By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The three defendants denied any such effort to intimidate Flores, and hired a private investigator who showed that the address Perez reported for Flores did not exist in Huntington Park. The claim was complicated by the fact that nobody knew exactly where Flores did live, because she spent much of that time in Perez’s ”protective“ custody. As the months went by, when detectives sought to get in touch with Flores, they simply called Perez.
Perez pressed on. In interviews with detectives last November, Perez described the alleged witness intimidation, and then said, ”I later arrested everyone that was involved in that crime. And I also arrested some of the ones that were involved in the actual murder. I think there were five defendants in the murder. I arrested several of them.“
The campaign against Temple Street continued on through December, when all five McDonald‘s defendants entered no-contest pleas and were sentenced to prison. Along the way, Perez went after Rojas himself.
The arrest was initiated by a phone call, Rojas said. He was alone, at his mother’s apartment, and a voice came on the line, in Spanish. ”He told me not to be messing around with another man‘s girlfriend,“ Rojas recalled later. ”I knew exactly who he was referring to.“ Minutes later, Perez burst into the apartment, pointed the barrel of a shotgun into Rojas’ side and placed him under arrest. He was accompanied by CRASH officers Durden, Doyle Stepp, Michael Buchanan and several more, along with a Sergeant Guerrero.
Perez later confessed that the Rojas bust was ”entirely fabricated.“ When he was asked why such a large crew of officers was present, he answered, ”Just in case there were five or six other gang members in the house.“
This was a period of increasing depravity for Perez -- he shot an unarmed Javier Ovando in October 1996, and by 1997 he was obtaining his drugs directly from the Rampart evidence locker, the crime for which he was eventually busted.
In September of 1999, with one trial behind him and another pending, Perez finally agreed to talk. The most heinous crime he confessed to was his unprovoked shooting of Ovando -- that one he used to clinch his deal, telling the D.A. he would name Ovando only if he received a reduced sentence.
Since then, Perez has done most of the talking -- about himself, and about the crimes he alleges were committed by his fellow officers. All that changed with the release of the statements by Flores and Rojas. The question now is whom to believe, and how fully.
The whole exercise might seem almost academic if federal investigators find evidence to charge Perez with the double homicide that Flores has alleged. But Rojas has talked about a lot more than the McDonald‘s shooting. There’s the drug racket, with the systematic extortion of confidential informants. Rojas alleges a half-dozen officers, as well as ranking supervisors -- sergeants, detectives and a lieutenant -- participated in the scheme.
And that may be the darkest irony to emerge at this late juncture in this ever-shifting story. If true, these new allegations show the Rampart scandal to run deeper, wider and longer than anything suggested so far. But if a new indictment is brought against Perez, the district attorney‘s effort to prosecute other Rampart cops would surely collapse. At this point, at Rampart, truth and justice may be headed in opposite directions.
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