Remembering Joe Whitehouse, killed by APD’s Sheddi Skeete 13 years ago…


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41 KILLINGS by the Anaheim Police Department since the year 2000.  We write a lot about the most recent ones, but we shouldn’t forget the others – the grieving families are still grieving, and most of the cops are still on the force.  Like the case of 30-year old fisherman Joe Whitehouse, killed July 16, 2007 by APD officers Sheddi Skeete and Ryan Tisdale.

According to Joe’s family, he was a “plain old fisherman who loved life,” the second child of three, in a family that had experienced homelessness. He used to take out the youth from his East Anaheim neighborhood (just blocks from Placentia) and teach them how to fish. He liked to quote that old expression, “If you give someone a fish, they’ll eat for one night; but if you teach them how to fish, they’ll never starve.”

Young Joe on left, his brother Chris on right.

Joe Whitehouse had a lot of friends, and had never really been in trouble. He did take the rap for one of the kids where they lived, a fifteen-year old. The cops pulled them over walking to the bus stop – Joe was on his way to work – and the kid had a baggie with scraps of meth in it. Joe took it from him, telling him “there’s no reason to throw your life away.”  He did like to drink.  He did 9 months in rehab for the charge he took for the kid, and he was just getting off probation for fishing without a license and drunk in public – same arrest.  Those were all his charges in his entire thirty years. 

By the summer of 2007, Joe was engaged to Norma Rivera and had two stepdaughters, Alicia and Crystal, whom he “loved with all his heart.” He was supposed to leave for Alaska in a week to work on a halibut boat.  But a brawl broke out between him and his brother Chris.  Joe went back to his place (across the street) and got his fishing knife, and Chris locked his front door securely.  Joe first scratched up Chris’ car with his knife, and then started banging on Chris’ door while Chris kept hollering abuse at him from inside.  In a rage, Joe stabbed the door with his knife and broke off the blade, rendering it harmless, then returned to banging and kicking the door as Chris kept taunting him.

The place where it happened.

Somewhere during that time Joe’s mother and sister made a tragic mistake – they called the Anaheim Police Department to help defuse the fight between the brothers.  A tragic mistake that we’ve seen several times in recent years – for example, Peter Muntean‘s mother wishes she’d never called 911 for help with her son’s paranoid behavior, and Monique Deckard‘s brother wished he’d never called 911 to check on his schizophrenic sister’s erratic behavior holed up in her apartment, and Eliuth Nava Penaloza‘s family wishes they’d never called the APD when they were worried about his behavior. 

All these people, and more, ended up slaughtered.  For when a department’s only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.  And the APD sent over a couple of mighty hammers that day – Sheddi Skeete armed with a shotgun, and rookie officer Ryan Tisdale armed with a handgun.

The Killing

This was in the days before cops wore body cameras, and it was in the days before concerned citizens began Filming The Police whenever it looked like something bad might be happening.  But there were witnesses, and not just Corie the sister, who attest that the cops’ story to the DA (that Joe turned around and charged at them brandishing a huge butcher knife) was a total lie.  What the witnesses say was that Joe was still so enraged at his brother and busy kicking the locked door (while armed with a broken knife) that he didn’t even seem to notice the two cops behind him as they ordered him to put his hands up.

No, Joe Whitehouse never even turned to look at Skeete and Tisdale.  Skeete’s first shotgun blast blew off Joe’s left hand.  His second blast blew through Joe’s left side, came out the right side, and went right through the wall of the apartment, nearly hitting Chris’ 7-year old daughter and 8-year old son (who the cops DID know were in there) and demolished a dresser.  The 7-year old first thought that the bits of her uncle’s shirt and stomach matter flying through her room was confetti. 

Skeete’s THIRD shotgun blast blew thru the left side of Joe’s knee and lodged into the right side.  Not to be outdone, Officer Tisdale shot him six times in the back.  They later told DA Rackauckas (to whom any policeman’s word was gospel) that not only did Joe charge at them, but that he was holding the knife in his right hand.  Joe was left-handed, and they shot that hand off.

The rookie officer Tisdale reportedly took some time off after the incident, but we know that he was back in action in time to cost the city $400,000 for his March 2008 false arrest and imprisonment of a man for letting his son kill a possum with a shovel.  (That’s about 8 times as much as Joe Whitehouse’s family got for the killing of Joe, but their lawyer wasn’t as good.)  Tisdale became a well-paid APD Sergeant in 2016, and seems to be on the SWAT Team.

Skeete on right, receiving 2018 award.

