FBI arrests California cops accused of 'violently racist, misogynistic and anti-gay' behavior: report

FBI arrests California cops accused of 'violently racist, misogynistic and anti-gay' behavior: report
ANTIOCH, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 11: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (R) looks on as he visits the Antioch Water Treatment Plant on August 11, 2022 in Antioch, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom visited a desalination plant that is under construction at the Antioch Water Treatment Plant where he announced water supply actions that the state is taking to adapt to hotter, drier conditions caused by climate change. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images).

The Federal Bureau of Investigation "arrested multiple California police officers on Thursday as part of a major criminal investigation into racist text messages of dozens of law enforcement officials," The Guardian's Sam Levin reports.

"Early-morning federal raids rounded up officers from Antioch and Pittsburg, two cities east of San Francisco, after a grand jury indictment for a wide range of offenses including criminal conspiracy, the Bay Area News Group reported," Levin writes. "The charges remained sealed on Thursday morning, and it's unclear how many officers have been arrested and are facing prosecution. A spokesperson for the US Department of Justice confirmed to The Guardian that arrests have been made and court hearings in the case were ongoing, but declined to comment further."

Levin says that the apprehensions "come after revelations that Antioch officers sent violently racist, misogynistic and anti-gay text messages between 2019 and 2022. The hateful messages emerged as part of an inquiry by federal officials and local prosecutors investigating claims of widespread civil rights violations, excessive force and falsification of records."

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Levin notes that "officers were exposed referring to Black people as 'gorillas' and bragging about beating up local residents and fabricating evidence. Some group texts included supervisors. In April, it was revealed that more than 45 officers, representing nearly half of Antioch's police department, were implicated in racist behavior."

Levin's analysis follows what correspondents Nate Gartrell, Judith Prieve, Julia Prodis Sulek, Jakob Rodgers, and John Woolfolk of Bay Area News Groupexclusively explained on Thursday morning:

Antioch K9 Officer Morteza Amiri, a central focus of the FBI probe, was charged in two indictments with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights and falsification or destruction of records, officials said in court. U.S. Marshals led Amiri into court, and he appeared with attorneys Michael Rains and Julia Fox.

Antioch Officer Eric Rombough was charged in the deprivation of rights and conspiracy case. He appeared in court dressed in civilian clothes Thursday morning. His attorney bristled at the FBI raids, telling U.S. District Magistrate Donna Ryu that Rombough has strong ties to the Bay Area and would have come to court if he'd been ordered to.

Other defendants include former Antioch officers Daniel Harris and Timothy Manly-Williams, who also previously worked for Pittsburg police. Federal prosecutors said Pittsburg Officers Patrick Berhan, Brauli Rodriguez-Jalapa, Ernesto Mejia-Orozco, and Amanda Theodosy are all charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, along with former Antioch Community Services Officer Samantha Peterson.

Civil rights lawyer John Burris, who filed a class-action lawsuit against City of Antioch cops, remarked to Bay Area News Group that "not only do we have officers who have fundamentally racist ideas and disrespect for the community, but they're dishonest, too, and that goes to the very integrity of the criminal justice system. There was a kind of lawlessness in the department, and there was no accountability. There was a code of silence. These officers understood that there was a freedom to engage in this conduct without having any repercussions and that’s a failure of leadership."

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, whom Levin recalls was "elected in 2020 on a platform of reform," said in a statement that Thursday is "a dark day in our city's history, as people trusted to uphold the law, allegedly breached that trust and were arrested by the FBI. To those that have accused me and others of being anti-police for seeking to reform the Antioch police department, today's arrests are demonstrative of the issues that have plagued the Antioch police department for decades."

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Levin's article is available at this link. Bay Area News Group's is here.

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