A member of the Oceanside City Council is speaking out after explosive audio recordings that raise questions about high-level police corruption were released.
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In August 2009, Oceanside police responded to a call of a man drinking, driving and tossing a beer out of his car. According to a civil lawsuit, a license plate match led two police officers to the home of off-duty Oceanside police Sgt. David Larson.
One of the on-duty officers turned on his recorder, and on-duty Sgt. Travis Norton is heard asking Larson questions. Larson confirmed he was the one who tossed the beer can.
In the recording, Norton asked, "How much have you had to drink?"
Larson responded, "Two."
Larson was asked to blow into a breathalyzer device.
In the recording, Norton said, "All right. Will you blow in a PAS (preliminary alcohol-screening device)?"
Larson replied, "Now? I'm going to blow over." "Blow over" is in reference to blowing over the legal limit.
The recording revealed the officer who made that recording, Gilbert Garcia, was quickly cleared from the scene.
No charges were ever filed.
Garcia was later fired over a sexual harassment claim. In a civil suit, he claims it was retaliation for refusing to destroy the audio tape recording.
10News obtained documents filed in an arbitration hearing in 2010 over Garcia's firing. In that hearing, Norton admitted he ordered Garcia to destroy the tape, but the scope of the hearing likely did not allow additional questions about where those orders came from.
Garcia said he was told the night of the incident that Oceanside police Chief Frank McCoy ordered the DUI investigation to stop.
Oceanside police have declined to comment, but 10News has obtained video footage of a freelance photographer questioning McCoy in 2010.
In the video, McCoy was asked, "Did the police handle everything appropriately with Gilbert Garcia?"
McCoy answered, "Yes, I do."
The photographer asked, "Does the Oceanside police ever cover any things up, you being the chief?"
"No, I don't believe so," McCoy responded.
10News spoke to Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern, who has yet to hear the audio recordings but was briefed on the content.
"The tape raises some serious questions. Are you concerned?"
"I'm in a wait-and-see attitude right now," said Kern.
Kern said he won't comment on pending litigation against the city, but told 10News it is his understanding a city probe into the incident revealed nothing inappropriate.
Kern said he believes the civil suit will produce the answers.
"I think the citizens deserve those answers. I have confidence our investigation was handled appropriately. I'm not connecting the dots the way some people have. I'm going to see what happens," said Kern.
Sources told 10News the FBI has recently obtained the audio recordings, but FBI representatives said they have not started an official investigation.
Oceanside's city attorney said the civil suit is filled with fabrications.
10News also tried contacting Oceanside's other council members and the mayor, but no calls were returned.
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