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
It started with the kind of minor accident that doesn't even require a police response: no one hurt, no serious damage to either car. But the Manhattan Beach Police Department bungled it so badly that serious damage was done to taxpayers and the department's reputation.
A routine exchange of information could have prevented all the craziness that followed. But after a night of drinking, three off-duty cops crammed into a two-seat Corvette kept going until their crash-damaged car stalled out — just far enough away from the accident to justify the words hit-and-run.
Two years later, it has blown up into a seriously skewed small-town scandal that has dragged in the L.A. County Sheriff and the district attorney, cost the three cops their jobs and cost Manhattan Beach taxpayers more than half a million dollars.
Throw in a police chief who compared two of the fired cops to al-Qaida terrorists and those same cops demanding $20 million because they fear the federal government is keeping them under surveillance, and you have a Keystone Kops spectacle that has both horrified and amused South Bay residents.
"It's like a three-ring circus that charges too much for admission," says Bill Victor, a former Manhattan Beach resident who owns property there. "You don't know whether to laugh or cry."
The crazy case reached new heights of absurdity in November, when two former Manhattan Beach police officers — both involved in the original minor car crash — demanded $10.3 million each from the city, claiming they had been unfairly terminated by a vengeful police chief who compared them to Osama bin Laden.
The decision by Eric Eccles, 36, and Kristopher Thompson, 31, to hire a lawyer — paid for by their police union — and to demand more than $20 million sparked a wave of outrage in this small seaside suburb of 33,000 residents.
"It's preposterous. They're trying to take advantage of a situation they created with their own irresponsible actions," says Gerry O'Connor, a 25-year Manhattan Beach homeowner. "It's an incredible display of the growing sense of entitlement among public employees."
The tort claim, a legal requirement before a lawsuit can be filed, was rejected by the city last month. Asked if they now planned to file a lawsuit, Eccles told L.A. Weekly: "All our legal options are being considered."
Eccles, Thompson and Richard Hatten, 36, were fired from their jobs as police due to events arising from an evening of drinking two years ago, on Jan. 31, 2010, at Grunions Sports Bar on Sepulveda Boulevard in Manhattan Beach.
The minor accident, grossly mishandled by those involved, quickly ballooned into an ugly drama, with Manhattan Beach police chief Rod Uyeda asking Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to conduct an independent probe.
A few minutes after they left Grunions, Hatten rear-ended a car near the intersection of Sepulveda and Manhattan Beach Boulevard, according to published reports.
But instead of stopping, the reports explained, Hatten allegedly kept going, with the two other cops as passengers, and made a right-hand turn onto 11th Street. His car stalled near the corner of 11th and Dianthus Street.
The driver who was rear-ended called the Manhattan Beach Police Department and described the Corvette that had struck him and vanished.
Once the Corvette stalled, Eccles and Thompson fled on foot, according to the published reports, while Hatten remained with his car. When fellow Manhattan Beach police officer Jeff Goodrich responded to the victim's 911 call, he found his colleague Hatten with the Corvette.
According to an internal investigation, a knowledgeable City Hall source who has reviewed it says Hatten told Goodrich he was not the driver and did not offer that officers Eccles and Thompson had been his passengers. Hatten also told Goodrich that "a guy he met at the bar" had been driving.
Meanwhile, officers Eccles and Thompson fled on foot back to Grunions, jumped into Thompson's pickup and drove back to the stalled Corvette. But when they spotted Officer Goodrich, they kept going, the investigation found.
The day after the accident, the source says, Hatten changed his story. He admitted to police chief Uyeda that he had been the Corvette's driver. Uyeda suspended Hatten but was still unaware that Eccles and Thompson had been his passengers.
Lying low, the city source says, Eccles and Thompson skipped their next scheduled shift and did not tell the command staff about their involvement in the hit-and-run. Finally, two days after the collision, Eccles told Uyeda that he and Thompson had been in the Corvette. Uyeda placed the two officers on paid administrative leave.
Goodrich, the investigating officer, also was put on administrative leave; he died of brain cancer 10 months later.
Eccles and attorney Bill Seki — who represents both Eccles and Thompson — declined to comment on the sequence of actions on the night of the accident and in the days following.
Two parallel investigations launched in early 2010 — by the sheriff and by Uyeda — took about a year. During that time, however, Eccles and Thompson racked up huge payments to stay home from work: Eccles got $171,398 and Thompson $160,459 in salary, pension, benefits and unused vacation time.
