Cops Descend on Apartment Complex as Trial Continues in Case of Cop Killer. But Why?

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Not sure what's going on in the trial of Charles Payne, 29, accused of murdering of Dallas Police Senior Corporal Norm Smith during a botched attempt to serve a warrant at Payne's east Oak Cliff in January 2009, but it looks like somebody on the prosecution side is worried.

Alex Stolarski, owner of the Oakwood Apartments where the shooting took place, told me Dallas police officers showed up en masse at his apartment complex last Wednesday and interrogated everybody in sight.

"The manager went out to ask what was going on and what were they doing, and she was told not to interfere and was threatened with arrest for obstructing police business," Stolarski told me in an email.

Stolarski is the man The Dallas Morning News slimed in an editorial, blaming him for Smith's death. They said he caused the killing by running a bad apartment complex.

I wrote about him. Stolarski is actually a respected and committed citizen and businessman who runs one of the city's better low-end apartment complexes and has always tried to cooperate with police.

The police department piece of this is sticky and very complicated. Smith was extremely popular. He was married to a fellow officer who worked in the chief's office and who has been high-profile about seeking a conviction for the man who shot her husband.

But there were issues with that raid. The smaller piece of it is that Smith seems to have contravened standard procedures designed to protect officers' lives. The bigger problem - and the issue at the center of Payne's trial -- is whether the police gave Payne any way of knowing they were cops.

Payne doesn't deny shooting. He says he assumed he was being home-invaded and shot to protect his life.

normansmith.jpg
Senior Corporal Norman Smith
The prosecution rested yesterday. The judge, meanwhile, has heard testimony not yet provided to jurors from an apartment resident who said the police did not make it clear that they were cops.

After that testimony, the police contingent apparently showed up at Oakwood looking for new witnesses at the last minute.

A spokesman for the Dallas Police Department told me police records showed only one officer at Oakwood that day on a routine patrol. The office of District Attorney Craig Watkins did not respond to my request for comment. An attorney for Payne told me he didn't know anything about it.

Stolarski painted it as quite a scene: "We had a group of police cruisers, crime scene vehicles and police camera crews descend on Oakwood. They fanned out and and started interrogating residents all over the place."

Stolarski said in a subsequent email: "The tenants told us that they were asked if they lived there at the date of the shooting, and if so, if they saw what happened or if they knew anything about it or about Mr. Payne."

Oakwood is a actually a well-run place where Stolarski, an honest businessman, tries to provide private sector housing to poor and working-class citizens. Both The News and City Hall have an unfortunate history of painting poor people and anybody who does business with them as criminals. The way to fight crime, according to this worldview, is to tear down buildings that poor people might occupy.

That doesn't make Payne innocent. In the end, that's what trials are for. But the show-up at Oakwood Apartments means somebody has hit a bump in the road.

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JimS
JimS

Stansniper168:Much as you don’t want me on your side, I have to tell you I see a lot more gray here than black and white and a whole lot more sadness than anything else. You and I both know there are rules for serving warrants. We both know these guys were probably outside those rules at least technically. But we also know the police have to use opportunities like a warrant service in order to ever have a chance of getting a step ahead of the bad guys. We also know that Norm Smith was motivated by courage and by a desire to make this a better world. But there’s another side. You can’t just start writing off civilians as collateral damage. You don’t always get a Mulligan. Self defense is self defense.We don’t know what this deal is. I’ve covered enough trials to know you absolutely cannot know what happened from media coverage. The truth can be the exact opposite of what the media portray. In the end you and I will have to trust the jurors, and that’s just what it is.My big gripe is the blaming of the landlord. It's so far off the mark. That's not a gray area. That's just wrong.

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

Jim S I think you have the wrong idea...I try not to take a "side" in an issue...but discuss the issue like intelligent, informed (as much as possible) citizens of this country!!  I will be the first to say that most social issues are not black and white...such as in this case..but the grey area in any issue should be discussed and from different points of view!  I would not want to live in a society where everyone sees a situation exactly the same!!!!  WE as the "People" have to decide how these grey areas will be defined and how they will impact our lives.  I am very glad to hear your point of view.....you obviously care about this community and how this sad situations (for everyone) is effecting the citzens of Dallas.

