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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Judgment suspended

There are police-cruiser videotapes of police officer James Arnold shooting and killing Jose B. Lemus-Rodriguez. Those tapes have been seen by Fort Wayne Police, Indiana State Police, Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards and now Robert H. Black, a consultant hired by the city. And everybody says the evidence, including those tapes, supports Arnold's contention that the shooting was justified. But the tapes aren't being released:

Citing the fear of losing a potentially costly civil lawsuit, the city and the Fort Wayne Police Department refused to release evidence they say vindicates rookie police officer James Arnold in the killing of Jose B. Lemus-Rodriguez.

They did, however, release a letter Thursday from consultant Robert H. Black, who concluded the fatal shooting was justified because Arnold legitimately feared Rodriguez might run him or fellow officers over.

Why would letting the public see the tapes increase the risk of the city losing a civil lawsuit, especially if they exonerate Arnold? Could a lawyer out there explain that to me? If the city is sued, jury members will get to see the tapes and make their own judgment, right? What's the difference if otthers have seen them ahead of that?

It would be nice to say, well, everybody who's looked at this says Arnold was justified, so let's just move on. But if there's something to look at that would help me know for sure, I want to see it. Until  then, I'm going to suspend judgment.

And, yes, I agree with what some of you are thinking -- Rodriguez shouldn't even have been here in the first place. He was an illegal immigrant who had violated probation on charges related to drunken driving, driving without a license and driving with false registration. All that attention paid to him by the criminal justice system, and still he wasn't kicked out of the country. What a sick joke our immigration system has become.


Bob G.
Fri, 08/01/2008 - 11:01am

Having followed this story from the beginning, I am quite disturbed by the "description" of the person shot by officer Arnold.
The news consistently states that Mr. Rodriguez was UNARMED.
Now forgive my naivete (even after 55 years), but the last time I checked, a rolling 3000 lb piece of machinery in the hands of someone in "dubious" control of it IS a lethal weapon. And one need look no further than the rate of DUI fatalities (as an example).
Mr Rodriguez WAS armed. maybe not in the "traditional P/C" sense, but this is an exact comparison to the 9/11 terrorists who were "armed" with jetliners (that caused the predictable, resulting deaths).
A weapon is a weapon...it doesn't HAVE to be a gun, or a knife, or even a necktie.
The MSM should present the facts as they are, and not how they perceive them.

(PS: Welcome back, Off. Arnold)

Fri, 08/01/2008 - 12:14pm

My guess is that the city's counsel has advised against release of the tapes on general principles. Someone is dead and the city has money. A lawsuit is almost certainly coming, regardless of what the tape shows. So, from a pure litigation standpoint, there is nothing really to be gained from releasing the tapes. From a public relations standpoint, maybe there is, but a lawyer isn't necessarily focused on that.

There might be some privileges maintained where some or all of the taped material which might be irrelevant, yet damaging to the officers somehow, could be excluded from the jury. Or, it may be, if the person who was shot is tempted to fabricate in one way or another, you can get him to tell a version of the story in one way or another that's inconsistent with the tape if he doesn't have access to it.

William Larsen
Mon, 08/04/2008 - 12:00pm

Maybe, just maybe the tapes were erased/destroyed. Tapes from Northrop were subpoenaed before the 45 standard retention period only to be told they no longer existed. It is quite possible that Watergate gave valuable insight how to handle incriminating evidence, better to destroy it than try to explain what it is.

Maybe they took a hint from watergate. Better to destroy the tapes than to let the public see them.

Harl Delos
Mon, 08/04/2008 - 3:00pm

I've had lots of employees over the years, and none of them was flawless. There's a difference between grabbing a stamp from petty cash so you can mail your mortgage payment and grabbing a couple of sheets of stamps so you can mail your christmas cards, a difference between taking a cup of coffee without feeding the kitty, and tapping the till for a couple of twenties. I could tolerate someone being 10 minutes late to work once a week; I couldn't tolerate someone being rude to customers.

I'm pretty sure those tapes are embarassing, or else the cops would be glad to release them to the public. I'm also pretty sure they don't show deliberate murder, or they'd have a cop behind bars. The question is, was the misbehavior captured on those tapes major or minor?

Tue, 08/05/2008 - 8:16am

The question is, why does the Fort Wayne print and broadcast media fail to push for information?