Patrolman 1st Class Ryan Bentley continued recovering from two gunshot wounds Wednesday, as fellow officers and city leaders commended his courage and skills under fire.
The nine-year veteran received the gunshot wounds about 1:17 a.m. Wednesday as he chased an armed robbery suspect. The serious injuries did not stop Bentley from identifying the gunman and using his radio to communicate crucial information to fellow officers. Those details helped an army of 30 to 40 police officers capture the alleged gunman.
“It was a good effort top to bottom,” said Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook.
The Police Department initially listed Bentley in serious condition. Cabell Huntington Hospital officials upgraded Bentley’s status to fair condition Wednesday afternoon.
The shooting occurred in an alley between the 1700 blocks of 10th and Doulton avenues in the city’s Fairfield West neighborhood. It happened within two blocks of the reported armed robbery. The gunshots struck Bentley in the leg and neck. He is expected to survive.
Bentley identified the suspect from previous run-ins. His assistance helped police locate and apprehend the suspect in about four hours.
Anthony “A-Train” Jennings was charged with attempted first-degree murder of a police officer and two counts of first-degree robbery. The 19-year-old from Huntington is the son of the late Melvin D. Jennings, who was murdered almost six years to the day of Wednesday’s shooting. His father’s shooting death occurred March 1, 2003, near the family residence in the 1800 block of 10th Avenue. A man later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
A criminal complaint states Jennings was identified in a photo lineup. Cabell County Magistrate Darrell Black set a $2 million bond at arraignment. Jennings was detained at 9:40 a.m. in the Western Regional Jail.
Court documents state the attempted first-degree murder charge carries a possible three to 15 years in prison. Each count of first-degree robbery carries a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Bentley was on midnight patrol at the time. Holbrook said the nine-year police veteran approached a group of people not knowing it was an armed robbery in progress. One of the robbery victims told Bentley he had been robbed, and the officer’s instincts kicked in.
“Officer Bentley pursued him into a nearby alley,” Holbrook said. “At that time, as he was closing on the suspect, the suspect turned and began firing.”
Law enforcement from across the county fanned across eight blocks. Holbrook said that “extremely impressive cooperative effort” led to an arrest about four hours later. Jennings was taken into custody at a residence in the 1400 block of 8th Avenue. The suspect was apprehended without further incident.
“Once he realized he was surrounded, he complied,” Holbrook said.
Jennings was quiet at his arraignment. He was dressed in a yellow hospital gown. He was joined by his mother and two supporters. Neither Jennings nor his mother had comments when questioned by reporters as he left the Cabell County Courthouse.
Wednesday morning’s incident marks Jennings’ third arrest in Cabell County since he turned 18 in September 2007, according to court documents in Cabell County Magistrate Court. Two prior charges stem from an April 20, 2008, arrest when officers charged him with felony receiving/transferring stolen property and misdemeanor driving without a driver’s license. He was arrested again July 28, 2008, and charged with misdemeanor possession of 2 grams of marijuana.
Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the felony stolen property charge when Jennings pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving without a license. He paid a $50 fine and court costs. The marijuana charge is still pending.
Holbrook credited the Cabell County Sheriff’s Office, West Virginia State Police, Barboursville Police Department, Milton Police Department and the Marshall University Police Department, along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms with assisting in Jennings’ arrest.
“It shakes everyone up,” Holbrook said in speaking about his department and the arrest. “That’s just the way you do business. It makes you proud to be part of this profession. Not only does something like that affect our department, but it really affects everyone. I think that’s why you see everyone answer the bell.”
Mayor Kim Wolfe and Holbrook were among his visitors in the hospital. The police chief described his patrolman to be in good spirits, surrounded by family and relieved the suspect was captured.
A bullet was still lodged in Bentley’s leg during the mayor’s visit. Wolfe commended Bentley for a job well done.
“Considering the circumstances, he was in pretty good spirits,” Wolfe said. “He did everything right. Chief Holbrook and all of the surrounding agencies deserve some credit, too. They were able to assemble a dragnet in the area not long after the incident.”
The two robbery victims were not injured. Holbrook described that incident as a crime of opportunity. He said the two male victims were walking along the street when their attacker approached.
A criminal complaint charges Jennings presented a handgun and demanded the robbery victims to empty their pockets. He fled with $150 cash and a package of Newport cigarettes.
“It wasn’t really a planned robbery,” Holbrook said. “These people walked up, and he just took advantage of an opportunity that presented itself.”
More than 120 New Jersey State Police troopers filed a lawsuit yesterday seeking to have the agency’s mandatory retirement policy overturned.
