The city of Torrance paid a Redondo Beach man $750,000 after two city police officers allegedly spray-painted a swastika inside his car in 2020.
The investigation into that incident led to the discovery of a trove of racist and homophobic text message exchanges between Torrance police officers. The resulting scandal led prosecutors to throw out dozens of felony cases.
In January 2020, after discovering a swastika in the back seat of his car, Kiley Swaine filed a federal lawsuit against the city and its Police Department. The alleged incident occurred after he and two other men were arrested on suspicion of stealing mail from an apartment building.
Swaine was later cleared of the mail theft charges.
Two Torrance police officers, Christopher Tomsic and Cody Weldin, allegedly spray-painted the swastika, as well as a smiley face, on Swaine’s front passenger seat and damaged the interior before they towed it away, Swaine’s attorney, Jerry Steering, said. , in a press release. release.
After Swaine was released and went to get his car, he saw the graffiti and reported it to Torrance police.
The case was referred to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which filed charges of conspiracy and vandalism against Tomsic and Weldin, who left the force.
The two men, who have pleaded not guilty, are awaiting trial.
In a comment provided to The Times via Steering, Swaine expressed disappointment that Torrance police didn’t tell him they totaled his vehicle despite a promise they would.
Despite filing the report on the vandalism less than two days after it occurred, Swaine was not notified about the case against Tomsic and Weldin until October 2021, after the District of Los Angeles County. Attorney George Gascón announced the charges.
“I have been suing police officers for 39 years and I have never seen anything like this,” Steering said in a statement. “It never ceases to amaze me that so often the very people our citizens trust to protect us from dangerous criminals are more dangerous than the criminals they are supposed to protect us from.”
Tomsic and Weldin’s investigation led prosecutors to search the officers’ phones. The search turned up text exchanges between more than a dozen officers that included racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic comments.
After the text messages surfaced, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and the Torrance city attorney’s office moved to dismiss dozens of cases involving the officers involved in the exchanges of text messages.
The Torrance city attorney declined to comment on the settlement.