The district attorney's office is investigating whether a high-ranking Huntington Park police officer slashed the tires of a South Gate businessman and then, in an attempt to cover up the incident, gave a phony statement to Downey police.
Head Deputy Dist. Atty Steven A. Sowders said Thursday that his office is reviewing police reports submitted by Downey and South Gate police before deciding whether to file three misdemeanor charges against Lt. David Hood.
The charges under consideration are filing a false police report, threatening with a firearm, and malicious mischief, Sowders said. Each of the three charges carries a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, Sowders said.
The district attorney's investigation is the latest in a series of legal problems involving officers of the Huntington Park Police Department. The department had the highest frequency of brutality claims of any police department in the Southeast/Long Beach area, a Times survey found earlier this year. Police Chief Geano Contessotto has also said that he has reopened all internal investigations done in the past two years to determine whether officers need additional training, such as in the use of non-lethal force.
False Complaint Alleged
In their investigation of Hood, Downey police concluded that the off-duty officer submitted a false complaint, Downey Police Chief William Martin said. South Gate Police Chief Norm Phillips declined comment. Hood, one of five lieutenants in the 60-member Huntington Park department and outranked by only two captains and the chief, could not be reached for comment.
South Gate and Downey police refused to release their reports, saying they had been turned over to the district attorney's office. But sources familiar with the case said Hood is accused of slashing the tires of a motor home owned by Ronald Mobley, 35, of South Gate. The attack allegedly took place at 1:20 a.m. Aug. 25 at Mobley's Tweedy Boulevard business, Accurate Weld Testing Laboratories.
During the incident, Hood also allegedly threatened Mobley with a knife and a gun before he drove off in his truck, sources said. Hood then allegedly drove to his home in Downey and called Downey police at about 1:30 a.m. According to sources, Hood told Downey police that he had been attacked at his Downey home by Mobley and that Mobley fled after breaking the windshield and driver's side window of Hood's pickup truck.
Hood told Downey police that he saw Mobley driving away in a brown pickup truck and that he could positively identify both Mobley and the vehicle, sources said. Hood also told Downey police that he had had numerous problems with Mobley after Hood's wife recently quit working for Mobley.
Downey police called South Gate police, who at the time were interviewing Mobley at his business. South Gate officers located Mobley's brown Mazda truck and found the truck's engine and exhaust manifold "stone cold," according to sources.
'False Police Report'
Downey Police Chief Martin said Hood had filed a crime report with his department alleging that Mobley had committed malicious mischief, a misdemeanor. He added, "After investigation, it's our opinion that this is a false police report."
Mobley confirmed the account of the incident, saying, "The guy (Hood) kind of went over the edge." He declined to answer further questions, saying he had talked with the district attorney's office, and "I'm putting my faith in the system."
Chief Contessotto declined to be interviewed. Huntington Park Mayor Herbert A. Hennes Jr. said he was not aware of the allegations against Hood and declined comment.
Meanwhile, another Huntington Park police officer who was fired by Contessotto in August has returned to work after Civil Service charges against him were dropped last week by the City Council.
The officer, William J. Lustig Jr., had been accused of brutality in six lawsuits and two legal claims filed against the city in 1984 and 1985. But Lustig's firing had nothing to do with those cases.
Contessotto said at the time that he fired Lustig for not reporting a July 20 traffic accident involving a patrol car. The Civil Service charges against Lustig were dropped after a key witness against him became ill last month and did not complete testimony against the officer, city officials said.
On Monday, the City Council voted unanimously to rescind the charges against Lustig as part of a settlement in which the officer would accept a 9% cut in pay. Council members approved reducing Lustig's annual salary from $32,544 to $29,520.
Lustig, 30, a three-year department veteran, could not be reached for comment and his attorney declined comment.
When he fired Lustig, Contessotto said, "He (Lustig) did not report an accident and that's a cover-up by omission." The chief said at the time that Lustig's patrol car had struck a car occupied by five people, including a child, and that the accident resulted in "soft-tissue injuries" such as whiplash.