A Torrance police officer who has been linked to a scandal involving cops' exchanging of racist text messages was charged Friday with assault in connection with an on-duty shooting, law enforcement officials told The Times.
David Chandler, 33, is accused of using excessive force in shooting a man armed with a knife as he walked away from the officer during an incident in 2018, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
Prosecutors said Chandler was one of several officers who responded to a call from an elderly woman whose grandson had smashed a sliding glass door at her Torrance residence. Officers could not immediately find the man, whose identity was not released.
A short time later, prosecutors said, the man returned armed with a knife. It was not immediately clear whether he threatened anyone or brandished the weapon, but Chandler fired "several rounds" as the man walked away, prosecutors said. The man was injured but survived.
An arraignment has not been scheduled. It was not immediately clear who was acting as Chandler's attorney, and attempts to contact the officer were not successful late Friday.
"Excessive force by law enforcement authorities breeds mistrust in our communities," Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a statement. "Police officers must work within the same laws they are sworn to uphold."
Friday's criminal filing marked the first time Gascón has brought charges against a police officer in an on-duty shooting since sweeping into office in November by campaigning on the need for police accountability. In recent months, Gascón has also pursued charges against several L.A. County sheriff's deputies for falsifying police reports or on-duty abuse.
Chandler is one of more than a dozen Torrance police officers under investigation for exchanging racist, homophobic and transphobic text messages in recent years, according to two officials with knowledge of the investigation. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the matter candidly.
The texts were uncovered as part of an investigation into now ex-Torrance police officers Cody Weldin and Christopher Tomsic, who were charged last week with spray-painting a swastika on the rear seat of a car they towed early last year. Both officers pleaded not guilty during a brief court appearance last week, and their attorneys have declined to comment on the charges.
A search of Weldin's and Tomsic's phones revealed several other officers had been sharing extremely offensive memes and images that were demeaning to Black, Jewish and transgender people, according to one of the officials. Images uncovered by the investigation included pictures of a lynching, jokes about the Holocaust and memes mocking the idea of shooting Black men, the official said.
County prosecutors and the Torrance city attorney's office are now reviewing hundreds of cases involving the officers “to ensure no other alleged misconduct occurred” and determine whether the alleged act of bias might affect any cases in which the officers made an arrest or were called as witnesses, officials said.
In addition to Tomsic and Weldin, 15 officers have been placed on administrative leave as a result of the investigation, said Sgt. Mark Ponegalek, a Torrance police spokesman. Ponegalek could not be reached for additional comment late Friday, but one of the officials confirmed Chandler was among the officers on leave.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.