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Officer Accused Of Harassing Homeless Has Troubled Past

SDPD Officer Anthony Bueno Accused Of Slashing Homeless Couple’s Tent

January 25, 2011

10News has uncovered troubling details in the background of a police officer accused of going rogue and taking his anger out on homeless citizens in San Diego.
Officer Anthony Bueno, an 11-year veteran, remains on the job pending an investigation.
Bueno is accused of slashing a homeless San Diego couple’s tent in December. Homeless San Diegan Malia Mason said the police officer, who was upset she had put up a tent during a rainy night, used a knife to slash her tent and cords.
“He was slicing as I climbed out and the knife came within inches of my face,” said Mason in an interview in December.
Homeless advocate David Ross said the tent-slashing incident was one of five similar incidents documented against the officer during a two-week span in November.”It’s shocking and disappointing,” said Ross.
10News learned Bueno was arrested in 2007 on four counts of misdemeanor battery on a fellow police officer while on duty. Few details of the incident are known, but in that case, Bueno pleaded no contest to a lesser charge and was allowed to stay on the force.
Last year, Bueno was on the scene of the death of a homeless man in East Village. Another homeless man who is accused of resisting arrest said Bueno was “joking and speaking very disrespectfully” about the deceased man and provoked the incident.
Ross said Bueno should be removed from the streets.”Him being on the streets invites similar behavior and reflects very poorly on the police department,” said Ross. “It’s disappointing because the police department, including the homeless outreach team, has been trying very hard. I’m not here to indict the entire department.”
10News brought Ross’ demand to Boyd Long, the assistant police chief. When asked why Bueno was not taken off the streets, Long replied, “We haven’t reached the conclusion we need to pull the officer out of the field. We do take these accusations very seriously.”
10News was told the primary reason for keeping Bueno active was because several witness statements and surveillance video cast doubt on Mason’s version of events.
“I don’t believe that. Each of the interviews I conducted were consistent. They were scared of this officer,” said Ross.
Though the tent-slashing investigation should be wrapped up soon, a second internal probe is possible into the accusations that Bueno was making fun of a deceased homeless man.
Meanwhile, a judge will soon decide if the details that 10News uncovered will be allowed as evidence in the trial of the homeless man accused of resisting arrest.

 

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WATCH NEWS STATION VIDEO HERE: http://www.10news.com/news/26602821/detail.html

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By Christopher Cadelago

Monday, November 8, 2010

The interfaith vigil from the San Diego Rescue Mission to the San Diego County Administration Center was designed to raise awareness of the men, women and children whose lives didn’t have to end on the streets.

Peggy Peattie

The interfaith vigil from the San Diego Rescue Mission to the San Diego County Administration Center was designed to raise awareness of the men, women and children whose lives didn’t have to end on the streets.

DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO — Nearly 300 people marched Sunday in a candlelight vigil to remember the homeless who have died on the streets of San Diego the past year.

Fifty of the marchers carried pairs of shoes meant to represent each of the homeless who died from Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30. Participants stopped to pray on their way from the San Diego Rescue Mission to the San Diego County Administration Center.

More than 8,500 people in San Diego County were homeless at the beginning of this year, according to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. That represented a roughly 8 percent increase from the 2009 count of 7,892, said Herb Johnson, president and chief executive of the Rescue Mission.

The interfaith event was designed to raise awareness of the men, women and children whose lives didn’t have to end on the streets. That so many homeless died last year in America’s Finest City “is absolutely unforgivable,” said Johnson.

He then turned his attention to the many homeless people who had gathered along Harbor Drive.

“There’s the shared meaning and understanding that could have been them,” he said. “These efforts give a voice to those who are not heard and those who will never be heard from again.”

The common refrain is that people choose to be homeless because they are unmotivated to work. But many of those living in shelters are employed and can’t afford housing. Others might suffer from mental illnesses, substance abuse or medical issues, said Bob McElroy of the Alpha Project.

