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tv   NBC Bay Area News Special  NBC  November 23, 2013 6:30pm-7:01pm PST

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holds law enforcement accountable. >> there are people say it was a conflict. >> do you think there was something wrong with it? >> gang homicides are down from what they were last year. >> how san jose's police department is playing a numbers game with crime stats. >> the administration is saying that gang-related crime is down. is that true? >> no. it's not true. >> almost an epidemic in our community. >> deadly environmental impacts of illegal pot growers on our national parks. >> how deadly are these chemicals? >> they are acutely poisonous. >> thank you for joining us for the next 30 minutes we investigate exposing issues and holding the powerful accountable. we begin with questionable decisions by the santa clara sheriff. one came in the middle of a 16 month criminal investigation of a 49er superstar. a second game in the hours after
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smith was arrested for driving under influence. as independent experts told us this doesn't look good. >> there's the sack. ogden smith gets rocked. >> he's the all pro linebacker of the san francisco 49ers. >> smith is going the hall of fame if this game goes on much longer. >> did smith get preferential treatment? >> yes de. >> it involves superstar alden smith. santa clara sheriff lauri smith. they center on a saturday behind these gates at the sheriff's shooting range and a fry morning inside the santa clara county jail. >> what does that mean? >> that means preferential treatment was given to smith. >> he's a veteran member of the santa clara sheriff's office. he asked us to disguise his
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identity because he fears retaliation. >> is this unusual >> very unusual. >> it dame hours after smith was arrested in south san jose for driving under the influence of alcohol. friday morning september 20th. >> the issue is there are deputies in your jail that provide smith with preferential treatment. >> the process is the same for anyone who is booked and arrested. >> that's not what the records show. smith was booked into the county jail at 9:40 in the morning. in the field his breath test recorded at .151 nearly twice the legal limit. >> it's the practice of jails for many years dercades, there's a minimum of five hours when people come in for intoxication. and we've often kept them longer than five hours. >> the arrest report shows smith was booked at 9:40.
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we called sheriff smith asking to confirm the time of his release. she left a voice mail message. >> you told me he was released about 11:20 in the morning. >> if that's what i told you and sources inside the jail that's providing you information i don't know independently right now. that was weeks ago. >> would you like to hear the voice mail? >> no i would not. >> while deputies in the jail say it's common practice for suspects to spend a minimum of five hours behind bars smith was booked at 9 kplo 40 released at 11 dlo 7b. one hour and 20 minutes in the county jail. and an hour later he was back on the practice field. >> so did smith get the star treatment on that friday morning? >> yes he certainly did. >> would the average person be allowed to leave after just a couple of hours?
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>> no. >> did smith receive preferential treatment. >> smith did not receive preferential treatment. >> the questions don't end there. coming up after the break deride in your helicopter that day? >> yeah. >> why smith got to ride in the sheriff's helicopter and shoot the department's high powered weapons. the sheriff's answer next.
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>> welcome back. we heard sheriff smith contend there was no preferential treatment for aldon smith. now our investigation continues. this time four cuss another decision by the sheriff and a weekend in june at the shooting range. did aldon smith receive preferential treatment. >> aldon smith did not receive preferential treatment. >> questions about sheriff smith, aldon smith and
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preferential treatment goes back even further. it started on june 20 2012. a party at smith's 8,000-square-foot home in the east san jose foot hills. it ended in a shoot out. smith was stabbed. >> aldon smith is under investigation by your department right? >> he is a victim of a crime with our department. >> the sheriff's department began investigating immediately following the shootings and stabbing at aldon smith's party an investigation that spanned 15 months. during that time behind this gate on a saturday this past june an event at the sheriff's shooting range to raise money for the sheriff's advisory board. >> so aldon smith was at your range. >> yes. >> did he shoot the sheriff department's guns? >> probably. >> some of the 49ers including aldon smith was invited to the range to shoot high powered weapons. >> did you see aldon smith there? >> i saw him there.
