INTERNAL AFFAIRS

BEATEN, BADGERED AND BRUISED. WHERE CAN PHOENIX BLACKS AVENGE POLICE BRUTALITY?

Officer William Keehl's police report explained the encounter.
" . . . As off-duty police officers, it is our responsibility to control persons on this property . . . . [We] stopped both subjects since their activity was suspicious . . . . Officer Kobelka asked Mr. McCree what he was doing on the property. He replied, `Who wants to know?' We informed this person we were police officers working on this property and we needed to know. We also told this person that he may be trespassing. Officer Kobelka asked the person if he had a truck parked on the property. This person began to get belligerent and yelling: `Why?!' This person began to raise his voice at police saying, `Yeah, I have a truck parked here!' This person was warned to lower his voice. Officer Kobelka then asked this person if his truck had a parking permit to be legally parked on the property. This person began to argue with police and would raise his voice towards us. We informed Mr. McCree if he would just answer our questions, he could be on his way. He then squared off with officers and took a defensive stance. He yelled he would come and go as he pleased and nobody was going to throw him off the property. We informed Mr. McCree that we needed to know which room he was staying in and where his truck was parked. He would not tell us. This conduct was obstructing our investigation; and his behavior was very combative and threatening. Mr. McCree was then told to leave the property since he was uncooperative. He then said, `I dare you to remove me from the property. I dare you.' We then told Mr. McCree he was under arrest for criminal trespass and obstructing a government operation. Mr. McCree then tensed his arms and clenched his fists. We then took hold of his arms at which time he violently tried to swing and pull away from police. He was told to put his arms behind his back, however he refused to do so. He continued to fight with police. He resisted so violently, he caused both officers to fall to the ground . . . . After a two-minute struggle, Mr. McCree gave up. He was then placed in handcuffs . . . . During this incident Officer Kobelka received a small cut to his right little finger. I received a small cut to my right thumb . . . ."

Mr. McCree also suffered injuries.
The inside of McCree's arm sustained a gaping wound that left a four- and-a-half-inch scar. In addition to numerous contusions on his head and body, McCree also sustained a permanent disability of his elbow. Upon his release from jail, he went to an eye doctor and was told full vision would never return to his right eye and that he would henceforth require glasses. Today he is still subject to traumatic headaches, an affliction the 59-year-old trucker said he never suffered until he was repeatedly kicked in the head by Officer Keehl. Almost one year to the day after the beating, McCree collapsed from a brainstem stroke because of blood clots. His doctor said the head injuries sustained in the assault might have contributed to the stroke, but because of the year's delay, determining the exact origin of the seizure is problematic.

McCree's wounds, according to Officer Keehl's report, stemmed from the truck driver's "suspicious" activity and his refusal to cooperate with the civil questions of uniformed police officers. McCree was so discourteous he even raised his voice, "tensed his arms" and "resisted so violently, he caused both officers to fall to the ground," where each officer injured a finger. McCree was so belligerent he even refused to say whether he was registered at the motel, according to Officer Keehl.

Because police reports tend to have a rather stiff lingua franca all their own, it is impossible to recapture an event with the immediacy of a videotape.

But because Ambrose McCree filed a brutality complaint with the Internal Affairs Bureau of the police department, a follow-up investigation was conducted.

Confidential records of administrative interviews with Officers Keehl and Kobelka, as well as additional written statements from the two officers, illuminate the incident.

Keehl wrote that the two blacks were suspicious because they were walking behind trucks in an area where there had been thefts.

But during the subsequent investigation, Officer Kobelka, in his follow-up report, wrote that McCree said they were registered at the motel and that "the second B/M [black male] showed us a room key."

What McCree did not show was enough respect. Although McCree and his truck-driving partner had demonstrated to the officers that they were registered guests of the motel and therefore not "suspicious thieves," there was a problem with attitude.

A confidential investigative report by Sergeant Steve Carufel three months after the confrontation contained this summary: "Kobelka said complainant McCree was angry, arrogant and challenging. Officer Kobelka said he asked complainant McCree what was his problem. Kobelka was told McCree didn't like the way he was being spoken to."

Although he was not robbing the other tractor trailers in the lot and in fact had a permit for his own truck that he'd just parked, McCree, a registered guest of the motel who had shown the officers his room key, was evicted from the property by the two officers.

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