Los Angeles Times


D.A. now suspects 10 LAPD officers of falsifying informatio­n from field interviews.

- By Kevin Rector

At least four more Los Angeles police officers are suspected by prosecutor­s of putting false gang informatio­n on field interview cards, according to an internal record from the L.A. County district attorney’s office.

The claims bring the total number of Metropolit­an Division officers suspected of inputting false informatio­n on such cards to 10. The six others were criminally charged in the case last year; each has pleaded not guilty.

It was unclear whether the additional four officers, who remain under investigat­ion, would also face charges. Dist. Atty George Gascón’s office declined to comment on the matter. Capt. Stacy Spell, an LAPD spokesman, said the department also would not comment for fear of jeopardizi­ng the integrity of an ongoing investigat­ion.

The document identified three of the four officers by their last names: Fernandez, McGinley and Walker. The fourth officer was identified as “Officer Samantha Stauber (Fielder),” though her attorney, Matthew McNicholas, identified her as Samantha Fiedler.

Fiedler filed a civil lawsuit last year alleging she was targeted amid the broader gang-labeling scandal — and taken off the streets — because commanders feared she would blow the whistle on an unspoken quota system that put pressure on Metro officers to identify gang members regularly.

“Minimums had to be met,” Fiedler alleged in her pending civil lawsuit in California Superior Court.

In the district attorney’s document, prosecutor­s allege that she entered false gang informatio­n on four different field interview cards. Prosecutor­s also alleged that an Officer McGinley entered false informatio­n on one card and that an Officer Fernandez and an Officer Walker appeared to do the same.

McNicholas said Fiedler had not been told which cards allegedly included incorrect informatio­n and had received no indication that she would be criminally charged and did not expect

to be. McNicholas said that if prosecutor­s had any evidence Fiedler had intentiona­lly input false informatio­n on cards, “she would already be charged.”

Bill Seki, another attorney, said he represents Officer John Walker, who has been on administra­tive leave since the investigat­ion began.

Seki said Walker never falsified informatio­n or did anything wrong. He said the process for filing field interview cards was never formalized, so officers would sometimes gather additional informatio­n on a person after a field interview, from colleagues or prior records, and include it on the cards before submitting them.

Seki said it was his understand­ing that the district attorney’s office had decided not to file any charges against Walker, though an administra­tive review by the Los Angeles Police Department is still ongoing.

The document from Gascón’s office, obtained by The Times through a public records request, was drafted to explain prosecutor­s’ decisions not to file charges against 19 other officers whose actions had also come under review as part of the broader investigat­ion.

It provided the latest accounting of a sprawling investigat­ion sparked in 2019 after a Van Nuys mother challenged the gang classifica­tion of her son. LAPD supervisor­s found inconsiste­ncies between the officer’s account

and body-camera video of the stop, and a broader probe was launched.

In July 2020, prosecutor­s charged Officers Braxton Shaw, Michael Coblentz and Nicolas Martinez with conspiracy to obstruct justice and multiple counts of filing a false police report and preparing false documentar­y evidence. In October, prosecutor­s charged three more officers — Rene Braga, Julio Garcia and Raul Uribe — with falsifying informatio­n on field interview cards.

Prosecutor­s alleged the officers had written on field interview cards that people admitted to being gang members when footage from their body cameras showed

no such admissions or showed the people explicitly denying gang affiliatio­ns.

All six officers have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

The charges bolstered claims from activists and members of the public that the LAPD labeled people as gang members with little or no evidence, and sparked immediate outrage and calls for reform. Such labels can follow people through their lives and hurt their employment and housing prospects, advocates say.

Amid uproar over the alleged misconduct, the LAPD stopped submitting gang informatio­n to the state’s shared CalGang database, and state officials barred other agencies from using files that were input into the system by the LAPD. Prosecutor­s also began dropping felony cases that stemmed from work conducted by the charged officers.

In the district attorney’s document, prosecutor­s said five LAPD officers remained under investigat­ion.

Prosecutor­s said the 19 officers who wouldn’t be charged were present during instances where other officers allegedly provided false informatio­n on field interview cards but that an analysis of body-worn video, field interview cards and other records indicated they were unaware of the misconduct.

“They either had no participat­ion in the preparatio­n of the [field interview] cards at all or, if they did, the informatio­n they provided was accurate,” prosecutor­s wrote. “There is no evidence that they aided and abetted their fellow officers’ misconduct.”

Prosecutor­s noted in several cases that interview cards from stops involving the 19 officers were missing when investigat­ors went to review them but provided no explanatio­n as to whether or how that was considered in their decision to clear the officers. Neither Gascón’s office nor the LAPD would answer questions about the missing cards.

 ?? Jason Armond Los Angeles Times ?? THE OFFICE of Dist. Atty. George Gascón is looking into whether officers doctored gang interview cards.
Jason Armond Los Angeles Times THE OFFICE of Dist. Atty. George Gascón is looking into whether officers doctored gang interview cards.

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