[NC] AT COP CLUB, (RACIST?) OFFICER AHMED BLAKE ATTACKS GIRLFRIEND & WOMAN WHO TRIES TO HELP - HE'S NOT ARRESTED & GETS A 2 WEEK SUSPENDED SENTENCE -(This officer is reported to have attacked two women and was not arrested that night).... [Greensboro Police Officer Ahmed Joseph "AJ"] Blake’s two-week sentence will be suspended for three years... The assaults were said to have occurred as the party was ending... Blake allegedly hurls racial slurs at his Hispanic girlfriend. Does this make it a hate crime?... How many drunk police had their firearms that night? If a cop assaults his wife or girlfriend they are supposed to be arrested on the spot. There are no rules allowing anything else....
SUSPENDED GPD OFFICER FIGHTS BACK AT CONFERENCE
By: Kira Mathis
June 2 2009 10:55 AM
[Excerpts] Sitting next to his fiancée and Guilford County's NAACP president, Rev. Cardes Brown, suspended Greensboro police officer A.J. Blake went into details about his assault conviction during a Tuesday afternoon news conference. He says the assault charges came after a party with off-duty police officers involving a drinking contest... While Blake admits he had poor judgment that night, he says he doesn't deserve the suspension without pay.... "All of these charges grow from anti-Latino and anti-people-of-color prejudices and hostility within certain quarters and certain officers in the Greensboro Police Department,” said Blake... But Greensboro assistant chief, Dwight Crotts, says the suspension without pay is standard procedure. "He does talk about being treated differently and sites that several years ago when an officer was suspended with pay in what he believes is similar circumstances; I can't talk about the circumstances specifically but I can say if it was several years ago then as he has said, that policies change and we are in compliance with city policy and how those situations are handled with or without pay"... Blake has appealed the guilty verdict in the assault case. "I'm not looking for preferential treatment, I'm looking for fair treatment and that the case is heard based on the evidence that is present," he said. Blake is also one of over 30 officers involved in a federal lawsuit against the city that makes charges about racial discrimination within the police department... [Full article here]
SUSPENDED OFFICER'S BROTHER SAYS COUNCILMAN OFFERED A DEAL
By Angela Rodriguez
June 2, 2009
[Excerpts] A suspended Greensboro police officer who is one of over 30 officers suing the city said Tuesday he encountered discrimination during his time on the force and complaints he filed went nowhere. A.J. Blake, one of 39 officers who have filed a lawsuit against the city, claims a City Council member attempted to make a deal with him. Blake said the councilmember told him criminal charges would be dropped if he removed his name from the lawsuit. Blake has been suspended from the force without pay since January after being convicted of assaulting two females at the police club during a birthday party. He also has been recommended for termination.... At the news conference, Blake went into great detail about the party at the club, where he said officers were playing drinking games to see who could drink the most. He said he and his fiancée were the only people of color at the party, and he denied hitting his fiancée or the girlfriend of another officer. Blake was convicted of those charges in March and is appealing the sentence. Blake's brother said the citizens of Greensboro deserve to know that City Councilmember Mike Barber offered to make those charges go away if Blake would drop out of the discrimination lawsuit against the city... [Full article here]
PUBLIC STATEMENT BY GREENSBORO POLICE OFFICER A. J. BLAKE
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Good afternoon. Thanks to all of you for coming. I am Greensboro Police Officer A. J. Blake.
I have asked the media and the public to come here today because I have been slandered and wrongly convicted. Many false and malicious reports about me have appeared in the press. I have not made any public statement previously, but I believe that I must now state clearly the important facts and the circumstances surrounding this incident.
I was suspended from the Greensboro Police Department without pay on January 17, 2009. I was charged with assault on Ms. Lorraine Galloway, the girlfriend of Greensboro Police Officer Craig Myrick, on January 17th. Approximately three weeks later on February 7th, I was charged with a second assault on Ms. Sandra Sanchez, my fiancée. I was tried in the District Court of Greensboro on March 20th and found guilty at a non-jury trial. I have appealed that verdict; I am now awaiting a trial by jury.
