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abuCA11-LAPD encouraged distraught man to commit suicide

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  • Michael Novick
    Thursday, November 30, 2000 LAPD Officers Encouraged Man s Suicide, Perez Says By MATT LAIT and SCOTT GLOVER, LA Times Staff Writers As a distraught man
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2000
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      Thursday, November 30, 2000

      LAPD Officers Encouraged Man's Suicide, Perez Says
      By MATT LAIT and SCOTT GLOVER, LA Times Staff Writers

      As a distraught man contemplated suicide in his apartment near downtown Los
      Angeles, police officers from the LAPD's Rampart Division callously
      encouraged him to take his own life, according to previously unpublished
      transcripts of interviews with ex-officer Rafael Perez, which have been
      obtained by The Times.
      "If you're going to commit suicide, hurry up and . . . do it, so we can get
      out of here," Perez quoted officers as saying to the unidentified man.
      Perez told investigators on the LAPD's corruption task force that the
      officers continued to yell at the armed, barricaded man. "You know, 'You
      ain't gonna do it. . . . We ain't got all day,' that kind of thing," Perez
      said. "While they were doing this, they heard a gunshot go off . . . and
      the guy had shot himself in the head."
      The chilling account is contained in one of 14 volumes of Perez's
      interviews with detectives and prosecutors that until recently had been the
      subject of a court protective order. The National Assn. of Criminal Defense
      Lawyers plans to announce today that the transcripts are available for
      viewing and downloading at its Web site: www.criminaljustice.org.

      The Times in February published several stories detailing allegations
      contained in the first 15 volumes of Perez's interviews with investigators,
      which began in September 1999. In those interviews, Perez described the
      Rampart anti-gang CRASH unit as a lawless band of rogue officers who
      routinely planted evidence, beat people and even covered up unjustified
      The additional 14 volumes cover much of the same territory. Most of the
      questions posed by investigators were aimed at gathering more detail about
      incidents that Perez had discussed in earlier interviews and that have been
      reported by the media.
      Perez agreed to cooperate with authorities in exchange for a lighter
      sentence for stealing eight pounds of cocaine from LAPD evidence facilities.
      He told investigators Feb. 16 about the alleged suicide incident. Although
      that case is unlikely to result in any criminal charges, it reflects the
      callousness that Perez says was rampant in Rampart.
      Cmdr. Sharon Papa, a spokeswoman for the LAPD, confirmed that detectives
      are actively investigating the incident. She declined to elaborate.
      Perez said that he was not present when the suicide allegedly occurred but
      that officers were laughing as they told him about it the next day.
      "They were saying it in a joking manner . . . about how this guy blew his
      head off," Perez said. He added that he was certain the suicide could be
      corroborated. "I guarantee you, it's in the logs," he said.
      A former Rampart policeman who was assigned as a partner to one of the
      officers alleged to have been at the scene told The Times on Wednesday that
      he too had been told of the incident.
      Perez had few details on the alleged suicide. He told investigators that
      the man who killed himself apparently was a person whom he had arrested
      previously for a narcotics offense. Perez, however, said he did not know
      the man's identity. He said he believed that the incident occurred in 1996
      or 1997.
      After Perez explained what happened, according to the transcripts, LAPD
      Sgt. Lance Smith asked him: "In your opinion, the misconduct on their part
      would be?"
      "Egging him on," Perez said. "I would think egging him on would be some
      kind of misconduct."
      Perez told investigators other stories in which the Rampart anti-gang unit
      seemed to operate more as a brutish and immature fraternity than the elite
      law enforcement squad it was once reputed to be.
      Not every officer was cut out to be part of the unit, Perez said, echoing
      themes from his earlier interviews. "Morally, you may just feel that this
      is just a little too much for you," he told interrogators.
      "For those who stay, there's a clear understanding that you'll be put in a
      lot of different positions," he added. "And if you're not a solid person,
      you're not a person that can be trusted, we don't want you in those
      positions. We don't want you to be at that shooting, when it's time to lie
      about what happened or at that arrest with a gun, you know, if you are not
      willing to testify to what we saw or what we say we're gonna see--we really
      don't want you here."
      Because of the notoriety of the Rampart scandal, prosecutors and police
      have been deluged with complaints from people who say they were framed or
      otherwise mistreated by Perez and his CRASH cohorts. The transcripts show
      that investigators would frequently ask Perez to tell them whether a claim
      had merit or not.
      In one case, he disputed allegations by a mother and a daughter that he and
      other officers planted drugs on them and stole their life savings. The
      women, their lawyers said, were neither gang members nor drug dealers nor
      drug addicts--unlike many of the victims in the corruption scandal.
      "Is there anything in this arrest report that was false?" one interrogator
      asked during a June 29 interview held in secret at the Gene Autry Museum.
      "Nothing," Perez said. "There was nothing that was done, as far as planting
      or fabricating the report, nothing."
      In another interview, investigators said several arrestees had claimed that
      Perez and partner Nino Durden booked them and reported that they had more
      money on them than they really did. Perez, who has admitted that he and
      Durden stole thousands of dollars from people, seemed stunned by the
      suggestion that he would plant money on someone.
      "Impossible," he said. "No way. I know of no occasion where I actually put
      money [on a suspect]. And I know darn well Durden ain't gonna put no money
      on somebody. He would definitely take the money. But he isn't gonna add
      money to them, you know."
      Durden, who is facing charges of attempted murder as a result of the
      corruption investigation, has maintained his innocence through his attorney.
      As a result of Perez's admissions and allegations, about 70 LAPD officers
      have come under investigation for either committing crimes or police
      misconduct, or for knowing about such offenses and failing to report them.
      More than two dozen officers have been suspended, pending further
      investigation of allegations against them.
      Five of Perez's former colleagues in the CRASH unit, including Durden, have
      been criminally charged. Three of those officers were convicted of
      corruption-related charges this month and await sentencing.
      Among those is Sgt. Edward Ortiz, whom Perez previously accused of
      masterminding the cover-up of unjustified shootings, police brutality and
      bad arrests. Perez expounded on this in his more recent interviews.
      "Ortiz was the heart. And we were the arteries," he said.
      "He'd give stern speeches. You know, that we're gonna run a real tight
      ship. And, you know, we're gonna have a lot of fun," Perez recalled. "We're
      gonna work hard, but we're gonna play hard. And, you know, this unit is
      gonna be known throughout the city. Everybody is gonna know about Rampart
      In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
      is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a
      prior interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit
      research and educational purposes only.

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