The city of Torrance has paid a man $750,000 after two police officers were accused of spray-painting a swastika inside his car three years ago.
The investigation into that incident led to the discovery of a trove of racist and homophobic text exchanges among police officers mostly in Torrance, though one Long Beach police officer was also allegedly involved and was later fired by the department. The resulting scandal prompted LA County prosecutors to toss dozens of felony cases.
The payout settles a federal lawsuit filed by Kiley Swaine, who discovered the swastika on his car’s back seat after he and two other men were arrested on suspicion of mail theft in January 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. Swaine was later cleared of the mail theft charges.
Two Torrance police officers allegedly spray-painted the swastika, as well as a happy face, on Swaine’s car seats before having the vehicle towed away, said Swaine’s attorney, Jerry Steering.
The officers, who have left the force, each pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial on conspiracy and vandalism charges.
An investigation by the Times in 2021 found that officers mostly from the Torrance Police Department traded hateful comments via text messages about people of color, particularly Black people, as well as Jews and members of the LGBTQ community.
Other messages spoke about using violence against suspects and lying to investigators about a police shooting.
After the LA Times published its report, the Long Beach Police Department began its own investigation into Officer Maxwell Schroeder, as the department found evidence supporting claims that he had sent inappropriate messages, a press release said at the time. Schroeder was suspended amid the investigation, which LBPD officials said they expected to wrap up within weeks.
A spokesperson for the LBPD said Monday that Schroeder was terminated Feb. 24, 2022.
This story has been updated to include the status of Maxwell Schroeder’s employment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Long Beach police officer suspended after investigation into racist messages