2 then-Torrance policemen accused of spray painting swastika

Two former Torrance police officers accused of spray painting a swastika on a vehicle used by suspects last year while still on the force face felony charges, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said on Thursday, Aug. 19.

Further, in recent weeks evidence has surfaced that 13 current officers sent anti-Semitic or homophobic messages between themselves and have been placed on paid administrative leave, Torrance Police Chief Jeremiah Hart said.

The two ex-officers, Christopher Tomsic and Cody Weldin, pleaded not guilty to one felony count each of conspiracy to commit vandalism and vandalism on Thursday.

They were fired in March 2020 after the allegations of misconduct were made, Hart said during a downtown Los Angeles press conference, the first time any of the allegations had been disclosed to the public.

The Police Department presented the vandalism case to the District Attorney’s Office a month later, with the recommendation that criminal charges be filed.

“I will aggressively pursue any form of racism, bigotry, hate or misconduct at the Torrance Police Department,” Hart said.

The case did not yet have hate-crime allegations tied to it, but Gascón said that was not off of the table and the potential for that to happen later was high.

“When I looked at the initial vandalism, it raised a lot of concerns for me for the potential for hate,” he added.

Several weeks ago, the Police Department expanded the administrative investigation and found evidence of anti-Semitic and homophobic messages between the 13 current patrol officers, the police chief said, without elaborating on how those messages were disseminated.

“What we are looking at today is nothing even close to what can be minimized as locker room talk,” Hart said. “We’re talking about an investigation that is about hatred and racism.”

Gascon said his office has notified the Torrance City Attorney’s Office about reviewing possible misdemeanor cases against the 13 officers.

Investigators were working to determine if those messages were related to the incident with Tomsic and Weldin, Chief Hart said.

Tomsic, 29, and Weldin, 28, were accused of vandalizing the vehicle in January 2020 while on a call about three men suspected of stealing mail from an apartment building, officials said during the press conference. The officers were led to a 2004 Hyundai Elantra believed to be used in the crime and it was taken to a tow yard.

When the vehicle’s owner came to pick the vehicle up, officials said, he found a happy face spray painted on the front passenger seat and a swastika on the back seat, officials said, with items in the vehicle strewn about.

The owner called police to report the vandalism.

Authorities declined to say what proof they have against the two former officers.

Prosecutors will comb through hundreds of criminal cases the two former and 13 current officers were involved in, checking for the credibility of those investigations, Gascón said. The review may keep some cases from moving forward.

“If the prosecution case rested on the information that was provided by the officers, which is now tainted, that could impact the ability of the case either to move forward — or (it might need) to be reviewed again and reevaluated,” Gascón said.

Ongoing cases, especially with suspects still in custody, will be looked at first, he said. After that, other cases, including those that are closed, will be reviewed, the district attorney said.

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