California officers charged with painting swastika on suspect’s car

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Two former Southern California police officers are charged with painting a swastika on a suspect’s vehicle, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said Thursday.

Torrance’s former police officers have been charged with vandalism and conspiracy to commit vandalism, both felonies.
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They pleaded not guilty on Thursday, the Public Prosecution Service said. They were arrested, quoted and released on Thursday, according to sheriff’s detainees’ records.

Prosecutors allege the two vandalized the vehicle, a 2004 Hyundai Elantra, of a postal theft suspect on January 27, 2020.

The officers responded to a report of three men who had stolen mail from an apartment complex and were led to the car they believed to have been used in the crime, the DA said.

The vehicle was taken to a towage service and when the owner picked it up, he found it had been vandalized.

“He discovered that a happy face had been sprayed on the front passenger seat and a swastika symbol on the back seat,” prosecutors said. “There were also other objects scattered throughout the vehicle.”

According to charging documents in the case, the bumper, passenger door mirror, passenger seat and rear seat of the vehicle had been painted.

Torrance Police Sgt. Mark Ponegalek said in the DA’s statement that the two were no longer employed by the department.

“Immediately after learning of the reprehensible charges in 2020, the Torrance Police Department opened a criminal investigation and the officers were sent on leave,” Ponegalek said. “The criminal case was handed over to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in April 2020 with a recommendation to file criminal charges.”

Prosecutor Gascón said in the same statement that he is committed to “eradicating discrimination within the ranks of law enforcement.”

The suspects could face 16 months to three years in prison if convicted.

The Torrance Police Officers’ Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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