A 24-year-old father is suing Los Angeles police officers for allegedly framing him for murder and paying a homeless pair $10,000 to falsely testify against him at trial, according to a lawsuit.
Roy Galvan, who was acquitted by a jury, spent 13 months in county jail awaiting trial in the 2011 murder of a reputed gang member in South Los Angeles. Filed Jan. 22 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Galvan’s lawsuit seeks unspecific damages.
It accuses LAPD Officers Miguel Terrazas, David Nunn and Richard Arciniega of destroying evidence in the case, falsifying reports and bribing witnesses for statements, false arrest and malicious prosecution, among other claims of misconduct and civil rights violations.
NBC4 Southern California reached out to LAPD, but the department said it does not comment on pending litigation.
Documents: Read the Complaint
Officers accused in the lawsuit were tasked with investigating the unsolved killing of Joey Gutierrez, a member of the Hang Out Boys gang, on Jan. 28, 2011, near Main Street and 43rd Place.
Witness Ernesto Jurado, who lived nearby and saw the shooting from his second-story window, told the officers he saw the assailant run alongside the building, fire shots and run away, according to the complaint.
Jurado also said he saw two bicycles in the courtyard immediately before the shooting that had not been there before. The bikes were taken and booked into evidence the next day but later destroyed before DNA and fingerprints could be taken from them, the complaint alleges.
The lawsuit describes botched evidence gathering in which multiple and different caliber bullet casings were collected from the scene but not marked as to where they were found, and allegedly handled without gloves.
None of the casings matched the bullet found in the victim, which the complaint alleges officers did not run any ballistics examinations on to determine who owned the gun used to kill Gutierrez.
Though he had never been tied to any gang activity, Galvan was arrested in connection with the slaying on March 1, 2011.
He told police he had been at home taking care of his toddler daughter at the time of the shooting. And, “more importantly,” was recovering after rupturing his Achilles tendon a month before Gutierrez’s killing, according to the complaint.
Witness Jurado had told police the assailant ran from the scene with “no physical defect in his stride,” something Galvan’s lawyer said was impossible for his client to have done.
When he was taken into custody, Galvan had not yet started physical therapy and was still on crutches, unable to “even stand on the foot, let alone walk or run,” he claims.
“The lack of evidence, the alibi and (Galvan’s) physical condition presented a severe blow the Defendant’s desire to pin the murder on (Galvan),” according to the complaint.
To support Galvan’s arrest, the complaint alleges, Terrazas falsified his police report to include that Jurado called him back on Feb. 14, 2011, to tell him “that he had completely forgotten to mention that the shooter had run off ‘with a limp.’”
Jurado’s phone records show that call was never made, according to the complaint.
Galvan claims the officers who took him to trial strong-armed, bribed and refused to investigate “several” potential witnesses, including two homeless people – Mark Loving and Syrella Carpenter, who had paranoid schizophrenia – living in a tent near the shooting scene.
"Terrazas and Nunn would repeatedly harass these two, physically abusing and sometimes handcuffing them. Defendants began threatening them, dragging them out of their tent, throwing them up against a wall asking them what they knew about the shooting.
“They took Loving to the police station on at least three occasions but only documented one of these times. In this interview, according to defendant Terrazas, these two 'witnesses' told him that plaintiff had approached them saying that he knew who had shot the victim and quoted the witnesses as quoting plaintiff saying, 'We got him,'" according to the complaint.
Galvan’s attorney, Hermez Moreno, said two check requests totaling almost $10,000 in city money to be paid to the homeless men for their statements were submitted into evidence during Galvan’s murder trial.
Two other witnesses were promised immunity from deportation in exchange for false statements, the complaint alleges.
Witness Jurado told investigators that the assailant looked like a man, later identified as Inocente Hernandez, who was involved in a car crash at the same intersection a few days after the shooting. The complaint alleges that Terraza “refused to investigate” this detail and left out of his report that he knew of Hernandez.
Jurado also said one of the people he saw near the scene looked like an associate of a locally known gang member with the moniker “Flaco,” according to the lawsuit.
Nine months after the shooting, a second witness who had been arrested on an unrelated matter also named Flaco in the killing, saying he had heard the reputed gang member confess to “being in a shootout with Gutierrez … and expressed concern about having left two bicycles behind at the scene.”
The lawsuit claims the defendant officers were aware of this second witness statement, but never interviewed Flaco.
A father of a 5-year-old daughter and an infant son, Galvan is seeking unspecific damages.