Tallahassee Democrat from Tallahassee, Florida on July 1, 2008 · Page 4
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Tallahassee Democrat from Tallahassee, Florida · Page 4

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Tallahassee, Florida
Issue Date:
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
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Page 4
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4ATallahassee Democrat Tuesday, July 1, 2008 Local WWW.TALLAllASSEE.com Lance J. Block, attorney for the Rachel Hoffman family, sent the following letter Monday to city of Tallahassee officials. VIA HAND DELIVERY AND CERTIFIED MAIL RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED June 30, 2008 i The City of Tallahassee ' ' i Mr. James English, City Attorney Tallahassee City Hall 300 South Adams Street ' Tallahassee, Florida 32301 Re: Wrongful Death of Rachel Hoffman . Dear Mr. English: . - Please be advised that I represent Irving Hoffman and Marjorie Weiss concerning the tragic death of their only child, Rachel Hoffman. This letter is to place the City of Tallahassee on notice of a potential wrongful death claim pursuant to Florida Statutes 768.28 and to request that all evidence regarding this mat- tor t)6 preserved. . m As I am sure you know, Rachel Hoffman, who was a recent graduate of The Florida State University, was killed on May 7, 2008 while serving the City of Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) in a buy-drugweapon-for-cash-bust undercover operation. Rachel Hoffman was acting for and under the supervision ot the TPD and reasonably entrusted the Department to protect her. FACTUAL BASIS FOR CLAIM .'' - ' Since the death of Rachel Hoffman, the Tallahassee Police Department has conducted press conferences and promoted a steady stream of often inaccurate statements mischaracterizing her and, in essence, has blamed Rachel for her own death. However, to date the Department has refused to disclose the truth about its own errors and omissions concerning the inappropriate recruitment of Rachel Hoffman into TPD's undercover operation, the unreasonable plan 1 FJJ andor the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) concocted for the buy-bust endeavor, and the grossly incompetent execution of that plan. Nevertheless, we have carefully reviewed the TPD probable cause affidavit that was made available to the public, interviewed a number of witnesses, and have pieced together credible information, which includes the following: ' .v 1. Rachel Hoffman was recruited into TPD's undercover operation by Investigator Ryan Pender after a search of her home occurred on April 17, 2008. TPD's inventory from the search indicates that a few ounces of marijuana and a small number of pills were found. According to witnesses, at that time she was told by TPD that she was facing fours years of prison, or she could chose to simply "make it all go away" by actively participating in TPD supervised undercover operations. She was never arrested or charged with any crime, and the TPD hid the entire incident from the State Attorney's Office and her own attorney despite the fact that she was in a Court-ordered drug treatment program. 2. After the April 17 search incident, Rachel met frequently and communicated often with Investigator Pender. She turned in a fellow student, who in turn, introduced Rachel and the TPD to Deneilo Bradshaw and Andrea Green. Contrary to untrue statements made by theTPD Public Information Office, Rachel Hoffman had no relationship or prior drug dealings with either Mr. Green or Mr. Bradshaw before entering the TPD undercover program. 3. TPD repeatedly assured Rachel Hoffman that when she engaged in undercover activity, she would be safe and not harmed. She was told by TPD that a listening device-transmitter would be strategically placed and carefully monitored at all times, and as soon as she said, "It looks good," TPD personnel would immediately swoop in and arrest the targets. ' 4. On May 7, according to the probable cause affidavit, TPD andor the DEA supplied Rachel with at least $13,000 in marked bills and instructed her to , purchase 1,500 ecstasy pills, two ounces of cocaine, and a weapon from Mr. Green and Mr. Bradshaw. Some witnesses have reported that TPD had called off an earlier buy-bust meeting because Green and Bradshaw could only produce 400 ecstasy pills. TPD knew that Rachel Hoffman was an inexperienced, untrained informant whose hfe would be at great risk serving in an undercover capacity, especially in a high risk operation with