I have to agree with Mr. Get the facts right. Thomas beck is the ambulance chaser of law enforcement. He figures its easy money to go after a police dept because 99 percent of the time they are offering a nuisance fee to get him out of his face. He is not a good criminal attorney at all!! he just figures if he finds some dirt on a cop he will make the whole case about some other bullshit so that he can quickly get paid and run. he is not part of a large firm and there isnt an ounce of professionalism about him. he should be disbarred for half the crap he does. you can watch his 4th of july self made b rated videos where he talks about how "all the cops are taught to be corrupt blah blah blah. I think that he probably wanted to be a cop and someone disqualified him so he has this personal vendetta against all of them. I hope and pray he never uses 911 not ever. "all cops are corrupt" more like thomas beck is corrupt. what attorneys are out there taking their clients cases personal? hes willing to put criminals on the stand to say anything bad against a cop hoping to sway things in his direction. every profession has good and bad people and maybe beck couldnt get any firm to hire him because he is a seedy character. what attorney makes video of themselves driving around in a car professing their contempt for cops? hiding behind a bar card perpetrating they are professional? he is no different then the criminals he represents. and judging by what his office looks like, he's not doing very well ambulance chasing. As for the author of these crappy articles with the ridiculous photos, who never ever says anything good about cops, well i hope he never calls the cops either. but chances are in some desperate need he has called 911. HYPOCRITES is what i call these folks. when they need you they are happy to see you, but then they jump on the "all cops are bad bandwagon" well i know cops who have saved babies,women,,mens lives. Ive seen them run into burning buildings saving people. Thomas Beck and Paul Teetor when the hell was the last time you risked your lives for another human being for a stranger???hmmmm crickets? put that in your next article Paul. Put a picture of thomas beck with a pinnochio nose and write crappy articles about seedy attorneys in your next issue. Or writers who are reckless and dont write articles based on facts. then again Paul thats why you are still writing for l.a. weekly.
steve, everything you said is accurate. unfortunately in this forum, logic is wasted upon the ignorant... this tabloid blog is a coven for cowardly cop-bashers and jobless stoners, who have never risked anything for another person.... Teetor and Beck are the types of wannabe activists that the LA Tweakly glorifies, for thier slanderous instigation and blind hatred for any/all officers of the law: Whats their common denominator? Money. They capitalize off of the controversy. Plain/Simple.They are not about truth, justice, or principal. They are not hero watch-dogs like they profess themselves to be. Theyre just bottom feeders, who prostitute the 1st/4th/5th amendments for personal gain. They line their weasel pockets by casting shadows over an entire profession at every turn...id like to know what Teetor did with the $40 bucks he made off this tale... lapdances? gas in the scooter? new throw rug for moms basement?
So it's OK for a cop to commit a hit-and-run felony but it's not OK for a reporter to write about it? You're misguided Mr. Pro Bono. Your statement has the ring of the old saw "Kill the Messenger."
You mean the guy who slammed on his breaks with the intent to injure the motor officer. Not sure what happen to the officer but I know the guy who got arrested is using that crooked lawyer Thomas Beck. Maybe Beck can defend the guy when he choke's his daughter again since he was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon against his own daughter. You don't sound like a decent american since we know you are the guy who did it mr decent american
Hey whatever happened to that motor cop from Hermosa Beach who drove into the back of a car and arrested the driver?
Occiprof city admin just rubber stamp things they don t investigate them. Also the sherriff s dept just gather the statements they don t give opinions. The mbpd chief decided plain and simple
Mr. Dsellan. You are right. I wasn't there, but there sure seems like there is a lot of facts given by the investigator from the sheriffs department who investigated it. I thought with the inside information you have, you could present a case to justify what it appears the officers did that night that should justify them remaining police officers and having the public trust them. There is one thing though. If government employment is anything like the educational bureaucracy, no one person could fire someone like Donald Trump could. It takes the approval of the head authority, such as the superintendant, or mayor or city administrator, as well as a bunch of attorneys going over the facts to see if the punishment is justifiable. Since this investigation was done by the sheriffs, i would imagine it was impartial. In the end, I think we all want justice served but it sure sounds like these cops could have made better decisions that night. As you sound like a cop yourself, thank you for your service.
Occiprof once again unless you were there that night or work for MBPD to know how things are handled there you have no idea what you are talking about. Just because something is in the newspaper doesn t make it true. The reporters are never told the full story and what is said to them is always from an unknown soure which means it s BS. When you hide your identity that usually means your a liar. The bottom line Eccles and Thompson will win their jobs back and the verdict will be sometime in March. When they do I hope you remember what I have said they were fired because the chief didn t like them not because they did something wrong. I know that this hard for you to believe since you base your information off of articles. I deal with facts and I know the facts of the case not rumors or opinions.
