Open Letter to Humboldt County Sheriff, Michael Downey:
We send you this information WITH URGENCY.
Sandy Hartman of Redway has been working on getting a restraining order in Eureka (with help from a Resource Center) against her brother, Jimmy Hartman, to protect herself and her boyfriend. She is almost done with that process. Her brother has pointed and clicked guns at Sandy, and she is scared of him. Sandy, her mother, and her brother previously lived in the same house together, but her mother is being treated for leukemia in the Bay area, and her brother moved out.
On Wednesday, May 16, 2012, Sandy was in her backyard and came in to the house to check on the time. She observed two Sheriff's officers in the carport, Sgt. Ken Swithenbank and Deputy Stockton. The officers told her that her brother (against whom she has been seeking a restraining order) was inside the house “looking for his guns.”
Sandy went inside her home and found her brother there. He fired his gun near Sandy (leaving a hole in the ceiling). Frightened she started down the hall, and Jimmy followed her. The officers then entered the house, and with Jimmy now behind Sandy and still holding the gun, Sgt. Swithenbank and Deputy Stockton pointed their guns at Sandy's head. The officers did not arrest or do anything about Jimmy holding or firing the gun. Instead, the officers made disparaging remarks to Sandy, including calling her a “retard,” and told her they wish they could arrest her. Officers chuckled, saying that they would report that Sandy had given permission for her brother to enter the home, which she absolutely had not. They said to her brother, “Yea Jimmy, she told you you could enter, didn't she?” and Jimmy said “Yea” and he and the officers laughed. The officers told Sandy that they would be making periodic stops to her house. The officers told her they would be back soon, today in an hour or so, with a warrant to search the house and possibly arrest her boyfriend (who was not present). The officers made more disparaging remarks about Sandy and her boyfriend. Jimmy Hartman works at Ray's in Garberville and knows the officers. The officers do not know Sandy, who has no history with police.
After learning what Jimmy Hartman, Sgt. Ken Swithenbank, and Deputy Stockton had done, Sandy's friend, Rebecca Apple, called the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department Garberville substation from Sandy's house and spoke with Melanie Anderson. Ms. Apple told Ms. Anderson the story. She told Ms. Anderson that her friend's rights had been violated. Melanie told her to come down to the substation and get the form about that. Ms. Apple went to the station to retrieve the form for Sandy. While Ms. Anderson was looking for the form, Sgt. Swithenbank stepped quickly into the room, stood next to Ms. Anderson and loudly demanded from Ms. Apple, “And just WHAT are YOU filing a complaint for?” Ms. Apple replied, “I'm filing a complaint because you laughed with your partner and my friend's brother that you were going to falsely write up that my friend gave permission to enter.” Sgt. Swithenbank loudly replied “You weren't there. You weren't there.” Ms. Apple said, “No I wasn't, but it's also wrong to point guns at my friend who is unarmed when her brother had just fired a bullet past her head and is standing behind her with a gun.” He said, “I pointed my gun at both of them.” Ms. Apple told Ms. Anderson, “I have a right to have the form and I would like the form, please.” Sgt. Swithenbank forcefully said “You're not going anywhere with that.” Ms. Apple believed that Sgt. Swithenbank was going to prohibit her from leaving. Then, Sgt. Swithenbank attempted to revise his comment “...I mean, that form isn't going anywhere once you file it.” This harassment of Ms. Apple in the substation is reminiscent of Sgt. Swithenbank's attempt to intimidate Kevin McGrath by going to his home after Mr. McGrath made a public records request regarding Sheriff's Department activity involving Sgt. Swithenbank.
Sgt. Swithenbank and Deputy Stockton should be forbidden from ever contacting Sandy Hartman or going near her home. It is abhorrent to think that Sandy must rely on your officers to protect her with her restraining order after they have violated and terrorized her. There is no justification for Sgt. Swithenbank and Deputy Stockton unlawfully allowing a dangerous man to enter Sandy's home, failing to arrest or even disarm Jimmy Hartman when he fired a lethal weapon in her home and near her body, colluding with this man to violently threaten Sandy, deliberately refusing to protect Sandy, and instead intimidating, threatening and degrading her, then harassing Sandy's support when she went to pick up a complaint form.
Sgt. Ken Swithenbank and Deputy Stockton need to be reined in, if not prosecuted for felony crimes.
Thankfully, Sandy's brother did not kill her. We are extremely worried, with good reason, that your agency will fail to protect Sandy, or worse, continue to aid her attacker.
Why is the man who fired in her home, Jimmy Hartman, getting a laugh and pat on the back while Sandy remains in terror, and now must also fear the unholy alliance between her brother and the Humboldt Sheriff's Department?
Sgt. Swithenbank's and Deputy Stockton's actions are despicable and illegal.
You will have blood on your hands if something horrible happens to Sandy Hartman due to the violence of her brother and/or the malicious actions of your officers.
It is your responsibility to take appropriate action immediately to protect Sandy Hartman and to teach your officers with consequences, that they may not commit or aid in crimes, civil rights violations, harassment, or retaliation against civilians.
We expect both Sandy Hartman and Ms. Apple to be safe from Sgt. Swithenbank and/or anyone acting on his behalf. We expect Jimmy Hartman to be kept away from Sandy and away from her home and loved ones.
Redwood Curtain CopWatch
Civil Liberties Monitoring Project
Peoples' Action for Rights and Community
Human Rights Commission, Humboldt County
District Attorney, Humboldt County
many residents of Humboldt