The union representing rank-and-file cops at the Los Angeles Police Department this week said that whatever results from an investigation of remarks made by Det. Frank Lyga, one thing is clear:
Lyga's 1997 fatal shooting of fellow officer Kevin Gaines is an open-and-shut case, and his comments shouldn't change that, the Los Angeles Police Protective League suggested via a statement.
A recording of a talk Lyga gave to officers at the Los Angeles Police Academy Nov. 15 has surfaced, and they appear to reveal a new tale involving the controversial detective and Gaines:
Lyga says he encountered Gaines sometime before the shooting. Lyga was driving the same unmarked police car, a Buick, that he was in when he shot the cop in North Hollywood on March 18, 1997.
During that first encounter, Lyga told his fellow cops at the academy, he had run into a former trainee, Derwin Henderson, as they both drove down the street in Hollywood. Lyga had stopped to say hi. Gaines, he said, was in that car with Henderson.
“That's how Gaines knew who I was, basically,” Lyga says.
It appears to be the first time Lyga suggested the two had met in any way before the March road-rage confrontation. When he fatally shot an off-duty Gaines, Lyga was on duty but undercover.
Some in the African-American law enforcement community, already wary about the possible racial aspect of the shooting, are talking about the possibility of reopening the case.
Lyga is “almost opening himself up,” said community commentator Jasmyne Cannick, who got a hold the tape and distributed it to select journalists. “Technically they could pursue some legal remedy.”
The LAPPL, however, defended Lyga, and said this of the '97 shooting:
A thorough LAPD investigation at the time of the incident clearly established that off-duty officer Kevin Gaines chased and pointed a gun at Lyga, causing Lyga to react in self-defense.
Lyga was indeed exonerated, and his tale of being chased by someone he said he thought was a gang member is riveting.
But if Lyga is a racist, as some black cops believe, the recording isn't helping his case. The department has removed him from the field while it investigates remarks that also could be offensive to women and the LGBT community.
On the recording, Lyga says:
… I regret that he [Gaines] was alone in his truck at the time. Figure that one out. Hear that? Alone in the truck at the time. I could have killed a whole truckload of them … and would have been happily doing it …
Cops make snap judgments about people's character all day, every day. But, regarding these recorded comments, the LAPPL says we need to take our time:
… We urge that everyone await the result of that investigation [of Lyga]. … Although we do not support the denigration of any person, or group of persons, if there is a news interest here, it is far larger than improper remarks by a detective who 17 years later is still being asked about an experience he lived through that would deeply affect any of us. When one listens to the tape in context, it is clear that Detective Lyga wasn't celebrating the killing of anybody.