Were Dorner's complaints legitimate?

Police records suggest ex-cop and alleged killer may not have been lying about police brutality incident


Natasha Lennard
February 12, 2013 6:53PM (UTC)

Christopher Dorner, the allegedly killer ex-LAPD officer with a $1 million bounty on his head, hinged his sprawling anti-police manifesto on one major event: his dismissal from the LAPD in 2008 for allegedly making false statements about police brutality during an arrest. A disciplinary panel ruled that Dorner had lied when he said his training officer had kicked a mentally ill homeless man.

However, according to the Los Angeles Times, when a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge examined the case a year later in 2010 as part of an appeal filed by Dorner, he was "uncertain whether the training officer kicked the suspect or not." The judge nonetheless upheld the panel's ruling.

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Based on police records, the Los Angeles Times detailed the events leading up to Dorner's dismissal:

Dorner's case revolved around a July 28, 2007, call about a man causing a disturbance at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Pedro. When Dorner and his training officer showed up, they found Christopher Gettler. He was uncooperative and threw a punch at one of the officers, prompting Dorner's training officer, Teresa Evans, to use an electric Taser weapon on him.

Nearly two weeks later, Dorner walked into Sgt. Donald Deming's office at the Harbor Division police station. There were tears in Dorner's eyes, the sergeant later testified.

Deming gave the following account of what happened next:

"I have something bad to talk to you about, something really bad," Dorner told him.

Evans, Dorner explained, had kicked Gettler once in the face and twice in the left shoulder or nearby chest area. Afterward, Dorner said, Evans told him not to include the kicks on the arrest report.

"Promise me you won't do anything," Dorner asked Deming.

"No, Chris. I have to do something," Deming responded.

An internal affairs investigation into the allegation concluded the kicks never occurred. Investigators subsequently decided that Dorner had fabricated his account. He was charged with making false accusations.

Three witnesses – two hotel employees and a port police officer – testified that they did not see the kicks and Gettler's account of events, which included being kicked, were ruled to lack credibility. According to Gettler's father, the Los Angeles Times noted, "his son's mental illness prevented him from being a good witness and that he was easily scared and would often answer 'yes' to everything."

The former police captain Randal Quan, whose daughter was the first victim of the crime spree, had acted as Dorner's attorney in 2008. Reportedly he had called the treatment of his client "very, very ugly." "What's happening here is this officer is being made a scapegoat," Quan said at the time.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced this weekend that he was reopening the investigation into Dorner's disciplinary case, not to placate the hunted killer, but to "have a department that is seen as valuing fairness."

The Times noted that despite Dorner's current position as the LAPD's public enemy No. 1, the allegations in his online manifesto "have resonated among the public and some LAPD employees who have criticized the department's disciplinary system, calling it capricious and retaliatory toward those who try to expose misconduct."

 


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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