The Killing of Cheri Lyn Moore

The killing of Cheri Lyn Moore on April 14, 2006 tragically illustrates the failures of a misguided and bureaucratized “public safety” system. In this writing we deliberately refer to Cheri Lyn Moore by her first name, as her friends and family do, and we acknowledge her as a real, feeling, dynamic human being; we want to counter the objectifying and criminalizing  references made by media and police, calling her "Moore", and devaluing her life by repeatedly describing her through only the claims made by the police who murdered her. Cheri was reaching out for help in a time of physical, psychological, and emotional crisis; however, rather than receiving the assistance and comfort that she needed, she ultimately met her death at the hands of an overzealous and militarized police force.

 

This is not an isolated incident: Eureka Police Department [EPD], much like many police outfits throughout the country, regularly criminalize people in mental and emotional crises (especially if those people are poor) and then often exaggerate or flat out lie about danger they were "threatened with" in order to justify killing or severely harming those civilians.  One remarkable distinction, however, between EPD and many other police departments who's officers are suspected or known to have used excessive violence or lethal violence, is the patent and utter refusal of EPD or the City of Eureka to fire, reprimand, or demote such officers- even if only for the purpose of instilling confidence in the communities which they 'police'.  Because EPD routinely ignores, downplays and covers up instances of wrongful and unjustified use of force, there is a climate of indulgence in the department, whereby officers – and particularly those with predilections for over-aggressiveness, violence and abuse of authority, feel free to violate peoples' rights while on duty, because they are confident no disciplinary consequences will arise.

Here, Redwood Curtain CopWatch would like to share some of our understanding about what happened to Cheri that ended her life. Over 2 years after Cheri’s death, Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos (a percipient witness) with Cox, now of his office) finally yielded to community pressure and convened a criminal grand jury that indicted former Eureka Police Chief Dave Douglas and still-employed Lieutenant Tony Zanotti. However, DA Paul Gallegos granted "transactional immunity" to the men who shot Cheri, Rocky Harpham and Mike Johnson, and the other officers involved in busting into her home and killing her (including Rodrigo Reyna-Sanchez and Terry Liles).  Transactional immunity means that the DA made it so that the actual killers, SWAT, and other officers will never be criminally prosecuted for Cheri's death. DA Gallegos then failed to diligently or successfully prosecute Zanotti and Douglas in criminal court, while the City of Eureka used public funds (up to $75,000) for an expensive attorney to defend Douglas.  No one is currently facing charges for killing Cheri. (Rocky Harpham and Mike Johnson, the shooters, are now cops in Ione, CA, and reports are they are not being nice there) Redwood Curtain Copwatch believes that everyone involved should be held accountable for killing Cheri.

 



It troubles us greatly to read and hear hateful words blaming Cheri for her own death. Whenever people are killed by law enforcement, the immediate and predictable response is always something like this:   "Officers are confronted with life or death situations and required to make split-second decisions," they are under "immense pressure putting their lives on the line to keep us safe" or perhaps "we can't play Monday morning quarter backs" or "we don't want officers to have to second guess themselves."  Usually before any investigation even starts, killings are justified on the basis that cops can simply do no wrong.  Any decision they make is right, and even if they make a little tiny mistake (like pulling a trigger multiple times), we must forgive them without question. Police statements in defense of their actions are presented as facts, and the assumed criminal nature of the victim are immediately implanted in the public's consciousness through intense media.  Attitudes that pardon the police, supplying excuses and distractions, are instantly publicized, prior to any investigation. Then, during and after investigations (which are usually done by police officers in the same department as or with similar interests to those they're investigating) the excuses for the cops and distractions from the truth, continue.



    The so-called “law enforcement community”, as well as some members of the public have been blindly defending the Eureka Police Department regarding Cheri’s killing.  Relying on the Hollywood narrative of a dangerous “mentally ill” person confronting the infallible and virtuous police, they continue to criminalize Cheri while perpetuating police violence.  Perhaps more importantly, they appear to have absolutely no understanding of what happened that day. Either they have not examined the testimonies from the coroner's inquest or they are so committed to their own ideology that they cannot accept the concrete facts.  

 

"It serves the interest of law enforcement to portray the profession as dangerous," said a professor of criminal justice Dr. Victor Kappeler, in a recent report. "Policing is just not one of the most dangerous occupations."


