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Southern CA city pays $750K after police accused of painting swastika

Posted at 1:45 PM, Mar 20, 2023

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) — The Southern California city of Torrance has paid a man $750,000 after two police officers were accused of spray-painting a swastika inside his car three years ago.

The investigation into that incident led to the discovery of a trove of racist and homophobic text exchanges among police officers in Torrance, home to about 143,000 people south of Los Angeles. The resulting scandal prompted LA County prosecutors to toss dozens of felony cases.

The payout settles a federal lawsuit filed by Kiley Swaine, who discovered the swastika on his car’s back seat after he and two other men were arrested on suspicion of mail theft in Jan. 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. Swaine was later cleared of the mail theft charges.

Two Torrance police officers allegedly spray-painted the swastika, as well as a happy face, on Swain’s car seats before having the vehicle towed away, said Swaine’s attorney, Jerry Steering.

The officers, who have left the force, each pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial on conspiracy and vandalism charges.

An investigation by the Times in 2021 found that officers of the Torrance Police Department traded hateful comments via text messages about people of color, particularly Black people, as well as Jews and members of the LGBTQ community.

Other messages spoke about using violence against suspects and lying to investigators about a police shooting.