October 4, 2023

ANTIOCH – From the “Meet Your Beat” welcome pages the Antioch Police Division as soon as posted on Fb, officers Eric Rombough and Morteza Amiri seem like awfully good guys.

Rombough, younger and blond in his photographs, is described as a household man, who enjoys wine tasting, cooking along with his Traeger smoker and enjoying along with his 4 canine, together with a Chiweenie.

Amiri, who grew up in Antioch, loves eating out on sushi along with his spouse and younger son. On his days off, he goes swimming with Purcy, the K9 he handles on the job. Each day he places on his uniform, he says within the Fb video, he desires to “be sure that this neighborhood is secure for different households identical to mine.”

All of it appeared so candy – till federal brokers in armored tanks with flash bang grenades pulled into their driveways earlier than daybreak Thursday. Authorities dragged them out of their houses, indicted them on costs of civil rights violations and launched a trove of latest textual content messages between Rombough and Amiri and a slew of different East Contra Costa officers.

They now face allegations of plotting violent arrests and jail time if convicted.

“Lol placing a pistol in somebody’s mouth and telling him to cease stealing isn’t unlawful,” Amiri wrote to an officer from a neighboring metropolis in one of many texts detailed within the federal indictment. “It’s an act of public service to forestall additional victims of crime.”

The allegations captured in 29 pages of the indictment had been so surprising that on Friday even a few of the police departments’ most ardent supporters had been left questioning easy methods to sq. the officers’ protect-and-serve family-man photographs with their horrific texts.

“Possibly it’s time to take this tribute piece down,” one commenter wrote Thursday underneath the division’s put up about Rombough. “How unhappy for all of the proud family and friends congratulating him on his new job to be taught he and his cronies have shamed the pressure.”

Notably unsettling within the texts is the informal means Amiri and Rombough discuss inflicting ache and hiding their crimes. Amiri strategized about easy methods to make Purcy chew more durable on suspects – tug again on his leash when he’s biting down – and bragged about siccing him on a sleeping suspect, the indictment says. He saved a operating tally of the bites, sharing his rating – “simply received #3” – after every assault and posted photographs of the Belgian Malinois canine and the accidents it inflicted. One fellow officer, commenting “good job,” appeared extra involved about an obvious damage to Purcy than the suspect.

“What minimize the canine’s face?” the unnamed officer requested.

“that’s a bit of the suspect’s flesh lol,” Amiri replied.

LOL, they wrote time and again. And in some instances LMAO! At occasions, they peppered their conversations with racial slurs – calling their targets “gorillas” whereas one urged to the opposite to “keep secure bro.”

Rombough saved his personal tally, the indictment says. He didn’t work with a canine, however dealt with a .40mm foam bullet launcher as a substitute as a gang and SWAT unit member. In a single case, the indictment says, Rombough shot a suspect he stated was pretending to sleep, hitting him within the chest – a doubtlessly deadly location for an affect that knocked him away from bed. Rombough took dwelling as a trophy every arduous foam bullet that hit its human goal and turned them right into a craft challenge, prosecutors allege. With a framed define of an American flag, the bullets stuffed within the stars and stripes. His fellow officers praised his progress.

“We simply should discover a method to end our flag,” wrote an unnamed officer in a textual content.

“I do know,” Rombough replied, “problem accepted.”

Somebody who calls Rombough “babe” cherished it, too.

“Good babe, one other one for the mantle,” the texter wrote. “Glad you’re having enjoyable babe.”

Calls by this information group to attorneys for Rombough and Amiri weren’t returned by Friday night.

Each officers joined the Antioch police pressure in 2017, however took totally different routes to get there. Rombough had performed soccer in faculty and professionally in Bolivia, then labored at his household’s development enterprise earlier than becoming a member of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Workplace, then Antioch Police.

Amiri grew up in Antioch’s Part 8 housing along with his single mom – a life expertise, he stated on the Fb video, that “makes me extra understanding on patrol after I come throughout comparable conditions.” He speaks Farsi, the language of his Afghan Iranian mom. He labored in safety at Goal and Outdated Navy shops earlier than becoming a member of the police academy and the Antioch pressure.

He earned his bachelor’s diploma by way of on-line courses, he stated. He didn’t point out, because the indictment revealed, that he made a $250 cost to somebody to do the category work for him — a level that boosted his police pay and led to wire fraud costs.

