Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Waiting for answers about alleged police misconduct

When police use force to subdue a suspect, part of my job as a reporter is to scrutinize what happened, to help the public determine whether officers’ actions were appropriate.

Last week, my colleague and I spent hours talking to witnesses about events surrounding a police shootout with -- and arrest of -- a robbery suspect.

Police say Malcolm Xavier Springs shot a man in a robbery on West Trade Street then shot and injured a police officer during a foot chase before the officer shot Springs in the abdomen. The police statement said nothing more about Springs' arrest. But eight people in the neighborhood told us that during the arrest, as Springs lay handcuffed (and apparently wounded) on the ground, several police officers hit, stomped and kicked Springs.

We published stories about these events on March 20, 21 and 22. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department then issued a special request for witnesses to come forward with information about the shootings and the arrest.

The department has declined to answer our questions about the arrest. But it sought to assure the public that investigators are reviewing the shooting -- as well as the arrest -- saying in a written statement: “In an effort to preserve the trust and confidence of the community, the CMPD investigates all accusations of officer misconduct.”

We may or may not hear from police about whatever their investigation concludes -- or whether any officers are disciplined. In two previous instances in which witnesses questioned the department's account of police shootings, the officers involved were cleared but the official explanations did little to address the discrepancies raised.

We will continue to seek answers in the Springs case. You should also know we do not publish allegations of police misconduct lightly.

The shooting between Springs and Officer Brent Harrison happened at 1:30 a.m. on a street with few overhead lights. Several people who said they saw what happened had just been awakened by sirens or gunshots. They might have been groggy. Most said they were scared.

We know from research and experience that eyewitness accounts can be inaccurate. We ask a lot of questions to be sure people are speaking from their own recollections, and not simply repeating things they’ve heard. We also ask for details to help us scrutinize their accounts, as well as their credibility.

What did you see? How far away were you? Where were you watching from? Could you see and hear well from there? Could you be fuzzy on details because of the early hour? How long did the events last? Was there any point when you couldn't see what was going on? Are you sure? Can we go over it all again? The questions can go on and on.

We also compare witness accounts. Are they similar, or are there discrepancies? Are they too much alike? Did the witnesses seem credible? Did they have a good vantage point?

Police may also be asking witnesses such questions. But we won't know unless or until they offer a detailed accounting of their investigation. Stay tuned.

-- Cleve R. Wootson Jr.


  1. Please. This punk shot 3 people! One was a police officer. I would not lose a moment of sleep if they just shot him in the head the same as they would do a wild pitbull that is running out of control and attempting to bit and kill innocent people. He is lucky to be alive and I do not believe 95% of the so called witnesses.

  2. Its a cryin shame that this thug went on the rampage he did and all the CO wants to talk about is if he got beat up after he was cuffed. IF, and i stress IF, he did get punched a few times after he was cuffed, he deserved it. Peice of crap liberal reporting, always trying to turn the suspect into a victim. Get your head out of your butt and report on his criminal history. How about play the "what if" game. WHAT IF this thug shot at you or your momma or your child, I promise you would try to beat the crap out of him even after he was cuffed.

  3. I'd like to comment but these two really said it all. Only felons and families of felons are worried about police possibly being slightly rough with a thug. I actually like that police rough the thug up a bit. He needed a butt kicking from his father when he was a little boy, a father who he likely has never even met. BIRTH CONTROL FOR ALL WELFARE MOTHERS NOW!

  4. Still have a copy of your arrest photo? Can we see it?

  5. Is the CO writers Pucking serious. All you can write about is this punk being assaulted. how about talking about the three people that were shot by this fool. talk about the long lasting injuries to these victims. That is what you call news. If I was the officer i would have shot him in the head. One less thug on the streets.

