Osceola County, Florida, sheriff's Deputy David Crawford has been charged with misdemeanor culpable negligence with personal injury after firing his Taser at a man covered in gasoline, causing the man to explode in flames. Jean Barreto was wanted for traffic violations for reportedly popping wheelies on a dirt bike in traffic. Baretto was pumping gas at a service station when Crawford tackled him. Barreto spilled gas over himself, and when Crawford fired his Taser it ignited the gasoline, leaving Barreto with second- and third-degree burns over at least 75 percent of his body.
Brickbat: Say Cheese
A government official in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh was suspended after he ordered the Kherkatta dam reservoir drained so he could retrieve his phone. Food inspector Rajesh Vishwas dropped the phone into the water while taking a selfie. Workers pumped more than two million liters of water from the reservoir.
Brickbat: This Gets My Goat
New California labor rules covering goat herders threaten efforts to combat wildfire. Many areas in the state use goats to reduce overgrown vegetation that could fuel fires by eating it. Goat companies have traditionally paid herders a monthly salary and provided them a place to live near the grazing site because the job requires them to be on call 24 hours a day. But the state labor commission recently ruled that goat herders must be paid like farm workers, which entitles them to overtime and other benefits. Goat companies say that will increase a goat herder's monthly pay from around $4,000 to over $14,000. They say that will drive up the cost of providing goats and will likely put many of them out of business.
Brickbat: Bad Shirt
An English soccer fan faces up to six months in jail for
Brickbat: Bad Bus Behavior
Tyler Zanella, a paraprofessional with Colorado's Poudre School District, has been charged with three counts each of felony assault against an at-risk juvenile, misdemeanor assault, and misdemeanor knowingly or recklessly causing child abuse. Police say video captured Zanella striking a kindergarten student with disabilities on a school bus on at least three different days. The school system has placed Zanella on administrative leave.
Brickbat: Giving Chase
A Mason County, Kentucky, grand jury has indicted Ripley, Ohio, police officer Caleb Savage for reckless homicide, failure to render aid, and leaving the scene of an accident. The Kentucky State Police says Savage spotted a vehicle he thought resembled one "suspected to be involved in a property crime." Savage followed the vehicle across the state line into Kentucky where he turned on his lights and siren and began a chase. The driver fled but lost control and crashed after a couple of miles. Savage did not stop or call for help but returned to Ohio. The driver of the other vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene. Savage has resigned from the police department.
Brickbat: No-Show Job
Victor Vandergriff resigned as a member of the Texas Department of Transportation Commission in February 2018. But he continued to receive a paycheck and state benefits for the part-time job for the next five years. The money stopped coming earlier this year only after the Austin American-Statesman asked why he was still being paid for a job he wasn't doing. Even though he stepped down, Vandergriff was still considered a commissioner because Gov. Greg Abbott never appointed anyone to fill the seat he vacated. Under Texas law, people who resign from a state position are considered to still hold that post until a replacement is named. But experts said that provision was based on the expectation they would continue to serve until a replacement is named.
Brickbat: It's Getting Hot
The number of gas boilers sold in Germany more than doubled in the first quarter of the year. That's one of the unintended effects of a proposed law that would ban oil or gas boilers from being installed in buildings starting Jan. 1, 2024. The law would mandate that building owners install heat pumps instead and is part of the government's efforts to make the country carbon neutral by 2054. Building owners say heat pumps are too expensive, and Vonovia, Europe's largest landlord, said it has been unable to connect 70 percent of the heat pumps it has installed in Germany because the nation's electric grid is already strained.
Brickbat: Drawing a Line
Transport London, the
Brickbat: Who's To Blame?
Baltimore police report that automobile theft is up 95 percent so far in 2023 compared to the same period last year. So city officials are taking action. They are suing Hyundai and Kia, claiming their cars are too easy to steal. Vehicles made by the two companies reportedly make up 40 percent of all cars stolen in the city. The suit claims the automakers have put residents at risk and cost the city money trying to prevent and respond to the theft of the vehicles they make.