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

On that very well argued point Jim S I agree!!!! Trying to blame the landlord for what happened on is property is like trying to blame the gun for what a person does with it....We also agree on the media!!!  How they love to twist and incite!!!!  I have faith in the jury in this trial....I have to have...it's the only system we have....it's not perfect by any means....but just like the cop who works the streets day in and day out that does the right thing and does his/her best  to serve with integrity and honesty....we must have faith in the whole system...faith that people will take in all the facts in this case and make a decision that represents "justice" in this case.

JimS
JimS

I think the most important line in today's story in the Morning News was the following, about Jimmy Scarbough, one of the people who were inside the apartment when Payne shot through the closed door:.........From the News:I heard a lot of noise,” testified Scarbough, who is on disability after he says he was shot 21 times in 1994. “Like somebody was trying to break in … trying to kick in the door.”...........At some point we have to think about the reality these folks are living in. The guy was shot 21 times? They're living in the Wild West. We should be able to understand that people who have been through that kind of experience or even near it are not eager to let anybody get the drop on them again.

JimS
JimS

I received the following from Alex Stolarski:

Other that two incidents that I will describe after this paragraph the property has been VERY VERY quiet since the shooting of Senior Corporal Norm Smith. I am in daily contact with the manager and to the best of my knowledge, if there were any violence related incidents I would be informed.Additionally we have  a daily courtesy patrol service and we get reports from them every day. We evict the residents of the apartment that the service reports activity that could lead to violence/drug related issues. We try to cut it at the bud.Two new incidents:1.On Saturday May 21st we had a shooting, and the victim was taken to the hospital. From our investigations, with relative certainty, we identified the apartment from which the violence originated.   The individual was a new lease, and there was no violence in that area before he moved in. We worked very closely with the Police  (Sgt. Nelson) to see if we could gather sufficient evidence to evict the person. But we were not able to do so.   We asked our courtesy patrol people to keep an eye on the unit to see if we could get the info to required and necessary to evict.  Please note that as with every lease we ran a  background check on this resident, and his was 100% clean. In fact, he is ex military and currently a security guard. 2. Yesterday there was a second shooting originating in that same apartment. The Police arrested 2 individuals that were some how involved.  Subsequently they arrested the person who leased that unit. Sgt. Nelson, who took a copy of the background     check. He offered to help us try to find out what problems, if any, we have with our background check system and/or background check company . 

We do not lease to people have violence and/or drug related background  (I can furnish you a copy of the selection criteria that use and that we furnish to all potential lessees before they even fill out an application).  We also have  a "0" tolerance policy on any activity that can lead to violence and drugs.  We evict anyone that we know is involved  PROVIDED we can make a case with the Judge. Currently we have 3 units under eviction for this. They somehow made it in, but they can't stay. 

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

"Other that two incidents that I will describe after this paragraph the property has been VERY VERY quiet since the shooting of Senior Corporal Norm Smith.".......You think? Actually is should say "KILLING" instead of "shooting"!!!!!!

Snookie Pie
Snookie Pie

While I understand the loyalty of the DPD officers, I am seriously concerned about the abuse of power and complete disregard for the rights of the residents of this apartment complex.  The residents did not commit the crime.  And, the apartment management did not either. 

The police claim they want apartment management to be pro-active in curbing illegal activity.  They want them to be more hands-on.  However, when this management questioned the activities of the large police presence in the complex, the Police were rude, dismissive, over-exerted their authority even to the point of threatening arrest of the female management personnel, simply for doing her job.

Try to imagine how a manager of a high-dollar apartment complex in the Arts District, or Uptown, or Preston Hollow, would have acted.  They, too, would have investigated the large police presence, but they would not have been treated the way this manager was.

