Other LASD Cases (Misconduct)
We all know that Rogers’ case is not the only Misconduct the Los Angeles Sheriff’s have engaged in. Here is a list of a few cases that were in the news recently, showing that the Sheriff’s Department & their deputies are out of control. Now think about all the cases that don’t make the news. It’s an epidemic:
A watchdog agency released a report Thursday detailing misconduct by several Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, including two who let a robbery suspect go free and one who accidentally hit a pedestrian with his patrol car and failed to report it.
In its annual report, the Office of Independent Review said a deputy driving a patrol car accidentally hit a drunken pedestrian who suddenly stepped off the curb and into his path.
Even though the pedestrian complained of a sore knee, the deputy did not request medical aid for him and did not report the incident to his supervisor.
When the pedestrian’s father complained, the deputy was suspended for seven days.
In another case, two deputies were ordered to arrest and book a woman who resembled the photograph of a suspect in a recent robbery bulletin.
They were supposed to take her to a women’s jail, but took her to a men’s jail instead, where her case could not be processed. Nearing the end of their shift, they decided to release her instead of taking her to the women’s jail, according to the OIR.
One of the deputies was discharged after the investigation. The other was suspended for 25 days. Both had a history of discipline for policy violations.
A separate incident of misconduct cited by the OIR involved a deputy who got a massage in the middle of a workday, then acted belligerently toward fellow deputies who had discovered him at the day spa while conducting a business license compliance check. Meanwhile, another deputy was accused of making sexual advances toward a woman visiting an inmate at a county jail.
The OIR also criticized the length of time that the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau took to conclude investigations into deputy-involved shootings and use of force.
It noted such investigations should be completed in 90 days. However, in cases where no one was hit in the shootings, the IAB took more than seven months on average. In use-of-force investigations, it averaged five months.
The panel that reviews such matters typically did not hear the case until the 10th or 11th month, or close to the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations.
OIR head Mike Gennaco criticized the department for “running the clock,” saying “the evidence may get stale, memories may fade, and evidence may no longer be available.”
“It’s detrimental to deputies … who don’t get any closure right away,” he added.
But Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore emphasized that all the investigations were still concluded before the statute of limitations expired.
“One of the biggest challenges with investigations is the nature of an investigation itself,” he said. “Investigations take however long that investigation takes, dictated by the evidence, witnesses, whatever is in front of the investigators.”
Whitmore added that the department would try to complete such investigations more quickly when possible.
Photo: Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies. Credit: Los Angeles Times
This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department watchdog released a report Thursday highlighting the misconduct of numerous deputies, including one deputy who shot at a motorist who bumped his car at a fast-food restaurant.
The deputy was inside a McDonald’s when he heard his car alarm go off. When he went outside, he realized his car had been hit.
He and the other driver agreed to exchange information, but the other driver didn’t want to alert police, prompting the deputy to pull his gun out and tell the driver he was a cop.
The other driver, in disbelief that the man was actually a law enforcement officer, got back in his car and took off.
As the car pulled away, the deputy fired several rounds at the other driver’s car.
The man was not struck, but his car was.
When investigators arrived, the deputy claimed he’d reached into the car while the driver was trying to flee and was dragged 15 feet before he started firing.
The incident, however, was caught on tape, showing he wasn’t dragged. The deputy, a rookie then still on “probationary” status, was fired after he refused to cooperate with an investigation into the August 2010 incident in Stevenson Ranch, the details of which had previously not been released.
A Sheriff’s Department spokesman said a case was presented to prosecutors, who declined to file charges because of “insufficient evidence.” The Sheriff’s Department refused to release the former deputy’s name.
While off-duty at the time of the incident, the deputy was scheduled to work a shift soon after at a county jail facility.
For the record, 5:10 p.m., Aug. 4: An earlier version of this post and headline incorrectly stated that the deputy involved in the shooting was drunk. He was not.
Judge halts trial after attorney for victim’s family announces he has a video that contradicts officer’s testimony, which he failed to share with the defense.
A judge abruptly declared a mistrial in the wrongful death case of a Compton teenager who was shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in 2009 after the attorney for the teenager’s family announced he had a videotape that allegedly contradicted sworn statements made by the deputy.
