Kevin Gaines (police officer)
|Kevin Lee Gaines|
February 6, 1966|
- Los Angeles, California, USA
|Died||March 18, 1997
- Studio City, California, USA
|Department||Los Angeles Police Department|
|Years of service||1990 - 1997|
|Rank||Sworn in as an Officer - 1990|
Kevin Lee Gaines (February 6, 1966 – March 18, 1997) was an officer assigned to the infamous Los Angeles Police Department Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums unit implicated in the Rampart Scandal.
Gaines had ties to Death Row Records, the Bloods, and dated Suge Knight's ex-wife. He was shot and killed on March 18, 1997, by undercover LAPD officer Frank Lyga, who was determined to be acting in self-defense. At the time of his death, Gaines was 31 and a seven-year veteran of the force.
The shooting of a black officer by a white officer fueled racial tensions and prompted a media frenzy. The Gaines family hired celebrity lawyer Johnnie Cochran to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles for $25,000,000. After the city exonerated Officer Lyga, they settled for $250,000.
The investigation into Gaines's behavior provided the first clues to the widespread police corruption of the Rampart Scandal.
First evidence of corruption
Evidence of Gaines's corrupt behavior first surfaced in the summer of 1996. Police responded to a 911 call reporting a shooting at a Hollywood Hills mansion. Gaines, off duty, showed up at the scene and is alleged to have initiated an altercation with the responding officers. The officers handcuffed Gaines when he became verbally abusive and provocative. According to police records, Gaines shouted profanities and stated, "I hate fucking cops."
Gaines claimed he was mistreated by the police and hired an attorney to file a claim against the city. However, when LAPD Internal Affairs investigated the incident, they discovered the 911 call had actually been made by Gaines himself. Investigating officer Russell Poole, who later became deeply involved in investigating the Rampart Scandal, claimed that "the evidence suggests that he did that to engage LAPD in a confrontation and basically wanted to secure a pension or whatever by filing a lawsuit."
Further evidence of corruption
Robbery-homicide detective Poole was assigned to investigate the Lyga-Gaines shooting, and uncovered disturbing information about Gaines' off-duty behavior. Poole discovered that the green Mitsubishi Montero SUV Gaines was driving the night of his death was registered to Sharitha Knight. Poole soon discovered that Gaines and Knight were romantically involved and living together when he was shot.
Poole's investigation revealed that Gaines's lifestyle went far beyond the means of a $55,000 a year LAPD cop. Gaines drove a Mercedes and wore designer suits. Detectives found nine credit cards among Gaines's belongings, as well as a receipt for a $952 restaurant tab. The restaurant tab was for Monty's Steakhouse, a Westwood hangout for members of Death Row Records.
Investigators later pieced together that Gaines and other convicted Rampart officers, such as David Mack and Rafael Pérez, earned high salaries working off-duty as security for Death Row Records. Death Row Records was under investigation by the FBI since 1993 for its strong ties to Compton's Mob Piru Bloods gang.
In March 2003, former LAPD officer Brian S. Bentley wrote an article for StreetGangs.com in which he claimed Detective Poole and the LAPD deliberately covered up the true circumstances of Kevin Gaines's death. Bentley alleges that Detective Lyga had a history of being over-aggressive with African American suspects, and hailed from the same West Los Angeles police station that produced Mark Fuhrman, a station that Bentley believes to be racist. Bentley claims that Lyga was overheard bragging in the lobby of this police station that Internal Affairs had told him they would do everything possible to defame Officer Gaines to clear Lyga of wrongdoing.
Bentley, an African American, published a "tell-all" book entitled Honor Without Integrity in 2004, which details how he engaged in much of the same behavior both on and off-duty as the convicted Rampart Cops, during his own tenure with the LAPD.