Sunday, July 03, 2016
IS THIS APPROPRIATE CONDUCT FROM THE SHERIFF OF WICOMICO COUNTY? HERE ARE THE FACTS:
An incident occurred on January 3, 2015 at the Center City Exxon in Salisbury, located near Peninsula Regional Center. A Sheriff's Deputy, David Crowell, stopped Miguel Santos for suspicion of drinking and driving. Mr. Santos, who is of Mexican national origin, but is here and employed in this country legally, admitted that he had been drinking on the night of the incident. He told Deputy Crowell, at a certain point, that he did not want to take field sobriety tests. After this point, Mr. Santos was pinned up against Deputy Crowell's police vehicle (the large, black and white SUV model). A physical altercation occurred (the specifics of which are still disputed), but ended with Mr. Santos being "aggressively taken to the ground," according to Crowell in his police report. Santos claims he was lifted and pile-driven to the ground for no reason. Crowell then got on top of Santos punched Santos in the face at least once, and perhaps several times. Santos was then "tazed"or drive-stunned in the back. Mr. Santos suffered the following injuries: broken hand, broken lower vertebrae, and severe swelling, cuts and bruising to his eyes. (Photos above) Mr. Santos was then charged with crimes including 1) Assault of a Police Officer; 2) Second Degree Assault; 3) Resisting Arrest; and 4) Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol. Deputy Crowell was not injured, and received no medical treatment as a result of the altercation, nor did he ever claim to be. (Strangely, the arrest photo in the Sheriff's Department's press release showed an old photo of Santos, one without the cuts, bruises and black eyes he received as a result of this incident.)
Approximately 3 days later, WMDT did an interview with Mr. Santos and Sheriff Mike Lewis after the incident. The entire interview, with video, can be found above.
In the Interview, Sheriff Lewis was asked about the incident, and volunteered the following comments:
A. "He [Mr. Santos] would have been a lot more banged up if it were me."
B. Sheriff Lewis "applauded" the efforts of Defendant Crowell.
C. Defendant Crowell "actually restrained himself."
D. "[I]f lethal force were used it would have been completely justified."
Mr. Santos had a criminal jury trial in the summer of 2015. The charge of Assault of a Police Officer was dismissed. Santos was found NOT GUILTY of Second Degree Assault (an offensive touching of Deputy Crowell). He was found GUILTY of Resisting Arrest (resisting or refused to submit to arrest). He was found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol (which he did not dispute). Other lesser charges filed against Mr. Santos, including traffic charges, resulted in convictions. Mr. Santos was sentenced to prison as a result of the incident. His injuries are generally untreated and permanent.
A civil case was later filed by Mr. Santos to recover for what he claims was excessive police force, that was unnecessary and caused his permanent injuries, including his broken back. On June 14, 2016, Sheriff Lewis was subpoenaed for a deposition, to explain and elaborate on facts related to his comments above. He refused to voluntarily appear. Rather, Sheriff Lewis, through his attorney, stated:Rather, Sheriff Lewis indicated: [I] am not willing to [appear voluntarily]. If you [Mr. Santos] decide to subpoena me, [I] anticipate [my lawyer] will file a motion to quash or for a protective order.
It is almost unheard of for a person, no matter what his or her status, to simply refuse to appear for a deposition. Therefore, on June 20, 2016, Sheriff Lewis, through his attorneys, did in fact file a "Motion to Quash" the Subpoena. According to Sheriff Lewis' attorney, his comments "were entirely of his own opinion" and Sheriff Lewis "does not possess any potentially relevant information about the case." Likewise, according to Sheriff Lewis, "he has no personal knowledge about the case" and was simply "provid[ing]" a media statement supporting his subordinate."
According to Mr. Santos, however, if Sheriff Lewis has no knowledge about the case, why say, without any reason or provocation, that "[Santos] would have been a lot more banged up if it were me?" Also, if he knows nothing about the case, why say "if lethal [deadly] force were used it would have been completely justified." According to Mr. Santos, these are either the remarks of someone with specific, unique knowledge of the case, or someone who is literally out of control and dangerous as a Sheriff of a law enforcement agency. No one, at least in Mr. Santos opinion, should be "banged up" or "killed" if you do not know the facts, simply because you support other deputies in your department. That is not law enforcement, but murder.
Salisbury News would like to know the thoughts and opinions of its readers on this issue. Is Sheriff Lewis correct? Or, alternatively, do his comments demonstrate a deeper problem with his Department and maybe others, one where they may believe they is above law, and can use force (deadly or otherwise) without any accountability whatsoever. History is full of such examples where trouble has followed when things rise to this level-see Los Angeles in the early 1990s, for example. There are no "right" answers to this issue; readers please opine.
at 7/03/2016 08:00:00 AM