The LAPD Smears One of Its Own

There followed an exchange of words in a similar vein, with the Montero driver telling Lyga to pull over.  Lyga did pull to the side of the road, but when the Montero did likewise, Lyga pulled back into traffic in an effort to avoid a confrontation.

Lyga began broadcasting on his police radio, advising his teammates that he was having trouble with an irate driver and asking them to respond.  Before any of them did, however, the Montero driver raced back into traffic, even driving on the wrong side of the road for some distance before again catching up with Lyga, who again found himself caught in traffic.

But now, when Lyga looked at the Montero driver he saw the man was doing more than shouting insults -- he was aiming a handgun at him.  Lyga pulled his own handgun and fired twice, with the second shot hitting the Montero driver.  The Montero made a U-turn, then coasted to a stop in a gas station, the driver now dead from a bullet through his heart.

As it turned out, the dead man was an off-duty LAPD officer named Kevin Gaines.

There is much, much more to the story than I have space for here, but the incident and its aftermath were thoroughly described in Randall Sullivan’s 2002 book Labyrinth, which not only detailed Kevin Gaines’s ties to gangster rap recording label Death Row Records and a Los Angeles street gang, but also similar ties connecting a number of LAPD officers to the same recording company and same street gang.  Some of those same officers, Rafael Perez chief among them, would, not long after the Gaines shooting, become the central figures in what became known as the LAPD’s Rampart scandal, in which a handful of officers at Rampart Division engaged in all manner of corrupt activities, including shooting and paralyzing an unarmed man, then planting a gun on him and fabricating a case against him that would send him to prison in a wheelchair.  The scandal was discovered after a large quantity of cocaine went missing from an evidence storage facility, cocaine that had been seized and booked into evidence by Lyga.  Investigators theorized that the theft was partly motivated by a desire to discredit Lyga as payback for the Gaines shooting.