Eugene Police: Wall of silence
At least a half-dozen police officers and supervisors heard complaints about Roger Magaņa - some more than five years before the patrolman was arrested for sexually assaulting women on the job - but they ignored the accusations or dismissed them as improbable.
Former policeman Roger Magaņa is led away after sentencing for sexually assaulting women on the job. New Eugene police rules require that officers report allegations they hear on the street and submit them to the internal affairs office.
The information - contained in police investigative files released to The Register-Guard after a public records request - contradicts initial statements by department officials that no one in the agency had a clue about Magaņa's abuse.
The files show that five officers, Larry Crompton, Ryan Wolgamott, Jerry Webber, Carl Stubbs and Will Reimers, and supervisor Jim Fields heard allegations against Magaņa dating back to 1998 that ranged from rape to stalking to ogling women at bars while in uniform.
Some of the officers disregarded the claims as street rumors or the grumblings of disgruntled prostitutes and junkies with a grudge against law enforcement. Magaņa convinced others that the women were lying. Still others took the information to supervisors, who discounted the allegations without investigation.
In all cases, police did little or nothing to stop Magaņa's pattern of abuse, one that ultimately may cost the city millions in civil lawsuits.
The files contain only the accounts of officers who came forward after Magaņa's arrest last year. Police acknowledge that others may have chosen to remain silent.
Magaņa, an eight-year veteran who spent most of his time on night patrol shifts, worked with several different patrol teams during his tenure, participated in a number of special assignments and trained rookie officers in police procedure.
In July, he was sentenced to 94 years in prison after a jury convicted him of abusing 15 women from 1997 to 2003. He is appealing the conviction.
Six women have filed federal lawsuits alleging that the city was negligent in hiring Magaņa and poorly supervising his activities on the job.
The investigative files show that in addition to the women included in the indictments, more than a dozen other women claim abuse or inappropriate treatment by Magaņa - including one woman who says he raped her in Portland in 1991, four years before he joined the police department. Magaņa hasn't been charged in connection with their allegations.
Police Chief Robert Lehner said he's taking steps to fix problems at the department. He's improving supervision, updating the complaint process and reviewing the city's hiring standards for police officers.
He partly blamed the failure to investigate the women's early allegations on a punitive workplace culture that made officers afraid of reporting complaints and the dismissive attitude of some supervisors. He also said department policies laid out no clear guidelines for what to do when people made allegations against police.
"I'm not going to make excuses - I don't know how we got to this point," he said. "Most of those officers - if you ask them today - they would recognize that was not the right way to handle the complaints."
Rape claim not investigated
But hindsight won't change the fact that police failed to follow up on pleas for help.
For example, officer Ryan Wolgamott disclosed during the investigation that he had arrested a woman in December 2002. She told him, "Officer Magaņa raped me." She told Wolgamott that she reported the same thing to another officer and nothing came of it.
Wolgamott told investigators that the woman, a drug addict who suffers from mental illness, didn't appear credible at the time. He said he told his field training officer about her statement, but it was never documented or investigated, according to police files. Wolgamott chose not to comment for this story.
In the end, Magaņa was convicted of official misconduct for trading leniency for sexual favors from the woman, who testified at his trial that the officer had stalked her for years, spent hours at her motel room getting to know her and coerced her to perform oral sex many times in exchange for not arresting her on warrants - sometimes while her daughter slept just feet away.
The woman provided police with DNA evidence to back up her story, and she said Magaņa visited her so often that her neighbors thought she was a "narc."
In fact, a neighbor of the woman told another officer, Will Reimers, that a policeman in uniform frequently visited the mentally ill woman.
Reimers, who has since left the department and couldn't be located for this story, told investigators that the neighbor's statement didn't seem significant at the time.
Frequent subject of rumors
Officer Larry Crompton often worked overtime assignments with Magaņa. Crompton came to investigators after Magaņa's arrest to share a number of stories that he said gained significance only when the investigation was announced. He also testified during Magaņa's June trial. He didn't respond to telephone and e-mail messages requesting comment for this story.
Crompton told investigators that Magaņa was often the subject of rumors on the street. He said Magaņa, a married father of two boys, had a reputation for being "a womanizer, always checking out the females," according to the files. Other officers made similar statements during Magaņa's trial.
