Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Gladewater cop gets slap on wrist for threatening Dallas News reporter with shotgun

I know the media aren't too popular in many quarters, but isn't something wrong with this picture?

Gladewater police officer Bryan Todd Naismith was unhappy that a Dallas Morning News reporter planned to do a story about a suspect shot by Naismith under questionable circumstances where the officer was never charged. Reported AP today:
Naismith must now permanently surrender his law enforcement license, take anger management classes and pay a $1,000 fine after pleading guilty to unlawful restraint Friday in Upshur County.

In March 2006, reporter David Michaels pursued a story about Naismith never being charged in the 2005 shooting of a suspect. When Michaels showed up at Naismith's home for a second time, Naismith allegedly pointed a shotgun through the reporter's car window and ordered him out.

Michaels was later let go after Naismith yelled at him, police said.

Naismith was fired from Gladewater police three months after confronting Michaels. As part of his plea deal, he was also given a one-year probated jail sentence and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.

So a reporter doing an investigative story comes to the officer's home. The officer points a shotgun at him, unlawfully detained the reporter, and hollered at him threateningly for some unspecified period of time - presumably with the intent of intimidating the reporter not to write the story.

Still, it took the Gladewater PD three months afterward to fire the officer, and his criminal sentence amounts to a slap on the wrist - 80 hours community service, a $1,000 fine, and one year probation is one of the lowest sentences I've seen for any gun crime in many a moon.

Several questions arise from this case and its outcome: What kind of jerk cop pulls a gun on a reporter? Don't they train these clowns? (That's an inexcusable response to the media asking questions about a legitimately controversial subject.) And once they knew about the incident, why did the Gladewater PD wait three months to terminate him? Why did prosecutors and the judge accept such a lenient plea deal? Finally, why was the Dallas Morning News investigating this story instead of the Tyler Morning Telegraph?

Tack this incident on to the growing list of East Texas police officers arrested or indicted in the last couple of years.

Intimidation of the press is a police tactic I might expect south of the border, where journalists routinely take real risks to report crime news, but it's a shame to see Texas cops behaving so disgracefully.


Anonymous said...

I would also like to know what's wrong with this picture. In reading the Chronicle story, I get the impression the cop ran him off the first time and told him not to come back. If this was the second time this reporter showed up at the cops house, why didn't the cop just detain him and have him arrested for tresspassing? If this reporter really thought a crime had been committed, he should be hounding the local DA for not pursuing an idictment.

Anonymous said...

I thought assault with a deadly weapon -- under color of authority -- would get him prison time. Am I wrong? Or did the courts fail again?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Steve asked, "why didn't the cop just detain him and have him arrested for tresspassing?"

I'm sure the answer is that there was no probable cause to detain a reporter for asking questions, and the reporter was willing to leave when asked.

As for the DA, odds are he did talk to the DA's office, but nobody there pulled a gun on him!

I've done enough investigative reporting to know there's basically one reason you'd go to the trouble to show up at somebody's house like that - they're central to the story and they're dodging you. Michaels was just doing his job.

Anonymous said...

I just don't think we are hearing the whole story here. (Which, is not unusual from the mainstream media.) It's one thing to approach a person at their home once and get told to leave and not come back. But twice? However, the article didn't say if the reporter was cautioned not to return after the first attempt. If he was, then he certainly (at least in my county) would be setting himself up for a tresspassing charge. He obviously did not have consent to be on the property.

Whether or not anyone pulled a gun on Michaels at the DA's office isn't relevant to any crime that the cop in question may have committed. Certainly, a trip to the DA's office could have yielded much more information than approaching an unruly cop at his own residence.

I think there is too much missing from this story. And, we may never know enough details to draw a firm conclusion as to what really happened.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Steve, given that the officer was convicted, I'm afraid your line of thinking doesn't hold up. If it were true, he'd have had a defense.

I'll guarantee if a non-cop did the same thing the punishment would be worse.

Anonymous said...

Its my understanding from seeing the video that the officer had ordered all three out of the car, when he turned to get the third subject he bolted off in the car into the woods, the officer followed him, due to the fact he didnt know where the subject would come out of and due to the fact he had two other subjects, detained and laying on the ground for officer safety, since working at smaller deartments, you generally dont have enough coverage to get help, right off the bat. The subject then pulled over a hill, with his vehicle aimed directly at officer naismiths car, where the other two subjects were detained. I feel the officer was justified because the kid would just as soon kill a cop then look at one. However, all of this could have been avoided if the officer wasnt dispatched to a hit and run accident on hwy 80, unknown if there were any injuries at the time, therefore in the officers mind they rammed the car next to them and kept going, at this point he is unsure if the person driving is a felon, in a stolen car or what he's about to get into.
The driver of the car that tried to run over naismith and the subjects laying on the ground the officer had to protect himself and the other two sujbects.
Through the course of the investigation, it was found that the kid was a member of a gang and that they might put a hit out on officer naismith and his family. Due to fear for his family, they went out of town for their own safety. Officer Naismith stayed homm because he still had a job to do. While doing his job he was harrassed while on calls from the widow of the subject. None of this came out for the public to know. Nor did it come out that immideately officer naismith ran up to the car the subject was in and had to turn the ignition off due to the tires sinning and causing a fire.
After all this occurred and his family had left town, there were several gang banger kids walking around his neighborhood. Now mind you he lives in the country, its not like kids wonder the streets all the time. So while he was coping with the shooting (No officer wants to shoot someone, I believe this from the bottom of my heart.
Weeks had past after the shooting and a man came to his house, drove up his long driveway and spoke to his wife who was juggling 4 kids, she told him he wasnt home, but he should be home later. This was not an invitation for him to come back, she just said what she could with the time she had.
Later that night officer Naismith came home and there was a car parked in his driveway that he didnt know who it belonged to. He asked the guy who is was, the guy said I'm a reporter, Naismith asked for some identification and he said he had none with him. Now a Dallas Reporter driving in from Dallas to Gladewater area with no drivers license or identification? Isnt that odd?
Since officer Naismith had nothing to go on other than what the man said with no identification to prove who he was, after gang bangers checking his house out, he was a little rattled to say the least. I would have been too, wouldnt you? He protected his property by pointing his rifle at the guy and telling him to get off of his property and not to come back. If the reporter had done his homework he would have know that Officer Naismith was under a gag order and couldnt talk about the case.
I feel the citizens of Gladewater lost a very good officer. I had the opportunity to work with him on several occassions and if I needed someone to have my back, I'd want him. My heart is broken for him because of all he has had to endure, and loosing his tclose certification, that would be like loosing your arms, its what he knows its his life, and in his blood. He is and will continue to be missed by the people who know what happened those days and nights, and we all still stand behind him.
Thank you For you time,