In fact, it's not even in the top ten. [See It's Safer to Be a Cop Than a Farmer ]
     

      Certainly there are many unanswered questions, but based on the inquest testimonies of over 30 witnesses, it is painfully clear that Cheri's death was avoidable and that culpability lies with numerous members of the Eureka Police Department.  There were multiple opportunities throughout the early day of April 14th, 2006, the day Cheri was killed, for deescalation of the situation and the utilization of non-violent tactics to help Cheri resolve her crisis. Testimonies at the inquest raise the fundamental question of whether the police needed to get involved in the first place. Once involved, however, police could have allowed simpler, non-aggressive intervention to occur.  It is clear that rather than valuing the preservation of Cheri's life, police created a tense stand-off, emulating an action video game. Furthermore, testimonies expose that the EPD SWAT and so-called crisis-intervention team made little to no effort to understand the situation before making combative moves.


Unfortunately, EPD seems to operate with a mentality of militaristic egoism and machismo, making it difficult for individual officers to act with compassion in the face of a perceived challenge to their authority; and making it impossible for EPD as an organization to be peace keepers or foster justice in our communities.

 

The poor decisions and flawed policy were evident well before the shots that killed Cheri Moore were fired.


When Cheri called the county in crisis, similarly if she had called 911 for an ambulance for a medical emergency, the EUREKA POLICE showed up. On April 14, 2006, around 9:40 a.m., Cheri called Humboldt County Mental Health, and her call was answered by Craig Pasquini.  From what we understand, Cheri was very distraught and made it clear to Craig that she was seeking help and had been told to call back from the night before.   According to Mr. Pasquini, Cheri told him she was upset about the anniversary of her son's suicide, she was suffering from serious physical ailments, and she was being sexually harassed by her landlord, who was, she said, soliciting sex in lieu of rent. Each person who knew Cheri Moore as a friend or relative and who testified at the coroner's inquest, spoke of Cheri's fear and complaints about her landlord, Charles Heuer, sexually and otherwise harassing her. Cheri had in the past reported about Chuck Heuer, her landlord, to Mental Health and to EPD as well, and had filed two civil complaints in Humboldt Superior Court against him.


Cheri's friend, Marcus, as we will explain later, was in phone contact with Cheri until the EPD cut off their contact.  Marcus testified at the inquest that Cheri told him on the phone that the night prior she had to call the cops around midnight because her landlord was trying to break into her house and rape her... "she was always saying stuff like that about him -anyways she said that and she said she called the cops and everything happened from there."


Mr. Pasquini of Mental Health testified that on the 14th, during his phone call with Cheri, he did not inquire or even attempt to talk with Cheri about the things that were troubling her or help deescalate her emotional state, but instead immediately called the Eureka Police Department.  Ms. Keziah Moss, dispatch at EPD, explained that she made a call to officers because it is "standard procedure for mental health to call EPD when people call them on crisis lines" ... so the police can go and do a "welfare check." 


These so-called welfare checks by police when people are in medical and/or mental crises are an inappropriate response, resulting in violations of peoples’ civil rights.  Cheri, like many others, had her right to privacy and to "protection from unreasonable search and seizure" violated by EPD.

To  make matters worse,  not only did EPD set up a "command center" in Chuck Heuer's office, but the man who Cheri claimed was sexually harassing her was brought to her door by the police, and was apparently the person who opened her door.  Landlord Chuck Heuer was with the police on their first contact with Cheri during their "welfare check."

  Prior to and on April 14th, Cheri had repeatedly expressed her fear that Heuer was trying to get into her apt and solicit sex from her.  In fact, one of the EPD officers who first came to her apt on the 14th, Todd Wilcox, had been there six days prior to respond to Cheri's call about her landlord!  In addition to the obvious problem of the police collaborating with Chuck Heuer to enter Cheri's apt, that collaboration makes it hard to find credible EPD's claims of concern about escalation and the safety of third parties. They weren't concerned about Chuck Hueur.  EPD's concern for Cheri as the possible victim of a felony was non-existent.


Mr. Pasquini testified that Cheri told him that she was not homicidal or suicidal, and she had no intentions of hurting anyone.  Mr Pasquini testified that Cheri also told him that she had reached out to every county department and if she didn't get some help she was going to blow up her apartment building with a flare gun that she had purchased.  [Forensic expert could not find fingerprints on flares inside a flare gun presented at the inquest.] 

