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Despite a litany of complaints & lawsuits, why is Carl Holmes being promoted again?

POLICE Officer Christa Hayburn stayed holed up in the bathroom of the Philly Empire Lounge, in North Philadelphia, trying to figure out how to duck outside without being spotted by her boss.

Ex-cop Christa Hayburn (right) says Inspector Carl Holmes (left) sexually assaulted her in 2006. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Ex-cop Christa Hayburn (right) says Inspector Carl Holmes (left) sexually assaulted her in 2006. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)Read more

POLICE Officer Christa Hayburn stayed holed up in the bathroom of the Philly Empire Lounge, in North Philadelphia, trying to figure out how to duck outside without being spotted by her boss.

She felt trapped and afraid. The door to the ladies room opened.

" 'Remember. Don't forget to tell me when you're leaving,' " her boss, Inspector Carl W. Holmes Jr., allegedly said from the doorway.

Earlier, he'd allegedly pulled her close and given her an unwanted kiss.

Finding no back exit, Hayburn waited until the bar had cleared out that night in January 2006. She left, walked to her car, put the keys in her door and, suddenly, she heard his voice.

Holmes, a 6-foot-6, 280-pound former offensive tackle for Temple, grabbed her hand and led her to his department-issued Dodge Durango, she said.

"I kept telling him I had to leave, my husband was waiting for me, that I had to go and I didn't want to do anything," Hayburn told the Daily News in an exclusive interview.

But Holmes, who is married, wouldn't listen, she said, adding that he touched her breasts, the inside of her thighs and placed his fingers in her vagina. He then allegedly unbuckled his pants, took her hand and forced her to rub his penis.

Hayburn, 36, said that she didn't resist more forcefully because she was afraid. She said that she didn't immediately report the alleged incident because she feared retaliation. When she did file a complaint with Internal Affairs in 2008, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey demoted Holmes to captain.

"There was no wrongdoing. No criminal charges were ever filed, not even close to being filed," Holmes' attorney at that time, Wadud Ahmad, told the Daily News recently.

Holmes, 47, later regained the rank of inspector. Next month, he is expected to be promoted to chief inspector, even though complaints against him continue to pile up.

Internal Affairs has two open investigations on Holmes. One centers on an allegation of inappropriate behavior with a female civilian subordinate, which sources say is unlikely to be substantiated.

The other concerns an incident in which Holmes allegedly shot a raccoon outside his Roxborough home, where there is an outbreak of rabid raccons.

In addition to Hayburn's complaint, 11 people outside the Police Department have lodged complaints against Holmes during his 22-year career, mostly for physical abuse. Internal Affairs has substantiated only one of them.

At least four lawsuits have been filed against Holmes for physical abuse, and the city has settled three of them for a total of $109,500.

And in July 2010, a Comcast employee conducting a neighborhood survey called 9-1-1 after leaving Holmes' house to report that a man, who fits Holmes' description, used a gun to shoo him away.

The man, holding his hand behind his back, told the Comcast worker, "We don't like trespassers," according to a police report obtained by the Daily News.

As the worker was leaving, he noticed that the man started to "wave the weapon" as if to direct him out of the driveway, the report says.

Comcast declined to comment. It is unclear what, if anything, came of the complaint.

No bar to promotion

Holmes is the latest in a string of high-ranking Philadelphia police officials who have managed to move up through the ranks despite being the subject of numerous troubling accusations.

"We've got hundreds of people who are lieutenants or above," Ramsey said in a recent interview. "Are there a few who have acted inappropriately or done things that I'm not pleased with? Yeah. But that's not a reflection of the entire command staff."

Ramsey said that he was aware of both of the open Internal Affairs investigations into Holmes, who had been signed and waived by the Washington Redskins in 1988.

"I haven't gotten the final report yet, but I was told the complaint was not made by the alleged victim, but rather by some third or fourth party," Ramsey said of the allegation involving Holmes and the female civilian.

"I believe she's saying it never happened, but we have an obligation to investigate it," Ramsey said.

Asked if the investigation could affect Holmes' pending promotion, Ramsey said: "Depending on what is alleged to have taken place, it could be something I'd have to take into consideration. If it's not sustained, then no."

The raccoon shooting, he added, would not have any impact on Holmes' career.

Holmes' neighbors, all of whom requested anonymity, described Holmes as a good, caring neighbor, and none criticized him for shooting the raccoon.

Holmes declined to comment, referring the Daily News to his attorney, Charles Hardy, who did not respond to a request for comment.

'I just wanted a shower'

The night of Jan. 6, 2006, when Holmes allegedly pushed himself on Hayburn, she said she told him, " 'You're my inspector. This isn't right.' "

" 'How do you think [another subordinate] got her job?' " Holmes asked, according to Hayburn.

After the incident, she said she scurried to her car and sobbed uncontrollably.

She drove home and tearfully told her husband, Dave, a nurse anesthetist. "He asked me what I wanted to do, whether I wanted to go to the hospital," she said. "I told him I just wanted to take a shower."

"She said she was too scared to report it," her husband said.

A couple of days later, she started seeing a therapist.

