California city pays $750k to Jewish man accusing cops of painting swastika in car

<span>Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

A California city has agreed to a $750,000 settlement with a Jewish man who accused police of spray-painting a swastika in his car.

Kiley Swaine filed a lawsuit against Torrance, 15 miles south-west of Los Angeles, in 2022 after his car was seized by Torrance officers and defaced.

The car had been towed when Swaine was arrested on suspicion of mail theft, the Washington Post reported.

When Swaine, described by the Post as “part Jewish”, collected the car two days later he found the seats covered in cereal and protein powder, and on a rear seat someone had drawn a swastika in white paint.

After the Los Angeles county district attorney’s office charged Christopher Tomsic and Cody Weldin – the two officers who had arrested Swaine – in connection with the vandalism, Swaine sued Torrance, alleging the city’s police department had attempted to conceal Weldin and Tomsic’s actions.

Last month, the city settled with Swaine for $750,000, the Washington Post reported.

“I have been suing police officers for 39 years and I have never seen anything like this,” Swaine’s attorney, Jerry Steering, said in a statement.

“It never ceases to amaze me that quite often the very people entrusted by our citizens to protect us from dangerous criminals are more dangerous than the criminals who they are supposed to be protecting us from.”

Steering told the Post that Swaine had been scavenging from dumpsters with two friends on 27 January 2020 when one of the friends stole mail from an apartment building.

Tomsic and Weldin arrested all three in the group, Steering said, and ordered that Swaine’s car to be taken to a tow yard. Before the car was collected, they vandalized the vehicle, daubing the swastika, according to Swaine’s lawsuit.

The Nazi regime led by Adolf Hitler and defeated by the allied forces during the second world war co-opted the swastika as a hate symbol while systematically carrying out the murders of 6 million Jews across Europe.

The two officers were fired in March 2020, according to the local television news station KABC.

The district attorney’s investigation turned up a series of racist text messages sent between current and former Torrance police officers and recruits, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Officers joked about “gassing” Jewish people and shared a picture of several Black men who had been lynched, according to the Times.

Tomsic and Weldin are awaiting trial in the case, the Times reported. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

An attorney representing Weldin told the Washington Post that Torrance “gave up” on the case for “political reasons”. The attorney, Tom Yu, said there was no evidence in Swaine’s lawsuit of wrongdoing by Weldin.