Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sentence in pedophile sting


A 30-year-old Walnut Creek man was sentenced Monday to nine months in jail and three years of probation after being caught in a televised pedophile sting in Petaluma. Mohammed Aksoum, convicted of attempting a lewd and lascivious act on a child under the age of 14, also will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Prosecutors said Aksoum engaged in graphic Internet conversations this summer with a person he believed to be 13 years old. He was lured to a Petaluma house on the promise of sex but instead was met by police, a "Dateline NBC" crew and members of the Internet watchdog organization Perverted Justice.

He was arrested along with 28 other men. Two segments based on the sting aired in the fall. Sonoma County prosecutors have pursued criminal charges, convicting four of the suspects.

Fatal Shooting

Report: Officers tried to disarm teen

Narrative describes chaotic struggle leading to fatal shooting in minivan

The sheriff's deputies who killed a Sebastopol teenager tried to disarm him with pepper spray and a baton before opening fire, investigators said Tuesday. A narrative released by investigators depicts a chaotic encounter that lasted roughly two minutes and said the deputies feared for their safety when they shot 16-year-old Jeremiah Chass while trying to subdue him in a minivan outside his home.

As Chass kicked the deputies in the face and chest, resisting their attempts to take a 2½-inch knife from him, the narrative says, one deputy "began bleeding from the face and feared he would be rendered unconscious." He fired, hitting Chass, who continued to kick and yell. The second deputy fired, also hitting Chass, who "stopped fighting," according to the account by Santa Rosa police, who are investigating the Monday shooting. Chass' family has questioned whether police needed to resort to lethal force to subdue the Analy High School junior.
"The deputies arrived, two minutes later they shoot him over a 2½-inch blade," said attorney Eric Safire, who was retained by the family. "That's pathetic."

Safire said Chass' parents were too distraught to discuss the incident or comment on the narrative. The incident began, according to the narrative, as Chass' family tried to take him to a hospital on the advice of mental health professionals "due to recent irrational and delusional behavior." In the early moments of the struggle, police said, Chass' 6-year-old brother was in the minivan, as were family members trying to disarm the teenager. Police dispatchers said they "heard a small child screaming hysterically."

When Chass was shot, no other family members were in the van, said Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Lisa Banayat, who helped prepare the statement released Tuesday evening.
She said more than two shots were fired but she didn't know how many. An autopsy is scheduled today. Banayat said the police account was based on interviews with family members and the deputies as well as notes in the dispatch log. It said the initial call for help was made at 8:36 a.m. Deputies were dispatched two minutes later. The first one arrived at 8:48 a.m. and shots were fired at 8:50 a.m., according to the log.

Chass was declared dead 10 minutes later.

The deputies were identified as Jim Ryan, a 19-year veteran, and John Misita, a 25-year veteran who was awarded the Sheriff's Department's medal of valor in 2000.
Misita and Ryan suffered injuries including cuts and bruises to their faces and arms in the struggle, investigators said.

"I don't have all the information to determine their state of mind at the time the shots were fired," Banayat said. "I know they feared for their own safety, I haven't listened to all the recordings, and I cannot rule out that they were not in fear for others at the scene."
The narrative says Chass became "violent and refused" when his parents tried to get him into their minivan to go to the hospital, the police account says.

"Reportedly," the narrative says, Chass then got a tool with an open 2½ inch blade, and got into the minivan where his 6-year-old brother was sitting. He then held his brother with one hand and the knife in the other, the narrative says.

Chass' parents placed their first call for help to the Sebastopol Police Department. An attempt to transfer the call to the Sheriff's Department failed - for reasons not known on Tuesday - and the dispatchers called the home, at which time they heard screaming in the background and a voice, it's not known yet whose, asking if an ambulance was en route.

Over the next few minutes, dispatchers heard someone "who sounded like a child" saying, "Let me go." Another voice, was heard saying, "I'll kill the child, I'll kill the child," the police account says.

As a struggle is heard in the background, dispatchers recorded more sounds of struggle and deputies saying, "Let go of the knife" and "Drop the knife."

In the van, both family members and later the deputies tried to take the knife away from Chass, the police statement said.

A deputy used pepper spray against him, then the pepper spray can, then the baton.
Within minutes, dispatchers recorded shots being fired. A deputy reported over the radio that one deputy might be stabbed and the other had a broken nose. The deputies began first aid, the police account says. An ambulance arrived within two minutes.

"Under the circumstances, this is a tragedy for everyone involved," Sheriff Bill Cogbill said. "The Chass family, as well as the deputies involved."

"We still have questions too," he said. "Nobody's going to know everything for a long time, we can't speculate as to what may or may not have happened."

On Monday, authorities said portions of the struggle were recorded on dispatch tapes.
The Press Democrat requested copies of the tapes, but the police statement said they will not be released while the investigation continues.

Santa Rosa Police Capt. Jamie Mitchell said he didn't want the tapes to influence the account of witnesses.

The investigation will be submitted to the district attorney for review.

Sheriff investigating mysterious death


A person walking along rural Petaluma property near Lynch Road Monday night found a dead body, Sonoma County Sheriff’s officials reported. The man’s body was face down in a field, about 300 feet from the nearest road. It appeared to have been there for several days, Sheriff’s Sgt. Bret Sackett said. The body was found just before 7 p.m. and deputies were called. There were no obvious signs of trauma. The man had no identification.

Sheriff’s detectives are investigating.

Hit and Run Bryon Pokopowich, 40

Motorcyclist dies in Occidental Road crash

CHP officers are looking for a hit-and-run driver who caused a fatal motorcycle crash near Graton, the CHP said Wednesday. Graton resident Bryon Pokopowich, 40, died in the crash on Occidental Road Tuesday night, the CHP said. CHP Officer Kimberly Lemons said officers are looking for a vehicle with minor-to-moderate right front area damage.

Officers were called to Occidental Road at Barlow Road at about 8 p.m. and found the rider on the road. His Ducati motorcycle was lying about 500 feet farther up the road. Drivers who had pulled over were trying to help the man, Lemons said. Witnesses told officers Pokopowich was riding eastbound on Occidental Road at the speed limit when a westbound car made a left turn onto Barlow Road into his path and hit the motorcycle. The vehicle was last seen headed south on Barlow Road.

CHP officers closed Occidental Road between Highway 116 and Barlow for two hours to investigate. Friends told officers Pokopowich was an experienced rider. He was wearing full riding leathers and a full face helmet, Lemons said.

She asked anyone with information to call the Santa Rosa CHP office at 588-1400.