Details of GVSU Drug Raid; Trial for Deputy who Shot Student Pushed Back

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New details have come out about the shooting of Grand Valley State University (GVSU) student Derek Copp back in March. According to media reports, Copp was not the target of the warrant that led to the search and the shooting.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that in the months leading up to the shooting, WEMET investigators purchased small amounts of marijuana from Copp’s roommate three times. The police tried to buy marijuana from Copp’s roommate again on March 11–the day Copp was shot–but his roommate said that he would not be home and that they could pick it up from Copp instead.

When the police raided the apartment two hours later, they found an unspecified amount of marijuana. Media reports saying that officers confiscated six glass jars containing “suspected” marijuana, two Ziploc bags containing suspected marijuana, marijuana stems and seeds, and a digital scale.

Trial for Deputy who Shot Copp Delayed

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Meanwhile, the trial for the Deputy who shot Derek Copp–Ryan Huizenga–has been delayed until August according to media reports. The Grand Rapids Press says that attorneys on both sides need time for further investigation.

Unlike Copp, who faces felony charges, Huizenga is being charged only with a misdemeanor. Huizenga remains employed after being returned to work in April.

As would be expected, Copp’s attorney publicly criticized the delay saying that prosecutors are showing “favoritism” towards Huizenga. The Grand Rapids Press also quoted the Michigan State Police’s lead investigator in the case who said that he was surprised by the length of the delay.

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In the time of swine flu you can still die of an opiate overdose

Clean Works

by Stephen Alsum

According to data from the Kent County Medical Examiner, drug overdoses are the second leading cause of accidental death of all people under the age of sixty-five in Kent County, Michigan. The only thing that causes more accidental deaths of people under the age of sixty-five than drug overdoses in Kent County is automobile accidents.

This data is confirmed by the Center for Disease Control. In 2005, almost five times as many people died from narcotic (opiate) overdoses in Kent County as died by drowning or submersion in water. More than fifteen times as many people died from narcotic overdose than by exposure to smoke, fire and/or flames. More people died from narcotic overdose than from all different types of assault combined. Kent County has a problem. It is not a problem we hear about very often, but it is a problem nonetheless. Kent County has a problem with people overdosing and dying from drugs, specifically opiates.

So what can we do about this? In order to reduce fatality from automobile accidents, these things called seat belts were invented. When we get in the car hopefully we wear them, thereby reducing potential harm that may befall us. When we swim there is often a lifeguard present; someone to help us if we begin to falter. To protect against fatality by fire or smoke inhalation, we have the fire department and they do a good job of putting out fires once they’ve started. So what about fatality from opiate overdoses, how can we reduce that?

One way to reduce fatality from opiate overdoses, if you are going to use opiates, is much like wearing a seat belt if you are going to drive in a car. It is a preventative measure: know what it is that you are using, and if you don’t, test it out first. Be careful though, lots of people die from illegal opiates in Kent County, but lots of people overdose on prescription opiates such as methadone too. Another way to prevent fatality from overdose is to always make sure someone else is present when you use. It is safer to swim with a lifeguard present; it is safer to use drugs when another person is there. If no one is present when you use, there will be no one there to call 911, and there will be no one to intervene if you should happen to overdose. Finally, much like the fire department puts out fires once they’ve started, get trained in how to recognize and intervene in opiate overdoses.

The Clean Works Harm Reduction Program in downtown Grand Rapids has recently started training people who actively use drugs in preventing, recognizing and intervening in opiate overdoses. Overdose is the second leading cause of accidental death of all people aged zero to sixty-five in Kent County; obviously training solely in the hands of paramedics and emergency room personnel has not worked. Sometimes the paramedics do not arrive in time, and sometimes they are never called. Clean Works is training the true first responders, people who use drugs, in how to prevent, recognize and intervene in opiate overdoses. Come to Clean Works and we can train you. If you have friends who could take advantage of one of the many services we offer, send them in. Besides for overdose prevention and intervention trainings, in the interest of public health we offer free confidential syringe exchange and a variety of safer sex supplies to help prevent the transmission of HIV, Hepatitis-C and other blood borne viruses.

