A couple whose rental properties were heavily damaged in a Los Angeles police raid last year filed suit in federal court Wednesday alleging that officers engaged in an unwarranted “orgy of violence” that left the dwellings uninhabitable.
The civil rights lawsuit is the second brought against the Los Angeles Police Department as a result of the raid Aug. 1, in which an anti-gang task force of more than 70 officers ransacked four apartments in the 3900 block of Dalton Avenue in Southwest Los Angeles.
The first suit, filed in October by residents of the apartments, alleged that in their zeal to find narcotics, officers roughed up tenants and others, broke windows, ripped plaster from walls, slashed furniture with knives, sledgehammered toilets and hacked apart stereos.
One-quarter gram of rock cocaine was found in the search. Of 33 people taken into custody that night, one was arrested for possession of cocaine and seven for conspiracy.
Police officials declined to comment on the latest lawsuit, saying that their internal investigation of the incident has not been completed. But according to sources close to the case, recommendations have been made that at least 18 officers be disciplined on charges ranging from lying to investigators to damaging personal property.
Transfer for Caption
Capt. Tom Elfmont, in whose jurisdiction the raid occurred, is to be transferred next week from his command at Southwest station to a staff job at police headquarters. Elfmont’s departure comes several weeks after internal affairs investigators began looking into allegations by some officers that their actions during the raid came at Elfmont’s urgings, according to sources.
Cmdr. William Booth, a police spokesman, would not comment Wednesday on speculation in the ranks that Elfmont’s pending transfer is punitive.
“The chief of police,” Booth said, “transfers people where he thinks they are needed the most.”
Wednesday’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by retired postal worker Edward J. Lamothe III and his wife, Anna, contends that on the night of the raid, Lamothe got a call from a frightened tenant and drove to Dalton Avenue, where officers prevented him from entering the apartments.
One officer repeatedly called Lamothe a racist name and “told him to get out,” the suit states, adding that Lamothe then left “out of fear for his personal safety.”
When he returned the next day, he found “water running throughout the apartments, thereby causing water damage and ruining the carpets, broken plumbing fixtures, extensive damage to the walls and ceilings (and) broken doors,” the suit alleges.
The Lamothes’ attorney, Mark E. Overland, said damage was estimated at $35,000.
The lawsuit alleges that city officials and Police Chief Daryl F. Gates have failed to discipline officers who engaged in the “unnecessary destruction of property” and of assigning officers with “violent or destructive propensities to duties which enable such officers to continue to use unnecessary force or unnecessarily destroy property.”
The lawsuit also contends that the Police Department routinely deprives citizens of their constitutional rights by operating as a “para-military organization, thereby promoting attitudes . . . inconsistent with the civilian police force.”
Overland said that Edward Lamothe has spent much of his time since the raids trying to repair damage and that only one of the apartments that was raided is now inhabited.