Exposure of LBPD Corruption Frees Man Serving 40-Year Prison Sentence

By: 
Stephen Downing

On Sept. 26, 2019 the Beachcomber reported the story of Christopher Williams’ inexplicable experience with the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD), the Citizen’s Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) and the city attorney’s office. It concerned a 35-year-old African American city bus driver who suffered a broken arm at the hands of the LBPD and subsequently filed a complaint alleging excessive force, unlawful detention/false arrest and conspiracy to cover-up.

The article exposed how City Hall’s so-called “separate and independent” internal complaint investigation process amounted to nothing more than a deceitful public relations ruse perpetrated upon the community.

The story also explained why the Beachcomber filed a lawsuit to compel production of the investigative records surrounding Williams’ complaint following City Attorney Charles Parkin’s contrived decision to refuse release of the internal investigative records as required by Senate Bill 1421.

Fifteen months later – in a Part One story titled “City Settles Beachcomber Lawsuit” – this newspaper published an in-depth audit of the CPCC investigation which exposed gross investigative incompetence, a failure to provide photos for identification, locate and interview independent witnesses, an arbitrary and unsupported assignment of Williams’ use of force allegations against Officer Dedier Reyes (a Hispanic) to Officer Ernest (a Caucasian) and the corrupt concealment from CPCC commissioners of corroborating statements from medical personnel who treated Williams.

A Part Two article – entitled “Lawsuit Exposes LBPD Internal Affairs Corruption” – published on Feb. 11, 2021 – exposed collusion between the city attorney’s office and the LBPD’s Internal Affairs Division to conceal documents required by the settlement, the gross failures of the Internal Affairs investigation, an arbitrary, unsupported change in investigative focus against the accused officer, the incompetence of the LBPD’s review systems and a cover-up engineered by the IAD investigator.

On Dec. 4, 2021 the Beachcomber published a story entitled “Two LBPD Officers Arrested, Criminally Charged in which it was reported that Officer Dedier Reyes, a 16-year veteran, and David Salcedo, a 5-year veteran, (both involved in the Christopher Williams lawsuit) were charged with crimes including perjury, filing a false police report and filing a false government report.

The exposures made in the foregoing article led to the discovery that LBPD Commander Darren Lance covered up the production of key documents in the Williams lawsuit and later filed a false declaration with the federal courts for which he was subsequently sanctioned by U.S. Federal Judge Otis Wright who – as reported by the Beachcomber – wrote in his decision: that “The city’s fact-barren declaration (written by IA Commander Lance) fails to persuade the court that the city’s prior search was conducted reasonably and diligently.

The judge continued: “Moreover, a system that omits returns from its searches when those returns have been escalated to a higher level of importance is not a system that is reasonably maintained in the first place, so conducting a single search of that system and calling it enough is unreasonable.”

Judge Wright concluded: “Williams makes a sufficient showing of defendants’ “culpable state of mind” to justify an adverse inference instruction as a discovery sanction.”

The LBPD subsequently issued a press release attributing the issue to faulty document systems that department experts corrected.

Following that press release the Beachcomber filed a Public Records Act (PRA) request asking for documents related to the “document system correction” and was subsequently informed by the LBPD “there are no responsive documents.”

Disclosures Provide Cause for Writ

Because of the disclosures detailed in the above listed stories, evidence gathered by the Beachcomber and the exposure of the criminal offense of falsifying police reports by LBPD Officer Dieder Reyes, Long Beach criminal attorney, Matthew Kaestner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on May 4, 2022 asking for the release of Miguel Vargas.

The details of the writ filed were reported in a Beachcomber article titled: Release of Imprisoned Man Sought, which outlined the fact that Miguel Vargas was shot four times in the back by Long Beach Police Officer Dedier Reyes in 2010 and “despite being shot in the back Vargas was nonetheless convicted of assaulting Reyes who claimed he fired into the man’s back in self-defense” and that “Vargas’ conviction was based almost entirely on the jury’s belief that Reyes provided honest testimony.”

