What really happened to Jeremy Logsdon?
Running down the rumors, looking for truth
“Reality is what I see; not what you see.”
—Anthony Burgess, 1983
Reality is subjective, and truth evasive. And the farther from the unfolding event one gets—in time and in perspective—the more elusive the truth becomes. By the time an experience filters out through a community in the form of rumors, reality becomes even more opaque.
Anyone who has ever played the childhood game called “Telephone” knows how even a simple story can change radically as it makes its way around a circle of children who whisper its details from one cupped ear to the next until what began in one form has changed radically by the time the “telephone” progression is complete.
And then there are those little demonstrations offered in police training classes, where an intruder comes into the classroom while an officer is lecturing, shouts a few pre-chosen words, does a couple of unexpected things, then exits. When students are asked to write their impressions of what they saw, the results are always wildly at odds.
So, when you go searching for the truth, you’d better pack a lunch, because you’re going to be out for awhile.
Here is a case in point, a story told from a couple of perspectives with predictable variations. Perhaps you heard a version yourself, a tale told over beers at Duffy’s, or over coffee at Peet’s. Perhaps the version you heard was embellished with additional details—the epithets exchanged, the number of blows, the pattern of blood splattered on the sidewalk. And maybe you embellished the story further yourself as you thought about it while working out at the gym, imagining the scene, then inserting additional vivifying details of your own before retelling it to a friend over dinner.
Though we live in a time of mass communication, rumor—the most primitive of all human communication—still rules the day, still enlivens the routines of those to whom the rumors come, still inflames the passions of those who choose up sides whenever the story allows room for casting the parts, from victims, to heroes, to villains. In small towns, rumors are the very pulse of events, the heartbeat of life not as it is lived, but as it is perceived.
This much is irrefutable: In the early morning hours of a hot summer night in Chico, a shirtless man named Jeremy Logsdon was seen behaving erratically. After being perceived as threatenting to a young woman, he was confronted by Officer Joel Schmid of the Chico Police Department. A fracas ensued; blows landed on both sides. Logsdon subsequently was admitted to the hospital in critical condition.
Bear in mind as you read the varying accounts of what happened in Chico on June 27 that only the arrest report is first-hand. Things are alleged that have yet to be proved, and details, like the suggestion that members of the Chico PD are on steroids, may be nothing more than an attempt to heighten the drama of the beating that took place.
What happened between the time Jeremy Logsdon was spotted by Officer Schmid and the time he was hospitalized is where the truth is in dispute. Also in dispute is whether the degree of force employed by Officer Schmid and other officers dispatched to the scene was excessive. Logsdon’s friends and family allege that the original police report was altered to increase the seriousness of the charges against Logsdon so as to justify the degree of force that accounted for his serious and life-threatening injuries.
The police refute the more sensational claims—steroid use, doctored documents—and I found nothing to impeach those denials. So the quest for clarity goes on.
I first got wind of the incident from a former colleague, a man I’d worked with at Butte College, who had heard through the grapevine that members of the Chico PD had done a serious number on a guy, a friend of a friend of his. He put me in touch with a party one step closer to the guy who had sustained the beating and had been admitted to the hospital in the small hours of that summer morning.
I was later told a more detailed account over the phone, from someone I’d never met, a tale told breathlessly and with some urgency about Jeremy Logsdon, the brother of a friend of hers, beaten to a bloody pulp by several members of the Chico Police Department—beaten and tasered and nearly killed by perhaps as many as nine police officers, some of whom, she said, had been busy over the past couple of years beefing up on steroids, guys who had spent lots of high-testosterone time together working out.
Steroids or not, there were, according to her, multiple cops who engaged in the pummeling of the unfortunate Mr. Logsdon.
Logsdon, according to my telephone informant, is a skinny little stoner who had the great misfortune of dropping acid, taking a little trip on the grounds of Chico High School on a warm summer’s night. He’s 26, quiet, an accomplished glassblower … and 150 pounds.
LSD would turn up, presumptively, in the toxicology report that would follow the incident. Whatever Logsdon was on prompted a frightening set of hallucinations that set him to running on that summer’s night, running until he ran into the gaggle of cops who were staked out near the campus expecting to make a robbery bust.