The video was not played in court. But the attorney for Avery Cody Jr.’s family said it shows Deputy Sergio Reyes touching Cody’s body after he shot the youth, even though Reyes said in sworn statements that he never touched Cody’s body.
A copy of the new video was reviewed by The Times on Friday.
The grainy, shaky footage appears to show a deputy, who cannot be definitively identified as Reyes but has a similar frame and skin tone, standing over Cody’s body.
The deputy in the footage, taken by a passerby, appears to briefly bend down twice to touch the body.
It is unclear whether the deputy actually made contact with Cody’s body or what exactly he was doing.
John Sweeney, the family’s attorney, announced the existence of the video in court Wednesday — the first time the judge or defense attorneys had heard about it.
Evidence in trials typically needs to be shared with the opposing side in advance, and in the Cody case, the judge declared a mistrial Wednesday because the video hadn’t been submitted to the defense and was mentioned in front of the jury, attorneys said.
However, Sweeney said he believes they were on strong legal footing because the video was meant to poke at the credibility of the deputy’s testimony, and thus didn’t need to be submitted in advance.
Sweeney said Friday that despite the legal delay, there is strong evidence that Reyes lied in court.
Reyes had testified this week that he hadn’t touched the body afterward.
That’s relevant, Sweeney said, because it shows the gunpowder residue found on the teenager was there because Reyes touched him, not because the youth had a gun.
Reyes’ attorney, Eugene P. Ramirez, said that even if the video shows his client touching Cody’s body, it doesn’t mean he was intentionally lying.
“Homicide detectives and police psychologists see this all the time. Your brain just shuts down” in traumatic situations, he said. “Your brain plays tricks on you.”
Cody and three other teenagers were walking back from lunch in July 2009 when Reyes and a more veteran deputy stopped the group and started to check for weapons.
That’s when Cody and another boy bolted.
Sheriff’s officials say Cody turned and pointed a handgun at Reyes, prompting the deputy to shoot.
A .38-caliber revolver was recovered next to Cody’s body, sheriff’s officials said.
Attorneys for Cody’s family say the gun didn’t belong to the teenager and have hinted in court that it could have been planted.
Witnesses in the civil case have testified they didn’t see Cody holding a gun, but say he may have been holding a cellphone.
When the Sheriff’s Department investigated the shooting, officials said they had witnesses who saw Cody with a gun but declined to identify who they are.
Sweeney says the video marks the second instance in which Deputy Sergio Reyes’ account of the shooting and its aftermath has been contradicted by video evidence. The other was when his statement that he took cover behind a metal newspaper rack was refuted by surveillance video from a nearby doughnut shop, which attorneys said was a fabrication made to exaggerate the danger the deputy felt he was in when he shot the teenager.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said Friday, “We take issue with them saying the deputy was lying.” An internal investigation, he said, concluded that the shooting was within policy, a finding the department’s watchdog agency confirmed.
Michael Gennaco, head of the Office of Independent Review, said there could be multiple legitimate reasons for a deputy to touch the body of a shot suspect — such as frisking for weapons or checking for vital signs.
The new trial date for the lawsuit is expected to be set this month.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators have submitted to prosecutors the results of an internal criminal probe into a fight that broke out among Men’s Central Jail employees at a Christmas party last year.
The violence at a Montebello banquet hall resulted in seven deputies, whose identities have not been released, being relieved of duty pending investigations into the fight.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore declined to say how many suspects were included in the sheriff’s investigation, which was turned over Feb. 25.
“There are a number of suspects. It’s safe to say yes, the people suspended were part of the investigation,” he said.
Investigators conducted more than 150 interviews during the probe into the Dec. 10 brawl, which left several injured.
About 100 guests, including sheriff’s supervisors, attended the party. As the night was winding down near midnight, Montebello police received an anonymous 911 call reporting violence in the parking lot.
Recently transferred Men’s Central Jail Capt. Daniel Cruz may have been jostled as he tried to calm the situation but was not injured. At least two other deputies received medical attention, officials said.
