Father and Law
Bryan Hoisington always wanted to work in law enforcement, and he knew the people who could make that happen in Hollywood — starting with his father.
Larry Hoisington retired in 2005 from the Hollywood Police Department after 30 years as a model officer. He was the department's Officer of the Year three times, and over his long career, he was only twice investigated by the Internal Affairs division.
But the elder Hoisington always bent the rules a bit when it came to his son. Speaking to New Times last week, he recounted an incident when Bryan was a boy and Larry was scolded by his chief for letting the child ride shotgun in his police cruiser. And one of those two Internal Affairs complaints originated in a case of road rage that involved an adult Bryan. It appears to be a case in which Larry Hoisington confused his power as a cop with his role as a parent. Though the case was deemed "unsubstantiated," the fallout was costly for father and son.
Sue Blackmore had almost forgotten the name until last month, when her phone rang. The Miramar Police Department was calling. They were considering hiring Bryan Hoisington as an officer.
The name Hoisington brought back vivid memories for Blackmore. On November 8, 2004, she was driving her '96 Ford Mustang along the quiet streets of Hollywood's west side. A nurse, she was headed toward a health-care agency to pick up a check.
A dark-blue Ford Expedition pulled up beside her at the corner of North 46th Avenue and Taft Street in a residential neighborhood. The driver, a young man, was furious — even with her windows closed and her radio cranked to WZTA-FM (94.9), a Latino rock station, Blackmore says she could hear the man shouting at her, and she could see him waving a fist out his window.
Blackmore had no recollection of having cut somebody off. But this man was hysterical, she says. Judging by the clatter on her roof and hood, he was even throwing stuff, she says — it sounded like pennies.
Blackmore says she waved to him. "And that just pissed him off even more."
As she headed south on 46th, Blackmore says, the Expedition sped after her. It came up on her left side. "He was trying to pass me," Blackmore says. It occurred to her that if he did, he might be able to maneuver her off the road. So she swerved to the middle of the street to block his path.
They chased each other over what Blackmore estimates to be a mile or two before Blackmore turned onto Fillmore Street from 48th Avenue. In the street ahead, Blackmore says, she could see a group of kids playing basketball, and she braked. The Expedition was too close to stop, and it struck the bumper of Blackmore's Mustang.
By the time Blackmore opened her eyes, the Expedition's driver was stomping over to her. He kicked her passenger door several times, she says. He banged his fists on the roof and then ripped the side mirror off the car, she says. She remembers him screaming, "You fucking bitch! You're dead. I'm going to kill you!"
A woman came out of her home to see about the commotion. "Call 911," Blackmore says she yelled as she picked up her cell phone to do the same.
But the young man in the Expedition was already talking on his own cell. "My father's a cop," Blackmore remembers him saying. "You're in big trouble."
The driver of the Expedition was Bryan Hoisington, the then-19-year-old son of Larry Hoisington — and Larry was on his way to the scene.
Blackmore remembers Larry Hoisington dressed in navy shorts and a white polo shirt with his name stitched on the back.
The 29-year police veteran seemed agitated, Blackmore says. She watched him shove his son into the Expedition and slam the door before going to talk to her. But as Bryan Hoisington tried to climb out of the truck, Larry charged back. "He was beating him on the face," Blackmore says. By then, a Hollywood patrol car had arrived, but Blackmore says the officer, Enrique Bassas, just watched.
After things settled down, Larry Hoisington gave Blackmore his business card. He told her to call him in a few days so they could settle the damage to her car, she says.
Larry and Bryan Hoisington tell a different story. Bryan says that Blackmore merged into his lane on 46th and that to avoid her, he jumped a median, raking the underbelly of his Expedition. (The Hoisingtons furnished a repair bill for the Expedition, for $1,157, to support that claim.) Bryan called his father, he says, who told him to follow the Ford Mustang so he could get the license-plate number.
Bryan denies that he shouted at Blackmore from his car or that he threw anything at her vehicle. The Hoisingtons say Blackmore was "brake-checking" Bryan — hitting her brakes to make him do the same — until finally it led to the collision on Fillmore.
Since he was on the phone, Larry Hoisington overheard his son call Blackmore a "fucking bitch," he says, but he and his son deny Bryan ever threatened her life. Larry does admit striking his son, saying he gave him a "slap upside the head."
As for the dents in Blackmore's door and the broken side mirror, the Hoisingtons say Bryan did it only to keep Blackmore from driving away from the scene.
In the week that followed the incident, Blackmore says she was racked with anxiety: "I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I was having headaches."
She never called Larry Hoisington. Still, Blackmore was determined to fix the dents in her car. Her neighbor, who's also her insurance agent, asked whether she'd gotten the police report from the incident. She had not.
So Blackmore drove to the Hollywood Police headquarters to get the report. The clerk, however, couldn't find anything with Blackmore's name on it. The report didn't exist.
