September 2008


My parents drove 5 hours Saturday morning to spend the weekend with me here. They were sleeping soundly on my futon that night when about 2:30 a.m. my dad hears this really loud pounding outside my living room window. He looks out the window, and there is this car sitting in the alley behind my house on Second Avenue SE. A woman standing outside it was carrying on and leaning on the car while beating on it. He sees the car back up into a nearby parking lot, and as it starts driving away he sees this woman laying on the ground, screaming and crying.

He thought the car ran over her, so he got up to call police. But before he could do that, two fire trucks, an ambulance and some police officers whizzed into the alley to take care of the situation. My dad, ever the vigilant watchman and helpful citizen, decided he’d go downstairs to tell police what he saw.

I watched as he told the officers what he saw, and another witness came over. I found out later my dad’s and the other witness’ testimony were a little different. Apparently she just slid off the side of the car and fell when it drove away. They still took the woman off on a gurney.

Police said she is Donya Fleetwood, 23, of Cedar Rapids, and that she said she was run over. But she was also walking around when the ambulance arrived. So, whatever. And that was our excitement for the weekend.

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Bob Rush, a lawyer at Rush & Nicholson PLC in Cedar Rapids, sent this e-mail to ONE friend at another law firm on Tuesday morning:

Fyi:
I have word from the CRPD, that they, in conjunction with other local and state enforcement agencies are going to begin a ZERO TOLERANCE policy on I 380 speeding. This move is based on adherence to traffic laws on 380 going out of control and the large number of accidents occurring within the Cedar Rapids corporate limits on 380.

I was asked to give everyone here a “heads up” and a reminder there is no such thing as an “allowable” 5 mph over the limit. As I understand the plans for the enforcement, those going more than 1 mph over the limit may be subject to being stopped. Although it is likely they would only receive a warning, a traffic stop can cause a considerable delay and immeasurable frustration if you are already running late or in a hurry.

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By noon, the e-mail had circulated through the in-boxes of dozens of local businesses, including Wells Fargo Bank and Rockwell Collins.

Rush said a “reliable source,” in some e-mails apparently referred to as a son-in-law who is a police officer, told him about this zero tolerance policy. Although CRPD spokeswoman Sgt. Cristy Hamblin denied a “policy” existed, she didn’t deny they are participating in stepped-up enforcement, which made him happy.

“When I started to hear back from people all over the place thanking me for the warning, I thought, ‘Holy cow, who’s passing my message around town,'” Rush said. “But this has got to be a pretty effective way of getting people to slow down. You can bet anyone on 380 is slowing down, and police don’t even need to be there. Pretty savvy, huh?”

Police were, though, having a bit of a speed trap going today on the straightaway between First Street N and Wilson Avenue SW. When I drove by about 1 p.m., there were three or four cars stopping people. When I came back through a half hour later, they were gone.

I heard from two Wellington Heights residents last week who feel unsafe going outside in their neighborhood. They live smack dab in the middle of it, within blocks of Redmond Park. Every time they sit out on their porch or take their kids to the park or the new playground at Johnson Elementary, they hear extremely disrespectful language and see fights starting where large groups gather. These women are fed up with lax police response to what is going on. I, for one, agree with them.

Here’s an e-mail I received from one of them:

 

I just got back from taking my kids to the new playground at Johnson School. I had taken them there earlier in the day, only to be met by older kids cursing, yelling, and fighting. When I asked the kids politely to stop, they said OK but continued.  Things like “I’m gonna f*** that girl til she breaks like a twig” and other nasty things.  We moved far away, could still hear, so I left.

Earlier this afternoon, my husband walked to HyVee to pick up a few things.  He came across an elderly man and a prostitiute “in the act” in the man’s car.  He knocked on the window, pulled out his cell phone, the man cursed him and drove off.