The fact remains that the cops committed a crime and took no responsibility for their actions. I don't think a regular citizen who was involved in a hit-and-run would get away with what these cops did. They are cops and are held to a higher standard. Just so you know, I'm not a cop basher. Cops are OK. My father was a Florida Highway Patrolman, a good guy and a good cop. These Manhattan Beach cops are not good offiicers of the law, merely liars.
This is so silly! Why is it that when thugs, crooks and cops get into trouble, they are quick to blame and trash everyone, while not accepting any responsibility for their actions? What is wrong with this generation? Did they not hear the story of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree and admitting it to his father? Didn't they learn that the truth shall set you free...or at least, result in less punishment than lying? So, instead of blaming and trashing others, read all the available articles on this incident, as I have done after reading this short article. You can find enough information to garner the truth from the Daily Breeze, Manhattan Beach Patch, Beach Report and Easy Reader. Let's simply look at the TRUTH of what the officers did and did not do and are they worthy of being police officers?
1. Police Officers are supposed to be honest and have unquestioned integrity in their actions.2. Everyone knows you should not drink and drive.3. Everyone knows if you are in an accident, you stay and the scene and accept responsibilities for your actions. Initial reports were that there were injuries. Not going back to check on the people they crashed into is horrible. 4. Everyone knows that if you witness an accident, the right thing to do is to stay to report to the police who did what so they can assess blame.5. Obviously, these officers did a lot of wrong things for it to result in a hit and run. If they did what any other law abiding citizens would have done, no problem, right?6. It is clear they all left the scene when the right thing to do was to return and report.7. They did not report this directly to their superiors in a similar fashion. Reporting two days after the fact is not right. Don't they call that a cover up?8. I heard that police officers do not have to cooperate with criminal investigations. Is that true? How can that be? Did these officers cooperate with this investigation what went to the DA's office? I know they had to cooperate with the "IA"...at least, that it what it appears on TV and in the news. 9. If you witness a crime and fail to report it or cooperate with the authorities, isn't that obstruction of justice?10. Do these officers sound honest to you? They sure don't to me.
Does anyone want police officers who would walk away from a three car accident after they have been drinking? Why are others to blame for this? This sounds like an elementary school yard argument..."Wahhhh....But Tommy did something that nothing happened to him..." We aren't talking about Tommy...we are talking about YOU!
So, although it is obvious that those involved in the case are writing here to blame and trash others and keeping their identify hidden, or having their friends do this for them, get to the facts and justify how what they did deserves to maintain the trust in them as police officers?
Chris Blair I'm sorry that I didn't respond to your blog from a few days ago right away. I was at working protecting people like you but now that I'm off I will hit you with some facts. Manhattan Beach PD in general is an embarassment to law enforcement. This department has approx 75 officers and approx. 20 of those 75 do police work. Well actually now that Eccles and Thompson are gone 18. You see Chris the rest of these pieces of crap drive police cars pretending to be a police officer. Trust me even if I could afford to live in MB I would never do it because of what I have first hand knowledge about. If a citizen of MB had a serious bad guy in there house or attacking them go ahead and kiss that citizen good bye. These officers would not respond quickly because they are cowards. They would drive super slow so that once they get there they would just have to write a report and not actually have to deal with a bad guy. You see these people that call themselves officers do traffic stops on soccer moms and will ignore the parolee who drives by them because they are afraid. I know you are thinking I 'm full of crap so I will give you a suggestion go on a ride along. Ask to ride with Joe Guzman, jennifer borys,ryan small,mark mason,gina, hank crosett, mike rosenberger and many others. I promise you they will not stop a bad guy or take anyone to jail on your ride along. However what these guys will do is drive around the city like a universal studios tour guide talking make you think they are nice people but looking past the bs you will see they are not cops. Moving to facts regarding the article he we go: the chief hated eccles and thompson. Hated them so much that he told people he was firing them regardless of what happened. Proof multiple people testified to it and there was evidence I can t talk about in writing that proved this. Hatten was driving the car fact. Eccles and thompson didn t le about anything and their testimony got hattem fired. Also a fact hatten wasn t drunk or dui people who were at the bar testified to his sobriety. Fact hatten was caught and admitted to lying 3 times not eccles and thompson. Trust me Blair there are criminals who have worked at MBPD and still work there and Eccles and Thompson are not them
The entire department should be investigated, and audited going back for at least 5 years.No one is above the law! If the postings here are correct that there are liars, felons, and cover ups, an investigation should be immediately called for. No one should be above the law!A consent decree should declared,
Overall the MB cops do a good job. The problem is not the cops but the parking enforcers that walk around and would give their mothers a ticket with the overly inflated parking rates.MB is a safe city , we have to thank the cops, just look at the adjacent ghettos!But, young cops, acting like players, drinking and bar hopping with your guns hidden and picking up chicks, you are the ones that give the department a bad name, you should not be there.Don't give a bad name to the good cops!
