City will pay $750K after police allegedly drew swastika in man’s car

Kiley Swaine filed a lawsuit last year accusing officers in Torrance, Calif., of vandalizing his vehicle with the hate symbol

Daniel Wu

March 21, 2023

Kiley Swaine’s Hyundai looked different when he went to retrieve it from a Torrance, Calif., tow yard in January 2020.

The car, which had been towed two days earlier when Torrance officers arrested Swaine on suspicion of mail theft, was trashed on the inside, according to a lawsuit Swaine later filed. The seats were covered with cereal and protein powder. On the front seat was a white smiley face drawn with spray paint.

On the rear seat, someone had spray-painted a swastika.

Torrance police officers allegedly told Swaine, who is part Jewish, that the tow yard accepted responsibility for the vandalism. But Swaine’s lawsuit, which he filed in January 2022, alleged that the department had in fact concealed that the two officers who’d arrested Swaine, Cody Weldin and Christopher Tomsic, were the vandals who had painted the hateful symbol inside Swaine’s car on the night of his arrest.

In August 2021, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office charged Weldin and Tomsic in connection with the vandalism. Swaine sued them and the city of Torrance five months later. Last month, the city settled with Swaine for $750,000, his attorney announced Thursday.

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

The city of Torrance directed a request for comment to the Torrance Police Department. A police department spokesperson declined to comment.

Tom Yu, an attorney representing Weldin, told The Washington Post that the city “gave up” on the case for “political reasons” and that there was no evidence in Swaine’s civil case that Weldin did anything wrong. An attorney representing Tomsic did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.

The criminal case against Weldin and Tomsic is ongoing. Both officers have pleaded not guilty.

On Jan. 27, 2020, Swaine was scavenging from dumpsters with two friends in a Torrance neighborhood, Steering said in an interview with The Post. One of the friends accompanying Swaine stole mail from an apartment building, Steering said, and when Weldin and Tomsic responded to a report of the theft, they arrested all three.

Swaine was not involved in the mail theft, and his charges were later dismissed, according to his lawsuit and Steering’s news statement.

Police detained Swaine overnight and ordered for his car be towed to a tow yard. Before they did, Weldin and Tomsic vandalized Swaine’s car, spilling the food items over his seats and spray-painting the symbol on his back seat, according to Swaine’s lawsuit.

Swaine and his father discovered the vandalism two days later when they arrived at the tow yard to retrieve the car, according to his lawsuit. They insisted the damage was new and reported it to Torrance police, who allegedly viewed security footage of the tow yard and then told Swaine that the towing company had accepted responsibility for the vandalism.

Swaine drove home in his trashed car, and the towing company paid him $2,250 for the damage, according to his lawsuit.

But Swaine’s lawsuit alleged that, at the time, Torrance police knew that Weldin and Tomsic were the vandals and that the towing company had opted to “take the hit” for the Torrance police officers for business reasons. Swaine’s lawsuit initially included the towing company as a defendant alongside the police officers and city.

In court documents, attorneys representing the towing company contested Swaine’s allegation that the company deliberately misled Swaine. They said that on the day he picked up his car, both Swaine and tow yard staff believed the vandalism had occurred after Swaine’s car was towed because a police report had described the car as undamaged. But tow yard surveillance footage was unclear, and the manager opted to take responsibility for the vandalism, according to the filing.

The company settled with Swaine in August, according to court documents.

Swaine’s lawsuit followed the investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office that first charged Weldin and Tomsic with the vandalism to Swaine’s car — and uncovered evidence of what the office described as alarmingly racist beliefs held by many officers within the Torrance Police Department.

Investigators looking into Swaine’s vandalism case retrieved gigabytes of racist text message exchanges, including jokes about Black men being lynched and “gassing” Jewish people, between at least a dozen Torrance police officers that dated back to 2018, the Los Angeles Times reported. Tomsic and Weldin, who were fired in March 2020 when the investigation began, were among the officers who’d sent offensive messages, according to the Times.

Steering, in an interview, criticized the Torrance Police Department for harboring officers with racist beliefs and condemned Tomsic and Weldin’s use of a swastika in their vandalism.

“A lot of Americans gave up their lives over that symbol,” Steering said.

Calif. city pays $750,000 after police allegedly paint swastika in car – The Washington Post

LA Times logo

Torrance pays $750,000 to man after police allegedly decorate his car with a swastika

Monday, March 20, 2023

By Christian Martinez – Staff Writer

Torrance Police CarsThe city of Torrance has paid a Redondo Beach man $750.000after two police officers allegedly spray-
painted a swastika inside his car in 2020.

The investigation into that Incident led to the discovery of a trove of racist and homophobic text exchanges among Torrance police officers. The resulting scandal prompted prosecutors to
toss dozens of felony cases. In January 2020, after discovering a swastika on his car’s backseat, Kiley Swaine filed a federal lawsuit against the city and its Police Department. 

The alleged incident occurred after he and two other men were arrested on suspicion of mail theft from
an apartment building. Swaine was later cleared of the mail theft charges. 

Two Torrance police officers, Christopher Tomsic and Cody Weldin, allegedly spray-painted the swastika, as well as a happy face on Swaine’s front passenger seat, and damaged the interior before having it towed away, Swaine’s attorney, Jerry Steering, said in a news release. 

After Swaine was released and went to retrieve his car, he saw the graffiti, and reported it to Torrance

The case was referred to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, which filed conspiracy and vandalism charges against Tomsic and Weldin, both of whom have left the force. 

The two men, who pleaded not guilty, are awaiting trial.

In a comment provided to The Times through Steering, Swaine expressed disappointment that he wasn’t told by Torrance police who vandalized his vehicle despite a promise that they would do so.

Despite filing the report about the vandalism less than two days after it occurred, Swaine was not notified
about the case against Tomsic and Weldin until October 2021, after L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascon announced the charges.

‘”I have been suing police officers for 39 years and I have never seen anything like this, “Steering said in
 statement. “It never ceases to arnaze 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.”

‘The investigation into Tomsic and Weldin prompted prosecutors to search the officers’ phones. The a search turned up text exchanges among more than a dozen officers that included racist, antisemitic
and homophobic comments.

After the text messages came to light, the L.A. County district attorney’s office and the Torrance city
attorney’s office moved to toss dozens of cases involving the officers implicated in the text exchanges.

The Torrance city attorney declined to comment.

Torrance pays $750,000 to owner of car allegedly painted with swastika by police officers

“I have been suing police officers for 39 years and I have never seen anything like this,” said an attorney representing the car owner


The city of Torrance has paid $750,000 to the owner of an impounded car that allegedly was spray-painted by police with a swastika in 2020.

The payment settles a $6 million federal lawsuit by car owner Kiley Swaine, who did not learn of the alleged involvement of two former Torrance police officers until nearly two years after the damage to his 2004 Hyundai Elantra.

The swastika incident led to the discovery that some officers were engaging in racist and homophobic text messages, including jokes about having “gassed the Jews,” urinating on a Black man and beating up a woman.

The texts featured several variations of the n-word and referred to detainees as “monkeys,” “moon crickets” and “savages.” So far, at least four officers have been terminated or resigned in the aftermath of the scandal. Fifteen officers had been placed on leave pending an investigation.


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Torrance pays $750,000 to owner of car allegedly painted with swastika by police officers

Torrance pays $750,000 to owner of car allegedly painted with swastika by police officers – Orange County Register (