Detective Who Was Recorded Assaulting An Unarmed, Handcuffed Suspect Acquitted Of All Charges

from the who-are-you-going-to-believe?-those-things-you-call-eyes? dept

Both a cop and his prime homicide suspect have walked away free men. But it’s the cop who’s gathered most of the attention. Donald Love was picked up by Milwaukee police on August 14, 2013, after his infant son died in a local hospital of traumatic brain injuries. Love wasn’t just a “person of interest.” He was alone in the house with the infant at the time the injury occurred.

Love was interrogated by detective Rodolfo Gomez Jr. This questioning was recorded. The highlight reel, as it were, doesn’t show much interrogation. It shows Gomez attacking the restrained suspect on two separate occasions. Love was punched, kicked and jabbed in the eye with Gomez’s thumb. The latter — and more excruciating “interaction” (caution: the video hosted here contains some very unnerving screaming) — occurred during Gomez’s “follow-up questioning,” and appears to have been provoked by Love’s justifiably angry yelling.

A jury acquitted Love of all charges more than year later. Another jury also acquitted Gomez of all charges, despite watching him assault a handcuffed man. (via The Honest Courtesan)

How do you defend someone against charges related to a videotaped beating? Well, you do everything you can to cast the person handing out the beating as the real victim. His defense lawyers helped, but they had to fight an uphill battle against both damning video footage and statements made by Gomez himself, most of which gave the indication that he had no idea how to handle a potentially dangerous individual.

First, Gomez admitted he said something he knew would provoke an angry response. Then he claimed his short-term memory went all haywire in the heat of the moment.

Even after Gomez punched Love hard in the face, he still refused orders to sit and stop resisting, Gomez told the jury, causing the veteran detective to fear for his life.

Love finally settled down when the lieutenant responded to yelling in the interrogation room and helped Gomez gain control of Love. Both detectives then left the room, but Gomez continued to monitor Love from just outside the doorway.

It was at that point, Gomez said, that he realized he had handcuffed Love earlier.

“I had forgotten I had handcuffed Mr. Love,” Gomez said.

“Forgotten.” And twice at that. Gomez got a very good look at the “forgotten” handcuffs during the first beatdown, having twisted Love’s free arm up against his body and bent him over the interrogation room desk. But he entered the room moments later and acted as though Love’s left hand was unrestrained.

On top of that, he stated that he “provoked” an angry reaction — something he probably wouldn’t have done if he thought Love was completely unrestrained. If he actually thought Love wasn’t cuffed to the wall — and went ahead with his plan to aggravate his detainee — then Gomez was either acting recklessly or just looking for an excuse to start swinging.

Gomez’s memory continued to leak.

Gomez said the door behind was closed and locked, which made retreat difficult. But even if the door had been open, he said, he would not have tried to leave the room.

“I’d be giving my back to a killer,” Gomez said.

A lieutenant testified that when responding to the room after hearing yelling, the door was open.

And with all of that (and the detective’s past misconduct), the jury still found Gomez credible enough to acquit. The key to this unlikely turn of events? The skillful manipulation of time. A handful of guys in black suits walking down through a parking lot is almost completely uninteresting. But adjust the speed a bit and suddenly you have something much more dramatic. The same sort of thing happens in real life. A video which apparently shows a detective beating an unarmed, restrained man becomes a horrific incident in which a detective bravely survives a potential beating at the hands of an unarmed, restrained man.

A juror from the trial said a defense expert’s frame-by-frame examination of the incident’s key moments put things in a different light and convinced jurors that Gomez reasonably believed he was in danger and used only the force necessary to establish control over Deron Love, a suspect in the death of his infant son.

“We were able to convince the last juror, reluctantly, that still frame by still frame Gomez’s last three closed fist windups became open palm motions to control Love’s arms, and his final leg strike misses the mark.”

Gardner said the expert’s explanation, while moving single frames from the video back and forth in a slide show, helped convince jurors that Love was resisting Gomez’s commands to sit down or relax his body, even if Love didn’t actively fight back.

It also helps to have a jury pool sufficiently awed by the dangers of police work that they can swallow that last sentence without immediately vomiting in disbelief. And also willing to grant positive points for blows that didn’t quite connect. Apparently, you can “resist” without “actively fighting back,” and you’ll know that you’re “resisting” when the police officer begins raining blows on your handcuffed body.

“Turning your back on a killer” or no, Gomez had other options. Love was restrained. He could have left the room. He could have called for help. He could have simply walked as far back as needed to still “communicate” with Love without being “resisted” at the same time. The excuse that he “forgot” he had handcuffed Love might work once, but it doesn’t explain his actions the second time, after he could plainly see the handcuff attached to Love’s wrist.

