More digging has shed light on the firing of Fort Bragg Police Sergeant Christopher Awad. The woman that he admits to having an intimate relationship with is the sister of a member of the notorious Norteños gang–at the time, Awad was a member of the Multi-Agency Gang Suppression Unit.
A new state law that went into effect January 1 disqualifies former law enforcement officers from working in the field again if they are found to have committed significant misconduct. But as of the end of February, the only person on the list is former Fort Bragg Police Sergeant Christopher Awad. In September of last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB2, and now, law enforcement agencies have to report to the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission when they fire someone. If the commission finds the former officer unfit to serve because they perjured themselves or committed certain violent crimes, they will be permanently barred from working in law enforcement in the state. Former officers who have been found guilty of felonies are already prohibited from working as cops again.
Last month, Awad voluntarily gave up his certification. He was fired in 2020 after District Attorney Dave Eyster placed him on the Brady list for withholding information about his involvement with a DUI defendant who was closely connected to a notorious street gang. Awad represented Fort Bragg on the county’s Multi-Agency Gang Suppression Unit, or MAGSU. He admitted that he failed to inform the court that he had had intimate contact with the defendant prior to testifying against her. The prosecuting attorney accused him of trying to “tank the case” by downplaying the extent of the defendant’s culpability. She said it was obvious to jurors and attorneys alike that he was concealing a relationship with the defendant. The DA requested an internal affairs investigation.
In April of 2019, then-acting Sergeant Christopher Awad pulled over a woman near the Harbor Lite Lodge in Fort Bragg and administered a field sobriety test. He arrested her and she pled guilty to driving under the influence. Both of them told investigators that they thought her case was over and done with when they started flirting on Snapchat. She sent him suggestive pictures, and he told her that anytime she needed a ride, he would provide one, rather than let her drive after drinking again. In an interview with now-retired District Attorney investigator Kevin Bailey, Awad made a point of saying that this offer extended to anyone, male or female, who was too impaired to drive safely. On Sunday, Matt LaFever reported that in 2014, another woman has come forward with a story alleging that Awad arrested her for a DUI and then tried to establish a dating relationship with her.
In the case that resulted in Awad’s firing, misunderstandings about the legal process ensued when the woman’s DUI case moved to trial and she feared her DACA status was threatened.
As the case moved towards trial, Awad told the DA’s office he thought the charge should be reduced to a so-called “wet and reckless.” He told investigators he interpreted ambiguous statements from a Deputy District Attorney to mean that the lesser charge was a certainty. He said his intent at that point was not to get the case thrown out; “To just tell the DA all the good reasons why she doesn’t need to get deported.”
However, the DA’s office did not offer the woman a “wet and reckless.” Instead, she was prosecuted for a DUI. Awad, as the arresting officer, was a key witness for the prosecution. Shortly before the trial, he and the defendant had a sexual encounter in a motel room in the Bay Area. He did not disclose the incident to the court, and according to the prosecuting attorney, even jurors suspected that there was a relationship between them. Awad insisted that none of their interactions played a role in his advocacy for her or his testimony against her; and indeed, she was found guilty of the DUI.
But the prosecuting attorney was so unhappy with his testimony that District Attorney Dave Eyster requested that then-Fort Bragg Police Chief Fabian Lizzaraga conduct an internal affairs investigation into Awad’s actions and “any possible relationship he may have had” with the defendant. This was followed by an investigation by the DA’s office to make a Brady List determination.Bailey-Interview-with-Awad-redacted-redacted-redacted-1
Awad told the two investigators slightly different versions of what happened. He told Sergeant Jon McLaughlin, who conducted the police department internal affairs investigation, that when he had the encounter with the defendant in the motel room, “I was under the impression during this time that this case was done and pled out.”
But two months after the interview with McLaughlin, Awad admitted to Bailey, from the DA’s office, that he knew the case was “still a live case;” and that she was still technically a defendant, but he was sure it was “going to resolve.” He said she was also useful to him professionally, as an informant providing intelligence on gangs.
Bailey established that the woman’s brother was a member of the Norteño gang, while the information she provided was on the rival Sureño gang. Bailey asked Awad if she also provided information against the Norteños, and Awad admitted that they hadn’t talked about the Norteños yet, adding, “Not to say that she would or wouldn’t. I don’t know.” Bailey told him that the woman was “not a small player,” and Awad protested that, “I don’t think she herself is involved in the gang. Her brother is.”
Bailey told him, “You can’t be having sexual contact with somebody whose brother is a player in the Norteño street gang and you’re the MAGSU officer.” (The Multi-Agency Gang Suppression Unit is led by the DA’s office, and includes members of other law enforcement agencies in Mendocino County.)
Awad and the woman saw each other at least one more time, shortly before the day Bailey spoke to both of them separately. She had come into the station to get pictures taken of bruises from a beating she accused her brother of giving her.
In August of last year, she and a man with the same last name were arrested after the man jumped out of a car that she was driving to stab another man, who is suspected of being a member of the rival gang. Both family members were initially charged with felony assault, but charges against her were dismissed, while the man was sentenced to four years in state prison.
Awad maintains to this day that he was wrongfully terminated. He has spoken extensively about his position on the matter during the course of three interviews with former Mendocino County Sheriff candidate Trent James on his YouTube channel Confessions of an Ex-Cop.