  6. In this case I feel the cops did him a favor by only allegdly kicking and punching him. For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction. This guy robbed and shot an innocent man tending to his own business at the store, he then runs, through neighborhoods and yards, endandgering the CONCERNED (that he was alledgedly beat up)families within the homes, goes into the middle of the street and shoots a cop, in which that bullet could have easily went through the wall of one of those CONCERNED peoples homes and hurt one of them. Im sure those CONCERNED families would have retaliated accordingly. This human being is worthless to society, he's lucky he's alive. Citizens need to stand up, we have no reason to be afraid to go the gas station to get a drink at 1 am, but guys like this scum causes a lot of us to live in fear, its a shame.

  7. Funny how the so-called winesses come out of the woodwork when there is an allegation of police misconduct, but have nothing to say about the real thugs.

  8. First off, I am not related or am affiliated with any police in the CMPD.

    I relocated here in 2009 and can say with honesty that CMPD has more of a presence patrolling than my prior well known county from NY. I always see a CMPD patrol car in bad areas and good areas of Charlotte.

    CO seems to do stories negatively on the CMPD, never a good cop story, its always lets bash the CMPD when a negative situation arises. Seems quite biased to me.

    Also, your editing department has a lot to be desired. How about using spell check, grammatically checking sentences and posting proper links to websites?

    I could do a story on that alone with references to the number of articles etc. in which this has occurred.

  9. Once you shoot at people you give up all your rights to be treated as a member of society. We should make sure he gets his right to a speedy trial.... all these people wanting to make sure the thug gets treated right equal to only 1% of the population, it's all fine till it's someone in their family.

  10. Please balance this story out with the history of violence that this punk has perpetrated on the many people he grew up with, went to school with and then the many strangers he has victimized. How about a story and a profile on the struggle the officer who was shot is going through? How about a story on the other victims? How have their lives been impacted. Do they wake up in the middle of the night from the nightmares after being shot? Can they focus during the day? Do they go out less? How has it hurt their families too? You're a bunch of apologists who need to stop focusing so much on the rights of criminals and more on the rights of the victims.

  11. You don't think there might be a bit of a response bias involved as well Cleve? You spend a lot of this article defending your data-collection process, but completely ignored the demographics of the neighborhood and the resulting conceptions of law enforcement that might exist. Given the neighborhood, I don't think it's unreasonable to consider the possibility that the witnesses may have already had an untrusting view towards law enforcement officers.

  12. Awash with denial this cleve guy is...they should have used

    close your eyes and imagine of

  13. I hope they whup his @$$

  14. He should definitely get what's coming to him, but since when do our police act as punishers? We're supposed to have a police force who is responsible and professional, and not act as your tormentor (that's what "police states" do). Maybe one day it will be you who's made a police officer mad, do you want him to take justice in their own hands and beat you?

    I know we have a lot of vigilantes here, but we shouldn't allow police to take the law into their own hands. They are supposed to be professionals who can control their anger. Although lately, all I see are a bunch of fatties, who would rather taser someone than have to expend any energy in apprehending them as they've been trained to do.

  15. its a shame this occurred, the sad part of this happening is that the ones we hire to uphold the law, to protect us, take the law upon themself to act lawfully when in fact its unwise. Justice does prevail. Certainly the guilty will have their day in court and law corrects the right and wrong. Finally, it will be interesting to see how this settles.

  16. Cleve R Wootson Jr. You are an idiot. I dont need to explain myself anymore just read the comments on your story. If you shoot innocent people or a police officer the least you should get is a stomp. Way to defend a criminal and try to criminalize a police officer who puts his life on the line every day not knowing if it will be his last. You keep hiding behind a computer and scutinze the people that provide the safety of its citizens. Whats next defend a rapist because he not getting enough gravy on his mash potatoes in jail. It wont let my post other than anonymous but my name is jacob if you want to respond. Or you keep blogging and degrading actual reporters

  17. I don"t understand how emotions cannot be involved when someone tries to kill you after trying to kill someone else. Those so called witnesses were put in danger also when the suspect was firing at officers. What if he had hit one of their children or a loved one. You don't think they would be out there kicking that idiot also. It sure is easy to criticize the police when you have not been shot at or victimized by these thugs. People are getting tired of the thugs and crime. Wake up, listen to the majority of Charlotte citizens.

