This story out of Huntsville, Ala., reads like a checklist of police brutality cases.
Excessive force? Check.
Huntsville police officer Brett Russell is charged with use of excessive force and obstruction of justice, stemming from an arrest made by Russell in 2011.
Russell is charged after a 2011 altercation with Gary Wayne Hopkins, who was being placed under arrest after a domestic violence call.
Coverup by fellow officers? Check.
Joshua Bates testified Tuesday afternoon. He was training a cadet the night Hopkins was arrested. He had been called to the scene to assist in putting Hopkins in leg shackles.
Bates told the court that if he had known Russell talked about the assault, he would not have gone to assist. He broke down on the stand and admitted to the court that he lied twice to Internal Affairs, lied to an FBI agent, and then lied to a federal grand jury.
He said he lied about seeing Russell strike Hopkins and that he also lied about Hopkins’ movement, which he now says were really from Russell’s blows.
Bates admitted the truth to the U.S. Attorney a few days ago, saying it affected his family life and career. Prosecutors offered him immunity in exchange for Tuesday’s testimony.
The officer told the court it was hard to testify against someone he worked with for several years. He said the altercation he witnessed was shocking, and that Hopkins was not resisting, and that Hopkins did not spit at officers, swear or headbutt anyone while on the way to Russell’s car.
“I didn’t think he was resisting,” Bates said. “I was still in shock about what was going on.”
Fears of retaliation for violating the blue code of silence? Check.
When asked why he didn’t do anything, Bates said he froze in disbelief at what was taking place. The 8-year veteran of the department said he was scared about losing his job, adding that he carried that with him for the last four years.
Falsified police reports that are contradicted by video and other evidence? Check.
The jury was shown more video from the altercation, in which Officer Russell is heard saying, “You deserve to get that ass whooping.” . . .
Two witnesses from Metro Jail and one from Huntsville Hospital took the stand discussing Hopkins’ admission to the hospital. ER records show that Hopkins was treated for three hours. . . .
Sergeant Clay Warmbrod was the sergeant on the shift following the Dec. 23 incident, and came across Russell’s report on the Hopkins arrest. He testified that Russell’s report shows Hopkins was taken to jail without incident, with no mention about the use of force.
Abusive cop who was allowed to return to the force? Check.
Two Huntsville police officers will return to the department Friday. Officers Phillip Lee and Brett Russell were suspended for using what city officials called excessive force. Both were fired in May for incidents that happened in 2011.
Council members said Lee used excessive force during two separate incidents last year. They said he hit a handcuffed suspect with a closed fist during an arrest and yanked a woman out of a car and threw her to the ground during a traffic stop.
Authorities said Russell repeatedly punched and kicked a suspect while he was down, after removing him from a patrol car.
Chief Lewis Morris said both officers will have to get re-certified and take training courses like anger management.
“A condition of their return to the workforce is that they attend some remedial training, which we have a schedule and a curriculum for that,” said Morris.
Prosecution by federal officials only after local officials let the officer off? Check.
Officer still collecting paychecks while on trial for federal civil rights violations? And . . . check.
The only thing missing here is the common racial element. In this case the officer is black, his victim is white. The other cops who lied for the black cop were also white. When it comes to covering up brutality, the blue code apparently transcends race. Progress!