Although Montebello police first responded to the scene, the Sheriff’s Department took over the investigation.
— Robert Faturechi
Avery Cody’s family is suing Los Angeles County in the 16-year-old’s shooting death. The Sheriff’s Department’s official account is that the boy brandished a gun, but court testimony has contradicted that.
“Let’s get real here. You wanted to convince the detectives that you were under fire. And so you told them that you took cover behind a blue newspaper rack,” said plaintiff’s attorney John Sweeney to Reyes during an earlier deposition. “Subsequently you saw the video, and you saw that you came nowhere near that before shooting.”
Cody and three other teenagers were walking after lunch at a Compton McDonald’s when Reyes and a more veteran deputy stopped the group because the teens were jaywalking, which Cody’s attorneys deny. The boys were ordered to lift their shirts so the deputies could check for guns. That’s when Cody and another boy bolted.
Sheriff’s officials say Cody turned and pointed a handgun at Reyes, prompting the deputy to shoot. A Sheriff’s Department spokesman said the shooting was investigated by the department and the deputy was cleared of any policy violations.
A .38-caliber revolver was recovered next to Cody’s body, sheriff’s officials said. Cody’s attorneys say the gun didn’t belong to the teenager and have hinted in court that it could have been planted: They have repeatedly alleged that the deputy who recovered the weapon made a trip to his car trunk before discovering it near Cody’s body.
Six other witnesses, five of whom were passersby who didn’t know Cody, will also testify that they didn’t see the teen holding a gun, Sweeney said. The county’s attorneys declined to discuss the case outside the courtroom.
Inside the courtroom, though, they poked at the credibility of Terrence Jackson, 18, a friend of Cody who told the jury the object in the slain teen’s hand was a cellphone.
According to the deputy’s attorneys, Jackson’s interview with sheriff’s investigators hours after the shooting was inconsistent with his court testimony. Jackson, they say, never initially mentioned that the second deputy on the scene went to his car’s trunk before recovering a gun. He also told investigators he ran into Cody at the McDonald’s, even though the teenagers had gone there together.
Jackson said he was scared of the detectives and felt as though they were taking the side of the deputy who killed his friend.
Cody’s parents are also suing the Sheriff’s Department for keeping Reyes on, despite their allegation that he had problems in the past.
Ralph Jackson, 38, a witness on behalf of the Codys who may testify, said the deputy called him a racial epithet in an unrelated 2006 run-in.
Jackson said he and two others were sitting in a car outside Jackson’s parents’ house in Willowbrook listening to a Lakers game on the radio. Without any warning, Jackson said, the driver’s side door of the car was opened from the outside and he was yanked out of the seat by Reyes, who was in full uniform with gun drawn. He said Reyes handcuffed and “manhandled” him, ignoring his pleas to check his ID so he could prove his parents lived across the street.
“I can smoke you right here,” Reyes said, according to Jackson. The deputy’s attorney denied the allegation.
(25) Michael Richardson – I Think My Daddy’s Gone Crazy
So once more Michael Richardson, the father of Mitrice Richardson was the last to know that coroner’s investigators decided to [go] back out to the Malibu ravine where Mitrice’s body—or shall I say, most of her body was found last year, 11 months after she first went missing. Found were three bone fragments, believed to be from two fingers and a wrist. Nice.
(24) More remains believed to be those of Mitrice Richardson are found in Malibu search
Coroner’s investigators are combing the rugged Los Angeles-area ravine where Mitrice Richardson’s remains were found, searching for body parts that they may have missed in the initial search.
Three bone fragments, believed to be from two fingers and a wrist, have been found so far, according to Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“The coroner wants to go back there and make sure we’ve found everything,” he said.
The disappearance of the 24-year-old sparked national headlines. She was arrested in September 2009 at Geoffrey’s restaurant in Malibu after being unable to pay an $89 dinner tab and acting bizarrely. She was released from the sheriff’s Lost Hills/Malibu station after midnight — without her car, purse or cellphone — and vanished. Her remains were found in a remote Malibu Canyon ravine nearly 11 months later.
