Three LAPD officers are charged with falsifying information and misidentifying people as gang members. The L.A. County District Attorney’s office is now reviewing pending cases involving those officers, as well as past cases, too, the Los Angeles Times reports.
According to a news release from the DA’s office, Braxton Shaw, Michael Coblentz and Nicolas Martinez each face one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and several counts of filing a false police report and preparing false documentary evidence.
The officers were assigned to the LAPD’s Metro Division at the time, and are accused of writing false information on the cards officers use when conducting interviews. Prosecutors allege the officers would misidentify people as gang members, occasionally writing that interview subjects claimed to be in a gang, while conflicting body camera footage of the interview showed the officers never asked or that the person said no.
Prosecutors say the cards were later used to put people who weren’t affiliated with gangs into a statewide database. The state has since removed access to LAPD data from the database, and the LAPD no longer uses it.
The charges stem back to an investigation launched in 2019 after a Van Nuys woman said her son had been identified as a gang member but wasn’t one. After a review found inaccuracies in the officer’s work, her son was removed from the gang database.
Due to these charges, prosecutors must now review hundreds of cases involving the three officers. They’re already looking at pending cases but could also review past cases and convictions, including those in which the defendants took plea deals.
The DA’s office will send letters to about 750 defendants, but District Attorney Jackie Lacey encouraged anyone convicted in a case involving Shaw, Coblentz or Martinez to reach out to her office for more information “so that together we can make a determination as to whether their conviction should stand.”
Shaw is accused of falsifying 43 cards and, if convicted as charged, faces up to 31 years and eight months in jail. Coblentz is accused of falsifying seven cards and faces up to seven years and eight months. Martinez is accused of falsifying two cards and faces up to four years and four months.
Meanwhile, activists, including Black Lives Matter LA, continue to call for Jackie Lacey to be replaced. One key reason advocates cite is that while hundreds of people have been killed by law enforcement in L.A. County since she took office in 2013, Lacey hasn’t prosecuted a single officer or deputy.
Yesterday, Spectrum News 1 reporter Giselle Fernandez shared an interview with Lacey, during which Fernandez asked her about these claims. Lacey said, “no one can claim they’ve done more as a prosecutor” to reform justice than her.