The city of Torrance has paid $750,000 to the owner of an impounded car that was allegedly spray-painted by police with a swastika in 2020.
The payment ends a $6 million federal lawsuit from car owner Kiley Swaine, who didn’t learn of the alleged involvement of two former Torrance police officers until nearly two years after the damage to his 2004 Hyundai Elantra.
The swastika incident led to the discovery that some officers were engaging in racist and homophobic text messages, including jokes about having “gassed the Jews”, urinating on a black man and beating a woman.
The texts presented several variations of the word with n and referred to the detainees as “monkeys”, “moon crickets” and “savages”. So far, at least four officers have been fired or resigned following the scandal. Fifteen officers were placed on leave pending an investigation.
“I’ve been prosecuting police for 39 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Swaine’s attorney, Jerry Steering, of Newport Beach. “It never ceases to amaze me that often the very people trusted by our citizens to protect us from dangerous criminals are more dangerous than the criminals themselves.”
Two former Torrance officers, Cody Weldin and Christopher Tomsic, were charged with criminal conspiracy and vandalism in the swastika incident. They are due in Los Angeles County Superior Court on March 29 and are awaiting a preliminary hearing.
Swaine’s car was impounded, and he and two others were arrested in the early hours of January 27, 2020, on suspicion of stealing mail from an apartment building. No charges were filed against Swaine.
At the time of his arrest, Swaine was with Torrance resident Robert Boman, an alleged member of a Southern California white supremacist group facing federal charges for violent attacks on local political rallies.
Boman, an alleged member of the Rise Above Movement, is accused of attacking people at rallies in Huntington Beach and Berkeley.
Steering said Swaine, who is half Jewish, only met Boman as a co-worker at a South Bay restaurant. He said Swaine was not affiliated with the Rise Above Movement.
Before officers took Swaine and the other two to jail, they congratulated Boman on his political views and actions on behalf of the white supremacist cause, Steering said.
Upon his release from prison, Swaine picked up his car from the tow yard and found the swastika painted on the back seat and a smiley face painted on another part of the car. Breakfast cereals and a protein powder were tossed into the vehicle.
According to a police affidavit, the tow yard paid $2,750 to repair the damage. But tow truck driver Christopher Dunn later told police interrogators that he witnessed Tomsic spray painting the exterior of the car. Dunn also received a text message from Weldin apologizing for the damage, according to court documents.
Messages found on police cell phones led to the discovery of other police officers involved in racist and homophobic texts.
Steering claimed that Torrance police and city officials were aware of the officers’ alleged vandalism long before it was publicly disclosed.
“While most police officers are well-meaning people, none of them will rat out their fellow officers; none of them,” she said. “That is apparently what happened at the Torrance PD.”
Steering added: “The Torrance Police Department… has hidden from Kiley Swaine the fact that Tomsic and Weldin, the Torrance police officers, were the people who vandalized her car, and for that, they should be ashamed.”
Torrance’s city attorney, chief of police, mayor and interim mayor did not return requests for comment.
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