by Arnaud and Naja Girard…….
A police officer at HOB Middle School has been put on paid leave for lying to the FBI. The disciplinary action follows an investigation by The Blue Paper into an alleged cover-up of gun threats at that school.
The issue quickly turned into a local “media war”. The daily paper (the Citizen) faithfully reproduced the official version: that the HOB gun threats had been “thoroughly investigated”.
The Blue Paper, challenging that version, was asking to see the Sheriff’s report that KWPD said was readily available.
The police department admitted that no such report existed and that the department had reported “untruthful accounts to the media and the Department’s Facebook page.”
KWPD investigators are blaming the embarrassing fake news event on the school resource officer (SRO) David Hall and the Chief is asking for the termination of Hall’s employment.
However, the investigation only raises more questions about student safety at HOB and a cover-up culture at all levels.
This is what we found:
According to KWPD’s internal investigative report the resource officer at HOB acknowledged four gun threat incidents this school term. Yet the investigator, Lt. Kathleen Ream, found that SRO Hall made no record of them.
In the first incident a student, let’s call him “student one”, had sent a threatening Snapchat photo of himself pointing a gun. Hall told investigators he talked with the student’s parents and was satisfied the student would no longer have access to guns at home. No report was filed.
The same photo was now circulating on social media with the added caption: “[student one’s] gonna bust a cap in yah head.” “Student one” claimed a friend had added the death threat caption. Again, no report.
A different student brought an orange plastic cap gun to HOB. Hall said he wrote a report and issued a civil citation and the student was expelled. The investigator however was unable to locate the report or the citation.
“Student one” was reported to have brought a real gun to an after-school event. Hall said he questioned the witnesses and found them unreliable. No report was filed.
THE MAKING OF A SCAPE GOAT?
The charge against Hall is that he lied to the FBI and to the State Attorney about having issued a civil citation in the orange plastic toy gun incident; a citation that investigators cannot find.
He brought embarrassment to the Department when “the Chief reported officer Hall’s untruthful accounts to the media, Department’s Facebook page, the Monroe County School District and the State Attorneys Office”.
That version of the events however might not match the facts.
The police department’s proclamation on the KWPD Facebook page stated that because “student one” lives in unincorporated Monroe County the investigation had to be turned over to the Sheriff’s Office. “They have a full report available.”
That story was the embarrassing lie. The KWPD internal investigative report shows that only Officer David Hall, not the Sheriff’s detectives, conducted the gun threat investigations. The investigators emphasize the damage to the Department’s image but never address the true origin of the fake news.
And there is another problem.
KWPD investigators claim that Hall lied to the FBI and the State Attorney about the citation that cannot be found. However, sources close to the orange toy gun student say he did receive a citation. The Blue Paper is actively trying to obtain a copy of that citation. If found it would clear Hall of this very serious accusation and create yet another source of embarrassment.
story continues below…
THE REAL PROBLEM
Most of our readers’ concerns revolve around one simple fundamental issue: There is a strong relationship between the police department and “student one’s” family.
The first gun threat incident took place in October. Is there some special protection surrounding “student one” that has allowed a potentially dangerous situation to overshadow school safety for all this time at HOB? In their report, the KWPD investigators don’t appear to be any more inclined to evaluate the well-connected “student one” than officer Hall was in October.
There were three reporting sources in the incident where “student one” would have brought a gun to school. “Untruthful Hall” told Lt. Ream that the witnesses recanted. But did they? There is no indication that Ream actually truth-checked Hall’s statements with the accounts of the actual witnesses. Did they in-fact see a gun?
Similarly the investigators found that Hall gave conflicting versions of whether the death threat caption was added by a friend of “student one”. But again, apparently no-one is asking “student one” whether he can identify that exculpatory friend.
Four months later no-one seems to know whether a gun was brought to school, whether the death threats were serious, or whether “student one” needs to be disciplined and given support.
A CULTURE OF COVER-UP
The report itself could be seen as essentially an attempt to deflect all blame onto the lone SRO officer. It revolves around the failure to locate the civil citation Hall claims he issued in the orange toy gun incident and fails to address the central questions concerning “special protection” of “student one”, the lack of documentation of incidents, or the source of the fake news, like the claim about a full MCSO investigation.
On February 24th The Blue Paper asked for a copy of the report of the internal investigation. The Department responded, “There was no internal affairs investigation,” yet the Chief had signed off on the investigative report on February 22nd.
At press time The Blue Paper is still waiting to receive a copy of the policies and “protocols” that the school Principal claims were followed to a tee.
State Attorney Dennis Ward informed The Blue Paper that he has reviewed the internal investigative report and has decided to delay the release of his office’s own report until all of the witnesses at the school have been interviewed.
State Attorney Dennis Ward invites anyone who has information pertaining to the gun threat incidents at HOB to contact him at (305) 812-6072.
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