The family, which has filed suit against the county and the Sheriff’s Department, alleging negligence and wrongful death, has been urging investigators to revisit the site after Mitrice’s mother, Latice Sutton, in November visited the area where her daughter was found and found a finger bone.
“If I can go up there and find a finger bone while I’m up there memorializing her, then a thorough job was not done,” she said, adding that she couldn’t “describe how angry it makes me” to have to push for a more thorough investigation.
Sutton, who believes her daughter was sexually assaulted and murdered before being dumped in the ravine, said a “very vital bone” remained missing — the hyoid. The bone, which is found in the neck, could determine whether Richardson was strangled.
Sheriff Lee Baca had requested that the FBI assist in the investigation, but on Friday the federal agency declined to do so, saying that its work would be duplicative and that there were chain-of-custody issues because of the handling of Richardson’s clothing after her remains were found. Her family plans to appeal the decision.
Richardson’s disappearance spurred a nationwide search, and controversy resulted over the handling of the case, from its very inception.
The Sheriff’s Department came under fire for releasing a young woman into a remote area after midnight, without her car, purse or cellphone, and without any apparent way of getting home.
Once her remains were found, the coroner’s office blasted the Sheriff’s Department for moving the remains before coroner’s investigators could examine them.
In November, a coroner’s official said actions by sheriff’s deputies may have violated the law by removing the remains without permission from the coroner’s office and may have undermined the thoroughness of the coroner’s investigation.
Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said he was “very clear” with sheriff’s officials and could not think of another case in which a police agency had moved entire skeletal remains without the coroner’s approval.
A sheriff’s spokesman said at the time that deputies removed Richardson’s body from the scene without the coroner’s permission because they were concerned that it was getting dark and that animals might destroy the remains.
Whitmore said Sunday that 99% of Richardson’s remains had been found shortly after their discovery but that the coroner’s office had long wanted to send out its investigators to search the area again.
Rainy conditions have hampered previous efforts, but sunny, dry weather allowed investigators to visit the site by helicopter on Sunday.
Six coroner’s investigators, one sheriff’s homicide investigator and a search dog were lowered from the chopper by harness into the ravine at about 9:30 a.m. and had been expected to spend several hours searching the site.
— Seema Mehta in Lost Hills
A former Los Angeles County Jail inmate, who says he was beaten and stabbed 23 times, alleges in a lawsuit that Sheriff Lee Baca knew or should have known about conditions that put guards and prisoners at risk.
By Carol J. Williams and Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
February 12, 2011
A Los Angeles County Jail inmate who says he was stabbed 23 times during an outbreak of racial violence five years ago can sue Sheriff Lee Baca for “deliberate indifference” to the dangerous conditions in the jail, a divided federal appeals court panel ruled Friday.
Baca knew or should have known about the unconstitutional conditions prevailing in the jail and cited by investigators in previous incidents of death or injury to inmates, former prisoner Dion Starr alleged in his complaint against the sheriff.
The earlier incidents included five inmate-on-inmate killings during a six-month period and numerous outbreaks of racial gang violence ignored or abetted by sheriff’s deputies, Starr said in appealing a federal judge’s decision in 2008 that Baca was immune from prosecution.
On Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated Starr’s lawsuit in a 2-1 decision, saying a U.S. Supreme Court ruling protecting officials from liability for illegal actions by subordinates doesn’t extend to rights violations against those in custody when the supervisor had “knowledge of and acquiescence in unconstitutional conduct.”
Unless appealed to a larger panel of 9th Circuit judges, the ruling will send Starr’s suit to trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The appeals court ruling cited Starr’s claims that Baca ignored repeated warnings about dangerous conditions in the jail, including a report by the special counsel assigned to the Sheriff’s Department detailing 29 cases involving police misconduct over five years. Each of those cost the county $100,000 or more to settle with victims, and only eight resulted in discipline of the deputies involved, the attorney noted.
The 2005 report to Baca by Special Counsel Merrick Bobb described the county jail as “so outdated, understaffed and riddled with security flaws that it jeopardizes the lives of guards and inmates.”
Starr’s attorney, Sonia Maria Mercado, said the 9th Circuit ruling was important because it recognized that Baca should be held personally accountable.
