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Johnny Cochran files $100 million claim on behalf of Dante Meniefield

by mary shelton Friday, Apr. 20, 2001 at 5:27 AM

Attorney Johnny Cochran has been retained by the family of Dante Meniefield and has filed a $100 million claim against the city of Moreno Valley and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. But can a damage claim ensure that justice will be done, for a black man shot to death with his hands up?

errorReknowned attorney, Johnny Cochran has been retained by the family of Dante Meniefield, who was shot to death by Moreno Valley Police Department officer Robert Marks last month. On Monday, Cochran filed a $100 million claim against the Riverside County Sheriff's Department which contracts its services with the city of Moreno Valley.

Cochran condemned the shooting of a young black man, with his hands up, as well as the harassment of members of Meniefield's family, by the police department. Several weeks ago, Shannon Nolley and Mark Maloney were arrested for trespassing by police officers, while visiting Meniefield's memorial at the apartment complex where he died. The initial claim was filed in accordance to the law, and clears the path for a civil law suit against the city and the Sheriff's Department.

The sheriff department responded to the filed claim, by saying that it is up to the lawyers on both sides to hash the issue out in court.

Gene Rogers, Moreno Valley's city manager expressed sadness that the shooting occurred, but praised the police department and its chief, Richard Coz. 'The police chief has done everything in his power to help the family, he's opened the lines of communication,' Rogers said. He defended the city's decision to contract with the Sheriff's department for its services. 'They are basically functioning as our police department and a fine chief is one of their captains,' he said. He added that unlike cities with independent departments, the chief is selected by Sheriff Larry Smith from his own staff, and then is backed by the city council 'through a meeting of the minds.'

Mayor Bonnie Flickinger said that while the city has studied the issue of forming its own police department, she did not believe it was feasible at the time, and would result in a shortage of law enforcement officers on the streets, she said. She broke her long-held silence on the shooting at a council meeting last week.

The criminal and administrative investigations into the conduct of officer Marks are ongoing.

Sara Danzelle, a representative of the Riverside County District Attorney's office said that the investigative findings have been forwarded to her office by the Sheriff's Department's Central Division homicide unit, but that 'a few more things' from that agency were needed, before they could do their followup review and investigation. 'We are at day one of the investigation,' she said when asked about how long the process might take, until a decision on whether to prosecute Marks is made. And refused to elaborate on exactly what would be the deciding criteria to make that decision. 'I'm not allowed to discuss that,' she said. The Sheriff's Department recommended that criminal charges not be filed against Marks. The District Attorney's office has never prosecuted an oficer for shooting a civilian, in its entire history.

Weekly protests on behalf of Meniefeld at City Hall and the police station were suspended, on request of Meniefield's family.

Federal investigations have also been opened into the shooting. Michael Gennaco, who heads the western regional office of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights division said that Meniefield's shoooting is being investigated. 'Whenver questions are raised by an officer involved shooting that seems like the shooting is not justified, we investigate,' he said. An investigation has also been initiated involving the Dec 30 fatal shooting of Ruben Vega by Moreno Valley police officers who shot him in his own bedroom, through a window they broke. His girlfriend was hit in the chest, by the bullet which ended his life. When asked whether an investigation of the agency would be started, in response to the shootings, Gennaco said, that his agency investigates individuals, and that the police department is part of the sheriff's department, not its own agency.

The justice department also is conducting an investigation of the March 25 shooting of nursing assistant Ginenne Stover, 18 by Highland Police officer, Michael Rude. 'We have investigations into all three shootings,' Gennaco said.

A vocal minority of the fledgling city of Moreno Valley has blindly supported their police officers, and has paid little mind to the shooting of a black man with his hands up, as evidenced by the following letters to the daily newspaper.

Many thanks for the front-page article regarding the heroic response of Moreno Valley police officers, Mark Alanis and Gary Colbert, to the tragic home invasion robbery and shooting of two small children. These two brave officers epitomize, to me, what policing is all about: serving and protecting the public.

From what I read in the article, their timely first aid, conducted at great personal risk to themselves because they didn't know if the shooting suspect was still in the house, quite possibly saved the 6-year-old girl's life. . . .


Moreno Valley

. . . In the case of the Dante Menifield tragedy, people are protesting daily and calling the police 'assassins' and 'murderers.' Police officers don't go to work thinking, 'OK, who am I going to kill today?' They go to work to perform a job that very few people want to do. Protect, stop crime, and maybe even save a life.

This was the case with officers Gary Colbert and Mark Alanis. Yet I don't see community leaders organizing marches or calling these officers heroes. They're just doing their job? OK, maybe; but how these officers reacted you don't teach, it just comes out. They disregarded their safety to save these children. . . .


Moreno Valley

I suggest rather than criticizing the Riverside County Sheriff's Department that the people of Moreno Valley start supporting them.

Some folks are yelling for Moreno Valley to have its own police department. This has already been attempted in Moreno Valley and failed because of a shortage of money. We wouldn't have the use of the helicopter and would have less ratio of officers to citizens.

. . . It seems to me that the officers are in a constant Catch-22 position the majority of the time. Some days when they have to use their weapons, they are heroes, and other days they are villains for using their weapons. . . .


Always the outcry is from whites, well when officers do something right, or themselves are killed, why aren't blacks marching then? How can you ask blacks to march on behalf of whites, when whites don't do that, and most of these whites who make these remarks never march on behalf of blacks. And when an officer gets shot, there is a quick outcry and response from city officials, who trip over themselves to do something. Not so with the shooting of a black man or woman at the hands of the men in blue.
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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 8 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Go johnny,be good proffr@fuckmicrosoft.com Friday, Apr. 20, 2001 at 5:31 PM
Support law & order Walter Saturday, Apr. 21, 2001 at 2:22 AM
People like you are why we need new prisons Walter Saturday, Apr. 21, 2001 at 2:26 AM
Long Live Law and Order Walter Saturday, Apr. 21, 2001 at 2:30 AM
cop troll be gone, but say hi to Marks for me blue spy Saturday, Apr. 21, 2001 at 5:37 AM
Law and ORder?! Who is Walter-a propagandist riverside resident Saturday, Apr. 21, 2001 at 6:07 AM
What's with you, and the men in blue? riverside is an all-american nightmare Saturday, Apr. 21, 2001 at 8:31 AM
The poor not compensated Police Saul Martinez Saturday, Apr. 21, 2001 at 11:05 PM

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