TORRANCE, Calif. (KABC) -- Two former Torrance Police Department officers were charged Thursday in connection with an incident involving a swastika that was spray-painted inside an impounded vehicle last year, prosecutors said.
Christopher Tomsic, 29, and Cody Weldin, 28, pleaded not guilty Thursday to one felony count each of vandalism and conspiracy to commit vandalism. Tomsic and Weldin were fired from the Police Department shortly after the investigation began last year.
On Jan. 27, 2020, the two were among a group of officers who responded to a call about three men who had stolen mail from an apartment building. The officers were were led to a vehicle that may have been used in the crime and was subsequently taken to a tow yard, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
"When the vehicle's owner arrived to pick up the car, he found a happy face that had been spray-painted on the front seat of the vehicle and on the rear seat there was a symbol of a swastika," District Attorney George Gascon told reporters at a news conference Thursday.
Gascon said such conduct "cannot be tolerated," adding: "It's really concerning and saddening, to be honest with you, coming from the people who are supposed to be protecting us."
The DA declined to release photos of the vandalism, citing the ongoing investigation.
The investigation turned up communications involving more than a dozen patrol officers "who were identified exchanging racist, discriminatory, homophobic and anti-Semitic messages," Gascon told reporters.
Torrance Police Chief Jeremiah Hart said the two officers facing felony charges are "no longer employed," and 14 officers have been relieved of duty for "allegations relating to misconduct" as police continue their administrative investigation in conjunction with the DA's probe.
The department later released a statement saying Weldin has not been employed the department since July 21, 2020, and Tomsic has not been employed by the department since Sept. 18.
Hart noted that the department initiated a criminal investigation as soon as it was notified of the allegations in January 2020 and subsequently submitted recommendations to the District Attorney's Office that criminal charges be filed against the former officers.