For more information, contact Clean Works:

Clean Works

54 S. Division

Monday & Thursday, 6-8pm

(616) 456-9063

Headlines: Specter Leaves GOP, Joins Democrats; Obama Calls for Ending Disparity in Crack Sentences

Democracy Now Headlines: Specter Leaves GOP, Joins Democrats; Obama Calls for Ending Disparity in Crack Sentences

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Texas Reports First U.S. Swine Flu Death

The death toll from the global swine flu breakout continues to rise, including the first known fatality in the United States. Earlier today government officials said a twenty-three month old child died in Texas. It was the first swine flu death reported outside Mexico, where seven people have died in confirmed cases and another 159 in suspected cases. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said a global pandemic is a “very serious possibility” but not inevitable. World Health Organization Assistant Director Keji Fukuda said confirmed infections continue to rise.

Keji Fukuda: “Since yesterday there has continued to be an increase in laboratory confirmed cases of these swine flu influenza infections. So yesterday we reported that there were 73 infections and today we are reporting that there are 79 laboratory confirmed infections as of the information that we had this morning.”

The U.S. has at least 65 confirmed cases, 45 of them in New York. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state-wide emergency after authorities said they had confirmed thirteen cases.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Today I’m issuing an emergency proclamation to strengthen California’s response and what this basically does is it gives us some extra tools for our health authorities in order to respond very quickly and it also cuts through the red tape so that all state agencies will have to go and assist the Department of Public Health in every way possible.”

President Obama has asked Congress for $1.5 billion dollars in supplemental funding to address the swine flu crisis.

Rejecting “State Secrets” Assertion, Appeals Court Reinstates Torture Suit

A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit accusing a Boeing subsidiary of helping the CIA secretly transport prisoners to torture chambers overseas. On Tuesday, a three- judge panel rejected the Obama administration’s assertion of so-called ‘state secrets’ privilege and said the case can proceed. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed the suit against Jeppesen International Trip Planning on behalf of five former prisoners. Jeppesen is accused of arranging at least seventy flights since 2001 as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. The Obama administration’s opposition to the case carried over from the Bush administration, which had previously won the case’s dismissal. In its new ruling, the federal appeals court says the government’s assertion of secrecy should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. ACLU attorney Ben Wizner said: “Today’s ruling demolishes once and for all the legal fiction, advanced by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, that facts known throughout the world could be deemed ‘secrets’ in a court of law.”

Specter Leaves GOP, Joins Dems

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has announced he’s leaving the Republican party to join the Democratic caucus on Capital Hill. The move could have a major effect on the balance of power in Washington. If Minnesota Senate winner Al Franken prevails in his legal battle with former Senator Norm Coleman, he and Specter would give the Democrats sixty seats–enough to overcome a Republican filibuster. On Tuesday, Specter said he is making the switch on ideological grounds.

Sen. Arlen Specter: “As the Republican Party moves farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more aligned with the philosophy of the Democratic Party. This is a painful decision. I know that I am disappointing many of my friends and colleagues. Frankly I’ve been disappointed by some of the response so the disappointment runs in both directions.”

By joining the Democrats, Specter will avoid a tough challenge in the Republican primary ahead of the 2010 mid-term elections. Despite switching sides, Specter says he’ll maintain his “independence.” On Tuesday, Specter vowed continued opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, which would remove obstacles for workers to join unions. Democratic leaders say they will re-tool the measure to gain Specter’s support.

Lawmakers Call for Special Counsel on Torture

In other news from Washington, Democratic Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler of New York and John Conyers of Michigan are calling for the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate and prosecute Bush administration torture. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the lawmakers write: “Because the United States is bound by its own laws and by international treaty, we are obligated to investigate and prosecute those who have violated the laws against committing torture.”

KBR Sued for Toxic Air Exposure

The military contractor KBR is being accused of endangering U.S. soldiers and contractors at open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a series of lawsuits filed on Tuesday, twenty-one plaintiffs in nine states said KBR failed to properly dispose of toxic waste burned in the open-air pits. The emissions from the burnt waste allegedly caused respiratory illnesses, tumors and cancers.

