Councilman for L.A.’s 13th District Hugo Soto-Martinez is one of the city’s most prominent police abolitionists. So it came as something of a surprise when on Wednesday an officer out of the LAPD Rampart Division received a radio call requesting “extra patrol throughout the night” for a white Lexus that was parked at the Echo Park office of the#CareNotCops councilman.
The inherent irony of the request from the Democratic Socialists of America-backed rep that night led a Rampart officer to memorialize it by snapping a picture of the mobile computer screen where the radio call popped up. By Friday, the image had migrated to Instagram and Twitter, where it became ammunition for Soto-Martinez’s enemies in L.A.’s never ending culture wars.
Tom Saggau, a spokesperson for the L.A. Police Protective League, the union that fought hard to keep Soto-Martinez from winning office in November and lost, said the report shows the freshman councilman is a hypocrite.
“For us, it’s the height of hypocrisy for a police abolitionist to ask for armed police response to protect his property,” he said. “We’re curious as to why he’s not phoning an unarmed response, somebody he advocated so strongly for. Why isn’t that good enough for him?”
Here’s the thing, though: Soto-Martinez doesn’t drive a Lexus. He drives a Prius, as has been seen on his Twitter feed.
So, who called the cops to monitor the broken-down car in the lot of Soto-Martinez’s office? Was it the councilman, as spelled out in the radio call, or was it a staffer using the authority of the councilman to make the request? If it didn’t come from Soto-Martinez, when did he learn of the call?
In a statement sent on Friday to LAMag, Nick Barnes Batista, communications deputy for Councilman Soto-Martinez, blamed the flap on a junior-level staffer and indicated the whole affair has the boss seeing red.
“It’s come to our attention that a deputy staffer has had some contact with the LAPD regarding his personal vehicle. We are investigating this matter internally and will be taking appropriate action,” Batista said. “Council member Soto-Martinez is very upset, as this does not reflect the values of transparency, responsible governance, and being accountable to the community that elected him.”
It’s understandable that the flap has Soto-Martinez in damage control mode. Just a few weeks ago, he stood with Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Melina Abdullah to demand that Los Angeles police officers no longer be dispatched to minor traffic incidents.
The police call mystery was ultimately solved on Friday—it turns out, the white Lexus in question is registered to a District 13 staffer named David Mai, who city records list as a case worker. After staking out the Echo Park office’s lot, Fox LA caught up with Mai while he was behind the wheel; he drove off onto Sunset Blvd. rather than answer the reporter’s questions.
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