LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Two former Torrance police officers have been charged with vandalism after allegedly painting a swastika on the back of a vehicle they impounded, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon announced Thursday.
In a news conference, Gascon said 29-year-old Christopher Tomsic, and 28-year-old Cody Weldin have been charged with felony vandalism and conspiracy to commit felony vandalism. Both men, who left the department in 2020, have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
"This type of conduct cannot be tolerated anywhere in our society," Gascon said.
Tomsic and Weldin were among a group of officers who responded to a Jan. 27, 2020 report of mail thieves and were led to a vehicle that may have been used in the crime. The vehicle was taken to a tow yard, and when the owner came to pick up his car, he found a happy face had been spray painted on the front passenger seat and a swastika on the rear seat, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Hundreds of cases that the two former officers were involved in will also be reviewed for any other potential misconduct.
The District Attorney's Office said the investigation into Tomsic and Weldin revealed at least 13 other officers allegedly exchanging racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic messages. Those officers were each placed on administrative leave.
Along with facing the ire of the D.A., the officers involved are also getting criticism from the Torrance Police chief.
"Let me be clear, I will aggressively pursue any form of racism, bigotry, hate or misconduct at the Torrance Police Department," said Chief Jeremiah Hart.
"It's unacceptable but it becomes doubly unacceptable when we have the people that are sworn to protect all of us who engage in this behavior."
Gascon said he is still considering if the charges reach the threshold of a hate crime.
A statement from the Anti-Defamation League said:
"No matter the source of hate, we must stand up and denounce it. We are heartened that these officers are facing consequences for their reported hateful actions."
Torrance Mayor Pat Furey echoed the rebuke, calling it "sickening."
The D.A. said he will now look into hundreds of cases the officers were involved in to make sure there was no other source of alleged misconduct.
Tomsic and Weldin are scheduled to return to court for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 4.
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