(ANTIMEDIA) Los Angeles, CA — LAPD officers appear to have accidentally recorded themselves planting drugs on a suspect in an arrest made back in April. Though it’s not exactly clear where the drugs originated, the police report and officers’ testimonies differ from what their body camera footage shows.
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Last week, CBS Los Angeles published the body camera footage from 12 different angles in the first instance where LAPD has released video from their officers since the body camera program began two years ago. The footage shows multiple officers arresting Ronald Shields, who was eventually charged with a felony hit and run, having a gun in the trunk of his car, and cocaine possession.
The police report clearly states they found the cocaine in Shield’s left pocket, but the video shows a different sequence of events. As Officer Samuel Lee restrains and searches Shields, another, Officer Gaxiola, picks up Shields’ wallet from the sidewalk and shows it to Lee, who motions that it belongs to Shields. Gaxiola bends over, puts it back on the ground, and picks up a small green bag of white powder off the street, then picks up the wallet, and “appears to put the bag in the wallet,” CBS reports.
Addressing the seemingly irrational action of an officer filming themselves planting drugs, CBS notes that though Gaxiola activated his camera after putting the cocaine in the wallet, he may not have known that the camera automatically saves 30 seconds of footage without audio prior to the officer manually turning on the camera.
In court, the officers stuck to the story they reported in the police summary of events.
“[Lee] looked dumbstruck to me. Period. He had really no answers,” said Steve Levine, an attorney for Shields, while discussing Lee’s testimony. Gaxiola had not yet testified at the time of CBS’ report, but both officers told the outlet they had no comment on the disparity between the police report and the footage.
Lee claims the drugs ended up on the ground because they fell out of Shields’ pocket, but Levine argued in the court that Gaxiola planted the drugs entirely. However, the judge was unconvinced by Levine’s theory.
Even so, as Vox observed, at the very least:
“It’s possible…that the cops tried to reenact the act of finding the cocaine for the cameras. But that is still very deceptive — and when so clearly caught on video, it makes it hard to trust the police officers with just about everything else they’re doing. It makes a potentially credible case lose all credibility.”
According to a statement from LAPD, a department known for corruption and abuse:
“The LAPD takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and, as in all cases, will conduct a thorough investigation.”
Officers in other parts of the country have also accidentally filmed themselves planting drugs. In Baltimore, multiple instances of this type of misconduct led prosecutors to drop numerous charges and cases earlier this year.