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Police release more officer comments about nightclub fire (Austin TX PD "burn baby burn.")
AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF | Saturday, March 05, 2005 | By Tony Plohetski

Posted on 03/05/2005 8:57:33 AM PST by Arrowhead1952

By Tony Plohetski

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Four dispatchers suspended in addition to five officers.

At 7:09 p.m. on Feb. 18, Austin police officer John Lengefeld heard a radio transmission that a Northeast Austin nightclub was on fire.

The seven-year department veteran, according to documents released Friday, said he immediately thought of the song "Disco Inferno" and sent a message from his patrol car to fellow officer Josue Martinez that said "burn baby burn."

Martinez replied 37 seconds later: "Hey ... LOL (laughing out loud). Those were my exact thoughts."

So began more than two hours of computer messages, which Police Chief Stan Knee on Friday called "inappropriate," sent by six officers and four civilian dispatchers who were disciplined for their comments this week. During a morning news conference, Knee said each had been suspended or received a written reprimand.

The messages during a fire at Midtown Live, 7408 Cameron Road, led to 15-day unpaid suspensions for Lengefeld and officer William White, who sent a note that said, "U can smell from (Interstate) 35. It is the smell of victory."

At one point during the flurry of messages, dispatcher Susan Negron wrote, "I have some extra gasoline if they need it," according to the documents. She was suspended for 15 days. White also messaged another officer: "My nite is made. I just had a lady ask me if it was burning. I said yep. She was upset. I was enthralled."

And dispatcher Ashlye Bauerle wrote, "You hear that Midtown is on fire!! The roof of a club . . . That's funny! Gives a whole new meaning to the roof, the roof is on fire," the documents said. Her suspension was three days.

All of the dispatchers and officers said in written statements that they regretted their actions and that their messages were intended as jokes.

Knee confirmed Friday afternoon that another dispatcher also was disciplined for activity relating to the fire and that a sergeant and an additional dispatcher remain under investigation.

Dispatcher Cleopatra Jones was reprimanded for running a computer check on one of the club's owners to see how often she was involved with the police and reporting the information to her fiancé, department documents and Knee said.

Sgt. Brian Gruetzner and dispatcher Heather Morris are under investigation for a conversation on a recorded phone line the day after the fire in which Morris made "inappropriate comments" about the Midtown fire, documents said.

Knee said he expects the investigation involving Morris and Gruetzer to be complete in the next few weeks.

Witnesses at Midtown Live saw the "burn baby burn" message on the computer screen inside an officer's patrol car during the fire. Knee said Friday that a commander and corporal who responded to the scene worked to calm angry witnesses who saw the message. Had the incident happened in another city, he said, it could have sparked rioting.

A two-week internal affairs investigation uncovered additional messages.

White's suspension was for not maintaining an impartial attitude, misusing equipment and bringing discredit to the department. Lengefeld was suspended for misusing equipment and bringing discredit to the department.

In addition, officer Steven Krippner was suspended for eight days, officer Shane Duprey was suspended for five days, and Martinez was sent home for three days without pay. A sixth officer received a written reprimand.

Dispatcher Robert Uribe received a three-day suspension, and fellow dispatcher Tammera Mojica received a written reprimand.

The messages also indicated that the officers were tired of responding to calls at the establishment. Statistics show that police responded to 129 calls last year for reports that included a stabbing, gunshots and public intoxication. The calls made Midtown the fifth busiest club for police response citywide, according to police statistics.

The club, with mostly an African American clientele, draws patrons from across the city. On a given weekend night, its crowd can include anything from a 20-something interested in hip-hop to a politician seeking votes.

"Everybody goes there," said Louie White, a former Austin police officer who has visited the club numerous times. "It's like what the Broken Spoke is to white people."

Midtown is owned by the prominent Cash family, whose matriarch, Selena Cash, is a retired principal at Kealing Junior High. According to its Web site, the club has been in business for more than 15 years and offers a free catfish buffet on Friday nights and karaoke on Wednesdays.

