By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
Lawsuits thrust the Killeen Police Department into unfamiliar fights in 2009.
With crime continuing an overall decline, KPD grappled with internal turmoil over a physical fitness test and litigation over an officer that was involved in a fatal shooting.
Six Killeen police officers filed a lawsuit against KPD and the city of Killeen in September over a physical fitness policy. A hearing to decide the legality of the policy is slated for Jan. 27 in the 169th District Court under Judge Gordon Adams.
Adams filed a temporary injunction against the policy in October because without legal review it would deny officers from certain job-related incentives.
Officers opposed the job-contingent policy on the ground that it usurped Civil Service laws that dictate what officers can be terminated for.
KPD has revamped the policy in an attempt to comply with the law since the West Bell County Fraternal Order of Police first raised public issue with the policy in August.
KPD could lose approximately 25 officers in 2010, if the test passes the legal hurdle and officers who failed previous tests fail once again.
KPD was also served with another lawsuit in 2009 over an officer's action in an incident during which Pfc. Jarvis Galloway, 20, died.
Galloway's mother, Catherine Galloway, filed a lawsuit against Killeen officer James Plank and the city in October.
According to Killeen police, Plank shot Galloway to save himself from injury. The lawsuit alleges Plank shot him after Galloway stopped the vehicle and put his hands up in the air.
Killeen police stated Plank was chasing a suspect fleeing from a fight reported outside Club Spurs on March 1. Plank grabbed the suspect as he jumped into the passenger side window of the Chevy Trailblazer driven by Galloway.
Plank became stuck and yelled for Galloway to stop, but he accelerated, according to court records. Plank then freed an arm and shot Galloway as Plank was thrown from the car.
The lawsuits in 2009 came during a year in which overall crime continued to decline.
Killeen posted a sharp drop in homicides.
Through December 21, Killeen police reported five homicides, as opposed to 10 in 2008. Five homicides is the lowest total since 2004.
Killeen carried two homicides through November when a rash of three murders in one week marred what could have the fewest murders in a decade.
On Nov. 20, Killeen police recovered the body of James Leroy Johnson III, 16, on Farm-to-Market 1237, north of Temple. Johnson disappeared Nov. 11 from his home, while his mother was at work.
Killeen police charged Paul Andrew Cantu, 18, of Waco, Victor Villarreal Jr., 17, of Fort Hood, and a juvenile on murder charges.
According to court records, Cantu confessed that the three beat Johnson and then Cantu strangled him to death with a rope.
Two soldiers died less than a week after Johnson's death. Spc. David L. Middlebrooks, 20, was stabbed to death during a party Nov. 22. Killeen police charged fellow 1st Cavalry soldier Donnie Kenneth Stevens Jr., 23, with murder.
A day later, Joshua M. Wyatt, 22, was shot to death at his apartment in the 3400 block of Victoria Circle on Nov. 23.
Wyatt's death remains unsolved.
The first homicide of 2009 was the death of 4-month-old Isaiah Haggerty on April 18. Isaiah's father, Noah James Haggerty, 21, spent most of 2009 in jail on charges of injury to a child that were upgraded to murder in December.
No homicides were reported in Killeen until Aug. 7 when Dan Richard Smith Jr., 36, was found dead of a gunshot wound.
Killeen police arrested Jared Lee Bottorff, 21, on a murder charge alleging he shot Bottorff during a house party in the 4200 block of Fawn Drive.
Contact Victor O'Brien at email@example.com or (254) 501-7468