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Officer fired and woman’s name cleared of alleged ‘profiteering’ after tornado

Posted: August 26, 2014 - 5:07pm

A Mayflower police officer has been fired after what the district attorney describes as “intentionally withholding exculpatory evidence” in the investigation of a woman accused of profiteering in the aftermath of the April 27 tornado.

20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland will not be pursuing charges against Melissa Brown partially in light of former officer Mark Winchester’s alleged withholding of evidence — or rather withholding that there was a lack of evidence that Brown had taken items meant for tornado relief for her personal gain. 

Hiland said that Winchester’s findings included evidence he said showed that Brown, who lives in Cabot, was keeping disaster relief supplies that were supposed to be distributed to tornado victims. What Winchester didn’t turn over was evidence that tended to show that there were no relief supplies in Brown’s home.

In addition to the officer’s misconduct, Hiland said, the case against Brown was “incredibly weak” and that probably no charges would have been filed at any rate.

Winchester also failed to disclose a conflict of interest: Winchester’s son had been in a relationship with Brown that had ended before the investigation and her arrest.

“Melissa Brown not only didn’t commit a crime, Melissa brown responded to a need in the community following a tragedy and served in a way that all of us would hope to,” Hiland said, speaking to clear Brown’s name. Though no charges were filed, Brown was arrested on suspicion of a felony and her mugshot and allegations mostly supported by Winchester’s statements were widely spread because of the state and national media attention on the disaster and massive relief effort.

The official investigation into Brown started when Winchester stopped a man driving a truck she owned that was loaded with disaster relief supplies. The man had a suspended license, and the truck was impounded and searched. Brown had also allegedly given a false name when she signed up to collect goods from the Mayflower supply depot.

But she and some associates also had a tent set up behind Lumber 1 in Mayflower, and Brown said in a police interview that a fundraiser planned there had been rained out the previous weekend. At that point in the interview Brown asked for a lawyer and the interview was stopped.

Brown hired Little Rock attorney Bill James, who told state media outlets that Brown had given her own time and money to help tornado victims.

Hiland said that two unrelated cases investigated by Winchester will probably also have to be dropped.

Mayflower Police Chief Robert Alcon said that his department has made progress in building its credibility, and that Winchester knew better than to withhold evidence.

“Holding back evidence to make you case like that ‑ we just can’t have that especially in light of the tornado,” he said.

Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland said he hoped that by firing Winchester he hoped he had done what he could to correct the situation.

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Igor Rabinowitz
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Igor Rabinowitz 08/27/14 - 08:49 am
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Whoa

And yet it's hard to get hired as a cop. Just wow

crypted quill
11090
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crypted quill 08/27/14 - 09:02 am
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A BAD MONTH FOR COPPERS...

“Holding back evidence to make you case like that ‑ we just can’t have that especially in light of the tornado,”

Holding back evidence in light of shooting unarmed teenagers...okay!

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/aclu-michael-brown-incident-report-lacks-key-...

justoffcenter
863
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justoffcenter 08/27/14 - 09:14 am
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Don't be that way

The article is several days old and contains this qualifier:

"The prosecutors office says no report, narrative, or details from the investigation will be released to the public while there is a grand jury empaneled to review the incident."

What about the white unarmed kid shot by the black cop mentioned on Yahoo yesterday? No outcry because the roles were reversed, according to AP. You can read the story yourself.

Why isn't the media covering the killing of an unarmed white youth by a black police officer? : http://theweek.com/speedreads/index/267088/speedreads-why-isnt-the-media...

crypted quill
11090
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crypted quill 08/27/14 - 10:20 am
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Ah, yes

Ah, yes a what'bouter!

Everyone is responsible and no one is to blame...'Eh?

justoffcenter
863
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justoffcenter 08/27/14 - 11:28 am
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You are so smart

"Everyone is responsible and no one is to blame" where did that come from?

Just a rebuttal to your post. I thought the BLT...Q culture wanted everyone to be responsible on a case-by-case basis and not place blame, maybe not.

Avoid and belittle a very nice quality to confuse the issue at hand.

conwaygerl
6192
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conwaygerl 08/27/14 - 11:23 am
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agreed

"It seems the police have no almost no accountability, and that gives them absolute power to do whatever they want."

Speaking of absolute power, have you met our nation's president?

ARVoiceofLogic
5481
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ARVoiceofLogic 08/29/14 - 10:39 am
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"Speaking of absolute power"

You either don't know the definition of absolute or don't understand how government works.

Citizen of Conway
201
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Citizen of Conway 08/27/14 - 11:28 am
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Lack of detail in Incident Report

Go to any local Police Department and look at initial incident reports of a major event. The bare bones are put in the initial because it is subject to immediate release. All the nitty gritty is put into supplement reports that are not subject to FOI as long as the case is under investigation which protects the integrity of the investigation. In an officer involved event that results in a shooting, officers are normally told in training to wait 48 hours to give an official, detailed statement because the actual chain of events becomes clearer after the initial shock has calmed down. If you file a quick report and then add things later it looks like you are changing your story. In addition, it has been reported that the Officer had been beaten by this "teenager". Possibly a fractured eye socket. This teenager was a grown man. Don't be too quick to take sides or judge until all the facts are out.

jsegraves99
135
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jsegraves99 08/27/14 - 12:47 pm
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conwaygerl
6192
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conwaygerl 08/28/14 - 09:20 am
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I have a serious question

We saw the innocent woman's face all over social media.

I have yet to see the guilty officer's face published anywhere.

Why is there a double-standard?

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