Police trample on procedure at scene; Errors may affect strength of case in Jude beating

  • Originally published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin) April 11, 2005 Copyright 2005 Journal Sentinel Inc.

By JOHN DIEDRICH, Staff, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

For at least an hour after Frank Jude Jr. was beaten, the off-duty Milwaukee police officers later charged in the crime and others were allowed to move freely in and out of the crime scene and talk to each other, according to witnesses and police sources.

In contrast, three women who witnessed the beating were separated so they couldn't talk to each other and were not allowed to leave the crime scene.

The on-duty supervisor in charge of the scene for that first hour on Oct. 24 - police Sgt. Corstan Court, who had only nine months in that job - failed to follow the basic police protocol to preserve a crime scene that is set by state Department of Justice guidelines.

The scene changed once the department's internal investigators arrived at S. Ellen St. in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood, according to witnesses and police sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The off-duty officers were separated and interviewed, the street where Jude was kicked and punched was closed, and evidence in a pool of Jude's blood was collected.

But even then the scene was not handled as carefully as called for in police procedures from the state. In combing the scene for evidence, investigators missed Jude's diamond earring in the blood. The mother of a witness found it and gave it to a detective.

Also, the president of the police union at the time, Bradley DeBraska, was allowed to enter the crime scene and advised officers not to speak to internal investigators or let them into an officer's home.

As the department conducts its internal investigation into the Jude case - which could result in officers being disciplined or fired - those crime scene mistakes may loom large for the on-duty officers and supervisors. The mistakes may also affect the strength of the case against the off-duty officers accused of beating Jude.

Investigators may never know what was lost when the scene was not controlled. Statements from off-duty officers may have been "contaminated" and evidence lost. As the state guide on police practice says, "Once the scene is changed, you cannot change it back."

Police experts said the scene was handled poorly, which makes it look as though police officers were given special treatment.

"Someone had to realize, 'We have a problem here.' . . . You are at a scene. You preserve it. It is basic police practice," said Steve Rothlein, second-in-command of the Miami-Dade Police Department and an instructor on internal police investigations for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

"It sounds like a complete lack of supervision over the scene," Rothlein said.

Milwaukee police procedures are spelled out in the department's rules and regulations as well as in training memos and other documents. Those documents dictate how officers perform basic tasks, such as making traffic stops and handling prisoners and crime scenes.

The department failed to provide details of its procedures involving off-duty officers at a crime scene under a March 3 open records request made by the Journal Sentinel. It is one of 15 records requests regarding the Jude case made by the newspaper dating back to Feb. 7 that remained unfilled. Police Chief Nannette Hegerty declined to comment for this story.

A 5-year-old copy of the department's rules in the city's Legislative Reference Bureau - the most current copy of the rules publicly available - says only that a person of higher rank must go to any incident involving an off-duty officer.

Other state guidelines given to all departments, including Milwaukee, spell out crime scene procedures.

The first step is to detain and identify everyone on the scene, according to the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Officers Criminal Handbook. After the scene is secured, the handbook says, no "non-authorized personnel" should be allowed in the scene.

The state's guide requires officers to separate witnesses and suspects, "to prevent them from exchanging their versions of what happened." It also calls for careful identification and collection of evidence.

According to several witnesses and police sources, those basic crime scene procedures were not followed after Jude was beaten.

Nearly a dozen involved

Early on Oct. 24, Jude, Lovell Harris, Kirsten Antonissen and Katie Brown went to a party at a house owned by Officer Andrew Spengler in the 2800 block of S. Ellen St.

Jude said he felt uncomfortable, though nothing was said. He asked Antonissen if the people at the party were racist. Jude is biracial, and Harris is black. Antonissen, Brown and the people at the party are white.

The four left and got into Antonissen's pickup truck, which was surrounded by a group of men who identified themselves as police officers and accused Jude of taking Spengler's wallet and badge.

Jude said he was pulled from the truck, held down, searched and savagely beaten.

Antonissen counted a dozen men attacking Jude. Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann, who said at least 10 people were at the scene, charged Spengler and two other off-duty officers, Jon Bartlett and Daniel Masarik, with felonies Feb. 28.

Brown called 911 at 2:49 a.m. and said people claiming to be police officers were searching their belongings, police records show. Four minutes later, two officers, Joseph Schabel and Nicole Martinez, and Court were dispatched from police District 2, records show.

Martinez has been an officer since 1993, and Schabel joined the force in 2000, according to records. Court became an officer in 1997 and was promoted to sergeant in November 2003. Three days before Jude's beating, Court's one-year probation was extended, records show. Police Lt. Tom Klusman, president of the supervisors union, said Court's probation was extended because he was off for family leave for three months during his first year as a sergeant.

