Los Angeles- A body-camera video played in court Thursday seems to directly contradict an officer’s sworn testimony in the case of a man arrested after a hit-and-run accident, and a defense attorney claims the video proves an officer planted drugs on the man.
LAPD officer Samuel Lee left a Van Nuys courtroom Thursday after a defense attorney showed Los Angeles Police Department bodycam video that he says caught the officer in a lie. The officer had no comment.
“He looked dumbstruck to me,” attorney Steve Levine said. “Period. He had really no answer.”
CBS2 News Investigative Reporter David Goldstein obtained 12 videos from bodycams worn by officers on the scene of an accident in April, and the LAPD confirmed it has opened an internal investigation into the use of bodycams by officers in the field.
This is the first time media has seen video from the cameras in a real police investigation. LAPD has refused to release any of them since the video program began two years ago.
Ronald Shields, 52, was arrested and has been charged with felony hit-and-run and possession of cocaine. The officers were called to testify in a pretrial hearing as Shields’ attorney challenges evidence to be used at trial.
Lee is seen searching the suspect. He testified in court, as in the police report, that the cocaine was found in Shields’ left front pocket.
But the videos shows a different story.
In video from another angle, LAPD Officer Gaxiola picks up Shields’ wallet from the street and shows it to Lee, who points to the suspect as if to say it’s his. He then puts it back down, steps to the street, bends over and picks up a small bag with white powder. It eventually tested positive for drugs. Gaxiola goes back onto the sidewalk, picks up the wallet, motions to Lee and appears to put the bag into the wallet.
At this time, you hear the audio and see the officers hand, when he activates the recording on the camera. But what the officer appears not to have known is that the previous 30 seconds are automatically saved without audio.
And if you rewind those 30 seconds, that’s where this all takes place.
Gaxiola hasn’t testified and had nothing to say Thursday. On the video, after he collects the wallet, he brags about it to the other officers. “He has a little bag of narco in here,” he says on the video. He says it three times. Lee says the bag of drugs fell out of Shields’ pocket and onto the sidewalk.
Levine has another theory and believes it proves Gaxiola planted the drugs.
“There’s a little white square here in his hand,” Levine said about one point in the video. “I believe the video shows the drugs were in his right hand and transfers to his left hand.”
The hearing will continue in December.