County responds to suit

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Courts > Claims it had not been served as of Thursday

By The Staff

Los Alamos County released a statement Friday morning concerning the lawsuit filed by two former LAPD commanders and a current detective.
The county claims as of Thursday afternoon that it still had not been served the lawsuit.
In the statement, county administrator Harry Burgess said, “late Wednesday afternoon we were notified by media that the law office of George Geran chose to release to them a lawsuit supposedly filed against the county by three current/former LAPD officers.
“I would like to state that the majority of the allegations being made were investigated at the time and decisions were made based upon the conclusions presented. There are several allegations in the documents that were not previously presented to the county, and the county will be following up on those items to determine an appropriate course of action, if necessary.
“This case is particularly complex because there were several individuals involved over an extensive period of time, and that broadens the perspectives offered from a variety of viewpoints. We look forward to the time when we will finally receive the lawsuit and have adequate time to review it. Los Alamos County is represented in legal matters such as this by professional law firms working through the New Mexico Self Insurer’s Fund, and future statements to the media will be coordinated through their office. We will provide their contact information to you when we receive it from NMSIF.”
The county said it might not have been served yet but there was already a record of the filing on the NM Courts website.
In the case filing in district court, there is a demand for a six-person jury and there already has been a judge change. Sheri Raphaelson was initially assigned the case but she was excused and Raymond Ortiz has taken over as judge.
The lawsuit was filed by Santa Fe attorneys George Geran and Linda Hemphill for their clients — former LAPD commanders Randy Foster and Scott Mills as well as detective Paige Early.
They filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Los Alamos County in district court Wednesday, alleging wrongful discharge, retaliation and gender discrimination.
The suit contends that the county failed to address a “real and imminent threat caused by a fellow police officer Brian Schamber.”
Foster and Mills lost their jobs as a result of the incident.
Below is the continuation of the breakdown of the complaint.
Schamber was cleared to return to work in late September 2012. And according to the complaint, a couple days later, Schamber was driving south on Diamond Drive near Range Road when he told Early that he had almost slammed his personal vehicle into a guardrail the night before.
He went on to say, “Actually if I slammed my car into a car with a family in it, that would be even better because my rage would not only be released from me but would be projected onto them.”
When Early responded, “oh great, Brian, what if you slam your car into my family?,” he responded, “it wouldn’t matter to me, I hate kids!”
The complaint said that Early was so angry she told him he was crazy, to which he responded by punching her in the shoulder. Schamber then began to swerve toward other vehicles, guard rails, cliffs, grabbed the steering wheel very tightly and began to shake, watching Early so he could see her terrified reaction.
Afterward Early made another trip to then-police chief Wayne Torpy’s office.
Around the same time, Schamber’s wife, Zina Schamber, who was employed as a LAPD dispatcher, shared with then-deputy chief Kevin Purtymun that her husband had asked her, if she had gotten a call that he had bashed someone’s head in with a baseball bat, would she report him.
According to the report, when she indicated she would have to make the report, he responded by stating that he wanted to hide in the bushes of Longview Drive, and when an unsuspecting person walked by, he would jump out of the bushes and smash their head with a baseball bat. Although Purtymun allegedly spoke to Schamber about the incident, once again, no internal affairs investigation was initiated and no disciplinary action was taken against Schamber.
According to the complaint, Schamber, who told Early he had been diagnosed with both Bipolar and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders and apparently he was fascinated with mass shootings, read news stories about those incidents repeatedly and talked about the details incessantly, including the Aurora, Colo. theatre shooting in the summer of 2012 and the Sandy Hook Massacre in Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012. After the Sandy Hook shooting, as Schamber began to act out increasingly again, Early began to fear the worst, according to the complaint.
Then in November, Torpy suffered a stroke while at his home. County administrator Harry Burgess promoted Foster to acting chief.
Foster and Mills, meanwhile, knew Schamber had been absent for work for a fair amount of time and when they made inquiries, they were told the information was “above their pay grade.”
When Mills asked Purtymun how he was supposed to head the Investigative Unit without understanding why Schamber was missing work for months at a time, Purtymun responded by telling Mills that it was “none of his (expletive) business,” and that he should tell the other officers the same.
Things then came to a head on Dec. 21, according to the complaint.
Foster was present while several police officers watched a video in which one officer had attempted to dub a clip from the film, “Me, Myself and Irene,” over a radio clip of another officer attempting to kill a deer. Schamber was present as well and his behavior caught Foster’s attention when Schamber interrupted loudly and seemed to verge on bullying, causing Foster to make a mental note to check in with Schamber later in a private setting.
Later that day, according to the complaint, Schamber told Early that he had stopped taking his bipolar medication (Lithium) because he was angry that the pharmacy would only give him a 4-day supply at a time.
In what Schamber himself characterized as an act of rebellion, he indicated that he had stopped taking his medication a month before. Schamber also told Plaintiff Early that he knew that his psychologist, Dr. Gregory Baca (whom he had seen that morning), was upset with him for not taking his medication, that he had been having manic thoughts again, and that he felt as though he should start taking his medication again so he would not hurt anyone.
Shortly afterwards, Schamber swerved the car in which he and Early were travelling toward the side of the road and a man who was outside a car stopped at that location, telling Early that it would be “cool” to know how it feels to run into such a pedestrian. He was very animated, angry and shaking during the incident, according to the complaint.
Early asked Schamber if he wanted her to take his gun from him while he adjusted back to the medication. Schamber responded, “No, I’m not a danger to myself. I’m just a danger to others,” but agreed not to bring his gun to work the following week. He also commented, “I didn’t wear my gun to work yesterday (which was a violation of LAPD policy) and you didn’t even notice.”
At the same time, according to the complaint, Schamber had been talking about the Sandy Hook massacre all week long and told Plaintiff Early how the attacker could have killed even more children. Because Early knew Schamber lived on the grounds of an elementary school (pursuant to a County program designed to make schools safer and more secure) and Torpy was out on leave, she reported the matter to Mills, who received the message as he and Plaintiff Foster were leaving Torpy’s home.
Early then called Mills and was placed on speakerphone so Foster could listen as well.
According to the complaint, she reiterated her fears and complaints about Schamber’s behavior and actions, which included tailgating, erratic driving and comments about hurting other officers and citizens. She also told the officers that Schamber was off his medication and she reiterated she feared for her life. She also expressed concern that Torpy did not do anything about her concerns and talked about how Schamber constantly talked about mass shootings in the country.
When the call ended, Early asked Foster and Mills to talk to Schamber but begged them not to mention any of the specifics. On Sunday, read about Foster’s and Mills’ actions as Schamber is taken to the Los Alamos Medical Center and eventually a Las Vegas mental hospital and what happens afterward.