Ex-Torrance police officers charged with spray-painting swastika on car
Two former Torrance police officers were charged with spray-painting a swastika inside of a resident’s car, and prosecutors are now reviewing hundreds of cases involving the ex-cops to see if their alleged actions might imperil any arrests or convictions, officials said.
Former officers Cody Weldin, 28, and Christopher Tomsic, 29, were each charged with conspiracy and vandalism in connection with January 2020 incident, prosecutors announced Thursday afternoon. The two men pleaded not guilty during a brief appearance in a downtown courtroom, officials said.
According to a news release issued by the district attorney’s office, Weldin and Tomsic were part of a group of officers who responded to a report of mail theft in January 2020. A car that was potentially involved in the alleged crime was towed from the scene, prosecutors said.
The two officers allegedly spray-painted a swastika on the vehicle’s rear seat and a happy face on the front passenger seat, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday. Prosecutors also alleged the pair falsified a document submitted to the California Highway Patrol as part of their investigation by not including information about the vandalism in the report.
The case was the result of an internal investigation by the Torrance Police Department, which referred the case to the district attorney’s office in April 2020. Sgt. Mark Ponegalek, a Torrance police spokesman, said Weldin left the department in July 2020 after serving as a city police officer for a little more than four years. Tomsic, who was hired in August 2015, left the department in September of last year.
Ponegalek said the Torrance city attorney’s office had directed him not to disclose if the officers were fired or resigned.
“Immediately upon learning of the reprehensible allegations in 2020, the Torrance Police Department opened a criminal investigation and the officers were put on leave,” Ponegalek said in a statement.
An attorney for Weldin declined to comment. Tomsic’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.
The district attorney’s office is also reviewing hundreds of cases involving the officers “to ensure no other alleged misconduct occurred,” and determine if the alleged bias act might impact any cases in which Tomsic and Weldin were either the arresting officers or called as witnesses, officials said.
Ponegalek said the case was presented to prosecutors as a hate crime. However, a hate crime enhancement was not filed in the case, according to the criminal complaint. While Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón has largely abandoned the use of sentencing enhancements, bias crimes are one of the few offenses for which prosecutors can still seek additional penalties.
Tomsic was awarded a medal in 2017 for helping save the life of a three-month-old baby who had stopped breathing inside the Del Amo Mall. But the officer has also been linked to two deaths while on duty.
In 2017, Tomsic was one of several officers involved in the fatal shooting of a man at the end of car chase, court records show. Police said the suspect, Michael Lopez, was trying to ram officers when they opened fire. The district attorney’s office declined to file charges against Tomsic in 2019.
Tomsic was also among a group of officers involved in a deadly struggle with a knife-wielding suspect, Deautry Ross, at the Del Amo mall in 2018.
The officers used a Taser and physical force to try and subdue Ross, who had allegedly tried to grab for an officer’s weapon during the fight. Ross died at an area hospital a short time after the clash and an autopsy found he died of a heart attack due to a combination of methamphetamine intoxication and “struggling with the officers.”
Prosecutors decided the officers used reasonable force and declined to bring charges in that case last year.
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