Police Beat

Dr. James E. Tylke is fidgety. At 35 years old, the anesthesiologist should have his life on cruise control. Since he was in fifth grade, Tylke had dreamed of becoming a doctor. He's outgoing, easy to talk to, the kind of guy you hope to sit beside at a sports bar and watch his Green Bay Packers put the hurt on another team. And he's the kind of guy you hope is monitoring your local anesthetic and prepping you for surgery. He's knowledgeable and professional. When he punches out for the day, the young doctor's biggest problem should be deciding whether he wants to drive his Mercedes or his BMW.

Tylke sits in the conference room of his lawyer's office on a breezy November night. He's wearing powder-blue hospital scrubs and tennis shoes, hair disheveled and eyes wide open. There's a beautiful view of Boca Raton and the surrounding areas from Alan Kauffman's 11th-floor window, the lights of South Palm Beach County spreading clear for several country miles. Tylke gazes out the floor-to-ceiling windows vacantly. He has a fixed stare, but he sees nothing.

"I've become one of the most paranoid people on the planet," Tylke offers, his voice overwrought because of a combination of professional stress and personal strife. "I loved what I was doing. Now I hate it. I wanted to help people. Now it's not fun anymore. Now it's torture. I get jabs all the time. Everybody has a comment about it. Doctors are a tight-knit group, and now anesthesiologists across the country know about the South Florida anesthesiologist who supposedly beat up a cop."

Tylke's pessimism stems from a life-altering run-in with a former Delray Beach police lieutenant who was, for a time, one of his precinct's most celebrated officers: Lt. Jeffery Rancour, a driving force behind a massive beach cleanup. Rancour prided himself on busting local derelicts. He nailed drug dealers with undercover stings and had a network of informants at his beck and call. Rancour also moonlighted as a security guard at some Delray Beach nightspots; it was while working in this capacity that he crossed paths with Tylke.

The night of August 8, 1997, at the club formerly known as the Back Room on East Atlantic Avenue started out slow with some wine and hors d'oeuvres, but it would end with Tylke on the receiving end of a series of billy-club blows, flying elbows, knee-drops, and an entire can of pepper spray emptied into his mucous membranes. As if the sting of the U.C. spray weren't enough to rattle him to the core, Tylke was staring at a possible 20-year prison sentence, charged with four felonies: two counts of resisting arrest and a count each of assaulting a police officer and interfering with a paramedic. Even after Tylke was acquitted in December 1998, he faced a civil suit: Rancour sued Tylke for injuries he had suffered while beating the doctor.

Delray Beach is not your stereotypical hotbed of illegal activity. Twice now, in 1993 and again in 2001, the National Civic League and Allstate Insurance Company bestowed the All-America City Award to this quiet beach community. Quaint shops and boutiques line Atlantic Avenue from I-95 down to the water. But this all-American city hosts a police department with a reputation for racial profiling, has paid a large settlement to six black officers for internal discrimination, and has faced a state investigation for other misconduct within the department.

Within that context, Jeffery Rancour hardly looks out of place. His service record is littered with allegations (all unsubstantiated) of excessive force and harassment; he's even been sued by one of his own subordinates. Despite these problems, Rancour rose through the ranks to lieutenant, and his say-so was enough to put Tylke on trial for his freedom.

Rancour refused to talk to New Times about the Tylke incident and subsequent court battles; he referred all questions to his attorney, Fred Gelston, who did not return repeated phone calls. Rancour retired from the Delray Beach Police Department in July 2000 at age 41; he still works for the Lantana Police Department as an officer. Tylke, for one, wonders why Rancour is allowed to wear a badge at all.

The controversies surrounding the Delray Beach Police Department date back decades. In January 1979, the Miami Herald called for then-Chief of Police Murray O. Cochran to resign, blasting him for "fann[ing] the city's internal hatred" between black and white residents.

The problems continued under his successor, Charles Kilgore, who ran the department from 1979 to 1990. Published reports over the years have noted that Kilgore's bosses at city hall have reprimanded him for misspending funds, selling vitamins to city employees out of the back of his truck, and moonlighting as a rent collector.  

His reign also was tainted with racial discord. In 1990, six black Delray Beach police officers sued the department, alleging race-based discrimination in promotions and tacit approval of racism. In 1996, a federal jury ordered the City of Delray Beach to pay the officers $760,000.

(The department's ethnic afflictions did not stop with Kilgore, according to the Palm Beach Post; the newspaper reported that in 1991, an officer posted on a bulletin board a drawing of a black man with a bone through his nose and a poster of a black baby with a gigantic penis. Several black officers, including then-Officer Verna Kearney, found threatening notes on their patrol cars, the paper reported.)

