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by Philip A. Williams
Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2003 at 9:55 AM
firstname.lastname@example.org 310-631-7180 140 E. Scott St., Long Beach, CA 90805
On March 22, 2001, a simple traffic stop by two LAPD officers escalated into a high-speed police pursuit after Raynell Carmichael was mistakenly presumed to be a murder suspect. This pursuit amounted to nothing more than a "police manhunt for a murder suspect" who in fact was no murder suspect at all. The vehicle he was driving was properly registered to his wife, yet according to LAPD spokespersons during the televised pursuit and later in the news, Carmichael was said to be driving a vehicle that was stolen and associated with a murder suspect.
January 20, 2003
Inside The Mind Of A Black Man Being Denied Justice
Man convicted of felony evading and other charges stemming from a police pursuit in 2001 believes he's the victim of a cover-up. He is seeking a new trial on the basis of ineffective defense counsel.
By Philip A. Williams, Freelance Writer
LONG BEACH, CA - Why can't anyone see the cover-up that's going on here? Why do the courts and judges turn a blind eye to evidence that indicates Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers guilty of misconduct under color of authority? How can someone be charged with the possession of crack cocaine when in fact it was taken from a passenger's purse? Why would a LAPD vice squad officer advise pursuing units that I was wanted for murder when the officers initiating the pursuit knew the MDT reports proved otherwise? Why would an attorney representing me tell members of my family that there were things that they'll never know about this case? And, why is it, LAPD officers are not held accountable for misconduct when they unjustifiably threaten to use deadly force?
These are the exact questions that, Raynell Carmichael, would like to have answered. He believes that there is a major ongoing cover-up of the events and circumstances surrounding the felony evading pursuit he and LAPD Southeast Division police officers were involved in on March 22, 2001.
At first glance, it doesn't appear that the events and circumstances surrounding the traffic stop of Carmichael by LAPD officers on March 22, 2001 should be investigated by the Department of Justice; however, a careful review of the facts in this case show otherwise and are strikingly similar to the corruption found to have existed in LAPD's Rampart Division. In order to understand why Carmichael believes that he is the victim of a cover-up, it must be understood how two LAPD officers assigned to the Southeast Division botched a simple traffic stop by mistakenly assuming he was wanted for murder, when the Mobile Digital Terminal (MDT) printouts of responses to the officer's inquiries about Carmichael and the vehicle he was driving prove otherwise.
On February 18, 2003, in Los Angeles Superior Court, Department 111, a judge will decide whether he will be granted a new trial because of ineffective counsel. If granted, Carmichael's current attorney could then present the affirmative defense of necessity on his behalf. If not, as a third striker, he faces being sentenced to 25 years to life.
The events leading up to the incident for which Carmichael has been convicted, began at 4:00 p.m. on March 22, 2001 when LAPD officers in a black and white squad car inquired about a license plate number of a red 1987 Nissan located at 105th St. and Graham Ave. using their MDT. Their inquiry returned a report indicating that the vehicle was stolen. Suspect information associated with the stolen vehicle was on hold. The officers returned to the Southeast Station to retrieve the stolen vehicle report. They left the station at 4:18 p.m. returning to the location of the stolen vehicle to await a tow truck estimated to arrive at the scene in approximately 20 minutes.
Earlier this day, Carmichael had visited his older sister, Lois, who is a coordinating teacher, for a childcare center in Long Beach. She had asked her brother to sit down and rest for a while. He said that he had too many deliveries to make.
While the officers were dealing with the various aspects of the stolen vehicle, awaiting information about a possible suspect, Carmichael was just finishing his deliveries of oils and incense he sells through his business, Unique Fragrances, at the King Drew Medical Center. As he was driving, he noticed a woman that he recognized from the Center flagging him down. Carmichael stopped, and the woman asked for a ride home because it was too far to walk. The woman entered the vehicle, and Carmichael began driving again as directed by the woman.
At 4:24 p.m., the officers mentioned above, ran another vehicle license plate number check belonging to the vehicle Carmichael was driving. Then, they stopped the 49 year-old Carmichael and a female passenger, both African-Americans, after Carmichael turned right, eastbound on 107th St. just east of Graham Ave. in the Watts area of Los Angeles. He was driving a blue 1990 Toyota. This is important because no reference is made to this specific vehicle during the ensuing pursuit.
The reason for the traffic stop was said to be due to an inoperable right rear stop lamp. The traffic stop occurred in an isolated area that Carmichael's passenger had directed him to.
