City Reporter 

City Reporter

Looking for Answers

Family of mentally ill man questions MPD procedures.

by Janel Davis

Calvin Buckley, brother of the deceased Denvey Buckley, said he and his family have retained attorneys to conduct possible litigation against the Memphis Police Department for inappropriate procedures used in subduing his brother.

The family has retained the law firm Thomason Hendrix Harvey Johnson and Mitchell, which has already begun its investigation.

"We're not just sitting around waiting on the police to finish their investigation," said attorney Buck Wellford."We've talked to witnesses, taken statements, and are tracking down the supposed videotape [of the incident]. Our initial investigation has revealed what witnesses have already said, which is the police used excessive force against Mr. Buckley."

Wellford said the firm has not yet notified the police department of their representation but will soon and will also ask the department to meet with the family. "Once the department completes its investigation we will then make the determination of whether to take legal action," he said.

According to the medical examiner's report, Denvey Buckley died of a heart attack. Buckley wrestled with police who were trying to subdue him after being called to his home when Buckley slit his wrists in an attempted suicide.

"He had cut his wrists and yet they still beat him down," said Calvin. "You have a host of witnesses that [saw] it, and they don't mind giving statements to the lawyer and in court." Calvin also described apparent inconsistencies between marks and wounds labeled on the medical examiner's report and those seen on photos of Buckley's body. "We've got pictures that go totally against the police reports that there was no trauma to the body."

Previous accounts of the incident, which occurred at Buckley's home at 1115 S. Rembert, said that police struggled to subdue the 380-pound man. But the medical examiner's report lists him at 251 pounds. "I think that original [380-pound] number was given out incorrectly," said Major Hopkins of the MPD's Internal Affairs bureau. "I think one of the officers on the scene may have incorrectly guessed that [Buckley's] weight was more than it was."

Hopkins said an investigation in the case is ongoing and could take as long as 60 days.

Calvin, who was hospitalized with pneumonia, missed his brother's funeral Sunday. He said Buckley was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who had been placed on the medication Haldol to control his mood swings.

"A lot of times he would get down on himself and say things like, 'Nobody loves me, nobody cares about me. I can only depend on myself,'" said Calvin. "He had talked about killing himself before and had spent time in the VA hospital for saying those things. Overall, we think the [police] protocol was wrong. You just don't do the things they did to someone in that condition."

Rise and Shine

Convention Center gets improvements for main hall.

By Mary Cashiola

Although it now has new meeting rooms, an acoustically perfect performing-arts center, and a state-of-the-art kitchen, the Memphis Cook Convention Center has a multimillion-dollar "wish list" of needed improvements.

General manager Pierre Landaiche told the Flyer that the convention center is seeking funding over the next few years for some $4.5 million in improvements. The wish list includes capital projects that will make the original portion of the convention center match the recently completed $92 million renovation and expansion -- things such as new carpets, lights, and doors -- as well as a few "back of the house" projects like a new sound system and new wiring.

But at least one improvement is becoming a reality due to concerns raised by the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). The Memphis City Council recently appropriated $300,000 for improvements to the riser seating system for the main hall.

The lack of risers was one of the main complaints raised by Bishop G.E. Patterson when he threatened to take COGIC's annual Holy Convocation elsewhere last November. "The people in the back of the hall couldn't hear," said city councilwoman Pat VanderSchaaf, the council's budget committee chair. "Because of the risers, the last two conventions were just really hostile situations."

The telescopic risers (which fold for storage) were the original ones built in 1974, says Landaiche. After years of wear and tear, the convention center stopped using them in 1999 because of safety concerns. Instead the convention center began using flat-floor seating for the 125,000-square-foot hall; but with a seating capacity of 10,600, both acoustics and sight lines were poor. Landaiche says the risers have been on the convention center's capital projects list for some time, but they could never find the funding.

