ANTIOCH, Calif. (KRON) — More racist text messages exchanged between Antioch police officers came to light on Monday when the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office released a second investigative report to the media.
The egregiously racist text messages and images were sent and received by certain Antioch Police Department officers in 2020 and 2021.
A judge ordered the District Attorney’s Office to disclose redacted investigative reports to defense attorneys whose clients were arrested by police officers named in the reports. The first 21-page report was released on April 13, followed by the second 14-page report on Monday.
Prosecutors said they made redactions to balance “public interest” with the sensitive nature of what is contained in the reports.
The texts were described by Police Chief Steve Ford as “racially abhorrent.”
Officers were on-duty and using their personal cellphones when they exchanged text messages with language containing racial slurs. Officers referred to Black people as “zoo” and “circus” animals. “Bro the circus is in town… but it seems they only brought monkeys,” Officer Aaron Hughes wrote on May 4, 2020, according to the report.
Officer Eric Rombough wrote on March 25, 2021, “Sooo many black people.” Officer Jonathan Adams replied, “Bro. They all look the same.” Rombough replied back, “Tell me about it. I feel like I’m at the zoo.”
In a message dated Nov. 22, 2021, Rombough allegedly texted an officer, “I’m only stopping them cuz they black.” Rombough also wrote a text on January 24, 2022 stating, “Bottom line it doesn’t matter some gorilla killed another gorilla,” according to the report.
Rombough joined the Antioch Police Department in early 2017. According to the APD’s “Meet Your Beat” Facebook post from 2020, he was assigned to the Problem Oriented Policing team, SWAT team, and Gang Unit.
The second report detailed more disturbing text messages attributed to Officer Rombough, who is a former professional soccer player. “He got his a** whooped in the back yard and I field goal kicked his head. I tried to knock him unconscious,” Rombough wrote on March 31, 2021. Prosecutors redacted the name of the person who received the text message. The person wrote back, “Glad you’re havin fun babe.”
Seventeen Antioch police officers are named in the two investigation reports:
- Sergeant Josh Evans
- Sergeant Rick Hoffman (President of the Antioch Police Officers’ Association)
- Officer Eric Rombough
- Detective Robert Gerber
- Officer Jonathan Adams
- Officer Morteza Amiri
- Officer Scott Duggar
- Officer Tom Smith
- Officer Brock Marcotte
- Officer Timothy Manly Williams
- Officer Aaron Hughes
- Officer Brayton Milner
- Officer Calvin Prieto
- Officer John Ramirez
- Officer Andrea Rodriguez
- Officer Kyle Smith
- Officer Devon Wenger
The FBI and District Attorney’s Office are investigating Antioch police officers suspected of committing “crimes of moral turpitude” and criminal offenses. The joint investigation was launched in March of 2022. “Moral turpitude” is a legal term used for describing, “wicked, deviant behavior constituting an immoral, unethical, or unjust departure from ordinary social standards such that it would shock a community,” according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.
The reports were written as part of the ongoing federal probe into the APD. A judge cautioned defense attorneys that documents from the reports contain explicit words and images that are hurtful, offensive, and inflammatory.
The District Attorney’s Office wrote Monday, “The judge issuing the order reminded defense counsel about the sensitive nature of the content of the reports and urged caution in its distribution beyond the parties involved in the criminal case. Media interest in accessing the second report increased over the weekend when a copy of it was leaked to the press and public.”
One day before the first investigation report was released by the DA’s Office, Antioch Police Chief Steve Ford wrote an apology message to the community of Antioch.
Ford wrote, “I condemn – in the strongest possible terms – the racially abhorrent content and incomprehensible behavior being attributed to members of the Antioch Police Department in media reports. I have taken immediate action to ensure a thorough investigation by an external independent entity is conducted and the community is not exposed to any individuals under question from this reporting. On behalf of our organization, I apologize to the Antioch Community for the hurt caused by this hateful speech. I promise to hold accountable the officers expressing racist or bigoted beliefs, biased insensitivity, and those boasting about harming members of the community.”
After finding and reviewing the text messages, FBI and CCCDAO investigators wrote that they believe Antioch police officers violated the Racial Justice Act. “Derogatory, homophobic, and sexually explicit language and photographs … demonstrates their racial bias and animus towards African Americans and other people of color in the community.” In addition to the racist text messages, officers are also suspected of dishonesty, perjury, abuse of authority, and violating civil rights, according to the reports.
Fallout from the text messages could lead to charges against suspects being dropped.
District Attorney Diana Becton said her office is working to identify cases that are potentially compromised. “Once we’ve identified those cases — and any overlapping conflicts — we will initiate a detailed review process for potential dismissal, resentencing, or the preservation of convictions,” Becton wrote.
Community members are organizing demonstrations Tuesday evening outside the Antioch police station and City Hall to protest racist and alleged criminal behavior by APD officers. “We demand the immediate termination of all officers involved,” organizers wrote.
The Antioch Police Department announced Monday that it is postponing its upcoming Open House and BBQ Party, an event that had invited the community to enjoy “some food and fun” with the APD. “We have decided the best course of action is to postpone the Open House and BBQ. This is a sensitive time for everyone,” APD wrote on Facebook.