Its owners could not be reached Friday.

The gutted club, located in a small strip center between U.S. 290 and U.S. 183, remained ringed with yellow tape and a chain-link fence. Fire officials said the fire was caused by an electrical short in a restroom ventilator.

In a written statement Friday, Police Monitor Ashton Cumberbatch praised Knee's disciplinary decisions.

"Public trust will not be repaired unless the actions of the officers line up with their apology and oath to protect and serve with excellence, respect and courtesy," he said. "It will be the future actions of all officers that will signal true repentance and pave the way for the building of mutually respectful relationships between the community and APD."


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Government; Miscellaneous; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: apd; cophatingfilth; donutwatch; leo; leosgonewild; naacp; whining
The messages also indicated that the officers were tired of responding to calls at the establishment. Statistics show that police responded to 129 calls last year for reports that included a stabbing, gunshots and public intoxication. The calls made Midtown the fifth busiest club for police response citywide, according to police statistics.

Even residents [blacks] in the area were "happy" as one witness put it, that this club burned. It was a breeding area for crime.

Another thing, Witnesses at Midtown Live saw the "burn baby burn" message on the computer screen inside an officer's patrol car during the fire. is incorrect. A TV crew saw it on the monitor and broadcast the screen shot on the 10 PM news. That is what blew this out of proportion.

1 posted on 03/05/2005 8:57:33 AM PST by Arrowhead1952
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To: MeekOneGOP; maeng; ValerieUSA; txflake; WinOne4TheGipper; DrewsDad; HiJinx; Gracey; anymouse; ...

Austin PD ping.....


2 posted on 03/05/2005 8:59:07 AM PST by Arrowhead1952 ("I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for," - Howard Dean 01/29/2005)
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To: Arrowhead1952
"Dispatcher Cleopatra Jones was reprimanded for running a computer check on one of the club's owners to see how often she was involved with the police and reporting the information to her fiancé, department documents and Knee said."

This story is from the Onion, right?


3 posted on 03/05/2005 9:01:46 AM PST by Lockbar (March toward the sound of the guns.)
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To: Arrowhead1952

Well. its not like they parked their cruisers in front of the fire dept doors and went on a donut break.


4 posted on 03/05/2005 9:03:09 AM PST by E.Allen
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To: Lockbar

Nope.... True story about the APD here....

One of those "You can't make this $#i+ up" stories....


5 posted on 03/05/2005 9:03:41 AM PST by Arrowhead1952 ("I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for," - Howard Dean 01/29/2005)
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To: Arrowhead1952
police responded to 129 calls

Funny how that piece of information, which explains the law enforcement attitude toward the place, ended up near the bottom of the article, huh?

Just your basic unbiased reporting, no attempt to hype the race aspect at all...

6 posted on 03/05/2005 9:10:52 AM PST by ArmstedFragg (Selective reporting is lousy reporting.)
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To: Lockbar

Don't laugh, that's probably who she was named after.


7 posted on 03/05/2005 9:15:17 AM PST by Slump Tester (John Kerry - When even your best still isn't good enough)
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To: ArmstedFragg

When I lived in Austin, the paper was referred to as the "UnAmerican Statesman". I see its bias continues.


8 posted on 03/05/2005 9:23:29 AM PST by miele man
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To: Arrowhead1952

If it wasn't for that damned liberal media......


9 posted on 03/05/2005 9:26:52 AM PST by libertyman (It's time to make marijuana legal AGAIN!!!)
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To: Arrowhead1952
the club ... offers ... karaoke on Wednesdays.

Karaoke Hip-Hop?
Now that's a scary thought!

10 posted on 03/05/2005 9:29:50 AM PST by Condor51 (May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't. - Gen G Patton)
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To: Arrowhead1952

"Everybody goes there, (Midtown)" said Louie White, a former Austin police officer who has visited the club numerous times. "It's like what the Broken Spoke is to white people."


I'd like to see a comparison of the number of police calls per year to each of the clubs.


