Sergeant Sues Oakland, CA, Claims Department Misconduct

Helen Christophi | Courthouse News Service

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – A veteran police sergeant has sued Oakland, California, saying the police department covered up for a fellow officer who allegedly killed his own wife, and failed to investigate allegations that police were sexually exploiting a teenage girl after the officer revealed it in a suicide note.

In the whistleblower lawsuit in Alameda County Court, Sgt. James Gantt says he was harassed, denied promotion and placed on administrative leave after he identified Officer Brendan O’Brien as a suspect in the 2014 death of O’Brien’s wife, Irma Huerta Lopez.

Gantt, a 28-year veteran of the department and a decorated homicide investigator, says his superiors called the death a suicide and cleared O’Brien of wrongdoing despite evidence that he had killed Huerta Lopez in their Oakland Hills home, then retaliated against him to “silence” him so he wouldn’t reveal the cover-up.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office also ruled Huerta Lopez’s death a suicide, but Gantt says that evidence at the scene pointed to murder, and to O’Brien as her killer.

Two bullets had been fired, which Gantt called “unusual” for a suicide, and one of the bullet shells landed at Huerta Lopez’s right foot rather than at her side. Moreover, the bullet hole in the wall of the room where Huerta Lopez died indicated that the bullet was fired from the door of the room, not by Huerta Lopez from the bed where her body was found, according to the complaint.

Nor did Gantt believe O’Brien’s alibi that he was out buying cigarettes when Huerta Lopez killed herself — because didn’t smoke. “In addition, O’Brien stated that he had walked barefoot for a mile to the store,” Gantt says in the complaint.

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