The boys are two of 10 present and former cops indicted Thursday amid one of many Bay Space’s largest police scandals in current reminiscence – their alleged crimes starting from fraudulently acquiring faculty levels to steroid gross sales to 1 officer’s alleged try and intervene with a wiretap. It metastasized even additional Friday with the submitting of state costs of bribery in opposition to three new officers and two additionally going through federal costs, bringing the general tally of individuals charged to 13.

However the civil rights indictment in opposition to Amiri and Rombough – in addition to a 3rd officer, Devon Wenger – stands out for the sheer brutality they allegedly wrought on residents of Antioch. And it reveals Amiri and Rombough clearly shared a good bond. In textual content messages, they referred to as one another “bro,” whereas discussing how finest to sic Amiri’s police canine on suspects and joking about their “real love” for one another.

Antioch Police Officer Devon Wenger. (Antioch Police Department)
Antioch Police Officer Devon Wenger. (Antioch Police Division) 

“F— I simply wish to punch the shit out of somebody lol,” Rombough wrote to Amiri in December 2019.

“do it bro,” Amiri replied, including, “I hate not having you on the streets with me.”

“i do know bro,” Rombough stated, “not even the identical.”

All of it stood in such stark distinction to their public, neighborly personas.

Amiri lives in a five-bedroom, three-bathroom dwelling with a pool on a cul-de-sac on the fringe of Antioch, the place practically each dwelling has a digicam affixed to the entrance door and a “no soliciting” signal. Amiri retains a white pickup truck and a Tesla within the storage and an previous RV within the aspect yard. An ice cream truck usually drives by way of within the evenings. His neighbors are Black, White and Filipino.

Just lately, he introduced an extension ladder to his neighbor’s home to scrub off her photo voltaic panels on the roof, neighbors stated. Just a few doorways down, Connie Daniels stated that when her husband had knee surgical procedure, Amiri introduced over a field of cookies together with recent eggs from his chickens. She’s by no means seen a darkish aspect, she stated.

“He’s at all times proven me respect,” stated Daniels. “He’s at all times been a really nice particular person.”

At his entrance door, the place Amiri’s spouse advised this information group by way of an intercom to “depart my property” Thursday night, Amiri retains a welcome mat that claims in black letters, “Come again with a warrant.”

On Thursday morning, the Daniels had been woke up by FBI brokers with a loudspeaker saying they’d one.

On the identical time Thursday morning, in Fairfield’s extra rural Inexperienced Valley, Ignacio Abruzzo was additionally startled awake. A tank with what regarded like a machine gun on prime had pulled into Rombough’s driveway subsequent to Abruzzo’s dwelling. He feared for Rombough, at first, that perhaps he was a sufferer of a criminal offense.

However no. Rombough was the accused. Abruzzo couldn’t imagine it. Rombough and his spouse have been such fantastic neighbors, he stated. Their 9-year-old son performs basketball within the driveway.

“I’ve nothing unhealthy to say about him,” Abruzzo stated.

The one time he was involved, Abruzzo stated, was when Rombough recalled taking pictures a suspect useless a 12 months earlier, and “I may see in his face it actually messed him up. He was enthusiastic about leaving the pressure.”

Ignacio Abruzzo, 77, tells what he saw during the FBI raid of his next door neighbor, Antioch Police Officer Eric Rombough, in unincorporated Fairfield, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023. On Thursday, a Federal grand jury in San Francisco handed down at least three indictments that accuses current and former officers with a wide range of offenses, including criminal conspiracy. The alleged crimes ranged from civil rights violations to wire fraud, as well as accusations of an officer interfered with an ongoing homicide investigation. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
Ignacio Abruzzo, 77, tells what he noticed through the FBI raid of his subsequent door neighbor, Antioch Police Officer Eric Rombough, in unincorporated Fairfield, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023. On Thursday, a Federal grand jury in San Francisco handed down no less than three indictments that accuses present and former officers with a variety of offenses, together with legal conspiracy. The alleged crimes ranged from civil rights violations to wire fraud, in addition to accusations of an officer interfered with an ongoing murder investigation. (Ray Chavez/Bay Space Information Group) 

However even that statement is tough to sq. with the proof within the federal indictments. Within the textual content messages, Rombough stated he thought-about leaving the police pressure in 2021 as a result of scrutiny introduced on by means of physique cameras.

Making an attempt to reconcile the 2 sides of those officers – now going through 10 years in jail on the civil rights costs – is a tough job.