|Officer Adam Basford is in the back row, center. |
(See updates below)
“I can't get
killed for this job,” observed one of Adam Basford's former colleagues in the
Yakima Police Department, explaining why he had refused to come to Basford's
aid during a hand-to-hand struggle with an armed suspect. “I thought we were
going to get killed, so I had to leave you there.”
That officer was
one of three who were in a position to help on August 18, 2013 when Basford
attempted to arrest Antonio Cardenas, a recently paroled felon who was
suspected of aggravated assault with a firearm. Concerned over the safety of
bystanders, including a young girl, Officer Basford didn't pull his gun. He
found himself grappling with a younger ex-convict who was several inches taller
and at least sixty pounds heavier, while every other available nearby officer
found something better to do.
Basford was able
to subdue the suspect without killing him or risking the lives of people in the
neighborhood. Rather than receiving a commendation, Basford is now off the force and
facing criminal charges – not for taking down an armed, violent felon without
using lethal force, but for filing a misconduct complaint against an erstwhile
Basford, an Air Force veteran who regarded himself to be a peace
officer rather than a law enforcer, had patrolled a violent neighborhood riven
with gang-related violence. On many occasions
prior to August 18, he had called for backup, only to find – as he did that
night – that no help was forthcoming. This wasn’t just because Basford’s fellow
officers were afraid, but because he had violated the unwritten but binding
rules of police solidarity by speaking out against routine
misconduct and abuse within the department.
Basford had just
finished an administrative call when he heard gunshots and saw an armed man later
identified as Cardenas racing through the neighborhood. Basford pursued
Cardenas into a nearby yard, overtaking him when the suspect failed to clear a
“I didn't want to
draw my gun, because there was a young girl just a few feet away,” Basford
recalled to Pro Libertate. “Cardenas took a swing at me, and missed. I took his
back while the two of us were still on our feet. He reached for my lapel
microphone and broke it, then said he was going to kill me and that nobody
would find my body.”
As they struggled,
Cardenas reached for his .44 Desert Eagle and squeezed off a shot. Basford
managed to wrench the shooter's hand away from his body at the last second, but
still suffered a grazing gunshot wound to his knee. Already in severe oxygen
debt from the struggle, Basford quickly began to feel the effects of blood
loss. Worried that if Cardenas escaped he might finish killing him or attack a
bystander, Basford applied a rear-naked choke – a potentially lethal hold that
was, in this situation, used defensively.
hit the ground, and Basford saw his backup, Officer Booker Ward, arrive.
“He saw what was
going on, heard me scream at him,” Basford later recalled. “We made eye
contact, and he turned and ran away.”
Two other Yakima
PD Officers were on bicycle patrol nearby.
“They heard me
get shot,” Basford recounted to me. “They heard me scream for assistance. They
were just two blocks away – but they were fifteen minutes from the end of their
shift, and they went back to the station instead of coming to my aid.” Basford
would find out later that the bike patrol officers “didn't think the overtime
would be approved.”
Cardenas was subdued and nearly unconscious, five other officers arrived, and
paramedics soon followed. Basford limped away from the scene of the struggle
and allowed the emergency personnel to do their work. As the EMTs attended to
Cardenas, however, Basford saw the suspect trying to extract something from his
pants. Concerned for the safety of his colleagues and the medical personnel,
Basford drew his gun, holding it at “low-ready” while approaching the scene.
“I pushed past
the paramedics and my supervisor, who was losing her sh*t,” Basford related to
me. “As I did, Patrol Officer Ryan Yates yelled that I was about to `execute
the suspect,' and pulled his gun on me, as did several other officers.”
pointedly declined to use lethal force during the desperate hand-to-hand
struggle in which he received no help from the officers now pointing their guns
at him. He surrendered his gun to another officer and was taken to the
hospital, which treated and discharged him with panicked haste because of what
were described as security concerns.