Then tonight the kids begged me to take them to the playground again (because it is so great!)  Three other adults I know were taking their kids, so I went along with them.  A large group of teens were congregating on the sidewalk, which made me nervous. A police car drove by, but didn’t stop.

About 10 minutes after arriving, two carfuls of teen boys pulled up.  The boys pulled up and a fight started.  I was too far away to see exactly what happened, but my elderly friend pulled out her cell to call 911 when she saw the boys taking swings. I was told later that she almost got hit and mowed over by the crowd. I did hear one teen girl say something like, “Let’s leave before someone gets shot.”

It took about 15 MINUTES for the police to arrive. He told us that this is a parenting issue. That they have a right to assemble. I said — and you have a right to stop and say “What’s up?” when you see a large group of people congregating. He said no. I said — well, feel free to stop me anytime. He responded that not everyone feels this way. Tell me, why are the POLICE intimidated by the thugs??  I’ve been in many a non-violent protest (before kids, when I lived in WA state) and cops ALWAYS stopped to talk to US congregating on the sidewalks??!!!

I was angry at first and had raised my voice — then started to walk away. He said — you can’t yell at me, then walk away from me. Funny how he felt he had power to keep ME there with him, but not do anything with the thugs who were actually terrorizing our neighborhood??

I love this neighborhood — my neighbors (of all colors, economics, renters, homeowners, etc. just to be clear) are awesome. My kids have good friends here. Our mortgage is LOW. Our house has CHARACTER.  But I’m starting to feel like we’ve lost the battle — that the thugs (teens, clowns, what have you) have taken over.

What do you think?? What can I do that’s proactive??

You have to admit, it’s intimidating to encounter a group of 10+ people no matter where you are because you may not be sure what they’re doing there. That goes double if they look like “thugs” (although you can argue that some people interpret the clothing styles and posturing of some black young people, in particular, as threatening in themselves). The First Amendment gives people a right to assemble on public grounds, but the police also have the right to get out of their squad cars and talk to them. I believe as long as the teenagers and others who are in those crowds know that the police aren’t afraid to disperse them if they have to, that it would prevent fights from happening and people could breathe a little easier. It might help if these kids’ parents were more involved in their lives, too…they’d probably have better things to do than stand around in the park.
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Here’s part of a response I received by e-mail about this issue:

Police HAVE TO get out of their squads and introduce themselves to people, gangs, kids or anyone in any public place. It is in their job description and they need to be reminded of this periodically its seems. So, write the Police Chief, your Councilmen/women, attend and participate in neighborhood meetings, programs and so on. Be a helpful solution. I’ve had Neighborhood Watch meetings every 3rd Thursday of the month at the Wellington House and NO ONE shows up. So things MUST be ok, right?

However, having said that, they (the police) CANNOT be everywhere all the time. To waste a non-emergency call on a 911 is excusable, but shouldn’t happen too often as it defeats the purpose of the 911 system, much less over crowding it unnecessarily. But when one is under stress of “perceived” danger, go for it.

The officer was right as it is a “parenting issue” and what can they, you or even I do about it? Well having had teenagers myself, I know even the best parents have “parenting issues” with people/children of that age. Teenagers are the curse every parent pays for having had sex. As to statements of someone saying something about being shot was most likely puffing. That is unless you witnessed a gun. Then I hope you were able to turn in license numbers, car and people descriptions.

Also, you said the incident occurred in Wellington Heights as if the WHOLE area of my neighborhood was involved. Why? Didn’t it happened it at a particular address or location? Why mislabel the whole neighborhood? Your Board members and neighborhood friends have been working hard to correct that misaligned mentality of making Wellington Heights seem like an unsafe place. IT is NOT. Check out the crime statistics by neighborhood or per captia and you will find us extremely safe of most crimes. But even one is too many, isn’t it?

Finally, and this is more than just my opinion, YOU and the other adults did nothing wrong by expecting to be able go anywhere in this neighborhood or town without fear for yourself, be it in a playground or in the grocery store.

