At what point do judges realize that criminals lie and break the law? When will they stop believing “Your Honor, if you let me out, I promise not to (insert illegal activity here) anymore?”
On October 17th, dispatchers sent Officer Steve Davidson to a Rainbow Road address for a report of a suicide in progress.
The dispatcher advised him, “I have a male screaming and saying somebody slit his throat at the location.”
People starting flagging down Davidson as Upon his arrival on scene, people were flagging him down and directing him to a shop on the property.
“Hurry! He’s in there! He’s killing them!” the officer recalled people yelling.
As he approached the shop, the officer saw 3 people struggling with a man who had a razor blade with pointed ends. All four people on the scene were covered in blood. The man with the blade was later identified as Marcus Hartsfield.
“This didn’t look like a suicide in progress,” the officer later told investigators. “This looked like a murder to me.”
Davidson drew his weapon, stepped into the room telling Hartsfield to drop the razor.
Prior to the officer’s arrival, here is what transpired.
Hartsfield was released from the Lane County Jail one day earlier, on October 16.
One of the conditions of his release was an agreement that barred him from going to the Rainbow Road property where Officer Davidson would later shoot and kill him.
“I promise, your Honor.”
Investigators learned from witnesses that Hartsfield, breaking his promise to the judge, barged into the Rainbow Street home and began punching one of the boys present.
According to District Attorney Patty Perlow, he then grabbed a girl and “started slamming her head into the wall hard enough to put holes through the sheetrock. Hartsfield pulled out a razor blade and sliced lengthwise down both of his forearms and across his throat. Hartsfield forced the juvenile female’s hands into the open wounds on his arms and began asking her ‘Do you love me?'”
Hence the reason all four were covered in blood.
Enter Officer Davidson
After he started giving commands, Hartsfield “got away from the other three individuals, stepped around the chair and began quickly moving toward Officer Davidson while holding the razor up in the air in his right hand,” the DA said.
It was determined the officer was legally justified in using deadly force that night.
“Officer Davidson fired three shots, stopping this approach. All three shots entered Hartsfield’s body, one in the chin and two in the chest,” Perlow said.
Witnesses stated that Hartsfield had charged the officer “like a football player.” Investigators were able to determine that Hartsfield came within 4 feet of the officer before stopping.
Davidson had a civilian riding along on that night.
To complicate matters further, shortly after the shooting, Hartsfield’s father arrived on scene and became physically aggressive with Officer Davidson. The officer eventually had to deploy his Taser and put the man in handcuffs. All of this was happening while he could have been rendering first aid to the man he just shot.
Perlow said the behavior of the people at the scene further delayed medical attention for Hartsfield.
“Other people on scene, including Hartsfield’s mother Rhonda Gilbreath, refused to step away from Hartsfield even after Officer Davidson instructed them that he could not render aid until they stepped back,” Perlow said. “During the wait for additional officers to arrive, Officer Davidson advised over the radio that medics were free to enter, but he did not have control of the scene. Medics declined to enter until additional officers arrived and advised the scene was safe. Officer Davidson was the lone law enforcement officer at that scene for 20 minutes in this dangerous, chaotic scene with a civilian rider on site. Preliminary toxicology confirmed the presence of methamphetamine in Mr. Hartsfield’s system.”
The Lane County Inter-Agency Deadly Force Investigation Team (IDFIT) was activated and detectives with the Oregon State Police, Lane County Sheriff’s Office, Eugene Police Department, Springfield Police Department, Cottage Grove Police Department, and the Florence Police Department responded to conduct the investigation.
Additional assistance was provided at the scene by Oakridge Fire, Lane County Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Lane County District Attorney’s Office.
It’s reminiscent of a story we reported in October out of New York.
A man was supposed to be sent to jail back after a judge’s ruling in July. But it never happened.
And because this criminal with a lengthy list of priors wasn’t locked up, prosecutors say he was free to commit a horrific act of violence against a Rochester police officer, repeatedly slashing his face and stabbing him, leaving him for dead.
So why wasn’t Keith Williams behind bars?
ABC 13 began digging into the Rochester man’s past… and what they found was troubling.
According to court records, Williams was involved in at least four cases within the last year alone. And in one of those instances, a SWAT team had get involved after the 28-year-old barricaded himself inside his New York residence. Police were on the scene to arrest Williams for his alleged connection with a shooting the night before.
