INTRODUCTION:

Allegedly, as we noted before, the film "Training Day" was based on LAPD officer Kevin Gaines.  'The New Yorker' and 'Frontline' did a fascinating piece on Kevin Gaines, David Mack and Ray Perez.  Read excerpts below.

 

 

GANGSTA COPS:

On March 16, 1997, black off-duty LAPD officer Kevin Gaines (pictured above, first photo) was shot and killed in a "road rage" dispute.  Gaines, angry and allegedly out of control, pulled a gun on motorist Frank Lyga (pictured above) and threatened to "cap his ass."  Lyga, it turned out, was an undercover LAPD narcotics detective.  He drew his 9 mm pistol and shot Gaines through the heart.  Only later did he learn that Gaines was also LAPD.  The incident made international headlines: "Cop Kills Cop."

According to Frank Lyga,  March 18, 1997, was not a good day at work.  He and other members of his team were staking out a suspected methamphetamine dealer, and Lyga was the point man, which meant sitting in his unmarked 1991 Buick Regal and waiting for a drug deal to happen, so that he could follow the suspects back to their source.  He'd sat there for three hours trying to look like an inconspicuous badass—with a Fu Manchu mustache and a ponytail, and dressed in jeans, a tank top, and a baseball cap adorned with a marijuana-leaf logo—when the deal was called off and the team agreed to reconvene at the Hollywood station.

Lyga pulled his car onto Ventura Boulevard. While he was stopped at a red light, he heard the thumping beat of rap music at high volume emanating from a green S.U.V. that had pulled up next to him. Lyga says he glanced at the driver, a black man with a shaved head. The driver stared back. When Lyga rolled down his window and asked, "Can I help you?,'' the man made a menacing gesture and said, according to Lyga, "Ain't nobody looking at you, punk." Lyga was surprised by the confrontation.  He assumed that the other driver was a gang member, especially when, he says, the driver of the S.U.V. shouted, "Punk, I'll put a cap in your ass."

"He was a stone gangster," Lyga recalls. "In my opinion, in my training experience, this guy had 'I'm a gang member' written all over him.  He had a shaved head, he had a goatee, wearing a nylon jumpsuit, driving a sport-utility vehicle."  Lyga also stated that Gaines was flashing gang signs.

Lyga says he accepted a challenge from the other driver, suggesting that they pull over and have it out it right there.  The driver of the S.U.V. did pull over, but Lyga bolted into traffic and drove off, chuckling as he glanced at his infuriated adversary in the rearview mirror. "I'm thinking, What an idiot, thinking I'm going to stop," Lyga recalls. " And I'm laughing, and I'm watching him in the mirror and he looked like he was going to rip the steering wheel off."

But the other driver pulled back into traffic, and a slow-motion chase ensued, with the S.U.V. edging through heavy traffic until it neared Lyga's car.  Hoping that his partners were just a few blocks behind, Lyga radioed for help: "Hey, I got a problem.  I've got a black guy in a green Jeep coming up here!  He may have a gun."

Soon, Lyga was at another stoplight, and the S.U.V. started to pull up beside him on the left.  Lyga swore, then unfastened his seat belt, anticipating a street fight.  He again called for help—using a hidden radio microphone, activated by a foot pedal—and took out his gun, placing it on his lap facing the S.U.V.  Lyga could plainly see the other driver now, and saw his arm extend across the passenger seat toward Lyga's car, his hand clutching what looked to Lyga like a steel-cased .45-calibre handgun.  Lyga leaned forward, out of the line of fire, and radioed again: "He's got a gun!"

Lyga says he again heard "I'll cap you," then he raised his weapon, a 9-millimetre Beretta, and fired into the S.U.V., missing the driver.  Two seconds later, Lyga fired again, and this time, he says, "I almost could hear the impact, the thud of the round hitting him, and I definitely saw it in his face."  The S.U.V. wheeled away in a U-turn, then rolled into a gas station, and stopped.  Lyga radioed a last transmission: "I just shot this guy! I need help! Get up here!"