Brickbat: Dirty Hands
A report from the Tennessee Comptroller's Office found then-Marion County road superintendent Jim Hawk allowed a county employee to use county equipment to haul loads of county-owned dirt, which the employee sold for $50 to $75 per load. At least one load was delivered to Hawk's home. Hawk contended that the dirt was free to the public. But the report said he could not provide any proof that the county ever advertised the dirt was available to the public.
Thousands of messages were deleted from the phones of then-Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan and other city officials during protests in that city in 2020 following the death of George Floyd. Now, city officials have agreed to pay $2.3 million to settle a lawsuit brought by two whistleblowers who helped reveal those missing texts. City records officers Stacy Irwin and Kimberly Ferreiro said they were asked to perform illegal acts, subjected to abuse when they complained about how public records were being treated and ultimately forced to resign. In addition to the $2.3 million, the city spent nearly $800,000 fighting the case before deciding to settle.
Brickbat: Watch Out, She's Got a Knife
Clare Nowland, 95, is in a New South Wales, Australia, hospital after Tasered by a senior constable. Nowland, who has dementia, is a nursing home resident. The constable had been called to that nursing home because Nowland had a knife. "At the time she was Tasered she was approaching police. It is fair to say at a slow pace. She had a walking frame. But she had a knife. I can't take it any further as to what was going through anyone's mind when he used the Taser," said Peter Cotter, NSW Police Force Assistant Commissioner.
Brickbat: But I Read It On the Internet
Rep. Linda Sanchez (D–Calif.) clearly thought she had a "gotcha" moment during a hearing of the the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Sanchez asked FBI whistleblower Marcus Allen if his Twitter account was @MarcusA97050645. "That is absolutely not my account, ma'am," Allen said. But Sanchez pressed on, asking about a tweet claiming former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi staged the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. When Allen tried once again to tell her that wasn't his account, Sanchez berated him for interrupting her. She finally seemed to acknowledge the account did not belong to Allen but still insisted on asking if he agreed with the tweet. He said he did not.
Brickbats: June 2023
News of politicians, police, and bureaucrats behaving badly from around the world.
Less than two weeks after a driver rammed into his Austin, Texas, home, Chris Newby got a letter from the city telling him his house was now in violation of city code and that he had 30 days to get it repaired or face $2,000 a day in fines. Officials said it is city policy to send such letters after a house is damaged in order to ensure homeowner safety.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission said it will no longer permit "simulated warfare or violence between opposing forces" on sites it controls. Historical reenactors say the new rules effectively ban reenactments of battles at state-owned historical sites. The commission voted in March to allow a 2023 event but plans to study the issue further before committing to reenactments in the future.
Two Clearwater, Florida, paramedics have been suspended after pronouncing a man dead when he wasn't actually dead. Phebe Maxwell called for help when her father went into cardiac arrest. When the paramedics arrived, they took his pulse and pronounced him dead even as Maxwell pointed out he was still breathing. The paramedics insisted that it was just gases escaping the body and left.
The University of Groningen, a public university in the Netherlands, canceled a production of Waiting for Godot after university officials found out only men had been auditioned for the cast. All of the characters in the play are men, and author Samuel Beckett said the play should be performed only by men, a rule still enforced by Beckett's estate. But a university spokesperson said that "times have changed. And that the idea that only men are suitable for this role is outdated and even discriminatory."
A judge has ordered the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to return 13 birds it seized from falconer Holly Lamar. The agency seized the birds and confiscated some of her equipment, days after she filed a complaint against one of its agents for failing to fully respond to her requests for information for months. Three months later the agency charged her with 30 misdemeanors, mostly for failing to report the purchase or sale of a bird or to report in a timely manner. After the judge's ruling, the district attorney dropped all charges against Lamar.
New York State Trooper Edward Longo has been charged with writing 24 fake traffic tickets, including one to a man who died earlier in the day the ticket was written. Longo wrote tickets for speeding, seat belt violations, and failure to signal a lane change, among other infractions. Documents filed by prosecutors say Longo's traffic enforcement numbers "fell consistently below" average, and he was trying to avoid a poor performance review.
