Former Calif. Officer's Lawsuit Claims Cover-Up

SAN DIEGO

 

The Oceanside Police Department is facing questions regarding an incident involving a police sergeant's drinking, claims of a cover-up and a mystery tape.

 

On an August night in 2009, an Oceanside man named Tim said he was playing basketball with his kids at his home on Masters Drive when he saw a Toyota Camry drive by.

"He drove by once, took a big swig of beer, turned around and came back again ? took another swig as he passed the house, then he tossed the beer out. It was scary. There were kids playing in the street," said Tim.

Tim said he took down the license plate and called police.

Oceanside police Officer Gilbert Garcia, a 7-year veteran, responded and eventually ended up at the home of the car's owner -- off-duty Oceanside police Sgt. David Larson.

Per Garcia's routine, he had a recorder with him and recorded the conversation with Larson.

"The off-duty sergeant admitted that he was the person spotted throwing a beer can and that he ad been drinking," said Dan Gilleon, Garcia's attorney.

Garcia said he was ordered off the scene by a superior, who took over the case.

No arrest was ever made.

As for the recording, Gilleon said police officials did not want it to get out.

"Officer Garcia was ordered by a superior to destroy the evidence and he was told it came from high up. He [Garcia] said no," said Gilleon.

Weeks later, Garcia claims he was fired after he said a minor complaint of cursing against him suddenly turned into a sexual harassment probe.

Gilleon said it was clear retaliation, and a wrongful termination lawsuit was filed on Monday.

"They tried to save themselves from embarrassment the first night and had to act again to save themselves from more embarrassment," Gilleon told 10News.

"If there's a tape, why not produce it?" asked 10News reporter Michael Chen.

"We're saving it for trial," Gilleon replied.

In previous published reports, Oceanside police have denied a cover-up and said investigators acted appropriately. Police also noted Tim never signed a citizen's arrest form.

Tim told 10News he didn't sign a form because he was assured it was not necessary.

"Even without the citizen's arrest form, they had all they needed -- an admission on tape," said Gilleon, who added he passed the tape on to the Oceanside City Attorney's Office.

10News' calls to an Oceanside Police Department representative were not returned.

It's not known if Larson, who was on medical leave at the time of the incident, was disciplined.

The Oceanside City Attorney's Office, representing the police department, said they have not been served yet with the suit and declined to comment further.

 

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