A 2nd Rampart Officer Tells of Corruption

Friday, January 28, 2000

By SCOTT GLOVER and MATT LAIT, Times Staff Writers

A Los Angeles police officer who worked with Rafael Perez in the Rampart Division’s scandal-plagued CRASH unit corroborates the disgraced officer-turned-informant’s allegations that officers there, acting with at least one supervisor’s knowledge, planted evidence to frame innocent people.
“Everybody [in Rampart CRASH] kind of knows it happens,” said the officer, who has been relieved of duty in connection with the department’s ongoing corruption investigation.
The officer, who spoke with The Times on the condition that he not be named, said he was personally aware of unjustified shootings by other Rampart officers that were covered up, and that the planting of drugs on suspects was an accepted practice by some officers in the division. The officer has not come forward for fear of losing his job over failure to report the crimes and misconduct, a violation of departmental policy.
He also said he could corroborate a number of the allegations made by Perez, who has admitted that he and his former partners framed 99 people over three years.
If the officer were to cooperate with investigators, he could considerably improve prosecutors’ chances of making criminal cases against allegedly corrupt officers. As it now stands, the prosecution’s star witness is Perez, an admitted drug thief and perjurer whom jurors may not believe.
Other CRASH officers relieved of duty in connection with the scandal and interviewed by The Times have denied any knowledge of wrongdoing in Rampart.
Perez, 32, is cooperating with authorities in part to shave time off his sentence for stealing eight pounds of cocaine from LAPD evidence facilities while he worked as an officer in Rampart. So far, the investigation includes allegations of unjustified shootings, beatings, witness intimidation, evidence planting, false arrest and perjury. Perez has implicated himself and former partner Nino Durden in dozens of frame-ups, the most dramatic being the 1996 shooting of an unarmed gang member who was left paralyzed and then falsely convicted of attacking the officers.
To date, 20 LAPD officers have been relieved of duty, suspended without pay or fired or have quit in connection with the scandal. Twenty-three criminal cases believed tainted by Perez and his former partners have been thrown out of court and dozens more are likely to follow.
On the advice of his attorney, the officer recently interviewed by The Times declined to detail the alleged crimes and misconduct of his colleagues. He said some Rampart officers carried stashes of drugs to plant on suspects–usually gang members–who they believed were guilty of crimes but who did not have drugs on them at the time they were stopped. He talked about fellow CRASH officers dating “gang associates.” One officer, he said, took such a date to the Shortstop bar, a popular police hangout on Sunset Boulevard near Dodger Stadium.
The officer’s attorney, who was present during the two-hour interview, described an incident one New Year’s Eve in which Rampart officers were working a gunfire suppression detail and found themselves in a shootout with a group of men ranging in age from 18 to 51. Two of the suspects were wounded.
“It was . . . hunting,” the lawyer said, after being briefed on the incident by his client. “More than likely these guys weren’t shooting at the officers.”
Officers’ shooting in that incident was found to be “in policy” in 1996 by the Police Commission and then-Chief Willie L. Williams. Three of the officers involved have since been fired or relieved of duty in the course of the Rampart investigation.
It is unclear whether that incident is among at least seven “questionable” shootings under review by the LAPD’s corruption task force.
The officer said it was understood within the tightknit CRASH unit that if there was a problem with an arrest, or even a shooting, the involved officers would huddle to get their stories straight before talking to supervisors.
One sergeant, who has already been relieved of duty in connection with the investigation, is accused of being particularly willing to look the other way, giving officers’ reports little if any scrutiny before signing his name. An LAPD official has characterized that sergeant as having been actively involved in covering up unjustified shootings. He was “quarterbacking the whole thing,” the official said during an internal departmental briefing.
In the interview with The Times, the officer said it was clear after Perez’s arrest in August 1998 that he was not the only Rampart officer in trouble.
Perez’s attorney, Winston Kevin McKesson, said, “This and other evidence substantiates the fact that Rafael Perez has been truthful and forthright throughout this entire investigation.”
McKesson called on authorities to honor the terms of his client’s plea agreement, which calls for a five-year sentence in exchange for his cooperation, and to move up his Feb. 25 sentencing.
After Perez’s arrest, the officer interviewed said, then-partner Durden appeared extremely anxious, losing about 50 pounds in a matter of months.
“He was a walking zombie,” the officer said.

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