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Around 1977, I was a Detective in North Hollywood Division and investigated a robbery that resulted in the arrest of Kenneth Gay. During the interview process of this Defendant, he adamantly proclaimed that he hated police officers and would kill any police officer if he had a chance to do so. In fact, during his arrest in Lake View Terrace, he attempted to kick out the windows of my detective vehicle and to solicit his neighbors to take him from our custody. All of his information is documented in a follow up investigative report that I completed in 1977 and should be available to verify through investigative records. He was convicted and ultimately sentenced to Prison.
Fast forward to 1983 when a Los Angeles Police Officer Medal of Valor winner, Paul Verna, an officer with a wife and two young children ages 4 and 9 is patrolling the streets of the area he grew up in. Paul, working in the Lake View Terrace area of the city, performs a traffic stop on Kenneth Gay and his partner in crime, Reynard Cummings. Unknown to Officer Verna, two career criminals are on parole and have previously committed a series of armed robberies throughout the San Fernando Valley. During this traffic stop encounter, Reynard Cummings shoots Officer Verna and then hands the gun to Kenneth Gay who proceeds to execute the officer as he lays mortally wounded on the street and unable to defend himself. Gay took Officer Verna’s service revolver and both suspects attempt to flee out of state. Gay and Cummings were captured by SIS detectives before they cross state lines and Gay is in possession of Paul’s service revolver.
After a lengthy trial, Kenneth Gay and Reynard Cummings are found guilty and sentenced to Death in a jury trial for this horrible, senseless crime.
Paul has two sons who persevered and through the strength of their mother, both become Los Angeles Police Officers in their father’s footsteps. They have moved on with their lives in the belief that justice has been served and Paul will be remembered and vindicated. Paul’s parents are still alive, and to this date, celebrating their 74th wedding anniversary. They’re still mourning the loss of their son.
In 2000, Kenneth Gay is granted an appeal and new penalty phase trial by the illustrious California Supreme Court. Paul’s family must endure a retrial. Paul’s father celebrates a birthday in court with the rest of the family listening to details of this heinous crime. This trial takes place in the San Fernando County Court. After 17 years of anguish and a 6 week retrial, Gay is again sentenced to death by a jury.
Recently, the California Supreme Court, in all its wisdom, has granted Kenneth Gay a new trial in the murder of Paul Verna. I write this as I am the husband of Paul’s widow and the Step Father to Paul’s two sons. Through their love and generosity, I am the adopted son of Paul’s parents.
Our family just recently learned that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office has until this December to decide whether they will retry Kenneth Gay for the murder of Officer Paul Verna. There is some speculation among those in the know that the D.A.’s office is wavering on their commitment to retry this cold blooded killer. Failing to commit 100% effort to retry this case would be a travesty beyond belief. The Los Angeles Police Department, its active and retired members and the County of Los Angeles owe it to Paul Verna, his family and friends to retry Kenneth Gay for the murder of a Los Angeles Police Officer, Paul Verna. This case deserves no less than a 100% coordinated effort on behalf of L.A.P.D. Detectives and Prosecutors to move forward and conduct a re-trial.
I am urging our members both active and retired to write and call the District Attorney’s office in support of retrying Kenneth Gay. I am providing you with names and contact information for the prosecutors with responsibility in this case. Let’s all do our part to bring justice to Paul Verna and his family.
Jackie Lacy JLacey@da.lacounty.gov 213 974-5060 x2294 / 2295
Joey Esposito JEsposito@da.lacounty.gov 213 257-2928
Vicky Adams VAdams@da.lacounty.gov 213 257-3177
Maria Ramirez MRamirez@da.lacounty.gov 213 257-3188
Written by Norm Jackson
Detective 3 Retired
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