Spanish Secretary of State for Transport Isabel Pardo de Vera and Isaías Táboas, head of the state-owned railroad company Renfe, have resigned after Renfe ordered trains that would not fit into the tunnels the trains are to serve. The contractor selected to build the trains spotted the error before it began construction, but the mistake will delay the delivery of the trains by two years.
The New York City Department of Transportation botched a sign for the Jackie Robinson Parkway in Queens. The sign spells the baseball player's name "Jakie Robinson." City Councilman Robert Holden called the mistake "absurd."
Brickbat: So That's Where It Was
In Texas, the Lubbock Independent School District has placed a police officer on administrative leave after a firearm was found in a faculty restroom. The officer reportedly left the gun in the restroom. The school system did not release the officer's name or say who found the gun.
Brickbat: Look Both Ways
In North Carolina, video showed a Concord police department SUV pass a Cabarrus County school bus that had stopped to let a student off. The bus driver realized the SUV was not going to stop and warned the student just before she was about to step off. The girl's family said the police department hasn't returned their phone calls about the incident. Officials told a local TV station they have reported the traffic violation to the North Carolina Highway Patrol and are doing their own internal investigation of the SUV driver, whose identity they did not release.
Brickbat: He Won't Be Using Them
St. Cloud, Florida, police officer Dianne Ferreira has been charged with suspicion of theft of a credit card with intent to use, credit card fraud of more than $100 and use of ID of a dead person after officials said she used a dead man's credit card to make several purchases. Officials said Ferreira responded to a medical call where a man had gone into cardiac arrest and died. She reportedly took photos of the man's credit card and used the information to order fast food and buy eyelash extensions.
Brickbat: Setbacks at Sea
The U.S. Navy had the National Park Service remove two privately owned webcams from Cabrillo National Monument after those cameras captured two Navy ships almost colliding in San Diego Bay. In a statement, Navy officials cited security reasons, saying the 24-hour video feed from the cameras revealed "aircraft hangars and flight lines [at Naval Air Station North Island], Naval Base Point Loma submarine assets, and the tracking of military personnel working aboard Naval Base Coronado." But Barry Bahrami, who owns the cameras, said they had been in place for almost 10 years, and the Navy never raised any security concerns until viewers saw the near collision between the ships.
Brickbat: Park It
Since March, Christopher Volpe has filed more than 200 complaints about New York City Police Department vehicles illegally parked outside the precinct house in his neighborhood. That includes vehicles double-parked, parked on the sidewalk, and parked in bicycle lanes. Volpe said that he began to complain after his dog was struck by a vehicle while they were crossing the street, a vehicle he says he didn't see coming because of a row of double-parked vehicles. A reporter from a local newspaper visited the precinct house and confirmed there were numerous illegally parked police vehicles. A study by a doctoral student found that 70 of the city's 77 precinct houses regularly have vehicles illegally parked outside. Police officials say they have long been working to correct the problem.
Brickbat: Good Enough for Government Work
Former Scranton, Pennsylvania, police sergeant Jeffrey Vaughn has been sentenced to six months in prison followed by two years of probation after pleading guilty to theft from a program receiving federal funds. Vaughn was paid to perform overtime patrols at federally subsidized low-income housing projects, but he claimed 266 hours worth of patrols he had not performed. He must also pay more than $11,000 in restitution and a $2,000 fine.
Brickbat: Bad Cop
Former Doraville, Georgia, police officer Miles Bryant has been charged with murder and kidnapping in the death of a 16-year-old girl. Prosecutors said that isn't the only crime he has committed. In a bond hearing, they said that on at least one occasion he used his badge to gain access to a woman's phone and forward explicit material to himself. They said he also used his work computer to track down a woman he then stalked for more than a year. Bryant was denied bond.
Brickbat: No Good Deed
Officials in Center Township, Pennsylvania, have agreed to pay nearly $1 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a Good Samaritan who died after being tackled by a city police officer. Kenneth Vinyard was rendering aid to a shooting victim outside a Walmart when he was knocked to the ground by Officer John Hawk. Vinyard suffered a fractured skull and was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Brickbat: What a Load of Manure
The European Commission has given the Netherlands the OK to begin forced buyouts of some 3,000 farmers, part of the government's efforts to meet European Union nitrogen pollution-reduction goals. Farmers who are bought out will be banned from returning to farming not only in the Netherlands but anywhere in the European Union. The Netherlands is the second-largest global agricultural exporter, and Dutch farmers are some of the most efficient and productive in the world.