After approaching Carmichael's vehicle on the driver's side, an officer obtained both Carmichael's driver's license and personal information from the female passenger. The officer then asked Carmichael if he was on probation or parole. Carmichael indicated to the office that he was on probation instead of parole. The officer then returned to his squad car to run the identification checks. The other officer remained standing on the passenger side of the vehicle while his partner performed the identification and background checks on the MDT in their squad car. Before the officer that was performing the checks returned to the car to ask Carmichael for his proof of insurance, he knew that Carmichael was on parole, and that there were no wants, warrants, or retraining orders outstanding against him or the passenger, knowing that Carmichael was not a murder suspect.
When the officer did ask for proof of insurance, as Carmichael turned to retrieve it, the officer told him to never mind. The officer returned to his squad car never asking Carmichael to step out of the car so that he could conduct a probation or parole search of the vehicle. Carmichael then heard a message on the officer's radio, who, was standing on the passenger side of the vehicle say, "Sending backup units to your location...suspect is wanted for murder."
The officer on the passenger side of Carmichael's vehicle reacted to the message by removing his weapon from its holster, pointing it at the passenger, telling her, "Put your hands on top of the console," unaware that Carmichael was not wanted, had no warrants or restraining orders against him.
The radio communication that the officer received was informing him that backup units were being sent to the location of the stolen vehicle at 105th St. and Graham Ave. and of a possible suspect wanted for murder, not to 107th St. and Graham Ave. where the officers had stopped Carmichael and his passenger. Now, the officer who had performed the identification and background checks began drawing his firearm from its holster, telling Carmichael, "Get out of the car," making no attempt to inform his partner that Carmichael was not wanted, had no warrants or restraining orders against him.
Up to this point in time, Carmichael had been fully cooperative with the officers, including surrendering his license when asked, and attempting to retrieve his proof of insurance until told not to do so. Terrified of being shot to death or being sent back to prison on bogus charges, Carmichael panicked, started the vehicle, and sped off.
The officers then initiated an emergency pursuit at 4:37 p.m. as Carmichael sped away traveling eastbound on 107th St., although the MDT printout indicates the beginning of the pursuit to have been eastbound on 103rd at Grape. Just as quickly as they initiated the emergency pursuit, they also ended it at 4:37 p.m., according to the MDT printout. And, for whatever reason, the officer who was standing on the passenger side of the vehicle drew his weapon, requested backup units and an air ship because they were in pursuit of a C-6 Charles suspect - someone wanted for murder.
If these officers were so convinced that Carmichael was the suspect wanted for murder and backup units were being sent to their location, having drawn their weapons, why didn't they shoot him? Exactly where this pursuit originated is unclear. Televised coverage of the pursuit and a news article both indicate that the pursuit began eastbound on 105th St. and Graham Ave., the Arrest Report states that the pursuit began eastbound 107th St., just east of Graham Ave., and the MDT printouts describe the pursuit beginning eastbound on 103rd and Grape Street. Although news accounts reported that the pursuit was initiated when Carmichael failed to stop, there was no mention of the fact that he and the female passenger had been detained for almost 13 minutes - 4:24 p.m. until 4:37 p.m. - according to the MDT printouts prior to the pursuit beginning without a ticket being issued.
During the pursuit, the officers say they observed Carmichael reach over in front of the woman passenger and open the door, and then push her out of the vehicle; however, the woman passenger would later state in her witness statement that she opened the door and got out of the vehicle. The officers then requested that a unit to go to the location where the woman was forced out of the car, and question her on the scene.
Although the Arrest Report says that another police unit responded to the woman's location first - a unit that does not appear in the MDT printout - it was in fact a vice squad officer who advised units pursuing Carmichael that he was wanted for murder based on the woman's statements and not on the MDT reports about Carmichael's criminal background or parole status. The vice squad officer had the information at hand from a second license check on the 1990 blue Toyota Carmichael was driving, which once again returned no wants, warrants, or anything indicating that Carmichael, or his wife Frankie - the registered owner, was wanted for murder.
After covering approximately 94 miles on both surface streets and freeways, involving several law enforcement agencies, in Long Beach. The tires of his vehicle blew out when it ran over spike strips laid down by the Long Beach Police Department. Carmichael then surrendered by stopping and exiting his vehicle, and assumed a face down position in the street. He was taken into custody and transported to the Southeast Division station where he was booked on felony evading.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram reported that, "The chase began when Los Angeles police tried to stop the driver of a blue Nissan at 105th Street and Graham Avenue at 4:37 p.m." It goes on to say, " But while suspect Raynell Carmichael, had an extensive record, he was not wanted on murder charges," according to Los Angeles Police Officer Dan Cox. ABC Eyewitness News reported during the time of the pursuit, "A man believed to be a murder suspect led Los Angeles police on a lengthy car chase Thursday. Police assigned to the Southeast Division tried to stop the blue Nissan about 4:40 p.m., and the driver forced a woman out of the car and sped off, according to police and broadcast reports." ABC Eyewitness News also reported that the car was registered to someone with an extensive record, although the car was registered to Carmichael's wife, Frankie.