Kami Peterson, 45, lost her three-bedroom El Cajon town home before sliding deeper into addiction. Peterson’s drug of choice was meth, she said, but it could have been any number of vices that brought down many of her peers now living at the Rescue Mission.

After leaving treatment last month she was reunited with her 6-year-old daughter, Angel. Each of Peterson’s six children, three of them under the age of 18, has served as motivation for her recovery. “It’s about learning or relearning responsibilities.”

Through she didn’t know Nancy Vega-Wright, 54, who died on the streets, it was impossible not to feel a connection while carrying shoes bearing her name, Peterson said.

The same went for Joseph Christie. The 53-year-old entered the Rescue Mission program after his Bonita home burned down in March. Since, he’s embraced religion, offering a series of prayers as he carried shoes meant to represent the death of 44-year-old Kevin Kline.

“Everyone has their own reasons to be here,” Christie said. “My plan to stay out of trouble … is to tell people about the Lord.”

The interfaith candlelight vigil offered prayers and readings from Zen centers, synagogues and churches. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders proclaimed Sunday as “Homeless Persons Remembrance Day” and the county Board of Supervisors offered a similar proclamation.

Organizers then read the names of the dead. Marcos Rodriguez, a homeless man who declined to give his age, said the ceremony came on the same weekend that an acquaintance had passed away. The man, who was missing an arm and a leg, will be among the first names added to next year’s list. Rodriguez said. “You might not know his name, but he’s in our blessings tonight.”

Since 2001, 668 homeless people have died on the streets, according to the county Medical Examiner’s Office.

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/nov/08/san-diego-march-remembers-homeless-who-have-died-s/

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http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/03/20/18642123.php

Homeless Frame-Up by Cops and City Attorney Defeated in Rare Court Victory
by Robert Norse

Saturday Mar 20th, 2010 4:59 PM

The City’s “Go to Sleep; Go to Jail” campaign suffered a rare setback with two “Not Guilty” verdicts after a four-hour contempt hearing for Anna Richardson and Miguel deLeon on Friday, March 19th. Judge Timothy Volkman returned to the plain language of MC 6.36.010c which makes sleeping, even on blankets, even with your possessions around you, a legal activity during the day if you have no intention of remaining overnight and haven’t “set up a campsite”, no matter how much that infuriates police officers who want you to move along.

BREAKFASTING WITH THE BIRDS

The day began outside the main entrance of the courthouse at 8:15 AM with a free breakfast provided by Joe Schultz, soon to open a new restaurant downtown on Front St. Schultz has long been a supporter of homeless protest actions in Santa Cruz, a rare exception to the cowed, indifferent, or hostile response of many merchants downtown.

The Downtown Association, whose former executive director Peter Eberle, voted to end the entire Camping Ban in 1999 when he was on the Homeless Issues Task Force has since refused to even discuss modifying the Sleeping Ban sections of the camping ordinance under the leadership of its new director, “Chip”.

Over a dozen homeless people munched coffeecake, sipped coffee,and spoke out about their experiences outside. Curbhugger Chris Doyen passionately denounced the existing laws that target homeless survival behavior like sleeping and sitting in public places. Congressional Candidate and Attorney Ed Frey (pronounced “fry”) described his appeal of the case of Robert “Blindbear” Facer on the grounds that waking people up is torture and requiring people to wake up, get ticketed, move, and get a letter asserting what everyone knows–that there’s no shelter–is cruel & unusual punishment.

Anna Richardson’s pro bono Jonathan Gettleman, decked out in a dark court-friendly suit, said his main focus today would be keeping his clients out of jail. “Compassion, not more punishment” is required, Gettleman noted, adding “everyone knows the shelters are wholly inadequate. People don’t want to be treated like they’re in prison just cause they want to sleep…”

JUDGE VOLKMAN’S INITIAL POSITION

Initially things didn’t look too good. Attorneys Mark Briscoe and Jonathan Gettleman sitting alongside defendant Miguel deLeon faced City Attorney John Barisone. Judge Volkman dismissed all of the defense’s concerns about the May 2009 Injunction itself being improper, the minute order served not matching Barisone’s final language, and Barisone’s affidavit being incomplete. The complaints were police reports and citations from three officers, one of whom, Officer Martin, was on vacation.