As to what you and I can do? Simply by continuing to use the parks, playgrounds, sidewalks and whatever public areas are available and not let thugs, punks or simple miscreants “get to you.” Document and report. If really threatened yourself, then call 911.

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Police Chief Greg Graham has told me that he is encouraging officers to do more of the in-person, community policing activities. I hope that soon some of these fights will dwindle, and I hope that if they have anything to do with gang or drug activity that it drops off. Just last week, a man was arrested outside of my house for selling crack cocaine. I’m personally vested in this. Let me know your thoughts!

I know it doesn’t surprise any of you. Trying to be sarcastic. To be fair, I haven’t heard back yet from the PD on the 50 percent increase in aggravated assaults. They could have all been caused by those darned Chicago immigrants…ha. Seriously, crime’s up everywhere — in Iowa. Down in the Midwest and the nation. WHAT GIVES?

Read my entire story here. It’s worth noting, as well, that Iowa City and Cedar Rapids have the two lowest crime rates of Iowa cities with more than 50,000 residents. So, relatively speaking, we’re safer here than we would be anywhere else.

There is NO way they are not related. It’s too coincidental, too “random.” Read the latest update here.

And the two known victims, and known suspect in one shooting, all have pretty extensive criminal histories (not in themselves remarkable, but interesting in context). Jamail Cowen, victim in the first shooting, has been convicted of drug possession numerous times. Andre Springfield, victim in the second shooting at 1846 A Ave. NE, has been convicted of going armed with intent, burglary and drug possession. And the man connected to Springfield’s shooting, Kevin E. Lee, has been convicted of burglary and was twice considered a fugitive from justice. He’s been charged with going armed with intent in this case.

Drug or gang related shootings? Could they be retribution? I think it’s likely something’s up. I’m exploring my theory. Feel free to help me. You know where to find me.

Salena Glover, 24, was fired Thursday night from her dancing job at Dancers Ranch after an argument, police said. She apparently returned later with a hammer to drive her point home and bashed out another dancer’s windshield.

Glover, of Cedar Rapids, is being charged with second-degree criminal mischief for the incident in the strip club’s parking lot at 3000 Sixth St. SW. The other dancer, Nicole Prevail, was not present when the bashing occurred, police said.

Too bad police didn’t write down their work aliases. Then you could probably check them out on the club’s Web site…the girls’ photos and schedules are included. Hmph.

Dancers Ranch has earned its reputation as the “dive joint” of Cedar Rapids’ night life (that reputation is backed up by online reviews, mind you — I wouldn’t know *rolls eyes*). Last September, a stripper nearly bit the end of another dancer’s finger off during an argument there. Just FYI.

A simple shopping trip with her college roommate landed Erin Dix, 18, in University Hospitals with very serious injuries after being run over in the parking lot of the Wilson Avenue Hy-Vee on Tuesday night. The culprit — a drunken driver.

I thought I should share a comment left on my story by a family member:

While Mr. Sarchett waits to see if he’ll get more charges against him, Erin lays in the burn unit at the University of Iowa hospital fighting the pain of Mr. Sarchett’s stupid mistake.
She suffers from many cuts and lastrations, severe burns from battery acid, a clasped lung, 2 fractures on her lower back, bruised intestines, cuts on her liver…the list of injuries go on and on. She will have a long road to recovery and in excruciating pain.
Thoughts and prayers for Erin’s quick recovery would be greatly appreciated by Erin and her family.
We are hoping for a speedy recovery for you, and can’t wait to see you out of the hospital!
-the Dix Family

Jon Sarchett never had a drunken driving arrest before, according to court records. He actually hadn’t gotten into any trouble with the law since 1997, when he was charged with open container.

It’s a shame that Erin has to pay for his “stupid mistake.” I will try to bring you more about her and her roommate, Brianne Hanson (who, on a side note, went to Woodbury Central High School in Moville, just minutes from my hometown of Sioux City).

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