This didn't make sense: A driver chased her through the streets, struck her car, damaged it, and — according to her version — threatened to kill her, and the police came, but nobody wrote a police report? And it just so happened that the driver was the son of a Hollywood cop?
To Blackmore, it looked suspiciously like a cover-up.
The case was assigned to the Hollywood Police Department's Internal Affairs unit.
Blackmore was entitled to a report, and Lt. Richard Nardello, who at the time headed the department's traffic division, wrote one that described Blackmore's allegations. But it was far from an authoritative document — written 11 days after the incident by an officer who had not been at the scene. Blackmore says she never even met Nardello and wonders who told him about her case.
It is not clear why Bassas, the officer who responded to the 911 call, did not write a report. After all, he could have rendered a firsthand account. Bassas refused to comment for this article, but he told an Internal Affairs investigator in 2005 that he thought the two parties had agreed to settle the matter between themselves.
The Hoisingtons are also angry a report wasn't made that day, they say, if only because the outdated, secondhand report by Nardello didn't include Bryan Hoisington's side of the story.
For this reason, Larry Hoisington says he contacted the Hollywood Police detective bureau in 2005 and asked for an investigation. The bureau assigned Detective William Ferguson. Larry says he also asked the traffic division to conduct a full investigation. Officer Jeff Courtney took the assignment, though he couldn't begin the investigation until Internal Affairs finished its probe.
In addition, Larry says he consulted two state attorneys about charging Blackmore with a misdemeanor: filing a false police report. Neither state attorney took the case.
"The only thing [the state attorney] said was that you should have let the other cop at the scene take care of everything — and that's right," Larry says. "With my son being involved... I'm sorry. I made a mistake. I should have let [the responding officer] handle this incident. That's the only mistake I made — that and not arresting [Blackmore] that day."
But if he had arrested Blackmore, wouldn't that have constituted involvement?
"Yes," Hoisington admits. "But once I did become involved, I should have arrested her."
In January 2005, Blackmore went to the state attorney's office to find out whether her case against Bryan Hoisington was moving forward. The clerk could find no such case.
When Blackmore pulled into her Fort Lauderdale home that same day, she was approached by two more Hoisingtons, she says — Bryan's mother and his sister, who were parked in a car waiting for Blackmore to come home.
"They were saying what a nice kid he was and how he never got into trouble before," Blackmore says. She says she sympathized with Bryan's family, but it didn't change her mind about his deserving punishment. And she wondered how they got her home address.
Two days later, Blackmore got a call from Ferguson, an investigator of her case. Blackmore says she was eager to help. She didn't know at the time that Ferguson had become involved at Larry Hoisington's request. But it did seem odd that Ferguson wanted to meet with her at a Starbucks, rather than at police headquarters. Blackmore brought a digital recorder to the meeting.
Ferguson agreed to let her tape the meeting, Blackmore says. The detective, however, didn't want her help with the investigation, she says. Rather, he wanted her to drop it. "He gave me all this stuff about how 'Officer Hoisington, he's in all our parades. He used to dress up like a clown for the children. We're planning his retirement party, which is just nine weeks away.' He made me feel like the bad guy."
Blackmore says she wouldn't budge. Ferguson asked whether she'd at least come with him to headquarters to meet with Police Chief James Scarberry and a captain, whose name she couldn't remember. Since Blackmore had another appointment to make, she told Ferguson she'd meet him afterward, she says.
Before Blackmore left, Ferguson asked to see her recorder, she says. She remembers him fiddling with it, then handing it back. A moment later, in the car, she turned on the recorder, she says, only to discover that her recording of the meeting had been erased.
Blackmore says she went to Hollywood Police headquarters that afternoon. She was ushered into a conference room and was shocked to see Bryan Hoisington sitting at the table. "What is he doing here?" she remembers asking.
An officer told Blackmore that Bryan Hoisington wished to apologize for the incident, she says. But Blackmore wanted to do the talking. "I let him have it," she says. "I told him he ruined my life."
Then Larry Hoisington entered the room. Blackmore says she told the elder Hoisington what his son had said — "I'm going to kill you" — and he broke into tears. She says she embraced him, and Larry Hoisington asked her to please drop her case. "He said, 'If you want me to, I'll quit my job today,' " Blackmore recalls.
She says she didn't want that, but she wasn't ready to drop her case either. As Ferguson walked Blackmore out of the conference room, she remembers him asking her, "How about we go upstairs and sign a waiver to stop the investigation?" Blackmore told him she wasn't ready. She says Ferguson asked her, "When will you be ready?"
The Hoisingtons' version is that in her meeting with Ferguson, Blackmore admitted to running Bryan off the road. Further, they say she knew that both father and son would be present at their meeting at headquarters.
Ferguson himself might be able to shed light on this subject, but department policy is that interview requests flow through the public affairs unit, headed by Capt. Tony Rode, who did not return numerous calls.
