short time as a Los Angeles police officer, Joseph Cruz
earned a reputation as a hard-charging cop.
opted to work nights in a "very aggressive unit" in Hollywood, using force on suspects when the circumstances called for it, court records show.
A supervisor once testified that he
had 40 officers just like Cruz
The praise, however, soon turned to suspicion and later disbelief.
In 2007, a witness said he
saw the 25-year-old Cruz pistol-whip a suspect, leaving a bloody gash on the man's head.
Cruz claimed the man caused the injury himself by lifting his head into the butt of the gun.
was fired for dishonesty after he
gave shifting accounts of another detainee's escape from his
went to court to try to get his
job back, city lawyers told a judge the former officer's "actions have damaged beyond repair his
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So it is a strange scene playing out this week in a federal courtroom in Los Angeles, where the LAPD
and the same city attorney's office that essentially denounced Cruz
as a liar are now vouching for his
credibility in a lawsuit alleging that he
wrongly killed a man.
A few minutes before 4 a.m., Cruz
partner were driving down Curson Avenue south of Sunset Boulevard when Cruz spotted Mohammed Usman Chaudhry lying behind some bushes in the shadows of an apartment building.
Chaudhry was a 21-year-old autistic man who sometimes wandered away from his
parent's home in favor of a transient existence on the streets in Hollywood.
struck up a conversation with Chaudhry, who acted calmly and did not seem to pose a threat, police and court records show.
It does not appear that Chaudhry's behavior gave the officers an indication of his
partner to return to the patrol car to run Chaudhry's name through a computer database for any outstanding warrants.
From where the vehicle was parked, his
partner could not see Cruz
and Chaudhry clearly, court and police records show.
According to Cruz's account of the shooting contained in court and police records, Chaudhry suddenly reached into the front pocket of his
sweatshirt, pulled out a knife with a nearly 4-inch blade and lunged at him.
gun and fired three shots in quick succession, and, with Chaudhry still on his
feet, fired a fourth shot a second or two later.
partner saw Cruz fire only the fourth shot, and there were no other witnesses.
Three of the bullets struck Chaudhry in the chest area, killing him.
was treated for a small cut on his
hand that he
suffered when he
arm to block Chaudhry's attempt to stab him.
A knife was recovered at the scene.
The Los Angeles Police Commission
, a civilian board that oversees the LAPD
and reviews all serious use-of-force cases, concluded that Cruz's decision to use deadly force was justified.
The board criticized Cruz and his partner for failing to search Chaudhry for weapons and for ignoring a basic tactical rule that requires one officer to always keep watch over his partner during a stop.
Chaudhry's parents filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Cruz
and the LAPD
, alleging that their son's civil rights were violated in the shooting.
opening statement to the jury Tuesday, a lawyer for the family made it clear he
would try to cast doubt on Cruz's trustworthiness and his
account of the incident, in part by driving home the fact that the LAPD
and city lawyers concluded he
was not credible.
"And the evidence will show that Joseph Cruz
was fired from his
position as an LAPD officer ... that it was the city of Los Angeles that fired him ... and the reason he
was fired was that he
was dishonest, that he
would not tell the truth during an official investigation."
The city has a strong interest in defending Cruz
If the jury awards the Chaudhry family monetary damages, it is likely - although not certain - that the city will be responsible for the cost since Cruz
killed Chaudhry in the line of duty.
The city is paying Peter Ferguson, a private attorney, to defend Cruz in the case.
The shooting came in the wake of two other incidents that put Cruz
under scrutiny and eventually resulted in his
In April 2007, the pistol-whipping incident occurred, according to police records.
's explanation that the wound had been accidentally caused by the suspect, the Police Commission
concluded that the witness' account was more credible and determined that Cruz had been unjustified in making the head strike.
It does not appear that finding led the LAPD
to open an investigation into whether Cruz
had been dishonest with investigators.
Several months later, Cruz
and a partner were sent to pick up a girl who had run away from a juvenile shelter, according to court records.
On the drive back to the LAPD's Hollywood area station, the girl escaped from the patrol car and fled.
During the investigation into the incident, Cruz
offered the explanation that the girl, who was handcuffed, had thrown herself head-first out the window while the car was moving.
And, in three interviews with investigators, he
gave a changing account of what he
did in the moments after she
At first, he said he had tried to contact a supervisor over his department radio.
When investigators told Cruz
there was no record of any radio transmission, he
recalled that he
had instead used his
mobile phone to contact the station.
Department officials accused Cruz
of oversights that led to the girl's escape and of making false statements - a charge he
went before a three-person disciplinary board, which included two LAPD captains.
The two captains rejected Cruz's explanations, found him guilty of dishonesty and recommended that he
"There are too many events that do not make sense, as explained by Officer Cruz, to give this board any confidence in his statement," the captains concluded in their decision.
, they wrote, had offered up a "calculated set of false facts" that amounted to a "concocted story."
LAPD officer "Cruz" was not fired and protected now , because of his CORRUPT UNION muscling the city of Angeles.