to Framing Innocent Man
Admission Results in
12 Officers Being
Relieved of Duty
By Matt Lait &
TIMES STAFF WRITER
LOS ANGELES, CA- A former LAPD officer convicted of stealing eight pounds of cocaine has implicated himself and another officer in an unjustified shooting of an unarmed young man, who was then framed for assaulting police and sentenced to more than 23 years in prison, authorities said Wednesday (15 Sept. 1999). In addressing what has become the largest LAPD corruption probe in recent memory, Chief Bernard C. Parks said at a hastily called evening news conference that a total of 12 officers have been relieved of duty.
Those officers are suspected of a variety of crimes and departmental abuses, ranging from active participation in drug dealing to "code-of-silence" violations that allowed wayward (illegal?) behavior to go unpunished, according to sources. Department officials declined to elaborate on the charges. All 12 officers, who have been "assigned to home duty," either work or have worked at the department's Rampart Division.
The most troubling development, police said Wednesday, centered on a bloody attack three years ago by two LAPD officers on a 19-year-old youth. Prosecutors are seeking to have Javier Francisco Ovando, now 22, released from prison based on new, incriminating information from ex-Officer Rafael A. Perez, who admits that Ovando has been sitting behind bars for three years for crimes he didn't commit, authorities said. (Ovando was released from prison several days after this article was published in September, 1999. WFI Editor)
"It's not a good day," Chief Parks told reporters just hours after he had handed out 18 Medal of Valor awards to department employees. "Because this case has been so hopelessly compromised by the actions of the Los Angeles police officers involved, there can be no new trial," said Sandi Gibbons, a district attorney spokeswoman. "We are asking that the case be dismissed in the interest of justice."
The other officer implicated in the shooting by Perez is Nino Durden, his former partner, who was relieved of duty last month on allegations that include planting drugs on suspects and making a false arrest in cases unrelated to the Oct. 12, 1996, shooting of Ovando, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was left wheelchair-bound, according to LAPD officials.
As part of a plea agreement reached last week with prosecutors, Perez has been cooperating with authorities and identifying a host of other allegedly corrupt officers at the LAPD in exchange for a lighter sentence on his cocaine convictions. In addition to Perez, former LAPD Officer David A. Mack was sentenced this week to 14 years, three months in federal prison for robbing a bank of $722,000. Mack and Perez were former partners and friends. (What does it mean when police officers are moonlighting as drug dealers and bank robbers? WFI Editor)
Durden, a 31-year-old officer who has five years on the force and is a training officer, could not be reached for comment. For top LAPD brass, who like to boast of the integrity of their officers, the shooting of Ovando is particularly devastating. (What is more devastating, that the code-of-silence was broken, or that the integrity of LAPD officers was not what they represented it as? WFI Editor) Three years ago, however, there was little indication the shooting was unjustified, police say. According to an internal LAPD report on the shooting, which authorities now believe is factually bogus, Perez and Durden were on a stakeout at a vacant apartment in the 1200 block of South Lake Street, a known hangout for members of the 18th Street Gang. The two officers, partners in an anti-gang unit in the Rampart Division, were on the lookout for a weapons cache stolen during a residential burglary in Orange County.
They had been there about three hours when Durden said he heard footsteps in the hallway outside of Apartment 407, where they were holed up. Durden alerted Perez and the two partners quietly made their way toward the front door to investigate, the documents state. Just then, Ovando burst in, brandishing an "assault-type" rifle, the report says. Durden shouted, "Police! Drop the gun!" When Ovando didn't comply, both Perez and Durden opened fire, hitting the suspect three times. Ovando fell into a crouched position but held onto his weapon and turned toward Perez. Perez then shot the suspect once more, the report says. Ovando was shot in the head, chest and hip area. Based on this account by Durden and Perez, an LAPD review board found the shooting "in policy."
In the report, then-Chief Willie L. Williams praised the officers' teamwork, writing: "I have determined that Officers Perez and Durden's tactics were appropriate and require no further action." But Perez now tells a different story. He says Ovando was unarmed, and that he and Durden planted a sawed-off .22 caliber rifle on the suspect after they shot him. Investigators declined comment on the motive for the shooting, but both officers are under investigation for allegedly stealing money and drugs from drug dealers, sources said.
Although police say Ovando is a tattooed 18th Street Gang member, prior to the shooting the young man had no criminal convictions, court records show. At his preliminary hearing on charges that he assaulted the officers, Ovando had to be carried into the courtroom on a gurney. During the trial, Perez and Durden convinced a jury that they were attacked by Ovando. The judge in the case gave Ovando a stiff sentence, saying the officers were "particularly vulnerable," and the crime was premeditated, involving planning and sophistication. Ovando also showed no remorse, the judge said. (It's cases like this that prove that the republic is a police state, because when police can commit such a simple lie, and the result is the framing of an innocent person WHO GOES TO PRISON, it's evidence of the real dominance of the police agencies over the civilian government. WFI Editor)
The LAPD shooting report shows that other officers participated in the stakeout that night, but were situated away from Perez and Durden. Those officers remain under suspicion, sources say. LAPD detectives recently interviewed a reluctant Ovando in prison, saying he was so jaded by his experience with police that he was hesitant to cooperate with the new investigation. Prosecutors are expected to petition a judge today to release Ovando from state custody. But because Ovando is an illegal immigrant, he will remain in custody for a deportation hearing. At least three civil lawsuits have already been filed against one Rampart officer, who was recently fired, and Parks said Wednesday that he was notifying the city attorney's office about potential further liability.
SOURCE: Excerpted from the 16 September, 1999, issue of the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Edition, from an article entitled, "Ex-Officer Says He Shot Unarmed Man." Reprinted in the public service of the national interest of the American people.(WFI EDITOR: The LAPD is one of the largest and most powerful metropolitan police departments in the United States. Its scope covers as many millions of people as the populations of some entire states, making the mayor of Los Angeles in effect the equivalent of a governor, and making the Chief of Police one of the most powerful individuals in local government. Articles such as this highlight the real control the police have over American communities. Defense attorneys across the nation have horror stories about the "code of silence" in every locality, making justice a mockery. As long as Americans refuse to admit that the republic is a police state, it will be impossible to move forward, towards a truly democratic civilian form of government.)
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