Controversial LAPD Det. Frank Lyga, who in 1997 fatally shot a fellow officer in a traffic dispute, has been taken out of the field pending an internal investigation into months-old comments he allegedly made about the deadly force he used on black officer Kevin Gaines.
LAPD Det. Meghan Aguilar told L.A. Weekly that Lyga was pulled from “field duties … pending a personnel complaint investigation.”
In a November talk at the Los Angeles Police Academy that was surreptitiously recorded by an officer and ultimately ended up in the hands of media commentator Jasmyne Cannick, a man believed to be Lyga says that he “could have killed a whole truckload of them” during the March, 1997 confrontation with Gaines:
Lyga had been working a stakeout in plainclothes, and was behind the wheel of an unmarked police vehicle, when he came across an off-duty Gaines in traffic on Ventura Boulevard and reportedly believed, after a dispute, that his life was in danger and that the black cop was actually a gang member.
The shooting made major headlines, but Lyga's use of force was ultimately deemed by the department to have been justified and “in-policy.” Gaines, meanwhile, had reportedly been going out with the estranged wife of rap label boss Suge Knight, and he was reportedly seen at Death Row Records events.
Gaines' family sued the department for $25 million and settled for $250,000.
The deadly confrontation helped to set off one of the darkest periods of LAPD history, the Rampart Scandal, after some suggested that Rampart figure Rafael Perez, who ultimately served federal time for attacking a suspect, allegedly stole cocaine booked into evidence by Lyga as payback for his shooting of friend and fellow black cop Gaines.
The comments attributed to Lyga are said to have been recorded Nov. 15 during officer training at the academy.
The remarks have been taken by some, including Cannick, to mean that the detective would have shot more black officers if he had the chance.
The man identified as Lyga tells the officers during the session that attorney Carl Douglas asked him if he intended to shoot Gaines that day.
“I hit him, didn't I,” the man says. ” … It wasn't an accident.”
The man says that Douglas asked him if he had regrets about killing Gianes.
“I said yeah,” the man believed to be Lyga says. ” … I regret that he 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 … “
Cannick says that the person on the recording also badmouths supervisors and brass.