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>> did you interact with him? >> i'm not sure if i talked to him. >> deride in your helicopter that day >> yes. >> a day of shooting rifles helicopter ride and socializing with the sheriff and members of her department. there are some in your department that say that's a conflict ever interest. >> why? >> because his party, he may have been under investigation by your department. >> why do you say he's under investigation. and he was victim of that at his house. >> a curious response because two days after that interview, 15 months after her department started their investigation the district attorney filed criminal charges against aldon smith labelled a defendant charged with three counts of possessing illegal assault weapons. found by sheriff smith's investigators in aldon smith's bedroom. while investigating his party. >> she invites him to the range to shoot weapons. she allows him to fly in the helicopter. is that a problem? >> it appears to be a problem,
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yes. >> kevin ryan is a retired san francisco judge and former u.s. attorney for the district of northern california. >> it doesn't look good. it doesn't feel good. >> lauri little is a prove store of legal ethics and a former federal prosecutor. >> a chief law enforcement officer should avoid contacts like that. >> both are respected members of the legal community. both reviewed the facts surrounding saturday at the shooting range. >> does that raise questions about the integrity of the investigation? >> it presents issues of appearance and it could very well lead to the ultimate conclusion that there might be issues affecting the integrity of the investigation. >> did the sheriff make a mistake by allowing aldon smith to come to this event to shoot her weapons to fly in her helicopter? >> based on what we know it sound like she made a mistake. it's a mistake in judgment or a mistake in public perception. yeah. probably think she made a
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mistake too. >> at a minimum the district attorney will look at the situation and want to talk to the sheriff's office and make sure it wasn't tainted. >> mccoy was sacked. >> clearly a question of timing. an issue of granting access to a star football player in the middle of a highly publicized criminal investigation. >> when someone is under investigation for gun play i don't think it's wise or justifiable to bring to the sheriff officer's range to use county guns and ammunition. >> up think there's something wrong with it? i don't. i would do it again. so then why aren't they coming to me and questioning me. >> it's important to stress by all indications sheriff smith did not break through, but as you heard experts call it a mistake in judgment. after leaving a rehab program aldon smith turned himself in at the sheriff's department posted
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bail and has since entered a not guilty plea to the felony weapons charges. coming up after the break, we investigate crime statistics inside police sources speaking out. the city of san jose getting caught in a numbers game.
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>> the numbers don't lie or do they? for weeks the bay area's biggest city boasted gang crime had gone down considerably. but high sources revealed the city was playing a numbers game with crime statistics. investigative reporter broke the story. >> reporter: it was the night before memorial day. >> listened to his music. he was fearless. he had no idea how much danger he actually was in.
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>> reporter: d.j. watkins was murdered on his way home working from game stop three days shy of his 21st birthday. >> police told you it was a gang-related murder. >> reporter: jerrell watkins said his nephew just moved here from ohio and was not in a gang but in a known gang neighborhood at the time of his murder. d.j. was killed near oak grove football field where he planned to coach football with his uncle. >> my nephew got baptized four weeks to the time he died. that's somebody that knew his time was up. >> reporter: d.j. is gone. it's the stories of others murdered. >> up don't want to experience that. >> reporter: the message police were about to send the public. >> statistically we're doing great. >> reporter: that would soon collide. >> we're not that stupid. >> reductions in gang-related. >> gang issues -- >> reporter: around the same
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time. >> gang-related crime is a concern to us. >> reporter: san jose was planning their gang response. some impressive stats. gang-related crimes down in every category from last year. homicides dropped the most. more than 40%. >> gang homicides are down from what they were last year. and the task force has an important role to play. >> with that plan we found it was very successful. >> reporter: that success flooded headlines. >> we're proud of our staff this year. we definitely have lid on the issue. >> reporter: but we found the city isn't telling you the whole story. >> the administration is saying that gang-related crime is down. is that true? >> no. it's not true. i think my first reaction was shock. and then anger. we know it's not true. it's a lie. >> reporter: both are veteran
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san jose police officers with inside knowledge of gang-related cases. gaze they fear retaliation we altered their appearance and voices. >> so our saying the department is lying to the public right now about gang-related activity in the city? >> i believe they are. >> reporter: the police department claims from january through august of last year there were 14 dang regang-related murders. this year eight. >> there are homicides that have gang ties associations, gang members involved that we don't want to classify it. >> reporter: here's what the san jose police department didn't tell you. it changed the way it class electrifies gang-related murder. in june it decided homicides gang-related only if police have evidence the motive was to benefit a gang. so that mean just because a gang member commits a crime doesn't make it gang-related. police then retroactively
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applied this new stricter criteria to all homicides in 2013. they compared those numbers to gang-related murders in 2012. which didn't have the stricter criteria revealing a dramatic drop. is it really an accurate picture of what's happening? >> it's not. if you take five or six homicides that have not been classified as gang-related homicides last year they would have been. >> reporter: like the murder of francis. it was a gang-related case because gang members were involved but changed to nongang-related based on the new criteria. of the eight cases that police classified as gang-related d.j. watkins isn't one of them. >> i can't speak for the other families but i can speak for mine. my nephew got killed in a gang area and it's not gang-related. >> reporter: two others were
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killed the same day as d.j. what kings. place say it wasn't gang related. suspected killers are charged in another case for attempting to murder someone to benefit their gang. robert rios is a former gang member. >> i think it could be my kids. could it be my friends' kids. the next victim. >> reporter: which is why he says the public needs to know what's happening in their neighborhood. >> we have a problem. we have a gang problem that exists. we're not going to make it go away by lying to the people. >> reporter: we wanted to talk to the police department about the stats but what chief, the commander of the homicide unit even the public relations officers denied our request for an interview. >> the public has a false perception of what's going on in the neighborhoods and the city to come out and say things are
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hunky dorey is crap. >> reporter: after our original report air did the police chief agree to talk to us. >> you're right. you're right jenna. it is apples to oranges. it is. it's not a true or fair comparison. >> reporter: he said the department won't be using those stats any more and then he apologized. >> i apologize to our citizens to our politicians, we don't want to hide -- it's important me me to be transparent and report correctly. i can guarantee you that mistake won't happen again. >> reporter: as for d.j.'s case no suspect has been identified. it remains unsolved. >> something about losing a child, you know, identify heard people say it all the time that you don't want to ever experience that. because part of you just dies. >> reporter: and the truth about the numbers, about how safe san
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jose really is also remains a mystery. >> the chief also told jenna we still don't know if or by how much gang homicides are down in the city. why? because there's no basis to make an accurate comparison. up next pot growers on national park land illegal squatters and the toll they are taking on rare wildlife.
