Friday, February 6, 2015

BREAKING NEWS! NEW LPD SCANDALS EXPOSED: Cops Keep Jobs After Recklessly Firing Weapons While Drinking Alcohol, Driving Vehicles in Excess of 125 MPH While Off-Duty; Appreciative of Not Getting a Ticket!

Tim VanderPlaats
Secret documents were released on Friday related to a lawsuit filed by Lafayette resident, Tim VanderPlaats against the Lafayette Police Department, the City of Lafayette, and  LPD officers, Charles Williams, Jr., and Michael Barthelemy.  As reported earlier, VanderPlaats received threatening messages from LPD officers after hugging one of the officer's girlfriend.  A week later VanderPlaats was beaten unconscious as he was arriving home.

According to court records, three of the officers admitted to placing calls to VanderPlaat's phone.  One of the recorded messages was noted in a Motion for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of the City of Lafayette.  Apparently, the City is seeking to be dismissed as a defendant from the lawsuit, citing immunity protections as a government entity as well as stating the officers were not acting in their official capacities as officers when they made threats against VanderPlaats.

Officers Charles Williams, Jr., Michael Barthelemy, and Nathan LaMar testified that they placed calls to VanderPlaats from a local restaurant.

One of the messages was entered as evidence in the Motion. 

"Hi, Tim.  This is Bobby.  I just wanted to tell you that you're a huge fuckin' douche bag, and I swear to God if I hear your name again I'm going to fucking kill you.  And it's not gonna be awesome, I mean it's gonna be like, little body parts in a fireplace kind of death, and that's really gonna suck.  So -- I would just kinda crawl into a hole today [inaudible] for awhile, or --[inaudible].  Thanks."
In addition to evidence related directly to the case, disciplinary documents against officers involved in the VanderPlaats scandal were also entered into public evidence, including an incident involving "the consumption of alcoholic beverages and firing of weapons" that reportedly took place in early 2009 involving several LPD officers as well as an LPD dispatcher.  Officers Nathan LaMar, Charlie A Williams, Jr., Ronald Dombkowski, and Dispatcher Mark Grimes were written up in a confidential LPD case report dated 8/28/2009.  

The detailed report also revealed that Tippecanoe County Sheriff Deputy Drew Heath, son of former Tippecanoe County Sheriff Dave Heath, was also involved in the incident. 

At the direction of Captain Steve Hartman of the LPD, Lt. Chris Downard was directed to open an investigation of misconduct into the incident. 

LPD Officer Charles Williams, Jr.
According to the report, Officer Charlie Williams, Jr. admitted that he was with several friends, some from the LPD, at Purdue Police Officer Andy Standifer's home in rural Warren County.  Williams told the investigator that that he, Ron Dombkowski, Officer LaMar, and Deputy Heath from TCPD were at the gathering. 

"[Williams] said there were some alcoholic beverages consumed, but he did not feel he was intoxicated," the report stated.  "He stated that when the group was mainly outside the home (he could not specifically recall who was still inside) he used his off duty handgun to fire a round into the air.  He described pointing the weapon toward an empty field, away from persons."

Officer Nathan Lamar reportedly stated that he, Williams, Dombkowski, Drew Heath, Katie Williams, and Mark Grimes had ridden together to Standifer's with Ron Dombkowski, "as Dombkowski was not drinking that night and was a designated driver."

"[LaMar] said that when they were leaving Standifer's, exiting the house, Williams was standing next to Dombkowski's personal vehicle, and he fired two rounds into the ground next to Williams.  Lamar said he never felt anyone was endangered by the shots Williams fired.  He said they all entered Dombkowski's vehicle, and Drew Heath fired a shot out the window toward the ground at an adjacent cornfield.  Lamar said that he also fired a round from his personally owned handgun out the window of the vehicle toward the ground alongside the road, and that Mark Grimes then fired his weapon out the window.  LeMar said at this time Dombkowski stopped the vehicle and angrily confronted them, telling them to 'knock it off'.  LeMar was certain that Dombkowski did not fire a gun, due to his driving the vehicle and being upset by their behavior.  LeMar said he had consumed alcoholic beverages prior to the incident, but did not consider himself 'intoxicated.'  LeMar described his actions as 'stupid' and said he had not engaged in any behavior like that since that night."

[Dombkowski] gave a similar account to that of LaMar according to the report.  He stated that Heath, LeMar, Charlie Williams, Katie Williams, and Mark Grimes were in the vehicle with him.  Dombkowski stated that "Charlie Williams, LaMar, Heath, and Grimes fired their handguns out the windows of the windows of the vehicles while they were on an unpopulated stretch of the road.  He did not believe they were endangering anyone, but wanted them to stop their actions, and he recounted stopping his vehicle in the roadway and yelling at them to stop."

[Grimes], the LPD dispatcher confirmed the events to the investigator; however, it was noted that Grimes was confronted by Captain Hartman for not disclosing the incident during his initial interview.

