YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Community News

TORRANCE : Suit Says Officers Illegally Searched Car

October 06, 1994|MARY GUTHRIE

Three teen-agers have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against two Torrance police officers who they say detained them at gunpoint and illegally searched their car.

The lawsuit alleges that the officers, identified as A. Cramer and S. Danjou, stopped the high school seniors' car without probable cause and subjected them to "a frightening and humiliating search."

The suit also names Police Chief Joseph E. De Ladurantey and the city of Torrance as defendants.

City officials and a police spokesman would not discuss the details of the incident, but confirmed that it is being investigated. City Atty. John L. Fellows said he has not seen the file, but that the police department started an investigation after a complaint by one of the boys' parents.

In his letter to De Ladurantey, the father of one of the boys expressed his anger about the incident.

Robert Cramer, who is an assistant city attorney in Los Angeles, said his son Nicholas, no relation to the officer, and friends Lohren Price and Dan Mason went to see a movie on May 26 to celebrate their graduation from the Harvard-Westlake School, a private preparatory school in North Hollywood. Cramer is white, Price and Mason are black.

"While I am understanding of the pressures borne by the police, I do not wish my son to live in a world in which . . . police officers believe a white boy traveling with two blacks is unusual, or an indication of potential crime," Cramer wrote.

After the movie they stopped to get gas for Price's 1979 Chevrolet at a station near Crenshaw and Artesia boulevards. The boys saw a police car parked near the station while they bought gas. When they headed up Crenshaw, Cramer said the officers pulled them over and approached the vehicle with guns drawn.

Cramer alleges that the two officers kept guns pointed at the teen-agers while they searched their pockets, patted them down and searched the car. The procedure took almost an hour, he said.

Fellows said the investigation of the incident has been hampered by the parents' refusal to let investigators talk to the teen-agers.

"They have not been very helpful," Fellows said. "If there is a legitimate claim, we want to satisfy it."

The officers cited Lohren Price for a defective turn signal, and Nicholas Cramer for not wearing a seat belt. The attorney representing the boys, Howard R. Price (no relation to Lohren Price), said the two citations were dismissed in traffic court.

The lawsuit filed on Sept. 29 in U.S. District Court demands $750,000 in damages. The city has 60 days to file a response to the suit, Howard Price said.

Los Angeles Times Articles