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LAPD officer is accused of torching his car and lying about his shooting

April 02, 2009|Richard Winton and Joel Rubin

A Los Angeles police officer who said he was shot in an off-duty incident early this year lied to investigators about the attack and, weeks earlier, intentionally set fire to his own luxury sports car in a scheme to collect an insurance payment, according to charges filed by prosecutors late Wednesday.

Anthony Razo, who served 14 years with the Los Angeles Police Department before abruptly resigning Friday, was charged with five felony counts of insurance fraud and arson for allegedly torching his own BMW 745 on Jan. 4 and then filing an insurance claim.

He also faces a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report concerning a gunshot wound he said he suffered outside his City Terrace home Jan. 31. Razo said that two Latinos with shaved heads, whom he did not know, attacked him as he was leaving for an early morning golf game. During a struggle, Razo said, one of the men grabbed his department-issued handgun and shot him once in the shoulder.

Prosecutors and sheriff's officials declined to comment on the details of their investigation, leaving open the possibility that Razo shot himself or that he knows who shot him.

Razo, 49, refused to answer questions when he was reached at his home late last week by The Times. His attorney, Glen Jonas, refused to discuss details of the case, but acknowledged missteps by Razo.

"Mr. Razo is addressing personal problems while cooperating with the investigators to minimize any additional impact recent events will have on the department and the community," Jonas said. "While we understand some in the community may define him by recent events, we hope the numerous citizens, crime victims and fellow officers he helped . . . will remember him differently."

Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators had already begun to suspect that Razo had burned his own car before the shooting occurred, law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation said. Those suspicions led homicide investigators to doubt Razo's version of the attack, the sources said.

In the hours immediately after the shooting, however, the Sheriff's Department nonetheless launched a massive manhunt for the alleged attackers. Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton and Sheriff Lee Baca rallied before a phalanx of TV cameras, vowing that the assailants would be captured. Within days, officers at the Hollenbeck Division station, where Razo was assigned, had raised more than $6,000 to help the wounded officer. Specialized LAPD officers guarded Razo's home around the clock.

Despite an intense investigation, sheriff's investigators found no leads supporting Razo's claims, drawing further suspicion on the officer, who had fallen deeply into debt before the car-burning incident, officials said.

In comments made shortly before the charges were filed, Sheriff's Lt. Duane Harris, who is leading the investigation, indicated that Razo had not confessed, saying he "has not told us anything that contradicts that initial report."

After weeks of rumors and hushed conversations about Razo in police stations, news of the charges brought expressions of anger and disappointment.

Paul M. Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents the department's rank-and-file officers, said the union was "deeply disturbed."

"We are naturally saddened and find it unsettling to learn that the incident . . . may not be the tragedy it was initially portrayed to be," Weber said.


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