The Cast of Training Day and the True Story Behind Antonio Rafael Pérez

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Dec 07, 2023

2001’s “Training Day” is a gripping police drama that captivated and stunned audiences on its release. The gritty, brutal depiction of police corruption in Los Angeles felt like a story that blurred the lines between reality and fiction.

Shockingly, the events behind “Training Day” were inspired by real-life incidents that were revealed by a former Los Angeles police officer, Antonio Rafael Pérez.

How Is 'Training Day' Based on a True Story?

According to The Cinemaholic, Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Alonzo Harrism, the veteran officer who mentors Ethan Hawke’s rookie Jake Hoyt, is based on a real dirty officer named Rafael Rafael Pérez.

The poster of Denzel Washington as Det. Alonzo Harris and Ethan Hawke as Officer Jake Hoyt in the 'Training Day' poster

Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

“Training Day” follows LAPD narcotics officers over a day through the gang-ridden neighborhoods of West Los Angeles. The cast of “Training Day” includes Scott Glenn, Eva Mendes, Cliff Curtis, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Macy Gray.


Who Is Antonio Rafael Pérez?

Antonio Rafael Pérez, also known as Ray Lopez, is an American former police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. Pérez gained infamy when he became the central figure in the LAPD Rampart scandal.

English: Rafael Pérez, police officer who was implicated in the Rampart Scandal

Source: Los Angeles Police Department/Wikicommons

In the 1990s, the Rampart Division, now known as the LAPD CRASH unit, was known for its corrupt officers, which included Pérez. The officers were revealed to be involved in a wide range of criminal activities, including unprovoked shootings, beatings, planting of false evidence, stealing and dealing narcotics, bank robbery, perjury, and cover-ups.

Antonio Rafael Pérez Gains a Reputation as an Aggressive Officer

In 1995, Antonio Rafael Pérez was assigned to the LAPD’s Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) anti-gang task force. During his time there, Pérez earned a reputation for being an aggressive officer who always knew what was going on in the neighborhoods west of downtown Los Angeles.

Downtown Los Angeles skyline at dusk with a lake from Echo Park in the foreground with skyline reflections.

Source: Davel5957/iStock

Eventually, Pérez joined the undercover narcotics team in Rampart Division, which served the communities of Silver Lake, Echo Park, Pico-Union, and Westlake.

Antonio Rafael Pérez's Time in the Rampart Divison

Antonio Rafael Pérez, who spoke fluent Spanish, was able to find common ground with the largely Hispanic communities of West Los Angeles. His personality also allowed him to fit in with the gangs he was tasked with going after.

Man in Black and White Checked Shirt and Blue Denim Jeans Holding Black Dslr Camera

Source: Kindel Media/Pexels

Pérez and his colleagues flourished in the Rampart Division. According to All That’s Interesting, Pérez relished in the power and authority of buying drugs and catching high-profile dealers.

Antonio Rafael Pérez's First Crime

However, the Rampart Division quickly became corrupt. A year after Antonio Rafael Pérez joined the Rampart Division, he and his partner, Nino Durden, shot and framed 19-year-old Javier Ovando on Oct. 12, 1996, leaving the gang member paralyzed from the waist down.

LAPD walked a gang member to a police van

Source: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service/Picryl

At Ovando’s trial, the officers said Ovando attempted to murder them. Ovando disputed the story, saying the officers harassed him, demanding to come inside his apartment. Once inside, Ovando stated that he was handcuffed and shot. Ovando was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison.


LAPD Rampart Officers Are Suspected in B.I.G.'s Murder

Troubling rumors are circulated within the LAPD that Antonio Rafael Pérez was among the suspects in the 1997 slaying of Notorious B.I.G (via The Los Angeles Times).

The mural marks the location of Biggie Smalls' legendary freestyle battle with Supreme in 1989 when he was 17 years old.

Source: Scott Beale/Flickr

Rap record label owner and member of the Mob Piru Bloods Marion “Suge” Knight was hiring off-duty police officers as security guards. It was discovered through a former detective on the case that Knight had arranged the contract killing of the 24-year-old rapper with off-duty police officers, which allegedly included Pérez and former Rampart Division officer David A. Mack.


Antonio Rafael Pérez's Crime That Gets Him Caught

On March 27, 1998, Antonio Rafael Pérez made six pounds of cocaine disappear from the LAPD property room. The cocaine had been checked out of the property room by Pérez under another officer’s name. Pérez intended to resell the cocaine through his girlfriend with the hopes of profiting around $800,000.

Red evidence tape on a box

Source: Arctic Wolves/Flickr

The LAPD started to focus their investigation on Pérez, creating an internal investigative task force that focused on the prosecution of Pérez. On Aug. 25, 1998, Pérez was arrested by the task force.


The LAPD Discovers Antonio Rafael Pérez's Crime

Having been charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell, grand theft, and forgery, the jury announced that it was deadlocked (8-4 favoring conviction) after five days of deliberations.

Court Room Bench

Source: Zachary Caraway/Pexels

After prosecutors began preparing for retail, investigators discovered that 11 suspicious cocaine transfers from the Rampart property room had been made. Investigators also discovered that some of the bags of cocaine had been replaced with Bisquick.


The LAPD Rampart Scandal

Sensing that a lengthy conviction was in his future, Antonio Rafael Pérez decided to make a plea deal. According to an LAPD press release, Pérez “pleaded guilty to the cocaine theft and provided information to investigators about Rampart officers involved in illegal activity” (via All That’s Interesting).

Police interview room at the LAPD's West Valley Station.

Source: Greg Rynerson Bail Bonds./Flickr

Over nine months, Pérez cooperated with investigators and admitted to hundreds of instances of perjury, fabrication of evidence, and false arrests. Pérez also admitted to stealing drugs, guns, and cash from gang members and police evidence lockers. The confessions implicated 70 officers, including former partner Nino Durden.


Is 'Training Day' Based on a True Story?

Unfortunately, screenwriter David Ayer wrote “Training Day” in 1995, a few years before the Rampart scandal.

Vehicle Blue Emergency Light Turned on

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

However, “Training Day” director Antonie Fuqua mentioned to TheCinemaholic that the scandal did influence the completion of the movie. The characters in the film were reminiscent of the cops who used unethical means to reap benefits from a job that is meant to protect the everyday person.


Where Was Training Day Filmed?

Aside from the inspiration of Antonio Rafael Pérez and his many crimes, Fuqua found inspiration for the story through his upbringing in rougher areas of Pittsburgh. Fuqua brought another level of authenticity to the movie by filming on location in Los Angeles and using real gang members as extras throughout the film to bring an air of reality to the movie.

Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Although the story of “Training Day” existed before the scandal broke out, it still masterfully incorporated elements of the true events.