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LAPD detective accused of making racially charged remarks put on leave

CrimeShootingsLaw EnforcementRacismLos Angeles Police Department
Detective accused of racially charged comments on tape placed on leave as investigation continues

A veteran Los Angeles police detective has been placed on leave pending an investigation into allegations that he made racially charged comments in a training lecture for other officers, authorities said.

Frank Lyga, 57, was placed on paid leave after new information came to the attention of LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Cmdr. Andrew Smith said Thursday. He declined to provide additional details.

An internal affairs investigation was launched after another officer filed a complaint about Lyga's alleged comments. Investigators are examining a recording of the comments attributed to Lyga.

Smith has previously declined to confirm whether the voice heard on the recording is Lyga's, but a department source who requested anonymity said last week that investigators believe it is Lyga speaking.

Lyga's attorney, Ira Salzman, said Lyga's history as an officer shoul be be taken into account.

"Frank Lyga has been an outstanding officer," Salzman said. "He is a well-respected expert in the field .... I would simply ask that his outstanding background be considered before conclusions are reached."

Jasmyne Cannick, a political consultant and writer who publicly released the recording, told the Los Angeles Times last week that the recording was made by an African American officer who attended Lyga's class in November.

On the recording, a man is heard giving a rambling, expletive-laden talk centering mostly around Lyga's 1997 fatal shooting of Kevin Gaines, an off-duty police officer.

According to police accounts, Lyga was working in an undercover narcotics operation when he became involved in a traffic dispute with Gaines. Neither man was aware the other was a police officer.

Gaines allegedly pulled a gun on Lyga, threatening him. Lyga, who said he feared for his life, fired twice at Gaines and killed him. The shooting sparked racial tensions within the department because Gaines was black and Lyga is white.

The man in the recording recalled a confrontation with an attorney who represented Gaines' family in their lawsuit. The attorney, the man recalled, 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."

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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CrimeShootingsLaw EnforcementRacismLos Angeles Police Department
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