Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • On a Monday afternoon in 1998, a nine-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department

  • strolled into the vast Property Division evidence room at the downtown headquarters.

  • The officer's name was Rafael 'Ray' Perez and he was wearing a disguise.

  • A five day old beard and mustache covered the lower half of his face; he wore his wife's

  • thick reading glasses and a baseball cap was pulled low on his head.

  • At the counter Perez gave the property officer a folder with a booking number, telling her

  • that he needed the evidence for the case.

  • Without checking his ID, she quickly retrieved a taped and sealed cardboard evidence box

  • and allowed him to sign for it.

  • Perez scrawled the name of another cop 'Joel Perez' and a fake badge number before leaving

  • with the evidence.

  • Twenty minutes later, Perez parked his SUV near a strip mall.

  • He ran over to a nearby store and purchased a box of Bisquick baking mix.

  • He returned to his SUV and finally opened the evidence box.

  • Inside were three kilos (6.6 pounds) of cocaine with an estimated street value of $800,000.

  • Just like he had done twice previously when stealing coke from evidence to sell, Perez

  • swapped Bisquick for the drugs.

  • On both occasions he had been able to reseal the evidence bags full of baking mix and return

  • them without issue.

  • Typically, coke was never retested and this evidence was involved in a case that wasn't

  • going to trial.

  • Sooner or later the coke would be destroyed, forever hiding evidence of his illegal substitution.

  • But today was different.

  • Maybe Perez had a premonition or it was paranoia.

  • But he ended up dumping the bags full of baking mix and the empty evidence box into a nearby

  • storm drain instead of trying to swap the fake drugs back into the property room.

  • But it was too late, his audacious theft was already another link in a chain of events

  • that would end in the exposure of the widespread police corruption in the LAPD's Rampart

  • Division anti-gang CRASH unit.

  • Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums or CRASH was started in the 1970's to combat

  • gangs in South Central LA.

  • In response to the drug fueled violence of the 1980's, the LAPD heavily funded CRASH

  • and established other divisions throughout the city for a total of 18 units.

  • The elite teams of officers worked out of their own substations, often wore plainclothes

  • and made undercover drug buys.

  • The unspoken rule at CRASH was that a prospective member needed to be invited to join by a sponsor

  • on the team.

  • CRASH divisions were tight knit families separate from other cops.

  • Their mission was to take out gangs through just about any means necessary.

  • The Rampart CRASH unit pushed this idea to the max and were known for being a law unto

  • themselves.

  • Rampart CRASH served Pico-Union, a dense poverty stricken neighborhood full of of immigrants--both

  • legal and undocumented, located just west of L.A.'s downtown skyscrapers.

  • Though Pico-Union is only about 8 square miles, during the late 1990's, the area had upwards

  • of 30 different gangs including 18th Street and MS-13.

  • Rampart CRASH had a reputation for being dirty, but after bad interactions with officers,

  • few residents dared to come forward.

  • Many were scared of the cops, spoke little to no English or were involved in illegal

  • activities themselves.

  • The complaints of the few residents that spoke out against the unit didn't go anywhere.

  • After the coke went missing, Internal Affairs [IA] investigated officer Joel Perez who had

  • allegedly checked out the drugs.

  • They quickly discounted him.

  • When IA went through property division records, the logs showed that Rampart CRASH officer

  • Ray Perez had previously checked out a large amount of coke.

  • Meanwhile, IA was already investigating Rampart CRASH for the brutal beating of a suspect

  • and a couple of bad shootings.

  • Also 3 months before Perez's theft of the coke, his close friend and former partner

  • David Mack had been arrested for a brazen bank heist of $722,000 in cash.

  • As of yet investigators hadn't been able to identify David's co-conspirators who

  • helped him rob the bank.

  • However, they suspected Perez and a third cop.

  • Curiously, in one way or another Perez was involved in or linked to all of these events.

  • Worried that they had a couple of rogue cops in Rampart, the LAPD created a task force

  • made up of detectives and prosecutors from the DA's Office.

  • They quickly put Perez under surveillance.

  • They tapped his phone, parked a van outside his house and on at least one occasion followed

  • his SUV via helicopter.

  • The task force discovered that Perez and his wife drove expensive vehicles and had an upper

  • middle class lifestyle that would be hard to achieve on policeman's pay.

  • Also Perez had called his girlfriend, a known sometimes cocaine dealer and informant twice

  • on the day of the coke theft, once before and once after.

  • In August of 1998, the LAPD arrested Perez for the coke theft.

  • In December of 1998, he went to trial.

  • Perez was a charismatic storyteller who managed to enthrall several members of the jury.

