Thursday, October 2, 2008

911 computer lost important recordings in death case

A computer system that archives 911 calls to police in Hanover New Jersey has failed numerous times in the past year and did not retain calls made the night a man suffered a fatal injury while in state police custody in July.

Kenwin Garcia suffered a fatal injury when he arched his back while handcuffed in the back seat of a police car and shattered a window with his head. The two state police troopers who were detaining him on arrest warrants suffered minor injuries.

When an attorney for Garcia's family, Stephen Brown, requested tapes of the 911 calls about a week ago, he was told they were not available because of a technical glitch. "I've seen nothing. I'm stuck in the dark, waiting under the guise of an ongoing investigation," said Brown, who believes motorists passing the roadside struggle may have called police. Hanover's seven-year-old logging recorder has not been working reliably for about a year despite attempts to fix it, said Hanover Police Chief Stephen Gallagher.

About two weeks ago, a new, $2,600 hard drive was installed, but it seems to be incompatible with the system's software, Gallagher said. On Saturday a contractor who was unable to fix the system after multiple attempts over two days shipped the recorder to California for repairs.

Investigators who arrived on July 15 could have listened to the immediate playbacks of the calls, but could not have taken calls from the logging recorder. When police went to get the calls from the recorder on July 15, they realized that it had stopped recording without warning about a week earlier.

Charles Sciarra, the attorney for the troopers, said he did not know that the calls were not archived, and that he did not think it was essential to the case.

Garcia was stopped by police as he walked along a section of the highway in Hanover on July 15 around 6 p.m. and was arrested when officers discovered warrants in his name.

After kicking and breaking a police car window, the two troopers at the scene, Victor Pereira and David Jenkins, moved a struggling Garcia to a second car, both using pepper spray and cuffing his feet, the Attorney General's Office has said. In the second car, he banged his head against the window. Garcia died on July 22 at Morristown Memorial Hospital. (info from

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