“From what I was
told it was clear that Cardenas's gang associates had learned about his arrest,
and there was concern about potential retaliation,” Basford told me. “But
nobody seemed all that worried about me when I was fighting with this guy on
lack of concern continued as Basford was debriefed by his supervisors. Usually,
a police officer involved in a use-of-force incident invokes his “Garrity” privileges,
which means that he cannot be criminally or civilly prosecuted for statements
made during the official investigation. This time was different, according to
|Ira Cavin, left, gets in some SWAT cosplay. |
Ira Cavin, told me that Garrity didn't apply in this situation, because I
had supposedly committed a criminal act,” Basford attests. To his astonishment,
Basford was told that he would be charged with assaulting the man who shot him
in the knee – but that charge was quickly dropped.
Basford, who has
undergone multiple surgeries on his knee, and is receiving treatment for the
psychological effects of the incident, was maneuvered into accepting an
“amicable separation” from the Yakima PD. After leaving the force, Basford
inevitably encountered several of the people involved in the incident,
including the previously mentioned officer who had abandoned him in the street.
|Cardenas in court. |
“He asked me to
forgive him,” Basford informed me with a grim chuckle. “My reply to him wasn't
“Look, my beat was
a neighborhood where the Nortenos and Suraneos were engaged in a turf war,”
Basford explains. “Gang members would sometimes isolate and swarm a cop. The
streetlights have all been shot out, and gang-bangers sometimes throw toxicimprovised devices that can have the explosive yield of a small grenade. So I
understand why officers wanted to avoid it. But in the entire time I served as
a patrol officer, I never – not once – received requested backup. The officers
always told Dispatch that they had a traffic stop, or something else going on.
I can understand that this would happen on occasion – but when it happens every time, something's going on.”
that he was singled out for aggressive neglect “because I crossed the Blue
Line. I filed official complaints about misconduct and abuse that I saw on the
street and in the lock-up.”
“Our job was to
investigate crimes and arrest suspects, not to inflict punishment,” Basford
continues. “I saw countless instances in which officers" -- including, he says, Ryan Yates,
who pulled drew his gun on him in the Cardenas incident – "would goad and mistreat people during contacts in
the street, and then arrest them without cause. I really tried to do the job in
a different way. I would get out of my patrol vehicle and talk with people
about what was going on in their neighborhoods – and I always explained to them
that they didn't have to talk to me, and that they could say anything they
wanted to me without fear of reprisal. I'm not going to pretend that I was
perfect, but I did try to do my job – at least, the job as I understood it.”
|Agitprop detail: Officer Yates is in the middle. |
That job, as Basford perceived it, meant protecting the rights of suspects
following an arrest, and he had no patience for what he described as the
routine abuse of prisoners.
“It was a common
practice to turn off the video monitor and the lights when officers were
dealing with what they called a `lippy' prisoner, especially if it was an
intoxicated woman,” Basford narrates. “This wasn't done for the safety of the
inmate or the officers. It was a cruel, abusive, and completely wrong. So I
filed a complaint about it – and from that time, I was on my own. I later filed
several excessive force complaints. I was an officer who had crossed the Blue
Line, which meant that none of my supposed brother officers would ever have my
inflicted on Basford offers a stark contrast to the official solicitude
displayed toward Officer Casey Gillette a few months earlier after Gillette
attacked an unarmed man, falsely arrested him, and engaged in a cover-up to
avoid being charged with aggravated assault and kidnapping. Gillette,
significantly, was one of the officers who pulled their guns on Basford the
night of August 18.
