On Thursday, two former officers from the Torrance Police Department were charged with vandalism and conspiracy to commit vandalism for allegedly spray painting a swastika on a vehicle they were in charge of impounding.
According to CNN, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón and Torrance Police Chief Jeremiah Hart held a joint press conference to announce the charges. Both officers left the department in 2020.
On January 27, 2020, Tomsic and Weldin were allegedly among a group of officers responding to a police call regarding stolen mail, the DA’s office said. The former officers were led to a vehicle and allegedly ordered for it to be impounded to a tow yard, according to the D.A.’s office. When the owner of the vehicle arrived to pick up the car, he found a happy face spray-painted on the front passenger seat, a swastika symbol spray-painted on the rear seat, and other items strewn throughout the vehicle, the statement said.
Police Chief Hart also revealed that 13 other officers from the department were suspended after the investigation into former officers Christopher Tomsic and Cody Weldin, according to CNN. D.A. Gascón said the suspended officers were “exchanging racist, discriminatory, homophobic and anti-Semitic messages.”
“Let me be clear, I will aggressively pursue any form of racism, bigotry, hate or misconduct at the Torrance Police Department,” said Hart, according to CBS News. The D.A. is considering whether the vandalism can be considered hate crimes. The district attorney’s office is also planning to review hundreds of cases involving the two former officers to determine if there was any more misconduct.
As reported by CNN, “We have seen an increase in hate crimes, not only in our own home town but around the country. And it’s unacceptable,” Gascón said, “But it becomes doubly unacceptable when we have the people that are sworn to protect all of us who engage in this behavior.”