How Did This Road-Raging Cop Pass a Psych Evaluation?
Even before Harris County Constable Kenneth Caplan shot and injured Lori Annab in what authorities say was a near-fatal bout of road rage in 2014, he was an unlikely prospect as a peace officer.
The 34-year-old Precinct 6 reserve deputy was already on leave for a previous road rage incident, according to a Houston Police Department investigator's affidavit produced in a civil suit against Harris County and Caplan, and his troubling behavior had already been noticed by superiors at his police academy, which is why he was kicked out in 2010.
The affidavit, along with other records produced in the lawsuit, shines a light on Caplan's rocky history as a cadet and officer, as well as the troubling practices of Carole Busick, a psychologist accused of rubber-stamping countless mental health evaluations for Houston-area law enforcement personnel, including Caplan.
Annab's attorney, Steven Couch, told the Houston Press that he plans on adding Busick to the lawsuit, filed last October, which accuses county officials of negligence in hiring Caplan, and accuses Caplan of abuse of power. Caplan, who was fired from his Precinct 6 post after the shooting, has also been charged with felony aggravated assault.
County attorneys have sought to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds, arguing that the County has "sovereign immunity" because the shooting occurred "outside the scope of [Caplan's] employment."
Caplan told the Press that he did not intentionally shoot Annab. He claimed his Glock discharged accidentally, but he still would have been justified in shooting Annab, 21, who he said was driving aggressively and cut Caplan off near Highway 610 and Stella Link, endangering Caplan and his passenger — his wife.
According to HPD homicide detective Richard Rodriguez's affidavit, Annab said she
"observed a blue vehicle that appeared to be old and long with grey patches pull next to her vehicle. The driver stared at her angrily for several minutes. She was able to see the male driver and observed that he had a female passenger....The female passenger then leaned her seat back to allow the male driver to have a clear shot at [her]. Shooter then pointed a gun toward [Annab] who was positioned to the right of [the] passenger side window, and fired a shot that struck her head. The blue car then drove away."
Annab was able to pull over and call 911. She was transported to Memorial Hermann, where she received eight staples in her head, the affidavit states. Investigators processed her car and found a bullet lodged in the roof.
Rodriguez also discovered that Caplan filed a bogus stolen vehicle report two days after the incident, in an apparent rouse to hide his involvement in the shooting. Caplan told the HPD officer who took the report that he worked at Precinct 1 — a lie — but that he had been sick "over the last several days so had not gone anywhere," which is why he just noticed his car was missing.
Rodriguez also spoke with Caplan's auto insurer, who said that Caplan had "purchased another car and received a new auto policy prior to reporting his vehicle stolen."
The affidavit also states that a Precinct 6 deputy told Rodriguez that Caplan "was currently on leave for being involved in a previous road rage incident," but there were no other details.
If it were not for Busick, it's debatable whether Caplan would have even found work as a peace officer in Harris County. A May 2010 report from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement states that Caplan was kicked out of the College of the Mainland Law Enforcement Academy for "lying" and "jumping chain of command on 3 occasions." The report also stated that Caplan "could not function as a team member and was increasingly hostile towards classmates" and that he "failed minimum standards for safety in performing traffic stops and building entries for Patrol Procedures [sic]."
Four months later, Busick found that Caplan was in "satisfactory psychological and emotional health," and Caplan was able to continue his training.
In a 2012 psychological evaluation, Busick wrote that Caplan was "emotionally stable" and "may be expected to be self-disciplined." She also wrote, "At the present time, he describes himself as less anxious than most others, indicating no significant problems with tension or frustration tolerance."
Moreover, according to Busick:
"He may be expected to approach problems in a cool and dispassionate manner, placing more emphasis on facts than on feelings. He will conform to generally accepted standards of conduct, and describes himself as happy and positive in his general attitude. He is essentially free of any indication of clinically elevated depression."
The findings seem at odds with what Caplan told the Press in a phone interview — namely, that he suffered from PTSD brought about by growing up in an abusive environment, with a family, he said, that constantly told him he was "a piece of shit." (Busick's attorney, Michael Blaise, declined comment.)
Caplan also said that he suffered from child-onset bipolar disorder and was homeless for six-month stints when he was 23 and 27. He also told the Press that he lied on one of the psychological tests administered by Busick.
"I am more than smart enough to fool any test," Caplan told the Press.
However, he said he did not lie on his application to Precinct 6; while he did not write down that he had bipolar disorder, he disclosed all the psychiatric medications he took for a "mood disorder."
And while Busick declared that Caplan approached problems in a "cool and dispassionate manner," the response he filed in the civil suit — hand-scrawled in capital letters, with some words scribbled out — suggests otherwise.
"This entire civil and criminal complaint is mostly a lie," he wrote. "The plaintiff has broken the law (both civil and criminal) numerous times. (Criminal: purgery and aggravated purgery [sic]), and (civil:slander)."
He also alleged that Annab "wanted revenge," so she "cut in front of my wife and myself and slammed on the brakes intentionally, to wreck us out at 70 mph. She's not a victim. She should be the defendant for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (her car)!"
Caplan told the Press that, because of PTSD, he panicked and fled the scene, but that he did not intentionally shoot Annab. He claimed the gun discharged accidentally, and "My wife almost took the bullet," adding later, "The accidental discharge almost took [my wife's] head off…Why would I shoot this person if I almost shot my wife? There's your proof right there.”
Furthermore, he claimed, “It really was self-defense…it was an [accidental discharge], but it was also self-defense. Even if she ran me into the wall, I had no intent of pulling the trigger. That's the God's-honest truth. I had an 18-wheeler try to run me into a wall, and I could have easily shot him, but I didn't.”
Caplan claimed that, if he were actually guilty, he wouldn't be speaking so freely and wouldn't have cooperated with investigators. (Allen Isbell, Caplan's attorney in the criminal case, declined comment.)
“What I did was more than legal," he maintained. "I had every right…I don't bullshit anybody; I'm not the kind of person to lie. And I'm going to tell you this: If I really tried to kill this woman in cold blood, I wouldn't be saying anything to anybody. My mouth would have been shut from the very beginning, I would've said 'lawyer,' and that would have been the end of it. I tried to explain to the detectives…they would not believe it…I'm a fellow fucking police officer. What the hell is wrong with these people?”
He also said the accusations have weighed heavily on him, since, he believes, he excelled as a peace officer.
"Yes, I had a bad temper, but I was a damn good cop," Caplan said. "And I only care about helping other people.”
He added, "The thing that I want more than anything, besides getting my name back, I want the world to see...what kind of family I have. And you know what? They actually might feel bad for me.” (Caplan said he would feel more comfortable talking about his family, as well as the details of the incident, in person, because he suspected police may have tapped his phone.)
Couch, Annab's attorney, told the Press in an email that Caplan's county application contained "red flags."
Before the shooting, Couch wrote, "the County had ample information to remove Caplan and all of his Constable-related authority."
He also said that a psychologist assisting him "has advised that the examination/evaluation testing results of Caplan are indicative of traits and personality characteristics which are consistent with the type of behavior and conduct which Caplan exhibited and demonstrated with respect to the tragic November 11, 2014 incident."
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