Gillette and his
partner were responding to a report of a fight on the evening of May 10 when
they encountered a loud-mouthed, shirtless man swearing at them from his front
man was yelling that “this is La Raza’s hood, you know, smoke you fools,”
Gillette told investigators. “And he started challenging us from what I
remember.” Offended by his “aggressive attitude,” and convinced that the drunk
presented “an officer safety issue,” Gillette strode onto the man’s property
and “punched him in the left side of the face,” the officer recalled. The blow
didn’t knock the man down, but with the help of three other officers, he was
At this point,
Gillette had to invent a criminal charge to justify the summary punishment he
had meted out for “contempt of cop.” He initially wanted to use “disorderly
conduct,” a cover charge he had often used while employed
by the police department in Toppenish. The problem is that the Yakima City Code
doesn’t include an offense called “disorderly conduct.”
the force to arrest the man for disorderly conduct, which does not exist in the
City of Yakima,” admitted
the department’s Supervisory Review. The official Personnel Complaint
observed that “At the time force was used there was no probable cause to arrest
the man or need to use force upon him. The force was unnecessary and therefore
excessive in violation of policy.”
This wasn’t merely a “policy violation,” Basford protests: It was a “criminal
act – at best misdemeanor assault.” That original crime was compounded by “Unlawful
Imprisonment, which is a Class C felony in Washington.” To protect themselves
and their employer, Gillette and his unidentified supervisor, a sergeant,
arrested the victim for “obstructing.”
to the Supervisory Review, this was nothing less than a criminal
conspiracy: “[Name Redacted] consulted with Officer Gillette and the two agreed
to charge the man with Obstructing, even though the man was not obstructing,
hindering, or delaying any lawful duties of the officers. The charge appears to have been chosen to justify Gillette’s prior use
of force and possibly to protect the city.” (Emphasis added.)
“This was a great
example of my [former] Squad’s dynamics,” Basford wearily explained to me. “The
sergeant reports the guy for Obstruction … thereby assisting in the criminal
act of the original assault by Gillette. They knew there was no charge and they still took him to jail and charged him for exercising his First
inquiry, Gillette’s superiors “coached him … to say `open hand’” when asked
about the strike. “Then Chief Rizzi claims `no harm, no foul,’ and doesn’t
punish Gillette, but puts him back on the street, knowing he would just hurt
Rather than being
charged with aggravated assault and kidnapping, Gillette was given a written
reprimand. He remains on the force. Last January Gillette
shot and killed a man named Rocendo Arias while he was asleep in his vehicle at
a car wash. Despite the fact that Arias was not a criminal
suspect, the shooting was ruled “justified” because of the “perceived threat.”
Oddly, that “threat” wasn’t apparent to a female state trooper who had seen the
napping man and left him unmolested before Gillette arrived on the scene.
claimed that he saw a gun in Arias’s hand. That supposed firearm was
actually an Airsoft pellet pistol which Arias might have kept as a prop to
deter would-be assailants – other than those invested with “qualified immunity,”
murdered an innocent sleeping man in a fit of panic, remains on the force.
Basford, who was
seriously injured while arresting an armed felon, may be headed for jail.
On August 18 –
exactly one year after his life-altering fight with Cardenas – Basford had a
preliminary hearing on a charge of “filing a false report to a public servant.”
If the case goes to trial, and Basford loses, he may spend a year in jail – nearly as much time as the recidivist felon who shot him in the leg.
experience as a conscientious officer with the Yakima PD, it's not surprising
that he now faces a patently retaliatory charge for filing a police misconduct
report as a civilian.
“I ran into Yates
outside a gun shop, and he smirked at me and grabbed his gun,” Basford told me.
“I had seen him do this same thing many times on the street in an effort to
provoke somebody he wanted to rough up and arrest. I thought his conduct was
threatening and unprofessional, so I filed a complaint with his supervisor.”
was Lt. Nolan Wentz, who has a history of retaliating against “civilians” who
annoy him. Among them was a
Yakima resident named Eddy Ford, who as it happens has a very close
personal connection to Basford.