VanderSchaaf found it in an old Pyramid account. "COGIC is the biggest convention this city has. It brings in more money than any other convention," she says. "We just couldn't afford to lose COGIC. I met with Mr. [Alan] Freeman [general manager of The Pyramid], and he said there may be some old CIP money from a few years ago. I went back through the books and, lo and behold, the money was there."

The risers will be installed in the summer in time for COGIC's Holy Convocation in the fall. After the money was found, VanderSchaaf and Gale Jones Carson, the mayor's spokesperson, sent out information to the entire congregation informing them of the upgrade.

"It's a win-win," says VanderSchaaf. "I talked to Bishop Patterson and he made it very clear that the riser situation was over. ... The other bishops that were trying to take the convocation elsewhere don't have anything more to use as ammunition." n

Hot Stuff

Sting nets 48 burglary indictments.

By Mary Cashiola

In an effort to thwart burglaries in the Bluff City, local law enforcement recently spent some time in retail. And it worked.

Because of a joint undercover operation between the Memphis Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, and the Shelby County district attorney general's office, 48 people were indicted last week on some 700 counts of burglary, aggravated burglary, and theft.

The sting, known as "Operation Hot Stuff," began in February 2002 when undercover officers opened and operated a storefront. For a year, the officers then purchased items they believed to be stolen, including 88 weapons.

"People would bring in merchandise and the undercover officers would then turn it over to investigators," said Jennifer Zunk, communications director for the Shelby County district attorney's office. "From that, the investigators would try to determine where the items had come from." The officers recovered guns, computers, televisions, and VCRs, but Zunk says she doesn't know the monetary value of all the stolen items. Some of the merchandise has already been returned to the owners.

As of Tuesday, 29 of the 48 people had been arrested and were in custody. In total, the officers made more than undercover purchases. n

Memphis Manifesto

Group will focus on luring creative people here.

By Mary Cashiola

Greensboro, North Carolina, has experienced something Jenny Stokes calls a "drifting" of young people.

Stokes, the volunteer and young professionals coordinator for Action Greensboro, says, "We're trying to attract and keep young adults and professionals in Greensboro. There's been a drifting of young folks to bigger cities nearby like Raleigh and Charlotte."

That's why Stokes and 11 other delegates from Greensboro are coming to Memphis this week for the Memphis Manifesto Summit, a conference that will focus on bringing creative people to cities and urging them to stay there. The Greensboro delegation will be one of the largest, with the summit's 100 participants coming from 40 cities across the U.S. and Canada.

"We're really excited," says Stokes. "We've heard a lot about the creative class and Richard Florida [author of The Rise of the Creative Class: How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life] lately, and we wanted to learn a little bit about how to make Greensboro more vibrant and attractive to all young adults."

Florida's book detailed how a city's creative class is imperative to its success in the new economy. At the summit, the participants -- known as the Creative 100 -- will develop a manifesto for cities who want to recruit a creative class.

"What we expect is for cities to use the manifesto document to guide their development and the ways in which they operate their cities," says Carol Coletta, summit organizer and host of local public radio's Smart City.

And although the new economy isn't doing all that well right now, Coletta says the summit is still relevant. "The thing is," she says, "cities don't change overnight. I think the kinds of changes that we need to look at are the kinds of changes that are going to be a decade in the making, if not two decades in the making. ... The important thing is to begin and to be very tenacious in what you want to accomplish."

One important thing for Memphis is simply having the manifesto summit here. "I think it will show Memphis off to a group of influential members of the creative class," says Coletta. "We have a lot of media people who, in many ways, are cultural influencers. I think simply having this event in Memphis at a great time of year is beneficial to us." Twenty Memphians will also participate in the summit.

Most (but not all) of the Creative 100 are under 40 years old. "I think that's good," says Coletta. "As one person I know pointed out, it may take youth to generate new ideas and energy, but a lot of times it takes people with more experience and who are more insinuated into the culture to actually make things happen."

And as for Stokes and Action Greensboro, they're ready to start sharing ideas. "I think it will be really interesting to see how 100 people with different thoughts and opinions come to agree on a manifesto," Stokes says.

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