Gomez, for the time being, is no longer a Milwaukee PD employee. This “problem” may be swiftly remedied now that he’s been acquitted. Love has also been cleared of all charges, but he’s headed right back into the courtroom with a newly-filed civil rights suit against Gomez. Just as this won’t be Love’s first tango with Gomez, it also won’t be Gomez’s first appearance under the heading “DEFENDANT” in a civil rights suit. A 2008 lawsuit stemming from a no-knock warrant obtained by Det. Gomez ended up this way.

Gomez, now a homicide detective, sought qualified immunity. The district judge denied the request, a decision that was upheld Wednesday by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Gomez was recently the subject of internal investigation after his arrest on a domestic violence claim. No criminal charges were issued.

In its 20-page opinion, the court found that “If believed, (the sister’s sworn) deposition testimony would establish that Officer Gomez knowingly or with reckless disregard for the truth made false or misleading statements in the affidavit…”

In denying Gomez qualified immunity, the court noted that Gomez’s affidavit implied the [suspects] kept weapons as a part of a criminal enterprise, when the sister’s tip suggested nothing of the sort, that he knew the sister was on bad terms with Sharon Betker and hadn’t been in the Franklin home for five years, and didn’t try to nail down some information that came from her as hearsay.

“Statements that are both unreliable and uncorroborated do not support probable cause,” the court found.

Former Det. Gomez, ladies and gentlemen: a cop who hits restrained men and unrestrained women, but somehow manages to land on his feet. And wrapped up in his tale of habitual abuse is the “power” of video — an objective, unblinking eye that can be made to “take sides” when properly manipulated. A recording of a disputed event is better than hearsay and conjecture but, in reality, is often nothing more than a useful idiot. It only records. It offers images, not insight. With enough skill, any recording can be used to present both sides of the same argument. “Seeing is believing,” as they say, but the use of controversial tactics, like those used in Gomez’s defense, can change what is seen and alter beliefs.

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Comments on “Detective Who Was Recorded Assaulting An Unarmed, Handcuffed Suspect Acquitted Of All Charges”

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Anonymous Coward says:


Proof that the citizens of America just love a good ass whooping from their superiors.

In fact we are still voting in people that are increasing our burdens from the law while we feign getting pissy about police militarization.

Something tells me that our corrupt justice system is just exactly what the people want. Think about that… and all the levels of fucked up that is! Wake up America, you are facilitating the implosion of your own Country.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Hmm....

The trouble is, they’re not engaging in the democratic process, they’re merely outsourcing the job of governance to Red Team or Blue Team. Imagine what our country would be like if we actually called and wrote our Congresscritters on a regular basis to hold them to account for their actions?

They’d think twice about continuing this crap. It’s the fact that we don’t that is causing the problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is a new one. Apparently, the police can now command a suspect to “relax his body.” And conveniently, it requires a great deal of specialized training to relax your body in high stress, physical confrontations. Training that no suspect will have, thus allowing the police to do whatever they want since the suspect is refusing to follow orders.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

And none of this has ANYTHING to do with citizens being raised to trust cops, if you are in trouble find a cop they will help.
While this was a good idea once, it no longer is.
Look at the people who seek help for a loved on in distress and the cops just shoot them rather than waste time on someone mentally ill and in crisis. (And yes they do it to those who are no threat at all).

We have warped police into this paramilitary group of enforcers and given them the keys to the kingdom because we don’t even pretend they law includes them. We give them pass after pass, and until it is their child, spouse, loved one who gets their ass beaten the target must have been asking for it because police never lie.

This jury makes me ill, and I pray not a single one of them ever requires the “assistance” of these fine upstanding officers who know that even being taped they can still do horrible things to you and walk away.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: Jake on Mar 10th, 2015 @ 10:55pm

No, it’s never going to end. The water has been boiling for a long time but the frog stays in the pot. I know, bad analogy but the point stands. The masses have been aware of the abusive power grabs and steady erosion of rights for decades; yet nothing changes. I expect things will only continue to get worse…

The message is clear: If you enjoy hurting and murdering people with complete impunity then the law enforcement community is ready to welcome you with open arms.

David says:

The sad thing

The sad thing is that the detective was acquitted since the jury focused on the issue of the victim being handcuffed, and finally figures out that the detective’s explanations that he had forgotten about having handcuffed the victim were at least plausible enough to clear him of criminal charges.

But beating up a suspect like that would not have been even remotely legal even if the suspect were not handcuffed.

Not in a civilized nation ruled by law at least.

If a policeman is unable to subdue an aggressive (let alone a handcuffed) person except by punching him repeatedly, he is totally incapable of working as a policeman. Delivering indiscriminate injuries is not an effective means of containing a purported serious attack.

A policeman who has panic attacks during a standard situation he is required to be able to deal with, is absolutely and definitely incompetent.

