Did a former Alhambra Fire Department official knowingly suppress evidence of an arson and then punish the fireman who tried to make things right?
The answer is a resounding 'Yes,' if you ask the fireman.
Ken Toh, who worked at the fire department for 15 years, recently filed a lawsuit against the City of Alhambra in federal court claiming that he was retaliated against and wrung up on false criminal charges for trying to expose a former division chief who was purposefully hiding evidence of an arson.
It all started in July 2007, according to the lawsuit, when a fire occurred along the 900 block of West Valley Boulevard. Toh claims that hours after the fire died out, his Division Chief told the public that it was an electrical fire and not the work of an arsonist.
The next day, Toh claims, the investigation was officially closed.
However, says Toh, the day after that, the charred body of a dead person was found at the fire site. And the following day, Toh claims a nearby security camera revealed that the fire was potentially arson.
When Toh says he brought this new info to his Division Chief, Toh's boss did not react the way Toh was expecting. Instead, claims Toh, the Division Chief refused to put the surveillance tape into the investigation file and told Toh, "the cause of the fire and origin has been determined, period, unless someone shows up at the Fire Department with a gas can admitting he or she started it."
Toh's former Division Chief is no longer with the Alhambra fire department, according to the person answering phones there.
Two months later, Toh claims, the retaliation began. He says fire and city officials executed a search warrant against him, "to harass, intimidate, and punish Toh," and confiscated more than $100,000 worth of his property.
Next, according to Toh, a report was filed that falsely accused him of crimes. Then, in March 2008, Toh was fired.
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A month later, says Toh, he was charged with interfering with an investigation and unlawful use of his badge. According to the lawsuit, "Defendants offered false evidence to support the meritless charges; ignored exculpatory evidence ... misrepresented facts to the court and jury; destroyed evidence; coerced witnesses; and otherwise took efforts to obtain Toh's criminal conviction."
In December 2009, however, after a six-week trial, Toh was acquitted of all charges, states the lawsuit.
Despite his acquittal, Toh claims the fire department continues to harass him and refuses to give him back his seized property.
So far, the Alhambra Fire Department spokesman has not responded to our request for comment.