Last Thursday CBS News-LA posted bodycam video that appears to show an LAPD officer plant drugs in a middle aged black man’s wallet. This is the first time that LAPD bodycam footage has ever been seen publicly since the surveillance program began two years ago.
The footage is one of twelve bodycam videos obtained by CBS News worn by police officers responding to an accident last April. Ronald Shields, 52, was arrested for felony hit-and-run and possession of cocaine. An officer in the video is heard repeatedly telling other officers that narcotics were found in the suspects wallet. The incident report stated the drugs were found in the suspect’s front pocket. The video footage tells a different story.
In the video LAPD Officer Gaxiola can be seen picking up a small bag of cocaine off the street and then placing the drugs in the victim’s wallet. It’s after the drugs have been placed in the victim’s wallet that Gaxiola turns on his bodycam. However, what the officer did not realize is that his camera records 30 seconds of footage prior to the camera’s activation. Those 3o seconds before he turned on the camera is when you can see Gaxiola picking up the drugs and planting them in the victim’s wallet.
The defendant’s lawyer believes another bodycam video shows Gaxiola in possession of the drugs even before Gaxiola picked the drugs up off the ground. The lawyer argues the second video shows Gaxiola holding the drugs in his right hand then switching the drugs to his left hand and looking at the ground where presumably Gaxiola plants the drugs.
Last Thursday, a second officer at the incident, Officer Lee, testified in court that the cocaine was found in the suspect’s front pocket, which is what the police report states. Gaxiola hasn’t testified and hasn’t made a public statement but he is heard repeatedly saying in the video footage that the cocaine was found in the suspect’s wallet.
Shields, the suspect, is due back in court in December and his lawyer says he will continue to challenge the evidence in the case. The LAPD has said they have opened an investigation into the incident.