11 posted on 03/05/2005 9:34:45 AM PST by VMI70
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To: Arrowhead1952

>>Statistics show that police responded to 129 calls last year for reports that included a stabbing, gunshots and public intoxication.<<

I'm surprised the City didn't yank their operating permit. Once every 3 days the cops had to respond there! Wow!


12 posted on 03/05/2005 9:36:09 AM PST by B4Ranch (The Minutemen will be doing a 30 day Neighborhood Watch Program in Cochise County, Arizona.)
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To: Arrowhead1952

BTTT


13 posted on 03/05/2005 9:47:05 AM PST by Fiddlstix (This Tagline for sale. (Presented by TagLines R US))
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To: Arrowhead1952

Austin isn't that big a city, and 129 police calls in 365 days only makes it #5??


14 posted on 03/05/2005 9:47:31 AM PST by thoughtomator (National Socialist, Transnational Socialist, what's the difference?)
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To: thoughtomator
656,500 plus at the last census. There are some worse clubs in East Austin. Most of the calls to this particular club were on weekends.

Here is another headline from today's paper.

3 officers, 3 wrecks in 32 minutes

15 posted on 03/05/2005 9:53:28 AM PST by Arrowhead1952 ("I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for," - Howard Dean 01/29/2005)
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To: Arrowhead1952; Happy2BMe; devolve; potlatch; yall


Another thing, Witnesses at Midtown Live saw the "burn baby burn" message on the computer screen inside an officer's patrol car during the fire. is incorrect. A TV crew saw it on the monitor and broadcast the screen shot on the 10 PM news. That is what blew this out of proportion.


That answers my question as to how the heck this is even a story. It figures.

Had the police officers and dispatchers NOT responded appropriately to the call, then THAT might have been a story. This is just another example of how the media work to discredit law enforcement officials in any way they think they can inflict damage.

I don't see anything here that indicates these folks didn't do their jobs. What they are guilty of is being human and seeing the humor of a nasty trouble-spot getting the "what goes around, comes around" style of justice. The police are called out there to respond every 2.8 days (129 times last year) for stabbings, gunshots, public intoxications, etc. What a law enforcement nightmare the place is.

Thanks for the post and ping.


16 posted on 03/05/2005 9:54:10 AM PST by MeekOneGOP (There is only one GOOD 'RAT: one that has been voted OUT of POWER !! Straight ticket GOP!)
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To: B4Ranch
I'm surprised the City didn't yank their operating permit.

That is one question several locals are asking.

17 posted on 03/05/2005 9:55:26 AM PST by Arrowhead1952 ("I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for," - Howard Dean 01/29/2005)
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To: Arrowhead1952
No matter how culpable the media is here, the moral of the story is:

Don't send anything over your computer that you wouldn't mind seeing on the front page of your local newspaper.

Be it the internet or a police messaging system, all messages are essentially in the public domain.

How many careers have been wrecked by failure to follow this basic rule of professional conduct?

18 posted on 03/05/2005 10:11:17 AM PST by rebel_yell2
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To: Arrowhead1952; rebel_yell2; MeekOneGOP; thoughtomator; Fiddlstix; B4Ranch; VMI70; Condor51; ...

Of course, the news media would not have publicized this and blown the events out of proportion, nor would anyone have been suspended or reprimanded, had the comments been made about a local GOP headquarters or a conservative business establishment.


19 posted on 03/05/2005 10:43:14 AM PST by SpyGuy (Liberalism is slow societal suicide. And screw political correctness: Islam is the Religion of Death)
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To: Arrowhead1952

That summer, "the Watts area of Los Angeles erupted after the arrest of a Negro charged with reckless driving. Cries of 'burn baby burn' were heard at the height of the violence which had claimed 34 lives and millions of dollars worth of property damage."

-In urban centers, riots became common starting in Harlem in 1964 (then Watts, Detroit and many other large cities). Congress passed a law making it a federal offense to cross state lines advocating violence (known as the H "Rap" Brown law as Brown frequently crossed state lines using the Phrase "burn baby, burn" in his speeches).