To investigators, Crompton described a discussion he had with a woman in 2001 or 2002. The woman, an addict, had worked as a drug informant for Magaņa and the two went out to dinner a few times. She told Crompton that Magaņa "hurt me really bad." She said Magaņa stopped calling her and "blew her off." She said she thought Magaņa cared about her.
The woman told Crompton that two of Magaņa's "buddies" showed up one day and "told her to keep her mouth shut and to stop spreading rumors about officer Magaņa," according to the files. The woman said officer Mel Thompson was one of the "buddies." The second man wasn't identified. Thompson also chose not to comment for this story.
When Crompton told Magaņa about the woman's statements, Magaņa laughed and said the woman was just an informant "shooting her mouth off and spreading rumors."
Crompton also mentioned a time when he and Magaņa, working downtown bike patrol, responded to a Pearl Street nightclub to deal with a drunken patron.
The bouncer got aggressive with Magaņa and told him to stop bothering his girlfriend. Magaņa told Crompton he didn't know what the guy was talking about. Later that night, Magaņa disappeared and Crompton found him back at the nightclub.
When investigators contacted the bouncer, he said Magaņa had been stalking his girlfriend for weeks, asking for her phone number and address, staring at her and pretending to accidentally encounter her on the street. The bouncer said he told Magaņa to stop harassing her, and Magaņa threatened to cite him for minor infractions. Magaņa later apologized and never returned.
Magaņa denial "convincing"
Sgt. Jerry Webber told investigators that in 1998 when he was a patrol officer, a prostitute he'd come to trust told him that Magaņa was trading leniency for sexual favors with a heroin addict.
Webber said in an interview last week that he didn't believe the allegation at the time because it was second- or third-hand information and sounded more like rumor than reality. Nevertheless, he told his supervisor, Sgt. Jim Fields, what the woman said. Webber also asked Magaņa about the allegation, but the other officer denied it. "He was very convincing," Webber said.
Webber said Fields told him and Magaņa to stop arresting prostitutes, but Webber suggested they just make sure to always have back-up.
Magaņa later told Webber that the addict was making the same allegations about Webber. A while later, Magaņa said the woman wrote him a letter of commendation thanking him for helping her get off drugs.
Webber said he later transported the addict to jail. When he asked her whether she was spreading rumors about him, she said she had only accused Magaņa, Webber said. Webber tried to question her about Magaņa, and she denied anything ever happened, he said.
The rumors about Magaņa were common knowledge among officers, Webber said. "It was out in the open that she was saying that," he said. "Maybe it was just so unbelievable that anyone would do that, that it was blown off as impossible."
At the time, Webber had been with the department three or four years. "I did what I thought was my duty, which was to report it," he said. As a patrol officer, he didn't have the authority to investigate another officer, he said.
Five years later, when the investigation into Magaņa's activities was announced, he remembered the woman's allegation. "Immediately what popped into my head was, `Oh crap, it must have been true,' " he said.
In another recent interview, Fields said he didn't recall Webber specifically mentioning Magaņa. He did remember Webber's concern that prostitution was so rampant he thought women would do business with uniformed police officers. Webber offered to do a sting, but Fields rejected the idea, he said.
Fields said he told the internal affairs sergeant at the time, Tim McCarthy, also now retired, about Webber's worries, but because Webber hadn't named a specific officer, McCarthy was unable to take action.
Fields, who retired last year, also said Crompton once mentioned that Magaņa spent a lot of time inside bars socializing rather than working while on overtime downtown bike patrols. As a result, Fields started requiring officers on special assignments to complete daily reports about their law enforcement activity. After that, Fields never saw anything unusual in Magaņa's reports to spark additional suspicion, he said.
At the time, he said, the department was shorthanded and supervisors were burdened with so many extra projects that they were "supervising off the shoulder," meaning communicating with officers primarily by portable radio instead of dropping in on them on the street. Proud of his time with the department and loyal to his fellow officers, Fields nevertheless said he had never heard of or worked for a department that had so little on-the-street oversight.
"This kind of thing is just a shock for all of us," Fields said. "It really is an exception. Those people (at the Eugene Police Department) are good, honest cops.
"I'm sorry for the community, and I'm sorry to the community," he said. "I wish we could have spotted him."
Trial discloses more abuse
In addition to the women described in the investigative files, three other women testified during Magaņa's trial about their unsuccessful attempts to get a response from officials.
One woman filed an official complaint against Magaņa in 2001. She said he stopped her as she walked in the Whiteaker neighborhood late one night and asked her inappropriate, offensive and prying questions about her personal life.
