Settlement offer does not quell quest for justice

Settlement offer does not quell quest for justice

By Jennifer Johnson

Metro Editor

Nearly two years have passed since 28-year-old Marine veteran James Whitehead was fatally shot outside an Orange auto parts store by off-duty police Captain Robert Arnold, yet the legal battles surrounding the homicide are far from over. A financial settlement was tentatively awarded to the family this month, but the survivors said they would rather have justice than money.

“I think about James every day,” Whitehead’s sister, Brandy Boyett, said as she and her family readied to persevere through yet another birthday without her little brother around to share in the celebration. “It really makes me sad for his daughter, too, because everyone needs a dad.”

Boyett is still grieving the loss she felt when a bullet struck her brother’s chest as he leaned back in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck at O’Reilly Auto Parts in Orange, killing him. Whitehead was unarmed, trying to leave the scene of a heated verbal altercation when the incident occurred. Boyett has relived the moment time and time again – hearing the gory details while sitting through arbitration and mediation hearings, interviews with investigators and attorneys, and while researching what can be done to bring her brother’s killer to justice.

“This whole thing has been a nightmare,” she said. Still, she can’t wake up. According to Boyett, this horrible, horrible dream won’t be over until her brother’s killer is called to account for his actions.

Hope for justice in the courtroom was all but lost when Orange County District Attorney John Kimbrough brought the case before a grand jury but failed to secure an indictment on the shooter after not calling a single eyewitness to the stand. In the days following the grand jury’s “no bill,” then-Orange Police Chief Sam Kittrell released a 36-page report detailing the improper actions taken by Captain Arnold when he shot the unarmed civilian. At that time, Arnold was placed on indefinite leave. But neither the Whitehead family nor Arnold was satisfied with the rulings. Both sides have since waged civil court battles, and a group dubbed Justice for James has been actively seeking Arnold’s criminal prosecution.

Reinstated

Robert Arnold, using the opportunities afforded to him as a civil servant, petitioned for an independent arbitrator to rule on a request to be reinstated to his position on the Orange Police force. Arnold alleged his civil servant rights had been violated by investigators failing to inform the police captain that he was under investigation for the fatal shooting.

Michael Grossi, an out-of-state police officer trainer and Arnold’s expert witness for the arbitration hearing, told the arbitrator, “I was surprised to see that he wasn’t terminated for excessive force,” but concluded, based on reading statements, that Arnold was justified in shooting Whitehead that July day in 2010. Grossi was paid between $7,500 and $8,000 for his testimony, he said. Grossi was the only witness to say Arnold had acted correctly.

Forensic pathologist and medical examiner Tommy Brown said Arnold was no more than 8 inches, possibly even less than 6 inches, from Whitehead when the fatal shot was fired – a close proximity for an officer to be in if he felt he were in danger, Orange Police Department investigators pointed out.

According to the John Cash Smith, the attorney representing the city of Orange during the arbitration hearing, “We believe, by more than a preponderance of the evidence, that it was a killing, not what police call a ‘good shooting.’”

Still, the arbitrator ruled that Arnold had not been informed there was an investigation into his actions, and ordered the officer put back to work. The city of Orange is appealing the ruling, and has refused to put Arnold on the streets of Orange with a badge and gun.

“Arnold used incredibly bad judgment, and because of that, lives were ruined,” Smith said of behalf of the city. And, Smith said, Whitehead “had his life snuffed out by actions by this police officer.

“The gist of this from the standpoint of the city of Orange and the City of Orange Police Department — this should never have happened.”

Money can’t buy love

“You’re goddamn right I shot you.” According to testimony from eyewitness Randy Edwards, those are the last words Whitehead would have heard from his killer before he expired in the parking lot.

The thought of such a horrible end to a war hero’s life sickens Boyett, who said she was even more sickened by the implication her brother caused his own death.

“He was disorderly, sure,” she admits. “He didn’t deserve to die for that, though. And, to think of his killer walking free, maybe even being allowed to shoot someone else as he works in the streets as a ‘peace officer,’ is just appalling.”

Whitehead’s family – mother Diana Franken, father Vernon Ray Whitehead Sr., daughter, and common law wife, Karlan – petitioned a federal civil court in Beaumont via a wrongful death suit against Arnold and the city of Orange. Mediation in Judge Thad Heartfield’s court with all parties has recently made headway, with a tentative agreement struck. The final judgment will be declared next month, according to sources close to the case.

Whitehead’s only child will receive 60 percent of the financial settlement award, each parent will be allotted 15 percent and the wife will get 10 percent. Jennifer Hughes, the minor child’s mother, said the family was forced to take the mediation offer, having been strong-armed by Arnold’s attorney.

