This is bad news for the San Bernadino County DA and San Bernadino County Sherriffs involved. The press release, or much of it, is below, and cleaned up a bit so that it can be more easily consumed and I added in what the San Bernadino County DA’s reports say as well.
The bottom line is the San Bernadino County Sherriffs answered a domestic violence call, but didn’t leave once they arrived and realized there wasn’t clear evidence of a crime, tried to create the idea that one happened, and wound up shooting an innocent woman, then making it look like she was the criminal, and that she did have a domestic violence case against her husband, when she said she did not have one.
Now, the San Bernadino County DA and Sherriffs are the focus of a $30 million lawsuit filed by Penny Trent, the woman who was shot.
Read on, here:
The San Bernadino County District Attorney and San Bernadino County Sherriffs Carolyn Chadwell and Kirsten Mitchell answered a call for service of a husband beating his wife at their home in Apple Valley, California.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Dispatch received a call indicating that a woman, identified as Penny Trent, was being beaten by her husband identified as Wayne Trent. The caller indicated she was the girlfriend of Mrs. Trent’s son. The caller indicated she lived out of state and she did not know the exact address but gave a location of Pah Ute near Kiowa in the town of Apple Valley.
The deputies received no response to their knocking on Penny and Wayne Trent’s door, so they entered the house and found Penny Trent and her husband partially undressed in the bathroom. According to the DA’s account, Ms. Trent was crying, and she said the pair had been arguing. Ms. Trent had a bruise, but she did not attribute it to Mr. Trent, and he said he did not touch her. The details of that part of the encounter are here.
Deputies Chadwell and Mitchell interrogated Penny and Wayne Trent about the domestic violence call and the bruise, rather than leave the residence once the welfare of the couple was confirmed and both said they were just arguing. After discussing the incident with Penny and Wayne Trent, the Deputies decided to arrest Mr. Trent for felony corporal injury on a spouse (Penal Code Section 273.5), handcuffed him and put him in their patrol car.
When the deputies took Mr. Trent out to the patrol car to go to jail, they told Penny Trent to have a seat in the living room, and that they would “be right back.” Deputies Chadwell and Mitchell placed Mr. Trent into the patrol car, and Deputy Chadwell returned to the residence with a Marsy’s Victim’s Card; the brochure that is given to Domestic Violence victims by police officers.
When Deputy Chadwell returned to the door of the home with the Marsy’s Card for Mrs. Trent, she saw Penny Trent sitting on her living room couch. The couch appears at an angle to the front door area. Deputy Chadwell apparently could not see one of Penny Trent’s lower arms. “Penny, where’s your other arm.”, said Chadwell. In literally less than one second after asking that question, Deputy Chadwell shot Penny Trent twice in her left leg.
Although the bullets grazed her leg, Penny Trent was horrified from being shot, and at a complete loss as to why Deputy Chadwell would shoot her. This is all on audio recordings that you can read with a click here. Deputy Chadwell claimed that she shot Penny Trent because when she reentered the Trent residence, she saw Penny Trent with a blank stare on her face and said that Mrs. Trent’s hand was under a couch pillow.
Immediately after Deputy Chadwell shot Mrs. Trent, Deputies Chadwell and Mitchell ordered Penny Trent to exit her residence, and when she did, the deputies threw her to the ground, handcuffed her and placed her into their patrol car; imprisoning her there. Deputy Carolyn Chadwell started crying about her having shot Penny Trent.
Thereafter, several Sheriff’s Department supervisors and other officers came to the Trent residence and decided what to do with Mrs. Trent. After discussing the shooting of Mrs. Trent with each other, the Sheriff’s Department decided to take Penny Trent to the Apple Valley Station, so they could interrogate her in a coercive manner; to try to get her to say something to justify their shooting of her.
Even though Mrs. Trent’s repeatedly asked to leave the station, the Sheriff’s Department investigators kept Penny Trent. They even “created” police reports showing that a crime had occurred (i.e. Cal. Penal Code § 245; assault with a deadly weapon), and that Penny Trent was the suspect.
The Sheriff’s Department even did a gunshot residue test on Penny Trent, even though she was the one shot. Even worse, the investigators at the Apple Valley station made Penny Trent undress down to her underwear, to take photos of any marks or bruises on her; supposedly for the criminal case against Mr. Trent. (Read the Chadwell report, here.)
Moreover, to add insult to injury, the Sheriff’s Department (Investigator Robert Thacker) unlawfully obtained a search warrant for the search of Penny Trent’s house, and used the pretense of a criminal investigation, to perform their civil liability investigation.
This was the Sheriff’s Department’s only chance to inspect the premises, as police officials cannot obtain a search warrant to do civil liability investigation; only to investigate crimes. Therefore, the Sheriff’s Department had to misrepresent the purpose of their application for a search warrant to Judge Stanford Reichert; claiming that their search would reveal evidence of a crime (the only crime really being Chadwell’s shooting of Penny Trent.)
Eventually, in the early morning hours of June 3, 2012, the Sheriff’s Department drove Mrs. Trent home after they were done with their illegal search of her residence.
“To date, no criminal charges have been filed against wife batterer Mr. Trent, because the Sheriff’s Department can’t prosecute Mr. Trent without implicating themselves in shooting the very victim of that crime”, said Jerry Steering, attorney for plaintiff Penny Trent.
Additionally, the San Bernadino DA said the shooting was justified as self-defense “Based on a totality of the circumstances, there is insufficient evidence to prove her actions were an unreasonable use of force in self-defense. Deputy Chadwell fired the shots to protect herself from what she perceived to be an immediate danger.”
More after the mediation hearing, which will be held Thursday, at the U.S. Court House, 3470 12th Street Room 3-4, Riverside, CA 92501, U.S. Magistrate Janet Pym, Penny Trent v. County of San Bernardino, Sheriffs Carolyn Chadwell, Kirsten Mitchell et al.
Frankly, it looks bad, very bad, and because of the audio tapes. The problem is that, while the DA’s report clearly points to an argument and they have Mrs. Trent’s testimony, the shooting an how it happened could have been avoided. It was a case of perception: the Sherriffs said that Mrs. Trent looked like she could be crazy, but that’s no basis to think someone’s going to shoot you unless they actually produce a gun. Mrs. Trent did not have a gun or weapon.
U.S. District Court Central District– Case# EDCU12-02221-VAP (OTBX): False Arrest, False Imprisonment, Assault, Battery, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Negligence, Trespass, Invasion of Right to Privacy, Abuse of Act of Process