Local Journalism Happens With YouSupport
News

Inglewood PD Drug Task Force Officer John Baca Arrested on Drug Trafficking Charges

The veteran officer appears to have used his power, influence, and knowledge of law enforcement to sell narcotics.

a pair of handcuffs and a baggy full of white powder against a black background
(Image: Marco Verch | Flickr)

UPDATE, 10/29/21 – 7:25 PM

Veteran drug task force Inglewood Police Department officer John Abel Baca was arrested on October 21, 2021 and faces charges for intentionally distributing over one kilogram of cocaine. The federal indictment alleges two transactions. The first was on April 29, 2021, when Baca allegedly delivered cocaine to a witness cooperating with law enforcement. Baca then allegedly delivered approximately one kilogram of cocaine to the same witness during another meeting on May 4, 2021 in exchange for $22,000 in cash. 

Baca has been employed by the IPD since 2000 as a task force officer on drug investigations. He is also the vice president of the Inglewood Police Association, the union for Inglewood police officers. He was hired as a peace officer despite his violent criminal record — in 1996, he was convicted of assault and battery and sentenced to one year of probation. In 2008, he was one of eight officers involved in the shooting death of 56-year-old Eddie Felix Franco. Officers fired at Franco 47 times, striking a male bystander in the head and leaving a nearby wall riddled with at least 13 bullet holes and blood. Witness Larry Ross told the Los Angeles Times that he did not hear the officers ask Franco to put down his weapon. The incident, along with nine other shooting deaths, was investigated by the OIR Group, a law-enforcement review company. But out of the 115 publicly available reports from the OIR, the Inglewood report remains singularly confidential.  

A former campaign aide for Inglewood Mayor James Butts says that federal agents raided the Inglewood Police Department station on October 22, confiscating cellphones and laptops. A cellphone from Mayor Butts was allegedly confiscated. Following the raid, IPD’s narcotics unit was temporarily disbanded, says the former campaign aide. IPD and Mayor Butts’ office did not respond to a request for comment on this story.  

According to the complaint, Gerardo Ekonomo began working as a confidential informant for IPD on August 18, 2016. Records from IPD indicate that Ekonomo did not have a substantial criminal history and never been an informant before. On October 12, 2016, Baca requested Ekonomo as a confidential source. Ekonomo stated in an interview with federal law enforcement following his arrest that he had agreed to “work” with Baca because IPD paid more to informants than other police departments. But based on activity logs, during his five years as an informant, Ekonomo never conducted any operations with the IPD. 

In March of 2021, a witness cooperating with the Department of Justice who knew Baca for at least seven months agreed to record all of their communications. On April 21, 2021, the informant met with federal agents and called Baca on Telegram Messenger, an encrypted communication app. According to the indictment, “As a law enforcement officer, Baca has knowledge of law enforcement tools for intercepting phone calls, and has consistently demonstrated the use of counter-measures to avoid law enforcement detection.” Baca stated that he could set aside five kilograms of cocaine for them. Baca indicated it was a good time to buy cocaine and that the buyer needed to make a decision soon. 

Five days later, on April 26, the informant followed law enforcement instructions to meet with Baca to discuss the police officer providing a sample of cocaine. The buyer would then deliver this sample to his “buyer” — the federal government, unbeknownst to Baca. Baca also stated he had five kilograms of “China White,” a type of heroin, “that’s still lingering around.” The informant asked for the going price, to which Baca responded “Sell it to them for fucking 10,” meaning $10,000. Three days later, Baca delivered the cocaine sample driving a dark grey Ferrari California with no license plate, which are required in the state of California. According to the complaint, GPS data indicates that Baca visited Ekonomo’s home shortly before he delivered one kilogram of cocaine to the informant one week later, and at least seven additional times between May and August of 2021. Baca was also recorded discussing marijuana cultivation operations in the Lucerne Valley.  

Ekonomo claimed that Baca instructed him to transport narcotics across state lines in June 2021 during an interview with federal agents. Ekonomo was arrested while in Nevada with three kilos of heroin in his car, and Baca attempted to intervene in the case brought by the North Las Vegas Police Department. He repeatedly contacted Ekonomo’s arresting officer and inquired if Ekonomo could “work off” the case by cooperating with law enforcement. Ekonomo’s case in Nevada is still pending. 

Baca and Ekonomo are currently detained in federal custody pending trial. If convicted on the charges in the indictment, Baca faces a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence and a maximum sentence of 60 years of federal prison. Ekonomo faces a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Update 10/30/21: This article has been updated to keep sources anonymized and protected.

Original Article:

Veteran Inglewood Police Officer John Baca was arrested on October 21, 2021 and faces narcotics charges. The federal indictment alleges two transactions. The first was on April 29, when Baca allegedly delivered cocaine to a witness cooperating with law enforcement. Then, on May 4, Baca allegedly delivered approximately one kilogram of cocaine to the same witness during another meeting, in exchange for $22,000 in cash.

John Abel Baca also appears to be the vice president of the Inglewood Police Association, the union for Inglewood police officers. John Baca also has a 1996 conviction for assault and battery, and was one of the officers who shot and killed 56-year-old Eddie Felix Franco, an unhoused man with a toy gun in his waistband, in 2008.

Thanks to readers like you, Knock LA is able to keep you informed on local politics and uplift marginalized voices in Los Angeles. Join us in fighting the good fight and click here to support Knock LA.