“They said if we didn’t take the offer, when we got our ruling they would take it to appeals court in New Orleans and get it overturned.” Hughes’ attorney told his client that, due to the laws governing civil servants in Louisiana offering blanket immunity, Arnold’s council would prevail. “They had us bent over a barrel; we had no choice but to accept the offer.”

Although Hughes couldn’t comment on the settlement amount, sources suggest the dollar amount could be in excess of $600,000.

No backing down

“We don’t have anything to do with their civil case; we’re not interested in the money, although I think (Whitehead’s) daughter deserves it to help take of her,” Justice for James leader and Veteran Services officer Ken Cavaretta said. “We want to see justice done for this Marine veteran who served his country as a hero only to come home and get shot down in cold blood.”

Cavaretta has been instrumental in garnering public support in an effort to have the homicide re-examined in criminal proceedings. Cavaretta and Justice for James supporters conducted a rally on the steps of the Orange County Courthouse calling for the removal of District Attorney Kimbrough, have championed the cause in neighboring communities and veteran functions, and are seeking federal assistance in furthering prosecution on allegations Arnold deprived Whitehead of his civil rights.

“We really believe in this,” Cavaretta said. “We won’t stop until we’ve exhausted all our avenues, and there are a lot of us involved in this call to action.”

‘60 Minutes’

Most recently, Cavaretta has reached out to the CBS news show “60 Minutes,” an opportunity afforded when he was interviewed by the TV crew about a Veteran’s Court project he has spearheaded in Harris and Jefferson counties.

“Seeing James’ killer brought to justice is always on my mind,” he said. “I try to use any avenue I can to get the word out that such an injustice as this is going on. Like I said, we really believe in this.”

60 Minutes reporter Ashley Velie requested all Cavaretta’s information on the case to investigate the matter further. In the meantime, the Justice for James group is planning a second rally to be held at the Orange County Courthouse in late summer.

“We have to expose what’s going on here,” Cavaretta said. “We have a killer walking the streets. We need a prosecutor that is willing to stick with a case and do the right thing.”

shadow

Comments

If the roles were reversed......

If the police officer was white, and the victim was black, every news channel for a year would have been glued to this, Obama would be pressuring federal courts to prosecute, etc etc....... It was a white guy that died, so the media really doesn't care. When the hell is the media, and people in general going to realize people are people, and quit even going into the "race card mode"?

For the above comment..Yes

For the above comment..Yes Whiteheads daughter is "ACTUALLY" his. I lived with him and the daughters mother during the year they found out they were expecting! so spread some more ridiculous lies..thanks for that..

So, according to many of the

So, according to many of the people on here, in theory, if someone calls me names and is making a fool of him/herself, I have a right to kill him/her? that is absurd! Arnold is an oficer-he knows how "diffuse" the situation without killing an unarmed person, which makes it worse.

THE SHOOTING OF JAMES WHITEHEADTHEY SHOULD HAVE

THEY SHOULD'VE BEEN ARRESTED ROBERT ARONLD THAT DAY.HE DONT DESERVE ANY MONEY FROM ANY WHERE IN THE UNITED STATES AT ALL.HE HAS DONE SO MANY THINGS AND NOW EVERY0NE SEES EVERYTHING VERY CLEAR NOW.THE ONLY THING HE NEEDS IS HIS INMATE NUMBER AND THAT IS WHAT HE IS GOING TO GET.HE BEAT HIS WIFE AND THEY STILL LEFT HIM ON THE FORCE.WHAT TYPE OF MAN IS HE REALLY.I WOULDNT TRUST HIM FOR ANYTHING IN THIS WORLD.SHOOTING AN INNOCENT MAN HOW SAD IS HE FOR REAL.I HOPE THAT HE GET WHAT REALLY DESERVE JAIL TIME,NOT THE TAX PAYERS MONEYAT ALL.

