Thursday, June 09, 2005

What is wrong with Connecticut Law Enforcement in a nutshell

Justice is Truly Blind in Connecticut Posted by Hello

Probe Explores Officer's Past State Native Faces Florida Inquiry
June 9, 2005 By KIM MARTINEAU, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

A former Madison police officer who was the subject of criminal investigations in two Connecticut towns is now at the center of an FBI investigation into the shooting of a Mexican day laborer in South Florida.

Lewis Perry III, 39, who grew up on the Connecticut shoreline and is the son of a well-known police chief, was working as a deputy sheriff in Broward County, Fla., seven months ago when he shot and critically injured 23-year-old German Gomez, the father of two young children.

Perry should never have been hired as a police officer, judging from his record in Connecticut, said Gomez's lawyer, Lynn Overmann.

"If you look at it, there's a pattern," she said.

"Routinely, he doesn't follow orders. He gets himself involved in these questionable situations with ex-girlfriends. He's the worst-driving cop I've ever seen."

Perry was called on a burglary complaint on Nov. 3, 2004, to the apartment complex where Gomez lived. Perry contends, through his lawyer, that his gun accidentally fired during a confrontation with Gomez in the parking lot. The bullet lodged in Gomez's head, leaving him permanently brain damaged.

Perry's personnel record from Madison, which details more than two dozen complaints about his performance, is now in the hands of a federal grand jury in South Florida that is investigating the shooting of Gomez. The Broward Sheriff's Office in Fort Lauderdale recently fired Perry for a matter unrelated to the shooting.

Perry was repeatedly disciplined over his short career in Madison, a decade ago, for conduct unbecoming an officer, insubordination and recklessly driving his police cruiser, town records show. Perry resigned from the force in 1997, as the department was set to fire him. Perry comes from a family of police officers.

His brother, Michael, was recently promoted to the rank of state police sergeant. His father, Lewis Perry Jr., was a longtime Hamden cop who is now the police chief at Eastern Connecticut State University. The elder Perry is past chairman of the town Democratic town committee.

Perry's lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, Eric Schwartzreich, has called the shooting a tragedy for both men. Schwartzreich declined to comment on the complaints about Perry when he was an officer in Connecticut. Perry responded to the Pompano Beach apartment complex after receiving a burglary complaint. Gomez and his cousin, who lived in the complex and did not speak English, were mistaken for burglary suspects after they tried to enter the wrong apartment.

Long before Perry reached Broward County, his conduct had come into question in Connecticut.

In 1995, Guilford police investigated Perry after his German shepherd attacked a teenager outside a service station, Madison personnel records show. The teenager was the son of the Madison deputy police chief. The case was dropped after prosecutors declined to press charges.

After leaving the Madison department, Perry was hired as a part-time constable in Washington, a small town in western Connecticut. The town fired him after his ex-girlfriend complained he was harassing her and had entered her home. The investigating officer referred the case for prosecution, but charges were not filed.

In Madison, Perry was the subject of at least 28 internal investigations. A majority of the complaints were found to be legitimate. By one department estimate, 45 full workdays were spent investigating the complaints.

Perry's first warning came two years into the job. While directing traffic around an accident one summer day, he told curious motorists there had been a "triple homicide," and a "hostage type situation."

It wasn't true. Perry told supervisors he was bored, and that the heat and lack of sleep had gone to his head.

Two years later, he was suspended for sleeping on an overtime job that paid him $200.

Perry was disciplined for conduct unbecoming an officer after numerous witnesses reported seeing him in the back of a telephone truck, wearing a mask and dark sunglasses when he should have been directing traffic.

"I believe that the time has come for us to seriously consider whether Officer Perry's continued employment with the Town of Madison can be considered a `negligent retention' issue," Capt. Paul Jakubson wrote in a March 1995 memo.

Perry suspected a fellow officer of snitching on him. Several days later, he called the officer a "rat" and a "four-legged furry weasel" to a worker at Dunkin' Donuts, personnel records show.

The officer found out about the insults and filed a complaint. The lieutenant who investigated recommended that Perry be suspended. But a month after questioning Perry's fitness as a police officer, Jakubson asked Police Chief James Cameron to go easy on Perry. "I realize that this may cause a stir within our ranks but I am still of the belief that this officer's career can be salvaged," Jakubson wrote in an April 1995 memo.

Perry received counseling but no formal punishment. Two months later, Jakubson was appointed to the Clinton Town Council, joining Perry's father, Lewis Perry Jr., on the board.

They served together for four years. Jakubson, now the Madison police chief, denies that Perry's family connections helped him keep his job and downplayed the complaints.

"They were not what I'd call egregious," he said.

Perry was living with his parents in 1991 when he applied for a job in Madison, an affluent town that borders Clinton.

"He comes from a very well respected family," noted the lieutenant who interviewed him.

Perry was a graduate of Xavier High School in Middletown and later earned an associate degree from Springfield College in Massachusetts. Perry's troubles worsened after his dog, Thor, attacked the teen at Town Line Garage in Guilford.

The young man was Carl T. Jordan, son of Madison's deputy chief at the time. Jordan told Guilford police that Perry set the dog on him with two words: "Get him."

"The dog lunged forward and bit my pants leg," Jordan said in a statement.

"My finger went into the dog's mouth but I was able to pull it out when the dog released a little."

Guilford police prepared a warrant charging Perry with reckless endangerment, but prosecutors declined to sign it. New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington, who lives in Madison, said he doesn't remember why he denied the warrant. Clinton Officer Todd Carlson had given Perry the German shepherd after the dog flunked out of K-9 school. Perry was given a written reprimand. A year later, Cameron, the police chief, recommended firing Perry after two more complaints were upheld.

In one, he was accused of shining his police cruiser spotlight into his ex-girlfriend's home at 2 a.m. while another man was visiting. Less than a year after resigning from Madison, Perry was hired in Washington.

Two years later, he was asked to resign amid complaints he was harassing his ex-girlfriend and had broken into her home to retrieve jewelry he had given her. Perry was fired after failing to turn in his resignation. Trooper Robert Gavell said he conducted a criminal investigation and turned the case over to a lieutenant, who later told him prosecutors declined to press charges.

The Broward Sheriff's Office did a brief background check before hiring Perry in 2001. The first selectman of Washington at the time, Alan Chapin, told the investigator that Perry had left voluntarily, had a good performance record and had nothing derogatory in his file, according to Perry's Florida personnel records. Perry himself checked "no" when asked if he had ever been fired, or had resigned following allegations of misconduct or poor performance.

"No one from any Florida Department of Public Safety ever contacted me regarding his performance," said Gavell, Perry's former supervisor, now retired.

Perry was put on administrative leave after the Nov. 3 shooting, and he was fired in March for unrelated reasons. By then, he had been the subject of nine internal investigations, including two into use of excessive force, said Gomez's lawyer.

Gomez, an illegal immigrant, is slowly recovering but is likely to need a lifetime of care. His lawyers are trying to work out a settlement with Broward County to provide that care, but if no deal is reached, they might file a lawsuit next week. They are looking into providing legal status to Gomez and bringing his wife and two children to the United States.

"The kind of care he needs is just not available in Mexico," said Overmann, who lays part of the blame on Broward County.

"They never should have hired this guy," she said.

"German wouldn't be facing the rest of his life with the IQ of a child."

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