"We had so many police officers at that time, and not the rank-and-file police officers, involved in corrupt acts," claims Virginia Snyder, a retired private investigator who worked for two of the plaintiffs in the discrimination case. "What had happened over the years -- decades -- was if you went along with the corruption, the brutality, the altering records, you got promoted. You didn't get promoted on merit; you got promoted on what you knew and what you might tell. As a result, the bad guys ended up running the department."

As New Times detailed in a feature story on Snyder ("Conspiracy, She Wrote," January 1998), the now 81-year-old ex-P.I. and Delray Beach resident has been making these kinds of inflammatory statements about the Delray Beach PD since 1973. Back then, as a reporter for the Boca Raton News, she began investigating the death of Bridigo Cabrera, a 16-year-old Mexican-American whom Delray Beach police shot and killed. After her lengthy inquiry, the boy's family sued the city for wrongful death and was paid a $100,000 settlement.

Snyder continued to be a thorn in the department's side, even after Kilgore replaced Cochran; she was convinced that a culture of corruption pervaded the Delray Beach PD. "In my opinion, it was very racist, it was very brutal, and it was very violent," she says. In 1989, she provided her old employer, the Boca Raton News, with evidence that she says showed that Delray Beach police had "fixed" 400 traffic tickets. The Palm Beach County state attorney's office investigated her claim in May of that year but did not file criminal charges, instead citing Kilgore's department four months later for sloppy record-keeping.

Still, Snyder did not back off, petitioning then-Gov. Bob Martinez to appoint a prosecutor to review the many other charges of wrongdoing by Delray Beach cops that she had compiled -- including her accusation that they had planted a spy in her office, in the person of a 22-year-old intern. As word came down in late 1989 that the governor planned to appoint Janet Reno, then the state attorney for Dade County, to investigate Snyder's claims, something shocking happened: Delray Beach Police Capt. Jerry Paller was found dead in his home that November.

Snyder describes Paller as a straight shooter, an honest cop who was loved by the community and hated within his own department. He was a Eucharistic minister in the Catholic Church, a husband, and a father. His committing suicide did not make sense to her.

After Paller's death, Snyder interviewed Bob Savage, his next-door neighbor and good friend. According to Snyder, Savage told her that Paller had said that if Reno came to him asking questions, "I'll probably be the only one left upstairs," meaning in administration.

Savage said that, the night before the shooting, he and Paller agreed to meet for donuts the next morning.

Instead, Paller was found lying on his couch with a gun on his chest. He had been shot in the face; the bullet exited the back of his head and went into the wall behind him. Snyder says the Delray Beach police at the crime scene never got the bullet out of the wall; rather than conduct a homicide investigation, she says, police instead ruled Paller's death a suicide.

"I don't think it was a suicide," Snyder declares. "I think he was murdered."

Governor Martinez did eventually appoint Reno as a special prosecutor to investigate all of Snyder's material. At the urging of elected officials, Kilgore retired during Reno's investigation, in October 1990. The inquiry ended in 1991, having found no evidence of wrongdoing. In 1993, Snyder filed suit against the city, Kilgore, and others (including her ex-intern) in circuit court in an effort to prove that police had secretly recorded her conversations, tapped her phone line, and stolen her documents. She lost that case but appealed. In July 1999, the Fourth District Court of Appeals upheld the lower-court ruling by a 2-1 vote, dismissing her charges against the city -- but not against the individuals involved. In November 2000, the City of Delray Beach agreed to pay her a $25,000 settlement and write her a letter of apology.  

Snyder says she has asked new Delray Beach Police Chief Larry Schroeder to reopen the Paller shooting case. Asked to comment on his department's history, Schroeder, who became chief in August 2001, says only, "I'm not familiar with any racism or excessive force within the organization, now or at any time. We deal with people's concerns very carefully, and I'm not familiar with any incidents here."

Jeffery Rancour wasn't implicated in any of the high-profile dubious dealings that marred Kilgore's tenure as chief. Rancour's personnel file does contain a number of complaints during his 18 years on the force -- perhaps not surprising for an officer assigned to clean up drug-ridden neighborhoods.

The complaints range from straying beyond his assigned area to using deceptive tactics and excessive force. In 1984, he was suspended for a day. According to a memorandum from former Chief Kilgore to former City Manager James Pennington, Rancour "has developed a pattern of being out of his zone.... Verbal reprimands have not corrected this problem." He was caught out of his zone again a month later and was disciplined once more.