Drinking and Driving , and carrying a firearm, and then leaving the scene of an accident, so many stories have come out where fights break out in a bar and someone gets shot. That should never be allowed to happen! No one is above the law, but don't condemn all the good folks and be fair to all, don't single out a few
I think the graphic of a police officer with a fat head that could be a pig's head is inappropriate. It draws from the counter-culture of the 1960's, and it dehumanizes police officers.
I would prefer a graphic depicting a uniformed police officer as a member of the Royal Family, siting on a throne, wearing a crown, holding a royal scepter, and reaching in to grab money out of a treasure chest representing the public treasury.
Most police (and fire) union members have a predominant culture of entitlement, and act as members of the Royal Family. Look at their union contracts and their total compensation, including special compensation add-ons, vacation and sick leave payouts, overtime pay, and CalPERS pension contributions paid by the taxpayers, and you will see what I mean.
The taxpayers are being fleeced, or effectively robbed, by the police and fire unions who campaign and contribute boatloads of money to elect their own bosses who will determine their raises. What a racket!
I forgot to mention my buddy former sergeant Rob Cochran and Rob Schrieber (don't worry Rosey I'll leave your crime out of this blog). Where was LA Weekly when former sergeant Cochran committed two felonies (burglary and grand theft). Oh and by the way Victor Cochran still works there as a motor officer. You see they demoted him and forgot to present the case to the DA's office. Then when he returned from his suspension they rewarded him with a pay raise by giving him a motor officer position. Officer Schrieber lied in multiple police reports and then admitted to it. The vertically challenged chief at the time rewarded him by letting Schierber drive around Victor's city with a K9 which is a pay raise. Why wasn't the DA involved in this blunder? In essence MBPD has two felons protecting you as I write these facts but Eccles and Thompson who didn't even commit a crime are fired. So when they get paid out 7 figures don't be shocked!
Give me a break who gave you this bad information. Lieutenant Bryan Klatt who is now Officer Klatt made all the decisions that night. Also Eccles and Thompson didn't drive by the scene they were there with on duty Officer Goodrich and former Lieutenant Klatt. So when you write articles that give bad information (and trust me there are more mistakes in your article) you lead the public to believe Eccles and Thompson did something wrong. Hatten drove the car and former Lieutenant Klatt made all the decisions. Eccles and Thompson haven't lied about their role in this or hide anything. Matter of fact they layed Hatten out by telling the truth. So when they win their jobs back don't wonder how that happened just ask someone who actually knows what happened not some citzen trying to make themselves look cool.
Cant argue with the truth... maybe the LA WEAKly will hire Dsellan to report the facts.... oh wait- that wont satisfy the haters that would rather condemn innocent men.
by the way- if a bank robber walks into a bank and holds it up, should we as a society hold all of the patrons inside the bank responsible for that lone mans actions? why is everyone so pissed off that these 2 guys are fighting their terminations? they got fired for what the driver did...
i would be suing too
Too bad we can't volunteer for jury duty on a specific trial. Why does it shock anyone when we find cops lying? They lie all the time, and their fellow officers back them up. All this is protected by union reps so it all goes away. Any settlement these guys may get should be deducted from the police department retirement fund. Now you will see how their buddies stop backing them up.
Weak Cops, weak department. U know there is a place to work as a REAL cop . .its call south central. U guys should try it sometime. U can tell ur grand kids real cop stories. Instead of running from fender benders.
great illustration. i wonder if the editor of this s hitty paper hates cops. ill bet he/she would be the first one to dial 911 in an emergency though. show the police that picture you chose the next time they show up to help you.
Personally, I do hate cops. I have never had one of them actually tell the truth in court. Even when there is video evidence, they lie. And, by the way, 911 is not exclusively for the police. It also is for fire and ambulance.
Personally melmakian, youre an idiot. Stop getting arrested and you wont be in court. Stop committing your crimes on camera, and they wont be producing videos. No one cares that you hate men and women with an important job. See you in the holding cell.
