Update 20 dealt with competent interviewing technique, and Update 20.2 dealt with the less then convincing reality of what are, arguably, Metro’s best and most reliable witnesses. In this, the third in a series of updates relating to witness statements, I continue to expose Metro’s unprofessional and unethical methods of interviewing and the contradictory and plainly mistaken “evidence” that comprises the Metro narrative.
The statements in this article are all less supportive of Metro’s narrative—in some cases, the opposite of supportive—than the statements in Update 20.2, as flawed as many of those were. But throughout all of the statements, Metro continued to obviously be interested in fulfilling the narrative rather than collecting facts and evidence.
Gun and Clothing Confusion:
On 07-14-10, Detectives Calos and Jensen interviewed Helene and Erik Hanson. Neither of the Hansons completed a written statement. It should be noted that interviewing two witnesses simultaneously is a fundamental violation of professional practice. The potential for witnesses to contaminate each other’s stories is enormous, even inevitable, and no police officer can know the personal dynamics of people who know each other that will affect their statements. Absent very specific situations such as allowing the parent of a young child victim to be present, it’s simply not done. It opens the statement to challenge in court and it is virtually certain to contaminate evidence—the statements of those involved.
The Hansons said the evacuation of the Costco was calm, saying: “But even Erik and I were kind of like, you know, la-de-da about it.” Like most witnesses, as they left the Costco, they saw Mosher, Mendiola and Stark with their weapons already drawn.
And I heard the officer that I previously described [Mosher], um, I saw him look at a man, um, and he had his weapon drawn in front of him, and I heard him say, ‘get on the ground. Get on the ground,’ and then I saw him shoot. I then turned to my left, I saw a tall younger, thin officer shoot right after that.
Helene thought Erik Scott was wearing a long sleeved shirt, even two shirts (he wore only a gray t-shirt).
Erik Hanson thought Scott was wearing a dark short-sleeved shirt, and believed he saw Scott standing so that his left shoulder was facing Mosher. Hanson thought Scott was holding a black “compact semi-automatic handgun” in his right hand and holding it “down at the side of his leg.” This exchange is most interesting:
Q: Okay. Um, did you ever see him raise the gun at the officer?
EH: I did not see him raise the gun, because when I saw the weapon, I knew things were going to get bad very quickly, and in my position, I was exactly at the twelve o’clock of the officer, so if he missed, I was the backstop.
Q: Okay, so you got out of the way.
Remember that the statements of the three officers are identical in claiming that even as they were maneuvering to shoot Erik Scott, they carefully positioned themselves so the large, concrete and rock-faced pillars in front of the Costco were their backstops prior to shooting Scott. In addition, Metro’s narrative is that Scott pointed his nearly full-sized model 1911 .45 (its barrel was slightly shortened)—in a holster that almost entirely enclosed it—at Mosher. Hanson saw a compact handgun (not in a holster)–he thought it was a Sig-Sauer–and if his observation is accurate, it was completely out of Mosher’s sight behind Scott’s body, giving Mosher no justification to shoot.
This exchange is also interesting:
Q: Okay. Now after the shooting, and the suspect’s down on the ground, did you notice anything else on the suspect?
EH: Yeah, I had poked my head around the corner 10-15 seconds after everything had, the shooting had stopped. The suspect was on the ground, approximately five to seven feet away from me. Uh, his hands were handcuffed behind his back. His shirt was pulled up, and he had a double magazine carrier on the back of his belt.
Q: Okay. Was there any magazines in it?
EH: No, they had apparently been cleared by the officer.
Q: Okay. Um, and how many officers did you see fire?
EH: I actually did not see the officer fire.”
Scott was indeed carrying a black Blackhawk polymer double magazine pouch above his left rear pocket. This observation raises a number of disturbing questions, questions the detectives ignored, immediately changing the subject as soon as Hanson mentioned it.
