A Los Angeles Police Department officer has been caught on camera allegedly planting cocaine on a suspect. As CBS Los Angeles shares, body camera footage presented in court during a hearing on Thursday appears to show an officer putting cocaine in a suspect's wallet when he was arrested after a hit-and-run accident.
Fifty-two-year-old Ronald Shields was arrested and charged with a hit-and-run vehicle collision, having a gun in his trunk and possession of cocaine. In the arrest report, officer Samuel Lee says the cocaine was found in Shields’ left front pocket. He also corroborated that report in his court testimony. The arrest video, however, seems to tell a different story.
In the video, Lee is seen searching the suspect. Another officer, identified as Gaxiola, then picks up Shields’ wallet from the street and appears to put a small bag with white powder in it (which later tested positive for cocaine).
After putting the bag in the wallet, the audio turns on, which means that the officer manually turned on his camera to record. As Vox points out, the officer must not have realized that when you activate a body camera, it "automatically records and saves the past 30 seconds" without audio.
As previously mentioned, Lee testified that the cocaine came from Shields' left pocket, but Gaxiola has yet to testify. Defense attorney Steve Levine asserts the drugs were planted by the officers, who had no idea that the camera was recording.
“There’s a little white square here in his hand. I believe the video shows the drugs were in his right hand and transfers to his left hand," said Levine. Lee reportedly explained that the bag of drugs fell out of Shields’ pocket.
The LAPD is investigating the incident.
“The LAPD takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and, as in all cases, will conduct a thorough investigation,” it said in a statement.