Scottsdale Police Department Has Quite a Shooting Problem, ACLU Alleges
Scottsdale police officers have had quite a few questionable shootings in recent history that have been determined by the department to be justified.
That -- along with Officer James Peters' involvement in a sixth fatal shooting -- is why representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona announced that they've filed a lawsuit against the department and the City of Scottsdale.
The ACLU, along with Alexandria Loxas, filed the lawsuit specifically in response to the fatal shooting of Alexandria's father, 50-year-old John Loxas.
Alexandria Loxas went beyond stating that her father had been killed as a result of Peters' poor judgment, as she said her father was essentially used by Peters as "target practice."
"Not only is my father gone...this tragedy will affect the rest of our lives," said Loxas, who was also referring to her then-7-month-old son, who was in John Loxas' arms when Peters shot a rifle round into Loxas' head.
ACLU representatives, sitting next to a timeline chart of Peters' seven shootings in his 12-year career, compared his involvement in a sixth fatal shooting with a 2008 shooting involving Scottsdale cops.
In that shooting, two SWAT team officers shot a man named David Hulstedt in the back. In that case, Hulstedt had a child in his arms and was unarmed when police shot him without warning, ACLU legal director Dan Pochoda described.
An internal review by Scottsdale police found officers' actions in that case to be "in policy," but the family sued in federal court -- and won.
In Loxas' case, a neighbor called police on February 14, claiming Loxas had just confronted him with a gun.
Police responded to Loxas' home, and he answered the door with his grandson in his arms. He was not armed, but Peters shot him in the forehead, killing him instantly. No other officer fired a shot.
Based on the eerie coincidences between Loxas' death and Hulstedt's, Pochoda thinks the ACLU has a pretty good case.
In addition, there's the part that was highlighted in media reports in February -- Peters was involved in seven police shootings, six of them fatal. Many cops never shoot anyone throughout their careers.
"This is a bad cop," Pochoda said. "It goes beyond the word 'bad.'"
Several of the people in Peters-involved shootings were unarmed, according to the ACLU's complaint. One of those shootings resulted in a settlement between the city and the family of a man shot by Peters and another officer.
In addition, the lawsuit notes "dozens" of incidents involving Peters and Tasers, as well as several citizen complaints against him that never resulted in discipline.
In 2002, Peters was suspended for eight days and for failing to intervene in a police trainee's excessive force incident, in which Peters was the training officer. He also failed to document the incident, and admitted to making the deragatory comments to the person who was subject to the excessive force, according to the ACLU's information.
Peters also got in trouble for pointing a gun at his own face in 2005.
With all the shootings involving Scottsdale police -- especially the ones resulting in court action -- the ACLU says the department and its heads also are at fault.
"[Police Chief Alan] Rodbell's decisions to agree with all findings that police involved deadly shootings were justified and 'within policy' was a direct cause of the illegal shooting of Mr. Loxas," the complaint says. "Rodbell's actions and failures to act concerning the need to have effective internal investigatory processes and results that represent civilian as well as police interests, and in simply accepting the findings of 'justified shooting,' communicated to Defendant Peters that he was effectively immunized from disciplinary action under existing policies."
Since the department hasn't implicated Peters in any fault, seven months after the shooting, Pochoda says "it's likely that these behaviors will be repeated."
Arizona ACLU executive director Alessandra Soler described the department's approval of officer-involved shootings as "rubber-stamping," and said she couldn't find a single instance of Scottsdale police finding an officer outside of policy in a shooting since Robdell took over as police chief in 2003.
Loxas' daughter and the ACLU are suing for unspecified damages.
Scottsdale's police board for the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System approved Peters' "accidental disability retirement application" just a few months after the February shooting, although federal law prevented city officials from discussing what Peters' accidental disability is.
Scottsdale officials told New Times Peters was expected to get around $4,500 in his monthly pension checks.
Click here to read the ACLU's complaint.
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