Throwback Thursday: Ferguson Troubles Began in Garden

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Three years ago today, I shared news about a man in Ferguson, Mo., — yes, the same town where the Michael Brown incident took place in August 2014 — who was fighting for the right to grow food in his garden without first obtaining permission from the city. Below I share that story again, along with an update and some observations.

Karl Tricamo received a citation for gardening without permission.

On April 23, 2012, Karl Tricamo received a citation from the city of Ferguson, Mo., for gardening without permission.

During World War I and World War II, it was considered one’s patriotic duty to plant a “victory garden” in order to reduce food costs.  Doing such a thing today, however, could result in one man having to pay a hefty fine or worse if officials in the backward city of Ferguson, Mo., get their way.

According to a news release from Dave Roland at the Freedom Center of Missouri, Karl Tricamo never imagined that it would be especially controversial when he decided to plant a garden in his yard in order to secure cheap, nutritious, organic produce for his family.  Just to be sure, however, he looked up all of the relevant ordinances in the city just north of St. Louis and confirmed that he would not be violating any laws.

Tricamo found that nothing in the ordinances prohibit citizens from growing healthy, organic produce on one’s property.  In fact, the city’s zoning ordinances specifically allow residents to cultivate community gardens and urban agricultural uses in residential areas.

Because he planted the garden in front of his house instead of behind it, Ferguson city officials soon began to pester Tricamo, going so far as suggesting that his garden was illegal.  Roland described the chain of events that followed:

In March, shortly after he had tilled the garden in preparation for planting, the city sent a letter commanding that the yard be covered in straw and planted with grass seed – even though nothing in the city ordinances requires yards to be planted with grass or prohibits the planting of a garden on residential property.

Six weeks later city officials sent another letter demanding the removal of the vegetables from his yard because the property was not zoned for “agricultural” use, but of course the relevant section of Ferguson’s zoning ordinances explicitly allows gardens to be grown in residential areas.  Then the City sent Mr. Tricamo a notice (below) alleging a violation of Ferguson ordinance number 7-133 – but that ordinance addresses the structural elements of residential buildings such as foundations, walls, windows and doors, stairways, chimneys, gutters, roofs, and buildings’ exterior surfaces.  It says nothing about yards.

When Mr. Tricamo confronted the City about this violation notice, they rapidly backtracked and claimed that it had been sent by accident!  The City said he should disregard the notice, but have continued to insist that Tricamo’s garden is illegal.

According to Roland, this situation illustrates a common practice among some city officials; when all else fails in their attempt to control citizens’ behavior, they sometimes just make stuff up.

UPDATE: Barely three weeks after publishing the article above, I received another news release from Roland. Dated July 26, 2012, it contained the paragraph below which summed up the outcome of the case:

The Board of Adjustment took up the matter on Wednesday evening and heard arguments from the City, Mr. Roland, Mr. Tricamo, and several members of the community. In addition to the legal arguments that the Freedom Center advanced, the testimony pointed out the growing movement in favor of organic, locally-grown produce and the well-documented challenges that low-income families face in finding reasonably priced vegetables in grocery stores. In the end, four of the five members of the Board of Adjustment agreed that Ferguson’s zoning laws do not prohibit citizens from growing gardens in residential areas. Ferguson’s residents are free to grow vegetables in their yards as long as they are not violating a specific ordinance or endangering the public health or safety.

In light of events that put Ferguson on the world map for all the wrong reasons some 25 months later, I suspect many city residents and officials wish this gardening fiasco had been the worst of their troubles.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

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Pre-Blast Videotapes FBI Claims ‘Might Have Been Misfiled’ Remain at Center of Ongoing Oklahoma City Bombing Trial

EDITOR’S NOTE: Four years ago today, I shared an update about the Oklahoma City Bombing trial that was taking place in federal court and continues to this day in Salt Lake City. In case you missed it when it was published on this site and on Breitbart.com, I share it again with only minor modifications.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

In a response filed yesterday to a federal judge’s order May 11, an FBI official offered no denials about the existence of video images captured by more than 20 surveillance cameras operating prior to 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, in the vicinity of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. Instead, he explained that officials at the bureau merely cannot find the tapes and raised the possibility that they “might have been misfiled and thus could be located somewhere other than in the OKBOMB file (though it would be impossible to know where).”

The order, issued by Judge Clark Waddoups in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division, stemmed from the bureau’s failure to comply with a three-year-old Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Salt Lake City lawyer Jesse Trentadue, a man on a quest for answers related to the Oklahoma City Bombing and the death of his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, who died under suspicious circumstances several months later while in custody at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City.

Judge Waddoups’ order was both clear and concise. The items to which the FBI was to respond by June 30, 2011, and how the bureau responded (shown in italics after each item) appear below:

1.  Affirm whether the six government officials from the FBI and CIA who had submitted affidavits in this case had misrepresented information or provided incomplete or otherwise misleading information to the Court. In response to this item, the only thing Judge Waddoups received as an affidavit from David M. Hardy, section chief of the FBI’s Record/Information Dissemination Section of the Records Management Division in Winchester, Va.  The CIA submitted nothing.

Click on image above to download document.

Click on image above to download document.

2.  Advise whether the I-Drive and S-Drive, data storage areas on the FBI computer system, were searched for the videotapes and other documents sought by my FOIA request and, if not, why not. In response, the FBI told the judge the I-Drive no longer exists and that FBI officials have no reason to believe that S-Drive would contain anything.