Eight months later, in September 2006, Hayburn suffered nerve damage in her left arm when she fell on duty.

By early 2008, doctors told Hayburn, who is left-handed, that she could work only limited duty and would never be able to perform her duties as a police officer.

As a result, Hayburn felt less fearful of retaliation. So, in February of that year, Hayburn, a mother of three, said that she found the courage to tell Internal Affairs investigators about Holmes.

The District Attorney's Office reviewed the case and told Hayburn, "I didn't say 'no' enough," she said.

City physicians disputed her medical claims. Last January, the Police Department told Hayburn, an 11-year veteran, that she could take a medical leave of absence or be fired. She chose the latter.

"I think they were retaliating against me for making the complaint," said Hayburn, who now works as a health and lifestyle coach. She is suing the city, arguing that the Police Department treated her unfairly after she made the allegations against Holmes.

"I want to be the voice for other complainants," she said. "I don't want other people to go through this."

'Shut the f--- up'

Jerome Jackson, a kidney-transplant recipient, was walking with two buddies in Brewerytown when he had a sudden urge to urinate in an alley.

Holmes, then a cop in North Philly's 23rd District, arrived in his patrol car shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Jan 1, 1992.

Holmes told Jackson to put his hands on the cruiser, and then "slammed" him on top of the car, according to a complaint Jackson later filed with Internal Affairs.

Jackson's pals, Jerome Myers and William Cropper, allegedly told Holmes about Jackson's kidney condition.

Jackson told Holmes that they had done nothing wrong. Holmes snapped, "Shut the f---- up!" according to the complaint.

Jackson told investigators that Holmes had slammed him against a parked car twice, stepped on his groin, kicked him in the side and ordered him to get on his knees, according to the complaint.

Holmes, according to the complaint, told Cropper to "get the f--- out of here, or he would kick his a--," and warned Myers to "hit the f------ bricks running, before somebody shot him."

Jackson was treated at St. Joseph's Hospital for trauma to his neck, head and abdomen.

Holmes denied striking Jackson, but Internal Affairs sustained the allegations, and recommended that Holmes be considered for "sensitivity training, stress management and a psychological evaluation," according to the investigation files.

Jackson, then 32, sued Holmes in 1992, and the city later settled the case for $27,500.

Jackson could not be reached for comment, but Myers said that Jackson has been ill since the encounter.

"He [Holmes] was a real big dude," Myers said. "He told us he was an ex-football player for the Redskins.

"We had no weapons. Nobody tried to run. But the next thing you know, he started smacking us all around."

More payouts

Christopher Butler was 19 when he decided to rob a West Philly 7-Eleven at 4 a.m. Dec. 3, 1994.

Holmes was among the first officers on the scene, at 34th Street and Lancaster Avenue. Within seconds, Butler was in a bloody heap on the floor, after Holmes shot him seven times.

Afterward, Holmes said that he fired his gun because Butler had pointed a gun at him.

But in a lawsuit Butler filed in 1997 against Holmes and his colleagues, Butler claimed that he had set his revolver on the counter to free both hands to put money in bags and that Holmes burst into the store, shouted "Freeze!" and immediately began blasting away.

Holmes fired as Butler dove for cover behind the counter and continued to fire even as Butler lay on the ground, firing 10 shots altogether, according to the lawsuit.

As paramedics wheeled Butler out of the store to a waiting ambulance, Holmes shouted: " 'Die, mother-f----r, die!' " according to the lawsuit.

Butler was convicted of robbery and related offenses, including simple assault on Holmes.

But in his federal lawsuit, he claimed multiple civil-rights violations, and the city settled the case in 1997 for $80,000.

Three years earlier, the city paid $2,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that had been filed by Barry Snodgrass, who claimed that he was injured during an encounter with Holmes outside the Blue Horizon Boxing Arena, on Oct. 22, 1991.

Snodgrass, of East Frankford, was among 50 Sons of Italy members who had gone to see a boxing match at the arena, on Broad Street near Thompson, only to end up in a scuffle with other members of the crowd.

Police were called to respond to the chaotic scene that soon took hold outside the arena, where a rowdy, drunken group lingered.

Holmes told Internal Affairs investigators that he approached Snodgrass after witnessing him throw a beer can at a man who was being arrested.

Members of the Sons of Italy told Internal Affairs that Holmes hit Snodgrass to make him let go of a railing, and yelled, " 'You all ain't in the suburbs now! You in North Philly! And you gonna get your a-- kicked!' "

Snodgrass was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest but was later found not guilty.

Internal Affairs did not sustain the allegations against Holmes, noting that Snodgrass and others had been drinking and weren't cooperating with police.

'I suffered'

Hayburn said that she was never told what became of the Internal Affairs investigation into her case.

Her husband said that after the incident, she had difficulty sleeping, suffered nightmares and even contemplated suicide. Doctors gave her antidepressants and sleep aids.

"I was super-depressed about it," Hayburn said. "I suffered. I suffered for years."

"This was barely a hiccup for [Holmes]," Hayburn's husband said. "It still bothers her, especially when she hears he'll be promoted.

"He should lose his job. He's abusing his power as an inspector. It's just not right."