The Officers were found to be in violation of Lafayette Police Department Policy 05-22, Off-Duty Weapons, which requires:

"Off Duty weapons will be used in accordance with any appropriate Department Policy Statement and any other appropriate rule, regulation policy directive or order as issued.

The firing of their off-duty weapons in this incident could not be construed as target practice, hunting, ballistic examination or of the destruction of an animal or within the discharge of their duties as officers.  (Policy 05-19) They did not report discharging weapons outside those conditions as required by that policy.  Furthermore, firing the weapons from a moving vehicle after consumption of alcoholic beverages amplifies the irresponsibility of their actions.

Dispatcher Grimes' actions are not judged by the sworn officers' rules and regulations, but his behavior could have brought the city into disrepute; therefore, his conduct was unbecoming as a city employee and against City of Lafayette Policy.  Further, he did not comply with a lawful request of superior to answer questions truthfully during his internal review process, again violating city rules."

Officer Ron Dombkowski failed to report behavior of fellow members of the department that were violations of rules and regulations," continued the report filed by Lt. Chris Downard.

Surprisingly, the only action taken against the LPD officers were letters to their employment files.


How many citizens would get a free pass after being clocked driving in excess of 120 mph on I-65?  Apparently, the law doesn't apply to four LPD officers who were stopped by ISP Major Thomas Melville on May 12, 2009 after they were driving at high rates of speed on I-65.

A letter describing the incident and follow-up reprimand were released as part of the aforementioned lawsuit filed against the City of Lafayette by Tim VanderPlaats.

According to a letter, dated May 12, 2009 and addressed to former LPD Chief Don Roush, Major Melville gave the following account:

"I was on my way home from Active Shooting Training at the State Office Building.  I was northbound on I-65 approaching the ramp from I-465.  I noticed two vehicles enter I-65 from the I-465 ramp at a high rate of speed.  I was sure I had two very high speeds with these vehicles.  I thought they were drag racing but could not be sure yet because I was still about 1/2 mile behind the vehicles.  I accelerated and was not catching up with the vehicles.  I found a sign where I could begin a VASCAR clock on the front vehicle, a 2006 Black Dodge Charger.  The second vehicle, a 1996 black Chevrolet Impala SS, I would estimate was at a speed in excess of 120MPH before he let off the accelerator.  I passed the second vehicle near 71st St. and found a change in the color of the pavement north of 71st St. to stop the VASCAR clock on the first vehicle.  When I ran through the VASCAR zone I received a clock on the first vehicle at 112.7MPH.  Vehicle 1 had hit the brakes and slowed down before I could get a location to shut the VASCAR off so I would estimate the speed of this vehicle in excess of 125MPH.

I activated my red/blue lights and the Dodge Charger pulled right over.  I waved over the Chevrolet Impala but the vehicle did not stop.

I told the driver of the Dodge Charger to show me his hands.  The driver stated they were police officers.  I asked how many were in the car with him and he stated one other police officer.  I was at a position where I could not see the passenger at the time.  I had my weapon pulled, in the ready position and instructed the driver the shut the vehicle off then throw the keys out of the vehicle.  I then instructed him to exit the vehicle and slowly produce his identification.  The driver did so without question.  I then instructed the passenger to exit the vehicle and then slowly produce his identification.  He did so.  I then holstered my weapon.

An IMPD Officer and ISP Sgt. Rick Cool arrived for backup.

At this time the second vehicle had returned to our location and both the driver and passenger provided police identification from the Lafayette City Police Department.  The four Lafayette City Police Officers were identified as:

[Charles A. Williams, Nathan LaMar, Charles Eric Wallace, and Ronald L. Dombkowski]

All four officers fully cooperated with my demands and did not give me the first problem.  Both drivers were very apologetic and appreciate of not getting a ticket.  Officer was embarrassed to the point his face was beet red.  I told both drivers and passengers that I would be providing a report to Chief Roush with all this information.

I will be the first officer to say that as a police officer have taken advantage of my position from time to time and exceed the posted speed limit.  However, the seriously high speeds of these vehicles provided an unsafe condition for the other four vehicles that the Dodge Charger passed during this incident and the one vehicle that the Impala passed.

I am confident you will handle this incident internally in a manner that will best suit these two drivers and the City of Lafayette.  If you have any questions you may call me at 317-431-1292."

The letter was respectfully submitted by Thomas E. Melville, Major, Indiana State Police.

Again, the only punishment for the errant officers was a mere letter in their files.

What is it going to take for these out-of-control officers to face real consequences, you know, the kind that real people would face had they committed these crimes?  This just isn't going to fly with the public.  The same names keep popping up every time there is illegal and dangerous behavior among the ranks. 

How can citizens have confidence in the police department as long as these double standards exist? 

Private citizens have recently been arrested for making death threats, and had a citizen been clocked in excess of 125MPH, it would not have been overlooked.

If the LPD is ever to re-gain the trust of the community, its leadership must remove repeat offenders from the ranks.

Other disciplinary reports were released via court records for Williams, which will be reported on separately.