of fallen officers; likewise, we work closely with the 9463 Foundation which also serves law enforcement families. We work with local law enforcement, like the Brevard County Sheriff's Office, Volusia County SO, local police departments and other police supporters to identify officers and families in need and to improve our programming.

    9. Is there any fun fact or trivia that you’d like to share with our users about you or your company? Well, as the contact person, I can tell you that I cherish all things law enforcement. My husband retired as a deputy after 27 years of service, my late father-in-law rose to the rank of lieutenant with the sheriff's office and my son graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice (he is now an officer in the U.S. Army but will be serving in law enforcement eventually). And I am just ONE of the LE-related folks here, working to enhance and build the programs and efficiencies at the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the American Police Hall of Fame. In addition to my marketing and program support work, I also train civilians in firearm safety and proficiency on behalf of NACOP and am helping to build our LE training program. There is nowhere else I'd rather be or that would afford me the chance to do such meaningful work! And I know that my commitment is shared by everyone at our organization!

    10. What’s next for your company? Any upcoming new projects or initiatives? We have several significant projects on the horizon including the pending ground-breaking for the U.S. Law Enforcement Eternal Flame, which will pay tribute to LE nationwide and will stand 100 feet tall with a 10 foot tall flame. We are just beginning to share this project with potential supporters, media, etc. This new phase of growth will include an expansion of the museum, a digital project called "Voices of the Flame" which will offer a unique digital tribute to individual law enforcement officers past, present and future, a "walk of heroes" with pavers honoring those who serve...and so much more! We are also working to expand our compassionate programs and help disabled officers and their families find the resources and get the assistance they need.


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