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Monday, Aug. 12, 2013 08:14 am

An expensive gesture

Cop gets mad after son flipped off

Det. Paul Carpenter of the Springfield Police Department threatened a couple and unleashed a stream of profanities last year after the officer’s son told his father that someone had flipped him off.

It was an expensive encounter for city taxpayers, who are paying $24,000 to the couple to settle a lawsuit. Originally suspended for five days, Carpenter settled for a two-day suspension after the union that represents city police officers interceded on his behalf.

It all began over an obscene gesture, according to an internal affairs file released Monday by the city in response to a records request.

Carpenter said that an unknown man had been harassing his 15-year-old son in the boy’s neighborhood by making obscene gestures, flashing an open wallet as if he had a badge and threatening to take his son to jail. When his son called him the day of the incident, Carpenter said he drove out to the neighborhood to conduct surveillance.

“(B)asically, I wanted to sit back and see if this was actually happening, if he was drive, this guy was driving by and flipping my son off,” Carpenter told an internal affairs investigator. “I drove into the neighborhood and sat a few houses down to see if he was driving by and doing anything to my son.”

With Carpenter on the watch for trouble, Andrea McCubbin drove out of her nearby driveway, and the officer took off after her, according to internal affairs files and a lawsuit filed by McCubbin and her husband Erik, who say they had never before seen Carpenter, who is divorced from his son's mother and lives elsewhere.

“We had no idea what was going on,” Erik McCubbin told an internal affairs investigator. “He (Carpenter) was just sitting down there, and then, as soon as she pulled out of the driveway, I go to the mailbox to get stuff out of the mail and that’s when the guy started his car up. I mean, he sped out, I mean a high rate of speed, swerved like he was going to hit me and then chased my wife.”

With Carpenter in hot pursuit of Andrea McCubbin, Erik McCubbin says that he called his wife.

“(S)he was hysterical, not crying but freaked out that this man is chasing her,” Erik McCubbin told an investigator. "She didn’t know what this guy was doing. So then, that’s when I told her to circle around the block and come back into the driveway.”

Erik McCubbin said he told his wife to return home. Carpenter followed Andrea McCubbin and parked a short distance away when she reached the driveway of her home. Erik McCubbin said that when he walked toward the unmarked police car to get its license plate number, Carpenter got out of the car with his hand on his gun.

“(H)e’s holding his gun, did not pull the gun out but he’s holding the gun and he’s coming over and he gets right into my face,” Erik McCubbin told internal affairs. “He goes, uh, ‘Are you coming over here asking me who the fuck I am? Don’t worry who the fuck I am.’ He goes ‘This is going to be an everyday occurrence. I’m going to fuck with you.’ He goes ‘I’m going to see you and your wife every day.’ And I go, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘Are you a real cop, are you a real detective?’ He goes ‘This is your last warning. Get the fuck off the sidewalk.’”

McCubbin told investigators that Carpenter refused to give his badge number, saying “I don’t have to f-ing tell you nothing. I’m telling you now, this is your last chance to get off the sidewalk.”

McCubbin said that as he walked back toward his house, Carpenter used the public-address system on his city car to tell him to get out of the street. He said he also called him a “fag” on the car’s loudspeaker.

“(A)lmost every word that came out of his mouth was the f-word or a cuss word and it was directed toward me,” Erik McCubbin told internal affairs. “And I never used profanity to him. I never got in his face, never had my hands in my pocket, never said nothing wrong to him. All I did was ask him his name and his badge number and he would not give me his name or badge number. … I mean, I was frightened for my life. I didn’t know what was going to happen, especially after he had just chased my wife. I had no idea who this man was.”

When McCubbin called 911 after reaching his house, a dispatcher could hear a stream of f-bombs coming from Carpenter, according to an internal affairs report on the incident. After getting off the phone, McCubbin said he stood in his driveway and told Carpenter that police were on their way.

“He then started his car up, drove real slow by my house, gets on his loud intercom and he says ‘You better go call your mommy (redacted). I’ll see you tomorrow’ and then sped off.”

Carpenter denied tailgating Andrea McCubbin or calling her husband a “fag.” He did admit jumping out of his city-owned car and using profanity in an ensuing confrontation.

Carpenter told an internal affairs investigator that he knew the encounter wouldn’t go well even before it began.

“I knew driving out there…that this was probably going to end badly, but what do you do?” Carpenter told internal affairs. “I mean, I can’t, you know, I have to go do something or my kid would look at me like, you know, you’re an idiot. … I knew it was going to end like this. I just, you know, couldn’t not go out there and see what was going on. I had to find out for myself.”

Department investigators who reviewed dispatch tapes reported that Carpenter could be heard yelling profanities. They concluded that he had engaged in an unauthorized investigation and had berated and belittled Erik McCubbin using his police car’s loudspeaker.

Carpenter was fired in 2006 after he was accused of several misdeeds, including wire fraud and official misconduct in connection with allegedly falsifying community service verification papers for a police informant. Criminal charges against him were dropped, and an arbitrator in 2011 ordered him reinstated. He received more than $191,000 in back pay.

According to files released Monday, Carpenter used comp time to satisfy the two-day suspension in the McCubbin case.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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