These news reports, filled with correct and incorrect information, illuminate the miscommunication and potential for a cover-up surrounding this case. Isn't it suspicious that after the two LAPD officers detained Carmichael and his female passenger for almost 13 minutes, two different reports say that LAPD officers then tried to stop the blue Nissan, not the blue Toyota Carmichael was driving?
When Carmichael appeared for his preliminary hearing, his defense counsel, a Bar Panel member, offered no affirmative defense. But it is important to point out that during the preliminary hearing, the defense counsel was not allowed to ask a testifying officer whether Carmichael was stopped for any other reason than an inoperable right rear stop lamp, the reason for the parole search, the condition of parole, in what capacity the officer knew the female passenger, whether the officer had ever arrested her before, whether the woman recognized the officer, or whether Carmichael was going to allow the officer to search the vehicle.
From the onset, it became very clear that Carmichael was not going to receive a fair trial, especially when a substantial amount of the evidence against him was based on contradictory written and verbal testimony of the police officers that initiated the traffic stop prior to the pursuit.
At trial, Carmichael was then confronted with ineffective defense counsel, the coached witness testimony of a self-admitted police snitch, having crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia taken from the female passenger's purse booked into evidence against him, as well as additional instructions being given to the jury after deliberations had already begun.
Other facts that surfaced during the trial include the officers' admission that they had in fact drawn their weapons although this information does not appear in either the Declaration of Probable Cause or the Arrest Report to substantiate the necessity of threatening Carmichael with deadly force or that he was resisting arrest that would justify their drawing of weapons in this instance. In lieu of the woman's witness statement to the police that Carmichael was wanted for murder and that there were empty shells on the floor inside of the vehicle - both of which proved to be false - her statements, were accepted as evidence against him.
Carmichael was not charged with being in possession of crack cocaine, but it was booked as evidence against him because it was found in a purse in his vehicle - a purse that would be shown to belong to his female passenger if it were examined for its physical evidence. Why wasn't the purse booked into evidence when police investigators removed the illegal substance and other drug paraphernalia? Why did they leave several other items in the purse that could have been tested for DNA, traces of crack cocaine, and fingerprints? Why wasn't Carmichael tested for drugs, or asked to give a blood or urine sample for analysis? Could it be that such testing would have established ownership of the purse? Would it have eliminated Carmichael as the owner of the purse or the person who actually was in possession of crack cocaine?
It is inconceivable that trained police investigators would allow the purse to remain in the vehicle, after the vehicle was towed to the police impound for inspection, and collection of evidence. The fact that the purse was still in the vehicle after it was returned to Carmichael's wife, Frankie, should have raised some eyebrows. And, it is very clear that the police officers who initially stopped Carmichael wrote their reports in a manner to make them appear consistent with one another in order to cover-up their blatant mistake; however, physical evidence in the form of this purse and its contents may shed more light on Southeast Division's cover-up of a simple traffic stop, gone bad.
The LAPD officers that stopped Carmichael were not where they were expected to be, when they stopped and detained him and a passenger for almost 13 minutes. After they threatened him with deadly force based upon a radio communication one of the officers received regarding a suspect associated with the red 1987 Nissan - not Carmichael or his blue 1990 Toyota, Carmichael fled fearing for his life. His actions ultimately assisted these officers in covering-up their actions and conduct with false statements and inaccurate testimony and provided them the means to justify their misconduct, which resulted in his being charged and subsequently convicted of felony evading, violation of parole.
Whether Carmichael is granted a new trial or not, an investigation into this incident by the U. S. Justice Department is warranted and would be completely justified in order to determine to what extent LAPD officers were responsible for causing a simple traffic stop to escalate into a full blown police pursuit. Without an investigation by the federal authorities, Raynell Carmichael will have been denied justice. The corruption, which once plagued LAPD's infamous Rampart Division for several years has, unfortunately, now found a new home in its' Southeast Division.
Click here to visit the Inside The Mind Of A Black Man Being Denied Justice Website.
Email your comments to: Philip A. Williams
The March 22, 2001 LAPD Vehicle Pursuit Involving Raynell Carmichael
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