  • His case ended 8-4, in a hung jury.

  • Perez remained in custody.

  • The police task force went back to work to try to build a stronger case against him.

  • Their research turned up the fact that drugs had gone missing from evidence before.

  • There were 11 transfers with suspicious paperwork.

  • 6 of the drug evidence packages had already been destroyed, but they tested the remaining

  • 5.

  • All were Bisquick.

  • Perez had been stealing from the evidence room off and on for years.

  • The newly discovered thefts bumped the charge against Perez up to a felony.

  • Rather than go to trial again, Perez had his attorney reach out to Richard Rosenthal, a

  • deputy district attorney, who was on the task force and overseeing prosecution.

  • Perez was willing to confess to a crime: the shooting of an unarmed suspect, and the planting

  • of a gun on him if he was granted immunity on that charge and a reduced five-year term

  • on the drug charges.

  • In exchange Perez would spill the beans on dirty cops in the Rampart division CRASH.

  • The deal was approved.

  • Perez was secretly transported from jail to an office in the headquarters of the county

  • transit system to meet with the task force.

  • Worried about threats to Perez's life, the authorities didn't want to meet in a police

  • building.

  • What Perez said stunned the room.

  • He had been dirty since his very first drug bust as a CRASH officer in 1995.

  • He regularly kept some of the money he seized during busts.

  • Then Perez told the LAPD of the time he shot Javier Ovando.

  • On the night of October 13, 1996, Perez and his partner Nino Durden went to a boarded-up

  • apartment building for a surveillance stakeout.

  • They found two homeless guys crashing in one of the apartments, Nene and 19 year old Javier

  • Ovando, a member of the notorious 18th Street Gang.

  • Durden and Perez were especially unhappy to see Ovando, they had thrown him out of the

  • building the night before.

  • They handcuffed the two men and hustled them to unit 407, their stakeout apartment.

  • Perez unshackled Nene, telling the men that he was sending them out one at a time.

  • Nene left immediately.

  • However, Perez and Durden didn't let Ovando leave, they started interrogating him.

  • When he protested, refusing to offer up any information, Perez suddenly pulled out his

  • Beretta and shot him in the chest at close range.

  • Durden quickly did the same.

  • Then, Perez lifted Ovando off the floor by the front of his shirt, and fired a round

  • into the side of his head.

  • Perez called for assistance using Rampart CRASH's secret radio code for a dirty shooting.

  • The code was a demand for other CRASH officers in the know to keep outside supervisors away.

  • By the time anyone else arrived at the scene, Perez and Durden had positioned a loaded,

  • chopped-down Tech .22 semi automatic by Ovando's body.

  • Durden had previously filed the serial number off of the gun.

  • Once the sergeant arrived, unaware that they had planted the gun, he listened to Perez's

  • story of the shooting and helped them clean up any loose ends in the tale.

  • According to Perez, Ovando busted into the apartment, brandishing his gun with intent

  • to kill.

  • They shot him out of self defense.

  • Miraculously, Ovando survived the shooting, although he was left paralyzed and wheelchair-bound

  • for the rest of his life.

  • When he was somewhat recovered, he stood trial.

  • Based on Perez's and Durden's false testimony Ovando was found guilty of 2 counts of assaulting

  • a police officer with a semiautomatic rifle and one count of brandishing it in the presence

  • of a police officer.

  • He received the maximum sentence—23 years in state prison.

  • Perez's confession about Ovando's shooting was just the beginning.

  • He claimed that 90% of all CRASH officers, not just Rampart CRASH, falsified information.

  • He also talked about dirty busts.

  • Perez's revelations sent the LAPD reeling.

  • How many people were sitting in jail for crimes they didn't commit or their investigation

  • was handled by corrupt cops?

  • Perez's first debriefing session was 3 hours and there was the promise of more secrets

  • to be divulged.

  • On behalf of the DA's office the horrified Rosenthal took the unusual step for prosecution

  • and filed writ of habeas corpus overturning Ovando's conviction.

  • Within a week of Perez's confession, Ovando was freed from prison.

  • He had served 2 and 1/2 years in jail.

  • Over the course of 52 secret interrogations lasting 9 months, Perez laid bare the corrupt

  • culture and transgressions of the Rampart CRASH division.

  • He discussed how the majority of CRASH officers were unscrupulous.

  • They knowingly framed civilians, sometimes with 'drop guns' like the one he and Durden

  • planted on Ovando, perjured themselves on the witness stand and were purposefully slow

  • in calling for medical attention, allowing injured suspects to suffer longer.

  • Some officers drank or took drugs on the job.

  • They also awarded each other plaques for shooting people, with extra honors if the person killed

  • was a suspect.

