Rampart Corruption Scandal: Born and Died in March 1997

By Brian S. Bentley
STREETGANGS.COM STAFF WRITER
March 10, 2003

If Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton is sincere about finding the truth about the Rampart Scandal, he must start at the beginning by reinvestigation the death of Los Angeles Police Officer Kevin Gaines. The Rampart Scandal started and ended with the death of Officer Gaines.

On March 18, 1997 a White undercover narcotics officer in the North Hollywood area murdered off-duty Los Angeles Police Officer Kevin Gaines who was African-American and dating the estranged wife of Death Row owner Suge Knight. Thirty-one year old Gaines was fatally shot by Detective Frank Lyga after the two LAPD employees had an alleged traffic related argument. In 1997, the Valley area of Los Angeles was experiencing a rash of hate related crimes. Detective Lyga had the appearance of a drugged-out member of the Aryan Brotherhood. At the time of the murder he was unshaven, wearing a T-shirt with a marijuana leaf on it, his hair was longer than shoulder length and he sported a goatee.

According to an LAPD spokesman, Officer Gaines pointed a gun at the undercover officer, who responded by firing two shots into the passenger’s side of Gaines’ vehicle. Former LAPD Chief Bernard C. Parks later issued a statement saying that a thorough investigation justified Detective Lyga’s actions. “There is no conspiracy or cover-up,” added Chief Parks.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s investigation into Officer Gaines’ death was anything but thorough. The LAPD Robbery/Homicide division made a feeble attempt to investigate the murder. Several weeks after the shooting, Detective Lyga was overheard boasting to veteran officers in the lobby of West Los Angels Police Station. Detective Lyga told officers Robbery/Homicide detectives told him at the murder scene he would be cleared of all wrongdoing before the investigation began. He was also assured they would do everything they could to defame Officer Gaines to further justify Lyga’s questionable actions.

In support of this statement, Robbery/Homicide division Detective Poole initiated a personnel complaint against an African-American officer who located two witnesses he hesitated to find. Officer Derwin Henderson faced termination for interfering with an official police investigation. Henderson went to the crime scene two days after Gaines’ death and spoke to employees at a gasoline station where Gaines’ vehicle had crashed. Officer Henderson was surprised to learn detectives did not interview key witnesses working in the gas station at the time of the incident. Officer Henderson was ordered by Internal Affairs not to speak to anyone about his discovery. Detective Poole also refused to interview two African-American patrol officers who were the first officers to arrive at the homicide scene. Detective Poole, who is noted for his investigation of slain rapper Notorious B. I. G. solicited the media to “white wash” Robbery/Homicides “shoddy” murder investigation of Officer Gaines. The media printed vicious articles saying Officer Gaines must have been trafficking narcotic because he was living beyond his means. They never cited the fact that he received a large settlement from his mother’s accidental death.

Most African-American officers, including the first officers at the crime scene, found Detective Lyga’s story hard to believe. Detective Lyga used all the key words officers are taught to say when justifying bad shootings. In addition, Detective Lyga had a long track record of misconduct and excessive force against African-American citizens. Most of his misconduct occurred while working as a patrol officer at the racist West Los Angeles Police Station that produced Former Detective Mark Furhman. Just like Furhman, Lyga was certain that he was above LAPD policy. Officers also found it hard to believe Officer Gaines would point a gun at Detective Lyga with his right hand as Detective Lyga stated when Officer Gaines was left handed.

Chief Bratton needs find the answers to many questions involving this murder and its link to the infamous Rampart Corruption Scandal. Is it a coincidence that cocaine stolen from LAPD headquarters was from Detective Lyga’s arrest? If so, how did Rampart Corruption star Rafael Perez find out about Lyga’s narcotics arrest, the amount of drugs confiscated and whose name the drugs were booked under? Other unanswered questions still linger about such as: Who the drugs belonged to and what was the outcome of the case since the drugs were missing from evidence? Perez told investigators looking into the Rampart Corruption Scandal that they should take a serious look into the circumstances involving the murder of Officer Gaines.

If LAPD Police Chief William Bratton is sincere in his efforts to clean up the LAPD then he will start here, from the beginning.

Brian S. Bentley is a former Los Angeles Police Officer and the author of “One Time: The Story of A South Central Los Angeles Police Officer.”

StreetGangs.Com Staff Posted by on Mar 10 2003. Filed under Good Cop / Bad Cop. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Comments for “Rampart Corruption Scandal: Born and Died in March 1997”

  1. Title…

    Hola! I just wanted to send a fast note to say neat blog…it takes a little longer to load than others though!…

  2. PhilH

    Had this happened under different circumstances, I might have believed that Kevin Gaines was a patsy like the author claims. Call me an Uncle Tom…but there are just too many red flags to ignore here. Any chance of KG’s credibility remaining intact went out the window when he decided to date Sharitha Knight. KG was shacking up with a woman who was married to a known felon and Bloods gangbanger, Suge Knight. Its no secret that Sharitha worked for Death Row via its sister company Knightlife Management which provided in-house talent representation. The idea that KG never associated with Suge Knight and/or his affiliates in the 4 years that he and Sharitha were together is implausible. Even Sharitha admitted that he worked for Death Row though she failed to provide further details.

    Derwin Henderson was tampering with an investigation by trying to coerce witnesses into changing their stories and therefore, provided sufficient grounds on which to warrant an internal complaint against him. I beg to differ as to how a clear violation is deemed an act of racism when this applies to anyone who is obstructing justice. KG wasn’t doing himself any favors by waving his pistol and exhibiting behavior reminiscent of thug life as methods of intimidation against an undercover detective. He continued to tailgate the detective in traffic right up until “put a cap in your ass” took an ironic twist and was on the receiving end of a bullet. It doesn’t take a genius to know that LAPD had a zero tolerance policy towards gangsters in the 90’s. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…oh well.

    If Russell Poole were involved in a racist conspiracy against KG and other Black LAPD officers then the FBI must be in on it too. They have to be or how else could the files on the investigation into the murder of BIGGIE SMALLS released in 2011 have enough information on which to affirmatively tie KG to Death Row Records? For being one of Bernie Parks’ “personal” recruits, KG had racked up a less than stellar record at the department, knowingly associated with gangsters as a police officer and was seen at Death Row functions along with David Mack and Rafael Perez. I guess Pac’s bodyguard/informant-ex-Compton PD officer Kevin Hackie must be a racist too since he implicated all three.

    This article needs to be updated since the author has repeatedly lied by omission over the years even in light of FBI files suggesting quite the contrary. Evidence that has more of a leg to stand on than any of the hearsay mentioned in the article. I think KG’s sympathizers had it out for the White cop from way back then and waited in the wings to witness his downfall. I don’t condone some of the remarks made by the recently fired detective yet I must be one of very few African-Americans that did their research and had took the commentary about KG as being the furthest thing from racism. KG was a bonafide gangster who masqueraded as a police officer and bragged about having contacts who could take people out and no one would suspect a thing. At the end of the day, this is not a case about being Black or White. This is about widespread pervasive corruption and the individuals who constantly enable and protect the guilty. After all, they are one and the same.

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