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Battered 4-Year Old Boy... the Ultimate Case of Police Brutality?Political Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
...you shouldn't have to pay for your love with your bones and your flesh - Pat Benatar, "Hell is for children"
(SALEM) - "They don't want the image of a little boy to be shown because he is so brutalized, they don't want the American public to know what he looks like." Those words from a family friend of a four-year old boy who was beaten to within an inch of his life by an Oregon police officer.
McMinnville Police say investigators believe that the injuries to the 4 year old were a result of physical abuse caused by a police officer named Michael Abo. The rural Oregon law enforcement officer is suspected of violent physical abuse that took place over a series of weeks. Michael Shane Abo is a former Yamhill County deputy who later worked as an unpaid reserve officer in Yamhill, Oregon.
The story begins on December 31st when an ambulance transported the boy to an emergency room. It is unclear why police did not immediately arrest either Abo or the boy's mother, due to the extreme nature of the boy's injuries.
McMinnville Police Chief Ron Noble told Salem-News Friday, that the investigators in this case were doing everything in their power to move the case forward.
The family of the boy told Salem-News that the boy's father is in the U.S. military.
At this point, state officials have taken legal custody of the injured boy.
It is difficult to assume that the physical abuse, which I am told took place over an extended period of time, would have missed the attention of the boy's mother.
Abo faces two counts of first-degree Assault which is a Measure 11 Crime, and two counts of Criminal Mistreatment. It is not clear at this point why a charge of Attempted Murder was not included. Perhaps it is because the boy's beating injuries are so severe that his life hangs in the balance.
It began on January 1, 2014, when Yamhill County Sheriff's deputies responded to a medical call at the Abo residence in Sheridan regarding injuries to a 4 year old boy. They did NOT arrest their fellow police officer at the time or the boy's mother, who apparently contends that the boy fell down the stairs, in spite of the critical injuries the boy had suffered.
So begins the problem with this story, which is about a small boy who suffered from a huge problem in a dark uniform.
His injuries could not have resulted from a single fall.
The child suffered head injuries that have required major surgery. He is covered with bruises and what appear to be rug burns. He reportedly has ruptured bowels. The boy's head injuries will likely prevent him from being able to walk or talk, and he may have lost his vision.
But the Yamhill police officer was allowed to walk initially, despite the serious nature of the boy's injuries.
When I caught wind of this story I began making calls, ultimately connecting with Ron Noble, the police chief of McMinnville, Oregon. We had a lengthy conversation and Noble asked me in a courteous way to hold onto the story and not release it until the next day so as to not compromise their investigation.
I called back the next day as suggested, for an update on the case. I reached a McMinnville Police captain named Matthew Scales who told me in no uncertain terms that he had, "no information," that anything I received would come in the "form of a news release when the rest of the media gets it." I was puzzled and really quite shocked at the hostile tone which seemed very out of place considering the fact that I could have already published the story. I asked if his actions were due to the fact that a police officer was the suspect and if he or his agency were treating the case differently because of this.
I could have gone ahead as many reporters would have, but instead I "played ball" with McMinnville PD strictly because I was told it would help them. It was not a rewarding experience. They had failed to arrest the suspect, Abo at that point. I know they were concerned about what may transpire when they did go to arrest him, since Abo was a fully armed police officer.
I was in touch with the family over this case days ago, though they were reluctant to share information on the record because, as they explained, they "...were told by the District Attorney's office not to speak to reporters about the case."
Alicia Eagan with the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office, is the prosecutor in the case. Friday afternoon, she denied having told family members that they should not talk to Salem-News.com or other news agencies, "We didn't tell anyone that. We don't tell people they can't talk to the media."
I questioned her about this, since it is not the only case I specifically know about in rural Oregon where a family was asked not to talk to the media1.
"I have not told them that," Eagan reiterated.
I then asked if there was any information she would like me to include in my article, I asked if they are looking for more witnesses and information, since that is what normally happens in a case like this.
Eagan answered, "That would not be appropriate for me to share information".
I questioned her again, asking why she would not seek additional witnesses to such a horrible crime, and to this she replied, "I am not the investigator, the police do that."
Abo was arrested by federal marshals. Local authorities failed to arrest him at the time the boy was transported to the hospital, and in the end they had the federal government do it, which is an unusual tactic.
The family of the child is devastated. KOIN 6 covered the story today and released the seriousness of the boy's injuries2.
McMinnville's Police Chief, Ron Noble, showed a level of professionalism in handling the case that is noteworthy. He knows that reporters do not have to cooperate with police in the handling of a story like this.
Abo's former employer, Yamhill County Sheriff Jack Crabtree, failed to return our calls.
It is one of those stories where one of the biggest questions revolve the alleged perpetrator's status as a law enforcement officer. I understand that these alleged actions potentially lower the public's opinion of police, but that isn't our fault, that is just the way it is.
The grandmother of the little boy said, "The things that man did to my grandson, it is unthinkable." She can't stand the fact that her four-year old grandson was beaten within an inch of his life, and his mother failed to protect him.
Today KOIN 6 reported on their Website:
Abo's bail was set at one million dollars. KOIN noted that Abo seemed distraught, they also talked to a woman who knows Abo, who said, "Anybody is capable of doing anything. But the Mike that I know, no. I wouldn't think that he was capable of doing that."
Controversy Over Boy's Photo
Somehow today, the focus on the story became fixated around the use of the boy's photo on Salem-News.com. An attorney who says she represents the boy, contacted Salem-News.com late last night with the following demand.
At Salem-News.com, we despise bullies. The attorney who sent the above letter, managed to convince a talk show host with an obscure Salem radio station to lambaste our news agency over the use of the photo.
The radio announcer "Bill" said we violated the boy's privacy, yet we published the photo at the request of the family... not the mother who allegedly failed to protect the small boy from violence, but from the boy's grandparents.
Our decision to publish the Facebook photo of the four-year old boy allowed people to see what may turn out to be, the ultimate portrait of police brutality.
As a friend of the family of the boy stated, "It makes everyone look bad, the mother should not have posted the picture and should not have tried to elicit sympathy." But she did post it on her public Facebook page and the photo was circulating already without any assistance from us.
An attorney named "Sarah" even called into the radio show to state that we were wrong for using a simple photograph. I think our position is well captured in this statement from our News Photojournalist in Salem, Jerry Freeman:
I could not say it better than that.
Abo's next court appearance is set for Wednesday.
06 January 2013
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