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Lawyers for former LAPD commanders Randy Foster, Scott Mills and detective Paige Early filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Los Alamos County Wednesday, alleging wrongful discharge, retaliation and gender discrimination.
Also Wednesday, the lawyer for former LAPD officer Brian Schamber, John Day, said anything in the lawsuit that pertains to Schamber was fiction. Schamber earlier settled with the county for $600,000.
The county issued a statement Friday morning, saying it had not been served as of Thursday, but it would look into allegations in the suit.
The Los Alamos Monitor will continue to break down the suit. The story picks up after Early speaks with Mills and Foster on the phone and Early tells them about her concerns with Schamber.
Following the call, and at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 21, Foster looked at Schamber’s Department file and found considerable support for Early’s statements, including the fact that Schamber had undergone psychological evaluation. He noted that the file contained statements from Dr. Susan Cave and Dr. Gregory Baca clearing Schamber to return to duty.
According to the complaint, given the information shared by Early, Foster and Mills attempted to call, first Cave, who was not available, and then Baca, who stated that Schamber had signed a release giving Baca permission to speak to LAPD.
Baca conveyed to Foster and Mills that he had met with Schamber that morning and had been concerned about him. After Foster and Mills shared the information provided by Early, Baca indicated he needed to make a follow up call (which was later learned was to Zina Schamber), and 10 minutes later, called back, saying that there was a medical emergency and he did not feel safe with Schamber being in the community.
According to the complaint, Baca then stated that Schamber needed to be hospitalized, committed, and sedated immediately because he was presently homicidal and suicidal, because he was non-compliant with medical orders, and because he was acting out. Baca also told Foster and Mills that he would come to the police station immediately, provided that they assured him that Schamber was not armed.
Reportedly, during the course of her phone call with Baca, Zina Schamber confirmed that Schamber was off his medication and could not confirm that he would go back on his medication immediately. When Baca indicated that he had received a call about Schamber’s behavior at work and that he thought he should hospitalize Schamber.
According to the complaint, Zina Schamber agreed. Following that phone call, Schamber appeared at Foster’s door and when Foster and Mills indicated they were worried about him, he stated, “I’m worried about me, too.” Schamber agreed to turn in his weapon and badge, and Foster called Baca to come over.
The complaint said then that Schamber then made a variety of statements. He stated that he had recently felt he was on a dark road and that things were not going to end well for him.
He stated that he had already decided not to bring his gun to work the next week, “because I don’t want to get my face plastered all over CNN after shooting 20 kids.”
Neither Mills nor Foster recall this statement as anything but serious, and disputed Schamber’s later attempts to label the statements a “joke.” Schamber also told Mills and Foster that they needed to understand that, “I have demons in my head that tell me to hurt and kill all the time, and I have to fight the demons all the time.” Because Schamber lived on the grounds of a Los Alamos elementary school, the statements he made were of grave concern to Foster and Mills and they informed Schamber that Baca was coming to the office to speak to him, according to the complaint.
Schamber immediately became silent, refused to answer questions, and instead began to rapidly send texts from his cell phone. Shortly thereafter, Mills received a text from Early, indicating that Schamber was texting her, and asking her if she had communicated with Plaintiffs Mills and Foster. Early indicated that she was saying no, but that Schamber knew anyway. She then sent Mills a text asking him to tell her when Schamber left the station, because she was in fear for her life and also wanted to move her children away from home.
According to the complaint, Baca then arrived at the police station and spoke to Schamber. He then asked Foster and Mills to drive him and Schamber to the Los Alamos Medical Center. Mills drove Schamber and Baca to the Medical Center, with the understanding that Schamber would voluntarily commit himself. Schamber went willingly and rode in the front seat.
According to the complaint, Foster immediately contacted County Administrator Harry Burgess at 5:36 p.m. Dec. 21 The involved cell phone call lasted 14 minutes, which was confirmed by Foster’s phone records, although Burgess has since repeatedly denied to a police investigator that such a conversation took place. During the phone call, Foster directly informed Burgess about what was going on concerning Schamber.
According to the complaint, Burgess responded by indicating his complete familiarity with Schamber’s issues, told Foster to call Human Resources Director Denise Cassel immediately (which Foster did, leaving a brief message, never returned by Cassel), and told Foster to call him in the morning with further developments. Burgess also asked if the media knew about the issues, and upon receiving a negative response, told Foster to “keep it that way.”
In the meantime, Mills had proceeded to the LAMC and stayed in the waiting room with Baca to give the Schambers privacy while Schamber voluntarily checked himself in to the emergency room.
According to the complaint, Foster arrived later and at approximately 8 p.m., Baca said the voluntary commitment would proceed, although there were grounds for an involuntary commitment as well.
Neither Foster nor Mills had any conversations with medical personnel until about midnight, when they became concerned about the lack of activity and made an inquiry as to what was happening.
At that point, according to the complaint, a nurse told them that Schamber could not be committed to LAMC, Schamber did not want to be committed, and that LAMC was the wrong place to do the commitment.
The nurse stated that Schamber was becoming agitated, had never been sedated, and wanted to go home. Around the same time, Plaintiff Mills began to receive text messages from Early indicating that Schamber was texting her from the emergency room, stating that he was aware he was being transferred to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Santa Fe for hospitalization and that he was not going to go.
According to the complaint, Foster told the nurse that this was not his understanding of Baca’s orders, and that Baca had been certain that Schamber needed to be hospitalized, voluntarily or involuntarily, and sedated immediately. The nurse returned to the ER, and emerged shortly thereafter indicating that Schamber was fighting being medicated, and that the doctors were requesting the two officers’ help. When Mills and Foster went into the emergency room, they were told by a Dr. Gutierrez that Schamber had run out of the emergency room, and no one had seen him leave.
After conferring with Baca by telephone, Gutierrez issued a “Physician’s Certificate for Involuntary Commitment,” and Mills went to organize a search. During the course of the search, there were repeated “pings” of Schamber’s cell phone, showing he was somewhere near LAMC.
As part of the search process for an involuntary commitment patient, Mills informed some of the officers involved in the search of the risks of apprehending Schamber, emphasizing that Schamber should be treated the same as any other person in similar circumstances, with extreme care and concern for the well-being of the individual as well as the officers.
According to the complaint, Foster and Mills texted Schamber during his five hours of evading protective custody, ordering him to return to LAMC.
Foster also told Schamber that he was risking his life (it was 21 degrees and windy that night, and Schamber was wearing only a light coat), his career, his marriage, and his residence at the school by failing to comply, in part, because Baca had told him earlier in the evening that when Schamber was decompensating, he only responded to consequences.
Schamber was eventually apprehended at approximately 5 a.m. as he entered his wife’s car. At LAMC, Schamber became enraged, was then sedated and driven to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas, where he was kept for 10 days for observation before being released.
According to the complaint, Foster and Burgess talked for close to 20 minutes during which Burgess expressly praised Foster’s handling of the difficult issue and discussed the need to terminate Schamber.
Burgess also indicated that LAPD should confirm Schamber was not housing guns in his school-grounds residence and take steps to see that Schamber was removed from that residence. Again, Burgess’s over-riding concern was that Schamber’s history, policy violations, threats and escape not be made public.
On Tuesday, read about Foster’s termination from the LAPD.