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Four more LAPD officers suspected in gang labeling scandal

At least four other Los Angeles police officers are suspected by prosecutors of putting false gang information on field interview cards, according to an internal file from the LA County District Attorney’s Office.

The complaints bring the total number of Metropolitan Division officers suspected of entering false information on these cards to 10. The other six were indicted in the case last year; each has pleaded not guilty.

It was not clear whether the other four officers, who are still under investigation, would also face charges. Dist. Atty George Gascón’s office declined to comment on the case. Captain Stacy Spell, a spokesperson for the LAPD, said the department would not comment either for fear of compromising the integrity of an ongoing investigation.

The document identified three of the four officers by last name: Fernandez, McGinley and Walker. The fourth officer was identified as “Officer Samantha Stauber (Fielder)”, although her lawyer, Matthew McNicholas, identified her as Samantha Fiedler.

Fiedler filed a civil lawsuit last year, alleging she was targeted amid the wider gang-labeling scandal – and taken off the streets – because commanders feared she would expose a system of unspoken quotas that pressured Metro agents to regularly identify gang members.

“The minimums had to be met,” Fiedler said in his pending civil lawsuit in California Superior Court.

In the district attorney’s document, prosecutors allege that she entered false gang information on four different field interview cards. Prosecutors also alleged that an Officer McGinley entered false information on a map and that Officer Fernandez and Officer Walker appeared to do the same.

McNicholas said Fiedler had not been made aware of the cards that allegedly contained incorrect information and had not received any indication that she would be criminally charged and did not expect to be. McNicholas said if prosecutors had any evidence that Fiedler had intentionally entered false information on cards, “she would already be charged.”

The document from Gascón’s office, obtained by The Times through a public registration request, was drafted to explain prosecutors’ decisions not to press charges against 19 other officers whose actions had also been the subject of a complaint. consideration as part of the larger investigation.

He provided the latest account of a sprawling investigation that was sparked in 2019 after a Van Nuys mother challenged her son’s gang classification. LAPD supervisors found inconsistencies between the officer’s account and the body camera video of the arrest, and a broader investigation was launched.

In July 2020, prosecutors charged officers Braxton Shaw, Michael Coblentz and Nicolas Martinez with conspiracy to obstruct justice and multiple counts of filing a false police report and preparing false documentary evidence. . In October, prosecutors charged three other officers – René Braga, Julio Garcia and Raul Uribe – with falsifying information on field maintenance cards.

Prosecutors alleged officers wrote on field interview cards that people admitted to being gang members while their body camera images showed no such confession or showed people explicitly denying their gang affiliation.

The six officers have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

The accusations reinforced long-held claims by activists and members of the public that the LAPD labeled people as gang members with little or no evidence, and sparked immediate outrage and calls for reform. Such labels can follow people throughout their lives and hurt their prospects for employment and housing, advocates say.

Amid an outcry over the alleged misconduct, the LAPD stopped submitting gang information to the state’s shared CalGang database, and state officials banned other state agencies to use the files entered into the system by the LAPD. Prosecutors have also started dropping felony cases that arose out of the work of the indicted officers.

In the district attorney’s document, prosecutors said five LAPD officers were still under investigation.

Prosecutors said the 19 officers who would not be charged were present in cases where other officers allegedly provided false information on field interview cards, but an analysis of the video carried on the body , field maintenance cards and other records indicated that they were not aware of the misconduct.

“They did not participate in the preparation of the [field interview] cards at all or, if they did, the information they provided was correct, ”prosecutors wrote. “There is no evidence that they aided and abetted the misconduct of their fellow officers.”

Prosecutors noted in several cases that arrest interview cards involving the 19 officers were missing when investigators went to examine them, but offered no explanation as to whether or how this was factored into their decision. to exonerate the officers.

Neither Gascón’s office nor the LAPD responded to questions about the missing cards.

Los Angeles Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this article.