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.”