In other words, one element of the story, in this version, was that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe those cops thought the running man was the robber they were after, or maybe they just didn’t like his demeanor, but when he didn’t respond to their commands as they might have liked, they first tasered him, and then, as he writhed and screamed, beat him so bad that three days later his loving older sister could not recognize him when she found him, at last, in a hospital bed at Enloe Medical Center.
For those intervening days between when he was beaten and the time his frantic sister found him, no one in the young man’s family had been notified of his whereabouts or his injuries. Logsdon himself was unconscious all that time.
When Logsdon was admitted to the hospital, he was put on kidney dialysis because of the damage done to those vital organs. Nearly all of his lower teeth were lost to the beating, too, and an ugly gouge ran from his mouth across his cheek.
When the injured young man’s sister, Brooke, finally saw her brother, she was stunned, outraged, angry, and she struggled to understand why such a thing had been done, why such a thing would ever have to be done to someone as harmless as her kid brother.
She said some accusatory and perhaps ill-advised things to the officer who first interviewed her, a guy intimidating in his manner, who put her on the defensive about her brother’s illicit drug habits, and hinted that she might have secrets of her own on that score.
Following those initial encounters with the Chico police, the family contacted a lawyer, who prepared a civil suit against the Chico P.D. That is how this kind of scenario generally tends to play out. After the attorney was engaged, the young woman whose brother will never be quite the same was, on occasion, followed by Chico cops who tailed her right to her doorstep, shined a spotlight on her house, then cruised off without further contact, an apparent attempt at intimidation.
Or so she says.
The woman who tells me this story—a friend of Logsdon’s sister—is a writer herself, and a good one. I ask her why she is not writing the story instead of handing it off to me. She tells me that the story has frightened her, and she does not want to risk bringing heat down on herself. The near-death experience that has befallen her friend’s brother is the kind of episode that can spread fear in the hearts of those close at hand.
Logsdon’s medical condition was upgraded from critical to serious nearly three weeks after the incident; he was released from Enloe some three weeks after he was admitted. Myriad attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.
Now you’ve read one version of the story. It is a story worth telling, whatever truths might be found in it.
If police in a generally polite and genteel little white-bread college town can brutalize a defenseless young man who is having a bad reaction to a recreational drug, then lots of moms and dads who send their daughters and sons off to a four-year party here are exposing those beloved children to danger from the very people who are meant to protect them. And the rest of us.
And, if a steroid-fueled über-jock mentality has infected the local police, and if a bad-ass mentality gets encoded and tribalized, then a blow from one over-reactive cop will sanction and encourage blows from other cops in the way males have incubated and spread violence since time immemorial.
But, if police are unfairly maligned by rumors that work their way through the community from barstool to barber shop, then that story, too, deserves to be aired. If events unfolding while most of the city slept get distorted and darkened as the tale spreads and mutates, then a reality check is in order.[page]
Chico PD account
Officer Schmid’s version of that summer night’s violence is another abbreviated account, relayed by Lt. Mike Weber, spokesman for the Chico Police Department, and filed in an affidavit with Superior Court.
‘This is what happened,” Lt. Weber said. ‘On June 27 at 3:19 a.m., a young lady was driving over on West Sacramento [Avenue] near Warner Street when this guy Logsdon jumped out in front of her vehicle motioning for her to stop. He comes up to her window, asks for water, acts like he knows her…. He runs around to the passenger side of the vehicle. She locks the door…. He begins yelling at her, telling her he’s going to kill her, and that she’s going to die. He tries to break the window with his elbow.
‘A Chico police officer—Officer Joel Schmid—comes on the scene and sees what is unfolding. He can see this guy covered with sweat, with a kind of crazed look, punching the window. He notifies dispatch and calls for backup.
‘The officer yells again for the suspect to get on the ground. Logsdon complies, gets on the grass, but won’t put his hands behind his back. Logsdon says something about needing water. Then he begins to stand up, disregarding Officer Schmid’s order to stay down. Schmid sees a black leather pouch tied around the guy’s neck, consistent with what might be a sheath where a knife could be concealed.
“Fearing for his personal safety, Officer Schmid deploys a taser. When the taser proves ineffective, Officer Schmid transitions to his baton. Other officers arrive at the scene.
