“Why are you giving me these rights?”, Heimbuck immediately answers: “Because you are in the back of a police car in handcuffs.”
Last December in Oregon, 54 year old retired air traffic controller and whistleblower Jeff Lewis was pulled over by Clackamas County police for no reason, assaulted and then taken to jail. Jeff was traveling to a friends house and was pulled over less than 100-yards from his destination. Dash-cam footage later revealed that Lewis was not guilty of breaking any traffic laws, nor did he have any charges or warrants on his record that would give the police a reason to pull him over.
The fact that he got pulled over for no reason was bad enough, but when he got out of his car, the traffic stop took a turn for the worse. In his own words, Jeff Lewis retold his experience in an email interview with The Free Though Project.
“When the stop happened, I parked and opened my minivan door wide open. At the time, I thought I was helping the deputy to know I was safe, since he could see my hands. Now I know better; after this bad experience, I will always lock the doors, look straight ahead, and say as little as possible.” Lewis said.
The stop was initiated by deputy Heimbuck, who was training at the time under field training officer Lister. The video shows that deputy Heimbuck and his instructor Lister had both gotten out of the police car and began walking toward Lewis’ car with their tactical flashlights in hand. The video also shows that the deputy planted his feet at the open door and did not move for nearly two minutes.
“He never told me why I was being stopped, never asked me who I was, where I was going, for my license. Nothing. Just shined his tactical flashlight into my eyes for nearly two minutes. I asked him toward the end of that time, twice, to take his flashlight out of my eyes, and he twice firmly and abruptly refused. While this was going on, his partner Lister (the instructor/deputy) was doing a thorough search through the windows of my minivan using his tactical flashlight. It was dark (around 7PM) and temperatures were in the mid-20’s, and it felt like we were just wasting time. As Lister arrived for the second time to stand near the open car door, I stepped out of the car. Heimbuck then stepped forward, grabbed my left arm, pulled me into street, shoved me, then rode me to the ground before cuffing me. When we got to the ground, with his full weight on my back and me having done NOTHING to show a resist, his instructor (who had grabbed my right wrist) bolted upright and called dispatch saying that we had been fighting. He then looks all around to ensure no witnesses are present. The three backup units then arrived, believing a fight had broken out. Of course, at the time I had no idea this series of events was all being recorded on the dash camera,” Lewis said.
Lewis worked for 22-years as air traffic controller, and twice he blew the whistle on safety failures that were being swept under the rug. This included an actual collision in May 1999, where the propeller of a Cessna impacted the landing skids of a helicopter, while departing the Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose, CA, yet nobody got hurt. Speaking up about these events brought retaliation, so Lewis knew some of the tricks the deputies might use when they wrote up their reports.
The Sheriff’s Office would not release the reports until after an arraignment, a full month later. At that time, Lewis saw that Heimbuck had piled two trumped up charges onto him, which included “Resisting Arrest” and ‘Interfering With a Peace Officer”. Fortunately, Lewis was prepared as he had been able to buy the dash cam footage from the traffic stop, as well as a copy of the Dispatch record.
In his research, Jeff had also learned that the arresting officer who assaulted him was named in a civil action a few years back, after he and another cop had broken the wrist of a man in his mid-fifties when they smashed him into a wall.
As mentioned earlier, on the recording there was no indication that Lewis had broken any laws or that the police had any reason to pull him over. Not only that, but before the vehicles had even stopped, an automated message from the NCIC database told the deputies that the vehicle and driver had no law record. This is clearly heard on the audio portion of the Dash Camera footage.
The footage also showed that Lewis was cooperative with police, and that he did not resist arrest, even when he was being assaulted. Lewis notes that he was not even advised of an arrest until nearly ten minutes AFTER he was taken to the ground and bloodied up.
The Dash camera footage recorded Heimbuck issuing Miranda rights to Lewis and, when Lewis asks, “Why are you giving me these rights?”, Heimbuck immediately answers: “Because you are in the back of a police car in handcuffs.”
For months, Jeff was tossed around the court system, and his case was repeatedly pushed back in hopes that he would cave in and give up on his defense for a lesser plea. As a result, he filed a motion for dismissal due to lack of a speedy trial and that motion was denied earlier this month.
“You know, as bad as the assault by deputies was last December, the court system has been arguably even worse. I have had to show up for a series of a half dozen appearances, and if I had failed to show on just one, the Judge would have immediately issued a bench warrant. I have absolutely no criminal history and yet could have had deputies busting down my door and hauling me out of bed and off to jail. It is shocking to me that my right to prove my innocence is so ignored and delayed, while the system is empowered to take over my life as it has these past eight months,” Lewis said.
“And, all of this time, I am studying my local court and seeing the other cases they are processing, many of which are victimless, and all of which are used to justify the jobs of the lawyers, clerks and judges. It looks to be a system fleecing people, many made desperate because they already lack financial resources. Where is the justice?” He added.
If the courts don’t delay it again, Jeff will finally get a jury trial on August 26th, where he may have a chance to clear his name. He is representing himself, because he strongly believes our court system should not require a person to shell out tens of thousands of dollars for lawyers. He intends to show a jury that he was actually the victim that night, not the aggressor. Lewis is considering a possible counter-suit, but is still undecided about whether it is worth the cost.
Jeff ended our exclusive interview with the following thoughts:
“I was put into the Clackamas County jail drunk tank for a night, for the first time in my life. Hell, I did not even know there was such a term, ‘drunk tank’. I had no access to a phone, and was given no medical assistance for four bleeding wounds, despite my repeated requests. They took a mugshot and slandered my good reputation by immediately posting it online. This is clearly in violation of my basic civil rights. But, I have lost most of my faith in the system. I can give the U.S. District Court a $400 filing fee and spend hours drafting my complaint, but if the lawyers and the judges are rigging the outcome, why throw away my money?”
This incident has turned a once unaware individual into an awakened citizen destined to expose corruption. Mr. Lewis has since taken his activism to the world wide web. You can keep up with him here: http://www.cleanupclackastan.us
John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work he is also the owner of a successful music promotion company. In 2013, he became one of the organizers of the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.