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Emmanuel Chavez

Summary of Rampart Scandal
Emmanuel Chavez was one of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted because of misconduct uncovered in an investigation into corruption at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart division.

Los Angeles Police officer Rafael Perez arrested 16-year-old Chavez and 15-year-old Sergio Salcido on June 6, 1996. In his arrest report, Perez said he saw the two teens handle a sawed-off shotgun before they got on a bicycle and rode away. Chavez would later say that Perez threatened him until he admitted to the possession.

Three weeks after the arrest, on June 26, 1996, Chavez pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a minor and was sentenced to six months at a juvenile detention center.

On August 17, 1998, Perez was charged with theft, possession of cocaine, and forgery. The jury deadlocked at his trial (with a majority voting for conviction) in December 1998. Police investigated further, and additional charges were filed against Perez. Just before his retrial on September 8, 1999, Perez pled guilty to eight drug charges and struck a deal with prosecutors. In exchange for a sentence of no more than five years in prison, he would cooperate with an investigation into the Rampart operations.

In an interview with investigators on November 5, 1999, Perez said that the arrests of Chavez and Salcido happened differently than the report stated. He said the officers never saw the teens exchange the weapon. Instead, he said, the officers saw them take a spill on the bike and thought they seemed out of place in the neighborhood. While Perez and his partners searched Chavez and Salcido, Perez said, he heard a clink and looked down to see the end of the shotgun under Salcido’s pants leg. He said he never saw Chavez in possession of the weapon, and that he made up the earlier sighting to justify the probable cause for the search and subsequent arrest.

Chavez would later state in a lawsuit against Perez and the city filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California that Perez’s new account was still false. He claimed that he and Salcido fell off the bike because they had swerved to avoid the officers as they tried to ram them with their police car.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on Chavez’s behalf on February 23, 2000. It was granted that day. His conviction was vacated, and his charge dismissed.

Chavez settled his lawsuit against Perez and the police department for$100,000. Rampart defendants are believed to have received approximately $125 million in compensation for their wrongful convictions and incarcerations.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 7/26/2021
Last Updated: 2/2/2022
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1996
Sentence:6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:16
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No