Let's not talk about

Let's not talk about taypayers money becsusr I find it absolutely absurd that they are still wasting taxpayers money on trying to build a BOGUS CASE AGAINST ARNOLD!!!! HE has been no billed & WON his arbitration!!! Furthermore the actual documents from O.P. D . s shooting board says he wsmas in his rights to shoot...notice the attempted to terminate him for other things...not the actual shooting!!! So innocent...Whitehead WAS NOT!! Beat his wfe,huh? Then why the hell is she still married to him. But check this out....documents show that R. Arnold filed for a divorce. AFTER...REPEAT...AFTER he filed for a divorce she made that claim.....what's the best way to ruin a Police Officer??? Make a false statement. Note: she refused to testify , she didn't show up to court or something like that.....but as you can see nothing happened because I'm willing to bet it was not true!! Actually I don't think anything the media has wrote or plastered on the T.V has been accurate....as a matter of fact I know uymts not because I sat thru the arbitration...I read the arbitration report and honestly ...this is racism at its finest!! You have several people that know mire about this than we EVER could....say that Arnold should have never even had to go thru this....Texas Rangers...who basically say Sam Kitrell is full if crap...and the arbitrator who says in his report Sam Kutrell was trying to make this personal..... Arnolds lawyer made the people testifying for O.P.D. s.Kitrell, W.Robinson,S.Robinson, & L. Martin look like fools...he tripped them up in a few lies.All thier wrong doing Has not been exposed yet,but I'm sure it will in this little law suit he has...and then maybe those Officer I mentioned above jobs may be on the line....you do understand by him filing a suit with the EEOC there was actually a process where they done some type of investigation and found that there w6as some truth to his claim or it was a least worth looking in to...this may not end well for O.P.D.!! Have you read Arnold actual petition...if they wanna win this one the better get somebody better than those Oubres or whoever it was that did the arbitration for the city.because they were PISS POOR!!!! I hope he wins his case!!!!! I hope the entire story comes out just can't figure out ....the only reason anybody is making a big deal out of it is because a BLACk MAN shot a white man....white Officers shoot black men on a daily for doing LESS than Whiteheads and you never gear about it and if you do the get off with a slap in the wrist...do you make a fuss then a then and wish for thosewhite officers to get there inmate #???

So Arnold killed one of ours

So Arnold killed one of ours and Zimmerman killed one of them. When's.it gonna stop

It's not going to stop until

It's not going to stop until whites see blacks ad equals!!! Arnold killed one of yall, Zimmerman killed one of them....really? Arnold was attempting to difuse the situation...Zimmerman went looking for a confrontation....BIG DIFFERENCE!!! Let me introduce you to a few facts...blacks have never formed a group/ Klan fore the that promoted hate against another race( kkk,Aryan circle,dirty white boys,peckerwoods,white supremacist group,Aryan brotherhood....~ all groups that promote hate~), have never hung someone from a tree, burned a cross in thir yard, drug behind a car or anything if that nature simply because of the color of thier skin...its truely sad that it is 2012 and racism still is alive and rampant here in the South!

From your racist commentary,

From your racist commentary, it's plain to see that YOU haven't gotten over yourself. Grow up.

Lol....I simply stated

Lol....I simply stated Facts!!! Racist commentary???? There was NOTHING racist about it!!! And with that being said....if I'm a racist....somebody need to tell my WHITE FIANCEE that his future BLACK WIFE is a racist...and tell CPS come get my BI- RACIAL DAUGHTER because her mother is a racist....smh @ you....you may be the one who needs to grow up!!!

Birds of a feather flock

Birds of a feather flock together....so your violent too...just as he was. Say whatever you like about me...I don't care....I'm above name calling so I will refrain from doing so....but btw you sound extremely ignorant Rory piccone!!! The fact remains he revived a dishonorable discharge...which means you are not looked at as a Marine...he can't even recieve military benefits!!! I'm sure he was a stand up guy....verbally assaultive, told a man how he was gonna kick his 14 y.o. daughter teeth down her throat, racial slurs, screaming& curssing ...yeah...he sounds like a real nice guy....that's real Marine type behavior right there! The fact remains...had he exited the store when the clerk asked him the diary five times...had he not got high off beer & pills....had he just got in his truck instead if meeting the officer in the BACK of the truck...had he not head butted chest bumped or gone for the officers gun....he might still be here! The man has been cleared TWICE!! Yeah....but I understand...if I thought I could get some money out of something... I' d sue too.TWICE!!!

It's funny how people keep

It's funny how people keep referring to Whiteheads as a war hero/ veteran....when he recieved a DISHONIRABLE DISCHARGE! It's also strange how no one remembers Mr.Herbert testimony st the arbitration....where he says he felt threatened and he felt like if the officer had not stepped in when he did....he would have been seriously hurt...or how about when he said He NEVER leaves his employees..BUT... whenen Whiteheads exited the store...Mr. Herbert left behind him ( although he never leaves employees) because he feared for the OFFICERS SAFETY!!! Let's not forget Whiteheads made several attempts at the Officers weapon. And according to several eyewitnesses...Whiteheads Was NOT sitting/ leaning in the truck...he actually lunged at the Officer at the time he wad shot....which would clearly exlpain why he was so close in proximity. If the case was that strong....why settle. And wasn't thier a question about if his daughter, was actually " his" ? Was the paternity test done yet??

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.