“When I trained
in mixed martial arts, Eddy Ford was my boxing coach,” Basford pointed out to
In July 2007,
Ford was on his way to work when he noticed a Yakima police cruiser on his
tail, clinging to him through multiple lane changes. When they arrived at a
stop light, Ford got out of his car to ask the officer what he had done to
warrant such attention. The cop, Officer Ryan Urlacher, told Ford to get back
in his car, and Ford complied. In fact, Ford was compliant during the entire
encounter – but he spared no adjectives in describing his opinion of Urlcher’s
As he ran Ford’s
license, Urlacher told another officer: “I think I’m going to arrest him for
[a] city noise ordinance violation right now. He might only get a ticket if he
cooperates, but with that attitude, he’s going to get cuffed.” Urlacher then told
Ford as much, reproaching him for “diarrhea of the mouth.”
Wentz arrived on
the scene shortly thereafter, and he all but ordered Urlacher to arrest Ford.
cooperative but self-assertive citizen as a “hot head” who was “getting worse
over time,” Wentz told Urlacher: “I would not just write him a ticket and let
him go…. I’d sign his ass up.”
supervisor’s permission, Urlacher abducted Ford and had his car impounded.
On the way to the
jail, Ford protested that he was being punished for exercising his freedom of speech.
“I have the
freedom to take you to jail, too,” sneered Urlacher. “And that’s going to
happen… You exercise it [freedom of speech] all you want, OK? If you just
cooperate and treat the police like humans, we’ll treat you like that. But when
you act like that, like an animal, you’ve got to get treated that way, you know….
Your mouth and your attitude talked you into jail.”
Ford, it probably
doesn’t need to be said, is black. He wasn’t being arrested for acting like an “animal,”
but for daring to insist on being treated like a free man. Urlacher’s express
intention in carrying out that unnecessary and unjustified arrest was to teach
that uppity Mundane a lesson in submission.
As is usually the
case in such matters, the City government settled the case, paying Ford $65,000
in lieu of going to court. Yakima PD Chief Dominic Rizzi reacted dismissively,
insisting that “We did not lose that lawsuit” and instructing his subordinates
to ignore the ruling – which is to say, apply what the court described as a “police
state” sanction by using retaliatory arrest as a means of punishing Mundanes
who criticize them.
“Even though Lt.
Wentz was the same guy who authorized the illegal arrest of my former boxing
coach, I took my complaint to him after my run-in with Yates,” Basford told me.
“I was hoping that he would be disciplined and brought to heel. Instead, I was
hit with a criminal charge that I can't fight in court.”
injuries have left him unable to work, and his ongoing legal struggles have
left him in career stasis. Even worse, he is being maneuvered into a plea
agreement that would make him unemployable in any field for which he is
every attorney in the area, and was told that it would cost at least $30,000 to
retain legal counsel,” Basford relates. “I can't afford to hire competent legal
help, so I wound up with a public defender who is six months out of law
During the August
18 hearing, Basford's attorney (actually, the paralegal who acted on behalf of
his public defender, who didn't attend) was
offered a “12 month Stipulated Order of Continuance” – a form of probation
during which he would be subject to a “stipulated trial” if he were arrested
and charged with any criminal infraction. A “stipulated trial” is a procedure
in which “the judge reads the police reports and makes a determination,”
Basford was told. “A stipulated trial would most likely result in a
The source of Basford’s
trouble is the fact that he didn't define his professional identity in tribal
“My oath was to
the public, not to protect abusive fellow officers,” he declares. “I swore an
oath to the U.S. Constitution as an Air Force officer, and I took that
seriously. I'm not a religious man, but I also believe that there will be a
final judgment of some kind, and that I will be accountable for every punch,
every kick, every baton strike, and of course every round I fire. I don't think
that attitude was commonplace among my colleagues.”
background, counterintuitively, reinforced his restraint in using force for
purposes he considered defensive.
