Several Torrance police officers linked to a racist text scandal are no longer employed by the city

Several Torrance police officers linked to a racist text scandal are no longer employed by the city

  • US News
  • January 14, 2023
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?url=https%3A%2F%2Fcalifornia times photos 1staff 884488 me torrance police traded racist texts 04 News For Everyone Zoohouse News

Several Torrance police officers linked to a racist texting scandal – including two who shot dead a black man in a controversial incident in 2018 – are no longer employed by the troubled law enforcement agency, according to records.

Eight of the 12 Torrance police officers publicly identified by The Times as involved in the horrific text exchanges were not on the department’s active duty roster as of last November, records show. The police department provided the list in response to a request for public records, but declined to say whether the officers were fired or resigned because of their links to the scandal. They would not answer any further questions about the unfolding controversy.

However, four of the officers who The Times learned were involved in the scandal remain employed by the city of Torrance. One of those officers, David Chandler, is awaiting trial on allegations that he unnecessarily shot and killed a black suspect when the man walked away during an on-duty confrontation in 2018. The Times also recently confirmed that Chandler remains an active member of the California National Guard.

The text scandal first surfaced in August 2021 when Los Angeles County Dist. atty George Gascón filed vandalism and conspiracy charges against officers Cody Weldin and Christopher Tomsic who allegedly spray-painted a swastika in a car that was towed from the scene of a minor crime in January 2020.

A search of officers’ phones turned up around 390 “anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic, or transphobic statements” allegedly exchanged between 2018 and 2020 by a group of officers, according to the district attorney’s records.

The text messages were full of racial slurs, jokes about the lynching and shooting of black people, and profane boasts about the use of force against suspects. In one instance, an officer shared images of small coffins that he exclaimed would hold the bodies of black children that officers might have to “put down.” The messages also contained offensive remarks about Latinos, Jews and members of the LGBTQ community.

The scandal sparked an investigation by the California Attorney General’s office, although that investigation has yet to produce any public results. A spokesman for Atty. General Rob Bonta declined to provide an update on the investigation this week.

Tomsic and Weldin left the department sometime in 2021. Officers Brian Kawamoto, Joshua Satterfield, Omar Alonso, Anthony Chavez, Matthew Concannon and Enrique Villegas were no longer with the department as of November 2022, records show.

Kawamoto called black men “savages” in one text and vowed in another to “make torrance great again,” according to these records. After another officer shared a news story about a man urinating on a black child, Satterfield asked, “What is the crime?” These records show. Alonso openly complained about having to work with a gay officer and vowed to hit the officer, using an insult to members of the LGBTQ community, according to the records.

While The Times found no documentation that Concannon or Chavez had sent racist text messages, sources previously confirmed they were being investigated as part of the scandal. The most controversial moment of her career was also a topic of conversation in the lyrics: the fatal shooting of Christopher DeAndre Mitchell in 2018.

Mitchell, who was black, was allegedly in a stolen car when he was confronted by officers in a Ralph parking lot, records show. Authorities allege Mitchell ignored instructions to exit the vehicle. Officers opened fire when they claimed he was reaching for a gun wedged between his legs. It was later determined to be an airgun.

Prosecutors initially found that Concannon and Chavez had acted in self-defense, but the killing has sparked angry protests in Torrance, and Gascón ordered a new review of the case when he took office in 2020. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office was unable to provide current information on the review.

According to a prosecutor’s report on the text messages, an officer used the N-word to refer to Mitchell’s relatives the day after the shooting. Others joked that when protesters marched on one of the officer’s homes, they lined up like a firing squad, guns drawn, in Concannon’s or Chavez’s yard, according to the report, which gives the names and phone numbers of officers who every SMS sent were made unrecognizable.

Attorneys for the union representing Torrance police officers and private attorneys for some of the officers declined to comment.

Initially, 17 officials were linked to the scandal and placed on administrative leave. However, sources previously told the Times that some officials linked to the scandal are under investigation for being part of the various text message chains, but have not sent any abusive messages.

The Times could not identify four of the 17 officers involved. A law enforcement source with knowledge of the situation said several officers linked to the scandal have been put back to work, presumably for failing to send racist or threatening messages. The source spoke on condition of anonymity as she was not authorized to discuss the case.

But three officials previously linked by The Times to the scandal remain on the department’s list: Chandler, Blake Williams and Christopher Allen-Young. Williams sent other officers a picture of the bodies of several black people who had been lynched with the caption “Hanging with the homies” underneath it, records verified by The Times showed. Allen-Young also used slurs to refer to black people and shared a joke about police shooting a black man during a traffic stop.

Chandler, meanwhile, not only remains employed by the Torrance Police Department, but is also an active member of the California National Guard. He joined the Guard in 2020 and, according to Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma, chief spokesman for the Guard, the rank of warrant officer in an aviation brigade. It wasn’t immediately clear how the indictment had affected his status in the military.

“Civil convictions or investigations involving justified misconduct may be the basis for adverse administrative action, the nature of which depends on the facts and circumstances of the case, as well as civil penalties,” Shiroma said in an email. “Adverse action on officers is maintained at the Deputy Adjutant General level and can range from informal advice to initiating separation from the military.”

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