The troopers, saying they are fit and want to stay in law enforcement, contend the requirement that they retire by age 55 is discriminatory and outdated.
The lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in Trenton and seeking class-action status, mirrors legal challenges mounted in other states. Troopers in New York, Massachusetts, and Kentucky have won similar age-bias lawsuits, receiving millions in back pay and health benefits.
In Pennsylvania, however, the state Supreme Court in 1987 upheld the state police retirement cap, which was set at age 60 and remains in force for the roughly 4,500 troopers.
“The mandatory retirement age falls outside the scope of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act’s ban on age discrimination because it is a bona fide occupational qualification,” the court wrote. It upheld lower court rulings, saying: “Good health and physical strength are job qualifications” of being a trooper.
Many state police agencies have mandatory retirement ages, mainly because they are paramilitary forces steeped in tradition and respect for physical prowess, says Maki Haberfeld, professor of police training and ethics at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.
“But this is not a profession where people just chase bad guys. It’s a profession that requires thinking and good judgment, and these things become better with age,” said Haberfeld, who holds a doctorate in criminal justice.
Haberfeld also noted that at one time a person who was 55 was considered “in advanced life,” but now life spans are longer. Whether someone can do the job should be based on agility and experience, not age, she said.
The New Jersey complaint was filed by William H. Buckman, a Moorestown lawyer who specializes in civil-rights cases. It names the State of New Jersey, the Office of the Attorney General, the Division of State Police, and the Division of Pensions.
Lee Moore, spokesman for the attorney general, said that his office had not yet received the document and that it would have no comment until it prepares a response. There are about 3,000 troopers patrolling state highways.
“The ’55 and out’ requirement serves no meaningful purpose in this day and age other than to discriminate against otherwise qualified members,” the lawsuit states.
The 10-page suit also says the age restriction deprives the state of “some of the most experienced officers” and raises pension costs at a time when the state has a deepening budget deficit.
“Deferring the pensions of plaintiffs who wish to continue their service will greatly reduce the pension liability of New Jersey citizens,” the suit says.
The lawsuits seek a declaratory judgment voiding the forced retirement as long as the troopers “can carry on the usual and ordinary functions of a police officer.” Retirement should be based on physical standards, not age, the lawsuit says.
Rafael Rokitta peered at the laptop Tampa police Officer Jimmy Owens opened on the trunk of a Ford Fusion in a city park Wednesday.
With a few key clicks, Owens looked up possible suspects related to a recent burglary.
“Do you have computers in your car in Germany?” Owens asked.
Rokitta, a trainee for the Berlin police, shook his head. He has to run identity checks from a main police building; nothing portable.
“Just the radio,” he said.
“Oh, wow,” Owens marveled.
Rokitta is used to the questions. Since Feb. 12, he has been an intern with the Tampa Police Department, shadowing officers as part of his training to be a law enforcement officer in his home country. His internship ends March 23.
So far, his assignments have varied. He has accompanied officers to the Krewe of Sant’ Yago Illuminated Knight Parade in Ybor City, searched for stolen cars, seen bodies from suicides and gone on a search warrant for drugs.
“Not like we find this Colombian Escobar guy,” he explained in accented English, referring to drug lord Pablo Escobar, “but we find marijuana. A few grams.”
Rokitta, 31, has one semester and exams to complete before he becomes a kriminalkommissar, or a detective, one of about 3,000 in Berlin. Unlike Tampa, where all rookies start as officers, he chose his career path during training. The Berlin police force has about 16,000 officers in a city of about 3 million people. Tampa has about 1,000 officers in a city of about 337,000 people.
A veteran of the German military and the father of a 2-year-old girl, Rokitta said he has wanted to become a police officer since he was a child. Part of his three years of training includes an internship either in a state in Germany or a city in Great Britain, Switzerland, France or the United States. He relished the opportunity to travel.
Assistant Chief of Police Jane Castor accepted the intern after receiving an e-mail from the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, where Rokitta is studying. Some of his classmates went to Chicago and St. Louis, she said.
“It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “He’s a good guy, and it’s been positive for us.”
Castor said the Howard Johnson Plaza hotel in downtown Tampa gave Rokitta a reduced rate on his accommodations because he has to pay for his trip. Because Rokitta doesn’t have an American driver’s license, an officer picks him up for work. Castor loaned him a mountain bike to explore the city in his hours off, and other officers have invited him for dinner to offset his costs.
“The workplace, the people I am with, are absolutely fantastic, give me good support, listen to my bad English,” Rokitta said.