As I noted in Update 19 the magazine carrier was photographed on the back of Scott’s bloody jeans at the autopsy, but was not mentioned in Metro documents and was not returned to the Scott family. The Metro narrative requires us to believe that Scott was carrying only the magazine in his Kimber .45, and that with only six of eight possible rounds, and no spare magazines, but was carrying a fully loaded Ruger LCP in a holster—in his right front pocket (?!)—with a fully loaded spare magazine for that handgun.
The Hansons did not see any handgun on the ground near Scott’s body, and again, showing an amazing lack of curiosity and basic interviewing ability, the detectives didn’t ask. We know Scott’s Kimber, in a black Blackhawk inside-the-waistband holster, did eventually find its way to the pavement near where Scott fell, but precisely how it got there remains a matter of contention.
If Hanson is right and could see Scott’s magazine pouch—and he is the only witness, including the three officers who shot Erik Scott, to mention it–it’s also possible Scott’s handgun, which was inside his belt directly behind his right rear pocket, was visible to Mosher who was the only officer to touch Scott after he was shot and dying on the ground. If so, Mosher might have removed the gun and magazines at about the same time he handcuffed Scott. If so, he certainly said nothing about it in his statement, most likely because that is not the Metro narrative.
However, it is more likely that my theory of the case is correct. The Kimber—in its holster–was found by an EMT on the way to the hospital and was subsequently returned to the Costco and planted near Scott’s body. In any case, Erik Hanson remains the only person in any way associated with this case to see or mention the magazine carrier. What happened to Scott’s .45 magazines remains a mystery.
The Gun That Was Perceived—Or Wasn’t:
William Carlston wrote a statement on the day of the shooting. Like many others, there is no ending time noted and no officer witnessed it, making it worthless as evidence. Carlston also gave a taped statement later in the day.
What is notable about Carlston’s statements is in his written statement he felt Scott looked “agitated” when confronted with Mosher’s handgun “…and then reached for his waistband.” Carlston saw Mosher shoot, and Scott “dropped slightly.” He thought he saw a gun in Scott’s hand and Mosher shot again. He also thought he saw an officer (Dustin Bundy) with a shotgun pointing at Scott as he lay, facedown on the pavement, immediately after being shot.
However, his taped statement was quite different. Carlston saw only “a dark object” in Scott’s hand, “which I perceived to be a firearm.” The Detectives, as usual, had no interest at all in the details of what Carlston “perceived” to be a firearm, and immediately changed the subject, asking and saying nothing at all, for the remainder of the interview, about what Scott might—or might not–have had in his hand.
As with virtually every other statement, this one is very much at odds with the known facts. There was no pause between Mosher’s first shot and the six shots that followed it. If Officer Bundy’s statement (Update 14.2) is accurate, no one could have seen him pointing a shotgun at Scott immediately after Scott hit the ground because Bundy not only didn’t see the shooting, he wasn’t there when it happened, arriving within shotgun pointing range only some time later.
Again, for a case that hinges on Erik Scott pointing a holstered handgun at Mosher, every detective that investigated the case seems to care nothing at all for details about that weapon, where it was, when, or how it was supposedly employed. In fact, since they change the topic whenever a witness so much as seems to be about to mention a gun, one might think them allergic to the topic.
As I’ve previously noted, this may be so because the Metro narrative likely wasn’t solidified when Carlston and many of the other handpicked witnesses were interviewed. Metro had not yet illegally searched Scott’s home and taken his Ruger LCP, so the detectives were avoiding any mentions of guns that could contradict what the narrative might eventually have to be.
Don’t Tase Me Bro!
Ralph Smithwick wrote a statement at the Costo on 07-10. This statement was sort of witnessed, as a detective—C. Bunn–wrote his initial and last name in the text block, but did not fill out the time finished—except to write “P.M.”–or sign it. The statement is amazing (I am transcribing all of these statements—mistakes and all—verbatim):
I was standing approx 3′ from 1st officer to give command ‘get on the ground’ The perp took a step back but did not comply. Officer said ‘get on the ground’ a second time.
It appeared was raising the right side of his t-shirt when the officer next to me fired his Tazer. Perp remained on his feet reeling backward when 3 other officers tazed him.
