WS>>An American Death Squad
carl william spitzer iv
cwsiv_2nd at JUNO.COM
Tue Feb 13 11:55:37 MST 2001
Phil Murphy <murphy at myblueheaven.com>
What you haven't been told about the LAPD scandal Some
ironies to note:
* The "CR" in this LAPD squad name stands for "Community
* The crimes committed with guns statistics for LA may
have to be recalculated down.
* The men described below are the "trained
professionals," some believe should have a monopoly on
firearms in the US
*** The Los Angeles police scandal and its social roots
*** Part 1 of a Series By Don Knowland and Gerardo Nebbia
Substantially more information has been made public in
the Los Angeles Police Department corruption and frame-
up scandal. News reports have revealed a widespread
pattern of unjustified arrests, beatings, drug dealing,
witness intimidation, illegal shootings, planting of
evidence, frame-ups and perjury at the CRASH unit of
the Rampart Division of the LAPD.
CRASH is the acronym for the Community Resources
Against Street Hoodlums, an anti-gang program the LAPD
implemented over a decade ago. The Rampart Division covers
an eight square-mile area, just west of downtown, which is
largely working class, heavily immigrant and densely popu-
LAPD officer Rafael Perez joined Rampart CRASH in 1996.
In 1998 Perez was arrested for stealing eight pounds of
cocaine, valued at a million dollars, from the Rampart
evidence locker. In 1999 Perez began to cooperate in giving
evidence against his former associates in the hope of re-
ceiving a reduced sentence on the cocaine theft charge. On
February 24, 2000 Perez received a five-year prison term on
the cocaine theft charges, but he is expected to stay in
jail only a little over a year more, given time served and
credit for good behavior.
Investigators from a task force put together by the
LAPD and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office
logged over 50 hours of interviews with Perez over the last
six months. Two Los Angeles Times reporters undertook an
investigation of the scandal, and bits and pieces of Perez's
story began to emerge.
Last month the Los Angeles Times published many of the
revelations from 2000 pages of Perez's testimony. The law-
breaking activity among police was so pervasive that the
Times concluded: "An organized criminal subculture thrived
within the LAPD, where a secret fraternity of anti-gang
officers and supervisors committed crimes and celebrated
Among the most chilling revelations concern outright
police murders or attempted murders. In 1996 CRASH officer
Kulin Patel shot Juan Saldana when he was running down an
apartment hallway. Patel and his partner then planted a gun
on Saldana after he went down. When the CRASH supervisor,
Sergeant Edward Ortiz, arrived, he delayed calling an am-
bulance so the officers could concoct a cover story. Salda-
na bled to death by the time he arrived at the hospital.
In another incident CRASH officers fired 10 rounds at
Carlos Vertiz, a 44-year-old man with no criminal record,
after they mistook him for a drug dealer. To justify the
shooting, officers then planted a shotgun near the dying
Vertiz which they claimed he had pointed at them.
In 1996 Perez and his partner Nino Durden shot 19-year-
old Javier Ovando in the chest and head and then planted a
gun on him. Ovando received a draconian 23-year prison
sentence because he would not show contrition. In fact, he
was innocent. Ovando was released last year, after serving
two years. As a result of his injuries he is now confined
to a wheelchair.
On New Year's eve 1996, Rampart CRASH officers opened
fire on and wounded two holiday revelers, afterwards arrest-
ing them on trumped-up charges. The officers then rehearsed
the story that they had fired in self-defense, claiming the
revelers had fired guns in the officers' direction. One
unnamed officer has reportedly told his attorney that the
CRASH cops were out "hunting" that night, that is, looking
for people to ambush in sport.
Perez told investigators the lengths to which Rampart
officers and their supervisors went to cover up bad shoot-
ings. In one instance, a rookie patrol officer shot a man
when he opened a closet during a search and was startled to
see the man inside. When the rookie's supervisor arrived at
the scene he decided the rookie should say the man was
holding a mirror, causing him to see his own reflection with
a gun and open fire, thinking he had encountered an armed
Officer Melissa Town shot at a youth who was sitting
with a group of friends by a park and then ran when she
accosted him. When her supervising sergeant arrived, he
pulled a 5-1/2 inch piece of chrome from the bumper of a
nearby car and instructed Town that she should say the
suspect had pointed it at her.
Organizing the cover-up Perez has also explained how
Department shooting investigation procedures were easily
thwarted. Those procedures require local area brass plus a
specialized team of detectives from the Robbery-Homicide
Division to "roll out" to each officer involved shooting
(OIS) scene. The report by the OIS team is relied on by the
police chief and the police commission to determine whether
a shooting was in or out of policy, justified or not.
According to Perez, the shooting officers' immediate
local supervisors typically arrive at the scene first. The
supervisors are supposed to preserve the scene and segregate
the involved officers so that the OIS team can interview
them separately before the officers have a chance to confer
and agree on a story. Instead, investigators were diverted
from the scene until the involved officers and their imme-
diate supervisors had a chance to come up with and iron out
a cover story. Typically Rampart CRASH officers used secret
radio codes to accomplish this-they would create a diversion
to delay the investigation, such as claiming that other
suspects were involved and on the loose.
Not surprisingly, all the dirty shootings related by
Perez were found by the Chief of Police to be carried out
"in policy," although in some cases the officers involved
were required to receive additional training so that they
did not unnecessarily expose themselves to danger in the
future. In other words, the LAPD was concerned with the
health of the perpetrators of the shootings, not the fate of
Rampart CRASH officers routinely planted drugs, guns or
other evidence on arrestees, or fabricated probable cause-
the constitutional prerequisite to search or arrest someone.