Officers chuckled and assured Rokitta he speaks fine.
The officers and the trainee enjoy comparing notes. For instance, as a detective, Rokitta will carry a medallion instead of a badge, a 9 mm handgun and pepper spray, not the Tasers the Tampa officers use.
“It’s interesting how the people act when they are hit by this,” he said.
Some laws and criminal procedures in Tampa and Berlin are different – civilians legally don’t carry firearms there – but the basic police work is the same.
Just like in Tampa, people in Germany don’t call the police unless they need help, Rokitta said.
“You’re like a dentist. We see only bad teeth.”
Two area SWAT teams may merge, but it’s up to the county board to decide. The Chippewa Falls City Council approved combining the city SWAT team with the Chippewa County SWAT team. Now Chippewa County will take up the idea on Monday.
A sheriff’s department Captain says they’ve been looking to team up for years because it just makes sense. If the county approves it, officers from the police department and sheriff’s department would work and train as one team.
A Gadsden county little girl is alive thanks to the heroic efforts of a Quincy Police officer.
Monday afternoon officers were called to a home in Quincy where a four-year-old child was not breathing.
Sergeant Troy Gilyard was the first to respond and immediately began CPR.
Before the ambulance arrived, the baby began breathing again.
Sergeant Gilyard has been with the Quincy Police Department for ten years and says this was the first time he ever had to resuscitate a child.
“I’m a father of four myself. So I’m happy that I helped the child and it just feels good that the child is OK,” said Sergeant Troy Gilyard the officer who saved the child.
The child was taken to the hospital where they determined she had a seizure. She has been released and is in good condition.
Program matches police with experts
Dealing with mental health issues as a police officer requires a special set of skills, particularly in a tense situation.
With this in mind, the Chatham-Kent Police Service has teamed with the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, as well as mental health professionals.
Training was held yesterday for the Police-Mental Health Liaison (HELP) Team at the Park Avenue Business Centre.
Const. Sherri Keller serves with CKHA nurse Becky Elgie on a mobile crisis team.
“They’re taught to deal with the emotionally disturbed person or the mentally ill,” Keller said. “And they’re taught about the different agencies in Chatham-Kent that can assist them.”
Other partners include the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Chatham-Kent Consumer and Family Network.
Keller said she enjoys working in this area of policing.
“I find it extremely rewarding,” she said. “It’s a different aspect.”
Each member on the HELP Team requires 40 hours of instruction.
Over the four days, there were a number of guest speakers scheduled, as well as interactive scenarios.
Nineteen officers are going through the training, with 37 already trained.
Officers are selected for the team based on aptitude and sensitivity. However, they can then serve as mentors for their colleagues.
“With the specialized training they’re receiving here, they have a lot more direction and insight,” Keller said. “When (others) have questions, they can come to them.”
Const. Jay Williams has been with the police service for a year and a half.
He praised the HELP Team for its work and welcomed the contact information that was presented.
“It’s not just ‘apprehend and take to the hospital,’” he said. “There are a lot of programs.
“It goes hand in hand with what you’ve been trained for.”
In 2007, Sgt. Jim Biskey received a national award of excellence for his working in helping to develop the team in Chatham-Kent.
He had been involved in the 1992 shooting death of a mental-health patient, Cameron Carruthers, who lunged at officers with a knife.
An inquest determined police acted in a professional and necessary manner.
‘Tasers’ eyed for Muskegon County sheriff’s deputies
Muskegon County officials are about to make a shocking purchase.
The county commission’s courts/public safety committee Tuesday unanimously recommended the purchase of 15 stun guns, also known as Tasers.
A grant will cover the $16,764 expense. The full county board is expected to approve the purchase later this month.
If approved, it would be the first time Muskegon County sheriff’s deputies will be armed with Tasers, which stun violent suspects into submission with 50,000 volts of electric shock.
Police departments in Norton Shores, Muskegon Township and Grand Haven and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department already use Tasers.
Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler said the technology would keep his deputies safer while trying to subdue dangerous and violent suspects. Deputies would be trained before the Tasers hit the streets this spring.
Roesler said Tasers are a “less lethal option” in arresting suspects who put up physical resistance.
“It’s not something we would use in place of deadly force if deadly force was warranted,” the sheriff told county commissioners.
He said Tasers also help officers in rare cases when backup can’t arrive quickly enough.
A Taser operates similar to a handgun. An officer pulls a trigger, causing two probes to be shot out of a cartridge. The probes, which are attached to insulated wires, penetrate clothing and pierce the skin.
