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March 22nd, 2009 by Temple City Tribune
Hutton: Felony Arrest Was “Obvious Abuse of Power”
We received two letters Tuesday in response to the story about the Sierra Madre business owner jailed for assault. First from Sierra Madre Police Chief Marilyn Diaz and then one from Smock’s attorney Richard Hutton who had read Chief Diaz’s letter at beaconmedianews.com
The Letters Follow in Their Entirety:
Sierra Madre Police Chief Diaz Addresses Arrest of Local Business Owner
There has been a fair amount of misinformation circulating about an incident involving the arrest of a local business owner in front of his restaurant on January 31st. I would like to provide some factual background and perhaps help the public understand why, from a law enforcement perspective, this incident was much more serious than just washing down a sidewalk.
Code Enforcement Officer Volpe had seen this particular business owner on a number of previous occasions using a water hose to clean the sidewalk and walls of his establishment. This was a violation of Sierra Madre’s Municipal Code Ordinance 13.24.060, which prohibits using water to wash sidewalks. CEO Volpe had warned the business owner that he was violating the City’s Municipal Ordinance prohibiting such activity and, when she later saw him doing it again, she issued him a courtesy notice for the violation.
On Saturday January 31st CEO Volpe was again on duty and saw this same business owner holding a water hose and washing down the entire length of the sidewalk in front of his business. Since this was now a repeat incident after a warning, CEO Volpe stopped, took photos of the situation and attempted to address the violation with another verbal reminder. The business owner began to use vulgar language and call CEO Volpe names. He was irate.
When CEO Volpe turned to leave, the business owner faced her and, from about 4-5 feet away turned the hose on her. He first aimed it at her feet, wetting her boots, but then moved the hose up her pants to her police utility belt. In doing so, he soaked not only CEO Volpe’s uniform, but City-issued equipment, including a tape recorder, cell phone, and portable police radio. CEO Volpe nonetheless remained calm, called for a supervisor and walked a short distance away.
The property owner then bent down, picked up a gardening shovel, leaned forward and thrust the blade end of the shovel toward CEO Volpe’s throat, saying, “See, there’s [expletive] on the shovel.” CEO Volpe quickly stepped back as she perceived the business owner was agitated and somewhat out of control and she feared for her safety. CEO Volpe tape-recorded her encounter, but at the point that the business owner soaked Volpe’s equipment the conversation became inaudible.
Although the police department takes seriously code violations such as wasting water or violating water quality regulations by washing feces into storm drains, those are not the reasons this particular incident was troubling or that an arrest was made. The troubling aspect of this incident was that a local business owner lost his composure in a way that disrespected and assaulted an officer, damaged city property and continued to escalate from there.
We welcome any respectful dialogue with the citizens of Sierra Madre as to the requirements or merits of our local laws or the way in which the Police Department enforces them. On the other hand, we simply cannot condone or ignore conduct that jeopardizes city personnel and property without also jeopardizing our ability to recruit and train an effective police force and protect the citizens of this town.
-Chief Marilyn Diaz
Sierra Madre Police Department
And Now a Word from Mr. Smock’s Lawyer:
My usual practice is not to comment on pending cases. However, Sierra Madre Police Chief Marilyn Diaz’s statement requires an appropriate response.
Her comments provide yet another example as to why our citizens should be concerned with the conduct of their police department. My client was arrested for felony assault with a deadly weapon and required to post $30,000 bail where, according to Chief Diaz, the only touching of the code enforcement officer was water from a garden hose. The felony arrest of my client was an obvious abuse of police power and it is no wonder that the felony charges were promptly rejected by the Los Angeles County’s District Attorney’s office.
Attorney for Tom Smock