  18. "Waiting for answers about alleged police misconduct"

    And here we citizens have been waiting for answers for years about all the criminals and their misconduct.....

  19. if the perp was a white dude said "writer" on the panel would be cheering

    racism is bred from mirrors

  20. To all who have responded, no need to waste your energy, time, or allowing your evening to go to the pits after working all day at the exceptional reporting of the CO.

    The writers of this story will one day face the harsh reality of loosing someone close due to this type of offense on humanity by criminals, rather unfortunate but typically that is the only way that humans that write this type of garbage will ever understand.

  21. Hey CO staff start your questions out with there is no money in this for you, did you see anything? Then try to refrian from saying No story here. Here is another thought for you guys at CO since you live in lala land, criminals don't like law enforcement. Everyone you spoke to on your story has been in jail. I'll bet the farm on that. With the vast amount of technology in police cars the truth will come out. If it comes out that the suspect wasn't hit, I hope all you police hate mongers resign or get fired.

  22. You pompous little ass! With your insinuations that the officers were in the wrong because they aren't working on your time table. It's trash reporting like this that causes mistrust with the public. All so you can parade yourself as looking out for the public interest. Maybe the next time they have a man with a gun call in that area, you can run right down there and show the cops how to disarm him peacefully. "we do not publish allegations of police misconduct lightly" my ass! And the reason my name isn't attached is I need to keep my job. Trash talking is only a one-way street and we aren't allowed to comment or tell idiots that they are idiots.

  23. The content of this "blog" is exactly what I would expect from Cleve.

  24. Yikes...these comments scare me. They show the deeply ingrained attitudes of our police officers, and the belief that they are entitled to do this sort of thing regardless of the law. Not saying that the guy did not deserve it, but the fact is that police officers are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard without allowing their ego or emotions to control their actions. They signed up for this and they must control themselves in all situations. We cannot have police officers beating and kicking people as if they were the judge and jury. There is no entitlement here regardless of the persons actions. That must be dealt with in a court of law. Reading these comments makes me wonder if this has become an acceptable practice. I really hope not.

  25. Nice post Cleve, but you KNOW we will NEVER hear the truth from CMPD, thanks to Chief Monroe...

  26. News article about the Pierre Francois Blais shooting incident:

    Leclair family sues city of Gatineau and cop who shot brother

    The family of a man who was shot to death by police three years ago is suing the city of Gatineau and the officer who fired the shots.
    “We want closure. We want justice still,” Donna Leclair told the Sun
    Her 35-year-old brother, David Leclair, died on June 28, 2008 after he was shot outside his mother's Aylmer home when a police officer responded to a domestic call.
    Gatineau officer Pierre-Francois Blais, who beat Leclair with a club, pepper-sprayed him, and subsequently shot him three times — once in the back — was cleared of any wrongdoing by Quebec provincial police.
    While the officer maintained LeClair grabbed a crowbar in the confrontation, witnesses say he was unarmed.
    “We can’t get on,” Donna said. “He not only took David’s life, he destroyed all our family… This shouldn’t happen to anybody.”
    On June 23, after three long years of waiting for justice during which repeated calls for a public enquiry into the shooting went answered, the Leclair family launched a $430,000 civil suit in Gatineau court.
    “We’re not doing this for financial gains. We’re doing it, we want justice. If that’s the way they’re going to hear us, well then that’s the way they’re going to hear us,” Donna said.
    “It is a living nightmare and it’s in our faces every single day, every single moment. There’s not a day that goes by we don’t think of David and think of him lying there shot in the back.”
    City officials did not respond to calls for comment Thursday.
    “His daughter needs answers, you know, she has to grow up without a father,” Donna said.
    “We want to know David is resting in peace. We don’t feel he’s resting.”

  27. Is Pierre Francois Blais the cop that striked a 73 year old woman and shot her son in the back ? horrible and sad story.

  28. Take a look at this video that went viral on the net about Gatineau police shooting animals near kids school.

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