‘Mistakes were made’: 9 MPD employees disciplined after body found in back of van after 7 weeks at impound lot

‘Mistakes were made’: 9 MPD employees disciplined after body found in back of van after 7 weeks at impound lot

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The leader of the Memphis Police Department says his officers made mistakes when a murder victim was overlooked in the back of a van that sat in the city impound lot for seven weeks.

Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings called a news conference Friday to discuss the internal investigation, which prompted changes to department policy.

“This was a major mistake and the buck stops with me,” said Rallings.

9 MPD employees disciplined after body in van investigation (re-clip)

Police impounded the van as evidence in a robbery and shooting in December 2017. The driver was shot multiple times but the passenger wasn’t hurt. Both men initially said they were the van’s only occupants at the time of the shooting, and police didn’t learn of a third possible victim until a month later.

Then in February 2018, the men tried to reclaim the vehicle and found Bardomiano Hernandez dead in the back with a single gunshot to the abdomen. He’d been there for 49 days.

Rallings said a senior officer looked inside the van at the scene of the shooting and didn’t find any additional victims. The van was then towed.

City of Memphis denies any wrongdoing after body left in van at impound lot

Two people are charged with murder in connection with the robbery and shooting that landed the van in the impound lot. Police are still searching for a third suspect.

Following the incident, Rallings ordered a complete inventory of every vehicle at the impound lot, including the use of a cadaver dog. Department policy was also revised to require the complete inspection of all vehicles that are taken to the lot.

More than a dozen MPD employees were involved in the case. As a result of the internal investigation, Rallings said the police department disciplined nine people. Punishments included reprimands, suspensions, remedial training and terminations.

  • Officer Keeley Greer was found to be in violation of Departmental Regulation 101 Compliance with Regulations to wit: In-car/Body Worn Camera. Officer Greer received a written reprimand.
  • Officer David Wagner was found to be in violation of Department Regulations 101 Compliance with Regulations to wit: In-car/Body Worn Camera, 101 Compliance with regulations to wit: Radio Procedures, and 601 Completing Official Reports. Officer Wagner received a written reprimand.
  • Officer Thomas Ray was found to be in violation of Department Regulations 101 Compliance with Regulations to wit: In-car/Body Worn Camera, 101 Compliance with regulations to wit: Radio Procedures, and 601 Completing Official Reports. Officer Ray received a written reprimand.
  • Officer Steve Theriac was found to be in violation of Departmental Regulation 101 Compliance with Regulations to wit: In-Car Video/Body-Worn Camera, and 120 Neglect of Duty. Theriac received a 20-day unpaid suspension, a written reprimand, and was ordered to attend remedial Crime Scene Management Training.
  • Sergeant Kevin Williams was found to be in violation of Department Regulation 101 Compliance with Regulations to wit: Tow-In Policy and 120 Neglect of Duty. Sgt. Williams received a 20-day unpaid suspension and was ordered to attend remedial Crime Scene Management Training.
  • Officer Jeffrey Arthur was found to be in violation of Departmental Regulations 101 Compliance with Regulations to wit: Security of Crime Scenes, 101 Compliance with Regulations to wit: Tow-In Policy, and 120 Neglect of Duty. Officer Arthur received a 20-day unpaid suspension, a written reprimand, and was ordered to attend redial Crime Scene Management Training.
  • Officer Lee Walker was found to be in violation of Department Regulations 101 Compliance with Regulations to wit: Crime Scene SOP and 120 Neglect of Duty. Officer Walker received a 20-day unpaid suspension and was ordered to attend remedial Crime Scene Management Training.
  • Sergeant Lee Allison was found to be in violation on departmental regulations Compliance with Regulations to wit: Investigative Services SOP, Appendix J, Section II (Scene Investigations) and 120 Neglect of Duty. Sgt. Allison received a demotion to the rank of Patrol Officer, a 10-day suspension, and remedial Crime Scene Management Training.
  • Vehicle Storage Service Representative (VSSR) John Powell was found to be in violation of Policy Manual Grounds for Disciplinary Action/Discipline and Appeals #1, Departmental Regulations 120 Neglect of Duty and 130 Inventory and Processing Recovered Property. VSSR Powell received a 10-day suspension and was terminated.

Just this week, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he was recently briefed on the investigation.

Memphis mayor briefed on body in van investigation

The family’s attorney, Murray Wells, held his own news conference Friday saying they are pleased the city took some responsibility in disciplining the officers and encouraged that the city finally acknowledged the family, but Wells said that’s not enough.

The attorney for the family of a man whose body was found in the back of a van at the city's impound lot is responding to MPD employees being disciplined. https://bit.ly/2TYor52

Posted by WMC Action News 5 on Friday, March 22, 2019

The attorney said he’s concerned that only the officers involved in the incident received remedial training and not every officer on the force. He also said the city claims responsible for missing Hernandez’s body but not for his death.

During Rallings’ news conference, he said he couldn’t say if Hernandez would’ve survived his gunshot wound if he’d been found sooner; however, Wells said his medical experts believe Hernandez could’ve survived if he’d been treated.

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