After the meeting at headquarters, Blackmore says she didn't hear from Ferguson or any other investigators. She had no clue what had happened to the case against the Hoisingtons until she received a call from New Times last month.
It was news to Blackmore that Ferguson dropped his case in March 2005. His report says that "Ms. Blackmore expressed to this detective that she wishes to settle the matter with the other listed person, Hoisington, and does not wish the police department to intervene."
"No," Blackmore says, "that's not true."
In his report, Ferguson claims to have made "several attempts to contact Ms. Blackmore by responding to her residence and leaving voice messages."
"That is totally false," Blackmore charges. She remembers no messages from Ferguson. Indeed, she says that she was the one leaving messages on Ferguson's voice-mail that he never returned.
Ferguson concluded: "This case is inactive, due to Ms. Blackmore refusing to cooperate."
To which Blackmore scoffs, "Ha!"
In the mid-1990s, Hollywood Chief Richard Witt blew the whistle on his own department's practice of hiring officers with checkered backgrounds, the ones no other department would hire. The Hollywood City Commission responded — by firing Witt in 1996.
After the city went through three chiefs in three years, James Scarberry's 1999 appointment brought continuity to the office; but under his watch, the scandals have only grown bigger. This past year, four Hollywood officers — including Jeff Courtney, an investigator in the Hoisington road-rage case — entered guilty pleas after an FBI investigation in which undercover agents posed as criminals seeking police protection for illegal gambling and heroin shipments. Three more Hollywood cops have been suspended after being accused of playing a role in a leak that forced the FBI investigation to end prematurely.
Those cases were just coming to light in January as Bryan Hoisington was applying for a job as a Hollywood cop.
"They knew all about this incident with [Blackmore]," Larry Hoisington says of his former colleagues in the Hollywood P.D. "They investigated it, and they saw no problem. They hired him as a cadet."
But it wasn't the only incident of police contact involving Bryan Hoisington. Within this past year, Bryan Hoisington had been followed by a group of undercover cops who were patrolling Hollywood Boulevard for street crimes, Larry says. When their unmarked Dodge Durango pulled up alongside Bryan, he allegedly gave them the middle finger. Or at least, that's what they later told Larry Hoisington, who says that he's never known his son to curse and that he believes Bryan's denial.
Bryan initially refused to pull over, and when he finally did, he refused to get out of his car, Larry says. "Long story short: They yanked him out of the car, found out he was my son, and let him go. I talked to all six people involved. It was no big deal."
And again, Bryan Hoisington was not arrested and no incident report was written. This may be the reason, Larry Hoisington says, that Hollywood P.D. leaders didn't know of the incident — until after Bryan had been in the police academy a few weeks and someone called the chief's office.
"The timing was terrible," Larry Hoisington says. The FBI sting was exploding on front pages across South Florida. Larry remembers a conversation with Hollywood Police Assistant Chief Lou Granteed. " 'Because of what's happening now, we're afraid the press is going to make a big deal of something,' " Hoisington recalls Granteed saying. Granteed did not respond to a request for comment.
So Bryan wouldn't be hired as a Hollywood cop.
"I said, 'What? This is nothing,' " Larry Hoisington recalls. " 'You have cops doing all kinds of things out there. This kid did nothing wrong.' "
Larry says Granteed told him that Bryan would be allowed to stay in the academy and graduate but that as a condition, Bryan would have to resign after he graduated.
Still, this was a colossal favor. The city paid Bryan Hoisington a half-year's starting salary: $21,000, according to sources familiar with training costs. It paid the $3,500 cost of Hoisington's education at the academy, plus several hundred dollars for his graduation uniform and hundreds more for his books. That's a roughly $25,000 investment by Hollywood taxpayers, all for an officer who would never wear the uniform. When Bryan Hoisington graduated from the academy in late June, as per Granteed's instructions, he resigned.
But Bryan needed a job, and if he couldn't work in Hollywood, then perhaps Hollywood would work for him.
Says Larry: "I was told by [Miramar Police] Chief [Mel] Standley that [Hollywood Police] Chief Scarberry called there and said, 'Will you hire the kid? He's a good kid. We just can't hire him here.' "
Granteed and a few other higher-ups made similar calls, says Larry Hoisington, who also says he met personally with Standley and Miramar Police Assistant Chief Keith Dunn. Larry says he expected his son to land a job with that department. "They were going to hire him," he says. "But something happened — I don't know what. Somebody is out to sabotage my son's life for some reason."
Miramar Police spokesman Bill Robertson refused to state specific reasons for Bryan Hoisington's not being hired except to say, "He was passed over for more competitive candidates."
Perhaps Sue Blackmore knows what happened. When Miramar police contacted her about Bryan, she says, "I told them I'd be scared to death of that kid carrying a gun."