Barisone decided (ill advisedly as it turned out) to proceed with the case without Officer Martin, who was apparently 50% of his case. The one point the Gettleman/Briscoe defense team won was a ruling from the judge that “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” was the standard the City Attorney had to meet, since the penalty involved possible jail time and was hence ‘quasi-criminal”. Some thought the reason Barisone was using a Civil Injunction was to evade the need for a real trial with a high standard of proof and more protections for the defendants.

Barisone also chose not to use the “three infractions ignored makes a misdemeanor” law which he and City Council added to the city code in January 2009 over the objections of homeless advocates. Did this mean that the two homeless musicians had either dealt with all their citations, or hadn’t gotten three since May 2009? Or was Barisone simply using a procedure with less protection for the defendants (a civil Injunction that seems to circumvent the need for a jury trial, is not susceptible of appeal, and provides for no appointed public defender)?

The “case” for contempt itself involved four incidents of police contact between the two and Officers Winston, Forbus, and Martin. The issue wasn’t sleeping at night or sleeping at all, even though the cops woke them up, prompting their anger. The issue was “setting up a campsite with the intention of remaining overnight” downtown in the “forbidden zone” created by Barisone and ratified by Judge Burdick in May (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_12483386?IADID=Search-www.santacruzsentinel.com-www.santacruzsentinel.com).

Three witnesses testified–Officers Forbus and Winston and homeless expert Linda Lemaster. Forbus and Winston are downtown beat officers under the jurisdiction of Sgts. Harms and Garner, to whom they reportedly pass on reports of all contacts with the two targeted homeless musicians. Lemaster previously served the city as Chair of the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women and of the Homeless Issues Task Force. She is currently on the County’s Homeless Action Partnership.

THE ISSUES AND LINDA LEMASTER’S TESTIMONY

The key legal issues under scrutiny were (1) what determines whether a person as “set up a campsite” and (2) what is the standard for proving they had “an intention to remain overnight”.
Both connditiosn are required to cite and convict someone during the day under MC 6.36.010c. At night just sleeping or covering up with blankets after 11 PM is itself illegal on all public property, on much private property, in any structure that isn’t a house or hotel, and in any vehicle parked on public property. A third was whether the presence of homeless possessions next to an individual sitting, lying, or sleeping was itself significant or sufficient evidence of a campsite and an intention to remain overnight.

Lemaster testified there was a waiting list for storage lockers at the Homeless Services Center and insisted that commercial storage lockers are out of reach for anyone without a stable income. She talked about her own difficult experiences when a homeless mom. Barisone vigorously cross-examined her, suggesting that lockers were available for storing homeless property without even hinting at any evidence. He volunteered that homeless failure to apply for shelter and services indicates a conscious scofflaw mentality and not a function of the wearisome homeless treadmill. Finally he ignored the well-known and unchanging lack of shelter space and services. “Many homeless people stop trying,” said Lemaster. “They are pressured over time to give up on waiting lists and application hurdles in order to stay focused on immediate survival needs.”

Lemaster subsequently claimed that numbers of local homeless people exceed access to even momentary public aid by a facto of more than 15-1. “Homelessness,” she noted, “is a growing epidemic that will not be resolved by municipalities.” “It is profoundly immoral to simply pluck out the most egregious presences on Pacific Avenue, while ignoring the forces that destroy everyone else outside until they get sick or angry or messy or die.”

Last year’s county homeless death figure was nearly three times that of the prior year (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/12/19/18633184.php?show_comments=1#18633349).

Not discussed at all were the difficulties involved even when Armory shelter space is available. Shelter space is never available in the late spring, summer, and early fall for 95% of the chronically homeless who apply, according to Lemaster. Requirements include: Show up early and so miss work opportunities; Face what some call unhealthful conditions sleeping in a room on the floor with many coughing and sick people; Show picture ID; Deal with what some have described as discriminatory treatment by ill-paid staff and Armory personnel; Abandon most of one’s property during the night; Accept sexually segregated sleeping conditions; etc.
etc.