 

It is unclear and incredulous to hear Mr. Pasquini testify as to how he learned Cheri's name and address to pass on to the police; he testified multiple times that Cheri would not identify herself, but then said when he called the police, he was able to identify Cheri because "she gave me her name her address and tele- telephone number.." Mr. Pasquini testified that Cheri did not describe the flare gun in any detail and that she did not mention the police at all; he did not tell Cheri that he was going to call them. When  Pasquini then called the Eureka Police Department, he spoke to dispatcher Keziah Moss.... Ms. Moss said that Pasquini had just hung up the phone with Cheri; and he provided Ms. Moss with Cheri's name, address, and dob. Ms. Moss then testified, in much greater detail than Mr. Pasquini himself, that Pasquini passed on info about Cheri being despondent over the death of her son...that she'd "'purchased a 12 gauge flare gun and was going to use it to blow up the building'..." Ms. Moss said that Pasquini said Cheri told him "that she was not a terrorist, that she didn’t want to hurt anyone, however she was upset over the death of her son. And she also stated that she ...was being asked to exchange sexual favors for rent payment."


Then, a most disturbing inconsistency:  Although Pasquini said that Cheri did not even mention the police,  and testified that he did not know whether she would be hostile to them, Ms. Moss of EPD said that at the end of her call with Mr. Pasquini of Mental Health he told her twice

"that [Cheri] was adamant that she did not want police to  respond....  To Be forewarned if you have police respond..." Then, Ms. Moss testified that she entered all that 'info'  into a computer for the officers to read,  and she and another dispatcher prepared and put the word out regarding Cheri who is "gonna be hostile to law enforcement."

Soon after police were sent to Cheri's home, Ms. Moss testified she (Cheri?) contacted Mental Health.  Ms. Moss:  "Cheri had contacted them saying she was concerned because she said she knew people were banging at her door and she didn’t know what was going on- and she didn’t  know that that was the PD. And ..She said that she wanted to talk to her doctor, and that she wanted, all she wanted was her medication"

Ms. Moss also spoke with Cheri's friend, Marcus Smith, who relayed Cheri's wishes to her [now that Cheri was terrified barricaded by people outside her apt who's identity she did not know] that she would come out if she could be provided some cigarettes and he could give them to her. Ms. Moss testified that Marcus gave the cigarettes to officer Wayne Cox [now working for the DA], who was on the scene. Those cigarettes never got to Cheri. Marcus was ordered by Sgt. Lynn Soderberg [now working for Humboldt State University Police] to get off the phone and not speak with Cheri anymore, despite the fact that he was likely the person who's intervention could have prevented Cheri's death on the 14th.  Soderberg, then head of the so-called crisis negotiation team, did not even inquire as to what was going on in the conversation between Marcus and Cheri, or any details like that. She drove up to the scene and demanded Marcus hang up the phone before she even got out of her vehicle.

 

At any point, EPD could have realized that this was an emotionally intense situation and that it is inappropriate and ineffective for police to try to assess and deal with someone in Cheri's state of crisis.  According to the inquest testimony of the police themselves, it seems that they failed any sense of deescalation, failed to be of service to a troubled person, and failed any sense of safety or reason.


Cops think if they are present, then no body else can deescalate or help the situation- they think only a professional or else tragic end; or that everyone is suspect.


After he was made to get off the phone, Marcus drove away, believing the cops were going to shoot Cheri and he was prevented from doing anything to save her. Marcus called a friend, Dianne, and asked her to call Cheri and tell Cheri to call him, since the police were forbidding him from calling himself.  After Marcus left 'the  scene', Dianne told him he needed to bring cigarettes to Cheri, so he came back.  Predicting that the police would kill his friend Cheri, Marcus dialed 911 and told them everything he could about the situation, in order to be sure the story was recorded ("like on TV").  Marcus testified that he was on that 911 call all the way back to Eureka from Arcata.  Records??


Marcus, back in Eureka, went across the street from Cheri's. During the inquest, when asked if he could see Cheri from his position, Marcus used body language and words to describe how he could see her in the window and could see the 'sniper' (Ron Harpham) up on the building.



Marcus has since been sent to prison on ridiculous charges, and the neighbor directly adjacent to Cheri's apartment, Phillip Gray, was found dead in a downtown bus stop.


More Notes fromTestimony at the Inquest:

Lt. Tony Zanotti, like most of the officers (Liles testified that he knew nothing about the situation or the person when he went there all geared and weaponed up) did not do any follow-up or background check, or get info when he left for Cheri's apt building. Zanotti said he knew of no verbal communication between the EPD and Cheri, and that Cheri could be seen, not only by passers by, but presumably more closely by the EPD "observers" (sniper shooters).


Zanotti repeatedly testified about his worry for "innocent civilians" in the area.  Cheri too was an innocent civilian.  Was Zanotti trying to make some distinction, criminalize Cheri, who was having a hell of a day, and was denied any real emotional support, both by mental health and by the EPD?

