He Was Arrested, Then Found a Swastika in His Car

City of Torrance to pay California man $750K after he claims 2 cops spray-painted his vehicle
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2023 9:25 AM CDT
He Was Arrested, Then Found a Swastika in His Car
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/nito100)

A California man just got a rather large payout to settle a lawsuit over offensive graffiti he says two former police officers spray-painted inside his car. The Los Angeles Times reports that Kiley Swaine was granted $750,000 from the city of Torrance, where he was arrested for mail theft in January 2020. Those charges were later cleared, but Swaine's troubles weren't over. After he was detained overnight and released, Swaine, who's part Jewish, says he went to pick up his Hyundai, which police had ordered towed, and found the seats inside painted with a swastika and smiley face, according to his attorney, Jerry Steering. Per a suit filed in January 2022, the interior of Swaine's car was also damaged, covered in protein powder and cereal, reports the Washington Post.

Swaine says the Torrance Police Department originally pointed the finger at the towing company for the vandalism, and that company paid him more than $2,000 for the damage. However, per his complaint, Swaine says it was actually the two cops who'd arrested him, Christopher Tomsic and Cody Weldin, who were responsible, and that the police department covered it up. He says in his complaint that the towing firm had "[taken] the hit" for the cops for "business reasons," per the Post. Attorneys for the towing company dispute that, claiming staff did believe the vandalism had happened on their watch. The LA district attorney's office filed charges against the officers in August 2021.

A probe turned up "gigabytes" of texts among Torrance cops, including racist, homophobic, and antisemitic messages, per the Post. Included among those texts: "jokes" about the lynching of Black men, "several variations of the n-word," and the "gassing" of Jewish people, according to a 2021 Times report. The AP notes that other texts mentioned not being truthful with investigators looking into a shooting, as well as using violence when dealing with suspects. "I have been suing police officers for 39 years and I have never seen anything like this," Steering says in a statement, per the LAT. "The very people entrusted by our citizens to protect us from dangerous criminals are more dangerous than the criminals who they are supposed to be protecting us from." The cops, who've both since exited the force, have pleaded not guilty on vandalism and conspiracy charges, and their trials are pending. (More swastikas stories.)

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