“Now the suspect comes at him, throwing punches. Officer Schmid is struck in the jaw. At this point, the officer is essentially defending himself, trying to target the suspect’s upper arms with baton blows.
‘Because of the fluidity of the situation, the suspect was hit in the head and shoulder area. The suspect continues to fight, punching and kicking the officer. The suspect is tasered again to no effect. More officers have now arrived.
‘They get him into handcuffs; he’s demanding water, doesn’t care that he’s feeling pain. The officers realize he’s in distress. They call for an ambulance, and he’s taken to the hospital for treatment.”
Two weeks after my conversation with Lt. Weber, the affidavit to the left is filed with Butte County Superior Court by Officer Schmid.
Oddly, during the week of June 27, there is no record of the arrest or the incident on the Chico PD Web site, and no arrest is made until some six weeks after the incident. When I ask Lt. Weber about that anomaly, he said: ‘They probably 849ed it because of his medical condition at the time of the incident. An 849 is when a suspect is released without charges until such time as we submit a request for charges to the DA.”
Was it possible that the degree of force was excessive, especially given the severity of Logsdon’s injuries?
“We feel the officers acted appropriately,” Weber replied. “The suspect was clearly out of control. Just imagine that female, confronted with this guy, late at night. This was a guy who was aggressing the officer and attacking the officer. It’s obvious this guy posed an immediate and very serious potentially deadly threat. We are sure that the use of force was justified and within the law.”
Did the woman Logsdon terrorized file a complaint?
‘It’s not up to her to file charges,” according to Lt. Weber. ‘It’s crimes against the state. She’s cooperating in our investigation. She’s a victim, and a witness is really what she is. Whether a person wants to cooperate or not, if there’s probable cause for an officer to believe that a crime has occurred, then the arresting officer can file the charges.”
I ask Lt. Weber about the allegation that the cops were jacked on steroids, and the implication that Logsdon’s family was being tailed and intimidated by Chico PD.
‘That’s ridiculous,” Weber said. ‘Officers found themselves in a situation where there was serious threat to their personal safety. If citizens have concerns or issues, we’re more than willing to get the facts out there.”
As to the steroids and the allegation that the police report had been changed, Weber responded with exasperation. ‘That’s far-fetched,” he said. ‘It’s absolutely ludicrous. That’s the first time I’ve heard anything like that.”
Lt. Weber has been with the Chico Police Department since 1976, and he is clearly impatient with allegations he finds baseless and without merit. As to the allegation that the initial police report had been changed to make the charges more serious, he shook his head in exasperation.
‘Who told you that?”
‘They don’t want to reveal their identity for fear of reprisal,” I responded.
‘Reprisal from whom?”
‘From you guys.”
And then he became truly disgusted.
‘This is an exceptional police department,” he said. ‘Our officers are very well trained. We’re routinely looked at by the Grand Jury. There’s a lot of community trust, and I think we do a good job to maintain that.”
Could I speak with Ms. Potter, the woman who was allegedly terrorized by Jeremy Logsdon? The next day, Lt. Weber leaves a message on my answering machine informing me that he’d given my number to the young woman’s mother, but he didn’t think I’d be hearing from her.
At long last, more than two weeks after I began looking into the story, I got a call from Jeremy Logsdon’s sister, Brooke. I asked about the civil suit the family was considering. The young woman on the phone seemed utterly freaked out, clearly rattled by what has happened to her brother, fearful of the police, overwhelmed by the workings of the law, beside herself with all that has happened.
Are there other members of the family I might talk to about her brother’s condition? Would it be possible to talk with Jeremy and get his account, or take photographs?
‘I don’t want you to write this story now,” she said.
I told her that I am not in her employ, and that the story is a matter of record.
She hung up on me. I had hopes she’d pass my phone number to her attorney, or to another family member, but additional attempts to reconnect with the Logsdon family prove unsuccessful.
I’ve interviewed Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey half a dozen times on other stories, and he has never given me the slightest reason to think he is anything but a straight shooter. Since there is a civil suit against the city of Chico emerging from this case, would that compromise what he can tell me? No, he said, and so I ask him whether Jeremy Logsdon had any prior offenses.
‘Only one,” Ramsey said. ‘Driving with a suspended license.”