....some in Watts felt free to start looting, and the smashing of windows and invasions of businesses began. Alongside the urge to possess was the urge to destroy, and they repeated the slogan of a local disc jockey: "burn baby burn!" Fires spread. Arriving firemen were shot at.

Seems like the cops thought that's what they were suppose to say when there's a fire?


20 posted on 03/05/2005 10:43:22 AM PST by Smartaleck
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To: Arrowhead1952

BLOODHOUND GANG LYRICS

"Fire Water Burn"

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire,
The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire,
The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire,
We don't need no water let the mother****** burn,
Burn mother****** burn.

21 posted on 03/05/2005 11:23:01 AM PST by DrewsDad
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To: thoughtomator
Austin isn't that big a city, and 129 police calls in 365 days only makes it #5??

My thought is "who were the top four"?

Just like a bad news story reported here sometimes turns into a jokefest, I'm sure that's what these cops were doing. You'll get a pretty warped sense of humor after awhile working for the police or an emergency room. It's a coping mechanism. Notice, too, that it wasn't just white cops making these wisecracks.

22 posted on 03/05/2005 12:48:51 PM PST by Tall_Texan (If you can think 180-degrees apart from reality, you might be a Democrat.)
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To: DrewsDad

Oh, I thought the joke had more to with "Disco Inferno" from the Trammps, made famous by the movie "Saturday Night Fever" with the chorus:

"Burn, baby, burn. Disco Inferno.
Burn, baby, burn. Burn that mother down."


23 posted on 03/05/2005 12:54:33 PM PST by Tall_Texan (If you can think 180-degrees apart from reality, you might be a Democrat.)
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To: rebel_yell2
How many careers have been wrecked by failure to follow this basic rule of professional conduct?

It goes back quite a ways, too. Remember the "Gorillas in the Mist" message in the Rodney King incident?

24 posted on 03/05/2005 1:46:35 PM PST by ArmstedFragg
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To: Tall_Texan
You'll get a pretty warped sense of humor after awhile

For some reason today, everything seems to remind me of the Rodney King incident, possibly because the media played a large part in hyping that incident. It had an example of one of those 'warped sense' moments you referred to when Larry Powell, requesting an ambulance for Rodney described him as a "victim of a beating", followed by a nervous little laugh. The laugh was given quite a sinister connotation at trial, but was most likely one of those coping/nervousness things you described.

25 posted on 03/05/2005 1:53:55 PM PST by ArmstedFragg
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To: Tall_Texan
And dispatcher Ashlye Bauerle wrote, "You hear that Midtown is on fire!! The roof of a club . . . That's funny! Gives a whole new meaning to the roof, the roof is on fire," the documents said. Her suspension was three days.

Depends on which comment you're talking about.

>>Just like a bad news story reported here sometimes turns into a jokefest, I'm sure that's what these cops were doing.

Now they'll have to go to FR to post their comments instead, since the PC Cops are on their case.

26 posted on 03/05/2005 2:28:12 PM PST by DrewsDad
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To: Lockbar
This story is from the Onion, right?

Nah, just Berkley on the Colorado.

27 posted on 03/05/2005 6:05:06 PM PST by El Gato (Activist Judges can twist the Constitution into anything they want ... or so they think.)
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To: thoughtomator
Austin isn't that big a city, and 129 police calls in 365 days only makes it #5?

It's also a college town. Home of the University of Texas. Sixth street, essentially right downtown, is full of drunken college students, and even 20 and 30 somethings acting like they are still college students. I'll bet the highest calls are from those bars catering to the students.....although it could be a biker bar of course. Fort Hood is less than an hour away as well, and the road(s) between Killeen and Austin are especially hazardous on weekend evenings.

28 posted on 03/05/2005 6:09:56 PM PST by El Gato (Activist Judges can twist the Constitution into anything they want ... or so they think.)
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