Elderly victim of police brutality: GPD failing Guam as police brutality goes unpunished

John Patao consoles his wife, Veronica Patao, as she breaks down explaining how a Guam police officer allegedly assaulted the elderly and sickly woman.

Veronica Patao, the elderly victim of alleged police brutality, said the Guam Police Department has not provided her any update on the complaint she made against an unnamed police officer who allegedly pushed a table into her breasts during a violent interrogation at the Dededo Police Precinct earlier this year.

“I learned about it in the news from the [Guam Daily] Post,” Ms. Patao said about the recent news from chief of police Stephen Ignacio that the internal affairs investigation into her case has been completed. “They’ve never told me anything. I still don’t know what is being done. They’ve never even told me the name of the officer who attacked me.”

Attorney General Douglas Moylan has confirmed his office received a case from GPD related to Ms. Patao’s complaint.

Ms. Patao said that during his interrogation of her, the unnamed officer became increasingly upset when she repeatedly refused to sign a document he placed in front of her. She said she refused to sign it because she did not have her glasses and could not read what the document stated. That is when, according to her, he lost his temper and pushed the table into her, slamming her breasts. Ms. Patao is a cancer patient and has other ailments, including a heart condition.

She immediately suffered a seizure for which no police officer rendered any assistance and medics were not immediately called, according to her husband, veteran John Patao, who was in an adjacent room. She has since been receiving medical and mental health treatment for the physical, emotional, and mental trauma resulting from the attack. He has been receiving treatment for emotional and mental health trauma as well.

“It was barbaric,” Ms. Patao told Kandit behind a wall of uncontrollable tears. “I thought the police are supposed to protect us, not to hurt old ladies who are sick.”

Mr. Ignacio only opened an investigation into the Patao case after Kandit broke the story of their mistreatment. Over the past five years, the police chief has only ever directed investigations into the alleged crimes and misconduct of one of his officers when the media raises the issue. News of those investigations historically have started and ended with an initial news conference at the height of public outcry. GPD under the Lou Leon Guerrero administration has hardly responded to requests for updates in these cases, rarely explained any outcomes, and has never published the results of these cases on the GPD website as the law requires.

Kandit has repeatedly asked Mr. Ignacio’s office for updates in the Patao case to no avail. Police spokeswoman Berlyn Savella said over the weekend she would check with the chief’s office for an update Monday. That followed erroneous information GPD provided to Kandit Friday that GPD had not made any statements updating the case. That followed two weeks of GPD officials promising updates and failing to keep those promises.

“We as an island family community need to be reassured that our leaders are trying to fix this problem and restore high standards and raise the bar of professionalism, accountability, and service from GPD officers,” Ms. Patao said, adding that she knows there are many good officers who are on the force.”

Chris Barnett, the senator with legislative oversight of GPD, made the same point. “I want to make sure GPD is doing everything it can to weed out the bad apples,” Mr. Barnett said. “When you talk to the good cops, they don’t like the shadow that a lot of these bad apples cast upon the badge. We have to support the rank and file to clean things up.”

The senator said a major part of the problem is for the police department to be able to provide more information than invoking personnel privacy when it comes to police brutality cases.

“These allegations are very concerning,” Mr. Barnett said. “They do a great deal of damage when it comes to our people’s ability to trust law enforcement. If we don’t handle these cases with the right amount of transparency and accountability, then it doesn’t matter how law enforcement handles it, polices its own, when there isn’t public trust.”

Ms. Patao, however, also is disappointed with the senator, whom she said promised her he would hold an oversight hearing into police brutality, but has never followed that up or informed her of any action he will take.

Mr. Barnett said that when he learned Ms. Patao had retained a lawyer to possibly sue the government, he had to become more careful with his communication with Ms. Patao, but that he is moving forward with a legislative hearing he has scheduled for the latter part of January.

And, like the media, Mr. Barnett was unable to get updates on the Patao case and other similar cases from GPD.

“I wasn’t able to get anything specific because it was under investigation,” Mr. Barnett said. “I’m trying to get more details from the chief of police now that the investigation has been completed. But they said it’s a personnel matter. I don’t know how much info I’ll be able to get.”

The senator said the hearing he will conduct will question GPD’s policies “on how they engage and interact” with defendants and civilians. “We’ll be taking a deep dive into their policies and protocols.”



  • Imelda Tanapino

      12/18/2023 at 3:25 PM

    Q: How many GPD officers at the Dededo Precinct does it take to falsely detain and terrorize an elderly couple?

    A: GPD can’t tell you because it is a personnel matter.

  • GPD just needs a complete revamp. Start by polygraphing the whole department. What how quickly they request for PTO.

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