by Paul Chavez, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A joint investigation has found that police officers
from several California law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles
Police Department, may have been involved in the sale of illegal assault
It wasn't immediately disclosed how many officers were involved or
whether any were suspended.
The Police Department, in a statement released Wednesday night, said
detectives launched an investigation before June 2001 into activities
surrounding the sale of illegal weapons. Investigators became aware of the
activities after conducting routine audits of all gun dealers licensed in
During the investigation, detectives learned that agents from the state
Department of Justice were conducting a similar criminal investigation.
law enforcement agencies later agreed that the state agents would assume
lead role in the probe.
Justice Department spokeswoman Hallye Jordan confirmed the agency's
investigation into the selling of illegal assault weapons has led to
evidence that law enforcement officers may have been involved in their
illegal purchase and transfer.
In early December, the agency arrested two people, including a Los
Angeles County sheriff's deputy, Jordan said.
Deputy Kresimir Kovac, 33, was charged with one count of conspiracy to
offer an assault weapon for sale, four counts of illegally offering for
or selling assault weapons and 18 counts of illegal possession of an assault
weapon, said Orange County District Attorney spokeswoman Tori Richards.
Kovac has pleaded innocent to the charges.
The Sheriff's Department did not return a call seeking comment, but
Kovac's lawyer said the deputy is a seven-year veteran who was being
considered for a medal of valor when he was placed on administrative leave
pending the outcome of this case.
"When this case gets into court and all facts are presented, he'll be
completely vindicated and absolutely innocent of all the charges filed
against him," said attorney, Melvyn Douglas Sacks.
Gun dealer Lawrence Wolff, 46, faces one count of conspiracy to offer
assault weapon for sale and five counts involving weapons possession,
Wolff has been released without bail pending his arraignment on March
in Santa Ana Central Courthouse. Kovac also returns to court that day.
"The prosecution of Lawrence Wolff, an honest and law-abiding firearms
dealer, is accomplished for the sole purpose of concealing corruption within
the Los Angeles Police Department," said his lawyer, Robert W. Walters.
Jordan didn't disclose the type of guns involved in the investigations,
but the state's ban on assault weapons targets dozens of guns with a high
rate of fire, including the Chinese-made AK-series of rifles and Intreated
An amendment to the law last year provided law enforcement officers with
an exemption that allows them to buy assault weapons if the officer has
authorized by his employer to do so.
A state Department of Justice source speaking on condition of anonymity
said the case involves forged LAPD documents investigators believe were
to purchase guns under that exemption.
The Los Angeles Police Department's Internal Affairs Group has joined
probe, but has deferred its administrative investigation until the criminal
probe is complete.
The Police Department declined to comment further on the investigation,
referring questions to the state Department of Justice.
The revelation that LAPD officers may have illegally obtained assault
weapons is the latest blow to the scandal-plagued agency.
The Police Department agreed in 2000 to adhere to a consent decree that
installed a federal monitor to oversee reforms aimed at correcting what
U.S. Justice Department called a pattern of civil rights abuses.
Attention on the department intensified in 1999 when former Officer
Rafael Perez told authorities about misconduct within the Rampart station's
anti-gang unit in exchange for a lighter sentence for stealing cocaine from
an evidence room.
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More than 100 convictions have been thrown out as a result of Perez's
revelations that officers beat, robbed and framed innocent people. Nine
officers have been fired or resigned, two officers have pleaded guilty and
the city has been forced to pay tens of millions of dollars to settle dozens