Rafael (Ray) Perez
Perez is the officer at the center of the Rampart scandal. In 1998, he was arrested for stealing cocaine from a police evidence room. After his trial ended in a hung jury, prosecutors traced more drug thefts to Perez. Faced with the mounting evidence, Perez cut a deal with prosecutors in which he agreed to testify about police misconduct in exchange for a five-year prison sentence. After reviewing more than 1,500 arrests, Perez identified 91 problematic cases, from bad shootings to fabricated evidence, most involving himself and his partner Nino Durden. Ultimately, Perez implicated 70 officers in criminal or administrative wrongdoing. As a result, nearly 100 criminal convictions have been overturned and millions of dollars in settlement suits have been paid out.
Along with partner Ray Perez, LAPD officer Nino Durden shot, framed and then testified against unarmed 19-year old gang member Javier Ovando in 1996. Arrested for attempted murder in July 2000, Durden pled guilty to ten state and federal charges, including the false arrest of Ovando, and is expected to receive a sentence of up to 8 years in prison. As part of the plea deal, Durden is cooperating with investigators, including possible testimony against Perez.
A former partner of Ray Perez, LAPD officer David Mack was convicted of the November 1997 theft of $722,000 from a Bank of America branch in Los Angeles. Two days after the bank robbery, Mack took a gambling trip to Las Vegas with two other police officers, including Raphael Perez. In the course of investigating the bank robbery, detectives developed leads that caused them to believe, at the time, that Mack was a possible suspect in the 1997 murder of east-coast rap star, Biggie Smalls, a.k.a., the Notorious B.I.G. Mack is currently serving a 14 year sentence and has reportedly claimed association as a Piru Blood, an L.A. gang with ties to Death Row Records.
In the spring of 1997, off-duty LAPD officer Kevin Gaines was killed in an apparent road-rage incident by LAPD narcotics detective Frank Lyga. While investigating the shooting, detectives discovered that gaines was living with Sharitha Knight, the estranged wife of Death Row Records founder Marion "Suge" Knight. Further investigation revealed that Gaines, and other police officers, were spending off-duty hours working security for Death Row.
An LAPD narcotics detective, Frank Lyga shot and killed off-duty LAPD officer Kevin Gaines after gaines threatened Lyga with a gun in an apparent road-rage incident. The shooting of a black officer -- Gaines -- by a white cop -- Lyga -- sparked a highly-publicized police controversy. After three separate internal investigations, Lyga was ultimately exonerated -- the shooting was found to be "in-policy." But within months of being cleared, Lyga found himself in trouble again when one pound of cocaine evidence booked from one of his previous busts was found missing from the LAPD property room. Investigators learned that the missing cocaine had been stolen by Rafael Perez, who they suspected, at the time, of targeting Lyga in retaliation for the shooting of Gaines.
In their investigation of Ray Perez's cocaine thefts, detectives discovered that he had called the apartment of his girlfriend Veronica Quesada on many occasions, including directly before and immediately after he had stolen six pounds of cocaine from the LAPD property room. In searching Quesada's apartment, investigators found money, drug paraphernalia, and a photo of Perez dressed like a Blood gang member and throwing Blood gang signs. Perez's involvement with Quesada and her brother, Carlos Romero, an alleged cocaine dealer, helped prosecutors solidify their case against Perez. It was later learned that Quesada had traveled to Las Vegas with Perez and Mack just two days after Mack's bank robbery in 1997.
LAPD Officer Brian Liddy was one of the first police officers charged with criminal wrongdoing based upon Rafael Perez's allegations. Liddy and three other officers, were charged with making false arrests, filing false arrest reports and conspiracy to obstruct justice. In November 2000, Liddy and two other officers were found guilty of the false reporting and conspiracy charges. But the trial judge, concerned about the sufficiency of evidence and the basis for the jury verdict, overturned the verdict -- a decision prosecutors have appealed.
Marion "Suge" Knight
The founder of Death Row Records, Marion "Suge" Knight was imprisoned in October 1996 for violating his parole on a 1994 assault conviction. The FBI has for several years been investigating the activities of Knight, Death Row and its business associates. Knight, who grew up in Compton, has long had ties to his home turf gang, the Piru Bloods. Beginning in 1996, LAPD investigators became concerned that off-duty police officers were working security for Death Row and associating with known gang members, concerns that were heightened by the investigation of Kevin Gaines following his shooting death.
Rapper Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. "The Notorious B.I.G." was gunned down in a drive-by shooting after a party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles in March 1997. At the time, investigators believed that his murder was connected to and in retaliation for the murder six months earlier of Tupac Shakur. The two shootings heightened the ongoing rap rivalry between the east coast (Biggie Smalls, Puffy Combs and Bad Boy Entertainment) and the west coast (Tupac Shakur, Suge Knight and Death Row Records). Both rap star murders remain unsolved.
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