  • rez told the task force the unofficial CRASH motto: "We intimidate those who intimidate

  • others."

  • Early on, Perez had asked the task force if he could see the CRASHrecap books”—logs

  • of all activities undertaken by the unit to refresh his memories.

  • Perez reviewed 1,509 arrest reports and identified 91 arrests involving 160 suspects with alleged

  • police misconduct.

  • Of those 91 dirty arrests, Perez was involved in 63 of which 44 involved Perez and his partner

  • Durden.

  • Perez also provided details on a cop on cop shooting, and a brutality incident where Rampart

  • CRASH officer Brian Hewitt brought Ismael Jimenez, a member of the 18th Street Gang

  • into the station for questioning.

  • During interrogation Hewitt severely beat the handcuffed Jiminez.

  • However Perez refused to provide information on David Mack, whom by now had been convicted

  • and was serving a fourteen year sentence for his bank robbery.

  • Nor would Perez admit to being one of the robbers and he had no idea where the loot

  • from the bank robbery ended up.

  • As of 2020, the stolen money has never been recovered.

  • Allegedly, the money was intended to be used to pay off an assassin for carrying out the

  • murder of Biggie Smalls.

  • Reputedly, Perez and Mack were involved in the planning of the famed rapper's murder

  • too.

  • Meanwhile investigators scrambled to try to corroborate the information Perez had provided.

  • Detectives visited several prisons to talk to inmates and even made a trip to a village

  • in Central America to speak to a wronged party.

  • Ultimately, Perez pointed a finger at over 70 officers for misconduct.

  • Investigations found enough evidence to bring 58 of those officers before an internal administrative

  • board.

  • However, only 24 were actually found to have committed any wrongdoing.

  • 12 cops were given suspensions, 7 were forced into resignation or retirement, and 5 were

  • fired.

  • Based on falsified evidence and police perjury inquiries, 106 prior criminal convictions

  • were overturned.

  • There were over 140 civil lawsuits against the city of Los Angeles, which cost the city

  • an estimated $125 million in settlements.

  • On November 21, 2000, Javier Ovando received a $15 million settlement, the largest police

  • misconduct settlement in Los Angeles history, and possibly US history.

  • Ray Perez and Nino Durden were the only cops who wound up doing any real prison time for

  • the Rampart Scandal.

  • In accordance with his immunity agreement, Pérez was sentenced to 5 years for stealing

  • cocaine from LAPD evidence.

  • He was paroled early.

  • However, 2 federal charges were brought against him: (1) conspiracy to violate Ovando's civil

  • rights; (2) Possessing a firearm with an eliminated serial number, the drop gun used to frame

  • Ovando.

  • He was sentenced to serve 2 years in federal prison.

  • Durden ended up being sentenced to 5 years in prison after being convicted on six counts,

  • including conspiracy to obstruct justice, perjury, and filing false reports.

  • In the fall of 1999 LAPD chief Bernard Parks created a Board of Inquiry to review management

  • failure and probe the depth of the corruption scandal.

  • About 6 months later the Board released a report which mainly blamed a few bad apples

  • and mediocre departmental management for allowing misconduct within the Rampart Division to

  • occur.

  • The report also offered recommendations for improvement in several areas including police

  • training and supervisory oversight.

  • The LAPD experienced a great deal of inner turmoil.

  • Many cops felt like chief Parks closed down the investigation too quickly.

  • He quashed lines of inquiry into corrupt cops tied to the Bloods and other criminal enterprises.

  • Also he refused to grant immunity to officers who'd witnessed and failed to report misconduct.

  • That choice quelled any impulses of low level officers to come forward about wrongdoing

  • they might have seen with upper management.

  • Lastly, Park limited the probe to Rampart CRASH instead of instituting a wider investigation

  • of all CRASH units even though during interrogation Perez and later Durden brought up misconduct

  • happening in the 77 Street CRASH division.

  • Other cops felt like Ray Perez played the LAPD for fools, feeding them exaggerated tales

  • of police wrongdoing with a little truth mixed in.

  • CRASH was disbanded in 2000, and replaced by the LAPD Gang and Narcotics Division.

  • Several crimes involving Rampart CRASH officers remain unsolved.

  • The full truth may never be known about what is probably the worst corruption scandal in

  • the LAPD's 151 year history.

  • And now that you've reached the end of our video, why not keep the watch party going?

  • How accurate are TV cop shows?

  • Could they be teaching criminals how to get away with crimes?

  • Go here to find out:

  • Ever hear of the insane World War II sea battle involving potatoes?

  • Check it out here:

On a Monday afternoon in 1998, a nine-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department