'Misdirection from the truth'
Pasadena Officers Okamoto, Gomez, Broghamer cleared in most complaints of wrongdoing
Months-long investigations by the Pasadena Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department of three local officers concluded that an officer made an inappropriate comment and that an officer failed to submit evidence in a timely fashion prior to the start of a trial.
A vaguely worded two-page press release regarding the dual investigations into allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the three officers is misleading, confusing to the average reader and loaded with legal and police jargon. It does not list the names of the officers involved, just as it fails to delineate the number of officers being investigated for a given complaint. Nor does it cite specific cases in which the officers were accused of wrongdoing.
Instead, the document states only that by Aug. 19, the Sheriff’s Department had completed seven of eight investigations, and that Pasadena police conducted administrative reviews to determine that one of those complaints — one in which an officer allegedly failed to submit discovery material to defense attorneys before an unidentified trial — did not violate the so-called Brady rule, which requires the disclosure of evidence deemed to be exculpatory. However, a Pasadena police administrative review of the same complaint found that there was a delay in the submission of evidence, a violation of department policy.
Except for a case in which it was alleged an unnamed officer had made an unspecified threat, in which the investigation is ongoing, the Sheriff’s Department exonerated the officers or found that the allegations were either “not sustained” or “unfounded.”
Of three separate complaints investigated by Pasadena police, only one — that an officer made an unspecified “inappropriate comment” — was “sustained.” One of the complaints alleged submission of a misleading police report, which was deemed “unfounded,” and the other “exonerated” an officer for allegedly recording a jailhouse interview inappropriately.
Although their names are not on the document, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said the officers involved in the two probes were Detective Keith Gomez and Officers Kevin Okamoto and William Broghamer. However, Sanchez told the Pasadena Weekly that both the City Attorney’s Office and the Pasadena Police Officers Association prohibited him from discussing which allegations each man faced.
“Transparency has not been a part of protocol,” said former NAACP President Joe Brown, who helped lead the call for the department to investigate the complaints filed against the three officers. While praising Sanchez for calling on the Sheriff’s Department to help with the investigations, Brown criticized the chief for not releasing more details about the complaints.
“I don’t know if it is under lock and key or if there was an agreement with the Police Protective League that it would be censored, but this is outside of the norm based on past practices,” Brown said of the statement issued by the department.
Sanchez called the accusations, most of which were filed by defense attorney Michael Kraut, a “misdirection from the truth” and an attempt to erode the public’s trust in the department. Sanchez declined to say what, if any, punishment the officers involved in the withholding of evidence and making an “inappropriate comment” would face.
The complaints, Sanchez told the Weekly, were “a tactic to erode the public trust and to malign our officers who go out every day with dedication and courage to protect the people of Pasadena.”
The complaints centered around four separate incidents. Most were brought forward last year by Kraut, a Los Angeles attorney who helped uncover the Rampart scandal involving corrupt officers in the Los Angeles Police Department.
“I did not expect [the Pasadena investigation] to go very far,” Kraut said of the twin probes into his complaints. “Every time I bought up an issue, they said, ‘We are not dealing with that.’ I am not sure how they can give an accurate account when they refused to listen to facts and interview witnesses. When you do it that way, you are presupposing what the outcome is going to be.”
Kraut represents Edward Damas and Jeremi Carr, two men he claims were mistreated by Okamoto, Broghamer and Gomez.
Damas was accused of assaulting and striking Philip Amaro, a deejay at the bar in the rear of Wokcano restaurant in Old Pasadena, where Damas worked as a bouncer. Amaro suffered a shattered jaw, loss of hearing in one ear and paralysis on the right side of his face in the altercation.
Okamoto was placed on leave after it was discovered that he had failed to provide attorneys with audiotapes of interviews with two eyewitnesses whose versions of events may have helped the defense. One witness said that she did not see Damas punch the victim. Okamoto was also accused by Kraut of recording a conversation between Damas and Kraut while Damas was in police custody.
In the case of his other client, Gomez, Broghamer and Okamoto were accused of kidnapping Carr and taking him to the police station against his will. There, Kraut claims, Carr was roughed up by officers who wanted him to make false statements regarding the Shawn Baptiste murder investigation. Baptiste was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in 2007.
Broghamer was moved to desk duty after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler on Feb. 7 declared a mistrial in the Baptiste murder case. Fidler called Broghamer’s actions “egregious.” Fidler ruled that Broghamer had failed to turn over exculpatory evidence in the case and had threatened Carr.
According to testimony in another unrelated case in Los Angeles Superior Court, a woman, whose name was not released due to concerns for her safety, said Broghamer placed his gun on the table of an interrogation room and instructed her to recant an earlier statement in the case. And the witness later changed her testimony in that case. Broghamer is still being investigated by the Sheriff’s Department for allegedly threatening that witness.
In another case, Jamaul Harvey, 28, claimed he was set up by Gomez to take the fall in 2007 for the murder of Tommie Evans of Pasadena. Harvey told the Weekly that Gomez showed up at his home without a search warrant. Harvey said he let Gomez in, and, as the officer walked into his home in Monrovia, Gomez allegedly pulled out his weapon and told Harvey, “I could kill you right now.” Harvey spent three years in jail fighting the case and was later exonerated. One alternate juror in that case signed a statement claiming Gomez had made up testimony in an attempt to hang the murder on Harvey.
Gomez has been accused of being a rogue cop by people living in Northwest Pasadena since 2004, when he shot and killed Maurice Clark. Clark shot at police from a carport on Mentone Avenue while attempting to flee. The department, the DA’s office and the FBI investigated that incident and cleared Gomez of any wrongdoing. A related lawsuit filed by Clark’s estate was dismissed.
Ten days after the Clark shooting, Gomez was there when LaMont Robinson slipped into a coma following an altercation with Pasadena officers. Police used an arm hold Robinson’s neck in an effort to stop him from swallowing what they believed to be cocaine. The FBI also investigated that incident and cleared Gomez. In 2009, Pasadena settled out of court with a youth who alleged he and his friends were victims of police brutality. Gomez was among the six officers named in the federal lawsuit.
Councilwoman Jacque Robinson, chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said that the committee will continue to hold the department accountable.
“The Public Safety Committee will continue to hold our chief and Pasadena Police Department employees to the highest standards of professionalism,” Robinson said. “Any sustained infraction of employee misconduct violates the public’s trust.”
“I think it is time for some of our local stakeholders to attend some of these Public Safety Committee meetings,” Brown said. “I think it is time for some of the local residents to share their concerns with Chief Sanchez. He will listen.”