D.A. to review cases after video shows ex-LAPD detective yelling slur at Black driver

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón.
(Bryan Chan / Los Angeles County)

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said Wednesday his office will review more than 300 cases involving a retired Los Angeles homicide detective who was allegedly captured on video calling a young Black man a racial slur.

After Gascón’s decision that the cases should be examined to determine whether any had been tainted by the detective’s racism, the Los Angeles Police Department said it would assist in the effort. Police officials put the number of cases involving the detective at about 370 — a total that included an unknown number of homicides.

Gascón said he worries the detective’s rant could affect convictions in a range of serious crimes.

“We have to notify the defense lawyers in all the cases where this person may have to have been a witness … and case-by-case assess whether or not those cases have been compromised,” he said, speaking at a news conference marking his 100th day in office.

A video posted to social media on Monday shows a large, middle-aged white man and a young Black man on the side of Valencia Boulevard in Santa Clarita after a minor traffic incident.

The white man yells at the Black man, at one point asking why he isn’t allowed to use a racial slur. He then uses the slur again, this time directing it at the Black man.


In a statement released Tuesday, LAPD officials acknowledged the man in the video is a former detective who was assigned to the department’s Central Bureau and retired in May, but did not name him.

As the two men exchange words and stalk the sidewalk, a woman accompanying the ex-cop tells the Black man to go back to his car. The detective then yells at the man, “Go back into your little cage until the monkey controller gets here.”

Multiple law enforcement sources identified the man in the video as retired Central Bureau homicide detective John Motto. Motto, who spent more than three decades with the Los Angeles police, did not return calls or a text message seeking comment.

In its statement, the LAPD said it had opened an internal affairs investigation “to ensure there is no current department nexus” to the incident.

“What is seen in the video is not reflective of the thousands of hard-working and dedicated men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department,” the statement continued.

The list of cases generated by Gascón’s office includes those in which the detective was listed as a potential witness. The detective did not necessarily testify in each case.

A similar review was sparked last year after three LAPD officers were charged with falsifying evidence to portray people as gang members. At the time, then-Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey directed prosecutors to notify more than 750 defendants in cases involving the officers of the potential misconduct. As of last September, at least seven cases had been dismissed because of questions about the officers’ credibility.

“The video in question is truly disturbing, particularly because it involves a former homicide detective who is showing racist tendencies,” Gascón said.

Carl Douglas, a veteran defense attorney and civil rights lawyer, said any lawyer who represented a person of color investigated by Motto should review the case file.

“If this individual showered this level of racism during a road incident, it must trigger an investigation into whether it permeated into his work,” said Douglas, who was part of the dream team that secured O.J. Simpson’s acquittal in the killings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.

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Feb. 17, 2021