Lyga pulled into the gas station and, holding his badge in his hand, yelled to a customer coming out of the station's minimart to call 911.  Soon, a California Highway Patrol unit arrived, followed by Lyga's boss and the others on his stakeout team.  Lyga had been right about his second shot—the bullet had struck the driver on his right side, puncturing his heart before stopping in his lung.  Lyga had been right about the gun, too; the highway patrolmen found a stainless-steel 9-millimetre pistol on the floorboard of the S.U.V.

The other officers, following standard procedure, took control of the scene.  A few minutes later, one of Lyga's partners approached him, and Lyga asked, "Is he dead?"

"Oh, yeah," his partner replied, "he's dead."

Good, Lyga thought.  In eleven years on the force, he'd fired only two rounds, and had never before hit anybody; he was a brawler, not a shooter.  But he figured that the guy in the S.U.V. had left him no choice.

Lyga returned to the station and awaited instruction—there would be paperwork, and investigators would want a reenactment of the shooting.   A little over two hours later, Lyga's boss, Dennis Zeuner, told him about the man he'd shot, whose name was Kevin Gaines.

"The guy was a policeman," Zeuner said. "One of ours."  Lyga said, around this time, 'black policemen started acting distant towards me.'

Russell Poole, who had a reputation as one of the LAPD's best homicide detectives, was assigned to investigate the shooting.  He discovered that Kevin Gaines drove an expensive Mercedes Benz, wore $5,000 suits, $1,000 Versace shirts, and lived his off-duty life in the fast lane of L.A. and Las Vegas nightclubs, a lifestyle he obviously didn't maintain on his $55,000-per-year policeman's salary.  Gaines had many credit cards with expenses like the $952 he had dropped just the month before for lunch at Monty's Steakhouse in Westwood, a favorite hangout for black gangster rappers.  And at the time of his death, Gaines was living with the ex-wife of gangster rap music mogul Suge Knight--whose own criminal history included eight felony convictions.

The most bizarre event in Gaines's recent past had occurred the summer before his run-in with Lyga, when cops responded to a 911 report of a shooting on the grounds of a Hollywood Hills mansion.  Gaines, off duty, pulled up to the scene and got involved in an altercation with the responding officers.  Their account was that Gaines became verbally abusive and provocative, and had to be handcuffed. "Tell these motherfuckin' assholes to take the cuffs off of me, motherfucker!" Gaines shouted.  He taunted the officers, saying that he hated "fucking cops."  Gaines's account was that he'd been mistreated by the police.  He hired an attorney and filed a notice of claim against the city.  When the incident was investigated by the L.A.P.D.'s Internal Affairs division, it was discovered that the 911 call had been made by Kevin Gaines himself.   "The evidence suggests that he did that to engage L.A.P.D. in a confrontation and basically wanted to secure a pension or whatever by filing a lawsuit," Russell Poole, a former L.A.P.D. detective, says.

Even more significant was the identity of the person who owned the Hollywood Hills home: Sharitha Knight, the estranged wife of the jailed gangsta-rap impresario Marion (Suge) Knight, who founded Death Row Records.  In the course of investigating the road-rage incident, Detective Poole discovered that the S.U.V. Gaines was driving—a green Mitsubishi Montero—was registered to Sharitha Knight.  It was soon learned that Sharitha had been romantically involved with Gaines for some time, and that he was living with her at the time of his death.

Poole had heard talk around the force that cops earned big money off-duty working security for Death Row; their badges and gun permits made them especially valuable.  But to many cops the gangsta-rap scene as epitomized by Death Row was, on the face of it, a crime scene.  Gangsta cool glorified street violence, and Suge Knight's legend as a rap kingpin was notoriously colorful; the three-hundred-and-fifteen-pound record executive had, in building and maintaining a hundred-million-dollar enterprise, supposedly dealt with business associates by dangling one man by his ankles from a hotel balcony, smashing another's face with a telephone, and forcing another to drink urine from a champagne glass.

It turned out that Gaines, like a significant number of other LAPD officers, was working on the side to provide "security" for Death Row Records.  The FBI had been following Gaines, who they suspected was moving drugs and money around L.A. for Death Row.  Gaines was shameless.  The vanity plates on his Mercedes read "ITS OK IA"--a brash taunt to the department's Internal Affairs department.