Brickbat: Like a Candle in the Wind
Facing a possible civil rights lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has backed off a threat to revoke the accreditation of Saint Francis Hospital South in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The agency had threatened to revoke the hospital's accreditation if it did not extinguish the candle burning in its chapel. Saint Francis South is a Catholic hospital, and hospital officials said the candle represents the living presence of Jesus. They said the government was trying to force it to choose between its faith and serving those in need. The agency now says the hospital can keep the candle, which had been burning for 15 years with no problem.
Brickbat: This Blows
A Washington, D.C., law that took effect earlier this year bans the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. The law carries a fine of up to $500. But it exempts those using leaf blowers on federal property. USA Today reports Washington is one of several cities around the country that have recently banned or are considering bans on gas-powered leaf blowers.
Brickbat: Highway Robbery
The state of Missouri named an interstate overpass in Wentzville for U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, who was killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport during the American withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. Then, it sent his parents a $3,200 bill for the new signs. State lawmakers are considering legislation that would stop billing families of military members and first responders for whom roads and bridges are named. The Schmitz family was able to raise the funds to pay for the signs honoring him.
Brickbat: Sign Here
A former Chesapeake, Virginia, police officer was given a suspended sentence and ordered to stay on good behavior for a year after pleading guilty to forging a signature on a court summons. Skysha Nettles gave the summons to a man accused of shoplifting from a grocery store but forgot to get him to sign it. Her supervisor spotted the issue and told her she'd have to get the man to sign it or get a magistrate to issue a summons. She came back the next day with the man's signature. But the supervisor found it suspicious. Police located the man, who confirmed he didn't sign it. Nettles admitted forging the signature.
Brickbat: Stop Short
A school bus driver for Colorado's Douglas County School District has been charged with 30 misdemeanor counts of child abuse after abruptly stopping his bus, causing the elementary school students onboard to crash into the seats in front of them. Brian Fitzgerald reportedly told school officials he was trying to "control the students" and "educate" them.
Brickbat: Parking Purists
One Saturday each month, the Fuente de Vida Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania, opens up its food pantry to those in need. But on one recent Saturday, city parking enforcement officers showed up and began ticketing the cars of those parked to go pick up their food. "They go, 'We are the law. You have to respect the law.' And I mean, this is not the way to work with a community," said Pastor Alejandro Escamilla of the enforcement officers. After numerous public complaints, the city promised to waive the fees for the tickets and to reform the parking enforcement agency.
Brickbat: It's Just Too Easy
Explaining her vote against a measure to ban unlawful possession of a catalytic converter, Los Angeles City Council member Nithya Raman blamed automobile makers for making part too easy to steal. Council member Eunisses Hernandez voted against the measure as well, saying it could have a disproportionate effect on black and Hispanic communities. She also warned it would cost the city money to enforce the ordinance. Some 8,000 catalytic converters were reported stolen in Los Angeles in 2022. The measure passed, eight votes to four.
Brickbats: May 2023
News of politicians, police, and bureaucrats behaving badly from around the world.
Vera Liddell, former director of food services at Harvey School District 152 in Illinois, has been charged with financial crimes and theft for embezzling some $1.5 million in chicken wings from the school system. The Cook County State's Attorney's Office said Liddell placed orders for the food from July 2020 to February 2022 through the school's food vendor and picked it up in a school van. But the orders weren't authorized. The district doesn't even serve wings. Authorities said upon her arrest they weren't sure what she did with the wings.
The Indian government has declared the BBC documentary on deadly 2002 riots in the state of Gujarat to be propaganda and used emergency powers to ban India: The Modi Question from YouTube and other social media. Students at Jawaharlal Nehru University gathered for a screening of the documentary, but someone cut the power. Students at Delhi University say they were assaulted by police when they attempted to screen the documentary. Current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat back in 2002, and many Muslims accused him of condoning violence against them. The riots left more than 1,000 dead.