When he finally surrendered, Judge Stephen Miller set his cash bail at $15,000 with a $45,000 bond.
Guess who showed up in court the very next month?
In that case, Williams had been arrested and charged with criminal contempt for violating a protection order on an aggravated family offense charge from 2018.
Judge Miller then sentenced Williams to eight months behind bars. But instead of taking Williams from the court room and putting him in a cell… somehow he went free.
— Bob Lonsberry (@BobLonsberry) October 9, 2019
And even after the sentence was handed down, Williams didn’t end up in jail. Instead, he remained free, for reasons unknown. And because of that mistake, prosecutors are now saying that the failure of the system resulted in the near-death of a beloved officer.
ABC 13 said that repeated attempts to reach the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office for comment about the failed sentence were unsuccessful.
Williams appeared in court, facing an overwhelming sea of blue as more than 200 police officers showed up to support their wounded brother.
He entered a plea of not guilty.
According to the police report, Williams allegedly punched Wright in the face, then used an 8-inch blade to repeatedly slash and stab the officer “multiple times upon his face, left eye and lower body, causing serious physical injuries which were deemed to be life threatening.”
An estimated 200 people, Most of them law enforcement at Keith Williams court appearance today. No bail no release for the man charged with attempted aggravated murder of a police officer. pic.twitter.com/fYugOasteO
— Jillian Parker (@TVJillianParker) October 8, 2019
Reports said that it if wasn’t for the immediate help of a good Samaritan… Officer Wright might not have made it. Here’s the story of what happened, as reported in October:
Last Friday, Lydell Weatherspoon was visiting friends just a couple houses away where Officer Wright was attacked when responding to a call. He didn’t hesitate to respond when he heard the officer screaming for help.
“When I got a little closer to the house I could hear someone inside yelling for help,” said Lydell Weatherspoon.
Chief La’Ron Singletary said Officer Denny Wright had responded to a call on Peck Street at 12:30 p.m. last Friday. The call came in for a reported domestic incident, and Officer Wright responded alone.
Tons of police on N Goodman pic.twitter.com/2Ewbx05Sof
— Tina MacIntyre-Yee (@tyee23) October 4, 2019
When he went into the home, he found Williams hiding under a bed. Family members and the officer tried to talk him out from hiding. Williams then allegedly tried to run out of the home.
When Wright tried to stop him, police say the suspect punched him and then began stabbing him.
Police say that Officer Wright pulled out his gun and fired once. He missed the suspect, who then continued to stab him.
“Once I got in the officer said ‘help,’” said Weatherspoon. “I immediately took a step toward the officer and the guy on the ground. He had him pinned down and I called out. Listen. Stop moving. Not to the officer but the guy calming him down. He tried to struggle a little bit. Once he heard my voice he stopped and just laid there.”
According to Weatherspoon, there was blood everywhere… but he knew he had to keep calm if he was going to be able to help.
“That’s when I could see the officer in real distress, ” said Weatherspoon. “I was on the phone with dispatch and I immediately told them officer down. Officer needs assistance. He needs help real bad.”
Although Wright was badly injured, he knew he had to keep the suspect pinned down so he didn’t hurt anyone else.
“He had one knee in him and his two hands holding him down pinned against the sofa,” said Weatherspoon. “The guy couldn’t get up and do anything. He couldn’t even move. Again that showed remarkable strength from the officer to be able to do that in that moment of his trauma situation. It surprised me.”
— Victoria Freile (@vfreile) October 8, 2019
Weatherspoon said it was because of Wright’s willingness to protect others even while he was injured that he was honored to help the officer.
“That officer showed me a lot of courage,” said Weatherspoon. “I thank God everyday that I did what I did because it’s individuals like him that create individuals like me. Because if he is willing to put his life on the line to serve and protect why can’t we all do it for each other.”
Shortly after, other responding officers arrived and tased the suspect before taking him into custody. The suspect wasn’t hurt. He was, however, kept in the hospital under evaluation.
“I watched the body camera video and what I witnessed was a vicious and brutal attack on Officer Wright,” Singletary added. “We could easily be standing here talking about another set of circumstances had it not been for the resiliency of Officer Wright, the good Samaritans that intervened and the quick actions of the responding officers.”
According to Singletary, Officer Wright is a 23-year veteran of the force. He’s worked in the Clinton section his entire career. He has also trained many of the department’s officers.