Det. Bunn also conducted a taped interview of Smithwick—a Costco employee–at the Costco. Smithwick said Scott “kinda” raised the right side of his t-shirt. This exchange is key:
Q: Because of where you were standing, were you able to see when the guy raise—pulled up the right side of his shirt, were you able to see what, what was there?
A: I saw something there. Um, I don’t know that he was able to get his shirt fully up to expose, ah, what he had, but I did see something there.
Q: And what do you think you saw?
A: I thought it was a concealed weapon.
Q: Okay. And why did you think that?
A: Um, it just appeared that way. Um, the, the bulge on the side at his waist, um, and as he lifted up, it looked like I saw the top part of a gun. But I didn’t see the, you know, he totally expose it.
As usual, the detective immediately changed the topic, avoiding it for the rest of the interview. He had good reason to do that.
Notice how Smithwick’s story changed–from his written statement where it only appeared Scott might have been raising the right side of his t-shirt which caused him to be tased by four officers—to his taped statement where Scott was “kinda” raising his t-shirt and Smithwick thought he saw “the top part of a gun,” and there was no longer any mention of four officers “tasing” Scott.
Why did the detective change the topic? Smithwick was about to destroy the narrative. No doubt the detective’s tape recorder malfunctioned for Smithwick too, allowing his story to change dramatically from his written statement. Even so, Smithwick—who apparently saw the entire shooting sequence—never saw Scott draw and point a weapon, wasn’t at all sure he saw one—and surely didn’t see a weapon on the ground.
Shall We Dance?
Lisa Holzgruber (visiting the US from Austria) wrote a statement at the Costco. Unlike many, the ending time was written in, but it was unwitnessed by any officer. She thought Scott lifted his shirt and she saw “a gun in his trousers.” She thought Scott “…started to move his hand towards the gun,” and Mosher yelled “drop the gun.” She and her boyfriend immediately ran for cover and she only heard shots.
Lisa’s taped statement was done by Detective Mogg later that day at the Costco.
In that statement, Lisa believed Scott was wearing brown shorts and a light brown shirt of some kind. She repeated what she wrote in her written statement, but wasn’t positive Mosher said “drop the gun.” As usual, the detective showed no interest in the supposed gun, failing to ask such basic, mandatory questions as what kind of gun she saw, whether she was sure it was a gun, or any other questions any competent investigator would surely ask.
This statement is notable for Mogg’s obvious leading of Holzgruber, which he does constantly—when he’s not putting words in her mouth. It is also obvious from the statement that Holzbruger, an Austrian, is not entirely comfortable with English. Her English, as transcribed, is quite good, but she does make reference to some language difficulty. It is not possible—from the transcript alone–to determine to what degree that difficulty might have been manipulated to Metro’s benefit.
Mosher did yell ”drop the gun,” in the midst of two other contradictory commands, but if Holzgruber is right, he was screaming “drop the gun” at a man who had no gun in his hand, a man he shot a fraction of a second later, which is exactly what Mosher did, followed by Stark and Mendiola who had no idea who actually fired, so of course, they had to shoot Scott in the back.
Are You Sure You Saw What You Didn’t Say You Saw?
John Cooper was interviewed on tape by Detectives Calos and Jensen on 07-26-10. He apparently did not give a written statement. This statement is remarkable because the detectives spend considerable time—this is one of their longest interviews, yet is only 20 minutes long–trying to fill in the blanks of the narrative—particularly relating to Scott drawing a gun—even trying desperately to put words into Cooper’s mouth, but Cooper isn’t cooperating.
Q: Ah, hol-hold on a minute, John. When you, when you observed the, the officer giving him commands, and the, the guy standing there, and his hands are down at this side, did you ever see him bring his hands up, or move his hands, or anything?
A: That what my impression was. His—if I had an impression, I felt like he was raising his shirt.
A: I mean that, that’s that’s the impression I got.
Q: Okay, So his shirt was, his shirt was untucked, and over his pants.
