Civil Liberties

Cops Involved in Questionable Shootings Get Medal-of-Freedomed


Cop shoots, kills unarmed Pace University student. Months later, he gets the police union's "Cop of the Year" award:

The Police Benevolent Association of the Pleasantville Police Department said Wednesday it honored Officer Aaron Hess for his dignity and professionalism since the October shooting and throughout his career.

Hess fired at Henry's car as Henry drove away from a disturbance that spilled out of a bar in Thornwood, just north of New York City, after Pace University's homecoming game on Oct. 17, 2010. Hess was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a Westchester County grand jury in February.

Autopsy results found Henry was above the legal limit for alcohol, but his family says he wasn't drunk.

Hess, who suffered leg injuries, said he shot at Henry after Henry's car hit him. Some witnesses disputed that.

The Henry family is seeking federal intervention, and the Department of Justice has said it will review the evidence to determine whether there were any civil rights crimes.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas:

Two Las Vegas police officers who shot and killed Erik Scott in the controversial Costco shooting last year have received honors in a national officer of the year award.

Officers William Mosher and Joshua Stark received honorable mention in the National Association of Police Organizations' Top Cops awards.

A third officer involved in the shooting, Thomas Mendiola, was not honored. In January, Mendiola was charged with a felony for unlawfully giving a handgun to a two-time felon in an unrelated case. He has a preliminary hearing in May.

Chris Collins, executive director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, is a member of the NAPO board of directors. He said he nominated the two officers and officer Mike Madland, who was shot twice while chasing a robbery suspect in March 2010, for the Top Cop award. Madland nearly lost his leg from the shooting. He did not win a NAPO award.

Collins called the two incidents the "top two heroic events our officers participated in last year."

"I don't see it as a controversial shooting," he said about the Costco shooting. "What potentially could have been a bad situation they brought to an end with no citizens being hurt.

"It was a heroic deed and enough of a heroic deed for the judges to give them an honorable mention."

Scott's father, Bill Scott, called the honor "incredible."

"The arrogance of Chris Collins and the PPA in even nominating these two staggers the imagination," he said.

He called the officers' actions a "mistake" and added, "Now they're being honored for their mistakes?"

Both of these shootings were high-profile, and in both cases witness accounts dispute officer accounts (though in the Scott case there are lots of discrepencies—other witnesses confirm portions of the police version of events).

In any case, it's interesting that the cops who shot and killed Scott and Henry were honored, but not the cop who was shot while chasing a robbery suspect, but didn't actually kill anyone.