Charges dismissed against two more LAPD officers in gang labeling scandal

Two officers walk into LAPD headquarters with City Hall reflected in the doors.
A case alleging LAPD officers intentionally misidentified people as gang members has largely fallen apart in court, with charges against five of six accused officers now dismissed.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Criminal charges were dismissed Monday against two more Los Angeles police officers accused of intentionally misidentifying people as gang members — further unraveling a once-sprawling case that at its peak involved investigations into more than 30 officers.

L.A. County Superior Court Judge Kerry White dismissed the cases against LAPD officers Michael Coblentz and Nicolas Martinez at the request of prosecutors, who cited another judge’s decision to dismiss similar cases against three other officers in February.

L.A. County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor dismissed the earlier cases after concluding that the LAPD at the time had vague policies around documenting gang affiliations, allowing officers to report that someone had “self-admitted” to being a gang member based on a range of factors, including tattoos, and not necessarily on actual verbal admissions.


Based on that decision, prosecutors said they could no longer pursue their cases against Coblentz and Martinez, either, who, like the others, stood accused of writing on field interview cards that people had self-admitted to being gang members despite video from those encounters showing no such admissions.

“Because our office cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officers Coblentz and Martinez had a specific intent of falsifying evidence, we asked for the charges to be dismissed,” Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s office said in a statement to The Times.

An attorney for Coblentz declined to comment.

Joseph Weimortz, an attorney for Martinez, said his client never intentionally mislabeled anyone a gang member and was glad to have the case against him dismissed.

Weimortz said Martinez is an “exemplary officer” and family man with past military service who wants to continue his career with the LAPD after having been placed on paid administrative leave while the case against him was pending.

“The question becomes how do we, as Mr. Martinez’s lawyers, clear his name for the future so that he can still be an effective member of law enforcement, which is consistent with who he is,” Weimortz said.

With five cases now dismissed, and prosecutors deciding not to file charges against 25 other officers who had come under investigation, just one case remains.


Officer Braxton Shaw, who worked as a partner of Coblentz and Martinez, remains accused of falsifying gang information in dozens of stops.

Prosecutors have said that Shaw’s case also was being reevaluated in light of Pastor’s decision, but have so far given no indication that they intend to seek a dismissal. A preliminary hearing in Shaw’s case is scheduled for June 2.

Shaw has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Greg Yacoubian, said the charges against him should be dropped as well.

Apart from the charges against the individual officers, the mislabeling scandal led prosecutors to drop various criminal cases that relied on the testimony of the charged officers and also sparked state and local reforms.

Then-California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra barred police across the state from using any of the thousands of records LAPD officers had entered about alleged gang members in the CalGang database.

In addition, the LAPD revised its policy to state that officers “shall not document opinions, including an opinion that the person is a member or affiliate of a gang, unless they indicate the specific and articulable facts upon which they base that conclusion.”