Magaņa's supervisor at the time, Sgt. Willie Harris, investigated the complaint and found it "not sustained." Harris testified at the trial that, "I could not make a definitive determination that officer Magaņa acted unlawfully."
But an outside auditor hired to evaluate department internal investigations disagreed with the conclusion and wrote that Harris' investigation proved Magaņa's behavior was unbecoming for a police officer, as the woman alleged, and thus the complaint should have been upheld. The auditor's report was released in April 2002, more than a 1 1/2 years before Magaņa's arrest.
In another case, a woman showed up drunk at a Eugene Municipal Court hearing in 2000 or 2001 and shouted in an open courtroom, "How would you feel if a police officer came to your house and forced you to suck his (penis)?" Both Municipal Court Judge Wayne Allen and the court clerk, Deborah Weaver, testified at Magaņa's trial that they remembered the outburst, but they didn't look into it or document it.
The woman testified that she was talking about Magaņa at the time, though she didn't name him in her courtroom outburst. She said Magaņa forced her to perform oral sex on him when he responded to the woman's home in 2000. He was convicted for that crime.
Another woman who volunteered at the Whiteaker Public Safety Station as a teenage police cadet in 1997 complained to station manager Richard Bremer and officer Jennifer Bills that Magaņa was flirting with her and asking her out on dates, despite her age and his marriage.
Bills, now the sergeant in charge of internal affairs, said in court that she confronted Magaņa. "He was married, and she was a minor, so we talked about it," she said.
Bills said the situation wasn't documented, and it was unclear whether Magaņa's superiors were notified. The woman testified that Magaņa eventually avoided the station, and she stopped volunteering for the department. Magaņa was convicted of sexually abusing the woman.
Other signs of coercion
There were other signs of Magaņa's dangerous behavior, clues that officers noticed but never pieced together, according to the investigation files.
Crompton told investigators that Magaņa spent an inordinate amount of time on his personal cell phone.
"That phone never stopped ringing," Crompton said. "He would answer that phone no matter what he was doing or where we were. I remember one time we were working traffic direction overtime at Costco and Magaņa got a phone call while he was standing in the intersection and he answered the phone and continued to direct traffic while he had the phone to his ear."
At trial, the prosecution said Magaņa used his cell phone to obsessively call his victims. The records of the calls - in one case, more than 1,000 calls between Magaņa and a 19-year-old girl he stalked and later sexually assaulted - helped prove the women's claims about his behavior.
Also, Reimers told investigators that a woman once told him she saw Magaņa grab another woman's buttocks in a sexual way during an on-duty police encounter. The report doesn't say what Reimers did with that information.
A bouncer at a bar on Willamette Street complained to his cousin, officer Carl Stubbs Jr., that Magaņa frequently lurked around the bar in uniform on his police bike, staring at women. According to the investigation files, the bouncer told Stubbs that "it was his opinion that Magaņa was not doing his job, but rather he was just down there watching pretty girls."
Stubbs told investigators that he told his cousin to make a complaint. He also said he thought his cousin might have been joking around.
Changes under way
When the Magaņa investigation was first announced in August 2003, police officials said Magaņa, like many sexual predators, chose his victims well.
He picked women with histories of prostitution, drug abuse and mental illness; women afraid of the police; and women who wouldn't be believed if they reported his crimes.
At his trial, women testified that he taunted them with the fact that no one would believe them. He told a 19-year-old woman he later was convicted of raping, "Who are they going to believe? A 19-year-old drunk or a police officer?"
He was right. In many cases, the women's own mothers didn't believe their stories, as several said at trial. Neither did police.
Since taking office in January, Chief Lehner has unfurled a list of changes to address the department's weaknesses. Among them are new rules requiring that officers report allegations they hear on the street and submit them to the internal affairs office for thorough investigation. Supervisors now are held accountable for the quality of the inquiries.
In Magaņa's case, the pockets of knowledge about his crimes remained isolated. No system existed to pull the scattered bits of information together, to create a history of complaints that would give the women the credibility they lacked, Lehner said.
"If these officers knew about each other and their information, that would have been a whole lot different," he said. "This is the filter that gathers all the information floating around. It creates a record."
The revelations have opened officers' eyes to the previously unthinkable possibility that a cop they know could also be a crook. For officers such as Jerry Webber, policing the Eugene will never be the same.
"It took us all out of our complacency," he said. "We realized there are thieves among us."
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