In what might go down in history as one of the dumbest moves ever, a Los Angeles Police Officer recorded himself planting evidence in a suspect’s wallet, then “finding” it and making the arrest.
Pause your laughing, please.
The officers apparently thought their cameras were off. While one officer, Samuel Lee, searched the suspect, a second cop, LAPD Officer Gaxiola, mimed “finding the drugs” as he placed them in the suspect’s wallet. Then he turned on his camera, not realizing it had just recorded and saved the last several seconds of his actions as he thought he was just turning on the audio.
The report documents the arrest of Ronald Shields, 52, in April when he was taken into custody for a hit and run. According to the police report, LAPD officer Samuel Lee stated that cocaine was found in Shields’ front left pocket
After Gaxiola “finds” the drugs, he makes a point to say three times, “He has a little bag of narco in here.” While Lee says the small bag fell out of Shields’ pocket, Defense Attorney Steve Levine thinks that the video clearly shows Gaxiola planting the drugs.
Just a common sense observation — IF the drugs did fall out of Shields’ pocket, why was it necessary to place them inside the wallet, and then make such a show of “finding” them in the wallet? And then announce for the camera three times that the packet was found in the wallet? We think it’s pretty clear what really happened here.
Los Angeles officers have been wearing the body cameras for two years, but the department has never released the body cam footage before. CBS-2 News was able to obtain the footage and were quite shocked to find a different scenario playing out on video than what was contained in the police reports.
Shields’ lawyer said that one of the officers was shown the video while on the stand during the pre-trial hearing. Levine described the officer’s reaction:
He Looked dumbstruck to me. Period. He had really no answer.
When an expert described how the cameras work, he stated that the camera was actually running for 30 seconds before the officer thought he had activated it. That false sense of security gave everyone a clear view of crooked cops framing an innocent man for drugs.
When confronted by CBS2 News reporter David Goldstein, neither officer made a statement about why the video did not match what was reported in the police report.
While body cams are a great addition to police uniforms, allowing officers to control when they are and aren’t recording could defeat the purpose entirely. For LA officers, the fail-safe 30 second run-time before activation turned out to be beneficial for the suspect.
The hearing will be continued in December.
OK, you can resume your laughing now.
Watch the video below:
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Featured image from LAPD body cam video