A former federal police officer was sentenced Friday to 27 years to life in state prison for killing a man in a botched carjacking outside a Hollywood nightclub in 1987, when he was a member of the Rollin 60s Crips, authorities said.
Pierre Romain was a 22-year-old member of the L.A.-based gang when he approached Jade Maurice Clark outside 845 North Highland Ave. on the afternoon of June 29, 1987, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. He shot and killed 21-year-old Clark in an attempt to steal his customized 1984 Nissan 300 ZX.
But Clark also opened fire and struck Romain in the arm, leaving Romain’s DNA on a bloody bullet later recovered by police.
Romain, now 55, was found guilty of first-degree murder in August 2017 — a conviction that may have never come if he had not applied for a police job in Northern California in 2003.
He was actually first arrested on suspicion of killing Clark just weeks after the murder. But the case was dismissed when a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge determined there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a trial.
DNA technology that could have linked tissue left on Clark’s bullet to Romain was not available at the time.
In May 2003, Romain was brought to the attention of LAPD after he applied for a job with the San Francisco Police Department. By that time, he was a sergeant with the U.S. Department of Defense Police, serving at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo.
Background investigators with San Francisco police told LAPD Detective Rick Jackson they wanted information on the Jade Clark murder, prompting Jackson to look into the cold case.
Romain was actually an “active candidate” for a police officer job with LAPD at the time of his arrest in 1987 but was eventually disqualified, according to the force. LAPD also said he had applied to more than a dozen agencies before landing his position as a federal officer.
Jackson and fellow LAPD Detective Tim Marcia reexamined the physical evidence in Clark’s killing, and on Dec. 15, 2003, police collected DNA samples from Romain after serving a search warrant.
DNA testing linked Romain to the tissue found on the .25 caliber bullet fired from Clark’s gun, according to police.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged Romain with one count of murder on Dec. 17, 2003, and he was taken into custody on an arrest warrant the same day.
According to police, just before the killing, then-gang member Romain had crashed his friend’s car — which was the same make, model and even had the same customization as Clark’s Nissan 300 ZX.
Romain and another man approached both sides of Clark’s car before Romain pointed a gun at Clark and told him to get out. As Clark reached under his seat for his gun, the other man with Romain pulled Clark’s friend from the car and held him from behind.
The friend managed to break free and heard several shots as he ran from the scene. He returned to the car and discovered Clark shot and still in the driver’s seat.
Clark was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Knowing of Romain’s gang ties, LAPD investigators learned of how he crashed a car that looked exactly like the one the killer was trying to steal, according to police. This led to detectives serving search and arrest warrants for Romain and the other suspect on July 28, 1987.
An empty holster and receipts for ammunition — which was the same caliber that was used in the fatal shooting — were discovered along with a photo of Romain posing in front of a white car. The vehicle matched the description given by witnesses who saw a car fleeing from the crime scene.
Detectives later found the car, which had tire impressions consistent with acceleration skids found at the scene of the shooting, police said.
But perhaps most notable among the physical evidence was the fact investigators saw what police have described as “in-line, circular wounds” on the inside of Romain’s right forearm when he was taken into custody. When a forensic pathologist examined the injuries, he determined they were consistent with a gunshot wound from a small caliber bullet.
Still, police said, the pathologist was unable to rule out other ways Romain may have received the injury.
The DA’s office obtained a criminal filing against Romain and the other suspect on Aug. 27, 1987, and they appeared at a preliminary hearing. But the case was dismissed after Romain’s lawyer filed a motion saying there was insufficient evidence.
Romain was arrested a last time 16 years later on Dec. 17, 2003.
During the trial in 2017, his defense argued his late brother was responsible for the killing, and an expert testified his DNA could have come from a jacket of his often worn by his brother, according to the Associated Press.