By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Coronado's version of his feud with Perez was supported, however, by the testimony of several of his peers. Dean Gizzi recalled Perez constantly needling Coronado, making him the butt of jokes in the narcotics trailer. "It was just the kind of kidding that went too far," Gizzi said. One joke he remembered: "Ray Perez said to Coronado, 'Are your kids happy to see you when you come home?'" The implication, Gizzi said, was that "Ray got the impression that nobody liked him."
Detective McGee recalled the ribbing as well. Testifying to the county grand jury, he said that in the roughhouse atmosphere of the squad room, "Everybody was teased a lot. But you could tell that Perez made a point when he teased. All his teasing was directed towards Mando." Later, at a Board of Rights, McGee was more emphatic. "You could tell there was no love lost on the part of Perez towards Mando . . . There was no doubt that Perez hated Mando's guts."
Frustrated when Perez ignored his reproach, Coronado continued making complaints to Lusby. After the altercation in July, according to Coronado, he went to the squad supervisor twice more to report funds missing after a Perez search. In each case the citizen complainant recanted, however, leaving Coronado all the more dismayed. "It seemed that I was trying to set up Perez and Durden," he said later.
Detective Lusby disputes key elements of Coronado's story. Testifying at a Board of Rights, he said Coronado did complain to him about Perez on three occasions, but only once mentioned money. That was critical, of course, because as a supervisor, Lusby could be fired if he had failed to respond to blatant misconduct. During the board hearing, Lusby was asked directly, "At any time did [Coronado] come to you and say Perez was committing misconduct?" Lusby replied with a flat "No."
Yet Lusby agreed that Perez hated Coronado. On one occasion, he said, Perez had stormed into the trailer complaining about Coronado. "He said he was going to kick his ass," Lusby recalled. Lusby responded by taking Perez out to the parking lot to talk him down. "We had a very heated [confrontation]," Lusby said, "almost to the point of physical between the two of us." In fact, Lusby testified, "I had numerous face-to-face meetings in the parking lot, meetings with Officer Perez regarding his feelings about Coronado."
But if Lusby sought to run interference between the two, in the end he came down on the side of Perez. At least, that's how Coronado perceived it. As the summer of 1997 wore on, Coronado said, "It seemed that Lusby and McGee were dismissing anything I reported. I felt like they, as well as the rest of the squad, blackballed me."
IN SEPTEMBER, CORONADO TOOK THREE weeks off. Upon his return, he wrote in his memoir, he met with Lusby and McGee. "Lusby told me that while I was on vacation, members of the squad had raised some issues . . . that I needed to get along with some of the members of the squad. I replied with 'George, I have been telling you what has been happening around here. I told you Perez will not listen to me. He does what he wants and nobody does anything about it.' It was at this point that Lusby got really angry with me. He said, 'Are you going to listen to me or should I just shut the fuck up?' At this point I realized, no matter what I said, I was going to lose.
"That talk with Lusby and McGee was the last straw. I had enough of the unit and all the sloppy work that was going on. I went up to Position Control and practically begged to be put on the next transfer." The next month, Coronado was assigned to the Hollenbeck Division patrol.
Coronado's story was corroborated by Captain Pesqueira, the head of all Field Enforcement Narcotics at the time. He described the situation in testimony at one of Coronado's Boards of Rights. "I don't know what's been discussed before this board, but Armando decided to leave the narcotics position.
"It was purported to me at the time that he could not get along with certain people in the unit assigned to Rampart. And I subsequently discovered that the reason why he left is because he saw things occurring that he knew was not the way we want people to do things . . . and he brought this to the attention of his supervisors and nothing was done. Unfortunately, I was a bit misled myself.
"In hindsight, it was Armando that was trying to raise red flags, that he saw things that were wrong and tried to correct those things."
Sergeant Ray Garvin, the department's representative arguing the case against Coronado, followed up by suggesting that, if his complaint to Lusby was ignored, Coronado should have taken it to the next level of command. Pesqueira's response was surprisingly candid, suggesting how misconduct can persist inside a tightly knit police unit. "There are traditions we all know of," Pesqueira said, "those conditions that don't allow people to freely bring those things to the attention of either the department or the public.