Many of the victims whose democratic rights were flagrantly
violated were innocent of any crime.
These frame-ups sometimes took on a wholesale charac-
ter. Perez has related an occasion when officers rousted a
party where several dozen gang members were ordered to their
knees with their hands behind their backs. Officer Brian
Hewitt then walked down the line, randomly dictating which
youth would be charged with which imaginary crime.
CRASH officers routinely and arbitrarily punched,
kicked, choked and otherwise beat suspects or bystanders.
At times beatings were a response to suspected infractions
committed against officers. For example, the slashing of an
officer's tires resulted in officers driving around the
neighborhood, indiscriminately beating youth. On another
occasion a gang member suspected of slashing a tire was
roughed up and then dropped, stripped of any clothing, into
rival gang territory.
Many times the beatings were simply for harassment or
sadistic pleasure. One youth was shot repeatedly with a
bean bag gun purely for amusement. Officer Brian Hewitt
routinely beat handcuffed suspects, preferring administering
beatings to bothering with booking procedures and reports.
Hewitt was eventually fired in 1998 for grabbing Ismael
Jimenez by the neck at the station where all could see,
shoving him against a wall and hitting him repeatedly in the
chest and abdomen with his fists. The evidence indicates
that Jimenez was beaten because the mother of another al-
leged gang member filed a complaint against other officers
who beat her son. Despite serious injury to Jimenez, dis-
trict attorney prosecutors, citing a lack of evidence, have
twice declined to file charges against Hewitt.
Another suspect was used as a human battering ram
against a target drawn on a wall because he said he did not
know anything about a gun officers were seeking. The young
man told investigators that his head was pushed through the
plaster and was pierced by splinters from the wooden studs
inside the wall.
Officer Hewitt's partner Daniel Lujan beat a youth at
the end of a foot pursuit, badly injuring the suspect's
knee. When the supervisor arrived at the scene Lujan admit-
ted he had no reason for the beating. The supervisor in-
structed Lujan to book the man anyway on a drug charge. On
another occasion Lujan dislocated a handcuffed suspect's
elbow for sport.
LAPD procedures normally require filling out a use of
force report when force is used. Perez related how officers
routinely fabricated elaborate stories in their reports.
For example, a man was sitting on a bench when officers
suddenly approached, handcuffed and threw him to the floor,
and began kicking his head and body. According to the
report the officers filed the man injured himself when he
jumped out of a third floor window head first. Police
supervisors rubber-stamped this tall tale.
CRASH officers also took revenge on anybody who com-
plained to the LAPD about their methods, or who tried to
interfere with their attempts at framing up people. Alex
Sanchez, who heads a local group that attempts to help youth
to leave gangs, came forward as an alibi witness for Jesus
Rodriguez, a 15-year-old accused of a fatal double shooting
by CRASH officers. In retribution, a CRASH officer attempt-
ed to arrange Sanchez's deportation so he could not testify
and clear Rodriguez.
In fact, the close cooperation between Rampart CRASH
officers and the US Immigration and Naturalization Service
to deport witnesses or others against whom police charges
did not stick has become a key aspect of the scandal. In
order to promote cooperation by immigrants as witnesses,
LAPD regulations have long prohibited turning them over to
immigration. CRASH officers routinely ignored that prohibi-
tion with impunity.
A social club for uniformed thugs Perez has also told
investigators about the social aspects of this virtually
paramilitary unit. CRASH officers often got together at a
bar near Dodger Stadium to drink and celebrate shootings.
Supervisors handed out plaques to shooters, containing red
or black playing cards. Killing was more prestigious than
wounding, meriting black as opposed to red cards on the
plaque. At least one Rampart lieutenant attended one of
Rampart officers also wore tattoos of the CRASH logo, a
skull with a cowboy hat surrounded by poker cards depicting
the "dead man's hand," aces and eights. Other CRASH units
wore similar tattoos. CRASH paraphernalia, with this logo,
is still for sale at the LAPD gift shop.
An officer could not join Rampart CRASH without a
reliable "sponsor" to vouch for the officer's "character."
Officers who had worked with the prospective initiate were
contacted to find out if the candidate was too "by- the-
book," that is, undesirable for initiation. A "solid" or
"stand-up" candidate was someone who bent the rules-planting
evidence, falsifying probable cause to arrest and committing
perjury in court testimony.
Once in the unit, the officer's conduct was closely
monitored to make sure he or she could be trusted to be "in
the loop." Once in, the officers were trained in CRASH
methods, such as planting weapons. The job of CRASH super-
visors "in the loop" was to protect the CRASH line officers
from investigation by higher-ups of their misdeeds.
Perez's revelations directly involve 30 Rampart CRASH
officers and at least three of their supervisors. The
investigation has already resulted in 20 officers being
fired or relieved of duty. Criminal convictions have been
overturned in 30 cases; at least 70 more are under investi-
gation. LAPD Chief Bernard Parks has called for the dismis-
sal of charges against another 99 defendants in 57 cases.
The County District Attorney's Office concedes that the
number of cases tainted by the Rampart officers under suspi-
cion may run into the hundreds, if not the thousands.
Significantly, in the vast majority of these cases, the
victims of police frame-up confessed rather than take their
chances in the court system.
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