An investigation into racist text messages has rocked a police department in Northern California

ALAMEDA, Calif. – More than a dozen police officers are under investigation in a racist text message investigation that has rocked the Northern California city of Antioch, according to an investigative report released Thursday.

A judge released the investigative report compiled by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, which includes the partially redacted messages, following a joint FBI and local investigation at the city’s police department.

The messages, which were sent in 2020 and 2021, detailed officers allegedly using racist epithets and homophobic slurs, sharing racist images and casually discussing the use of “less lethal” weapons against people, including the city’s mayor. which is black.

The majority of the roughly 114,000 residents of Antioch, about 45 miles northeast of San Francisco, are minorities.

The messages could have far-reaching implications for criminal cases involving police officers. Authorities released the messages last week to lawyers for four men accused of murder and other crimes after two of the defendants were named in the messages.

Antioch Police Department, California.Google Maps

A lawyer for one of the men said Thursday that the messages could undermine the confidence of officials in hundreds of convictions, if not more.

“There are people sitting in jail right now based on the words of these officers who participated in the use of this horribly offensive language,” said Evan Kuluk, Deputy Public Defender for Contra Costa County. “This is an intolerable situation.”

In a message included in the investigative report and dated April 29, 2020, Officer Morteza Amiri told an officer from a nearby department that because his agency does not videotape interviews, “sometimes I just say people have made full confessions to me , when they did it ‘T.”

“It’s easier to register,” Amiri said, according to the report.

Amiri did not respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

In another message sent on April 24, 2020, Sgt. Josh Evans allegedly used a racial slur about a black man and said he would bury the man “in my fields,” the report said.

In a message included in a separate supplemental report by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Officer Eric Rombow said he sent Evans a photo of one of the suspects charged with murder in what appeared to be a hospital bed.

“You stabbed him in the neck? Haha,” Evans allegedly replied, according to a report provided to NBC News by Matthew Martinez, an attorney for suspect Trent Allen.

Evans is said to have added that Allen’s injury sounded “like his fault”.

“So was the 6 muzzle blasts and me trying to kick his head over the fence,” Rombow claimed, who wrote back, according to the supplemental report.

Evans did not respond to a request for comment Thursday evening. Rombough could not be reached for comment at an email account linked to him.

Other messages from the report appear to show that Rombough used derogatory terms about black people and shared racist images.

In a message dated Nov. 22, 2021, Rombough allegedly texted an officer, “I’m only stopping them because they’re black” and added a profanity.

In other news, Antioch Police Association President Sgt. Rick Hoffman allegedly described a suspect with a homophobic slur and used a vulgar phrase to describe what he did to the suspect.

Hoffman did not respond to a request for comment Thursday evening. The union also did not respond to a request for comment.

Other reports indicated that officers discussed using a less-lethal weapon against suspects and others, including Mayor Lamar Thorpe.

On June 8, 2020, Officer John Ramirez allegedly texted a group of 22 officers and said, “I’m going to buy somebody a prime rib dinner at House of prime rib to 40 that [expletive] during the protest today.”

“This is a reference to the potential use of a .40 mm less lethal launch vehicle used against current Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe,” wrote Senior Inspector Larry Wallace of the district attorney’s office, who authored the investigative report that included the messages.

Ramirez did not respond to a request for comment Thursday night.

It is not clear whether the employees named in the investigation are on leave. The police department, the mayor and the employees’ attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

Attorney Michael Raines told NBC Bay Area on Tuesday that people should avoid jumping to conclusions.

“There needs to be a thorough, fair investigation that everyone can have faith in and trust if police officers engaged in misconduct,” he told the station. “I think you have a police chief in Antioch who will make that discovery and take what type of discipline the law requires, anywhere up to and including termination.”

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the investigation.

Thorpe condemned the alleged texts, saying in a video statement Sunday that the police department “has long been a huge legal and financial liability that is on full display today.”

“The culture of the department warrants further investigation, including: How on earth could all this alleged misconduct go on for so long without any of our command staff noticing,” Thorpe said. “From lieutenant to chief.”

At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Thorpe asked Police Chief Stephen Ford if he thought the reports were “wrong in nature.”

Ford started to answer before the city attorney cut him off, saying he shouldn’t be giving an opinion on a pending matter.

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