Sheddi Skeete took two weeks’ paid vacation, and killed Jorge Renteria Terriquez with a taser less than two months later – tasers are much more frequently lethal than the Taser company and police departments want you to know.  Two years later he was promoted to Sergeant, and in 2018, having shedded “Sheddi” for the more dignified “Shed,” he was awarded “Field Services Division Officer of the Year Award.”  (For not having killed anyone in ten years?  Nah, probably not.)  But from the moment he returned from his two weeks’ paid vacation in July 2007, he demonstrated a cruel obsession with Joe Whitehouse’s sister and mother, according to Corie and many witnesses…

Skeete’s Harassment, in Corie’s words:

“After Skeete’s paid vacation he went back to work July 31, 2007.  That night, when my husband and I came home from work, he was sitting on the corner of our apartment where my brother was killed. As we turned the corner and pulled into our driveway he pulled us over, and called for backup. A total of three cop cars showed up.

“Skeete came walking up to our car with his hand on his gun. ‘Licences and registration!’ Of course I was still mourning my brother.  I didn’t even realize that it was him until ten or fifteen minutes later. He kept talking crap, like ‘Why are you so hostile?’ I said, ‘Because you guys killed my brother!’  He laughed and said, ‘Well he should have put his hands up!’  So I snapped. He said ‘You want to go to jail, keep up that attitude!’

Sheddi exercising!

“THAT’s when I looked at his face and realized it was him, Sheddi Skeete! I started to yell.  ‘Why did you shoot him?! YOU were the one with the shotgun! My brother had nothing in his hands and you killed him!’  As he walked back to his car, I was still crying. He came back up with a bald white officer. He said ‘I pulled you over because your headlight wasn’t all the way opened, so I’m giving you a fix-it ticket.’

“My husband got me into the house. I went outside to smoke a cigarette and the cops were on the corner laughing and kept looking my way.  The next night we came home from work. He was sitting on our corner again. I stood in my front yard yelling at him to leave us alone.

“The whole month of August we had cops sitting on the corner watching our apartment. His white bald friend would drive by my mom’s apartment and turn on his sirens. When my mom would go outside to see what was going on, it would be the white cop pointing two fingers at her, like he was pretending to shoot her.  It was a nightmare. When we’d call the police station and make a complaint they’d say, ‘We don’t have no officers in that area.’ I’d say, ‘Really, then why is there one in our driveway?’

“My mom was scared to leave. Then her depression got really bad. When she got sick she didn’t want to go the hospital. She thought the cops would be there. So I had to call the ambulance. When they took her she found out her gallbladder needed to be removed. It was the hospital that spread her cancer we didn’t even know she had.

More Sheddi exercise!

“But during that time we had to go back and forth with the DA over the settlement. It was heartbreaking. The cops would come in and smack smirks at her. They told her his body wasn’t worth much money. She would break down again saying, ‘That’s my son you’re talking about. No money could replace him.’  They would whisper, look, and whisper again. They told her, ‘Well, he was only working for six months, and he had no kids, so he ISN’T worth much.’ She would have anxiety attacks and collapse.

“The next time we were supposed to meet, that bald white cop was downstairs from her apartment again. She wouldn’t leave, so we missed the appointment. I tried to explain to the lawyers what was going on. They couldn’t have cared less. They weren’t civil right lawyers, they were accident lawyers. We didn’t know anything about civil rights or police shootings. We were raised to respect the law enforcement. My mom used to have friends who were police when I was growing up.

“The DA said Joe’s body was worth $30,000. I told them no. So our lawyer said the DA offered $60,000. I told them I needed to talk to my mom. She couldn’t talk about it, or money. Anytime you brought it up, she’d cry and have attacks. So I called the lawyer and told them $100,000. The DA agreed as long as they could GAG the case. AND gag my mom. Then the lawyer took most of that $100,000.  [Again, this was in the years before the DA even had to release an investigation report to the public.]

“My mom donated a lot of the money to different people. After Caesar Cruz was killed in 2009, she helped his mother Theresa Smith with her LEAN (Law Enforcement Action Network.) She bought all of us Justice Fighters megaphones and shirts with our loved ones’ pics. She sent the kids from the neighborhood to Disney – all of Joe’s old friends and their kids to Disneyland. (We didn’t know how corrupt Disney was yet.)  She donated a lot of it to homeless people.  She called the settlement BLOOD MONEY and didn’t want to keep it.

“And throughout all this, Skeete never stopped following me.  We were at a protest in 2011 or 12 with Theresa and Kelly’s Army [the big group of protesters formed after the Fullerton Police killing of Kelly Thomas in 2011] and Skeete kept following me around trying to hand me a disperse order. Everywhere I went Skeete went…

“This is my friends confronting him.
They were a part of Kelly’s Army:

“This was at the protest when Skeete was following me.
I collapsed in Theresa’s arms crying.”

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These days Corie Kline frequently Films The Police in her neighborhood, whenever she hears sirens or sees them coming – it’s the best way to prevent another tragedy like what happened to her … or at worst, prevent any lying afterward about what happened.  I’ve already written a few stories based on her filming.

And her 13-year old son Derrick has dedicated his last three birthdays to Feeding the Homeless.  As Corie says, “My brothers and I grew up as homeless kids so we know what it’s like.”

(Derrick Cline over the years.)


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.