Student Pleads Not Guilty in Utah Land Case

In Utah, a college student who prevented a mass sell-off of public wilderness has pleaded not guilty to charges of interfering with a public auction. Tim DeChristopher made headlines in December when he disrupted the Bush administration’s last-minute move to auction off oil and gas exploitation rights on vast swaths of federal land in Utah. DeChristopher was arrested after he posed as a bidder and bought 22,000 acres of land in an attempt to save the property from drilling. He faces up to ten years in prison and a $750,000 fine. The trial is set to begin in July. On Tuesday, some 200 supporters rallied for DeChristopher outside his arraignment at the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.

Obama Calls for Ending Disparity in Crack Sentences

The Obama administration is calling on Congress to eliminate the disparity in drug sentences for dealing crack versus powdered cocaine. Under current law, possession of five grams of crack cocaine triggers the same mandatory minimum sentence as possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine. The law has disproportionately punished African-American drug offenders, who account for more than eighty percent of crack cocaine cases. In prepared testimony for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer says: “The administration believes Congress’ goal should be to completely eliminate the disparity in prison sentences between crack cocaine and powdered cocaine.” Breuer did not say whether the White House will back reducing or eliminating minimum sentences.

White House Apologizes for Low-Flying Plane

The White House has apologized for a plane flight that scared New York city residents Monday as it flew low over New York harbor along with two F-16 fighter jets. Hundreds of downtown office workers fled their buildings out of fear of an attack similar to 9/11. But the plane turned out to be one used by President Obama that was being photographed in a public relations stunt. On Tuesday, President Obama apologized.

President Obama: “It was a mistake as was stated. It was something we found out about along with all of you. And it will not happen again.”

The plane-ride photo-op cost more than $329,000. Obama says he’s ordered a review to find out how the mission was approved.

Study: 60% of Americans Subjected to Polluted Air

And a new study says sixty percent of Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of pollution. In a report released today, the American Lung Association says air pollution has reached worrying levels in every major city, effecting some 186 million people.

GVSU Student Pleads “Not Guilty” to Charges

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Grand Valley State University (GVSU) student Derek Copp who was shot by police during a drug investigation on March 11 and later charged with selling 3.3 grams (1/8th of an ounce) of marijuana to an undercover police officer plead not guilty to the felony charge of delivery or manufacture of marijuana.

In court yesterday, Copp entered the plea and asked for permission to contact Ottawa County Deputy Ryan Huizenga who shot Copp. Copp says that he wants to apologize to the officer for what has transpired since the shooting. According to media reports, Copp is “sorry the whole incident took place.”

It’s also worth noting that during the hearing, Copp said that he could not pass a drug test and admitted to smoking marijuana on April 14.

Copp’s supporters have planned another protest for tomorrow, April 24, at Rosa Parks Circle. The protest will begin at 1pm. According to the Facebook event for the protest, the organizers feel that Copp’s shooting is “enough punishment” for the charges he faces.

GVSU Student Shot by Police Charged with Felony

Undercover police officers with the West Michigan Enforcement Team–an anti-dug unit–bought drugs from GVSU student Derek Copp according to a warrant released yesterday.

The warrant says that on two occasions, police bought drugs from the apartment:

…on March 11th of 2009 an undercover officer assigned to the West Michigan Enforcement Team purchased 3.3 grams of marihuana for the price of $60 from Derek Copp.

On February 9th of 2009 an undercover officer assigned to the West Michigan Enforcement Team purchased 3 grams of marihuana from Conor Bardallis for the price of $50.00.

Police have not disclosed what–if anything–was recovered during the raid.

Copp is being charged with a felony for the delivery or manufacture of marijuana. The felony carries a potential four-year prison sentence. However, the officer who shot Derek Copp–Ryan Huizenga–faces only a two-year sentence for a misdemeanor charge. Huizenga has also been taken off unpaid leave and placed on administrative duty.

Deputy in GVSU Shooting Arraigned; Warrant Available Online

Ryan Huizenga Shot GVSU Student Derek Copp

The felony warrant issued last week that resulted in charges against Ottawa County Deputy Ryan Huizenga in the shooting of GVSU student Derek Copp is available online.

