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Rampart figure is focus of car chase

July 01, 2008|Richard Winton and Victoria Kim | Times Staff Writers

A former gang member who won a $15 million judgment after he was shot and framed by corrupt Los Angeles police officers more than a decade ago was arrested Sunday night after leading Glendale police on a high-speed chase, his second arrest in a week, authorities said.

Javier Francisco Ovando, 31, was arrested about 8:15 p.m. Sunday after leading police on an hour-long chase that reached speeds of up to 90 mph on local streets and freeways, said Sgt. Tom Lorenz of the Glendale Police Department.

The incident began when police attempted to stop Ovando shortly after 7 p.m. for a traffic violation outside the new Americana mall at Brand Boulevard and Colorado Street, Lorenz said. But Ovando sped away in a 2001 Hummer, running two red lights, he said.

The chase ended an hour later near the home of one of Ovando's attorneys on Eckhart Avenue in an unincorporated area of South San Gabriel, Lorenz said. Ovando said he was disabled but was able to get out of his Hummer and lie on the ground as officers retrieved his wheelchair from the vehicle, Lorenz said.

At one point Ovando "tried to spit on an officer and grabbed one of the officer's fingers," Lorenz said. "A spitting net was placed over his face."

Ovando was arrested on suspicion of felony evading arrest, reckless driving and assault on a peace officer, Lorenz said. He was taken into custody but later was released after posting bail.

His attorney did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Ovando's latest run-in with police comes after he was arrested June 22 for making criminal threats against a couple who are buying his 6,000-square-foot Topanga Canyon mansion, said Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Royal.

The sale of his massive hilltop home became held up in escrow because of liens, according to a police report.

Ovando appeared at the home on June 22, swearing and threatening the new occupants, who were allowed to move in before the completion of escrow, Royal said. Ovando allegedly demanded that the family move out, Royal said.

The couple obtained a temporary restraining order against him the next day, according to court records. The incident remains under investigation, Royal said.

Ovando acquired the home in 2001, when it was listed for $2.2 million, according to property listings and an online brokerage firm. The five-bedroom, five-bath house is one of the largest in the area -- neighbors called it "the hotel."

In 2001, Ovando pleaded guilty to transporting cocaine to Las Vegas after 50 grams of cocaine and 37 grams of marijuana were found in his Cadillac Escalade and a handgun was found beneath the hood, authorities said. Ovando at the time agreed to undergo drug treatment to avoid prison, and to forfeit $50,000 in cash, a handgun and his expensive sport-utility vehicle, all of which were seized during the arrest.

In 1996, Ovando was paralyzed after he was shot by former Los Angeles Police Officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden, and was later convicted and served 2 1/2 years of a 23-year sentence in state prison after the pair testified that he attacked them.

The conviction was overturned after the two officers emerged as key figures in the Rampart corruption scandal, which involved dozens of cases of police misconduct including beatings, shootings, and false arrests of gang members. Ovando was later awarded a $15-million settlement as the highest-profile victim of the scandal.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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victoria.kim@latimes.com

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