Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles Police Department has launched an internal investigation into the wrongful arrest in July of an innocent San Fernando man in connection with a killing that occurred 16 years ago, Police Commission President Matt Johnson said Tuesday.

“I know the department is doing an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding” the case of mistaken identity, Johnson said, noting that “we had someone here who spent 17 days in custody.”

Johnson requested a report back from the lead detectives in the probe, saying that the news was “disturbing for all of us to hear about, and read about.”

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck confirmed that the investigation was taking place, but said the Police Commission would need to go into closed session to hear the report because it was a “personnel” matter.

City News Service first reported last Thursday that DNA testing determined Guillermo Torres was not Samuel Calvario, the man being sought in the Nov. 9, 2000, killing of Daniel Felix, according to Assistant Head Deputy District Attorney John Colello.

Felix had been acting as a good Samaritan and was intervening in a dispute.

Torres — whose eyes welled up outside court after the hearing — spent more than two weeks in custody following a tip to police about a photo someone spotted in the “Most Wanted” section of the Los Angeles Police Department’s website seeking the public’s assistance in finding Calvario.

“For an innocent man, it was really a nightmare. It continues to be,” Torres’ attorney, Leonard Levine, told CNS outside court after the hearing. “He’s grateful that he is free and that the matter was cleared up … It was clearly established that he was not the person sought.”

Authorities ended up comparing Torres’ DNA to DNA collected from Calvario’s child and determining that Torres was not the man police were seeking, attorneys said.

One of Torres’ employers, Joanne Weinoe, said she and another of his employers sought legal help for the 45-year-old man, who was initially detained by police July 19 in connection with the killing. He was arrested six days later and initially held in lieu of $2 million bail, then was released Aug. 10 on electronic monitoring — an unusual step in a murder case.

“We said, ‘This is crazy. This is not him,’ ” Weinoe said of Torres, who has worked for her for 24 years and is the married father of an adult son. “You don’t turn your back on somebody like that … We weren’t going to just let him sit there and rot. We just knew it wasn’t him.”

She said the case shook her faith in the justice system.

“This is so wrong,” Weinoe said.

She noted that some attorneys said they would take the case, though they believed Torres was probably guilty, but that Levine quickly grew to believe Torres had been arrested in a case of mistaken identity.

Levine said he “became convinced” that Torres was not the person being sought by police.

Torres walked out of court a free man last Thursday after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sergio C. Tapia II told him, “Mr. Torres, you are discharged from this matter.”

The judge noted that Torres would be given a “wrong person” slip that he should keep with him to indicate that he is not the person being sought by authorities.

The District Attorney’s Office has filed an amended warrant for Calvario, who is still being sought, Colello said.

“Now it’s been corrected. There’s still a murderer out there,” Torres’ attorney said.

Torres is considering “whatever legal action may be appropriate,” Levine said last week.

–City News Service 

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