For the most part, there is little new in the warrant. The following exchange between the Detective in the case and the judge offers some insight into what happened:

Deputy Huizenga — were executing a search warrant at the residence there in Georgetown Township where Derek was staying. As they approached the apartment to execute that search warrant another deputy has shown a flashlight into the eyes of Derek Copp as he was opening up the sliding door to answer the door.

As he opened up the door, opened up the curtain, he shielded his eyes from the flashlight. Derek Copp did not have any weapon in his hand…

… was reaching for the door with his weak hand and shot with his strong arm a departmental issued .40 Caliber Glock. The bullet struck Derek Copp in the chest.

THE COURT: And this caused injury to Mr. Copp?

DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT SCHRAM: It caused serious injuries to him and he was immediately taken to the hospital in Grand Rapids.

THE COURT: Is the standard of care, then, from your knowledge, that a deputy in executing a search warrant should employ involving the finger of the strong arm — as you put it — not being on the trigger of the weapon?

DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT SCHRAM: That would be correct. Based on my investigation Derek Copp posed no threat to the officers, including Deputy Ryan Huizenga, and that his finger should’ve been on the outside of the trigger guard, not on the trigger unless he was attending to shoot.

THE COURT: All right. And that’s the negligence or carlessness that’s being alleged here?

DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT SCHRAM: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: All right. The Court’s satisfied based on the testimony that probable cause exists to issue the warrant, and I will issue that warrant.

Huizenga was arraigned earlier today on the charges. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for April 23 and Huizenga is free on a personal recognizance bond. He was also allowed to go on a previously arranged vacation because he did not pose a flight risk according to investigators.

Nearly a month after the shooting, no charges have been filed against Derek Copp.

Police Break Down Doors in Drug Raid, but not sure about New “Rules” Pertaining to Medical Marijuana in Michigan

Battering Ram Police

With the passage of Proposal 1 allowing medical marijuana in Michigan and new rules going into effect as of April 4 over the possession of plants if users abide by regulation, the following story is more than a little outraging.

According to The Detroit News, police in Madison Heights forcefully raided the home of a man growing marijuana for medical purposes:

“Bob Redden thought he was doing the right thing when he went to a medical clinic in Southfield to get paperwork to qualify himself for medical marijuana.

Redden, 59, said he suffers from bone disease and two deteriorating hips, and was told medical marijuana would ease his pain. But on Monday, when Madison Heights police smashed open the front door of his Madison Heights house with a battering ram and seized 21 marijuana plants from a back room, Redden wondered what he had done wrong.

‘They stole my plants and my money,’ Redden said. “We are devastated. The door is torn up. They treated me like I was a criminal. I can’t believe this is happening to me. I was assured by my doctor this medical marijuana was going to help and they assured me this is legal.’

Police in this Oakland County suburb acknowledged Wednesday they don’t know whether Redden broke the law, since rules for marijuana possession in Michigan under the state’s new medical marijuana have not been laid out yet by health officials. The state is expected to lay out a medical marijuana program on Saturday.

‘We did execute a search warrant and we did confiscate marijuana plants,’ Police Chief Kevin Sagan said. ‘The dilemma for law enforcement is we don’t have those rules yet.'”

In the raid, police also confiscated $531 in cash, a notebook with passwords, and other items. The police–while not excusing their behavior–are saying that they were confused over the new rules and that the new law “doesn’t provide users carte blanche.” They further said that, “They [medical marijuana users] have to follow the rules. If we don’t know what the rules are, it’s in limbo.” There is a possibility that the raid will result in no charges being filed.

Unfortunately, this sounds like the same flawed policing that has characterized the failed Drug War. It’s the same approach that led to the shooting of GVSU student Derek Copp. You would think that before coming in with a battering ram or other weapons, police might consider where they are going. Surely a 59-year old man with deteriorating hips and other bone diseases is not a major threat.

Thanks to MichiganLiberal.com for highlighting this story.

Deputy Charged in GVSU Shooting

Deputy Charged in GVSU Shooting

A 12-year veteran of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department is being charged in the shooting of unarmed Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Derek Copp following an investigation by the Michigan State Police.