Hialeah, Florida, police officers Rafael Quinones Otano and Lorenzo Rafael Orfila have been fired and charged with armed kidnapping and battery. Prosecutors said that after a shopkeeper called police to complain about a homeless man bothering people, the two drove the victim to a wooded area almost seven miles away, then knocked him out and left him there. They later sent a private eye to find the man and give him $1,350 in exchange for signing an affidavit saying he wasn't beaten and that he did not want the officers punished.
A group of students and chaperones from a Catholic school in South Carolina were kicked out of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in January because they were wearing hats that said "pro-life." The group had just attended a pro-life rally. When a South Carolina TV station asked about the incident, a museum spokesperson said the ejection was not keeping with its policies: "We provided immediate training to prevent a re-occurrence of this kind of incident, and have determined steps to ensure this does not happen again."
New York City prosecutors had some 550 convictions in cases investigated by police officer Joseph Franco thrown out, most involving low-level drug offenses. Franco was charged with perjury and misconduct after investigators in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office found video they said showed several drug buys Franco claimed to have witnessed did not happen—or, if they did, he was not in a position to see them. Now a judge has dismissed the charges against Franco after finding prosecutors failed to turn over evidence to Franco's lawyers as required on at least three occasions.
Even as the National Health Service struggles with a shortage of doctors, the British government has ordered medical schools to admit no more than 7,500 students next year. The cap was put in place to limit the cost of educating medical students. It costs the government £160,000 (about $190,000) to educate each new physician. Medical schools face financial penalties if they admit too many students.
Brickbat: Not Very Social
Under a law proposed by the British government, social media executives could face up to two years in prison if they repeatedly fail to remove content that could encourage suicide or self-harm. The bill would also force social media companies to actively search for controlling and coercive content and remove it, to counter disinformation from a foreign government, and to search encrypted messages for child sexual abuse.
Brickbat: Knives Out
The British government has proposed giving police the power to
Brickbat: Double Dipping
In Scotland, the ruling Scottish National Party has proposed a law that would allow local councils to charge
Brickbat: Here Kitty Kitty
Cities across Australia are enacting, and enforcing, curfews on house cats. In Adelaide, for instance, it's illegal for a cat to leave its owner's property unaccompanied between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Government officials say cats have a devastating impact on the nation's songbirds and other wildlife. Some cat owners oppose the law, saying cats need time to roam and that it's difficult to get a cat to walk on a leash.
Brickbat: Pounding the Pavement
Providence, Rhode Island, police captain Stephen J. Gencarella was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading no contest to simple assault. Gencarella and another officer arrested Armando Rivas after he refused to move his vehicle from the travel lane of an interstate on-ramp. Rivas struggled with the two officers. After they finally got Rivas handcuffed and on the ground, Gencarella lifted his head up by the hair and slammed his face into the pavement. City officials have begun the process to fire Gencarella.
Brickbat: Undue Influence
New York City's Civilian Complaint Review Board has determined that Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey, the New York Police Department's highest-ranking uniformed officer, abused his authority by ordering officers to drop the charges against a former police officer arrested for threatening three boys with a gun. He faces the loss of up to 10 vacation days if the department accepts the finding.
Brickbat: Dodge This!
An employee at Carriage Hills Elementary School in Lawton, Oklahoma, has been charged with assault and battery for hitting a student with a dodgeball. The employee, who wasn't named by media, hit the student three times with the ball, including once on the face. The employee told police the student threw the ball at him and another employee, so he threw the ball at the student. The student claimed the ball bounced off another student and hit the employee.
Brickbat: Good Golly!
In Essex, England, a half dozen police officers raided a pub and seized 15 golly dolls. The golly, also known as golliwog, is a cartoon character created in the 19th century based on blackface minstrel characters. The character was once widely used in advertising, and the dolls were popular children's toys but are now seen as racially offensive. The police department said a customer had complained about the dolls and they are investigating a possible hate crime.
