Good Cop? Bad Cop?

An off-duty policeman was lauded for killing a robber who wounded two vendors. That was before allegations that the officer was actually protecting a gambling joint.

Then he asked whether the witnesses would come forward to talk about the game and the officer's purported protection of it. They would be in no trouble for telling the story -- even though they did break the law themselves by gambling. Nor would they be checked for bench warrants, and so forth. The meeting could be held in any place of their choosing, and they could talk to him, the chief, personally.

Big R and Tiny took the offer. The meeting was set for 10 a.m. Oct. 4, but Big R overslept and stood everyone up. Mokwa could not make the rescheduled meeting, set for 1:30 that afternoon -- he was talking to a grand jury -- but he sent top guns Sgt. Ron Klier and Lt. Colonel Stephen Pollihan of the Internal Affairs Division to the table. The interview was held around a big, polished conference table at the police headquarters on Clark Street downtown, with a grand view of City Hall on the north. There were sodas and notepads all around. The guys gave their real names -- no aliases -- and in animated fashion told the investigators the same story they told the RFT. The investigators chuckled over Big R's tale of how he tried in vain to discourage Tiny from losing all his money. This was, officially speaking, the opening of an Internal Affairs investigation regarding Officer Kevin L. Jones.

On Oct. 11, Sgt. Klier said they had questioned Officer Jones, who denied that any gambling had taken place at the concession or that he encouraged anyone to gamble. According to Klier, Jones said he had brought his child there to win a bear. Once there, he got to know the operators of the booth and began to spend time there socially. Further, Jones said that yes, he displayed his badge -- but only once, to break up an argument. "He thought he defused something," said Klier.

This stuffed-animal stand was allegedly a front for a gambling operation.
Wm. Stage
This stuffed-animal stand was allegedly a front for a gambling operation.

And Klier also caught up with Haisch, in Florida, who denied that any off-duty officer was working security during their stint there. Haisch also said people could buy the plush animals but might also play a game of chance to win them. Said Klier, "He said the most anybody had lost trying to win a teddy bear was $40."

Klier lamented that no one came forward when the alleged wrongdoing was happening. "We have the ability to get in on the ground floor," he said. "Unfortunately, we don't get invited. The problem is, people come to us with their stories a month later, when the operation is gone and everybody's scattered."

The investigation, Klier stressed last week, was in its infancy. Yet, five days later, on Oct. 16, Lt. Col. Pollihan calls the RFT to say the investigation is over. Haisch and Officer Jones have denied that Jones was working for the vendors, and despite what the witnesses told police on Oct. 4, Pollihan says it isn't enough to bring charges against Jones. "This is a case where we consider there's not enough evidence to sustain the allegation," he says. "We can neither prove nor disprove it."

The allegation Pollihan says he can't prove is whether Jones was unofficially working for the vendors. But police have already been told by two witnesses that there was an illegal gambling operation, and they could certainly canvass the neighborhood to see whether more people would attest to that. Do they believe that the vendors were engaging in an illegal gambling game? "We don't know," says Pollihan. Do they believe that Jones was hanging around the concession stand? "We know he was there, a lot," says Pollihan.

Nevertheless, he says, the Internal Affairs investigation is over and Officer Jones, in essence, has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Sheila Warren isn't happy about the open-and-shut investigation of her son's death. "They didn't look far enough," she says. "I understand why they're closing the investigation, because otherwise they would have to say their own officers should have shut down the animal booth. I'm not saying William was right for going up there so angry and with a gun, but if the police had shut that operation down like they should have, then maybe this would have never happened."

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