2 LAPD Metro Division officers arrested in off-duty assault

By Richard Winton and Hector Becerra (LA Times)
January 28, 2010

Two off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officers were arrested for allegedly attacking and pistol-whipping a man in Whittier on Tuesday night.

In a separate incident, an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy got into a fight in Highland Park and suffered wounds, while her foe was shot by a relative of the deputy, authorities said.

LAPD Officer Brandon Valdez, 29, and LAPD Officer Patrick Fitzgerald, 38, were arrested Tuesday night by Whittier police on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after the victim was hospitalized with head trauma. The elite LAPD Metro Division officers, who have been with the department since 2002, were immediately placed on administrative leave.

“The victim suffered serious injuries to his head as a result of assault,” Whittier Officer Mike Dekowski said. The 31-year-old man was treated at a hospital and released.

Reached by phone, Valdez, who along with Fitzgerald was released on $30,000 bail, declined to comment. The incident began when Valdez got into an argument with his girlfriend about 8 p.m. Tuesday outside a Panera Bread restaurant in the 15600 block of Whittwood Lane, according to Dekowski. Witnesses told police that the officer took issue with a bystander who was watching the altercation while talking on his cellphone, and struck the bystander in the face.

A fight ensued, during which Valdez “pulled out a handgun and began hitting the victim in the head,” police said.

The 31-year-old victim was able to break free, but both off-duty officers chased him and tackled him, and continued to attack, police said.

The victim escaped by running into a nearby store just as Whittier police took the LAPD officers into custody. Authorities believe the LAPD officers may have been drinking before the incident.

Valdez was featured prominently in a November 2007 Times front page story on the work of gang beat officers in South Los Angeles. Valdez displayed a mild manner and polite personality, even as he stopped and quizzed gang members.

Valdez also saw combat in Iraq in 2004 as a Marine reservist in Ramadi. He returned to the U.S. after being wounded by a roadside bomb.

In the second off-duty incident, which occurred about 1:20 a.m. Wednesday at Figueroa Street and Avenue 60, an unidentified female sheriff’s deputy and another woman began fighting outside a cocktail bar. The 29-year-old deputy was cut with a sharp object, while her 25-year-old opponent was shot with a handgun.

A relative of the deputy, Taylor Olivarez, 20, was booked on charges of attempted murder, police said. A handgun belonging to the deputy was recovered at the scene.

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