Settlement of Retaliation Lawsuit Against City Was Scheduled
CATHEDRAL CITY, CA – Former Desert Hot Springs police officer Andrea Danelle Heath died last night around 10:00 PM in her Cathedral City residence on Garbino Road, according to the Riverside County Coroner.
Sources inside the police department [names withheld] say Heath died of a gunshot to the head. The matter is under investigation by the Cathedral City police department.
Officer Heath, age 44 and survived by a 10 year old daughter, shared her Cathedral City residence with Desert Hot Springs police officer Jimmy Martin Henson. According to police department sources [names withheld] Henson was at home with Heath at the time of the incident.
Andrea Heath was involved with a variety of high profile internal matters regarding the Desert Hot Springs police department.
The Andrea Heath Lawsuit
A $5 million retaliation lawsuit initiated by Andrea Heath against the city of Desert Hot Springs has been winding its way through the courts.
That lawsuit identifying harassment and retaliation by city officials and former police chief Patrick Williams was withheld from Petaluma city council members prior to their 2012 hiring of Williams as their police chief, after his resignation from Desert Hot Springs. Former city attorney Ruben Duran was instrumental in the withholding of Heath’s lawsuit until after Williams’ hiring was officially confirmed as Petaluma Police Chief.
The 2011 investigation by the FBI of the Desert Hot Springs police department resulting in the conviction of Officer Anthony Sclafani for excessive use of force and his subsequent incarceration in the federal penitentiary was initiated by the whistle-blowing of Officer Heath and former Desert Hot Springs police chief Walt McKinney.
A recent decision by the 9th Court of Appeals just last week upheld whistle-blower protections afforded police officers such as Andrea Heath.
“We had a settlement conference scheduled tomorrow,” said Jerry Steering who is Heath’s attorney. Steering said her death made no sense since he talked with his client only yesterday and said she was not depressed.
“She got a new job with a delivery service,” said Steering. “Andrea was demoted, harassed and fired because she talked to the FBI. You know why she was blackballed by the police community? Because the DHS PD found her unfit for duty after she refused to work a shift with Sclafani. She was afraid he would whack her for her talking to the FBI.”
Anthony Sclafani is now serving four years for his conviction on two counts of civil rights violations.
Also relating to the FBI investigation initiated by Andrea Heath and concurrent to her Desert Hot Springs police service was Desert Hot Springs officer, David Henderson. Henderson was indicted along with Sclafani, plead guilty to a misdemeanor civil rights count and was sentenced to a year’s probation.
Police officer and Police Officer Association President Paul Tapia alleged much of the same complaints as that of Andrea Heath whose lawsuit against Desert Hot Springs names city officials, including former City Manager Rick Daniels and former Police Chief Patrick Williams.
Petaluma Argus Courier
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For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business. Now online with over 4 million readers worldwide.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader. He served as Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs from January 2014 to January 2015 when he resigned.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Palm Desert, California.
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