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LAPD captain whose home was raided is latest to sue city over gun store scandal

Los Angeles Police Academy
A gun theft scandal at the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club, which is located within the police academy, pictured here, has spurred several lawsuits from LAPD officers.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

A high-ranking Los Angeles police captain has sued the city of L.A. and the nonprofit gun store that operates out of its police academy, alleging he was unjustly “swept up” in an embarrassing gun theft scandal due to their collective negligence and malfeasance.

Capt. Jonathan Tom, commanding officer of the LAPD’s West L.A. division, said in a lawsuit filed jointly with his wife, Yoomi, in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday that his personal and professional reputations were tarnished, and his career prospects unfairly dimmed, when investigators ignored evidence that he was a victim in the wider scandal and instead pursued him as a suspect — including by raiding his Long Beach home in February in what his lawsuit called “an outrageous show of force.”

Tom and his wife, a retired police officer who was home with their young son at the time of the raid, said the raid and the broader investigation subjected them to humiliation, emotional distress and substantial financial losses without any justification, and are seeking more than $5 million in damages.

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“This is a terrible ordeal that the family went through with this raid,” said Bradley Gage, the Toms’ attorney. “It really was not justified.”

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of cases brought by Los Angeles Police Department officers who allege they were damaged in some way by the gun scandal and the department’s investigation of it.

The lawsuits, several of which have been consolidated, raise the prospect of city taxpayers having to pay settlements to the officers if they are successful in arguing the city violated their rights. The city has sought to mitigate such exposure by passing the blame entirely onto the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club, a nonprofit organization and gun store with which the city has maintained a relationship for more than 85 years.

According to an investigation by The Times, the theft of 44 guns from an L.A. gun store has spurred a cascade of allegations against LAPD officers and a roiling department scandal.

Like the Toms and other officers who have sued, the city has alleged that the gun store failed to oversee its employees and maintain proper security protocols to ensure its stock of firearms was secured.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer’s office, said Wednesday that attorneys for the city would be reviewing the Toms’ complaint, but had no further comment. The LAPD did not respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys for the gun store also did not respond to a request for comment. They and gun store officials have previously declined to comment on litigation surrounding the theft scandal — which first erupted in February 2020 after store officials realized dozens of weapons were missing and alerted the LAPD.

An investigation quickly led investigators to store manager Archi Duenas, who they accused of stealing the guns and selling them — many to LAPD officers. Other weapons remain missing.

Duenas, who initially faced 25 criminal counts and more than a dozen years in prison, instead received probation in August after pleading no contest to felony grand theft of a firearm and a single misdemeanor count of illegally transferring a firearm.

As the case against Duenas was being built and pursued, LAPD investigators were also investigating several LAPD officers who were found to be in possession of stolen weapons.

Investigators presented cases to prosecutors against several officers, accusing them of knowingly purchasing stolen firearms. Last month, prosecutors cited insufficient evidence to file charges against several of those officers — including Tom, who had been found with one of the stolen guns.

Tom has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.

In his lawsuit, he alleged he was a victim of Duenas, who he believed he was buying a gun from legally as a representative of the gun store. He alleged Duenas then “embezzled” the money that he paid for the firearm. Duenas has declined to respond to that allegation.

LAPD Police Academy former gun store manager charged with stealing more than 20 guns

Tom’s lawsuit said he cooperated with investigators when they came asking questions about the transaction, but was treated like a suspect and a dangerous criminal despite his years of service to the city and the Police Department.

Investigators had questioned whether Tom’s history of purchasing and selling firearms in large numbers may have violated federal laws around gun sales, according to internal LAPD records reviewed by The Times, and during the raid on his home removed a large number of guns as part of their investigation.

Tom’s lawsuit said those firearms, many of which had been inherited from his father, had nothing to do with the gun store investigation, and their seizure from his home was instead intended to humiliate him and his family in front of their neighbors. Gage said all of Tom’s gun transactions were legal.

The Toms’ lawsuit also alleged that information about the raid on his home was improperly shared with The Times, which reported it at the time, and that his treatment by the LAPD was partly motivated by racial discrimination. Tom is a third-generation Chinese American.

Gage said the LAPD had been “extremely reckless” in its handling of the investigation and should be held accountable.

“So often the public hears about police departments doing stuff to certain people improperly,” he said. “This is an important case because it shows how police departments do things improperly to their own too.”

Gage said it was possible the Toms’ lawsuit could be consolidated with those of other officers suing over the gun scandal, but that had not occurred as of Wednesday.

After the raid on his home, Tom was charged by local prosecutors in Long Beach with criminal storage of a firearm after investigators allegedly found a loaded handgun in a closet, which they said was accessible to Tom’s young son.

Gage said that case, which is pending, was without merit, that Tom wasn’t even home at the time, and that the gun in question was in a locked gun safe and not accessible to Tom’s son.


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