Vargas was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Vargas Released

On July 28, 2022 Long Beach Superior Court Judge Chet Taylor recalled the 40-year sentence and vacated an assault on a peace officer conviction, according to Kaestner.

Kaestner said, “Rather than outright oppose Vargas’ petition to reverse the assault conviction, the L. A. District Attorney filed a motion to “re-sentence” Vargas’ on a related weapon’s conviction and “vacate” the assault conviction.”

The attorney continued: “This maneuver avoided litigating the more complicated habeas corpus petition while giving Vargas the relief he sought.”

Although Vargas had served nearly 12 years of the 40-year sentence, he was re-sentenced on July 28 to a six-year term and will be released from prison in days, according to Kaestner, who said that Vargas agreed to abide by the terms of one year of post release community supervision.

Kaestner said that the district attorney issued a press release minutes after the hearing and “seemed to suggest that the re-sentencing occurred as part of their review cases that involved Officer Reyes, rather than credit Vargas and his family for seeking legal counsel to press the habeas corpus petition.”

He continued, saying, “In fact, when Vargas’ original trial attorney, Eber Bayona, contacted the district attorney’s office after they notified him of Officer Reyes’ prosecution, they offered no redress or relief to Vargas.”

Kaestner suggested that other victims of Officer Reyes’ misconduct would need to be proactive in seeking relief from wrongful convictions.

The attorney reported that Vargas’ family was present at the hearing while Vargas appeared by video from the state prison.

He said, “For the first time in a long time, Miguel Vargas and his family can breathe a sigh of relief knowing Miguel will soon be home.”

The Beat Goes On

The Beachcomber lawsuit was settled, and the city was required to pay $30,000 in attorney fees.

The Williams lawsuit was settled, and the city paid $499,800.

Commander Darren Lance was transferred from Internal Affairs to the port.

The LBPD has denied the need for reform to their Internal Affairs investigations or disciplinary systems.

On Aug. 9 the City Council voted 9-0 to place a proposed amendment on the November ballot aimed at “improving civilian oversight of the LBPD” after a motion for further study made by councilmember Al Austin failed 3-6 with Mungo and Supernaw supporting Austin’s motion.

The Beachcomber has published two articles on the subject, one entitled CPCC Authority Gutted by Proposed Charter Amendment and the other titled: City Manager Misleads CPCC Charter Amendment Committee.

 

Stephen Downing is a Long Beach resident and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.
stephen.beachomber@gmail.com

 

 

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Comments

The LBPD and the LBC has been and is still one of the most corrupt and incompetent criminal organizations in the USA. XCOP Luna should have been fired or put in jail just like X-Sheriff Lee Baca and not allowed to retire. Why is corrupt Commander Darren Lance transferred from Internal Affairs to the port and not fired or prosecuted? SMH

Long Beach Police officers corruption is protected by the city attorney, POA, prior cop Luna, current chief Hebish, and Internal Affairs. City counsel is either oblivious or chooses to ignore the corrupt behavior of the police department. Both citizens and visitors to the city of Long Beach often suffer the egregious behavior of the police department. Commander Lance is being moved from the harbor to the jail division in charge of the jailers. He can teach how to lie, conceal information in investigations. His behavior was recognized in a federal case where officers beat a man and lied about it. The judge and the attorney for the victim recognized the lies this resulted in the city of Ling Beach being sanctioned in federal court and the victim winning his lawsuit.

These incidents provide all the evidence voters need to reject the City's attempt to amend the powers given to the CPCC in 1989. While its not as strong as it could be, the current law beats the hell out of the proposed changes. Any suggestion that the new ordinance will improve civilian oversight is plain and simple a fraud.

As a Victim of The LBPD and The CPCC, it should obvious to the Public by now that Old/Current CPCC isn't working well and the New One won't either. I attended the last CPCC Special Hearing and it seemed that All current City Councilpersons did not have full understanding of the Proposed Plan either. What I'm going through in My Lawsuits has taken years and is very very costly. The amount of deemed "Unfounded" Status in CPCC Cases staggering. We will see what happens

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