“The outpouring of support is a true testament of Denny’s character—a loving and caring officer who did and will always put the safety of others before his own,” family members said in a statement.
But the city wasn’t done making headlines there.
As Wright struggles to survive, his life forever changed, city leaders are coming under fire.
Loretta Scott sits on the city council in Rochester, New York. After the horrific attack that nearly took the life of an officer, Scott visited his bedside to show her support.
As Officer Dennison Wright lay in his hospital bed, fighting for his life after the brutal attack, Scott took the opportunity to tell reporters that she didn’t take what police officers did for granted.
“It’s very difficult to see someone who, just by the fact of doing their job, was in that position,” she said.
The statements don’t seem so outrageous… until you see how Scott usually acts toward police.
In fact, the general attitude of city leaders and the community toward police is so bad, Bob Lonsberry told WHAM radio that they could be partially to blame for the attack on Wright.
Council President Scott is pushing to pass a little something called the Police Accountability Board.
Its name makes it sound innocent enough. But it’s not what it seems.
Rochester City Council approves Police Accountability Board https://t.co/keJaC7cl7P
— CITY Newspaper (@roccitynews) May 22, 2019
This PAB group is made up of a panel of civilians called the Police Accountability Board Alliance – and if it’s passed in a referendum vote in November, it would put the power to discipline local officers into the hands of anti-police ‘activists’.
In a situation where an officer would be facing an investigation or alleged misconduct, Scott’s board of activists would get the final say about whether they were to be punished.
Not the chief of police. Not the mayor.
A panel of individuals who routinely have argued that the cops are the enemy of the community.
Any police officer – regardless of wrongdoing – knows that complaints against cops come in all the time. Whether it’s an attempt to discredit an officer, get a handout from the city or something else, the vast number of complaints are normally unfounded.
We checked out the PAB’s website.
“The proposed PAB would be a civilian-led oversight board,” the site reads. “The Chief of Police cannot be expected to investigate, evaluate, and discipline police officers. This is a clear conflict of interest.”
BREAKING: Rochester Police Locust club files lawsuit against city, Mayor Warren, City Council and Board of Elections to get the Police Accountability Board referendum vote off the ballot on Election Day. #ROC https://t.co/NYCtJicZhW
— News 8 – WROC-TV (@News_8) September 10, 2019
And how much do they want to fund the project?
Oh… just a million dollars, even though the city is reportedly facing a $30 million budget deficit.
Their plan consists of five ‘pillars’.
- An independent agency of city government, separate from RPD
- The power to independently investigate complaints of police misconduct
- Subpoena power to compel the production of evidence and witnesses
- Disciplinary power
- The power to review and evaluate RPD patterns, practices, policies and procedures to recommend systemic changes and to prevent misconduct from happening in the first place.
While there’s an open application for joining the Police Accountability Board Alliance, let’s look at some examples of people in the community that could be in charge of deciding an officer’s fate.
Lonsberry said that just days before Wright was viciously attacked and left for dead, reverend and community activist Lewis Stewart appeared on the evening news, talking about the “racist culture of the police.”
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His statements condemned the Rochester department for their dealings with a 13-year-old who, at the instruction of his mother, refused to comply with officers and continued to resist and fight back, making the officers look like the bad guys when they controlled the situation. The boy was hailed as a victim and the mother’s face was shown covered in tears, demonizing the cops.
Then just days later, Keith Williams allegedly attacked Officer Wright, nearly ending his life.
Lonsberry said the display of anti-police rhetoric can’t be ignored any longer.
“When neighbors’ Facebook Live broadcasts from outside a scene bloodied with an officer’s gore contain such commentary as, “I hope they killed this mother f—er’s ass. I hope it’s a straight head shot,” you’ve got to acknowledge that there is a problem,” their story read. “And that problem is an open hatred of the police which is dressed up as civil-rights activism.”
Reports say that police in the Rochester area have recently had an increasingly difficult time with getting suspects to comply with lawful commands. News stories have shown officers being confronted by people who refuses to obey orders.
Lonsberry said that “those people – instead of being accurately described as rude or disrespectful – are held up as heroes or victims.”
We train our officers. Shouldn’t we train our communities on how to work with the police?
If these are the people playing Monday morning quarterback and deciding our officers’ future, we’re all in trouble.
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