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Captain Disputes Other Officers on Gun Claim

Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles police captain, accused of five counts of misconduct, told a departmental Board of Rights panel Tuesday that he would have automatically filed a personnel complaint against a police sergeant if he had been informed that the sergeant had allegedly stuck a gun into his wife’s mouth and threatened her life during a domestic quarrel.

However, despite testimony to the contrary by three police officers, Capt. Jerry Conner told the board that he has no recollection of ever having been informed of any such allegations made in late 1985 against Sgt. Robert Smith by his wife, Lorien Smith. (A subsequent investigation of Smith failed to prove misconduct, according to authorities).

Conner, 50, commander of the 77th Street Division in South Los Angeles, is accused of having made false and misleading statements concerning the Smith case to an Internal Affairs Division sergeant last June. He is also charged with having shoved a female desk officer, Patricia Ibarra, 24, when she tried to stop him last August from taking a card she had received with a bouquet of flowers. Testimony on the latter accusation is scheduled for the second session of the hearing this morning.

Conner, speaking firmly to the three-man board, said: “I have absolutely no recollection of ever discussing the (gun accusations). . . . There is no doubt in my mind if I heard that, I would have made a personnel complaint.”

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“I am forgetful, but I am not stupid,” Conner continued, adding that he would have had no qualms about taking action against Smith because “no one would have given Bobby Smith a break on anything.”

Conner’s testimony followed that of Lt. Willie Pannell, Lt. Thomas Runyen and Sgt. Terry Barkley, all of whom said the captain had been informed of the gun allegation and that he had decided that a personnel complaint was unwarranted because no criminal charges had been filed against Smith by Inglewood police officers, who had been called to the scene of the domestic quarrel.

“He said if Inglewood didn’t do anything . . . no crime occurred and if no crime occurred, there’s no misconduct,” Pannell recalled.

Pannell, though, acknowledged that Conner, who is on administrative leave, would have had nothing to gain by protecting Smith since “we all thought he (Smith) was a turkey.”

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Pannell added that Smith’s wife “had wanted to bring it to our attention, but she did not want to see (her husband) get into trouble.”

Since the incident, Smith has transferred from the 77th Street Division to the West Los Angeles Division. His wife, who at the time of the incident was a non-sworn police jailer, is now a police trainee at the Los Angeles Police Academy.

According to police spokesman William Booth, the allegations against Smith were “not sustained,” which means “there is not a preponderance of evidence to establish either way (what happened).”

As for Conner, if the Board of Rights--the Police Department’s most serious review--determines he is guilty of misconduct, it can recommend to Police Chief Daryl F. Gates penalties ranging from admonishment to termination.

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After the initial session, Lt. Larry Goebel, who is serving as the prosecutor, said that Conner’s testimony notwithstanding, “The department believes he had knowledge (of the gun allegations) based on the interviews of the other personnel.”


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