White Cop Sues LAPD for Discrimination

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Los Angeles fired a veteran police detective after another officer gave the media a recording of his allegedly racially based remarks during a training seminar, the detective claims in court.
     Frank Lyga sued the City of Los Angeles in Federal Court on Thursday, alleging racial discrimination and civil rights violations.
     Lyga says the LAPD hired him in 1986 as a patrol officer and promoted him to detective in 1990.
     Among his assignments during his 28-year career was undercover work with the Clandestine Laboratory Team. He received awards and commendations for his work in narcotics and is a “nationally recognized expert in the manufacturing of controlled substances,” according to the complaint.
     Lyga is perhaps best known for his 1997 fatal shooting of fellow LAPD Officer Kevin Gaines.
     While working undercover, Lyga got into in a heated traffic dispute with Gaines. Neither man realized the other was also a police officer. During the altercation, Lyga put his gun on his lap for protection when Gaines allegedly pulled beside him, yelled, “I’ll cap you, motherfucker!” and pointed a gun at him. Lyga shot Gaines twice, he acknowledges in the complaint.
     Investigation showed that Gaines was working for Death Row Records producer Suge Knight and was romantically involved with Knight’s estranged wife, Sharitha Knight, according to the complaint.
     Lyga says that investigation also revealed that two of Gaines’s associates were involved in criminal activities, and led to the Rampart Scandal, involving corrupt officers in the LAPD’s Rampart Anti-Gang CRASH unit.
     Gaines’ death also sparked controversy because Gaines was black and Lyga is white.
     Lyga was found to be acting in self-defense and was cleared of wrongdoing by the LAPD and District Attorney’s Office, but prominent African-American civil rights attorney Johnny Cochran filed a $25 million civil rights suit claiming Lyga intentionally killed Gaines because he was black, Lyga says.
     The city settled that lawsuit for $250,000 though the judge determined that Lyga had acted within LAPD guidelines, Lyga says. He says he had “had to live with the charge that he was a racist cop-killer despite the truth of the matter.”
     About 16 sixteen years later, in November 2013, Lyga says, he was giving a training seminar on search warrants when students asked him how the Gaines shooting had affected his career.
     Among other things, Lyga told the students about a confrontation he had during a deposition with Carl Douglas, the attorney for Gaines’s family. He claims in the lawsuit that Douglas tried to paint him as a racist and asked if he had any regrets about the incident.
     “I says, ‘No. I regret he was alone in the truck at the time,'” Lyga says in the complaint, apparently quoting from the leaked video. “I could have killed a whole truck load of them. And would have been happily doing it,” Lyga told the students.
     He also called Douglas an “ewok” and made sexist comments about a female LAPD officer, according to the L.A. Times.
     Lyga says he did not know the conversation was being recorded by police Officer Bruce Stallworth, who was friends with Kevin Gaines.
     Stallworth released the comments to the press in June 2014 and filed a personnel complaint against Lyga, which prompted an Internal Affairs investigation. About two months later, Capt. Charles Hearn wrote a letter stating that Lyga “poses a significant liability to the department,” that his comments “are inconsistent with our principles and values,” and that he should be fired, according to the lawsuit.
     Lyga says he apologized for his comments in a statement to the LAPD board of rights panel, saying: “I fully admit and recognize that the things I said were very wrong and I deeply regret that I used such poor judgment when I spoke that day. I have no excuse for what I did. I realize that my words were hurtful to many people as well as to the department. I accept responsibility for the harm I caused.”
     He said he hoped he could continue to serve the LAPD, but the panel found in October that he should be fired for his remarks. Instead, Lyga says, he chose to retire early so he could collect pension benefits.
     Lyga claims he has suffered “physical illness and physical injuries” and mental distress from the humiliation of being fired and “from the defamation and the attacks on his character.”
     He claims the LAPD had no evidence that he is racist, but fast-tracked his termination because he is white and because his statements made the LAPD look like a racist institution.
     Lyga claims he was fired because of political pressure from the African-American community “based on their unfounded allegations that Lyga was a racist cop killer.”
     He claims he would not have been fired if he were black, and that black officer would not be fired for making the same statements he did.
     A spokesman for the Los Angeles Attorney’s Office could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
     Lyga seeks $300,000 in compensatory and statutory damages, special damages, back pay, front pay and reinstatement.
     He is represented by Joseph Avrahamy of Encino and Marla Brown of Los Angeles, who did not immediately return requests for comment.
     Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, told the L.A. Times that Lyga did not deserve to be fired.
     “There is not a shred of evidence those comments were racially motivated, and there is no evidence of that in Frank’s career,” Izen told the Times.

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