abuCA11-LAPD encouraged distraught man to commit suicide
- 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encouraged him to take his own life, according to previously unpublished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
After Perez explained what happened, according to the transcripts, LAPD
Sgt. Lance Smith asked him: "In your opinion, the misconduct on their part
"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
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