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Witness testifies truck never hit LAPD officers

graphic VIDEO
Sonya Flores tells CNN's Charles Feldman about the murders she alleges were committed by ex-LAPD Officer Rafael Perez (Oct. 18)

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This first trial is a test case, according to CNN's Charles Feldman (Oct. 11)

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GRAPHIC The trial of four Los Angeles Police Department officers implicated in the largest corruption scandal in the department's history begins with attacks on informant Rafael Perez.

LAPD Scandal
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graphic LAPD scandal a stark example of the failure of police reform
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LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A woman at the scene the night two Los Angeles police officers claim they were hit by a pickup truck containing two gang members testified Friday the truck did not touch the officers.

Veronica Polanco, 23, took the witness stand in the corruption trial against four former LAPD officers. She told the court the truck "was gonna hit an officer, but it swerved and kept going."

Raul Munoz, the driver of the pickup, was charged and convicted of assaulting a police officer, and served time in prison for the offense. His conviction was later overturned when former LAPD officer-turned-informant Rafael Perez told investigators that his fellow officers, Sgt. Brian Liddy and Officer Michael Buchanan, framed Munoz by writing false police reports.

The incident arose when anti-gang CRASH officers began making arrests at a gang meeting in 1996 as they searched for a suspected murderer.

Liddy and Buchanan claimed the injuries they suffered when the truck hit them warranted a trip to the hospital. Earlier in the week, prosecutors showed jurors photos of Michael Buchanan on a hospital gurney. Buchanan's report on the incident claimed he was struck so hard by the truck that his head broke the windshield. A third defendant, Sgt. Edward Ortiz, is accused of signing the allegedly false report.

Defense attorney Paul DePasquale questioned Polanco about inconsistencies in her testimony, which differed from statements she gave police in June. In court, she testified she saw an officer jump out of the way of the truck. But in June, Polanco told detectives that "the fellow who jumped back reacted really fast and might even have fallen getting out of the way." She said, "If someone would have gotten hurt, I would have seen it."

Further testimony from Polanco is expected when the trial resumes Monday morning.

The key witness in the trial, Rafael Perez, agreed to testify about alleged officer misconduct in the LAPD anti-gang units in exchange for a lenient sentence for stealing six pounds of cocaine from the police evidence locker.



RELATED STORIES:
Gang member testifies LAPD officers tried to frame him
October 19, 2000
Former deputy D.A. testifies in trial of 4 LAPD officers
October 18, 2000
LAPD officers take stand in Rampart scandal trial
October 16, 2000
Mexican authorities dig for alleged victims of Rafael Perez
October 14, 2000
Jury impaneled in LAPD corruption trial
October 11, 2000
LAPD trial starts with attacks on former officer Perez
October 5, 2000
Jury selection begins in LAPD police misconduct trial
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Five years later, O.J. Simpson says Los Angeles Police scandal has relevance for his own case
October 4, 2000
Los Angeles City Council agrees to federal police reforms
September 20, 2000
Current and former LA police officers sue department for $100 million
August 24, 2000
Los Angeles police officer pleads guilty to civil rights violations
August 18, 2000
Public defender: Up to 30,000 cases need review in light of LAPD scandal
August 10, 2000
Another conviction overturned in LAPD scandal
August 4, 2000
LAPD officer pleads guilty to federal civil rights charges
August 4, 2000
LAPD officers face administrative charges in controversial shooting
July 26, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Department of Justice proposed consent decree
Independent Analysis of the Los Angeles Police Department's Board of Inquiry Report on the Rampart Scandal


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