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>> welcome back. it is part of the marijuana debate we don't hear about happening in our national park. and it's trashing the environment, killing wildlife and tainting our water supply. all on land protected using taxpayer dollars. investigative reporter exposes this destruction caused by illegal pot farmers. >> reporter: flying high above
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some of the country's most well-known national parks -- sequoia. look closely and you'll see it. thousands of acres on or near forest service land used as marijuana grow sites. >> it's a huge problem. almost an epidemic in our community. >> reporter: an epidemic with destructive effect. now goes beyond the politics of pot. >> what we know is there is a massive use of toxics out there. >> they are specifically targeting animals anything that can kill a bear will kill me as well. >> reporter: it's not what they are growing but how they are doing it that's wreaking havoc on some of california's rarer species and most precious resources. >> here is well over 1,000 pounds of marijuana. >> reporter: this is the new ground zero for marijuana cull via aviation in
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-- cultivation in california. they've seized more than 2400 plants in roughly half a million plants were found on national park land statewide. other sites were discovered just outside public land. >> how far are we from federal land public land? >> just over that hill. >> reporter: lieutenant rick coe heads the marijuana task foe for california. we followed his team. >> natural? >> absolutely not. fertilizers. pesticides are placed on this to make it grow like this. >> reporter: protecting the plants but harming wildlife. >> found on our public land. >> reporter: this was a 5-year-old pacific fisher. scientists at uc davis found this one suffered an early death near yosemite last month.
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he's been exposed to an illegal form of rat poison. >> how deadly are these chemicals? >> acutely poison just. >> reporter: so strong a quarter tea spoon can kill a 500 pound lion. pot farmers are using five times that on their plants. 86% of the fishers he's studying have been exposed to the poison. five have died so far. with the help of mark a wildlife biologist on an indian reservations, they tag the fishers and set up cameras to track them. we hikeed into one of those recently abandoned growth sites where we saw the trash. >> you'll see cans and things. >> reporter: and poison left after growers finish the season's crop. >> so many species are dependent on northern spotted owl, fishers, humble martins.
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>> reporter: last year a government task force spent $23 million hunting down and seizing marijuana plants on public land in california. but little funding is set aside for the clean up. and that could have effects even beyond the wildlife for years to come. >> what happens when it goes downstream? >> reporter: >> it is picked up by those species. >> don't want to drink out of the creek now and come home and not wake back up. >> reporter: this tribe member lives on the reservation located near eureka. he believes it's only a matter of time before water can make members in her community sick. >> they are killing the animals and forest and they don't care. >> reporter: hikers fear the water issue could affect them as well because of the proximity of the growth site to water source. he's part of the high sierra
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volunteer trail crew, a nonprofit dedicated to cleaning up what growers are leaving behind. >> they are completely trashing the place and if we can go in there and safely pick it up and get it out, then great. >> it's green rush. >> a green rush for marijuana instead of gold at a cost to our environment. >> it doesn't just impact to our state. these are national treasures. these are national forests and national parks. >> earlier this month senator diane feinstein sent a letter to the environmental protection agency asking for help. if you have a story for the investigative unit call our tip line at 888-996-tips or send an earn mail to the unit @nbcbayarea.com. finally you're invited to join us regularly right here on nbc bay area. why? because we investigate.
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thanks for joining us.
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♪ ♪ >> there is an x along elm street in dallas. there is not another one anywhere else like it in the country. that's because this x marks the spot where president john f. kennedy was assassinated. what you are about to see is the story of what happened here that day as told by those who were here covered it and will never forget november 22nd 1963. >> the presidential car moving out and out for downtown dallas for thousands should already be in the street right now awaiting for a view of the president and his wife. >> three shots reportedly were fired -- >> three explosions.

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