Rancour said in a deposition in his lawsuit against James Tylke that from 1987 to 1997, there were fourteen reports of excessive force and three of false arrest lodged against him. None of these allegations was substantiated, and Rancour continued his rise in the department. In May 1988, Kilgore approved a request for Rancour to be deputized by the FBI and assigned to the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force. In an evaluation by Lt. H. Scott Lunsferd in 1996, a year before Rancour crossed paths with Tylke, Rancour scored a 384 out of a possible 396 in an overall ranking. Under the "Work Effort and Initiative" section of the evaluation, Lunsferd wrote:

"[Rancour] is always aggressive and proactive. Accepts responsibility for actions. Knows how to get the job done and does so without being told. Goes beyond the required work level. Understands the mission of the department and it is reflected in his work."

At least one of Rancour's subordinates found him a bit too aggressive. In 2000, former Delray Beach Officer Wayne Hart sued Rancour and the city in civil court for sexual harassment. Hart, who had served on the force from 1991 to 1997, alleged that then-Sergeant Rancour, his direct supervisor, had taunted him for years with comments of a sexual nature.

According to a Sun-Sentinel report, Hart testified that the harassment began in 1994, when Rancour said that Hart's shorts were too tight. All of the subsequent teasing focused on Hart's sexuality in general and his nether regions in particular, eventually leading to Rancour's dubbing his underling "Sausage Boy." He added that Rancour more than once encouraged a convenience-store clerk to grab Hart's genitals. In October 1996, Hart said, he found a can of Vienna sausages in his office mailbox; he was transferred from community policing to road patrol four months later, at which point he resigned.

In October 2000, a jury rejected Hart's claim. Even so, Hart's lawyer pointed to the testimony of then-Chief Richard Overman as an encouraging result of the trial.

"Their behavior did not reflect well on the Delray Beach Police Department," Overman stated when asked to assess the treatment Hart had received from Rancour and others. "I would consider that conduct unbecoming an officer."

On August 8, 1997, Dr. James Tylke and his girlfriend (and now wife) B.J. were meeting some friends at 32 East, a swank eatery in Delray Beach. Pete Kampine, Tylke's childhood buddy from Milwaukee, along with Kampine's fiancée and brother Bill and Bill's wife, Andrea, from Washington D.C., were looking forward to some catch-up time. Some light banter was exchanged over drinks. Tylke says no one in the group of six was drinking heavily, just a couple of bottles of wine while they ate.

After dinner, Tylke suggested the crew head to the Back Room for a little after-dinner jazz. At the door was a small gathering. A man was taking money while an off-duty police officer wearing a black polo shirt and shorts kept an eye on the crowd. Tylke, being the host, paid the cover for his entire party. As he was paying, the off-duty cop, whom Tylke later learned was Lt. Jeffery Rancour, made a comment to a gaggle of ladies standing around the entrance.

"Whoa, a $50 bill. I wish I was out with a big spender tonight," Tylke's girlfriend later reported having heard the cop say.  

According to Tylke, about 15 minutes after the group entered the jazz club, Andrea Kampine passed out. At that point, Tylke switched gears and went into doctor mode. Tylke and company moved Kampine outside, where he tried to stabilize her condition. A waitress gave Tylke a damp rag to place on Kampine's forehead. The doctor checked her pulse.

"She came to and started to say to me that she could only hear me and not see me," Tylke says. "She was losing her vision. I checked her pulse, and it felt weak and faint." He realized her medical progress was going the wrong way, so Tylke took her out of a chair and laid her on the pavement. After Tylke resuscitated her outside the club, Kampine opened her eyes wide and said to no one in particular, "What is happening? What is going on? Am I OK?"

Tylke didn't call 911 or yell for anyone to do so. He was too concerned with checking Kampine's vital signs to realize that someone had called the paramedics, who, as he puts it, "charged the scene."

Five Delray Beach Fire and Rescue Department paramedics responded to a phone call within 20 minutes. One of them asked Tylke what was going on; Tylke says he identified himself as an anesthesiologist at Broward General and told them that this was his friend. "I gave the story in a nutshell," he says, "using not a lot of medical jargon but some." He's worked with paramedics many times -- every day, he reports to the hospital, in fact. But he says that, of all the crews he's worked with, these paramedics were particularly underequipped and rather ignorant regarding procedure in emergency situations.

"The paramedics come on the scene, and I think, "No big deal.' But after 15 minutes of asking them for a blood-pressure cuff and them saying they didn't bring one to an emergency scene, I changed my mind."