At this point I want to apologize to the citizens of Greensboro, my Department and most importantly to my fiancée, Sandra Sanchez, for my behavior at the police party. I did some things that I should not have done. I went to the party of my own free will; I chose to participate in the drinking contest with other police officers; I got in an argument with my fiancée. All of these things are unbecoming of a police officer. I take full responsibility for them, but I did not assault anyone.
Having acknowledged my faults, I want to state as strongly as I can that I am absolutely not guilty of the assault charges; secondly it is my view that these charges and the resulting convictions grow largely out of a history of anti-Latino and anti-people of color prejudice deeply rooted within the Greensboro Police Department. Finally, I believe these false charges are also a form of retaliation against me for views I have expressed against bad law enforcement practices by the Greensboro Police Department’s Gang Unit of which I was a part. I feel that if I do not speak out about the pattern of anti-Latino prejudice and the resultant harassment and mistreatment of residents of our city by police personnel, their behavior is not likely to change.
Both of the charges against me resulted from what I would characterize as a drunken police party at the Police Club that began on the evening of January 16th and continued until shortly after midnight. The occasion for the party was a birthday celebration for Officer Caudle. It began at 7:00 PM and was attended by approximately 25-30 people, either police officers or the invited guests of police officers. When I arrived around 8:30 PM, a drinking contest was already well underway. The names of most police officers present were written on a piece of cardboard listing how many “Jager-bomb” drinks they had taken. That drinking contest continued throughout the evening with the winner having consumed 34 “Jager-bomb” drinks. My fiancée and I were the only people of color at the party, as most police officers of color do not frequent the Police Club.
During the course of the evening, my fiancée, Sandra, and I had a misunderstanding and became engaged in an argument in and near the rest room. Around midnight, Sandra and I were in the process of leaving the club. Sandra walked out in front of me. As I was going through the exit door, I heard Lorraine Galloway shouting at me, and as I turned around she had her hands raised within inches of me. I put my hands in her chest area and pushed her back inside the door and closed the door. That action was taken to protect myself from what appeared to be an imminent attack from a self admitted intoxicated woman. That is the only contact I had with Ms. Galloway.
Officer Christopher Schultheis testified that I grabbed Lorraine by the neck and threw her back inside the door to the floor. Officer Schultheis’s testimony is false, perhaps due to the fact that he was so severely intoxicated. There was no grabbing of the neck and no picking up of anyone. I was simply using the minimum force necessary to keep Ms. Galloway from attacking me. I closed the door and walked eight to ten feet away from the door (to get out of her reach) in the event Ms. Galloway opened the door and attempted to assault me.
When the door was opened again, the boyfriend of Ms. Galloway, Officer Craig Myrick, walked out the door and started to approach me with his arms folded in what I interpreted as a threatening manner. Officer Myrick was followed by Officer Christopher Schultheis, retired police officer Phil Goins, and Sergeant Ronald Sizemore, my immediate supervisor on the Gang Unit. There were tense moments of staring between me and the other police officers. There was some conversation, but for the most part I was silent. After several minutes all the officers went back inside the building. Sandra and I then left the premises. Because I too had had several drinks while at the club, Sandra drove me home. That is essentially what happened.
However, some Greensboro police officers, complicit with Lorraine Galloway, have spun a completely different story. Lorraine testified in court that Sandra followed me from the building, which is not what happened. Once I was outside the building, Ms. Galloway alleges that Sandra turned and started back into the building and that I turned and ran back towards Sandra, jumped up and karate-kicked Sandra in the back, knocking her down. Ms. Galloway testified that the reason for her rushing towards me in an aggressive manner was to keep me from attacking Sandra again. This story by Lorraine is a fabrication. It simply did not happen. I never kicked or hit Sandra.
According to the investigative report, the Greensboro Police Officers who had come outside went back into the building and discussed the situation and then decided to make a telephone call for an officer to come out and investigate. Why did these officers need to discuss this among themselves? Among them there was over 100 years of police experience. Either they saw an assault, or they did not.
I have been engaged in continuous training in several forms of marshal arts. If I had karate-kicked Sandra, who is small – about four feet, eleven inches – there would have been some bruise marks or some evidence to indicate that an assault had occurred. Sandra never alleged that I attacked her in anyway. In spite of the fact that Officer Schowcho, the investigating officer, said that he saw no evidence of an assault, after about three weeks District Attorney Douglas Henderson ordered Officer Schowcho to bring charges of assault on Sandra against me.
