Nine officers from two California police departments face federal charges after an FBI raid collared them Thursday. The roundup of cops in Antioch and Pittsburg was the culmination of an 18-month investigation into an "alleged criminal network"–a police gang–which was earlier exposed by its use of official devices to communicate: "As many as 45 of Antioch's approximately 100 officers were placed on leave" over violently racist, homophobic and threatening texts.
"Today is a dark day in our city's history, as people trusted to uphold the law, allegedly breached that trust and were arrested by the FBI. As our city absorbs this tragic news, we must come together as one," Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe said in a statement. "Today's actions are the beginning of the end of a long and arduous process. To those that have accused me and others of being anti-police for seeking to reform the Antioch Police Department, today's arrests are demonstrative of the issues that have plagued the Antioch Police Department for decades. Seeking to reform the Antioch Police Department is not anti-police, it is pro our residents, and pro officers that have served and continue to serve with honor."
The charges include conspiracy to distribute narcotics, altering and falsifying records of a federal investigation, corruption, civil rights violations and obstruction of justice. In court immediately were Morteza Amiri, Patrick Berhan, Ernesto Mejia-Orozco, Samantha Peterson, Brauli Rodriguez-Jalapa, Eric Rombough and Timothy Williams. Daniel Harris and Amanda Theodosy were also charged, according to NBC News.
The probe began in early 2022 after the FBI and Contra Costa District Attorney got a tip that some East Contra Costa County police officers had cheated on college tests to get education incentive pay bumps. The local and federal investigation soon turned up evidence of racist and homophobic behavior among police officers, and led to scrutiny of the handling of many violent crime and drug trafficking cases.
Dozens of virulent text messages in Antioch police officers' group chats, many containing racist and homophobic slurs, were reported between 2019 and 2022, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office. Those texts were in a pair of reports dated March 27 and March 28, part of a larger investigation by the FBI and district attorney's office first reported by the Times.