A recording is said to capture Los Angeles Police Department Det. Frank Lyga, a white lawman who fatally shot a black, off-duty cop during a traffic confrontation in 1997, saying that he "could have killed a whole truckload of them."
The comments were taken by some to mean that Lyga could have killed more black cops. The man on tape said he "would have been happily doing it."
The recording was made surreptitiously during a talk Lyga gave to police officers taking "in-service training" November 15 at the Los Angeles Police Academy, said social commentator Jasmyne Cannick:
Cannick got the recording from another officer, a retired LAPD official, and has been working in recent days to get the word out about the tape, part of which she has posted on YouTube (below).
We reached out to LAPD Commander Andrew Smith and Lt. Andy Neiman, top spokesman at the department, but had yet to hear back. Cannick says she was told that the LAPD's Internal Affairs Group was investigating the tape.
Lyga is still on the force and appeared on an NBC Los Angeles report about concentrated marijuana three months ago.
In March 1997, Lyga had been working a stakeout in plainclothes. He was behind the wheel of an unmarked police vehicle when he got into a road-rage beef with off-duty cop Kevin Gaines on Ventura Boulevard.
After Gaines allegedly threatened to "cap his ass," Lyga says he opened fire with his service weapon, fatally wounding the cop. Lyga later said, " ... This guy had 'I'm a gang member' written all over him."
The shooting sparked major headlines and inspired a department investigation that exonerated Lyga. As for Gaines, he was reportedly found to have been going out with the estranged wife of controversial Death Row label boss Suge Knight, and he had reportedly been seen at Death Row functions.
The investigation helped to uncover the LAPD's Rampart Scandal, which revealed alleged officer corruption, cocaine-evidence theft, bank robbery and abuse of the gangsters the local cops were assigned to police.
Rampart's central figure, Rafael Perez, was accused of stealing cocaine placed in evidence at the LAPD by none other than Det. Frank Lyga. There was speculation that Perez might have allegedly taken the drugs as payback for the shooting of a friend, fellow black cop Gaines.
Gaines' family sued the department over the shooting, asking for $25 million. It settled for $250,000.
The racial aspect of the confrontation has haunted the department, and the remarks attributed to Lyga are sure to uncover old wounds.
The LAPD's more recent history is divided into pre- and post-Rampart eras, with the time before the 1997 scandal sometimes referred to the "bad old days" when white "cowboy" cops ruled and officers of color were blamed for corruption that tainted the LAPD.
Ironically or not, a federal consent decree forced on the department in response to Rampart went a long way toward improving the policing of minority communities, and it helped to transform the LAPD into a "majority minority" force in which most cops today are not white.
During the November talk the man identified as Lyga tells the class that attorney Carl Douglas asked him if he intended to shoot Gaines that fateful day.
"I hit him, didn't I," the voice says. " ... It wasn't an accident."
Douglas asked him if he had regrets about the shooting, the narrator says.
"I said yeah," the man on the recording 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 ... "
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The man said to be Lyga was also recorded during the session badmouthing past bosses and LAPD brass. He suggests that one female captain had been "tossed around the department a few times," Cannick says.
"Why," she says, "is this guy still working for the police department."
Note: The last quote was edited after the source expressed doubts about whether or not it reflected what was said, particularly pertaining to profanity.