Brickbat: Reckless Parking
The Scottsdale, Arizona, city council unanimously agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a wrongful arrest lawsuit. Yessenia Garcia called police to report her car had been vandalized while she was in a bar. But officers instead began to treat her as a suspect in a hit-and-run that had been reported nearby about a half hour earlier. When she asked for an attorney, bodycam video showed an officer telling her she was not entitled to one because she was under investigation. They arrested her for possession of drug paraphernalia, two counts of driving under the influence and failure to stop at the scene of an accident causing injury or death. Those charges were dropped shortly afterwards. Garcia's attorney said that security video from the bar's parking lot showed her car was parked at the time of the hit-and-run.
Brickbat: Defensive Driving
Gwinnett County, Georgia, sheriff's office Master Deputy Walter Pollock has been charged by the Georgia State Patrol with DUI, failure to maintain lane and striking a fixed object. Pollock reportedly struck several mailboxes with his patrol vehicle. He was on duty at the time. The sheriff's office has placed him on administrative leave and served him with a notice of intent to terminate.
Brickbat: Close Enough
Randal Quran Reid spent six days in an Atlanta jail after local officers picked him up on warrants for theft from Louisiana, a state he has never been to. He was not told why he'd been arrested. But a Louisiana attorney Reid's family hired found that he was accused of theft from a consignment store. When he was shown store security video of the suspect, he saw that the man looked sort of like Reid but was obviously heavier. Talking to the police, he came to believe that they had used facial recognition technology to ID Reid as the suspect, which an anonymous source close to the investigation confirmed to The New York Times. But that isn't reflected in any of the documents in the case. And no one from the Jefferson Parish sheriff's office will confirm that on the record, even though public records show the sheriff's office has a contract with a facial recognition vendor. Reid was freed and his warrant was withdrawn after his attorney gave the sheriff's office photos of him and they saw that he has a mole on his face the suspect did not have.
Brickbat: Schoolyard Brawl
Police in Iowa have charged Erin Michelle Aalfs, a former teacher at Moravia Elementary School, with two counts of simple assault and one count of interference with official acts causing serious injury. Police said Aalfs kicked and threw rocks at a preschool student and tossed the student towards a chain-link fence on the playground during school hours. Aalfs resigned sometime after the incident.
Brickbat: Dreams Demolished
Andre Hadnot wants to know how it cost the city of Atlanta $700,000 to tear down a two-story building he owned. The city placed a lien on the property for that amount, which is more than three times what Hadnot paid for the property in 2017. The head of the city's code enforcement office said it cost more because it had to be done by hand. Plus, she said, it always costs the city more to do things. No, really. "A single-family dwelling, it will probably cost you $5,000. It would cost the city $15,000. It is always going to cost more," Daphne Talley, head of the code enforcement office, told a local TV station.
Brickbat: Sorry, Wrong Room
On April 4, agents from the FBI and the U.S. Department of Defense barged into a sleeping Delta Air Lines pilot's hotel room, handcuffed him, placed him in the room's shower and interrogated him for 45 minutes before realizing they had the wrong man. In a statement the FBI said the agents were conducting a training exercise and were supposed to stage a mock interrogation of a Defense Department employee who would be deployed overseas. The statement said the agents went to the wrong hotel room.
Brickbat: No Laughing Matter
Acting against the advice of its own experts, the British government is set to ban the possession of nitrous oxide. The proposed new law is supported by both the Conservative and Labor parties. But the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has warned that sanctions could outweigh the harm caused by the drug and make it more difficult to obtain nitrous oxide for legitimate purposes. Recreational use of nitrous oxide is already banned under British law.
Brickbat: Keep Looking
A report by the British Children's Commissioner found that police in England and Wales strip-searched almost 3,000 children between 2018 and mid 2022. More than half of those searches took place without a legally required appropriate adult present. And the searches did not always take place in police stations but in patrol vehicles, private businesses and amusement parks, among other locations. The report noted that attention is being paid to the issue not because of a whistle blower but because a 15-year-old girl spoke up after she was strip-searched by police in school. The officers were looking for drugs but did not find any.