Chevytexas
Chevytexas

We get it: this guy's your friend. You want to write sympathetically about him, he's a good guy, he just owns property with low-income demographics, which happen to include armed drug lords. Well, Norm was my friend; I couldn't give a shit less about your friend except possibly the dump I don't' give about your opinion of him (all of you mitteleuropeans enjoy each other, don't you?). Norm's was a delta-force unit; they don't pick up strays or car thieves. This guy knew who was coming, and apparently when.

 You and I live in East Dallas; you can tell me the same drug properties I can name. Don't you think your friend's apartments were ALREADY police targets? Frankly, what that joint needs is regular --not irregular-- police sweeps. Honest tenants shouldn't worry, if there are any. Sorry that takes away from your diatribe about the News and City Hall's poor opinion of your wonderful friend, the altruistic Pole.

JimS
JimS

ChevyTex: The "mitteleuropean" thing is the important window on your soul, my friend. Guess you have a list of kinds of people who don't need to be warned.

james
james

i believe if the police entered unannounced, they made the guy fear for his life. we have a castle law in texas. it's not as if he went out looking for a cop to kill. i've had cops climb over a locked gate to knock on my door with a warrant....for a complete stranger who gave them a fake address. i was very alarmed at the knock,  and very nearly answered the door with gun in hand.. after all, what honest person would climb over a locked gate?

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

One with a warrant signed by a judge!....has anybody ever heard of target identification before lethal force is used....oh I know!....next time I hear a knock on the door I'll just fire rounds through the door!  To bad for the police..or FedEx guy/girl...or the poor guy broke down on the side of the road trying to get help!

scottindallas
scottindallas

Fed Ex don't knock with a battering ram.

Guest
Guest

Well, we do have a tragic example from a few years ago in which well-respected and loved local musician Carter Albrecht was shot through a door and killed. The shooter, who was in his own home, was not charged with any crime.

DPD Homicide Detective Sgt. Larry Lewis was quoted in Unfair Park at the time saying, "They knew there was someone prowling in the back door, and they saw him standing there. And they didn't know who he was. And these weren't taps on the door. Are you gonna peek through the blinds when someone's banging down your door? And I know people are asking, 'If they knew him, why did they have to shoot him?' But, again, you have someone forcibly trying to bring the door down at 4 in the morning ... and at this point, I don't know how well they knew him."

Sgt. Lewis also quoted from the state law on self defense in other interviews, mentioning that it's legal for a person to use deadly force if they believe their life or property is in danger from criminal mischief during the nighttime.

Obviously, the instances aren't exactly the same (I don't know how forcefully the police were trying to enter, etc.), and I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for the guy on trial today. But, we can't say that shooting through a door at someone trying to get into your home is illegal because we have an example here in Dallas of that very thing.

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

I dont remember any facts or testimony in this case that the door was breached with a battering ram....Come on scottindallas.....let's discuss this logicaly with the facts in mind.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Sounds like the DAs office called in a favor to his "brother" the police chief to put the "smackdown" on the tenets of the property as a scare tactic to keep them from talking. It's an old game plan from the LA and NYPD playbooks that they used from the 50s to the mid 90s, shut down any resistance to them in the community and shut anyone up who knows the real story. It sounds like the DPD may have screwed up in this situation and the DAs office know they did.

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

More likely the DA finally looked at the witness list from the defense and saw names it did not recognize.  So they call the DPD to 'shake the bushes' at the apartment complex in hopes of stumbling upon the folks on the list.  Could be considered witness intimidation by some but the courts allow it on a regular basis. 

I can picture the DA, his staff, and hired relations looking at the list and asking "Who are these Archie and Andrew guys??"

Erich S
Erich S

It doesn't matter if Payne is innocent or not. He's going down. Cops always win especially in a jury trial. You can be videotaped punching a woman bartender in the face but if you're a cop you walk. You can admit to sleeping with an unconscious drunken woman while responding on a call and if you're a cop, you walk. I served on a Grand Jury in Manhattan several years ago and the ONLY case that wasn't brought to trial involved...you guessed it...an off-duty cop arrested for beating up a bar patron. The general public has a hard-on for cops!

