TORRANCE — A second Torrance police officer involved in the fatal shooting at the Del Amo Mall last year is claiming that impaired judgment caused by untreated psychic trauma caused by that shooting led to his subsequent ouster from the department.
The former officer, Henry Fricke, 36, recently filed a claim for worker's compensation against the city of Torrance, alleging that he still suffers psychological damage from the Sept. 9 shooting.
In an interview, Fricke alleged that trauma from the shooting caused him to seek out prostitutes--the reason cited by city records for forcing him out--and suggested that a lawsuit filed as a result of the mall shooting may have been a factor in the department's decision to get rid of him.
"There is a bigger ballgame going on. There is a $10.5-million lawsuit against the city," Fricke said.
Suit Filed by Mother
A week before Fricke was ousted, the city was notified that it and the three officers involved in the mall shooting of a theft suspect--Fricke, John Maley, who also was fired, and Mark Hein--would be sued for wrongful death. Since then, a $10.5-million suit has been filed by the victim's mother.
Police officials declined to comment on Fricke's case.
Fricke, of Granada Hills, showed up at a hearing Monday before the Torrance Civil Service Commission on Maley's appeal of his firing.
Maley was the first Torrance officer to claim publicly that stress from the shooting affected his judgment, particularly in an incident that took place three months later.
In the extended hearing on Maley's case, the officer's actions and career have been examined in detail. The hearing has also become a forum for airing allegations of misconduct by Torrance police that the traditionally tight-lipped Police Department had previously kept from the public eye.
Fired in March
Maley was fired in March after the department discovered that he had pulled a knife on Officer Edward LaLonde during a heated dispute on police tactics three months after the September mall shooting.
In the mall shooting, Maley, Fricke and Hein emptied their .38-caliber pistols at Bryant John Leadbeater, a theft suspect who lunged at Maley with a 10-inch boning knife. Leadbeater, 32, of Redondo Beach, died after being struck by 24 bullets.
Maley's attorney, Richard Shinee, contends that LaLonde disliked Maley and spread rumors attacking his judgment in the mall shooting at a time when Maley, suffering from stress from the shooting, was particularly vulnerable to criticism.
Police officials portray Maley as an officer subject to episodes of abusive behavior who crossed all bounds of acceptability when he took out the knife during his dispute with LaLonde in the police station parking lot.
Maley Gets Boost
In the Civil Service hearing this week, Maley received a boost when four police officers, three from Torrance, challenged LaLonde's testimony and another Torrance officer testified that he had witnessed a fist fight between on-duty officers that had gone unpunished and that he himself had been knifed 10 years ago by a fellow officer who remains on the force.
LaLonde testified earlier that he had not criticized Maley.
At the hearing Monday, John Knapp, an Inglewood policeman, said that LaLonde had called Maley a vulgar name about a month after the mall shooting.
The three Torrance policemen each testified that they heard LaLonde, who is a departmental instructor in the use of the police night stick, refer to Maley in disparaging terms several times. They said LaLonde asserted in locker room discussions and at a training session that Maley could have disarmed the assailant in the mall using a night stick and without gunplay.
In cross examination, Tom Reeves, attorney for the city, questioned the officers on the dates of LaLonde's remarks in an attempt to show that whatever LaLonde said took place after his parking-lot confrontation with Maley.
Testimony from one of the officers, Charles White, surprised Reeves as well as Maley's attorney.
White, a 17-year veteran of the Torrance department, had said in direct testimony that he had once seen a fist fight between officers observed by a sergeant that had not resulted in any discipline.
In cross-examination, Reeves asked if White knew of any other incident in which a Torrance police officer drew a knife on another.
"Yes," White replied, causing a stir in the hearing room. "I still have the scar on my right hand to prove it." And he showed the scar to the commissioners.
The incident took place 10 years ago when an unsanctioned on-duty martial arts duel got out of hand, White said. His antagonist remains a Torrance policeman, White testified.
Never Told Superiors
White testified that he never told superiors about the incident, informing only the medics who bandaged him. "It bled rather messily," he said later.