Deputy Ryan Huizenga is being charged with the careless discharge of a weapon causing injury or death. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a fine of up to $2,000.

Huizenga could ultimately lose his license to perform police work in Michigan if he is convicted. He has also been placed on unpaid suspension according to media reports. Huizenga was previously on paid leave while the Michigan State Police finished their investigation. He will be arraigned next week in Hudsonville District Court.

Charges against Copp or other students living at the house have not been filed.

Source: Student Shot after Opening Blinds

Unfortunately, the results of the investigation have not been released to the public.

The Grand Rapids Press spoke with an unnamed source and gave a summary of what happened according to the investigation:

“Copp, 20, was hit once in the chest by a .40-caliber handgun bullet when he went to a glass sliding door and pulled open the blinds after police knocked, a source familiar with the investigation said.

A gun-mounted flashlight shined in his eyes, causing him to raise a hand to deflect the light.

That’s when Huizenga fired at Copp, who was not armed and not aggressive toward officers, the source said.”

The article further reports that a police officer or undercover informant purchased marijuana at the apartment.

Officers Still Looking out for their Friend

Since the shooting, there has been concern–much of it valid–that there would never be a fair investigation of the shooting and that the deputy who shot Copp would likely get away without being charged. That opinion stemmed in part from early reports indicating that the police union advised the deputy not to speak to investigators. Critics of police behavior and corruption have often pointed to the perception of a “Blue Code of Silence” where police are believed to protect each other no matter what. Various sociological studies have explored this phenomenon at length.

Even though Deputy Huizenga was charged in this case, there was an interesting bit in The Grand Rapids Press coverage of the announcement. The Press reports:

“A Press reporter seeking comment at the deputy’s home was turned away by two Ottawa County sheriff’s deputies who advised him about trespassing laws. The deputies were in uniform and in a sheriff’s cruiser.

Ottawa County Undersheriff Greg Steigenga said he was not aware of any deputies being assigned near Huizenga’s home and planned to investigate the incident.

‘It wasn’t something that was sanctioned through our department,’ he said.”

It looks like a pretty clear example of officers seeking to protect their own.

A Clear Goal for Future Protests

Now that the officer has been named and charged, hopefully additional protests will make the clear demand that the officer be removed from office and be put in jail. Additionally, the report should be made public.

State Police Conclude GVSU Shooting Investigation

Derek Copp

The Michigan State Police have concluded their investigation into the shooting of Derek Copp, an unarmed Grand Valley State University (GVSU) student last month.

According to media reports, the investigation–which was overseen by Lt. Curt Schram of the Michigan State Police–resulted in a report that is being given to Kalamazoo County prosecutor Jeffery Fink who will decide whether charges should be filed against the Ottawa County deputy that shot Copp.

The Kalamazoo County prosecutor expects to take several days to come to a decision on how he will proceed.

While the shooting occurred on March 11th during a drug investigation, police have said little about the circumstances around the shooting. They have admitted that Copp was unarmed, but have not identified the officer involved in the shooting nor have they said whether or not they found drugs at Copp’s apartment.

GVSU Student Shot in Drug Investigation Returns to Class

GVSU Student Derek Copp has Returned to GVSU after begin Shot by Police

Today, Derek Copp–the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) student shot by police earlier this month–held a press conference at the college announcing his return to class.

As would be expected, Copp largely refused to comment on the specifics of his case and the ongoing investigation. His lawyer said that they are waiting for the results of the Michigan State Police investigation before commenting.

Instead, Copp focused his comments on his recovery, which he said is “going well.” He said that aside from occasional excruciating pain and difficulty breathing, he is now able to ease into his regular routine.

Copp–who described himself as “awake” and “aware” immediately following the shooting–outlined his injuries:

“Both of my ribs, front and back were fractured and punctured through my lung. And they took a corner chunk off my liver. And then the bullet kind of stuck in my muscles and skin where they had to remove it surgically–or not surgically–but with a knife.”

Copp wouldn’t say much about the protests surrounding his shooting, but he did say that he appreciated them.