The owner of a car allegedly painted with a swastika by California police is seeking $6 million in damages

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The owner of an impounded car allegedly painted with a swastika by two former Torrance cops is suing for $6 million in damages, claiming a tow truck yard worked with the city to hide police involvement.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Wednesday, alleges Van Lingen Towing conspired in part with the city so car owner Kiley Swaine would not find out the Torrance department was responsible until the one-year statute of limitations on litigation expired. The lawsuit alleges that the law, which sets the deadline for filing civil lawsuits, should not have run until Swaine was officially notified of the department’s involvement in October 2021 – nearly two years after the damage to his Hyundai.

That was also two months after the police department announced the alleged involvement at a press conference former officers Corey Weldin and Christopher Tomsic, who face criminal charges of conspiracy and vandalism for allegedly spray-painting the swastika and a smiley face on Swaine’s car.

The lawsuit names the cities of Torrance, Weldin and Tomsic. The filing seeks $3 million in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages.

“They act like gangsters”

In an interview late Thursday, January 20, Swaine, 28, told the Southern California News Group that his father’s grandmother was Jewish.

“When I first saw the vandalism, I was shocked. I felt ashamed. I felt intimidated by the swastika,” Swaine said. “They act like gangsters and try to intimidate me.”

Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey and Police Commissioner Jeremiah Hart could not be reached for comment.

arrested for stealing mail

Swaine was arrested in the early hours of January 2020 on suspicion of stealing mail from a Torrance apartment building. He was held in prison overnight and released the next day. No charges were ever brought, but his car was impounded. Swaine and his father learned the car was wrecked when they went to the tow yard to pick up the vehicle two days later.

The lawsuit states that the towing yard paid $2,250 to repair the damage to the car. Swaine said he was misled into thinking the vehicle had been destroyed by the tow truck driver.

“What should they have done? Get the police involved?” said Swaine’s Newport Beach attorney, Jerry Steering. Steering said the towing yard may have been trying to maintain its lucrative impoundment deal with the city.

Tow truck driver initially suspicious

The case has been cleared up after tow truck driver Christopher Dunn, who was being questioned by police as a suspect, broke down and said he saw Tomsic spray-painting the outside of the car. According to court documents, Dunn also received a text message from Weldin apologizing for the damage.

Torrance investigators concluded they would likely find evidence on officers’ cellphones that the vandalism was a hate crime.

What they found on the phone gave the Torrance Police Department a black eye: racist and homophobic text messages. In all, more than a dozen officials have been suspended in connection with the lyrics. State and local investigations into the racist and homophobic comments are ongoing.

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