Controversial Det. Frank Lyga said he once threatened to reveal to the media that his 1997 shooting of fellow cop Kevin Gaines was “a sanction[ed] hit on Gaines by LAPD,” according to a memo purported to be written by an LAPD officer to Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, documenting a talk Lyga gave at the L.A. Police Academy late last year.
The memo, dated Nov. 18 and subject-titled “serious misconduct,” was obtained by community commentator Jasmyne Cannick, who writes about it on her website. It was subsequently sent to L.A. Weekly and others by an ex-LAPD officer. A department spokesman had no comment about the memo, saying only that “we are prohibited from discussing any aspects of ongoing investigations.”
The author 's name is redacted, but the person claims to be the same officer who recorded some of Lyga's controversial remarks during an officer-training class on search warrants Nov. 15:
Cannick told us that she has worked closely with at least two LAPD insiders on her account of the memo and that they believe that the document is legitimate. The department has said it opened an investigation into Lyga's remarks after it received a complaint.
The memo, written by someone who claims to have been a friend of Gaines, rants against Lyga's “shocking” comments and says “his statements will give LAPD another black eye.”
The memo concludes:
I remember meeting with you back in 1997 right after Gaines was killed. I told you then and I'm telling you now. Kevin Gaines murder was no accident.
That's certainly the feeling of some African American officers at the LAPD. The story fed to the media after the scandalous shooting on March 18, 1997 was that Lyga and Gaines, both police officers, got into a traffic dispute in North Hollywood and that neither knew the other was a cop.
Lyga had been working an undercover narcotics case, police said, and Gaines was off-duty. Lyga had said he believed Gaines was a gang member who was going to kill him and that the black cop pulled out a gun.
But during last year's class at the academy, the detective opened old wounds and revisited grudges that resulted from the Gaines' shooting investigation. The memo's author says the class was attended not only by LAPD officers but also by cops from the California Highway Patrol, the L.A. Unified School District, Port Police and the Glendale Police Department.
Lyga allegedly told the class that he'd previously threatened to reveal that Gaines' shooting was a hit, the memo says, after the officer boasted that he wasn't afraid of “LAPD managers.”
The document says that then-Chief Bernard Parks, now a member of the L.A. City Council, had wanted to “send him to another unit and hide him for a while” after Lyga shot and killed Gaines.
Lyga says that he responded with his threat, kept his job in narcotics investigations as a result, and boasted that he had successfully “blackmailed the chief,” according to the reputed memo.
The memo's story about Lyga's threat to go public was not contained on the partial recording of Lyga's talk obtained by the memo.
That Lyga allegedly saw transfer threats as a test of wills might cast some doubt on any suggestion that Gaines was killed on purpose, but Cannick says there are growing calls from some African Americans on the force to reopen the investigation into Gaines' shooting.
The District Attorney's office has told us that it has received no request to investigate the killing. The detective was ultimately exonerated by the department for the deadly use of force that day.
On a recording of the academy talk, Lyga tells a story of encountering Gaines sometime before the shooting. He says he was driving the same Buick he was in when he got into a road rage confrontation with Gaines. The detective says he stopped on a street to talk to Sgt. Derwin Henderson when he saw the fellow cop in Hollywood one day.
He said they had worked together in the past:
Henderson was a probationer of mine. And I had seen them one night in Hollywood. And remember I had long hair driving a fuckin' Buick Regal. And I had seen Henderson in traffic, and we stopped, nose-face – I was going south; he was going north. He had another male black in the car with him, but I didn't pay attention to that guy. I was talking to Derwin: We were partners and I was sayin' hi to him and talkin' to him.
Turns out Gaines was with him. They were runnin partners. That's how Gaines knew me.
It's a revelation because it was reported after the 1997 shooting that Lyga and Gaines didn't know each other. Conspiracy theories about the clash, which preceded the LAPD's darkest hour, the Rampart Scandal, are now rife.
Gaines was later maligned in some reports as a cop who was affiliated with Suge Knight and his Death Row Records empire.
Rafael Perez, the central figure in Rampart, was a friend of Gaines who later did federal time for his role in the scandal. When Perez was initially investigated for allegedly stealing cocaine from an evidence room, the motive for the theft was said to be revenge for Gaines' slaying. The seized drugs had reportedly been placed in the evidence room by narcotics investigator Frank Lyga.
The department says it had taken Lyga out of the field after it learned of his Nov. 15 remarks. Then, on Thursday, police said Lyga would be assigned to home as it looked into new information that had come to the attention of Chief Charlie Beck, who's vying for a second, 5-year term as L.A's top cop. Police wouldn't say what the information was.
The same day that Lyga was sent home, Lillian L. Carranza, patrol captain at the LAPD's 77th Street Division, filed suit against Lyga for slander, emotional distress, and invasion of privacy.
The recording of Lyga's Nov. 15 talk has the detective calling Carranza a “very cute little Hispanic lady who couldn't find her ass with both of her hands.” The speaker also says, “I heard she been swapped around a bunch of times.”
Lyga got the most heat for comments he made about Gaines, however. He said that he didn't regret the shooting and that he “could have killed a whole truckload of them.”