Los Angeles police officers who allegedly caused extensive damage to four Southwest Los Angeles apartments during a drug raid two weeks ago appear to be guilty of "some police misconduct," a police department spokesman said Friday.
"The officers are trying to do something about gangs and drugs and I think in this case they got carried away," said Deputy Chief Bill Rathburn. The incident has been under investigation for the last week by an eight-member task force from the department's Internal Affairs Division. The task force will release a report on the incident by the end of the month.
The raid on the apartments in the 3900 block of Dalton Avenue on Aug. 1 was part of an investigation into gang-related drug sales. Police originally said they suspected that most of the damage occurred after their officers left and gang members re-entered the houses.
However, Rathburn indicated Friday that while the department still believes that some damage was caused by other people, the majority of it was caused by police.
Damage to the ransacked apartments was so bad that the Red Cross offered emergency food and shelter to the four families. While eight people were arrested in the raid, only one of those arrested lived in the apartments.
When Red Cross officials inspected the four apartments last week they found broken windows on all floors, plaster walls and ceilings torn open, kitchen and other household appliances overturned and clothes strewn throughout the apartments and doused in bleach.
Rathburn said that when he inspected the apartments last week, accompanied by the area's city councilman, Robert Farrell, "it was clear to me that there was some police misconduct."
John Burton, an attorney retained by the families living in the four apartments, said he is pleased that the investigation has been taken out of the hands of the Police Department's Southwest Division and assigned to its Internal Affairs Division.
Burton has filed a claim for damages with Los Angeles City Hall and says he will file a lawsuit claiming that the Police Department violated his clients' civil rights.
A spokesman in Farrell's office said efforts are under way to force the city to supply emergency relief to the four families.
Rathburn said he hopes that the incident does not detract from the department's efforts to crack down on gangs and drug-sellers in South-Central Los Angeles.
"We have enjoyed great community support for our gang suppression efforts and this incident has provided a diversion from our basic objective of doing something about the gang problem," he said.