LAPD Officer Corroborates Perez on Beating

By MATT LAIT and SCOTT GLOVER, Times Staff Writers

March 14, 2000

In a significant breakthrough in the Rampart corruption investigation, a Los Angeles police officer implicated in the scandal has corroborated testimony from former Officer Rafael Perez about an alleged beating by police in 1998, sources close to the criminal probe said.
The development is considered good news by prosecutors and detectives who have been searching for witnesses to substantiate the allegations of Perez, an admitted perjurer, who has testified that a band of Rampart officers planted evidence to arrest innocent people, beat suspects, covered up unjustified shootings and perjured themselves, among other abuses.
Complicating matters, however, is the fact that the officer who is providing corroborating information also contradicts Perez on some points, saying the disgraced officer had a larger role in the beating than he has acknowledged to investigators, sources said.
The officer, whose name is being withheld by The Times to protect his identity, came forward with the information about three weeks ago. At the time, sources said, he was under scrutiny by internal affairs investigators for unrelated misconduct growing out of the Rampart investigation.
A source familiar with the corruption probe said at least one other officer has come forward with information, but details of what that officer has told authorities were not available.
Another officer, who is not cooperating with authorities, told The Times in January that he, too, could corroborate much of what Perez has testified to. That officer has not spoken to investigators, fearing that he would be fired for not disclosing what he knew at an earlier time.
For prosecutors and detectives on the corruption task force, such corroborating testimony significantly bolsters the chance that criminal charges could be filed against corrupt officers.
Police Department spokesman Cmdr. David J. Kalish declined to discuss the LAPD’s ongoing investigation or to confirm whether officers have come forward to substantiate Perez.
“We strongly encourage any officer who has any information about crimes and misconduct to come forward,” Kalish said. “Let there be no doubt: The department will get to the bottom of the corruption, and it would be in an officer’s best interest to come forward sooner rather than later.”
Perez, who pleaded guilty in September to stealing 8 pounds of cocaine from LAPD evidence facilities, was sentenced last month to five years in prison as part of a plea deal in which he agreed to help root out corruption in the department.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Perez could be charged with perjury if he is found to have lied in his testimony.
Perez’s lawyer, Winston Kevin McKesson, said Perez has been “truthful and forthright” throughout the investigation.
“He has had every incentive to state his involvement totally and accurately,” McKesson said. “He would have had no incentive to cover anything up.”
The incident in question is the alleged beating of suspected gang member Gabriel Aguirre on Mar. 24, 1998, sources said. According to transcripts of Perez’s interviews with investigators, obtained by The Times, Perez and other officers were searching for Aguirre, who was wanted for assault with a deadly weapon, when they found him sleeping in an abandoned apartment.
“We kick the door down to the apartment. When we get inside, Mr. Aguirre is laying asleep on the floor,” Perez told investigators.
Perez said two officers jumped on Aguirre and began to beat him, one kneeing the suspect in the back “at least 20 times,” the other striking him repeatedly with a metal flashlight.
One investigator asked Perez is the suspect had attempted to run from officers, prompting the attack.
“This guy didn’t run,” Perez said. “This guy was asleep–legitimately asleep.”
Perez told investigators that the first two officers weren’t the only ones who hit Aguirre.
“We knew a complaint was gonna come down from this,” Perez explained. “We started discussing about how we’re gonna, uh, justify, explain all this,” he said.
As the officers spoke, Aguirre could hear them and said, “Oh, yeah. Now, you guys are gonna cover it up,” Perez recalled.
“I went over there and pushed him up against the wall,” Perez admitted to investigators. ” . . . an abrasion occurred where a little blood trickled down.”
When a sergeant arrived, Perez said, he and the other officers told him two stories.
“At first, we told him how it actually happened, how this guy was beat down,” Perez said. “And then, uh, we told him how we were gonna explain it.”
Perez said the sergeant, who has since been relieved of duty in connection with the scandal, then directed officers to pour beer on a nearby fire escape to help support their tale that Aguirre obtained some of his injuries when he slipped and fell during a chase.
“He helped in the covering up,” Perez said. “He’s one of the supervisors that you do not tell him a bologna story, you know, that you’re trying to create to cover it up,” Perez said. “You tell him the truth, how you thumped this guy or whatever happened. And then, he’ll agree with you, or not agree with you, on how to cover it up. And if he doesn’t agree with what you’re saying, he’ll help you.”

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