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

Your a dumb ass!  I'll tell you what Eric S....why don't you put on a uniform and weapon and get out there and serve your public?  Seems like you have all the answers

scottindallas
scottindallas

Actually, statistically speaking police work isn't all that dangerous, and the greatest danger is driving.  Mechanics, farm hands, and most blue collar workers are in fact in higher hazard jobs than cops.  I sure don't see you raining any love on them.

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

I do feel for your situation...having your property damaged for trying to do the right thing would be very disturbing and discouraging!! Don't get me wrong!!  I'm not lecturing...I'm encouraging!!!  Most people...will complain without offering solutions or giving any personal effort into a solution...So "Correct" if you feel like you've done your share..who am I to lecture or judge you! I offer this to you....large burdens can be borne when there are many backs to bear it!!!  You may be worn down and tired in this fight...but I am sure there are more people like you that want a change is this issue..maybe find like minded people that will help you.  I just refuse to believe that even the most "evil" of regimes cannot be brought to accountability by those seeking better! We do have one weapon...a vote!  I have to believe that it still counts for something!

Correct
Correct

stansniper168:  i give about a million hours a day to trying to improve my City.  I don't believe there is anyone else in this City who gives as much as I do.  I worked for 10+ years, every few days trying to improve the DPD situation in lower my area.  DPD never fixed a thing.  It's very very time consuming to  take this on.  And, when you finally hit a nerve, you wake up one morning and find all your car windows bashed out, while your car was parked in the driveway.  What do I do?  Make a police report? Say, I suspect police did this?  They do something called "closing ranks".  Which you may know means the cops cover up for cops. 

This all occured prior to, and during the time that Kunkle was Chief.

Stop assuming I'm wrong.  And, do not lecture me to get off my ass and do something.  I've given my time.  I've spoken to City Councilmember for more than 14yrs.  I've gone to City Hall and spoken there. 

Finally, I just give up.  But that does not mean what I know is not true.  It's just I'm tired of paying the price when I haven't done anything wrong.  The police cover up and lie whenever they want to.  Until they get caught.  And, nothing I do or say will change the situation.

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

Sounds like the citizens of Dallas need to do a little house cleaning then!!!  If that's how the majority of citizens feel about "THEIR" PD...then they should DEMAND and GET change!!!  How may you ask do you do that?  The Mayor and City Council should be made aware of your complaints and the Chief of Police put to doing what needs to be done to re-establish trust between the citizens of Dallas (or any city for that matter) and the PD.  My question to you "Correct" is.....what have YOU done to make you community  better or have you been sitting idly by....watching...but not taking action?  These elected officials work for US!!! If your not happy with the way things are going....do something about it!

Correct
Correct

You are making a lot of generalized assumptions.  For one, you generalize and assume that officers are always trying to protect our communities.  I served as a crimewatch chair in the area near Lower Greenville for years.  Several times a month I and other residents had complaints about responding officers who were definitely not interested in protecting our communities.  They favoritized bar patrons at their "favorite" bars.   They insulted the intelligence of, and in many cases were rude and threatening to, our mature, law-abiding homeowners.  These homeowners would stop calling 911 for a variety of different issues such as unbelievably LOUD, BLARING noise (party, clubs), or cars parked completely blocking their driveways, or drunk bar patrons commiting crimes on their properties, etc.

On way too many occasions, responding officers mocked or ridiculed the 50+ age resident who had called 911.  I even watched while a Police officer told a homeowner that he could do nothing about a vehicle parked on the street that was entirely completely blocking the homeowner's driveway.  The officer said he was required by law, to go knock on nearby doors to see if anyone might know the owner of the vehicle.  After knocking on 10 doors the officer located someone who identified the car owner as a friend from Arlington who was down on lower greenville drinking.  The officer waited 30 minutes for that owner to finish drinking/eating, pay his check and walk 3 blocks back and finally move his illegally-parked car.  No sobreity test was administered to the drunk.  But the very loud message was sent by police to the law-abiding homeowner that they were not to bother police again.

