SLAIN OFFICER LINKED TO WIFE OF RAP RECORD CHIEF KNIGHT.
The off-duty Los Angeles police officer killed in a confrontation with an on-duty detective had been living with the estranged wife of Death Row Records head Marion ``Suge'' Knight in her Hollywood Hills home.
When Officer Kevin Gaines was fatally shot Tuesday in Studio City, he was driving a sport utility vehicle registered to the wife of rap kingpin Knight, a man believed to be at the center of recent rap star violence that claimed the lives of performers Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.
For that reason, police sources said Wednesday they are concerned that Detective Frank Lyga could become the target of retaliation. Lyga, a 10-year veteran, was on administrative leave Wednesday, as is routine with officer-involved shootings.
Investigators are focusing on whatever ties Gaines, a six-year veteran, had with Marion Knight and the rap music community.
``Given the violence associated with `Suge' Knight, with that group of people, and the money involved in that business, we're a little concerned about that association,'' said one police official.
The shooting occurred about 4 p.m. when 40-year-old Lyga and 31-year-old Gaines were driving in separate cars along Cahuenga Boulevard in Studio City, and they became embroiled in an argument.
Neither man knew the other was an officer, and both were wearing civilian clothing.
According to a source close to the investigation, Gaines rolled down the window of the Mitsubishi Montero and asked Lyga: ``What the f--- you looking at? You keep staring at me, I'm going to cap you.''
Lyga had just finished working undercover in a narcotics surveillance operation and was returning to the West Bureau narcotics office in Hollywood. And Gaines, a desk officer in the Pacific Division, was less than a half-mile from where he lived with 29-year-old Sharitha Knight on Multiview Drive.
A block away from their first confrontation, Gaines and Lyga came alongside each other again. It was then that Lyga spotted Gaines wielding a gun, said Cmdr. Greg Berg, head of the Los Angeles Police Department's Narcotics Group.
``He looks back up. He's seeing a gun raise up - my officer draws and fires,'' Berg said.
Police say they have no independent witnesses.
``For a reason my officer cannot explain, Officer Gaines initiated a verbal dispute, with neither knowing who the other one was,'' Berg said.
``All we know, the officer says, for whatever reason, they kind of looked at one another,'' Berg said. ``The thing was precipitated by Officer Gaines, according to our officer. Unfortunately, we'll never hear his side of the story.''
Police arrived at the scene, not knowing that Gaines was an officer. He had been mortally wounded by two shots, even though sources said he was wearing a bulletproof vest.
The injured Gaines, a father of two, was handcuffed as he was taken to the hospital, where he died.
A solid officer
Gaines was remembered by his colleagues as a ``solid officer,'' but one who was frustrated and angry with how LAPD officers handled an incident in August at the home he shared with Sharitha Knight.
Gaines was a ``conscientious, understanding and compassionate'' member of the force, said his supervisor, Capt. Lyman Doster.
``I have found him warm and understanding,'' Doster said. ``He has been here since June, he has been working the desk for about three months.''
``He was interested in promoting,'' Doster said. ``I found him having interest in getting his career on track - he was just interested in making a move, he wanted to become a training officer.''
Lyga was described as an ``absolute rock-solid detective'' who specializes in methamphetamine cases.
``I'm confident in Frank Lyga,'' one supervisor said.
``It was a tragic incident,'' Berg said. ``What are the odds, two police officers, not even knowing one another, could get involved in this? Pretty slim. Two police officers from one police agency - the chances are pretty remote. It does happen, and it did happen.''
A dispute with police
Gaines had found himself involved in a dispute with North Hollywood officers Aug. 16 when they went to the Multiview Drive house to investigate a report of gunfire.
The officers accused Gaines of being hostile on the call. One of the officers filed a complaint against Gaines, and it remained under investigation at the time of his death.
Gaines filed a claim against the city and the LAPD, asserting that he was handcuffed, even though he had cooperated with officers. He also claimed that the officers searched his home without consent, ultimately finding no evidence of foul play.
He said he was taken to the North Hollywood station and was accused of being under the influence of drugs and then was forced to take a test. No signs of drug use were found, the claim said.
Bryant Calloway, Gaines' attorney, said Gaines' claim was denied, but that the officer continued to feel that he had been wronged.
``He thought it was improper, since they knew or should have known he was a brother officer,'' Calloway said.
The sergeant who represented Gaines on the misconduct complaint said he does not believe the dispute with the North Hollywood officers had anything to do with the shooting that left Gaines dead.
Gaines was a ``solid officer'' who unfairly had been attacked by colleagues, said Sgt. Leonard Ross, a friend of Gaines for two years.
``People envied him, they were jealous of the things he had - he had a nice lifestyle going,'' Ross said. ``I'll say it, there were a number of officers who weren't black, jealous of his ability and resources.''
``He also had business interests, people resented his ability. I understand he had a nice house, nice cars, he dressed well,'' he said. ``He was a good guy, a good policeman.''
According to divorce records, Gaines had earned as an officer $55,000 over the past year. His wife, according to Gaines' calculation, earned $38,400 a year.
Gaines separated from his wife, Georgia, in July 1996, three years after their Valentine's Day wedding; he filed for divorce in February. The couple had lived in Gardena with two little girls, Breyana, 8, and Brejone, 4.
PHOTO (color) Kevin Gaines
Killed by LAPD detective