 

The Saturday prior to April 14th, according to Officer Wilcox, Cheri had called EPD to her apt.  Wilcox testified that she was very courteous with him, and that she called to complain that her landlord, Chuck Heuer, had been harassing her.   Officer Wilcox further testifies that on April 14th, when he was briefing other officers, he told them he had been there on a call the Sat prior, but failed to mention that Cheri had called, the reason, and his "courteous" interaction with her.  On April 14, EPD not only set up in Chuck Heuer's office, but they asked for and received entry from Chuck Heuer to Cheri's apartment!


At 2:00am in morning, a few days before, 2 cops (Sgt. Michael Quigley and another officer) were banging on Cheri's door, her music blasting, their guns drawn and pointed toward her door.  A neighbor indicated in her testimony that the cops implied that Cheri, was at that point, a "terrorist threat". One of the cops, Quigley, spoke with the neighbor (from directly across hall) when she came out to see what was going on.  THEN THE COPS LEFT.  The officers heard from the neighbors that Cheri was 'not acting out of the ordinary', so they left, as they say, "without incident." 


According to an officer's testimony after Cheri's death, they knew about a flare gun that morning, too.

 

According to Zanotti, the decision to bust into Cheri's home and arrest her on April 14, 2006, not ever a finalized decision or plan- seems only to have been the result of over zealousness.  Zanotti, when asked about probable cause, said " He also said that leaving, as was done a few days before, was not an option.

 

 

Police claim that extreme measures were required because of the fire danger and the inability to evacuate the apartments, but according to this statement by then spokesperson for the EPD, Suzie Owsley, the decision not to evacuate was voluntarily made by police: 

Owsley said the apartments surrounding Moore's as well as the stores underneath and across the street were not evacuated. "It was contained to one of the apartments, so we didn't feel they needed to be evacuated," she said.

"Although she said she thinks there is a written policy in the department regarding when an officer is authorized to use deadly force, Owsley said she could not comment on what it is."

 



From Ronald Scott,  Ballistics Expert:

http://www.azballistics.com/wst_page10.html


2006 - Eureka PD, CA.     Cheri Lyn Moore is a despondent female; she is in her apartment and allegedly armed with a flare gun.  No utilities are turned off, the fire department's concern of danger was 1 truck and a minimal crew, the police decide that  she might endanger other occupants of the building and state that the health of one prevents him from being moved.  Instead of using the incremental steps required by their Policy and Procedure, they disregard the use of a K-9, or tear gas, and despite their being equipped with ballistic shields and ballistic protection, the storm the door without this protective equipment and kill the victim with an AR-15, a shotgun, and a weapon using non-lethal ammunition stating later that when she pointed the flare gun at them, which was never fired, that it required deadly force. The time frame was about two hours allowed for negotiations. Later that day, the unmovable other occupants are moved. The police chief commended his officers for their act of bravery. Even though I was consulted by interested persons in the mental health field, the Coroner's Inquest heard the police version only and did not allow expert testimony. Very sad example of a police department operating without accountability.

One of Cheri's neighbors down the hall testified that he came home on April 14th, that the police were there, inside and outside with guns pointed toward Cheri's apartment; that Chuck Heuer told him that Cheri had a flare gun; and that the police told him he could return to his apartment.  The police never attempted to evacuate this man from the building.  The man heard the police force their way into the apartment and heard the gunshots from his apartment.


Mengel, who was a guy in the "super position" with the scope pointed at Cheri's place, and he was the guy who would give the "herhands are free" signal, etc. He was NOT interviewed in the inquest. Rather, the Deputy Coroner, Charles Van Buskirk, and the interviewer played roles and read astatement on camera, one role playing as Mengel and one as the interviewer.  As soon as the killing 'incident' was done, EPD Officer Mengel locked his weapon in the trunk of (Detective Harpham's?) car.  He was not interviewed until acouple of days later. Mengel then left the area and didn't turn in his gun or go to internal affairs.  He went to IDAHO.


One female neighbor testified at the corner's inquest that EPD officers asked her to knock on Cheri's door (apparently not worried for her safety). While the neighbor was knocking on the door, Chuck Heuer came up and with a key, opened the door to Cheri's apartment for the police. The neighbor testified that at that point Cheri was at the other end of the hall with her arms thrown up saying “What the hell, [neighbor's name]?!” All the cops at the time on the scene later testified that when the door opened, they were suddenly “looking down the barrel of some kind of gun!” was the excuse used to call in the SWAT team, who almost immediately killed Cheri.

 

...Our analysis about what led to Cheri's death and about the attitudes and reactions of people in the area.  There is much more that could be said, but it is time we publish something, although it is not finished... by Redwood Curtain CopWatch