King City Police department had its acting chief and six other officers arrested Tuesday morning for allegedly stealing impound vehicles from the impoverished Latino community of Salinas Valley. District Attorney Dean Flippo made a statement Tuesday afternoon regarding an arrest of seven police officers connected to a scheme that exploited the Latin community of King City. Charges against the officers include bribery, embezzlement and conspiracy.
Around six am Tuesday morning, five teams of Federal Agents along with sheriff’s department arrested Acting Chief Bruce Miller, Brother Brian Miller and former Chief Dominic Baldiviez, who retired last September; along with six other officers tied to a towing service owned by Brian Miller. According to Flippo, the men had an agreement with Brian Millers towing company; where for every 10 to 15 cars impound, the officers would receive a car free. Allegations state Sgt. Bobby Javier Carrillo sent 87 percent of cars impound between March 2010 and last November to Millers towing company. Owner of the cars could not afford to pay the inflated impound fees or could not speak English. Miller would keep the cars, giving a few to the officers in question and selling the rest off for profit.
King City has a population of 101 with 17 active policemen. The arrest came as a shock to many in the small town leaving a “Black eye,” as City Manager Michael Powers stated in an interview with local reporters. The police station was left with a “closed” sign as Powers explained the front desk could not remain open, because so many officers were arrested.
The investigation began when District attorney Flippo heard complaints during a town meeting that the police of King City were stealing people’s property, and that there was nothing being done about it. Flippo began a six month investigation into the department which lead to various other criminal activities. Bruce Miller said he was aware of the investigation into his department, but did not expect to become a suspect himself. Bruce Miller said in an interview after posting bail that the whole situation left him “shocked.” Miller denies any wrong doing saying that even if he is found innocent of the charges, his reputation, and career are ruined. Investigators state Carrillo was the leader of the operation and bribed other officers with free cars if they joined in. Other criminal charges were filed against the officers including Officer Jaime Andrade, charged with possession of an assault weapon and illegal storage of a firearm. Flippo states the firearm was found in a place where “a child could easily reach.” Sgt. Mark Allen Baker Charged with criminal threats.
The investigation is still on going and all seven officers have now posted bail. County Sheriffs department has lent a few officers to help patrol the streets as the city decides what steps to take next. County Sheriff Scot Miller stated that, although nearly half the police force is on administrative leave, residents have no reason to fear the law will not be enforced in their city.
According to the local Latin community, these arrests are hardly a surprise as most of the community has had little to no trust in the King City police department for years.
By Eric Ohm