Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bombing of Harry Raymond

Clifford visits Harry Raymond after the bombing.
Photo: UCLA Special Collections
Private investigator Harry Raymond knew he was being watched.

By January of 1938, Los Angeles Police Capt. Earle Kynette and Lt. Roy Allen were spending more time at a small house in Raymond's Boyle Heights neighborhood. In September, Kynette rented a spy house down an alley across from 955 Orne St. A wiretap connected to telephone lines to monitor the investigator's conversations.

Raymond, a former chief of the San Diego and Venice police departments, had become a target of the LAPD's Metropolitan Special Investigation Unit (known as the "spy squad"). Raymond was the prime witness in a fraud trial stemming from Mayor Frank Shaw's 1933 election campaign. Raymond had uncovered evidence linking Shaw's administration to gambling and prostitution rings while working for Ralph Gray. His client was a campaign worker who was owed $2,900.

On a nippy Friday morning in January, Raymond walked to his car that was parked in his wood-frame garage. He pushed the starter button and suddenly felt the impact of an explosion that tore the engine out of his car and filled his body with 186 pieces of automotive shrapnel. An ambulance rushed him to the Central Receiving Hospital (which is now the LAPD's Rampart Division station). He was in shock but conscious.

In the fall of 1937, Clifford had contacted Raymond to help with his personal investigations of vice as a member of a county grand jury. Clifford and other civic-minded citizens had founded CIVIC (Citizens Independent Vice Investigating Committee) to root out city corruption. Clifford found out about the blast and rushed to his bedside. He was joined by Gray; James Richardson, editor of the Los Angeles Examiner; and Buron Fitts, district attorney.

Richardson rushed in and asked, "Who did it, Harry?"

"That son of a bitch Kynette," Raymond whispered. "I want you to promise you'll get him for me."

"I'll get him for you, Harry," Richardson answered.

On Jan. 22, Los Angeles Police Chief James "Two Gun" Davis returned from a trip to Mexico with the LAPD pistol team and exonerated Kynette before reviewing the evidence.

On Jan. 31, the Examiner  published an investigation accusing the administration of having ties to the underworld. The article identified former Police Commissioner Harry Munson as a courier of underworld money to the Shaw administration.

Investigators eventually traced fragments from the pipe bomb to Kynette. Three officers--Kynette, Allen, and Sgt. Fred Browne--were charged with four counts of conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, assault with attempt to murder, and malicious use of explosives. During a trial that began April 19, three other members of the squad were asked about wiretaps to monitor Raymond's telephone conversations. They declined to testify.

The jury returned guilty verdicts against Kynette and Allen on June 16. Browne was acquitted. The press was unanimous in its verdict of the trial, recommending that the spy squad be disbanded and the three who refused to testify be fired. After a police board of review, the self-preserving patrolmen were reinstated.

"The verdict is really a vindication for the people of Los Angeles," Raymond told the Los Angeles Times. "It may prevent them from being constantly harassed by the undercover bunch of gunmen masquerading as a police intelligence squad."

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