SANTA ROSA-Anger over the lack ala proper local investigation into the mysterious death of her son has prompted a county native to seek the help of the United States Department of Justice.
Bernadette Sanchez Foster, now living in
Pino died several days after an altercation with two local men at the Cinnamon Ridge Apartments and it was that altercation that Mrs. Foster believes lead to her son's death.
According to an investigation by Mike Corwin, hired by the Fosters to
investigate the death, Pino was severely injured during
a fight at his girlfriend's apartment on
Other officers were called to the scene and, during the altercation; mace was inappropriately used upon Pino, this according to witnesses.
Also according to witnesses, the police did not immediately intervene in the assault against Pino by two men who outweighed him by more than three hundred pounds. The witnesses stated that the officer related to the combatant did the macing to Pino, and that the combatant was known to be a violent individual.
The next day, one of the officers detained Pino
and his girlfriend, without just cause, as they were driving. in
Foster's investigator, Corwin, has indicated that, some how, the Santa Rosa Police department did not have any records of the officers' "dispatch to the apartment complex on that night in June.
Two of the officers, one related to the persons in the call, had not been officially certified as police officers at the time of the incident.
Two officers filed undated reports regarding the incident on June 7th and the third officer at the scene, to date, has not filed a report even after he was requested to do so by the Fosters. Neither of the two police reports contains enough information about any of the events that occurred that evening. In particular, there
is no mention of Pino
being assaulted by two
The police reports read as two consecutive pages from the same novel. It's difficult for me to believe they are not conspired and rehearsed, Foster stated.
Two of the officers denied that an assault occurred, when asked by a New Mexico State Police investigator, although one officer did admit that his can of mace "accidentally went off."
When Pino was taken to the hospital the day after the altercation, hospital reports appear to have been changed to reflect the nature of his injuries-in which parts of the report were crossed out
Officers did not request
medical assistance for Pino nor did they drive him to
After the State Police investigation, the case went nowhere and was pressured to be closed by the Las Vegas District Attorneys Office.
But Mrs. Foster and her husband Malcolm, a Cub
Scout enthusiast who practiced dentistry in
"Friends and associates alike offered frank opinions and
candid remarks about several of the police officers in the department, none
being complimentary. It forever appears that needed change in
The Foster's went to District Attorney Matt Sandoval with their findings, asking that the case be reopened and witnesses re-interviewed. The Foster's waited nine months without a word. In January of this year, they again, tried to contact Sandoval's' office for any reply and received none.
Earlier this month, the couple sent a
letter to Patricia Madrid, Attorney General for
"Since the 13th of January there has not been as much as a
hint from the District Attorneys office that the investigation is moving
forward. Refusing to return my telephone inquiries, the investigation has
become as lifeless as my son.. .the conduct of two
But the Foster's did not stop with the Attorney General's Office. They have contacted the United States Department of Justice's Criminal Civil Rights office to investigate the matter.
They are seeking an investigation under the
This civil statute was a provision within the Crime Control Act of 1994 and makes it unlawful for any govern- mental authority, or agent thereof, or any person acting on behalf of a governmental authority, to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers or by officials or employees of any governmental agency with responsibility for the administration of juvenile justice or the incarceration of juveniles that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
Whenever the Attorney General has
reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, the Attorney
General, for or in the name of the
It is a crime for one or more persons
acting under color of law willfully to deprive or conspire to deprive another
person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the
Off-duty conduct may also be covered under color of law, if the perpetrator asserted their official status in some manner. Color of law may include public officials who are not law enforcement officers, for example, judges and prosecutors, as well as, in some circumstances, non governmental employees who are asserting state authority, such as private security guards.
While the federal authority to investigate color of law type violations extends to any official acting under "color of law , the vast majority of the allegations are against the law enforcement community. The average number of all federal civil rights cases initiated by the FBI from 1997 -2000 was 3513. Of those cases initiated, about 73% were allegations of color of law violations. Within the color of law allegations, about 82% were allegations of abuse of force with violence (59% of the total number of civil rights cases initiated).
The Supreme Court has had to interpret the United States Constitution to construct law regulating the actions of those in the law enforcement community. Enforcement of these provisions does not require that any racial, religious, or other discriminatory motive existed. -
Most of the FBI's color of law investigations would fall into five broad areas: 1, excessive force; 2, sexual assaults; 3, false arrest/fabrication of evidence; 4, deprivation of property; and 5, failure to keep from harm.
In making arrests, maintaining order, and defending life, law enforcement officers are allowed to utilize whatever force is "reasonably necessary. The breath and scope of the use of force is vast. The spectrum begins with the physical presence of the official Through the utilization of deadly force. While some types of force used by law enforcement may be violent by their very nature, They may be considered "reasonable, based upon the circumstances.
However, violations of federal law occur where it can be shown that the force used was willfully 1 "unreasonable or excessive against individuals.
In the letter to the Justice Department, the Foster's contend that, in addition to their son being assaulted, Santa Rosa Police denied him "Freedom of association and "Freedom of equal I protection from an unwarranted assault'. As well, they contend the inappropriate use of mace constituted "Excessive use of force .
Foster further stated in his letter to the
Attorney General, "