By Hal Collier
December 7, 1981. It was a Monday and I had the day off, which meant I spent the night in my own bed. I could live like a regular person for another day. Sleep at night; eat breakfast as the sun rose. I don’t remember what the weather was but it was about to cloud up and rain all over me for years.
My kids are getting ready for school when the phone rings. It’s Randy Witkamp a morning watch partner. Randy says, “Big things happening at Hollywood Station.”
“Ok, Randy what’s up?”
Randy says that Venegas and Myers were arrested by I.A. (Internal Affairs) for committing a burglary at a video store on Melrose Avenue. “On duty,” he said.
Now, I suspected that Venegas and Myers were goofing off (sleeping) at times and there was a rumor that they attended a party on duty in the Hollywood Hills. But committing a burglary? Come on, we’re cops. We stop crime, we don’t commit crimes! At the time, I didn’t comprehend how this would affect me for years.
The arrest went down something like this. A video store on Melrose had its alarm activated and Venegas and Myers responded. In 1981, video players cost over $1,000 each and the DVD’s were big disks, too expensive for most cops. I couldn’t afford one for years; my daughter needed braces.
The business back door had been pried open and money was lying about inside. The building was searched by backup Hollywood officers for possible suspects. A suspect wasn’t found so the other officers left Venegas and Myers at the store to await the owner and complete the crime report. That is standard procedure.
After completing the report, Venegas and Myers drove off. They were stopped a short distance later and arrested. One of the officers had money in his pocket and another had a sling shot with marbles!? The money was covered in a powder that shows up under a black light. The money had been planted by I.A. All Hollywood officers working that night were checked for that powder residue.
Ok, I never had an opportunity to read the official file on the Hollywood Burglary scandal. What I’m about to tell you is what I’ve pieced together, from numerous interviews by I.A., talking with supervisors and other Hollywood cops. Some were rumors. I’ve been putting the puzzle together for decades; I think it’s pretty accurate.
The investigation began at the Canadian Border. Greg Cullins, an LAPD cop, and friend of Venegas and Myers was arrested trying to drive a stolen car across the border. As with most crooks, Cullins offered to give information about some corrupt LA cops for immunity or a lesser sentence. The FBI wanted to handle the investigation but then Police Chief Daryl Gates, said, “No, we’ll clean our own house.”
The arrest of Venegas and Myers was not the first attempt at a sting to catch the crooked cops by I.A. I unknowingly screwed up one attempt. As I said in my earlier Ramblings, I was trying to catch the burglars. Little did I know that I was sitting next to them in Roll Call!
Here’s what happened: An alarm is broadcast at Hollywood Sporting Goods on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s my area and I’m close. I arrive first and see that there’s a broken front window. It’s looks like someone threw a rock through it. It’s not big enough for anyone to enter and too far away from the display items to take anything. I request the owner to respond and secure the business. A few minutes later Venegas and Myers drive up. I tell them I already have the owner enroute and my probationer has started the report. They tell me they have other calls, so I tell them I’ll handle this call. My probationer needs some practice taking reports. They drive off and I sit awaiting the owner.
I’m sitting in my car outside the business waiting for the owner. After about thirty minutes I ask Communications if the owner has an ETA? I’m told to stand by. About 10 minutes later, I’m told to clear the scene, the owner is not responding! I’m thinking, you want me to leave a business unsecured? I verify they want me to leave, they said “yes.” I’ve never heard of that but I don’t want to waste the night sitting outside a business when I’ve got a burglar to catch.
After Venegas and Myers are arrested a light comes on in my small brain. I screwed up an I.A. sting! That’s right I.A. smashed the window and waited for corrupt cops to steal property. They just caught the wrong cop, me. I later heard that I.A. was watching me the whole time and they cleared me as one of the burglars. On another sting attempt, I.A. watched two real burglars break into a business. They were arrested after leaving Hollywood Division.
You might think the arrest of Venegas and Myers was the end of my story, actually it’s just the beginning.
Next the aftermath of the their ARREST. Hal