3. State whether the Evidence Control Centers or other evidence storage facilities located at FBI Headquarters, the FBI Crime Lab and FBI Oklahoma City Field Office were manually searched for the videotapes and other requested materials and, if not, explain why such searches were not done. The FBI responded by saying their headquarters does not have an Evidence Control Center and that the FBI Crime Lab was instructed to send all OKBOMB materials to the Oklahoma City FBI Field Office, where they were placed in a warehouse.  According to Hardy, “it is always possible” that these materials/evidence “might have been misfiled and thus could be located somewhere other than in the OKBOMB file (though it would be impossible to know where).”

4. Manually search the OKBOMB physical files at FBI Headquarters, the FBI Crime Lab and the FBI Oklahoma City Field Office for the videotapes and other requested documents or provide evidence as to why such a search would be too burdensome. The FBI responded, explaining to the judge that no manual search was done because to manually search the 450,000 pages of the physical file that might contain the location of this evidence, would require one and one-half years of an FBI agent’s time.

5. Provide the court with an affidavit from Mr. Hardy stating that he does not know of either the existence of or the likely locations of the videotapes and that he is unaware of anyone else that may know of the existence or likely locations of the videotapes. The FBI response via Hardy:  “I am unaware of the existence or likely location of additional tapes responsive to the plaintiff’s FOIA request, including tapes from the Murrah Building or any additional Hanger tape other than the tape that plaintiff already received, and do not know of anyone who would know where additional tapes would be located.”

In an email July 1, 2011, Jesse Trentadue pointed out several things to me about the FBI’s response as being “noteworthy.”

“There is no affidavit from someone within the FBI stating that the tapes do not exist,” he wrote, adding that FBI officials couldn’t make such a claim, because it would conflict with three sworn affidavits, the contents of which had already been made public.

In a post published April 7, 2011,  I shared documents Trentadue had shared with me that contain fodder provided by three people — OKC police officer Don Browning, private security specialist Bradford Cooley and FBI Special Agent Ricardo Ojeda — that sheds light on the FBI’s response to the FOIA request.

Office Browning noted in a declaration to the court that he and other non-federal rescuers were ordered to leave the Murrah Building soon after the bomb exploded despite the need to move quickly in hopes of locating and, hopefully, saving victims trapped by the blast. In addition, he wrote the following:

Click on image above to download document.

Click on image above to download document.

That same morning, I observed men wearing jackets with “FBI” printed on the back removing the surveillance video cameras from the exterior of the Murrah Federal Building. I thought this was part of the FBI’s evidence gathering or “chain of custody” procedures since those exterior cameras would have shown and recorded delivery of the bomb in a Ryder truck that morning as well as the person or persons who exited that truck.

I knew from my training and experience as a police officer that an investigation of the bombing and prosecution of those involved would require not only preserving the videotapes of the event but also require preserving the cameras and tape decks by which those videotapes were made. Nevertheless, I did think it odd that the FBI’s removal of those cameras was taking place while many people were still trapped alive in the rubble of the Murrah Federal Building and so many of us were working desperately to find them.

Cooley’s declaration, in which he outlined his knowledge of the surveillance systems at the Murrah Building, included the following hard-to-ignore observations:

Click on image above to download document.

Click on image above to download document.

From my knowledge of the video surveillance system in place at the Murrah Federal Building, an my presence on scene just after the bomb exploded, I have no doubt that the two external cameras on the Northwest and Northeast corners of the Building would certainly have recorded the entire event. Those cameras would even have recorded the delivery of the bomb to the Murrah Federal Building in a Ryder truck and, most importantly, those cameras would also have recorded everyone who exited that truck prior to the explosion. Because of their distance from the Murrah Federal Building, ADT’s offices were not destroyed or otherwise damaged in the bombing, which means that the videotapes should still exist.

In a sworn affidavit dated May 21, 2001, FBI Special Agent Ojeda outlined how the FBI handled information they did not want to see brought up in court:

Click on image above to download document.

Click on image above to download document.

The FBI also kept “zero files,” which were reports containing information that the FBI would not generally want disclosed to the defense and which were kept separate from a specific case file. These files were kept internally within the Bureau and typically were not turned over to the prosecution or the defense. Files would be assigned numbers bases on the type of offense or investigation involved, for example, a bank robbery would be assigned a particular number. A letter A after that number would mean highest importance. A zero after that number would mean that the report should go into the “zero” file.

On the last page of his affidavit, Ojeda added the statement below:

Although there are many very good FBI agents, there are also FBI agents, including some who worked on the Oklahoma City bombing case, who are willing to subvert the truth in order to protect fellow agents.

In addition to the conflicts surfacing between the FBI’s stance and statements made in the affidavits above, it appears FBI officials are playing a shell game with Jesse Trentadue and the judge.

Jesse Trentadue pointed out that, for the first time in three years, the FBI said that all Oklahoma City Bombing-related evidence and documents are in a warehouse somewhere in Oklahoma City.  In addition, he noted that bureau officials misrepresented the purpose of the S-Drive before the court.

“This was the time and the place for FBI officials to come forward with evidence of no tapes, but they did not,” said Jesse Trentadue during an interview Friday about the matter.  “They are, in plain English, in contempt of the court’s order.”

For more details about this long-running FOIA case being adjudicated before Judge Clark Waddoups in a federal court in Salt Lake City, I suggest you watch this chilling one-hour video below. After that, read other posts about the Oklahoma City Bombing Trial and stay tuned for more details.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

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