BAD SENTINEL REPORTING

Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown sat through the proceedings and wrote a heavily merchant-friendly story. It mostly ignored the deeper legal issues and repeated deceptive and incomplete descriptions from prior stories. J.M. Brown cast the two defendants in a bad light, highlighting merchant fears and unproven allegations. (See “Judge dismisses some charges in preliminary injunction against S.C. couple accused of violating city’s camping ban” at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_14711762?source=rss).

Brown nowhere mentioned the costs of the proceeding nor indicated the bizarre nature of the patently fraudulent charges (even under the abusive wording of the Injunction covering downtown sleeping and the absurd Sleeping Ban making it illegal everywhere else). Apparently he didn’t think to ask the City Attorney: “Why would you think that two people sleeping at midday with their possessions downtown constituted a campsite?” “How could that possibly mesh with the wording of the law and the Injunction?” “Why would you spend city time and money and waste the court’s time with this?”

Reporter Brown repeated the unproven, irrelevant, and inflammatory charges of “bathing in a fountain”, “destroying trees” , “trespassing” and other claims rejected in the May Injunction hearing, Those smears were not permitted in this contempt hearing which was specifically held to determine only whether the two were violating the Camping Ordinance in the forbidden Downtown zone–the only behavior the Injunction bans, and the only “crimes” alleged.

It was not proven at the May 2009 hearing that created the original injunction that Richardson and DeLeon were a Public Nuisance, simply that they were regularly charged (but not convicted) of violating the unconstitutional Sleeping Ban. This alone was the grounds for labeling them a “nuisance per se”, not any substantial nuisance behavior. Thus was created this unique Injunction which bans an essential human function–sleeping, and set the two up as police targets. Not because their behavior specifically injured anyone, but because nighttime homeless sleeping is and has been illegal in Santa Cruz since 1978.

Brown used [phrases like “vagrancy”–an outdated and prejudicial epithet which criminalizes poor people outside for their status). “Years of negative public perception about safety issues” echoes a paranoid merchant perception–but the two are not charged with any violent crimes. Brown quotes Mayor Rotkin at length, who as usual talks out of both sides of his mouth–professing compassion for the homeless, but supporting the Sleeping Ban–which makes homeless people criminals for a life-sustaining act. All that De Leon and Richardson were charged with was sleeping during the day. Iinstead of grilling Rotkin on where homeless people can park their bones or researching the shelter realities, Brown simply mouths authority propaganda.

Misleading and sloppy reporting includes such comments as “limitations on loitering”. There is no such crime; City Council under pressure from gentrification advocates and merchants intent on blaming homeless people for the economic depression has made more than 95% of the city’s sidewalks in business districts a crime to sit on, and peacefully spare change on. A huge expanse has also been made forbidden territory for political tabling or busqueing.

MY RESPONSE TO THE SENTINEL STORY ON THEIR WEBSITE

I wrote the following commentary in response to Brown’s Sentinel article which covers some more points (somewhat modified in this reprinting):

City Attorney Barisone’s arrogance strikes again. As with another recent case where he’s wasted over $100,000 of the City’s money (and intends to waste more), this one was a really bad call.(See http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci… )

Anna and Miguel were sleeping downtown during the day–an activity not forbidden by Burdick’s injunction. But when harassed by Officers Forbus and Winston, they refused to move (as was their right since they were doing nothing illegal). So maybe the two officers, out of resentment that their heavy-handed authority was being properly and caustically challenged, wrote phony tickets without probable cause to further intimidate the two.

The tickets “worked” in that the two defendants gathered together their possessions and left. They also provided grist for Sgt. Garner and Barisone’s stalking agenda: holding the two in contempt and jailing them.

However, sleeping during the day is not “setting up a campsite” and even a judge nervous about offending the merchants and politicians knows that. It may show the depth of Barisone’s arrogance (or perhaps his indifference–after all, he gets paid regardless) that he proceeded to drag these two into court on what were obviously false charges.

