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LAPD captain files slander suit against detective

CrimeShootingsLaw EnforcementLos Angeles Police Department
Veteran detective under investigation for racially-charged remarks also facing slander complaint

A Los Angeles police captain has sued a veteran detective accusing him of damaging her reputation by depicting her as promiscuous during a training lecture he gave to more than 35 officers.

The civil complaint filed Thursday by 77th Street Division Capt. Lillian Carranza accuses LAPD Det. Frank Lyga of slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

According to the complaint, Lyga described Carranza as a "very cute little Hispanic lady” who had been “swapped around a bunch of times." The complaint contends Lyga’s statements during the November 2013 training class were understood to mean Carranza was "not chaste and is promiscuous.” 

Lyga is currently the subject of an internal investigation for remarks he made during the training class, which were recorded by another officer. He is on paid leave, officials said.  

Lyga's attorney, Ira Salzman, said his client acknowledges it was his voice on the recording. Though the statements might have been said in poor taste, Salzman doubted whether the remarks caused Carranza any harm.  

“Although my client made some statements that were not the best, that doesn’t mean he created a civil wrong or that the claimant suffered any damages whatsoever," Salzman said.

"He’s accepted responsibility for remarks that weren’t the best," he added. "I would ask that my client’s entire career be taken into account. He’s an outstanding officer with an outstanding record."

A 24-year veteran of the LAPD, Carranza was promoted to captain in 2012 and assigned to command patrol officers in the 77th Division in 2013, according to the complaint. Throughout her career, she has worked a number of specialized units, including narcotics, robberies and homicides, according to the department website.

The complaint contends that Carranza has "experienced shame, mortification, embarrassment, humiliation. … She fears and anticipates injury to her ability to lead and command her subordinates due to the effect these slanderous statements have in undermining her authority and disqualifying her ability to lead."

Carranza’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

In the same recording, Lyga allegedly made racially-charged remarks regarding the fatal shooting of officer Kevin Gaines in 1997. According to police accounts, Lyga was working in an undercover narcotics operation when he became involved in a traffic dispute with Gaines, who was off-duty. Both men were unaware the other was a police officer. 

Gaines reportedly pulled a gun on Lyga and threatened him. Lyga, who said he feared for his life, fired twice at Gaines, killing him. Lyga was exonerated but the shooting spurred racial tensions within the department because Lyga is white and Gaines was black. 

In the recording, Lyga recalled an encounter he had with an attorney who represented Gaines’ family during their lawsuit. He said the attorney asked him if he regretted the shooting. 

“I said, ‘No, I regret he was alone in the truck at the time,’” Lyga recalled. “I could have killed a whole truckload of them and I would have been happy doing so.” 

Salzman said his client acknowledged his poor choice of words. The comment was made in reference to “assailants,” he said.

“What he should have said was, ‘I would have killed anyone if they tried to kill me.’”

For breaking news in Los Angeles and the Southland, follow @debbietruong or email her at debbie.truong@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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