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Flores also claims that Perez had a professional interest in her as well. She had detailed and continuing knowledge of the Temple Street hierarchy, and she told police investigators that ”Perez utilized [Flores] to provide him with information regarding the Temple Street gang.“
Toward the middle of 1995, Flores went to a nightclub with a friend and was surprised to find Perez there with another woman. She vowed then to leave him, but soon after discovered she was pregnant. When she told Perez her period was two months late, he suggested she get an abortion. He drove her to a clinic and dropped her off, but once the procedure was complete, she took the bus home.
Once again, she decided to stay away from Perez, but when she saw him again at a nightclub several months later, she couldn‘t resist his advances. Weeks after that she moved in with the man who became her common-law husband, but, she says, she continued to see Perez. As she later told investigators, she would answer his call to come and meet him ”regardless of the time, day or night.“
Ruben Rojas knew both Perez and Flores during this time, both of them at a distance, in his capacity as a street operator with a criminal record. In addition, he says he had an inside source for information on Perez -- according to Rojas, the two shared a girlfriend. ”At first I wasn’t aware that this woman was involved with Officer Perez,“ Rojas told investigators. ”So when I met this woman, she indicated to me the first night that she was seeing some man and that this man was, you know, taking money from friends of mine that she knew . . . She kept telling me about her boyfriend who used to, uh, was taking people‘s drugs, delivering them on the streets.“
Rojas says he first encountered Perez in the summer of 1994, soon after Rojas’ release from state prison, when he was walking with a fellow Temple Street gangbanger named Anthony Adams. According to Rojas, Perez and his partner, Nino Durden, first asked them if they had drugs on them. ”We didn‘t have anything with us, so what they did is they, they smashed our face against the wall and started disrespecting our neighborhood and started screaming out Rampart this, Rampart that, and they just got in their car and left.“ In the interviews, Rojas uses ”our neighborhood“ as a synonym for the Temple Street gang.
It was the beginning of a series of encounters that left Rojas fearful of the CRASH unit, and convinced that the police were engaged in the drug trade. ”In ’94, Perez and Durden, Officer Mack, Officer Hewitt and other officers were involved in a drug organization that was coming out of Rampart Police Station,“ Rojas told investigators last November.
He described how the operation worked. ”They had their enforcers . . . Their strategy was to go into the neighborhood, arrest as many people as they possibly can, beat the crap out of ‘em, turn them into informants. Once you are an informant, they can put practically anything on you. So they will tell you, ’Look, we‘re gonna make you a deal. You sell for us, we’ll protect you and we‘ll get everybody you feel that’s a threat off the streets.‘“
The goal, Rojas said, was profit. ”Rampart police CRASH unit wanted my neighborhood because my neighborhood, at that time, was like MacArthur Park, a million-dollar industry.“
As for Flores, Rojas claims he knew her as an operator in Perez’s organization. ”Sonya Flores was a drug trafficker for Perez and Durden,“ he told police investigators. He also knew her as an associate of Temple Street, and as one of Perez‘s girlfriends, one of five he could name. Rojas told the investigators that Perez had a way with women. ”All of them, if you notice, well, all these women are very gorgeous, they’re pretty. They‘re very lovely, man.“
Miguel Malfavon was 36 years old, a veteran of the Diamond Street gang who went by the street moniker ”Lizard“ and, by several accounts, a ”rent collector“ for the Mexican Mafia. That meant that his line of work involved keeping track of the level of drug activity in a given district and making sure the ”Eme,“ as the Mexican Mafia is known, received its cut.
Malfavon’s district was Temple Street. The place he made connections was a relatively small McDonald‘s outlet on Alvarado Street a block south of the Hollywood Freeway. There are just a dozen tables inside the store and the same number outside, on a patio under a heavy wooden trellis. Next to the patio lies a drive-through lane, and then a sidewalk where, even today, Temple Street associates do a brisk business selling fake identification to illegal immigrants.
On the afternoon of February 6, 1996, Malfavon apparently walked into an ambush, though it’s never been clear who was gunning for him, and why. Flores told the police that the Temple Street clique was tired of paying off the Eme and decided to end the tithes with an emphatic message. She also suggested that one of the Temple Street gang had a personal grudge against Malfavon, though the details of her story have changed over the years.