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WICS 20 :: News - Ready, Set, Shred - READY, SET, SHRED: Part One

READY, SET, SHRED: Part One

This story aired July 15, 2013.

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS (each opens in a new window):

Doug Williamson Internal Affairs interview (transcript)
Doug Williamson Internal Affairs interview (audio)
Cliff Buscher Internal Affairs interview
Jacob Joslin Internal Affairs interview
Wendell "Kurt" Banks Internal Affairs interview
Cliff Buscher Concise Officer History
Cliff Buscher arrest records
Cliff Buscher mugshot

[TRANSCRIPT]


VINCE DEMENTRI:
Tonight, the results of our eight-week investigation into the shredding controversy involving the Springfield Police Department.

LIZ FOSTER:
Documents show certain internal affairs files were destroyed earlier than the original union contract called for.

VINCE DEMENTRI:
One of those files destroyed was Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher's--even though it was the subject of a Freedom of Information Act request. And that made us wonder--what was in that file that was destroyed by the SPD?

Here's part one of our special series: Ready, Set, Shred.
-----
VINCE DEMENTRI:
On April 25, the Springfield Police Department signed an agreement with its police union reducing the amount of time before certain disciplinary documents could be destroyed from five to four years. That contract change allowed for the immediate destruction of more than 30 internal affairs files, including Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher's. Nearly two weeks before his file was destroyed, this Freedom of Information Act request was filed with the city asking for his internal affairs file. Specifically, the request asked for information concerning an incident involving Deputy Chief Buscher that took place at this Missouri resort in 2008. The same day that Buscher's file was destroyed, the man who filed that FOIA request was set this letter from the city, telling him, simply, "The Springfield Police Department has no documents responsive to your request."

According to these documents we obtained from the Taney County Mo., prosecutor's office, Buscher, who was a commander in 2008, was charged with a felony--unlawful use of a weapon--while drunk. The charge stated that Buscher fired his department-issued gun several times over this lake. The Taney County prosecutor confirms that he plea bargained the charge down to disturbing the peace--a misdemeanor. The Taney County prosecutor also says Buscher pleaded guilty to the charge and admitted he was intoxicated when he fired his gun.

According to this internal affairs document obtained by Newschannel 20, on July 14, 2008, Buscher was suspended for 30 days and demoted from commander to lieutenant.

But there is much more that is alleged to have happened that night five years ago at this Missouri lodge that has never before been made public. It's all contained in these internal affairs documents surrounding the investigation.

According to the documents obtained exclusively by Newschannel 20, for 12 years, four Springfield police buddies and their sons gathered at this Missouri resort for a father-son get-together. In 2008, the four cops included Cliff Buscher, who was then a commander; Lt. Wendell "Kurt" Banks; Lt. Greg Williamson; his brother, former Deputy Chief Doug Williamson; and 10 kids, including their sons and their friends.

We obtained one audio recording of the internal affairs interview of former Deputy Chief Doug Williamson, and the transcripts from the recorded interviews with Lt. Kurt Banks, Jake Joslin--who was 15 years old at the time--and Cliff Buscher about what they stated happened the night of Saturday, March 22, 2008.

All of the documents show it all begins at this restaurant and bar, called The Frosted Mug, where the group went that night. Statements show the kids had pizza and soda. Lt. Banks states that the adults drank beer and one round of tequila shots. Lt. Kurt Banks' tells Internal Affairs "Buscher was definitely intoxicated. That's why I couldn't let him drive."

Statements made by Lt. Banks, former Deputy Chief Williamson, and Jake Joslin show the trouble starts when a woman in the bar is offended by a statement on a t-shirt that Cliff Buscher's young son is wearing. Former Deputy Chief Williamson says the woman confronts Commander Buscher about the t-shirt. This is the audio recorded during Williamson's Internal Affairs interview concerning that argument.

FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF DOUG WILLIAMSON:
They had a couple of words back and forth. So I turned around and at that point Cliff seems a little more agitated.

VINCE DEMENTRI:
Jake Joslin stated in his interview that "this woman and Cliff were fighting with words at each other because the woman didn't appreciate what his son was wearing as a shirt, and he was firing back too."

Joslin continues, "and then Doug Williamson had to hold her back cuz, us, Cliff was saying he was going to hurt her or something. He didn't mean it though."