The electric current confuses the communication between the brain and affected muscles, giving law-enforcement officials the upper hand in subduing suspects. Each shot sends a five-second current, a period that can be extended by an officer holding his finger on the trigger.
A suspect remains unable to move until the current is cut off.
The county’s Tasers will be purchased through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, or JAG Program, which is made available to state and local governments to enhance services.
The equipment will come from Michigan Tasing Distribution in South Lyon.
The Forrest City Police Department has announced three promotions and the addition of a new K-9.
The promotions are to corporal, and includes Bobby “Shane” Rogers, James “Mike” McElroy and William Sparkmon. Corporals are second in command for the patrol shifts and assume the shift supervisor responsibilities in the absence of the sergeants.
“These officers bring a lot to the table,” said Police Chief Dwight Duch. “Cpl. Rogers has over 12 years of experience with the Forrest City Police Department. Cpl. McElroy has over 17 years experience with the department. Cpl. Sparkmon has over eight years with the department and additional service with the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
“They will have the reins for at least 125 days out of the year while the sergeants are on regular days off and vacation,” Duch continued. “With these promotions, we have secured a solid chain of command for the department.”
The new K-9 is named “Doc.” Doc is a German Shepherd trained in narcotics detection and tracking. He was born in Germany and brought to the United States by the Little Rock K-9 Academy, where he received his training.
Doc’s handler, K-9 Officer Ronald Perdew, has been with the Forrest City Police Department for about three years. He has previous military training and experience as a K-9 handler with the U.S. Army.
“Doc will be a great asset to our department,” said Duch. “With the loss of our K-9 ‘Marko,’ we began looking into putting another dog on the force. Trained K-9s usually run between $5,000 and $7,000. We were able to secure this one without the purchase expense through an agreement with Ronald Perdew, who owns the dog.”
Duch said K-9s are an assets in drug and robbery investigations, as well as missing person searches.
“Having the ability to call on an in-house K-9 unit adds another valuable tool to our department in protecting this community,” Duch said.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Department is currently taking applications for its new civil service test.
Sheriff Joe Carpenter said Wednesday that the last test administered two years ago has expired and that the department is looking for new sheriff’s deputy candidates.
Carpenter explained that all Marion County sheriff’s deputies are hired off a list that documents all of the people in the county who have passed the test.
He said the test itself is made up of one written and one physical agility section and that anyone who wants to apply to take the new test is encouraged to pick up an application at the county clerk’s office.
“There is no certification needed, and people can apply up to the time of the test,” Carpenter said.
He added that the date of the test has not yet been decided.
Also on Wednesday, Carpenter informed the county commission that the department recently hired two new sheriff’s deputies.
He said both have started patrolling and officially took their posts on March 2. He also said that one is already academy certified and the other wil be attending the academy soon for certification.
New Edmond K-9 officer spent first day on the job helping in massive raid
Mambo’s head peers through the center of the sliding window of the patrol car and then rests on his partner’s shoulder several times during the shift.
With any slight movement, Mambo quickly comes to the protection of his partner and handler police officer Neil Martin.
The two-year-old German shepherd and Martin have been working together since November. They live and play together, too.
“He is proficient in what he does,” said Martin, who has been on the Edmond police force for nine years. “He lives to work and please me. He lives for the acknowledgement he did good.”
Mambo is a patrol dog. He is trained to do bite work, handler protection, drug detection, tracking and searching.
He is one of four police dogs working for the Edmond PD and the newest member of the canine team.
Each dog answers to commands in four different languages — Dutch, English, German and Czech.
Mambo was purchased by the police department for $8,900 after Martin’s former canine partner, 7-year-old Astor died of cancer during surgery last fall.
Martin had been with Astor for nine months when he died.
Before that, the drug and tracking dog spent five years working with Sgt. Tony Hill.
“Each dog is different,” Martin said. “They have their quirky ways. They have their own silly way. He has a high drive, all dogs do.”
Mambo knows when it is time to go to work. Martin said when he starts putting on his uniform, Mambo knows they are going to work.
“You see a change in him when I put my gun belt on,” Martin said. “He knows it is work time. You can see a change from home dog to work dog.”
Mambo’s first day on the job was Nov. 21, the day of a massive raid at Rolling Green Apartments, 400 E Danforth Road.
About 70 law enforcement officers participated in the arrests of 13 people on drug, domestic abuse, obtaining money or property by bogus checks and traffic offense warrants.
“He did good,” Martin said. “I was pretty proud of him.”