Tylke asked the head paramedic, Katherine Hoecherl, three times for a blood-pressure cuff. Finally, out of frustration, Tylke snapped, "What is the blood pressure?" to which, he says, Hoecherl replied, "We didn't bring any equipment." When he asked her how that could be, Hoecherl yelled out for someone to "get him out of here."

"I told her, "I'm not going anywhere,'" Tylke says. "I was caught off-guard by a paramedic ordering me off an emergency scene."

Apparently, Hoecherl didn't know her own department's guidelines. According to Delray Beach Fire and Rescue "Advanced Life Support Protocol":

"Should a physician present at an emergency scene wish to alter the protocols or supervise the care of a patient, he or she must show identification which would convince a reasonable paramedic that the person is a physician; or be known to the paramedic to be a physician; or contacts a hospital or office that confirms that the person is a physician."

Tylke says he told the paramedics he was a physician, told them whom he worked for, and told them that he was assuming responsibility for the patient until her condition was stabilized. He adds that the paramedics never questioned whether he was a doctor.

When a paramedic told him to back off, Tylke barked at her again. "I told her I know more fucking medicine then she'll ever know," he says.

Tylke says that then a large man -- whom he later learned was Rancour -- started pushing him back from the scene. "The next thing I know, I'm getting the shit beat out of me," Tylke says.

According to Tylke's sworn testimony, Rancour started advancing toward him, not saying a word, then stepped through the crowd and across the prone form of Andrea Kampine to get to Tylke. When Rancour was upon him, Tylke raised his hands as if in self-defense. Rancour, he says, did not identify himself as a police officer. (Rancour was wearing Delray Beach Police-issue shirt and shorts.)

Tylke says Rancour then grabbed him and started pushing him backward. Another man, later identified as Officer William Berry, arrived and restrained Tylke from behind as Rancour sprayed pepper spray in the doctor's eyes and mouth. When Tylke was wrestled to the ground, pepper spray was applied in his ear. Then Rancour pulled out his baton and hit Tylke repeatedly, including shots to the doctor's legs below the knee (an action contrary to Delray Beach Police protocol). Tylke still sports scars on his ankles and shins from the beating.

"Looking back on it, I didn't know that the cops were involved until I realized I was being beaten with a bat," Tylke recalls. "I'm on the ground, Berry's knee is in my back, and Rancour is pepper-spraying me," Tylke says, growing more animated as he recounts the tale. Rancour then yelled "Get down!" at which point Berry picked him up off the ground.  

That, says Alan Kauffman, Tylke's civil attorney, is an old trick cops use to get away with using excessive force. If you're not obeying a policeman's orders to "get down," you're resisting arrest and can be forcefully restrained. In Tylke's case, that restraint entailed more batoning.

"If I wasn't from Wisconsin and drinking milk every day, I'd be crippled," Tylke quips.

According to Rancour's March 2000 deposition in Tylke's lawsuit against him, the events of that night occurred mostly as Tylke describes them. The main difference: Rancour maintained that, when he approached Tylke, the doctor pushed him, then started swinging at him.

"[Tylke] wanted to fight," Rancour stated. "He wanted to throw punches at me. Then I grabbed his arm. He snatched his arm back after I still told him he was under arrest.... The... spray I used to try to get him to de-escalate, that didn't work. He was grabbing all over me. We were elbowing, fighting. It was like a fight that you would see in a hockey game. I grabbed my nightstick. I tapped him probably three or four times on the shin, and then he went down."

The doctor says that as he was handcuffed and awaiting transport to the Delray Beach jail, his throat started closing up from all the pepper spray. His eyes felt as if they were on fire, since no one gave him an antidote to the spray's sting; even at the jail, no one allowed Tylke to wash out his eyes and mouth.

Tylke also remembers that before his arrest, Rancour was verbally harassing his friends. "He asked Bill Kampine if his wife was on roofies," Tylke says. "We were all dressed nicely, and we are all professionals, but he was looking for the drugs. That's what made him rise in the ranks to lieutenant: He busts bad guys for drugs."

The paramedics transported Andrea Kampine to the emergency room of Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Boynton Beach. Once she stabilized that night, she was released. Soon after her return to the Washington, D.C., area, Tylke says, she was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening heart arrhythmia, for which she has taken medication ever since.

Tylke was put in jail around 12:30 a.m. and released about 6 in the morning. Within two months of the arrest, Rancour and the Delray Beach PD filed a probable-cause affidavit, and the state attorney's office took it and ran with it. Rancour brought the civil suit within a month of the arrest.

