Raked Over the Coals: An Investigative Series by Wendy
Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:24
Department's elite fire investigations unit,
once lauded as the most successful arson squad in the country, is being
investigated for allegations of misconduct. They made arrests in
more than half of the fires they said were arson. The
problem? They conducted shoddy, biased investigations that led to
false arson findings, and the arrests of innocent people for crimes
that never happened in the first place. Follow NBC News 12's
Wendy Halloran's expose here.
Crew and Carl Caples
FBI is investigating allegations that members of the Phoenix Fire
Department violated the civil rights of two people who were arrested
and charged with arson despite no evidence connecting them to the
burnings of their homes.
against Barbara Sloan and Carl Caples were dropped by the Maricopa
County Attorney’s Office. Sloan said she spent $300,000 to defend
herself; Caples spent 16 months in jail awaiting trial.
April, Sloan and Caples filed complaints against the Fire Department
with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix.
Chief Bob Khan sent a memo, dated April 15, to City Manager David
Cavazos announcing that he had formed a Fire Investigation Review
review the methods, data and performance used to calculate the
department’s arson-case clearance rate — the percentage of fires
determined to be arson that result in arrests.
department in May 2012 said that it had one of the highest arson
clearance rates in the country, at 57 percent.
the committee, which will include retired Superior Court Chief Justice
Jim Keppel, Mesa Assistant Police Chief Heston Silbert and six others.
Fire Department’s internal investigation follows a 12 News
investigation that aired in February profiling the Sloan case.
near Roma Avenue and Camelback Road, burned down May 13, 2009. Two
Phoenix arson investigators, Capt.Sam Richardson and Capt. Fred Andes,
concluded that Sloan had committed arson after she wasn’t able to sell
Attorney’s Office dropped the charges on Oct. 15, 2010, after
Richardson admitted he had Sloan arrested solely because she was the
homeowner and that he had no evidence tying her to the fire.
Andes’ colleagues and two independent arson experts determined the fire
started in Sloan’s car, which was parked in the garage. No accelerant
also was the lead investigator in the Caples case.
home Caples was renting near 19th Avenue and Union Hills Drive burned
May 7, 2009.
concluded that Caples poured gasoline on three areas in the back of the
home. A separate investigation by Caples’ defense expert concluded that
the fire started in the attic and was caused by a short in the
Sept. 27, 2010, the day Caples’ trial was to begin, the County
Attorney’s Office dropped the charges.
FBI has no timetable for its investigation.
Khan said the
executive review committee will present its findings and
recommendations by the end of the summer.
members of the Fire Investigation Review Committee are: