Family of Slain LAPD Police Officer Speaks

LAPD Officer Kevin Gaines (left) and Detective Frank Lyga (right).

LAPD Officer Kevin Gaines (left) and Detective Frank Lyga (right).

Following the release of the memo to Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger about Lygagate,  LAPD Officer Kevin Gaines’ brother-in-law spoke with me today about the latest developments in Lygagate.  He spoke with me under the condition that his name not be used.

“I think that they [LAPD] should re-pen the case with the new evidence showing that there was a cover up in 1997.  Kevin wasn’t a road rage dude like that.  He was a family man.  I hung out with Kevin and I’ve never seen him get angry like that. All of this [Lygagate] has brought up this whole situation again for the family and we’ve got to relive it all over again until we can get to the bottom of it.  Chief Beck, the LAPD, FBI, and Police Commission need to re-open case.”

On March 18, 1997, undercover LAPD officer Frank Lyga shot and killed off-duty LAPD officer Kevin Gaines in what Lyga described as a road rage incident. Controversy ensued because both Gaines’ family and friends never believed Lyga’s account of the incident.

Lyga said that Gaines threatened him with a gun and that he responded in self-defense.  He told PBS’s Frontline, “In my training experience this guy had ‘I’m a gang member’ written all over him.”

The LAPD would later determine that Gaines’ worked for Death Row Records owner Suge Knight, a fact that his friends and family still dispute and say was a smear campaign on the department’s part to help clear Lyga in the shooting.

Lyga, who had been reassigned to desk duty while the department reviewed the circumstances of the shooting, including whether his actions had been racially motivated, was ultimately exonerated a year later by then Chief Bernard Parks. Three separate internal investigations determined that the shooting was “in policy.”

After the shooting, the Gaines family, represented by attorney Johnnie Cochran, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles for $25 million. The city later settled the suit for $250,000.

In recounting the LAPD’s investigation into the shooting and the lawsuit, Lyga,  speaking before a room of 37 law enforcement personnel at the Police Academy, recalled a confrontation he had with attorney Carl Douglas, who helped represent Gaines’ family.

Douglas, Lyga said, asked him if he regretted shooting Gaines.

Lyga said he replied, “I said, no. I regret he was alone in the truck at the time. I could have killed a whole truckload of them and I would have been happily doing it—doing so.”

At the time of the shooting Lyga said that he didn’t know who Gaines was and that he had never met him before.

However, in the audio, Lyga recalls an earlier encounter he had with a former trainee who happened to have Kevin Gaines in the car with him. Completely contradicting his earlier account of the 1997 incident.

On KJLH-FM’s Front Page show Thursday, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said that no decision had been made as to whether or not the killing of police officer Kevin Gaines should be re-opened and investigated.

The Court of Public Opinion