Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rookie Cop Reportedly Berated, Called 'A Rat' For Arresting Off-Duty Officer

Rookie Cop Reportedly Berated, Called 'A Rat' For Arresting Off-Duty Officer
By David Schepp
AOL News
May 30th 2012

Toronto police officer Andrew Vanderburgh felt he was doing the right thing more than two years ago when he arrested an off-duty fellow officer for drunk driving.

But after the Nov. 28, 2009 arrest, Vanderburgh was "harassed and berated" by fellow officers for seemingly violating an unwritten code among officers to remain loyal to each other, the Toronto Star reports. Other officers reportedly called Vanderburgh names, including "rat."

The off-duty cop, Breton Berthiaume, was charged with impaired driving and having a blood alcohol level of more than 0.08 percent, according to an internal police disciplinary ruling.

Berthiaume reportedly had been driving erratically when Vanderburgh (pictured above) pulled him over. The arresting officer then took Berthiaume to the nearest police station where his blood alcohol level could be tested.

Some officers witnessing the arrest "took exception to a police officer being charged or investigated," prosecutor Mary-Anne Mackett told a court that heard Berthiaume's case this week.

A judge who previously ruled in the case in a pre-trial hearing said that an officer witnessing the incident "refused to assist Constable Vanderburgh in the arrest and preparation of paperwork at [the police station]."

Later that evening another officer, James Little, followed Vanderburgh as he left the station in his patrol car and pulled him over for purportedly running a red light, giving him a ticket.

The ticket was eventually dismissed and Little pleaded guilty to "discreditable conduct" and was ordered to forfeit 20 days' pay.

Two other officers, including a staff sergeant who failed to intervene during Little's retaliatory action, were also disciplined and were docked as much as 20 days' pay.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bite mark, DNA tie LAPD detective to 1986 murder

The husband of the dead woman was strangely quiet about this case. Perhaps he felt guilt for being the cause of the killer's jealousy. May 26, 2012 Bite mark, DNA tie LAPD detective to 1986 murder
Produced by Ira Sutow, Taigi Smith, Greg Fisher, Avi Cohen and Linda Martin
[This story originally aired on May 22, 2010.]

The arrest of a cop was shocking news in the City of Angels.

It wasn't just any cop. Stephanie Lazarus was a well respected, highly decorated female detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. And it wasn't just a minor crime. She was charged with the murder of Sherri Rasmussen, a young nurse, 23 years after the killing.

"A Los Angeles police officer arrested for murder is just - it's a bombshell! I mean, you just don't get those kinda cases," Andrew Blankstein said. "People were really stunned by this."

Blankstein and Joel Rubin cover the police beat for the Los Angeles Times and are consultants to "48 Hours Mystery".

"Nobody saw this coming. Nobody says she was a cop that they saw on the edge," Rubin explained. "As far as we can tell, people in the department saw her as, you know, a cop's cop, a good cop."

"She's been a longtime patrol detective," Blankstein added. "She was with the art theft detail in commercial crimes...which is theft of high-end art in L.A .And in doing those kind of investigations... it gets a lot of press, a lot of attention... If the police and prosecutors are going to be believed, she's harboring a secret about murder for 23 years!"

At first glance, Stephanie Lazarus has no obvious connection to the victim in this murder case - Sherri Rasmussen, a highly regarded nursing administrator.

Sherri came from a very close-knit family. Her parents, Nels and Loretta Rasmussen, adored their three daughters and their growing family.

"Sherri was the glue that held the family together all the time... and made everything that much better," Sherri's younger sister, Teresa, told "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Maureen Maher.

But in February 1986, Sherri would be attacked, beaten and shot to death in her Los Angeles home.

"We were an ordinary family, you know... You never think something like this is gonna happen to you," said Teresa. She says she never could have anticipated that only just now - more than 20 years after her sister's murder - there's been arrest.

"It doesn't make the pain any less," she said. "You start the grieving process all over again, one more time."

The pain is most obvious when the family visits Sherri's grave.

"I don't believe that you can understand the grief ... a part of your life has just been taken away forever," Nels Rasmussen told Maher in an exclusive interview.

Her parents say Sherri excelled at everything she did. She became a nurse when she was only 20. At age 27, she was named director of critical care nursing at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, where she sometimes lectured.

"She liked taking care of people and making sure things were done right, that people were cared for properly," said Loretta Rasmussen.

