News Release ~ 11/30/2000

Chilling insider view of police misconduct: Rampart plea-bargain testimony of Rafael Perez available on-line

Washington, DC (November 30, 2000) -- Talking a man into blowing his own brains out was a good thing to laugh and joke about, according to Rafael Perez, at least if you were a member of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart Division anti-gang unit at the same time Perez was.

According to ex-officer Perez, in response to a call about a distraught man, barricaded in his apartment threatening suicide, instead of trying to talk him out of it, officers were “egging” him on, telling him to go ahead and kill himself if he was going to, just not to waste their time.

Their encouragement ended when the man fatally shot himself in the head.

The next day, when Perez returned from a day off, the officers laughed and joked about the incident.

Perez’s account of this incident appears in the transcript of his Feb. 16, 2000 interview with prosecutors and police investigators as part of a plea-bargain agreement. Perez had been charged with stealing eight pounds of cocaine from LAPD evidence facilities.

Transcripts of the first 29 volumes of the Perez interviews are being made available today on the Web site of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers at www.nacdl.org. There is no charge for access to the transcripts, which are searchable by keyword and can be downloaded in WordPerfect and Microsoft Word formats.

Although Perez failed a polygraph test at one point, many of the details of his testimony--some of which registered as untruthful on the polygraph test--have been independently corroborated. The polygraph result may be attributable to Perez’s stress level at the time or to flaws in the testing procedure.

The transcripts are rife with specific accounts of wrongdoing (and accompanying cover-ups) by Rampart anti-gang officers, and descriptions of practices by which they protected each other from allegations of wrongdoing. These include (keywords underlined):

  • An incident in which officers fired at New Years’ revelers who were firing guns into the air, unaware of approaching officers. Perez, who says he was not involved in the shooting, participated in the coverup by collecting shell casings, only to have to redistribute them after the officers learned that two suspects had been hit. The officers then agreed on a story that the suspects had pointed their weapons at officers.
  • Officers placing a gun near a dying Juan Saldana, whom they shot, and then delaying calling an ambulance while they agreed on a story that justified the shooting.
  • Perez and his partner, Nino Durden, shooting unarmed Javier Ovando, then planting a gun on him and fabricating a story that sent him to prison for 23 years. Ovando has since been released and been awarded a $15 million settlement.
  • The awarding of plaques made of playing cards (red for wounding, black for killing) to officers involved in shootings.
  • The use of the term “take it to the box” to describe the willingness of officers to go to whatever lengths, including perjury, to cover up the wrongdoing of another officer.
  • Officers repeatedly firing a bean bag shotgun into the face of a suspect, then laughing about the injuries and even carrying pictures of the wounded suspect to show.
  • Supplying crack cocaine to an addicted confidential informant in return for information, and in one instance using her to taste-test a substance they believed to be “dirty dope.”
  • Fabrication of an entire report so they could arrest a confidential informant, Adamir Hernandez, to give him cover from associates who suspected him of being a snitch.

“Members of the criminal defense profession have long known that these kinds of activities by officers occur on a regular basis,” said Houston attorney Edward Mallett, president of NACDL. “We’re pleased to give the public a rare chance to see just how prevalent and insidious police misconduct was in the LAPD Rampart Division. We trust that this awareness will lead both the public and the law enforcement community to take allegations of police misconduct more seriously and actively work to root out the cause.”

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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