A week after the shooting, Kevin Gaines was buried, and his funeral was itself the cause of discord. The biggest association of black officers, the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation (named after a policeman killed in 1968), requested an official police funeral with full honors, a ceremony reserved for policemen killed in the line of duty. Gaines received a semi-official police funeral, attended by both Willie Williams and Deputy Chief Bernard Parks.

Two months later, Cochran filed a twenty-five-million-dollar claim against the city, charging that Lyga was "an aggressive and dangerous police officer" who had failed to summon immediate medical assistance for Gaines, contributing to his death, and that he had conspired to "hide and distort the true facts concerning the incident."  The Gaines' family would eventually settle for $250,000.

In November, 1997, Lyga appeared again before the shooting board, which reviewed the evidence and the 3-D re-creation, and in December Bernard Parks, who had succeeded Williams as chief of police, reported that the shooting was within department policy; no action would be taken against him. The District Attorney's inquiry also eventually ruled that Lyga "acted lawfully in self-defense."


While investigating Gaines, Poole was led to another flashy black cop named David Mack (pictured above).  Mack had grown up in a gang-infested Compton neighborhood before being hired by the LAPD.  His nearly inseparable friend was fellow police officer Rafael Perez.  Like Gaines, Mack and Perez lived large--nightclubs, girls, expensive cars and clothes.

Mack had grown up in the same Compton neighborhood as Suge Knight, and, like Knight, he'd escaped to find success in the world beyond the old neighborhood. He was a brilliant athlete, and had won a scholarship to the University of Oregon, where he ran track and made the United States national team running the eight hundred meters.  He joined the L.A.P.D. in 1988.  He was married, had two kids, and, by all accounts, was a good cop.  But investigators discovered that, like Kevin Gaines, David Mack had a secret life off duty.  He was a club crawler, a gambler, and a womanizer.  After one of the women he was involved with, Errolyn Romero, became an assistant manager at the bank, Mack saw his chance at the big score.  Mack decided to rob the bank and made off with $772,000.

During their investigation, Detective Tyndall and his colleagues found that, on the force, Mack had kept to a tight circle of friends, mostly African-Americans.  They also discovered that, two days after the bank robbery, two of those friends had accompanied Mack to a weekend blowout in Las Vegas, and that one of them was Mack's ex-partner from the narcotics beat, a former marine named Rafael (Ray) Perez (pictured above)

When Mack was arrested, in December, 1997, he refused to coöperate with police. He didn't tell them who his accomplices were, or what had happened to the money. "Take your best shot," he told Tyndall.  He was apparently content to serve out his term—fourteen years in federal prison—and have the money to look forward to upon his release.  When Mack was in custody, his jailers began to notice a gradual transformation in him.  He started using a red toothbrush, then wearing a pair of red socks, and soon he was adorned by as much red as could be obtained, given his circumstances.  David Mack renounced the L.A.P.D. and aligned himself with the Bloods. " It appears he has completely divested himself of all relationships of his life as a police officer," Parks says, "and he is basically a gang member.  He has taken on the role of being a gang member in jail."  Mack was eventually sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Meanwhile, Perez's coming and goings--and his astounding number of short cellular phone calls--convinced investigators he was dealing drugs.  Following a six-month investigation, he was arrested for stealing eight pounds of cocaine from LAPD evidence lockers. 

It was also revealed, within months of being cleared of killing fellow officer Kevin Gaines, Frank Lyga found himself in trouble again when one pound of cocaine evidence booked from one of his previous busts was found missing from the LAPD property room. 

Investigators learned that the missing cocaine had been stolen by Rafael Perez, who they suspected, at the time, of targeting Lyga in retaliation for the shooting of Gaines.   Perez cut a deal for a 12-year prison sentence.

And the shocking revelations keep coming.  Recently, the Los Angeles Times reported that one of Perez's ex-girlfriends claims she saw Perez and David Mack murder two people at the Rampart cops' crash pad.  She also claims she witnessed "a major cocaine transaction" between the two cops. 

Investigators from a joint FBI/LAPD corruption task force told the Times "there is some corroboration."  Perez's credibility, which has already been seriously undermined by other witnesses, could be totally destroyed if these allegations are proven to be true.

If this isn't enough, Mack and Gaines were also implicated in the murder of rapper, Notorious B.I.G.

Sources: "The New Yorker" and "Frontline."   Photos courtesy of: Frontline



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