“In the military,
at least when and where I served, we were forbidden to inflict punishment on
civilians and were required to use force only in response to an attack,” he
recalled. “I found that the rules of engagement for the police were much less
restrictive. If I had engaged in the kind of behavior I witnessed on the part
of the police while I was in the military I'd be residing in Leavenworth right
Owing to the
perverse incentives that prevail in government law enforcement, it would have
been to Basford’s advantage to kill Antonio Cardenas, rather than using less-than-lethal
means – at considerable personal risk, and substantial personal cost – to
arrest him. If Basford had used lethal force during that confrontation, it’s
likely that the department would have rallied to his defense – not out of
admiration for him, but rather in search of limiting their institutional
purged from the ranks because he saw his role as that of a peace officer sworn
to protect persons and property, rather than a member of a privileged
enforcement caste. While he fights to keep himself out of jail, nation-wide fundraising
efforts are underway on behalf of Daniel
Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner with an illegal
chokehold, and Darren Wilson, who shot and killed the unarmed teenager Michael
Brown under what can charitably be described as highly dubious circumstances.
Cops who kill, it
appears, are considered worthier of support than peace officers who cross the Blue Line.
An important postscript
An anonymous commenter below complains that the foregoing account of Adam Basford's experiences with the Yakima Police Department is one-sided. While not stipulating to that characterization, I will point out that today, more than a year after the encounter with Antonio Cardenas, that incident is subject to an "ongoing investigation," which means that the YPD is refusing to release the documents concerning Officer Basford's conduct in the matter. An official review of the shooting has reportedly been finished, and although both Basford and his physician have been promised a copy of that document, it has not been provided to either of them.
Contemporaneous press accounts to which I've provided links confirm that Basford arrested Cardenas, that he was wounded by gunfire, and that his own weapon was not used. I have seen numerous photographs -- some of them unsettling -- of the injury he sustained. It was not trivial.
The commenter made a veiled reference to Basford's "background." Without delving into the details, I will disclose that Basford described to me a difficult upbringing in a troubled home with a father who was intractably mired in a criminal subculture. Earlier this year his father committed suicide in suspicious circumstances. There may be a connection between Cardenas's associates and the death of Basford's father, but Adam was in no way implicated in that matter, beyond being an understandably horrified observer. I didn't deal with that aspect of the story because the article had become prohibitively lengthy and complicated -- and because I haven't been able to answer certain key questions to my satisfaction.
It's not necessary to regard Mr. Basford as a paragon of virtue (he certainly doesn't) in order to appreciate his sincere and commendable effort to be a conscientious peace officer within a thoroughly (which is to say, typically) corrupt department.
P.P.S. -- I've added a link above to a news story from August 2013 offering confirmation of Adam Basford's claim that police are concerned about crude, small-yield improvised explosives "with the potential to kill somebody" that have been found in some parts of Yakima.
Yakima PD and State-Aligned "News" Outlet Double-Team Adam Basford
When confronted with an allegation of official misconduct or corruption, a journalist will investigate the complaint. In the same situation, a state-licensed apologist will investigate the complainant, in order to vindicate power in the eyes of the public.
Thus it is probably significant that when Yakima NBC affiliate KNDO decided to follow up on my story about former Yakima PD Officer Adam Basford, the headline it chose was: “I-Team Investigates Blog Claiming Yakima Police Abandoned Officer in Struggle.”
The video provided to KNDO – which wasn’t available to me at the time I wrote the original story – validates most of Basford’s account: It shows police responding after the altercation; documents that Basford was wounded (although at the time his wound – which proved to be very serious – was dismissed as “superficial”) – and that Basford was concerned about the suspect going for a gun; and it captures the image of Basford striding toward the suspect with a drawn gun at his side.
KNDO depicts Basford as a dangerous and undisciplined officer who was seeking to “execute” a suspect he had just risked his life to arrest without using lethal force. It also dismisses his claim that other officers had declined to intervene on his behalf by noting that “in all official accounts of the incident, there was no mention of officers witnessing the struggle and not helping.”
“That didn’t happen,” Chief Rizzi told KNDO correspondent Chris Luther. “I trust the integrity of all of these officers that they’re going to do the right thing….”