Further aggravating the situation for those of watching the trial was the fact that apparently the cops did not say they’d gotten any specific complaints about the two sleepers. It was just two thugs in uniform showing their power or currying favor with the city attorney–at what may ultimately be a significant cost to the city.

Exerting naked power against people–even poor people–can piss them off, especially when it’s illegal.

Volkman had no choice but to find the accused not guilty of contempt. Barisone should have known that from the getgo. Barisone and his two cop witnesses should be held liable for harassment as well as misuse of public funds.

Even those whose agenda is characterizing visible homeless people sparechanging downtown as “bums” should get together to dump these incompetents.

Ironically sleeping during the day is the only legal option for all homeless people in Santa Cruz since sleeping at night is banned under MC 6.36.010a.

So Anna and Miguel sleeping at 1:40 PM and 5:20 PM in the afternoon were actually trying to follow the law.

Present in the audience watching this farce were Mayor Rotkin, Councilmember Robinson, Julie Hende, and no doubt a number of other notable bigoted bureaucrats. Boy, bigotry is bad, but stupidity when mixed with bigotry is even more ludicrous. And making a public spectacle out of this makes them all a laughingstock. Which, given the abuse they’re trying to bring to homeless people, is what they deserve.

For more background go to http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/03/15/1… and http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/03/18/1… .

Those interested in real solutions should consider how much cheaper it would be to set up a campground and acknowledge the clear and present reality the immense shelter deficiency in Santa Cruz puts the City in very vulnerable spot legally and wretched position ethically.

TIME FOR ANOTHER KIND OF INJUNCTION?

The one positive thing to come out of this case (other than exposing the incompetence and/or corruption of the police and city attorney) is the revelation that police are now (perhaps under instruction from their supervisors) misusing section c of the camping ordinance–which says folks can be ticketed anytime if they’re “setting up a campsite with the intent of remaining overnight”.

This means there is no “safety zone” as Vice-Mayor Coonerty insisted several years ago, that allows homeless people to sleep during the day and so makes our city different from Los Angeles, San Diego, Laguna Beach, and other places that have had courts overturn their Sleeping Bans.

It may be time to go back to court with a lawsuit–and this time the Injunction will be against the City and the Police, and not against homeless sleepers.

COMING UP SOON: SINISTER SONGSTER CITATION TRIALS

Two homeless activists, a homeless musician, and an innocent passerby were falsely given $445 citations last January for singing political songs in front of the Bookshop Santa Cruz. Officer Shoenfeld refused to say herself whether the singing she heard at 3 PM on a Wednesday afternoon, was “unreasonably disturbing”. Because the singers refused to move, but did agree to sing more quietly (and stopped singing at Shoenfeld’s request), Sheofeld apparently orchestrated the citizen’s arrest from a resident of the St. George—Simon Reilly by falsely informing Reilly that the singers refused to sing more quietly.

Some of the story is told at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/01/20/18635743.php (“Sinister Street Singers Cited on Sidewalk”).

On March 25th at 1:30 PM in Dept. 10 (the basement of the County Building) the innocent bystander, a teacher named Michelle, will go to trial in the court of Commissioner Kim Baskett.

On March 26th at 10 AM, activist Becky Johnson will go to trial in Dept. 1 (first courtroom to your left as you pass the metal detector) in front of Judge Symons.

On April 27th, Robert “Blindbear” Facer is due to go to trial at 1:30 p.m. Dept. 10.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship &; Freedom) will likely be sponsoring an outdoor meal to encourage the community to have a bite to eat and then witness the proceedings in the hopes that these ridiculous charges will be dismissed, encouraging the police not to use citizens as catspaws.

Judge Volkman at the Injunction Contempt Hearing commended the audience for coming and the presence of the audience may have had a positive effect in helping him hold the line against a lawless city attorney whose main concern seems to be running disfavored homeless people out of town or out of sight.

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