Rancour claimed that his knees were injured in the struggle with Tylke; his lawyer at the time, Robert Baker, requested a settlement of $90,000. In 1998, Baker wrote a letter to Jerome Rosenblum, who was Tylke's criminal defense lawyer at the time. The letter said that the $90,000 figure takes into account "past medical bills as well as future medical bills, as Lt. Rancour has an ACL tear which shall be requiring further surgical revision."

Tylke rejected the offer outright. "I'm going to pay a man $90,000 for not only beating me up but for a preexisting knee condition?" Tylke exclaims. "It's unbelievable! I've never heard of anything like it."

Then, in a second letter from Baker to Rosenblum acquired by New Times, Baker proposed a rather odd quid pro quo. "Your client [Tylke] has apparently rejected our offer of settlement in the amount of $90,000, and yet you have failed to respond with any counter offer," Baker wrote. "I do want you to know that we have communicated with [the assistant state attorney working the case], and I am very confident that if the civil case is resolved, the criminal case will not be prosecuted further by the State. The next move is yours. If I do not hear from you on or before May 15, 1998 with a reasonable counter offer, the complaint shall be filed without further notice."

While he stops short of calling this letter blackmail, Kauffman does allow, "It's not a letter I would ever consider writing." Tylke went on to take his chances in the criminal case.

The judge ended up dismissing the two counts of resisting arrest; the jury acquitted Tylke of the charges of assaulting a police officer and interfering with a paramedic. "Our position is that the person that should have been arrested is Rancour," Kauffman says. "Rancour violated the state statute when he interfered with and emergency-care provider. Tylke is a licensed physician. Tylke was on the scene first, not the paramedics. Tylke was simply treating someone with a medical condition, and that's still not a crime in Delray."  

Rancour has his own theory as to why Tylke got off: "[H]e was rich... he had finances to hire the best attorneys available," he stated in his March 2000 deposition. "I would say that he had resources that are above the normal medium income.... I would say Mr. Tylke's income is far greater [because] of him being a doctor." At the time of the incident, Tylke earned roughly $50,000 a year.

Although Tylke says he wanted to fight Rancour's civil suit until the bitter end, it was Kauffman who suggested that the doctor settle and be done with it. Rancour received a $25,000 settlement in July 2000 -- despite the fact that Kauffman had obtained a video taken of Rancour outside his home doing yard work and climbing a ladder. When New Times viewed the tape, Rancour looked reasonably spry.

"I made a calculated decision," Kauffman says. "I went to the mediation and helped bring that case to a settlement because I didn't want it going to court. As long as it wasn't Tylke's money -- it was State Farm's money [under Tylke's homeowner's policy] -- I was OK with that."

Tylke says the settlement was a combination of Kauffman's wanting to finish with that headache as well as not wanting there to be legal activity on several fronts.

"I don't think he deserved anything," Tylke says. "He was taking advantage of me. Throughout the course of that August night, Rancour made three separate money references both to me and about me."

Tylke says the first reference was the comment about the $50 bill. Then, Tylke says, someone at the scene reported having heard Rancour brag about having "arrested a rich guy." While Tylke was in custody, he says, Rancour started asking him about his insurance coverage.

"I said, "What, like liability?'" Tylke says. "He said he needed to know about my homeowner's policy and all of the umbrella clauses. So he seemed to be setting me up...."

In March 1999, Tylke filed his civil suit against Rancour, Officer Berry, and the City of Delray Beach alleging excessive force, false arrest and imprisonment, and malicious prosecution; a combination of legal wrangling and a long court docket has delayed the case. Kauffman intends to have the video entered as evidence in Tylke's civil case and to go to trial in early 2002.

Rancour now switch-hits between his law enforcement duties with the Lantana Police Department and his second job as an insurance broker for Northwestern Mutual Life in Boca Raton. Tylke still rises and sleeps with one question on his mind: How did Lt. Jeffery Rancour ever get the best of him? Tylke says that because of this incident, he was asked to leave Broward General; since then, other area hospitals have been reluctant to hire him not because of his performance, he says, but because of negative publicity associated with the beating incident.

Tylke eagerly awaits his day in court on the civil case, though no trial date has been set. While he believes that his life will forever be in some state of disarray, he nevertheless feels that this civil case is the only way to salvage some dignity since his run-in with Rancour.

"Most people think I beat the system like O.J.," Tylke says. "Most people think I got off. Not only do I work 90 hours a week taking people that are five minutes from death and reviving them but I got a cop that beats me up and sends me a letter saying if I give him $90,000, he'll drop the criminal charges. Now, all my free time is spent doing legal stuff. I'm fat as hell now, I'm losing my hair, and I wake up and retch every morning. I want justice to be done in whatever shape or form it comes."

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