The FBI has opened an investigation into the campaign of terror waged from the state police headquarters against Leon Woodward. Although a spokesman for the FBI refused to provide details, agent Gary Wildebrandt interviewed Woodward and his wife on the afternoon of September 26.
At the same time the FBI chose to open a file on the Department of Public Safety scandal, the Phoenix police chose to close down their own Internal Affairs probe of the Woodward case when it threatened to embarrass the city cops.
If those closest to the killing of the Internal Affairs investigation are correct, the explanations coming out of the office of Police Chief Ruben Ortega are just so much smoke.
Not only is the conduct of the state police (DPS) enough to cause concern in the Woodward matter, but now the actions of the city police (PPD) are also suspect.
There are some stories that the authorities do not want you to understand in their entirety. You wonder if you will ever confront the simple truth; after a time you begin to question why you live in a place that tolerates such behavior. The ordeal of Leon Woodward has become one of those tales.
Although Chief Ortega refused to return phone calls, two of his spokesmen, Sergeant William Hatounian and Major David Brewster, insisted the Internal Affairs investigation ended only after all leads were exhausted.
But Lieutenant Terry McDonald, the officer who actually conducted the probe, said he was ordered to close the case by Ortega's right hand, Assistant Police Chief Bennie Click.
Far from being completed, Lieutenant McDonald claims he was ordered to end the investigation just as he was about to administer a lie detector test to PPD Officer Robert Wenrick.
Officer Wenrick was the subject of a complaint charging obstruction of justice and filing a false police report. The alleged wrongdoing by Officer Wenrick centered on whether or not Leon and Jeanette Woodward informed the patrolman that DPS troopers were suspects in the death threats the couple received.
On the evening of April 25, Wenrick was dispatched to the Woodward residence to make a report on death threats and harassing phone calls. Within minutes of when he left and before the crucial report was written, Wenrick received a message to rendezvous with a DPS officer. At their meeting, the state cop, Van Jackson, informed Wenrick that Leon Woodward was the subject of a state police operation.
The city cop and the state cop were old acquaintances. Jackson asked if Wenrick would make a Xerox of his official written report once it was done and give the copy to Van Jackson.
No problem, said Wenrick.
Except there was a problem, a big one.
There was no state police operation, at least not a legal one, directed at Leon Woodward.
Instead, Van Jackson--and other DPS officers are suspected--waged a rogue cop campaign of terror and death threats against Woodward. Over a period of nine days the phone company traced almost fifty menacing calls from DPS headquarters to the home of Leon Woodward. The attacks were illegal hooliganism directed at an outspoken citizen.
Eventually, Van Jackson was forced to resign from DPS, was charged with two counts of phone harassment and pled no contest.
The Internal Affairs division of the Phoenix police wanted to know why Officer Wenrick turned over a copy of his report to his old friend Van Jackson if the victims had said that DPS might be the folks behind the death threats.
Furthermore, nowhere in Wenrick's report does it mention that DPS might be the culprits.
If the phone company hadn't successfully traced to DPS headquarters the ensuing calls, the role of the state police might never have been revealed.
Officer Wenrick says there is a real simple explanation for all of these questions.
The report was copied for Jackson because police agencies routinely extend that sort of professional courtesy.
He had no reason to suspect DPS was involved and therefore no reason not to cooperate with Jackson because the Woodwards never told him any such thing.
The allegation that DPS was behind the phone calls did not appear in his report because, again, the Woodwards never told him any such thing.
And while Wenrick's answer is possible, it is not very likely.
Both Leon and Jeanette Woodward are vehemently adamant that they told the patrolman that DPS officers were possible suspects.
The reason some officers in DPS loathed and harassed Leon Woodward is that the man loudly, constantly and colorfully criticized the state police.
It is unlikely that Woodward would ignore DPS as a likely suspect when he was interviewed by Wenrick.
In fact, there are taped conversations between Leon Woodward and his phone tormentors during this very time frame when Leon asks if the callers work for DPS.