Tapes Suggest Fears of Young Informant
Newly released transcripts of conversations between police and a 17-year-old Yorba Linda youth who was a drug informant indicate that the young man knew he was in danger.
The attorney for the family of Chad MacDonald released transcripts Wednesday of taped conversations between Brea police and MacDonald, who was found strangled in a South-Central Los Angeles alley in March. In the transcripts, MacDonald tells officers that he was “on edge” and unable to cope with pressure from police and his drug acquaintances.
“I’ve never been put in this position before. It’s a scary thing. I’ve been beat up, my tires slashed,” MacDonald said, according to transcripts of a tape made in February when police discovered methamphetamine and marijuana in the youngster’s car during a routine traffic stop.
When the police officer began interrogating him about his alleged drug use and role as an informant, MacDonald began crying loudly and pleaded, “I’ve done nothing,” according to the transcripts, released by attorney Lloyd Charton.
Brea Police Chief William C. Lentini said in a prepared statement Wednesday that he could not comment on “selectively edited” documents.
“We have a responsibility to the public to present the whole truth, and we can’t do that by merely reacting to certain portions extracted from the numerous documents,” Lentini said.
He added that the Police Department was ordered by a judge not to release or discuss information contained in audio tapes, written transcripts and other supplemental documents.
“Until we know specifically what has been made public, we have no way of knowing if we would be in violation of the court order by commenting on the contents,” Lentini said.
Charton released nearly 80 pages of what he said were taped conversations between MacDonald and Brea officers, as well as a conversation between the youth’s mother, Cindy MacDonald, and a police detective on March 3, the day MacDonald’s body was found.
MacDonald had disappeared a few days earlier from his Yorba Linda home. His girlfriend, who was found alive in the Angeles National Forest, had been raped and shot in the face. She has since been released from the hospital and is recuperating, according to sources close to the family.
Hours before they were attacked, both teens were seen at a home in Norwalk that police and neighbors say was a known as a hangout for drug dealers.
MacDonald made one supervised methamphetamine buy for Brea police and gave other information on drug dealers, according to police records. With the consent of his mother, MacDonald became an informant for police after he was arrested in January for possession of methamphetamine, according to previously released documents.
His death has raised questions about law enforcement officials using minors as informants and has prompted lawmakers to call for limits on using minors in undercover police work.
Two Los Angeles County residents were arrested in connection with MacDonald’s murder and are awaiting trial. Another suspect is at large.
Brea police officials have said they terminated their dealing with Chad MacDonald 10 days before he died. Police officials maintain that MacDonald visited the house in Norwalk on his own to buy drugs and that they were not aware his life was in danger.
Brea authorities have said that in previous conversations between detectives and MacDonald, the youth told them he did not feel threatened or that his cover had been blown.
But according to the transcripts released Wednesday, Cindy MacDonald began to grow nervous with her son’s role as an informant and told a Brea police detective on March 3, before the body was found, that drug dealers around town knew her son was cooperating with police.
Anonymous callers phoned the MacDonald home “all night and said, ‘You narked us out, you narked us out’ . . . and ‘You’re the one that has been doing this,’ and that kind of stuff,” Cindy MacDonald told the detective on March 3, according to the transcript. “I mean it was . . . out of control. . . . The next day, Chad was gone.”
In addition, a witness at the Norwalk house where Chad MacDonald was last seen before he died said she heard people refer to him as a “narc,” slang for an informer, according to the documents released Wednesday.
According to police transcripts dated March 26, a witness told detectives that Chad MacDonald went to the house in Norwalk because he “was getting [drugs] for half the price.” The witness said one of the drug users felt he had been “ripped off” by MacDonald and that the next time he saw MacDonald he was “going to kill him,” according to the documents.
In their March 3 conversation Brea Police Detective Bill Hutchinson makes it clear to Cindy MacDonald that her son was deeply involved in the drug world long before the police used him as an informant, according to the transcript.
“He was mixed up with these people before the Brea Police Department got involved,” he said in the transcripts. “So don’t even allude, don’t even suggest that we had something to do with this. Your son was mixed up in this stuff a long time ago. . . .”
But sensing that something had gone terribly wrong, Cindy MacDonald pleaded with Hutchinson to help her find her son, before it was too late.
“He’s a kid,” she said, according to the March 3 transcript. “This can change. So let’s help him change somehow or let’s get him to a way to change. Give him an out somehow here.”