I-Team: Officers disciplined after child rape suspect was given - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

I-Team: Officers disciplined after child rape suspect given summons & set free

Posted: Updated: Aug 7, 2013 09:55 PM
Dave Ross (Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office) Dave Ross (Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office)
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

May 25, 2013, the sun has just gone down in north Baton Rouge. It's 7:55 p.m. when a grandmother, who did not want to be identified, was out running errands and decided to swing by her home just to make sure everything was ok. To her surprise, someone was in her driveway.

"There was an old beat up green truck," said the unnamed grandmother.

She went to her neighbor to ask about the truck. That neighbor told her it had been in the driveway for a while.

When the grandmother knocked on the door of her own home, her grand-daughter answered and said, "There's a man in your house."

The grandmother called 911. Baton Rouge Police Officers Daniel Iverson and Timothy Daigre were dispatched to the home to check for a suspicious person.

In his official report, Cpl. Iverson wrote, "I learned that the subject that was inside of the home was at the location visiting a black female juvenile." The subject was 26-year-old Dave Ross. The female juvenile was 12 years old.

Police found Ross hiding inside a closet. Officials said Ross met the 12-year-old girl through a social media web site. The officers then called Sgt. Rick Crawford, their supervisor and a 20-year veteran of BRPD.

"The supervisor that was on the scene issued a misdemeanor summons on what they thought was a misdemeanor charge," said BRPD Chief Carl Dabadie.

A summons is a courtesy by officers meant only for misdemeanor charges. It is still considered an arrest and shows up on your record, but the accused is not physically taken to jail. Instead it's like getting a ticket and then getting released on the scene.

The problem was Ross was accused of indecent behavior with a juvenile, which is a felony.

"A mistake was made on behalf of the officers and the supervisor on scene," said Chief Dabadie. "My initial response was how could we let this happen."

That's because this came after a departmental policy change went into effect. On May 12th, there was an incident at the Chevron gas station in north Baton Rouge. A white family was attacked and beaten, allegedly by a black man who told them they were in the wrong neighborhood.

Officers arrested and booked Donald Dickerson. Two other people allegedly involved were issued misdemeanor summons and released on sight, something that made national headlines, led to a different interpretation of when a summons should be issued and now, was causing a new set of problems.

"The Baton Rouge Police Department has, since the recent incidents, made a policy that all violent misdemeanors will be booked into parish prison. There's not a law that states we have to do that. That's just a policy we have instated," said Chief Dabadie.

When it comes to felony charges, Chief Dabadie said, "Felonies have to be booked. They have to be arrested and booked into parish prison."

But that was not the case in this incident.

"I feel like that's wrong. I feel like that is wrong," said the victim's grandmother.

9:37 p.m., just over an hour and a half later, officers were called back to the home. This time, the 12 year old's aunt, who had additional information, called police.

"We noticed that an incorrect charge was placed and the misdemeanor summons was issued in error," said Chief Dabadie.

This time, the charge was upgraded to aggravated rape. In the police report, officers wrote over the past several months, Ross and the 12-year old girl exchanged multiple text messages. Some of those texts included nude pictures. Earlier in the day on May 25th, the report said the two spoke on the phone and set up a time to meet at the victim's grandmother's home. It went on to say Ross and the girl had sex.

"He couldn't think you're looking at a child? I'm seeing that this child, she's only a child. Why didn't you turn away? Why didn't you turn away?" said the grandmother.

Ross had already left the scene and because his home was not within city limits, BRPD officers could not arrest him on the upgraded charge of aggravated rape.

"We had to have the assistance of the sheriff's office to assist us with that arrest," said Chief Dabadie.

"So the first round, if the officers would have arrested him like they should have, you would not have had to call out EBRSO?" asked WAFB's Kiran Chawla.

"Correct," said Chief Dabadie.

Ross was not arrested till 5:13 a.m. the next day. The reason for the delay? BRPD had to write up an arrest warrant, get a judge to sign it, hand it over to the sheriff's office and then go track down Ross. Had BRPD officers arrested him the first time instead of releasing him on a summons, all the extra steps would not have been necessary.

Ross was charged with aggravated rape, pornography involving a juvenile and a fugitive from BRPD. Sgt. Rick Crawford, the supervisor who advised the responding officers to issue the initial summons, was given a 10-day suspension without pay and benefits. The two officers, Cpl. Iverson and Cpl. Daigre, were given letters of caution. Chief Dabadie said the next step is training and education for all officers to make sure they understand this specific policy.

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