The sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the Monrovia Police Department by former jailer Rudy Ramirez adds fuel to a fire that seems to be consuming the All-America city.
At the beginning of the year, Monrovia found itself at the center of a gang crime spree that included 13 shootings which resulted in three deaths.
Then, a contract dispute between the city’s police officers’ association and the City Council turned ugly as rhetoric and accusations spilled out into blogs and TV newscasts. As part of its campaign, the POA wanted it known Monrovia was a very dangerous place to live and work. A town that lacks adequate policing.
Then came Ramirez’s suit.
The case, filed at the end of May, claims Sgt. Dan Verna molested Ramirez when he was an underage Explorer in 2000. It alleges Verna harassed Ramirez up until 2006 – after the kid got a job as the city’s jailer. Perhaps more explosively, it details the alleged release of a member of the Monrovia Nuevo Varrio gang from the city jail at Verna’s request.
“Defendant Verna … proceeded to release the prisoner, personally escorting him out the back door without charges being brought,” the lawsuit, filed by former jailer Rudy Ramirez, claims. “The prisoner was a local gang member.”
The suit also outlines a second event involving the gang member: “Verna (gave) advice to him about how to beat or get the charges lowered.”
Although few arrests have been made, police implicated Monrovia Nuevo Varrio in several of the assaults that occurred earlier this year. All the crimes had racial overtones that detectives believe stemmed from an ongoing prison dispute between black and Latino gangs.
Sanders Rollins, 63, in a drive-by shooting at 1234 Sherman Ave. in Monrovia on Jan. 13. Rollins, a black man, was getting out of his vehicle when a light colored Honda Civic drove by. The gunmen were described as Latino males.
Sammantha Salas, 16, a Latina, was shot to death outside an apartment building in the 2500 block of Peck Road in an unincorporated county area near Monrovia. Salas was killed on Jan. 26. The suspects have been described as two black males. A $10,000 reward has been issued in the case.
Brandon Lee, a 19-year-old black man, was shot while standing on the sidewalk in the 500 block of Almond Avenue on Jan. 29. The shooters were described as two Latino males.
Although things have quieted down, the gang warfare caught the attention of Attorney General Jerry Brown. As a result, he plans to hold a gang summit in San Gabriel on Friday. On the agenda: “Debriefing on Monrovia’s recent gang violence.”
Among those scheduled to speak is Monrovia police Chief Roger Johnson, named as a defendant in Ramirez’s lawsuit.
For now, Johnson has only said an independent agency will examine Ramirez’s allegations.
Perhaps Friday he’ll explain why a Monrovia police officer allegedly released a gang member from jail and provided some sort of legal counsel to the young man. Perhaps he will also be asked about the billboards, that up until a couple of weeks ago greeted motorists entering the city.
You know, the ones that said: “Caution: You are approaching Monrovia. Higher violent crime. Fewer officers patrolling.”