Rizzi’s assessment of an officer’s “integrity” is based on a sliding scale. As noted above,Yakima PD has been deluged with lawsuits in recent years, many of them filed by disillusioned officers complaining about institutional corruption
. Chief Rizzi is still dealing with the degenerate corporate culture he inherited from former Chief Sam Granato, and his administration isn’t a substantive improvement over that of his widely despised predecessor.
Rizzi blithely ratified an internal review that permitted Officer Casey Gillette to escape punishment after he beat an unarmed man and unlawfully arrested him for “disorderly conduct," which is not an offense under Yakima municipal statutes. As a Supervisory Review of that case demonstrated, the false charge was “chosen to justify Gillette’s [unlawful] use of force and possibly to protect the city” from a lawsuit.
A few months later, an innocent man who was sleeping in his car. That shooting was ruled “justified” because of the “perceived threat” reported by Gillette after killing the victim.
It is a bit precious of Rizzi to feign outrage over Basford’s behavior after getting shot while countenancing the execution-style shooting of a sleeping man.
It would have been appropriate for Mr. Luther or other reporters from KNDO to ask Chief Rizzi about these matters. If those questions were asked, Chief Rizzi’s answers were not made available to the public. But remember: The purpose of the KNDO report was to investigate the complainant
, not the complaint.
Adam Basford, who arrived at an “amicable separation” from the Yakima PD following his injury, told me that he was often left without backup because of complaints he had made regarding misconduct by fellow officers. After leaving the force, he filed a complaint against Officer Ryan Yates arising from what he described as a confrontation in the parking lot of a sporting goods store.
KNDO was provided with what it described as “inconclusive” security camera footage of the confrontation. Luther’s story also noted that Basford’s complaint was dismissed, and he was charged with “filing a false report.” An actual journalist might have asked Chief Rizzi to explain whether it is standard procedure for a citizen to be charged with a crime when his department doesn’t sustain a misconduct complaint. He might also point out that the Yakima PD and the DA apparently consider it to be a more serious "crime" for a citizen to file an unsustained complaint about police misconduct, than for a convicted felon to shoot a police officer who had complained about misconduct by his colleagues, given that Basford actually faced more time behind bars than the man who shot him. A journalist might ask Rizzi for comment about that matter.
Luther had the opportunity to ask those questions. His apparent refusal to do so tells us which of the two roles described in the first paragraph above he has chosen to play.Luther contacted me late in the evening on October 21
– less than 24 hours before KNDO’s story was broadcast. I replied by sending him several hundred pages of documents I had obtained through public records request and other means.
“I really appreciate you getting back to me so quickly,” Luther replied. “I will review all the documents tomorrow.”
No, he didn’t. Absent the gifts for speed-reading and comprehension enjoyed by the psionically enhanced Gary Mitchell
, it would have been humanly impossible to review all of the documents I provided to Mr. Luther.
It’s reasonable to surmise that by the time Luther contacted me, the copy had been written, the footage had been interviewed, and all that was left were a few inserts and the obligatory stand-up in front of the Yakima PD Office.
“There will not be any on-camera [interview] where I'm speaking with any news affiliate, outlet, or agency,” Basford told Luther in an email exchange that occurred less than five hours before KNDO broadcast its story
. “I've been advised by both my attorneys that I cannot do official interviews at this time. Besides, my whole story is actually in my police report.”
Mr. Basford’s refusal to speak with Luther was the product of a gag order imposed on him through a "Stipulated Order of Continuance"
arising from the vindictive and unjustified charge of filing a false report. As explained to him by his attorney, this is a type of probation during which time he would face a “stipulated trial” if he were arrested and charged with any criminal infraction. This is a procedure in which “the judge reads the police reports and makes a determination. A stipulated trial would most likely result in a conviction.”
What this means, obviously, is that the Yakima PD can tell whatever story it wants about Adam Basford, and Mr. Basford faces the prospect of imprisonment if he speaks in his own defense. A journalist would be expected to ask questions about that arrangement or, at the very least, explain it to the public. It’s a pity that KNDO doesn’t have anybody meeting that description on its payroll.