a weapon involved. Rachel Hoffman had no experience with firearms. Yet, some witnesses have reported that Rachel said TPD initially instructed her to request two AR-15 semi-automatic weapons from Green and Bradshaw. After Green and Bradshaw said that they could not produce such exotic weaponry, TPD agreed to the purchase of a .25 caliber handgun. According to TPD Incident Report for Case 00-08-14818, on May 5, a .25 caliber handgun was reported to TPD as stolen from the automobile of a customer of the car wash where Bradshaw was employed. Bradshaw was listed as a prime suspect of the gun theft. So just two days before the slaying of Rachel Hoffman, TPD knew that Bradshaw had stolen the weapon that TPD had insisted be part of the buy-bust transaction. Ironically and tragically, the weapon that TPD required Rachel Hoffman to purchase from Green and Bradshaw was the very gun that was used to kill her. 5. Although TPD has publicly claimed that Rachel "violated" protocols, no protocols have ever been cited or produced to the media or to the family. The Department has also stated that Rachel was warned not to follow the targets to the location at Gardner Road where she was killed, but no proof has ever been offered. Quite frankly, it makes no sense that Rachel Hoffman would have knowingly disregarded TPD instructions. Her quest for leniency was conditioned on her cooperation, not insubordination. Her safety, her very life, was totally in the hands of the TPD. Moreover, according to the TPD probable cause affidavit, Rachel went precisely to the location she said she was going when she last spoke with Investigator Pender, which was no more than two miles north of the planned meeting location on Meridian Road, but no one from TPD showed. The probable cause affidavit also states that not only did Rachel's cell phone cease to work, but the listening device-transmitter wired by the TPD also ceased functioning. At that point, with all communication out, TPD has failed to provide any explanation as to why it didn't immediately race to the Gardner Road location to rescue Rachel Hoffman. While the probable cause affidavit provides times of Rachel's cell phone call from Green (6:40p.m.) and purportedly when "Investigators lost contact with Hoffman" (6:45p.m.), it fails to mention what time , anyone from TPD finally showed up at the Gardner Road location. All the affidavit states is that whenever TPD finally did arrive, all that was found was one of Rachel's flip-flop sandals, one spent and two five .25 rounds, and tire skid marks. Rachel's parents want to know what time law enforcement finally arrived at the Gardner Road location. We believe that Rachel was shot there, multiple times, at the dead end at Gardner Road, no more than two minutes from where TPD and DEA personnel had been waiting in a nearby parking lot. While the police protection she entrusted to safeguard her failed to appear as promised,. Rachel Hoffman met a violent, brutal, and preventable death, and her killers drove away from the scene with her body and her car. 6. The probable cause affidavit also states that "several hours later" Rachel's cell phone was found in a ditch off Centerville Road. Witnesses have informed us that although Rachel had at least one cell phone number for Green and Bradshaw and had been communicating with them by cell phone for several weeks, TPD neglected to obtain the numbers) from her. So with Rachel's cell phone thrown out of the get-away car in a ditch and without any cell phone number for Green or Bradshaw, TPD was unable to track the targets' whereabouts once they drove away from Gardner Road. It took approximately thirty-six hours for investigators to find the body of Rachel Hoffman, some fifty miles away near Perry, Florida. The findings from the FDLE investigation and Grand Jury proceedings are pending and have not been released, so there is sure to be more evidence forthcoming. However, what information we have been able to unearth on our own thus far leads us to one certainty: Rachel Hoffman's case was unreasonably handled at multiple intervals. In fact, some witnesses have told us that none of the TPD officers involved even knew where Gardner Road was located. Thus, from the secret recruitment out of the Court-supervised drug treatment program, to the not believable buy-bust plan, to the pathetically marred execution of that plan, it is clear that checks and balances were ignored and multiple failures on the part of TPD proximately caused the violent death of Rachel Hoffman. NOTICE OF POTENTIAL CLAIM Accordingly, there