I have no faith or belief that DPD officers work because they desire to serve and protect.  I believe most of them are DPD officers because 1) the paycheck and benefits, and 2) the macho power trip.

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

Respectfully, here are some stats for 2011  Line of Duty Deaths 78 up 17%....Gunfire Deaths.....32...up 19%...the only good news..auto related deaths..26...down 13%.  Not sure what the stats would be for mechanics,farm hands and other "blue collar" workers, but we're halfway through 2011 and normally the last half of the year is alot more violent than the first half. I guess my point is this......we are all quick to jump on law enforcement because it's easy!!! Why not support they're efforts instead...they are trying to protect our communities...JUST LIKE THE OFFICER THAT WAS KILLED!

Gooderbad
Gooderbad

3 years later they descend on the apt complex? Who was chief in 2009? David Kunkle. Who is in a run off for Mayor that begins in a couple days? David Kunkle. Seems like a bad coincidence right now.

Guest
Guest

I can't decide if the police department being able to send over a bunch of police officers to investigate a 18 month old crime while the trial is ongoing means that there's so little crime that we have too many police officers (because if they can spare so many cops to this sort of thing, there must not be other things those officers should be doing) or that we have too few police officers (because we can't get around to actually interviewing witnesses until a year and a half after the crime).

Guest
Guest

Man, I gotta get a calendar as I obviously still think it's 2010 (since I was thinking January of 2009 was only 18 months ago).

StatsSay
StatsSay

let's keep it real. Crime reports show a lot of crime and bunch of assaults, etc. 50+ last year, 30+ crimes the first 5 months.  Bad an going up...so save the good owner talk. the address is 4950 Wadsworth for anybody who cares to look up and see on their own.

JimS
JimS

It's fundamentally scummy to suggets that Stolarski is a bad guy because poeple make calls from his complex and in fact it illustrates just what I'm talking about . Most of those calls are calls that his management has made or his good tenants have made asking for help from the police. This kind of thinking always works the same way: if you call 911 and give us a bunch of work to do, we will jump on you for having too much crime. We will send the Safe Team over to harrass and run off all your good tenants. And then we will tell you the only way you cna get us off your back is to hire us off-duty at $75 an hour. It's a shakedown. 

StatsSay
StatsSay

you clicked on the violent police records that fast? so all those assault and aggravated assault calls are from "his management?" read the records and see if they're from his management.

he can hire his own security, who cares. there are other complexes with hardly any crime. his has a lot of crime.   he can be a good or bad guy, his apts are crime-ridden and whatever he's doing ain't working

StatsSay
StatsSay

rather 12 in 2011 21 in 2010

StatsSay
StatsSay

3460 loop 12 (across the street) 12 crimes 2011  in  21 2010

JimS
JimS

You checked his complex against surrounding comparable complexes that fast? Last time I looked, his was way better. 

Phelps
Phelps

Reading further on it, it looks like Smith was shot through the door.  In that case, it comes down to whether or not they were trying to break it down.  I'm sorry, but there is no reason to break the door down for an aggravated assault warrant.  There's no evidence to be destroyed, you are just there for him.  If he refuses to come out, you just wait on him.

If they weren't trying to break the door down, then Payne is guilty as charged.  It's as simple as that.

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

 If it is a felony warrant they (law enforcement) can enter a residence by force i.e forcible entry of a door or window.  You DO NOT need a search warrant along with an arrest warrant for felonies.  "No knock" warrants may let you execute the search warrant without first "knocking" or notifying the residence of your presence....but as soon as the door is breached, law enforcement IMMEDIATELY identify themselves as law enforcement for their protection, and protection of the subject of the arrest/search warrant.  I find it extremely unlikey that veteran officers on this type of task force would stand outside a door/or breach a door and not say a word!  If this offender didn't know that if was police, then why did he try and hide the weapon!

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

Police testimony said they knocked and when ask who it was from inside,one officer gave a name Payne did not recognize the name.

JimS
JimS

Expert witnesses work for prosecution or defense. Witnesses are just witnesses.You'd shoot through a closed door if you caught a glipse of guns when the door was open and assumed you being home-invaded. Right? Wouldn't you?