Internal Affairs asks Joslin, "Um-huh. Do you remember what he might have said though?"

Joslin replies, "Um, I'm gonna hit that b*^&h."

Internal Affairs: "Okay. Was it loud?"

Joslin replies, "No. Room voice."

Lt. Banks' stated the argument was loud, so he gathered up the kids and Commander Buscher and they left the bar. Most of the kids got into a van. Two other kids climbed into a pickup truck with Commander Buscher and Lt. Banks and headed back to the resort. All of the statements show former Deputy Chief Doug Williamson and his brother, Lt. Greg Williamson, stayed at the bar. When talking to Internal Affairs investigators, former Deputy Chief Williamson said his son told him what took place in the truck with Commander Buscher.

FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF DOUG WILLIAMSON:
Mr. Buscher was rummaging through the, uh, glovebox and he goes, Dad. I thought he was looking for a mint. But he pulled the gun out and unholstered it and said, who's in charge now b****?

VINCE DEMENTRI:
About that, Commander Buscher told Internal Affairs investigators: "One of the kids said that, that when we were in the parking lot, that I reached down and pulled it out and said something about showing somebody who's boss. I don't recall doing that. I'm, I'm, it's possible I did. I don't recall doing it."

Lt. Banks told Internal Affairs he tried to get Commander Buscher to give him the gun. Quote: "I tried to convince him to put the gun away, that, you know, he was just being stupid. Um he didn't do it. He kept the gun out."

When asked by Internal Affairs investigators if he remembers Lt. Banks asking him to give him the gun, Commander Buscher responds, "no."

According to the statements from Jake Joslin and Lt. Banks, shortly after arriving at the resort, both say they heard a gunshot. Both say Commander Buscher fired a shot into the ground outside the main cabin. Documents show Commander Buscher admitted to Internal Affairs that he shot at the ground to, quote, "have a little fun with the kids."

He continues, "I fired a couple of rounds into the ground...just to kind of scare 'em. Get their attention."

It did. According to statements made by Lt. Banks and Jake Joslin, the kids began "screaming and running." Some kids "popped the screen out" of the window to escape the cabin. Both Commander Buscher and Jake Joslin tell investigators that after initially being scared, the kids begin to laugh about the incident. But Lt. Banks didn't think it was funny. He tells investigators that he demanded Commander Buscher give him the gun. Quote, "After a brief argument just trying to get the gun from Cliff, it was pretty obvious he wasn't going to give it to me. He just kept wanting to go back to the bar. I kept telling him no."

Lt. Banks says Commander Buscher is growing more angry--saying the woman he argued with in the bar was "very disrespectful" to him and that "she can't treat me that way." Former Deputy Chief Doug Williamson told investigators Lt. Banks told him this:

FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF DOUG WILLIAMSON:
Cliff wanted to go back to town and in Cliff's words, kill that b****.

VINCE DEMENTRI:
Internal affairs investigators did not ask Commander Buscher about that. At this point, Lt. Banks tells investigators that Commander Buscher went onto the back porch and started firing shots toward the lake. In his statement to Internal Affairs investigators, Buscher admits he stood on the porch of the cabin and shot into the bank of the lake.

Again statements from Buscher and Joslin show that after initially being scared, the kids start laughing about it. This is what happens next according to Jake Joslin. He says that Commander Buscher approached him with his gun pointed at the ground. Joslin says Buscher said to him in a joking manner, "you wanna lose that leg mother-[expletive]." Both Lt. Banks and former Deputy Chief Doug Williamson said Joslin told them that Commander Buscher made that statement.

When asked by investigators if he remembered saying that to Joslin, Commander Buscher said "no." When asked if he threatened anyone with a weapon, Commander Buscher again responded, "no."

At this point, Lt. Banks tells investigators that he sent the kids to another cabin and then drove back to the bar to get the Williamson brothers. On the way back to the cabins, Lt. Banks says he told them what Commander Buscher had done. As the three officers arrive at the cabin, former Deputy Chief Doug Williamson states that this is what he saw.

FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF DOUG WILLIAMSON:
My memory is that there were kids hiding on the corners of the other cabins and behind trees.

VINCE DEMENTRI:
Entering the main cabin, former Deputy Chief Doug Williamson says he sees his brother Greg talking to Commander Buscher. Fearing Buscher is still armed, Deputy Chief Doug Williamson says he tackled the men.

FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF DOUG WILLIAMSON:
I'm upset at this time. I'm telling him that I'm calling the police. I'm telling him he's going to jail. I'm telling him that uh, I would file an I.A. complaint against [him] and I'm laying it all out.

VINCE DEMENTRI:
According to Commander Buscher's statement to investigators, he's taken and placed in another cabin alone and told to stay there. The statements from Lt. Banks and former Deputy Chief Doug Williamson show they questioned the kids about what happened. Then, statements show the officers decide to call the Taney County Sheriff's Department. After an investigation, the deputies take Commander Buscher to the sheriff's department, where is booked and jailed.

This report Newschannel 20 obtained from the Taney County Sheriff's Department show Lt. Banks and Jake Joslin wrote brief statements about the events at the cabin. Lt. Banks' statement leaves out most everything he later told Internal Affairs about Commander Buscher approaching him with his gun in hand pointed at the ground and saying in a joking manner, "you wanna lose that leg mother-[expletive]?"

Lt. Banks refused to be interviewed for this story. Jake Joslin refused my request to be interviewed.

Back in Springfield, Buscher is demoted from commander to lieutenant and suspended for 30 days, according to this Internal Affairs document.

He declined repeated requests for an interview.

Former Deputy Chief Doug Williamson, who's now retired, says he was suspended for one day because he used foul language around the children.

In 2009, Assistant Chief Robert Williams was named Springfield's top cop. As chief, Williams promoted Buscher from lieutenant over the rank of commander to deputy chief--even though Chief Williams likely knew most, if not all, of the details in Buscher's file regarding the Missouri incident.

That's because several of the internal affairs reports show that as assistant chief, Williams took part in some of those interviews, even questioning Buscher during his. Chief Williams also declined to be interviewed for this story, citing ongoing litigation.

That litigation is a lawsuit filed by Calvin Christian against the city over the destruction of Deputy Chief Buscher's internal affairs file that Christian asked for in his Freedom of Information Act request.

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS (each opens in a new window):
Doug Williamson Internal Affairs interview (transcript)
Doug Williamson Internal Affairs interview
(audio)

Cliff Buscher Internal Affairs interview
Jacob Joslin Internal Affairs interview
Wendell "Kurt" Banks Internal Affairs interview
Cliff Buscher Concise Officer History
Cliff Buscher arrest records
Cliff Buscher mugshot

READY, SET, SHRED: Part One

Wednesday, April 23 2014, 10:23 AM CDT

Ready, Set, Shred Stories

Ready, Set, Shred: State Police Investigation Complete

City Council Tables Shredding Lawsuit Agreement

Possible Settlement In Springfield File Shredding Lawsuit

Judge Orders City to Release Police IA Files

No Decision Yet on Police Internal Affairs Files

Judge Issues Order Protecting Release of Some IA Files

READY SET SHRED: Mayor's Assistant At Shredding Meeting Accidentally

Mayor's Assistant Involved in Shredding Controversy

READY, SET, SHRED: Williams, Noll Speak After Deposition

READY, SET, SHRED: Williams Testifies in Deposition

READY, SET, SHRED: New Developments Revealed in Deposition Exhibits

County Judge Won't Dismiss Shredding Case

READY SET SHRED: ISP Asked to Investigate SPD Leak

Interim Police Chief Reveals To-Do List

UPDATED: Houston Names Interim Police Chief

Aldermen on Police Chief Search

Mayor Discusses Silence on Shredding Controversy

Executive Session Details to Remain Confidential

Springfield City Council Special Meeting Called

State Auditing Pay Spike for City Police

McMenamin: Release of Executive Session Tapes Unnecessary

Houston Vacationing After City Leader Shakeup

Who Requested Cliff Buscher's File?

Chief Williams Eligible for Perk Upon Retirement

Talk of the Town - Your Reaction

Aldermen React to Leadership Shakeup

READY, SET, SHRED: Part Four

McMenamin, Edwards React to Mayor's Announcement

Chief Williams, Mark Cullen Leaving Positions

READY, SET, SHRED: Part Three

Springfield Aldermen Sound Off After Part Two

Leaders React to Part Two

READY, SET, SHRED: Part Two

Springfield Leaders React to Part One

READY, SET, SHRED: Part One

READY, SET, SHRED: The Series and Supporting Documents

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