Justice Department turns down request to investigate PBSO

The U.S. Department of Justice will not be investigating allegations of excessive force by PBSO against the Hispanic community.

In a letter dated last week, a chief within DOJ’s Civil Rights Division wrote that the decision was made after PBSO told them about its “efforts to work with the Latino community.”

Attorney Jack Scarola, on behalf of the Guatemalan Maya Center in Lake Worth, had asked for DOJ to investigate PBSO after Augusto Garcia was knocked to the ground and handcuffed by a deputy after calling police for help. He had to be taken to a hospital and is now suing the department.

“Based on a review of your letter and the PBSO response, the Civil Rights Division has determined not to open an investigation,” Deeana Jang, chief of the Civil Rights Division’s Federal Coordination and Compliance Section, wrote.

Scarola could not immediately be reached for comment.

The letter did not address a current FBI investigation into a use of force case against by a PBSO deputy that was announced by Sheriff Ric Bradshaw earlier this month. The FBI has not commented on the investigation.

“Loxahatchee Lager”? Beer and nature pair up in new project

Northern Palm Beach County’s wild scenery is the inspiration behind a project by a local craft brewer to blend beer and nature.

Twisted Trunk Brewing Company in Palm Beach Gardens this summer plans to roll out a custom beer in honor of natural areas such as the Loxahatchee Slough, Pine Glades and Cypress Creek.

A house-brewed craft beer at the Tequesta Brewing Co. in Tequesta. (Photo contributed by Tequesta Brewing Co.)
A house-brewed craft beer at the Tequesta Brewing Co. in Tequesta. (Photo contributed by Tequesta Brewing Co.)

“We’re leaning toward calling it ‘Loxahatchee Lager,’’’ said Fran Andrewlevich, brewmaster at Twisted Trunk, a subsidiary of Tequesta Brewing Co.

The plan is to donate a share of the proceeds from the sale of the beer to Palm Beach County’s department of Environmental Resources Management, which would use the money to help maintain the county’s natural areas.

“A lot of our customers hike and kayak in the natural areas. We just want to raise some awareness and make great beer,’’ Andrewlevich said.

One of those customers is Benji Studt, an environmental analyst with ERM who leads periodic photography hikes through the natural areas.

Benji Studt (red shirt) with students on a photo tour of Pine Glades Natural Area
Benji Studt (red shirt) with students on a photo tour of Pine Glades Natural Area

Andrewlevich said he and his partners got inspired to brew the special lager after listening to Studt sit at the bar describing the scenery.

“We plan on doing a beer that infuses some of the natural ingredients that are out there,’’ Andrewlevich said.

“Normally we do fruits and spices. Out there, there’s hibiscus, mulberry, natural blueberries. We’d like to tie those into the beer.’’yellowwildflower

A roll-out event, including a presentation by ERM, will be held sometime in July at Twisted Trunk.

“We’re thrilled they’re choosing to support local land conservation and our natural areas program,’’ Studt said.

“There are so many really great recreational opportunities out in the natural areas that are free to visitors.

“Right now they’re very underutilized. Getting word out to the public about these eco-treasures in our back yards is really what we’re excited about.’’

 

Sheriff keeps cool, welcomes “legitimate conversation” about PBSO shootings

As my Texas granddaddy would have said right about now, “It’s all over but the shoutin’.”

There was plenty in the recently published Palm Beach Post/NewsChannel Five investigation into PBSO shootings for Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to shout about.

READ: The full investigative report

In the last 15 years, one in four shootings were at unarmed individuals; unexpectedly large numbers of those being shot at were black; investigations into shootings were sometimes incomplete and haphazard, and deputies were almost always exonerated.

But speaking on Channel Five’s To The Point, Bradshaw rarely strayed from equanimity into irascibility.

“This has been a legitimate conversation,” he said of public reaction to the series.

That doesn’t mean he has embraced it. Painting a picture of unnecessary force at PBSO “is completely false,” he emphasized.

That includes the 2013 shooting of Dontrell Stephens. The bicyclist was shot and left paralyzed by a deputy who thought he saw a gun. Stephens was unarmed. Part of the shooting was caught on dashcam tape, part wasn’t.

Bradshaw’s take on the video: It didn’t catch what the deputy saw. “There were things he saw that alerted him to fear for his safety,” said Bradshaw.

That fierce defense of his deputies was also part of the Post/NewsChannel Five findings.  The sheriff frequently visits the scene of a deputy-involved shooting and almost invariably tells the news media the deputy acted correctly, long before the results of any formal investigation are in.

Bradshaw countered that in the 45 minutes or so it takes him to get to the scene, investigators with both PBSO and the state attorney’s office typically already have evidence indicating whether it was a good shoot.

Anyway, he added, the media are also there, chomping at the bit for a statement.

“I am always careful to say this is only what we know now,” said Bradshaw, who points to Ferguson, Missouri as a prime example of what happens when the police give out absolutely no information. Riots followed the shooting of Michael Brown when it looked like the police had pulled “a shroud of secrecy” over the fatal incident, he said.

And there’s plenty yet to talk about. Bradshaw says he welcomes it: “We’re going to have the conversation,” he said, “on both sides.”