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LAPD probes racial remarks attributed to detective

CrimeShootingsLaw EnforcementLos Angeles Police DepartmentRacism
LAPD probes racial remarks attributed to detective
Gang detective Frank Lyga is under investigation in comments reportedly made during a lecture to officers

Los Angeles police officials are investigating allegations that a veteran detective made racially charged comments about shooting black men and disparaged several superiors with vulgar insults during a training lecture given to other officers.

Frank Lyga, a veteran investigator assigned to the LAPD's gang and narcotics division, has been removed from field duties pending the outcome of the investigation, said Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a department spokesman.

Internal affairs investigators opened an inquiry into Lyga, 57, after a fellow officer filed a complaint against him related to comments he reportedly made while teaching a class at the department's training academy, Smith said.

The investigation has centered on an audio recording of the remarks.

Smith declined to comment on whether investigators have confirmed that the voice on the recording is Lyga's. However, a department source with close knowledge of the case said investigators believe it is Lyga speaking. The official spoke on the condition that his name not be used because internal investigations are confidential.

A copy of the recording was released publicly last week by Jasmyne Cannick, a political consultant and writer. The LAPD official confirmed to The Times that comments on the recording put out by Cannick are the same as those on the recording the department reviewed in its investigation.

Cannick said the recording was made by an African American officer who attended the class Lyga taught in November.

On the recording, a man gives a rambling, expletive-laden talk that revolves mostly around Lyga's 1997 shooting death of Kevin Gaines, an off-duty LAPD officer.

According to police accounts of the shooting, Lyga was working in an undercover narcotics operation when he became involved in a traffic dispute with Gaines. Apparently, neither man knew the other was a police officer.

Gaines allegedly pulled a gun on Lyga to threaten him. Lyga, who said he feared for his life, fired twice at Gaines, killing him.

The shooting sparked racial tensions within the department because Gaines was black and Lyga is white.

In recounting the LAPD's investigation into the shooting and the lawsuit Gaines' family filed, the man on the recording complains repeatedly that he was unfairly labeled as "a racist killer."

At the end of the recording, which appears to capture the last half-hour of a longer talk, the man recalled a confrontation he had with Carl Douglas, a prominent attorney who helped represent Gaines' family in their lawsuit.

Douglas, the man said, asked him if he believed all "young black men" were gang members. A short time later, Douglas asked if he regretted shooting Gaines.

"I said, 'No, I regret he was alone in the truck at the time,' " the man in the recording recalled. "I could have killed a whole truckload of them and I would have been happy doing so."

Earlier in the recording, the man fired off slurs aimed at a female LAPD captain, a lieutenant, and others, including Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., the late attorney who also represented Gaines' family.

Using crass language, the man commented on the captain's attractiveness and insinuated that she was sexually promiscuous.

He called the lieutenant, Paul Vernon, "an [expletive] moron."

"I've never met Frank Lyga in all these years, but have heard from others that he has some animus toward me," Vernon said. "I haven't lost any sleep over it yet and I won't now."

Lyga did not return repeated calls and emails for comment. The local NBC affiliate reported Tuesday that in a brief interview with Lyga, the detective acknowledged making the comments and expressed regret, but also said his words had been taken out of context.

joel.rubin@latimes.com

Twitter: @joelrubin

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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