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911 tape: DUI caller is a former Riverside cop

The man says the subject of his call, who turned out to be Councilman Righeimer, stumbled to his car and did not stay in lanes while driving. Righeimer was found to be sober and accused the caller of setting him up.

August 24, 2012|By Joseph Serna and Lauren Williams
  • Councilman Jim Righeimer, center, addresses the media at City Hall on Friday regarding the Costa Mesa police showing up at his house on Wednesday.
Councilman Jim Righeimer, center, addresses the media… (BRITNEY BARNES,…)

A man who made a 911 call accusing Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer of driving drunk is believed to be a former Riverside police officer.

The caller identified himself to a police dispatcher as Chris Lanzillo, according to a tape of the call obtained by the Daily Pilot on Friday afternoon using the state public records act.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation confirmed that Lanzillo is a former police officer turned private investigator and that he is believed to be the person who reported Righeimer's driving.

Lanzillo could not be reached for comment, but a Riverside Press-Enterprise article from October 2010 said he was fired from the force and sued for alleged discrimination before being reinstated and allowed to take a medical retirement.

"In the claims, Lanzillo alleged that because of his union activities and comments he made — including some critical of an assistant chief — he was transferred to an undesirable assignment, passed over for advancement and investigated by internal affairs," according to the article, which also said the city's police chief denied the allegations.

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Righeimer has clashed with labor, initiating a plan to lay off city workers and possibly replace them with private sector employees. On Friday, he held a press conference accusing organized labor of being responsible for the emergency call.

On the Costa Mesa 911 tape, a caller believed to be Lanzillo calls police dispatch to report a possible drunk driver. He said he saw the driver, but doesn't name Righeimer, stumbling out of a sports bar before getting in his SUV, speeding and "swerving all over the road."

In the recording, the dispatcher advised the man reporting the call that he did not need to follow Righeimer as he drove home.

"You don't have to follow the vehicle if you don't have to," the dispatcher said.

"I'm just behind this fella," Lanzillo said. "I'll stay behind him a while more."

The caller, who told the dispatcher he was not from Costa Mesa, continued to name streets as he tailed the councilman in a white Kia.

The man said Righeimer drove 50 mph down a residential street and ran a stop sign.

"It's just … he's not staying inside his lanes," the man reported to a dispatcher. "I saw him like stumbling out of the location. Maybe he's disabled, I don't know."

The man refers to himself and someone else in the car in the dispatch call, and another voice can be heard in the recording.

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