Q: And the way he was raising his hands to you, bringing his hands up to you was like he was lifting his shirt up? Okay. Was he doing that with both hands?
Q: Could you see both hands, or just, or could you only see the one hand?
A: It looked, it looked both.
A: But the hands were coming up.
A: And the only reason I would say it like that, if I, if I thought he was pulling a gun there would just be a different stance.
A: Okay. It didn’t have that defensive stance that I’d expect.
A: So that’s what surprised me when they said ‘he has a gun.’ Ah, that’s what totally threw me. Now whether the, that’s when I thought well they seen his gun, or whatever. That’s the only thing that came into my mind, and that was an interpretation.
Notice that when Cooper become specific about his observation of seeing no gun and certainly no gun drawing motion, the detectives immediately lost interest and after Cooper’s last statement, immediately changed the topic. However, a short time later, Det. Calos made one last abortive attempt to alter Cooper’s statement:
PC (Detective Pete Calos): Hey, John, real quick, I talked to you on the 23rd at about 1155 hours when you called in, and, ah, one of the thing, I took notes when we were talking up there, and a couple things I, I made not of, and one of the things you said that you heard them address him, which you just told about. You heard ‘em the officers addressing this gentleman, which you just said. And then the second thing you said then, you said you saw him expose his gun. Now…
A: No. I, if I, if I said expose his gun, I mis-stated. I never saw his weapon.
Calos is not letting go easily:
PC: Okay. I just want to clarify that, ’cause I wrote that down as a quote from you when I talked to you on the 23rd. So that’s why I want to clarify it now.
A: No. If I said he exposed his gun, I never, I saw him raise his shirt.
Both detectives try to get Cooper to shut up:
PC: Okay, thank you.
A: So I…
PC: Appreciate it.
A: …that would be a mis-statement.
Q: Okay. Okay, so now…
And Jensen immediately changes the topic. Later in the statement, Cooper expresses his frustration that after Scott was handcuffed and face down on the pavement, no one provided him medical aid. And at the very end of the interview, Cooper obviously felt he needed to reiterate one point:
A: I just, I, I wanted, I, I had been trying the best I can to keep, ’cause I’ve gone through it to not add or take from, or to color it, and, and I’m glad he brought that up. If I said that I saw a gun, that was a mis-statement, because at no time did I see his weapon. Ah, or any weapon on him. Ah, I only saw his actions.
A: So, ah, that, ah, I’m glad you clarified that.
The detectives ended the interview immediately thereafter.
It’s obvious Cooper was trying to be a good citizen who had to call Metro to get them to take his statement, a statement they obviously did not want to hear. Det. Calos is either incompetent—it’s rather hard to turn a witness statement about seeing a man expose his right side by slightly lifting his shirt into pulling a gun—or is trying to improperly influence Cooper’s statement. One wonders if the old “the tape recorder didn’t work” trick didn’t work on Cooper, forcing the detectives to try more overt methods of propping up the inept Metro narrative.
As I’ve previously written, professional officers reading the transcripts of these interviews would unfailingly come to the same conclusions I’ve reached. They would also be amazed at what can only be incompetence of the worst sort, or corruption of the worst sort. The only other option is that Metro is content to appear to be stunningly incompetent—a state of affairs professional police officers and agencies avoid like the plague–because the consequences of telling the truth are far, far worse.
And of course, if the Costco surveillance video had not disappeared under blatantly suspicious circumstances, the truth would be easy to discover. Its disappearance speaks volumes.
The utter lack of competent initial and follow up questions throughout these interviews renders them ridiculously—incompetently–short. In major cases—and three officers shooting and killing a citizen under suspicious circumstances surely qualifies—it is common—actually, mandatory to take as much time as necessary to be certain no stone is left unturned. Yet these interviews take eight minutes here, ten minutes there. This alone would raise red flags for competent investigators.
In Update 20.4, the final of this series, to be posted on 12-17-12, I’ll discuss several citizens who came closest to exactly matching the known—and reasonably inferred—facts in this case. It will come to no surprise that their statements are diametrically opposed to the Metro narrative.