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

Not sure how the law reads on this but....How do you rob someone through a closed door?  I'm gonna go out on a limb here and post the question.....were the two men that testified Fri witnesses for the defense?

JimS
JimS

Jennifer Emily's story says:Two men testified Friday that they believed they were victims of a robbery and had no idea police were at the door when a Dallas officer was shot and killed.

JimS
JimS

Fair questions.

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

Did he (Scarbough) ever testify that he did or did not ever hear the words or phrase "POLICE"? That is the question?  Nature or Nurture.....the controversy on that theory continues.  What were the circumstances where Mr. Scarbough was shot 21 times?

JimS
JimS

I think the most important line in today's story in the Morning News was the following, about Jimmy Scarbough, one of the people who were inside the apartment when Payne shot through the closed door:.........From the News:I heard a lot of noise,” testified Scarbough, who is on disability after he says he was shot 21 times in 1994. “Like somebody was trying to break in … trying to kick in the door.”...........At some point we have to think about the reality these folks are living in. The guy was shot 21 times? They're living in the Wild West. We should be able to understand that people who have been through that kind of experience or even near it are not eager to let anybody get the drop on them again.

Stansniper168
Stansniper168

Thank you Bettyculbreath for that information....I'm glad somebody is listening to actual testimony and not speculating. I guess my statement after that would be..why would he (Payne) then open fire through a closed door? 

JimS
JimS

And, again, that's what the trial is for.

Phelps
Phelps

Assuming, of course, that the police aren't out on a witness tampering campaign.  Sending a couple of detectives over to go door to door, sure.  Showing up with a bunch of cruisers and uniforms sounds more like "sending a message" than "fact finding mission."

JimS
JimS

Good point.

Montemalone
Montemalone

If all these poor people would just pull up their bootstraps and invest in the stock market to become millionaires, they could all move to Highland Park and the city could tear down that awful apartment complex and build a bridge over it, with walking trails and maybe some food trucks. Then, the police could simply patrol on bikes and wave, so nobody gets shot.

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

When wall street goes down like it did a while back what will happen to their investment?

scottindallas
scottindallas

Come on Betty, use your noggin, You simply apply for a special gov't stipend under TARP or whatever the next program will be.

TimCov
TimCov

I feel bad for the apartment complex owner. There is only so much they can legally do to keep troublemakers out. The thing is, this sounds like (it might not have been) a "no knock" warrant. Or, it might have been treated that way. The problem with such warrants is that they endanger the lives of everyone in the hope of either preventing destruction of evidence or flight. What they do is put the lives of the officers and those who live in the residence being served in unnecessary danger.And, if the defendant is telling the truth, I really feel sorry for him. Not only does he have to deal with the all of the problems caused by this trial, he has to deal with the guilt of taking another person's life by accident.

Phelps
Phelps

The original story was that Smith was killed after knocking on the door, which would mean that it was not a no-knock warrant.  However, if people were able to hear them knocking but not saying, "police, open up" then they have a very big problem, and it's bigger than this one case.

JimS
JimS

Yeah, and not just any other person's life but the life of somebody (Sr. Cpl. Smith) who was putting himself in harm's way to do the right thing. And who knows? The guy may be guilty as sin. The person who is not guilty of anything, however, is Stolarski.

Andrew, Esq.
Andrew, Esq.

Your comment actually brings to mind a bigger point.  The question here is the burden of proof.  Can the DA make theirs or not?  The last minute antics are (as I'm sure you know) de rigueur for prosecutors when the defense case doesn't seem to be going their way (i.e., when they feel they'll need rebuttal witnesses). 

Dallas County has one - if not the - highest rates of wrongful convictions in the nation.  On the whole, Craig Watkins has been amazingly receptive to innocence cases.  Sadly, this last-minute scrounging (which sounds suspiciously like strong-arming) for someone to bolster their case looks an awful lot like his predecessors' behaviors that got Dallas into the wrongful conviction business in the first place.

JimS
JimS

By "the guy" I mean Payne.

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