"According to an internal investigation, a knowledgeable City Hall source who has reviewed it says ..."? Is that knowledgeable City Hall source the Human Resources Director, Cathy Hanson?- the lady that got caught in a relationship with the married ex-chief, ROD UYEDA. Must be pillow talk?? NAMELESS source = INSTIGATOR
Great piece. Yes, i do mean piece. next time, try not to wait 2 years to get on the misinformed bandwagon Small Peter Teetor... youre a little late. Oh, and do your homework first. You failed to mention the Lieutenant, Bryan Klatt, that the city has effectively kept distant from this. He was the on-duty supervisor who allowed the sequence of events to play out the way they did; he kept his job though. You must certainly know about him, yet never brought that up- Or the fact that he was "covered-up for" because the ex-chief (Rodinme) liked him, and not the other 3 guys. I know those guys- what they did do, and what they didn't do. Your story is terribly inaccurate. This tabloid is a shameful example of media propoganda that leads people to believe what they are reading is the truth, when its far from it.
Gerry Oconnor, Bill Victor, and Paul Teetor: 3 Stooges who have a lot to say about something they know so little about. Check the scoreboard at the end of the game suckers.
Another Royal Family police union member, I presume?
It is obvious from all the ad homonym attacks and lack of verifiable facts that this critic doesn't have a leg to stand on. I hope this doesn't reflect on the intelligence and integrity of any significant percentage of the police union members.
If have any contradictory independently verifiable facts, then please post them here complete with references so we can determine the accuracy of your criticisms.
ummm this incident happened on 01-31-2010? is that right? 2 YEARS AGO? Why in the hell is this news now? why in the hell is this news at all.... pretty sure therre are bodies being recoverd under a cruise ship near Italy....maybe write something worth reading...
And how far is Italy from Los Angeles County? Not exactly local news. Now wildly overpaid Royal Family police union members currently threatening a frivolous lawsuit against the taxpayers for millions of dollars each -- that's current local news!
You must be another apologist for grossly over-compensated Royal Family police union members. Perhaps you ARE another member of the Royal Family! Perhaps that is why you posted using the name Frederick King!
Royal Family police and fire union members have a culture of entitlement. They believe the citizens and taxpayers are here to serve them, no matter how extreme their demands are for wildly excessive and unsustainable salaries, benefits, and pensions that are rare or non-existent in the private sector. And they expect to get paid for a year or more without working, while on administrative leave pending termination for crimes of all types.
There is a "Police Officers Bill of Rights" but where is the "Taxpayers Bill of Rights"?
Well- one more inaccurate report about this incident, from uninformed speculators and a second rate reporter looking to create controversy, not report the facts. This paper is as bad as the Daily Sleeze in the South Bay. Your article makes for some good drama- but dont let a good story get in the way of the truth. There are glaring inaccuracies in this account of the facts; starting with "Eccles and Thompson fled on foot" and "They kept driving after returning to the corvette and seeing Officer Goodrich on scene." Completely untrue. But, as any left-wing anti police reporter will tell you, facts get in the way of agendas. Nice Work LAWeekly- you just knowingly printed facts that you know to be untrue and inflammatory. Hopefully Eccles and Thompson save some energy to drop the Slander/Libel Suit on your irresponsible asses...By the way, Bill Victor as a source? really? an completely insignificant outcast citizen that has never seen any internal police investigation..... thats credibility. You guys are good. Maybe ask the homeless guy on the corner to weigh in on the facts as well- he will be as educated about this incident more than Bill Victor is. Hatten exercised poor judgement- he got his punishment. But i noticed you didnt print that he just settled with the city for a reduced charge on his conviction. Obviously you don't know $hit about anything. Eccles and Thompson were dragged into this and sacrificed to prove a point that the Ex-Chief had a hard-on for them. I cant wait for your headline in April...it's going to read "Eccles and Thompson Prevail in thier employment hearing." Let's see if you are as excited to print that...
Then why don't you reveal your name, your "association" with Eccles and Thompson and set us all free with the "true facts" of this case then?
More police union Royal Family subterfuge? Apparently so.
An anonymous post making ad homonym attacks instead of providing verifiable facts. Hmmm ... .
Paul Teetor has done excellent work in the past exposing how police and fire unions are effectively looting the public treasuries of the cities they are sworn to protect through wildly excessive and unsustainable union contracts. They campaign to elect their own bosses with whom they will "negotiate" their pay raises behind closed doors. Only there is nobody representing the taxpayers at the "bargaining" table!
Keep up the good work, Mr. Paul Teetor. The public needs to know more about the corrupt police and fire unions that fail to police themselves, and protect their own members even when charged with crimes of moral turpitude.
Police and firefighters are in positions of authority and public trust, and their unions should not protect them when they abuse their authority and the public trust. But they do.