Contacted through their attorneys or union representatives, Court, Schabel and Martinez did not comment for this report.

Story changes

Ten minutes after the first call, Schabel and Martinez arrived on S. Ellen St., followed two minutes later by Court, records show. Antonissen and Brown said they saw Schabel and Martinez park down the block and "casually" walk up to where Jude was being beaten.

In a police report, Schabel wrote that Jude was resisting him and the off-duty officers, attempting to strike them. Schabel said he gave "two focused strikes" to Jude's shoulder to get his arm out from under him to handcuff him.

Jude was arrested on suspicion of theft and resisting officers, but no criminal charges were ever filed against Jude or Harris.

New details surfaced from the criminal complaint and Schabel's testimony against the three officers in court in March.

Schabel said that as he restrained Jude, Masarik kicked Jude in the head.

After Jude was handcuffed, Bartlett kicked him in the head and Spengler punched him in the head, Schabel said. Bartlett also grabbed Schabel's pen, but Schabel said he didn't see what Bartlett did with it. Jude said something was jammed into both of his ears. Schabel said he ordered the off-duty officers to back off, which they did.

Martinez, a former emergency medical technician, gave a similar account in the criminal complaint.

A police wagon arrived at 3:09 a.m. and took Jude to St. Francis Hospital, where he stayed for 2 1/2 days.

At some point, the department's internal investigators arrived. Their dispatch typically does not show up on a log and didn't in this case. Witnesses said it was at least an hour before detectives from the internal division arrived.

Scene 'boggled' mind

Antonissen, Brown and Tina Schultz, who also was at the party, all said they were separated by on-duty officers and not allowed to talk. Meanwhile, the off-duty officers and others at the party walked freely around the scene, left the scene, talked to each other and went in and out of Spengler's house.

Antonissen's mother, Linda Chapman, who arrived on the scene with her husband, Charles Hackney, about 30 minutes after Jude was beaten, saw one officer alone go in and out of Spengler's house six times.

"It just boggled my mind," Hackney said. "They separate these three girls and you have all these cops going in and out of the house and talking. I was thinking, 'If this is a crime scene, secure the damn thing.' "

Linda Chapman said none of the officers focused on the area that was soaked with Jude's blood, where she said "it looked like someone had hit a deer."

Instead, the uniformed officers searched the ground with flashlights for the missing badge. At one point, Chapman and Hackney said, they joined the search.

Cars continued to drive on S. Ellen St., the witnesses said. Linda Chapman also saw Jude's car, which was heavily vandalized, and it was not guarded.

Sometime after 4 a.m., detectives from the Professional Performance Division, which does internal investigations, arrived. Changes quickly occurred, witnesses said. The street was shut down, the off-duty officers were separated and interviews began, and the focus turned to the scene where Jude was beaten. Evidence was collected using rubber gloves, but the investigators missed his earring.

Police Capt. Mary Hoerig, head of the division, came to the scene, according to witnesses and police sources. Several of the internal investigators apologized, Chapman said.

At some point, DeBraska, then the union president, entered the scene and yelled to the suspected officers not to talk to internal investigators, witnesses and police sources said. DeBraska has acknowledged he was on the scene to advise members. DeBraska, who retired from the department March 31, did not comment for this report.

After interviewing several of the off-duty officers, internal investigators tried to get into Spengler's house but were turned back. They don't know what the off-duty officers were doing in the house before their arrival, police sources said.

From chaos to crime scene

Police practice experts said the situation on S. Ellen St. sounded chaotic: On-duty officers arrived to find fellow off-duty officers subduing a man they say committed a crime and resisted. Given trust among officers, it would be understandable that on-duty officers would help Spengler and the others, the experts said. But the situation turned when Schabel and Martinez witnessed the crime: Jude being struck while handcuffed.

"Once he was handcuffed and he was kicked, beat or whatever, all bets are off at that point," said Rothlein, of the Miami-Dade Police Department. "Any officer on or off duty has a responsibility to step in and stop that."

Stan Stojkovic, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Helen Bader School of Social Welfare, said the responsibility for handling the scene properly lands squarely on Court. Quick, decisive action was needed because the situation was so chaotic and involved police officers, he said.

"The dynamic for pollution of a crime scene is very high when cops are involved," Stojkovic said. "The sergeant should have made that assessment, separated the actors and taken control of the scene.

"It sounded like what happened on that scene was really a nightmare."


These were among the errors made at the Frank Jude Jr. crime scene:

* Officers who ultimately were charged with crimes were allowed to roam freely and talk to each other.

* Investigators missed Jude's diamond earring at the spot of the beating. The mother of a witness found it.

* The president of the police union was allowed to enter the crime scene.

Source: Police and witnesses