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The Los Angeles Police Commission’s investigation into the crash of an El Monte woman

The Los Angeles Police Commission’s investigation into the crash of an El Monte woman

Ellsworth Fortman crash: A timeline of how the LAFD official dodged discipline and criminal charges as he handled the death of a former dispatcher, who was killed in a LAFD crash.

A new report details how Capt. Jeff Sotka, the police chief in LAFD’s El Monte district, has used his clout to avoid discipline for what a grand jury called a “wanton disregard” for federal law and a failure to follow proper procedures.

A grand jury also declined to charge Sotka with a crime after an El Monte woman died in a June 2015 crash near the El Monte station while he was on duty.

Two weeks before the woman died, as she rode home after her shift, police received a call that an officer who was off-duty had taken off on his bicycle, according to an internal investigation by the Los Angeles Police Commission and documents obtained by The Times.

Police then searched for the off-duty officer, but when they didn’t find him, they started investigating the woman’s death. They asked Sotka to take a look at the crash through the department’s internal affairs unit, where he determined she had suffered from a medical condition — a condition he did not consider to be a factor in the crash — and that her death was not criminally negligent.

But the internal affairs unit went through the LAFD file, found nothing wrong with the woman’s medical condition, and recommended that the department look into the accident as an “unusual” circumstance under federal regulations that allow for a high-risk accident in which a person is not responsible for their own death.

Sotka agreed, according to a newly released LAFD report obtained by The Times, and then sent a letter to El Monte Police Chief Michael Kelly saying that he was unaware of any federal regulations that allowed high-risk accidents to go unchecked.

But Sotka also failed to comply with the department’s standard procedure for investigating such an unusual circumstance so that

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