At Least 85 Criminal Cases Dismissed After Dozens of Cops Swapped Homophobic, Racist Texts

At least 85 criminal cases have been thrown out, with potentially hundreds more in jeopardy amidst an investigation into racist, anti-semitic and homophobic text messages sent by at least 12 current and former police officers of the Torrance, California police department.

The messages between the officers date back several years and could jeopardize cases if it's determined the officers' alleged biases against Black people, other minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community influenced their treatment of certain cases and suspects, according to an investigation conducted by The Los Angeles Times.

The messages reviewed by The Times contained frequent threats and jokes about racial profiling and police brutality, including police shooting and killing Black men and lying to investigators about shootings, along with several derogatory slurs and uses of the n-word.

In total, the officers being investigated were found by the Times to have been listed as witnesses in approximately 1,400 cases over the last decade.

Hours after the publication of the Times investigation, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced an independent investigation into the conduct of the officers and the police department as a whole.

"The review comes amidst deeply concerning allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct," Bonta's office said in a news release.

The investigation was initiated after two former officers, Cody Weldin and Christopher Tomsic, responded to a Jan. 2020 call that ended with a car being towed from the scene, and the officers allegedly spray-painted a swastika and "happy face" inside the car.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón's office investigated the vandalism charges and began requesting messages sent by the officers, which led to the discovery of the other officers in the department that sent similar texts.

California, Torrance Police, Discrimination
California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks at a news conference on Aug. 17, 2021, in Sacramento, Calif. Hundreds of Southern California criminal cases could be jeopardized by more than a dozen police officers who exchanged racist and homophobic text messages. "The review comes amidst deeply concerning allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct," Bonta's office said in a news release. Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press File

The messages have already led to the dismissal of at least 85 criminal cases, the Times found, though none of the officers currently face criminal charges in connection with the texts.

The Times' story included interviews with sources with direct knowledge of the investigation into the officers and the text messages, as well as public records requests and an examination of district attorney's office records. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation.

The officers named in the Times' story either declined to comment through their attorneys or did not respond to the newspaper's messages.

The state investigation was requested by the Torrance police chief.

"I am committed to accountability, and I will not tolerate any form of bigotry, racism, hate, or misconduct," Chief Jay Hart said in the release.

The officers identified by the newspaper have been involved in at least seven serious use-of-force incidents in Torrance and Long Beach since 2013, including three where Black and Latino men were killed. The officers' actions were found to be justified in each case.

Several of the officers are also defendants in lawsuits, the Times reported, alleging excessive force, false arrest and wrongful death. The plaintiffs in some of the suits are members of the ethnic groups mentioned in the text messages.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Torrance, California, Police Discrimination
Police investigate the scene of a shooting that left three men dead and four injured at Gable House Bowl on January 5, 2019 in Torrance, California. A Los Angeles Times investigation into racist and homophobic text messages sent by at least a dozen current and former officers in the Torrance Police Department have already led to the dismissal of at least 85 criminal cases, with potentially hundreds of others in jeopardy. Mario Tama/Getty Images