How many others in McHenry County are reading constantly about the Sanford, Fla. shooting of Trayvon Martin on February 26?
Now the news is that there is a pattern of sloppy police investigations in that town. Have we got a parallel right here in McHenry County?
One news source reports that in the Sanford, Fla. Police Department, "In the past three years, officers have been caught demanding bribes from motorists, fabricating evidence and drawing weapons unlawfully."
I smelled a rat when I first heard about the David Maxson shooting near Wonder Lake in September 2006. As I looked into it, I formed an opinion pretty quickly that it had been a mental health call that went south really fast. I submitted a FOIA request and received all the reports. When I read them, my immediate reaction was, "The same person wrote all these reports."
And, later, I learned that the deputies had been gathered in a room to discuss and prepare their reports. No wonder they were so similar, even identical in too many parts.
I never faulted the deputy who shot to defend another deputy. Not then, and not now. But I fault the way the call was handled and the way it was reported. No wonder that heirs are suing the McHenry County Sheriff's Department! There were too many deputies in a small house, yelling directions at a man with mental illness and an alcohol problem. In my opinion, the actions of the deputies unnecessarily escalated the issue that day, resulting in Maxson's being shot only 43 minutes after deputies arrived.
Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT) deputies were all the rage at the time. You never hear about them now.
There have been other investigations that have been sloppy. Take the crash when a deputy pulled off the side of the road into the side of a passing car. The crash report was written to blame the passing driver, but she wasn't ticketed. Because of that blame, the County refused to pay for the damage to her car.
And nobody at the Sheriff's Department would stand up for what was right. The evidence was clear at the time that the crash report was wrong. But the Undersheriff at the time would not require a corrected report, and the Sheriff would not intercede.
Another case that should have heavy scrutiny is the shooting death of Kurt Milliman. Timothy Smith has been in the McHenry County Jail since May 2011 on a first-degree murder charge. Yet his wife, Kimberly Holian Smith, was released on a low bond and was never charged as an accomplice or accessory, even though her husband and she apparently delayed in summoning help after Timothy Smith allegedly shot Milliman, while they tried to figure out a "story".
And then there is the Feldkamps and Bloom triple homicide near Marengo a week later. Nygren hot-footed it back from out-of-town to hold a press conference after that one, but he never uttered a word after the Milliman shooting the week before. Nygren was quick to repeat Scott Feldkamp's version of the events of the night of June 7, 2011. The case was, in effect, closed soon after, without any extensive investigation or follow-up.
More than a few people wonder why the Major Incident Action Team (MIAT) was not activated following the Marengo shootings. The advantage of the Team is that officers (specialists) from different jurisdictions respond and write their own reports after investigating. They are not "supervised" by the agency that is in charge. They do their jobs and they go home. Conclusions might be delayed until all reports are in.