Just a few months after unarmed black teen Kendrec McDade was shot to death by Pasadena police officers -- we called him "the next Trayvon Martin" -- the Pasadena Police Department finds itself in familiar waters.
An ongoing probe into the investigative tactics of Detective Kevin Okamoto and Detective Keith Gomez has uncovered new allegations that the out-of-control cops beat young black man Jeremi Carr, now 24...
... "to coerce him into making false statements" about a 2007 homicide, reports the Pasadena Star-News. (A third cop, Detective William Broghamer, is also named in the alleged beating.)
The victim's declaration in Pasadena Superior Court is part of a growing pool of accusations against Detectives Okamoto and Gomez.
Pasadena attorney Michael Kraut -- who happens to be the same man who ripped the lid off the LAPD's Rampart Scandal circa 1997, and has since moved on to sniff out dirty cops in suburbia -- became suspicious when Detective Okamoto refused to turn over key evidence in a criminal case against his client, Edward Damas.
Investigators tried to jail Damas in 2009 for his alleged role in a bar brawl at the Wokcano sushi restaurant and lounge. But Damas, along with his lawyer, have insisted from the beginning that Detective Okamoto's hidden evidence would quickly rule him out as a suspect.
"I would be kidding myself if I thought my client was the first person this happened to," the attorney recently told the Star-News. "The question is: How many times has he hidden evidence?"
Indeed -- Okamoto and Gomez have been accused of this same brand of backward policing by Jamaul Harvey, a man they investigated for murder in 2007. Harvey claims that Okamoto has harassed him for years, and that Gomez once said to him:
"Do you know my reputation on the street? I'm a detective that gets what he wants and I can do what I want. ... I could kill you right now and get away with it because I know you have a gun."
Detective Gomez also plays a starring role in the high-profile "wrongful death" lawsuit filed by the family of Kendrec McDade.
The suit points out that Gomez has been directly involved in multiple police beatings and killings of black men in Pasadena over the years -- making his appointment as investigator into the McDade murder all the more puzzling. (An investigation which we all know ended with the re-instatement of both cops who shot McDade, along with the exoneration of a 911 caller who lied to police that the teen was armed and dangerous.) Most devastatingly, Gomez pulled the trigger on 30-year-old resident Maurice Clark in 2004, a fatal shooting that his distraught father would later call "unjustified."
Which brings us back to Jeremi Carr's new allegations against these same detectives -- evidence that Kraut, the veteran cop-misconduct lawyer, is apparently using as proof of their routine tactics. Via the Star-News:
According to Carr, Okamoto, Gomez and Broghamer stormed a Pasadena home in December 2007, grabbed Carr and took him against his will to Pasadena Police Department headquarters. There, Carr alleges, they attempted to beat him into agreeing with untrue statements related to the [Shawn Baptiste] murder investigation.
In his claim, Carr, a Pasadena resident, alleges he suffered injuries to his ribs, shoulder, lower back and face as a result of the beating.
Caree Harper, the attorney representing McDade's family in court, tells LA Weekly today that this comes as "no surprise."
Detective Gomez "is a very important piece of the puzzle in trying to cleanse the Pasadena Police Department," says the attorney. "It is beyond my comprehension why he's still patrolling the streets with all these allegations pending against him and all these unanswered questions."
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Reads the McDade lawsuit: "This reeks of a cover-up."
We've contacted the Pasadena PD for comment. What we really want to know: Why did Pasadena Police Chief Philip Sanchez let this controversial detective look into the highly sensitive McDade shooting, considering his public reputation for racial profiling?
Updates to come as Pasadena's own mini suburban Rampart Scandal explodes; from what we're hearing, this is only the tip of the firecracker.