is ample evidence based on the facts known to date to support a claim of negligence. The following information is provided in fulfillment of Florida Statutes 768.28: Claimants: Marjorie Ruth Weiss, Safety Harbor, Fla., and Irving Hoffman, Palm Harbor, Fla. D.O.B.: November 27, 1950 March 1,1950 ' Place of Birth: Vienna, Austria Chicago, Illinois . , Case Style: Not applicable at this time Court: Not applicable at this time Amount of adjudicated penalties, fines, fees, victim restitution fund, and other judgments in excess of $200.00, whether imposed by civil, criminal, or administrative tribunal, owed by claimant to state, its agency, office or subdivision: None at this time. - DEMAND FOR PRESERVATION OF EVIDENCE On behalf of my clients, we demand that all tangible evidence and materials concerning this matter be preserved, including but not limited to all reports; records; memoranda; notes; meeting records; electroniccomputer generated messages (e-mail); relevant policies and procedures; logs; dispatch materials; audio and visual tape recordings; photographs; maps; diagrams; recorded statements; written and transcribed statements; relevant confidential agreement(s), records and documents; all files (including but not limited to Rachel Hoffman, Andrea Green, Deneilo Bradshaw and all personnel involved in this matter including Investigator Pender); the subject weapon; Rachel Hoffman's vehicle and cell phone; the subject transmitter, all recordings from listening device communications involving Rachel Hoffman; all radio transmission tapes; dispatch logs (CAD notes); all Mobile Data Computer electronic messages; property and evidence receipts; inventories; lab materials; all internal affairs documents and records concerning this matter; and any other document, item or subject collected from the beginning of Rachel Hoffman's confidential informant participation throughout the investigation of her death and its aftermath. All such materials shall be preserved or a spoliation claim andor sanctions shall be sought. ( . Rachel Hoffman gave her life for the Tallahassee Police Department. Witnesses say she whole heartedly trusted the Tallahassee Police Department to protect her, and she believed that the TPD officers involved had the experience and the competence to plan and execute a safe undercover operation. On behalf of her family, given the fact that the TPD has chosen to launch an irrelevant, negative public information campaign against Rachel Hoffman, we ask that TPD -be compelled to produce tnithful and complete information concerning the methods employed to recruit Rachel into the TPD undercover program, the details of the plan which ultimately led to her death, and the failed execution of that plan. The exact nature of the DEA's involvement in this matter should also be revealed. Last, we ask that TPD accurately admit the truth about its own many and significant errors, omissions, communication failures, and delayed responses, all which directly contributed to Rachel Hoffman's death. None of these requests would jeopardize the prosecutions of Messrs. Green and Bradshaw, who led investigators to her body, nor would they impact the safety of any other confidential informant. , W. Khv 1 dui? resPect. it is obvious that the City should and will be held accountable for the disgraceful handling of this matter, both before and after Rachel's death. Mow, however, the City has an opportunity to search its institutional conscience and apologize to this family as well as correct the policies and procedures, or lack thereof, which led to this catastrophic tragedy. It is the sincere hope of Rachel's parents that the leadership of our City and its police department will seize this opportunity to take the initiative to do what is right now, and assume immediate action to prevent further tragedies of this magnitude. Rachel's parents want to do all they can to make certain that no parent has to endure the pain and sorrow of losing a child under circumstances similar to those which took the lile ot their daughter sorrowruTmatte?6 fre 10 contact me if yu have any Questions, need any additional information, or wish to sit down and discuss this most serious and Sincerely, . Lance J. Block LJBctb cc: The- Hon. Mayor John Marks, The Hon Commissioner Andrew Gillum, The Hon. Commissioner Allan Katz, The Hon. Commissioner Debbie Lightsev The Hon. Commissioner Mark rCSoShassee Police Department, State of Florida Division of Risk Management, Irving Hoffman' and Marjorie Weiss '

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