What about the kidney dialysis? Wouldn’t that suggest blows to the kidney?
‘Maybe, but renal failure is also consistent with drug use.”
Did he have any reason to believe that the police acted improperly?
‘There is nothing in the report to make me believe that a beating was administered once he [Logsdon] was down,” Ramsey said. ‘And there’s no indication in his record that Officer Schmid is a bad officer. Not at all.
‘It’s a scary situation he faced that night when this guy came at him after not responding to the taser. And he was coming at the officer who responded in the police-approved manner. He was striking at Logsdon’s forearms, but he [Logsdon] ducked into the blows, and he suffered a broken jaw. The officer feared for his life. The guy was wildly out of control.”
A few days later, I went with my wife to take pictures of Lt. Weber to accompany this story. We’re in the Chico police parking lot, in the dappled shade of the oak trees there, me talking to Lt. Weber to distract him as my wife circled around taking his picture, a process that tends to make her subjects self-conscious.
‘What’s the good of writing about unconfirmed allegations made by people who weren’t there?” Lt. Weber asked me. ‘Would you write about rumors of space aliens?”
‘Our jobs are different, yours and mine,” I respond.
And yes, I would write about UFO sightings, no matter how specious, if it made a good story, and if there were people who seemed to sincerely believe in what they’d told me because, at that point, the belief becomes the story, not the UFOs.
A few nights later, I got an e-mail from Mike Ramsey, still at his desk in the D.A.'s office at 9 p.m. Regarding the toxicology report on Jeremy Logsdon, Ramsey wrote:
“Finally got through to the forensic lab in West Sacramento late this afternoon and had the secretary read me the results, which only showed marijuana; no meth, no cocaine nor heroin. It appears they did not test it for PCP (apparently because of a lack of a check mark on a request form from Chico P.D.). I asked the lab to test the blood again and this time test for PCP (“angel dust”). They should have the results by late Friday (July 25).”
Given the description of Logsdon’s behavior, that must have been some killer weed.
The following Monday, July 28, I got another e-mail from the D.A.'s office:
‘The blood sample came back as testing presumptively high for LSD. I say presumptively because the lab will have to send it out to another more sophisticated lab to confirm positively. That won’t happen right away because we need to save enough of the blood for a retest request we would normally expect from a defense attorney.
‘Mr. Logsdon is being charged with Attempted Carjacking, Felony Threat to Kill (the carjacking victim) and Felony Resistance/ Fighting an Arrest.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 20, Ramsey sends me the following e-mail in response to a request for an update on the case:
‘Mr. Logsdon was found and arrested on the warrant issued in this case on August 15. During his arrest officers found some hashish in his pocket (but he supposedly had a valid medical marijuana recommendation, but that is unclear from the reports). He was arraigned on August 18 on the charges of attempted carjacking, felony threats and felony resisting arrest.
‘Bail was set by the judge at $265,000 (which comes from the standard bail schedule) and he was appointed a public defender. He was back in court today, August 20, with a retained attorney, Jodea Foster (one of the public defenders, who also take private cases) and pled not guilty to the charges. The attorney made an ‘own recognizance (OR)’ request, which was denied by the judge. The judge, however, set August 27 as a date to reconsider the request for an OR release and also set September 3 as the date for Logsdon’s preliminary hearing. As of 6 p.m. today, Logsdon was still in custody.”
I contacted Jodea Foster, who is doubling as Logsdon’s public defender and as the attorney in the civil suit being pursued by the Logsdon family.
“Based on the fact that there were no weapons on anyone but the police, and no injuries to anyone but my client, we have ample reason to believe the police used excessive force,” he said. After all, “he lost five of his lower teeth, and he was 2-1/2 weeks in the ICU. If there’s anyone else out there who’s had a negative experience with this police officer [Joel Schmid], I’d really like to hear from them. They can contact me at 894-8650.”
Foster also says that at least one eyewitness to the incident is lending support to his client’s case.
Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards once said, “I’ve never had a problem with drugs, only policemen.” In the early hours of June 27, Jeremy Logsdon had one problem on top of another, and the course of his life has been altered because of it. Now lawyers and judges will be left to sort it all out, to listen to all the versions of the tale, and arrive at a plausible assessment of what actually occurred.