He needs to be registered as a violent offender not to be admitted into any police force.

wshuff (profile) says:

My first job out of law school was clerking for a federal judge. We had a case where hidden camera video made the difference. But not in the way the police thought.

The undercover officer was a dark-skinned black man, and he made a drug buy from a young, light-skinned black man. The proof was right there. Only the defendant showed up to court in a nice suit, with his hair styled more conservatively. Some of the jurors may have questioned whether the person on the screen was the same guy at the defense table on that basis. But the bigger problem for the prosecution was that the hidden camera was designed for use in low light settings, so the dark-skinned undercover officer ended up looking light-skinned on the screen, while the defendant ended up looking almost white. That turned out to be the sticking point, no matter the testimony from the undercover officer that it was in fact him in the video making the buy from the defendant.

The jury ended up acquitting the defendant, which probably was the worst thing that could have happened to him. Only 19 or 20 at the time, he’d already had a few run-ins with the law, and had maybe already beaten a state charge. Beating a federal charge emboldened him, I guess, because he went right back to the life, and within a few months he was back in federal court. Only this time he got convicted, and with his criminal history, his sentencing guidelines were pretty significant. He ended up getting sentenced on the low end of the guidelines, but that was still about 20 years. With time off for good behavior, he was still looking at a release date when he was about 40. Had he gotten convicted on that earlier charge, he might have done 2-4 years and gotten a new start on life. But that damn video . . .

Anonymous Coward says:

so, things went as usual in the USA then. do something wrong if you’re as member of the public and get locked up for years. do something TO a member of the public, when that said member of the public not only DIDN’T do anything, mainly because he/she was, at the time, UNABLE to do anything because of being chained up, and get away with everything! even worse, the lawyers involved here, acting on behalf of the office should be charged too. i know they have a job to do but to manage to switch things round so the person committing the offence becomes the victim? that is taking the piss out of their profession and the justice system!!

David says:

Now suppose

Now suppose you want to make an over-the-top absurd satire of a police state out of control. What kind of scenario are you going to come up with in order not to get a “oh, we had worse in reality already” response?

Beating up a chained man who refuses to relax, thus making an officer fear for his life? And the jury says “yeah, obviously” and acquits?

How are you going to top that in a satire? “A Clockwork Orange” made more sense, and so did “Brazil”.

MarcAnthony (profile) says:

Double-edged defense

Even after Gomez punched Love hard in the face, he still refused orders to sit and stop resisting, Gomez told the jury, causing the veteran detective to fear for his life.

The fact that this type of brutality appears to be so deeply ingrained in cop culture practically guarantees that I—as a juror—would believe this exact same defense by a perp against a cop. A handcuffed person being needlessly and illegally assaulted is the one with the valid reason to fear for their life and they have every right to resist.

Whoever says:

Focusing on the wrong thing

The sad thing is that the detective was acquitted since the jury focused on the issue of the victim being handcuffed

That’s the same as the former Napster exec who was killed by a sheriff’s deputy. The deputy wasn’t charged because it was legal for him to text while driving. What the legality of texting while driving has to do with running over an innocent cyclist, I have no idea, except to say that it is pure misdirection.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Proof that a human jury can't competently establish guilt

They may be the best thing we have (I don’t know if we’ve tried anything else) but it looks like a jury can be manipulated well enough that skillful legal manipulations can overwhelm established facts.

We may not be able to replace juries with something better, but maybe we can adjust our legal process to accommodate for the fact that the process, and not the circumstances of a case, seem to be a stronger determinant as to its outcome.

Notes for the next justice system, I guess.

GEMont (profile) says:

...his infant son died in a local hospital of traumatic brain injuries...

“Love wasn’t just a “person of interest.” He was alone in the house with the infant at the time the injury occurred.”

Funny thing is, almost nobody here seems to consider the fact that the perp apparently killed his infant kid.

I think that maybe both the cop and the jury were looking at that point, rather than at the beating the father got by the cop.

Killing an infant is a major emotion-generating crime and methinks both the cop and the jury were a tad overwhelmed by the thought of this man beating his son to death and mentally decided that beating him to a pulp while he was handcuffed, was instant karma.

I’m not saying its right, just that the emotional impact of considering the killing of a child can and does often render otherwise sane people a tad crazy.

GEMont (profile) says:

On the other hand...

The fact that a child killer was released back into the wild by an American Court because a cop, who was not charged with the assault, beat him up while he was handcuffed, is about as surprising as the fact that water can make you wet, or that the sun radiates heat.

I think the only people today who need fear the long arm of American Justice are the ones who have not committed a crime – we used to call them innocent, but today they’re the ill-accomplished Adversary whose illegal acts have yet to manifest, or have yet to be recognized as such by law enforcement, through mass omni-surveillance.

Criminals, on the other hand, have a really good friend in the modern system of American Justice, because criminals have rights under the new 9/11 Corporate Constitution of the USA.

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