By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Taken for a Ride
Did crimes Kamran Mashayekhi witnessed put his life in danger? Some law-enforcement officials aren't so sure
On a sticky table at a bustling Norms restaurant, laminated pictures of pancakes peek through splayed white pages, folded newspaper articles and an orange envelope.
"I'm marked for death," a thickly accented, graying Iranian-born man at the table says. Kamran Mashayekhi, 66, wears a neat, checkered sport coat on top of a button-up shirt. "Look," he says, placing his hands over a 23-page emergency-room report. "Those motherfuckers tried to kill me."
At Mashayekhi's cursing, a man sitting at a nearby table with his family lifts his eyes from his prime rib and glares in irritation at him.
"Those murderous gangsters are like al-Qaeda," Mashayekhi declares. "They are the terrorists."
Perhaps the subject of the too-loud assertion makes the man with the prime rib decide against telling Mashayekhi to keep it down. At another nearby table, an elderly couple has stopped talking.
"The police will do nothing to protect me. The Anaheim police are waiting for my blood," Mashayekhi says. "The Buena Park police are waiting for my blood. They take from you; they use you. And then they throw you into the lion's den."
A young Latina waitress walks over to the table. Smiling, she leans over to fill two coffee mugs. "Let me open those blinds for you," she says. She pulls down the string, the window revealing midday Main Street in Santa Ana. Mashayekhi spots two young Latinos on the sidewalk and quickly averts his gaze, shielding his face with his hand.
From an envelope, Mashayekhi pulls a pile of old, washed-out-looking photographs. One is a poorly scanned Kodachrome of young Mashayekhi wearing aviator shades. An indiscernible burly, bearded man in fatigues salutes behind him. Fidel Castro, he says.
Another is of Mashayekhi with Elizabeth Taylor. With George H.W. Bush. With Anwar Sadat. With John Wayne.
"I was a reporter," he says. "See, look at these pictures."
He pulls a folded newspaper from the pile. "Look, read this," he says. "Mr. Dana Parsons at the Los Angeles Times wrote about me.
"I'm sleeping from motel to motel every night. But I cannot leave. If I don't stay to testify, the district attorney will have no case, and these murderous gangsters will get away free. But I am not scared.
"You must promise me you will write my story," he insists. "If I am killed, I will not go silently."
The article Mashayekhi points to, "Beaten Man Says He Won't Bow to Gangs," is familiar. Not only did it run on the front page of the Los Angeles Times Metro section on Dec. 8, but copies had been arriving in the mail at the Weekly for more than a month, too. The folded sections of newspaper were often accompanied by cryptic handwritten messages, such as "Anaheim Police are waiting for my blood."
On the afternoon of Nov. 29, 2007, Mashayekhi was allegedly assaulted in a Buena Park garage by 26-year-old Gilbert Carrillo Jr. and another man who has never been identified. He claims it was a gang-related hit because he worked as an informant for the police and was possibly responsible for some of Carrillo's associates being incarcerated.
Carrillo was released on bail in December, and with police not seeming to take threats to Mashayekhi's safety seriously, more information may yet be revealed. A preliminary hearing in which the district attorney's office will lay out its case against the defendant is scheduled for March 13 and could provide answers.
Parsons' first Times column echoed Mashayekhi's version of the story, but in a follow-up column on Dec. 20, he seemed to back away from the excitable Iranian by including a mysterious statement from Buena Park Detective Sergeant John Swisher.
"The more and more we look into this," Swisher told Parsons, "the more we thought what happened at first may not be exactly what happened."
Buena Park detectives would not speak to the Weekly about this case or this quote. Parsons declined to comment on his two columns, saying he may write about Mashayekhi again.
* * *
The story began one night two years ago when Mashayekhi, then a taxi driver, stayed in a seedy Anaheim motel. Peering out the window, he noticed a group of six or seven men disappearing into a nearby room, lugging what appeared to be a dead body wrapped up in a blanket, he says. He immediately called the police.
This wasn't the first time he'd blown the whistle on crimes, he says.
Back then, he carried a card in his wallet with the cell-phone numbers of several local detectives. Mashayekhi proudly recounts a history of informing. The paydays were usually between $30 and $200, but he says he did it to be a "Good Samaritan."
He pointed out the locations of meth labs, crack houses and whorehouses. He led the police to a child-pornography operation and provided inside information on local Muslim extremists. He gave up the names of drug and gun dealers. He even acted as a decoy, pretending to buy drugs under the supervision of detectives, he says.
Police departments contacted by the Weekly declined to confirm Mashayekhi's involvement in any investigation—or the identities of any confidential sources.