It is clear that Ms. Galloway could only justify approaching me with her hands raised in an aggressive manner if she were doing so to protect another person from being assaulted. Without the false charge of assaulting Sandra Sanchez, Ms. Galloway’s behavior would logically be interpreted as aggression towards me. I believe the order from the D.A. to the investigating officer to charge me with assault on Sandra Sanchez was done to give legitimacy to the charges that Lorraine Galloway, a white woman, made against me.
As I stated previously, there were 25-30 people present, most of them police officers. It was stipulated in district court that while some of the officers present heard the argument between Sandra and me, none of the police officers saw me assault anyone, neither Ms. Galloway nor Sandra. Also on the morning of the investigation, January 17th, in order to photograph any injuries, a crime scene investigator worked the area. She testified in court that she used an alternate light source to attempt to find injuries and could not find any evidence of an assault on Lorraine Galloway or Sandra Sanchez. It is worth noting that the Internal Affairs Department of the Greensboro Police never attempted to interview Ms. Sanchez.
D.A. Henderson reported that the police officers present told him that I was “out of control.” If that statement is true and if the officers who were present actually believed that I was “out of control,” why did they allow Sandra and me to drive off together? No competent police officer would have allowed a man “out of control” and who had just assaulted a woman to leave with that woman in the car.
In April of 2008 Greensboro Police Officer Christopher Schultheis shot and killed a 22 year old black man, James Paschal, Jr. Officer Schultheis was the only witness to the incident. He said that James Paschal, Jr. would not follow orders to remove his hand from his pocket and that he kept walking towards him; therefore, he shot him nine times. It turned out that James Paschal was not armed. There were other tools that Officer Schultheis had available to him to contain Mr. Paschal, including pepper spray. Officer Schultheis killed an unarmed man who was a distance away from him for advancing on him in an aggressive manner. He was not charged with a crime. I pushed a person who was within inches and who was advancing on me in an aggressive manner, yet I was charged with assault.
I have been suspended without pay since January 17th. I have had no way to care for my family. Several years ago, Officer Tate, a white officer, was charged with assault against his wife. He was tried in District Court and found guilty. He appealed the case to Superior Court. He was suspended, but Officer Tate was suspended with pay. The District Attorney dismissed the charges against Officer Tate; so he never went to Superior Court. I ask why was Officer Tate, who was charged with assault, suspended with pay when I was suspended without pay and made to suffer from the very beginning for flimsy, false charges brought against me by drunk, vindictive people at a drunken police party. This seems wrong on its face.
All of these charges grow from an anti-Latino and anti-people of color prejudice and hostility within certain quarters and among certain officers in the Greensboro Police Department. I am a Latino from Honduras. I was employed by the Greensboro Police Department in 2001. I have personally experienced this prejudice and hostility for some time.
In 2006, I filed a complaint against Sergeant Hafekaneyer for describing Latinos as “wet-backs” and for saying that we all looked like illegal aliens to him. I also filed a complaint against Officer Ashley Brown. He said that because I am from Honduras I must be a gang member and that he considers everyone from Honduras to be gang members.
Over the last eighteen months or so the Greensboro Police Department’s Gang Unit has had a stepped up focus on gang activity. This has been focused mainly on Latino gangs. When I indicated that there was other more serious gang activity than the harassment type activities in which we were engaged, Sergeant Sizemore said that his image of a gang member is a Latino male.
Once when I was interviewing Cesar Herrera, a member of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN), I was interrupted by Officer Sizemore who took over the interview. Officer Sizemore began shouting at Cesar and said that he wished that Jorge Cornell, the leader of the ALKQN who had been recently shot, had been killed. It was not said in a joking manner.
I have tried to be a good Greensboro Police officer. I believe my record will support that. I know that there will be great efforts to discredit me. I appeal to the citizens of this city of all races and nationalities to examine carefully what I have said and not allow prejudices to cloud your mind. This issue is bigger than me. I have attempted to do my part to make this a better city. I only ask for justice, nothing more.
Finally, I wish to express my appreciation to Rev. Cardes Brown and the NAACP, Rev. Gregory Headen and the Pulpit Forum, and to Rev. Nelson Johnson and the Beloved Community Center for their support.
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