"She said, 'I'm gonna elevate the stature of nursing in the nation,'" Nels recalled. "And she was on her way."

On top of a successful career, in early 1986, Sherri was extraordinarily happy, having just married the man she loved. Her new husband was John Ruetten, a young engineer she'd met in 1984.

As it would turn out, Ruetten was the single link to the woman accused of murdering his new bride.

That is because Stephanie Lazarus was Ruetten's ex-girlfriend. And according to Sherri's friends and family, Lazarus was not willing to give up the man she'd first met in college several years before the murder.

"Sherri was competition," Teresa said. "If she could get Sherri outta the way, then possibly John would be free to be with her again."

Ruetten is the one who discovered his wife's body.

"He was in a daze," Teresa explained. "He was sort of the deer in the headlights look, you know?"

John Ruetten had little to say publicly after his wife's murder in 1986.

He briefly addressed mourners at a hospital memorial service for Sherri, telling them, "I just want to thank you all for coming and I want you to know that Sherri was the best professional in the world - she was the best wife that anybody could ever have."

"To me, he's kind of a central character that we really know the least about," said Blankstein.

"There's a lot of questions left unanswered," added Rubin.

Questions like: what did John Ruetten know? Or suspect? He says that early on, he told detectives to talk to his ex-girlfriend - an LAPD cop.

"John is really the only person that has this connection to both women that can tell us what was going on to some extent?" Maher asked Rubin.

"You would think, yeah," he replies.

But police were off chasing other leads, and Sherri's friend, Jayne Goldberg, says that Ruetten just quietly faded out of sight, leaving her quite angry.

"I would have expected that John would have been much more involved in the investigation...and demand answers," she said.

Especially, as months - and then years - went by with no resolution to the case.

"He should have been her advocate. She would have been his," Goldberg said. "Why wasn't he camped outside the police station? I don't understand it!"...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tattoo in sheriff's deputy clique may have celebrated shootings, sources say

Tattoo in sheriff's deputy clique may have celebrated shootings, sources say
By Robert Faturechi
Los Angeles Times
May 9, 2012

The investigation into a secret clique within the Los Angeles County sheriff's elite gang unit has uncovered allegations that members had matching tattoos of a gun-toting skeleton, which deputies would modify to celebrate their involvement in a shooting, according to sources close to the internal probe.

One deputy, who has admitted belonging to a clique called the "Jump Out Boys," has identified about half a dozen other deputies as members, one source confirmed. Those men are expected to be summoned for interviews with internal affairs investigators, the source said.

Suspicion about the group's existence was sparked several weeks ago when a supervisor discovered a pamphlet laying out the group's creed, which promoted aggressive policing and portrayed officer shootings in a positive light.

The pamphlet was found in the vehicle used by the deputy who acknowledged his association with the clique, according to sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.

Days after The Times reported on the discovery of the pamphlet, the captain of the division gathered his deputies for a private briefing, during which he told them they had shamed the department by forming the group and urged those responsible to identify themselves, a source with knowledge of the unit's inner workings said.

At some point, one deputy came forward, and he has since named about six others, the source said.

Internal affairs investigators are trying to determine whether the deputies violated Sheriff's Department rules or committed serious misconduct.

The deputies under scrutiny all work on the Gang Enforcement Team, a unit divided into two platoons of relatively autonomous deputies whose job is to target neighborhoods where gang violence is high, locate armed gang members and take their guns away.

The design of the tattoo, confirmed by two sources, includes an oversize skull with a wide, toothy grimace and glowing red eyes. A bandanna wraps around the skull, imprinted with the letters "OSS" — representing Operation Safe Streets, the name of the larger unit that the Gang Enforcement Team is part of. A bony hand clasps a revolver. Investigators suspect that smoke is tattooed over the gun's barrel after a member is involved in a shooting.

To the left of the skull are two playing cards — an ace and an eight — apparently an allusion to the "dead man's" poker hand, sources said.

One source compared the notion of modifying the tattoo after a shooting to a celebratory "high five."

Celebrating shootings and sporting matching tattoos were hallmarks of anti-gang officers in the LAPD's troubled Rampart Division in the late 1990s.

A corruption scandal erupted after one disgraced officer implicated himself and others in covering up bad shootings, planting evidence, falsifying reports and perjuring themselves to rid the streets of gang members and drug dealers.