Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

A Los Angeles police officer testified Friday that he believes he has not been returned to field duty because he is Latino and a man he fatally shot five years ago in Koreatown was black.

“I believe that if I was another black officer, this wouldn’t be happening to me,” Officer Allan Corrales told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury while recounting the shooting of 27-year-old Steven Eugene Washington, who turned out to be unarmed and autistic.

Asked by Deputy City Attorney Daniel Aguilera if he would do the same thing again if faced with the same circumstances, Corrales replied, “If I believed my life was in danger again, sir, I would.”

But Corrales added that he regrets in retrospect that Washington was killed.

“I wish this would never have happened,” Corrales said.

The shooting occurred about midnight on March 20, 2010, in the 800 block of South Vermont Avenue. Corrales was still in the passenger seat of a patrol car when he fired at Washington. He said the man had his hands in his waistband and then lunged toward him with one arm.

“I believed he had a gun and that I was going to be shot in the face,” Corrales testified.

Both Corrales and Officer George Diego were assigned at the time to the Olympic Division gang detail. Diego testified that both officers were nearing the end of their shifts and when they saw Washington walking north on Vermont before the confrontation. Diego said he fired one shot after getting out of the car, but the bullet missed Washington.

In their lawsuit filed in November 2012, Corrales and Diego maintain that because they are Latino and the man Corrales shot was black, they have been denied various work opportunities within the LAPD and the chance to do armed security work outside the department in retaliation when they complained. The civil trial concluded its second week today.

Aguilera has denied any racial discrimination occurred and said both men have been treated the same as any other officer in their situation.

Corrales said that although he makes $96,000 a year as an LAPD officer, he needs to do outside work to supplement his income so he can pay child support and other family expenses. He said he has been repeatedly told by LAPD management that he cannot work outside security jobs where he would need a gun, including a job offer from Dodger Stadium that he was forced to turn down.

Asked by Aguilera if he was open to taking jobs where it was not necessary for him to be armed, Corrales replied, “Those jobs are harder to get, sir. I feel like I should be able to get any type of job I want.”

Chief Charlie Beck found that the use of deadly force by Corrales was justified, but the Police Commission still concluded the officers’ actions were wrong, in particular Corrales’ use of lethal force in alleged violation of LAPD policy. Beck is scheduled to testify Monday.

The two officers have still not been cleared to return to the field. Diego said he currently is assigned to the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division.

Washington’s family sued the city and the two sides reached a settlement.

City News Service

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