“The physical abuse of inmates has not subsided,” Mercado said. “It really raises questions about what the county will do about these ongoing problems in the jail.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said Baca would review the decision with his attorneys and probably ask for a full 11-judge panel to reconsider the case.
Starr’s allegation of deputies colluding with attackers was “heinous” but inaccurate, Whitmore said.
Baca has long acknowledged deficiencies at Men’s Central Jail that present security risks for inmates and deputies. The sheriff has lobbied county officials to close the downtown jail and open a new facility.
In his lawsuit, Starr alleges that a group of Latino gang members gathered outside his locked cell door, threatening to attack him and his fellow African American cellmate. When he screamed for help, he said, one of the deputies unlocked the door to his cell, and the attackers flooded in. Starr sustained 23 stab wounds, including to the head, and still has a piece of metal in his skull, Mercado said.
“Sheriff Baca was given notice, in several reports, of systematic problems in the county jails under his supervision that have resulted in these deaths and injuries,” said the majority opinion.
In dissent, Judge Stephen Trott argued that Starr didn’t sufficiently connect Baca to the security failures that led to his injury.
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
A civilian monitor was visiting the jail on another matter on Jan. 24, when she saw two deputies punch and use a Taser on an inmate who lay unconscious. A department log confirms the incident but offers different details.
By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
8:14 PM PST, February 7, 2011
A civilian jail monitor said she witnessed two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies treat an inmate like “a punching bag,” unjustifiably beating him as he lay unconscious for at least two minutes, according to a court declaration filed Monday by the ACLU.
The representative for the civil liberties organization was at Twin Towers jail for an unrelated meeting with another inmate when, according to her declaration, she heard thuds from outside the room she was in. Through a window, she said, she saw two deputies punching, kicking and Tasering an inmate.
Esther Lim, the ACLU observer, said the inmate never resisted, and his body was limp “like he was a mannequin” throughout the assault. In an interview with The Times, Lim said the deputies did not realize she was watching until after the beating stopped. A declaration from another inmate supports her account.
An internal sheriff’s log also appears to confirm the Jan. 24 incident, but offers a different narrative. The log states that the inmate punched a deputy and charged at him. When another deputy tried to help, the inmate punched him as well and remained combative until he was Tasered, according to the sheriff’s log.
Lim called the deputies’ account a fabrication, saying inmate James Parker was so still while being beaten that she worried he was dead. During the incident, she said the deputies monotonously repeated “stop resisting” and “stop fighting” as though they “were reading from a script.”
Lim said the ACLU commonly receives complaints from inmates who say deputies beat them while repeating “stop resisting” commands, even when the inmates aren’t resisting. Lim said she suspects the deputies involved in this incident recited the commands as a ruse to later justify their actions with the help of a jailhouse recording or other deputies who may have heard their commands.
A sheriff’s spokesman said the matter is being investigated, though “initial findings” indicate the inmate was combative, and one of the deputies injured his hand and had swelling on his face.
Allegations of deputy brutality in county jails are common but hard to substantiate. Aside from other deputies, usually the only witnesses are inmates, whose accounts are inherently considered less credible, experts say. This incident offers an especially rare instance in which a third party was there to observe.
One of the deputies involved in the incident was identified in court records as Ryan Hirsch. The other was identified by the ACLU by his last name, Ochoa. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore declined to confirm their names. Both, he said, declined requests from The Times for an interview. The deputies remain on active duty, Whitmore said.
Parker, 35, was charged Monday with felony counts of battery and resisting an officer in connection with the incident. According to Lim’s account, Parker was lying on his stomach, looking “unconscious” or “even dead.” Hirsch and Ochoa, she said, simultaneously punched him and kneed him. Parker, she said, never put up his hands to protect his head, which Lim took as a sign that he had lost consciousness.
The deputies Tasered Parker’s leg up to four times, she said, and his torso up to three times. A minute into the beating, Ochoa motioned to the other deputy, bringing his index finger to his lips, Lim recalled. Hirsch yelled “stop resisting” and “stop fighting” just once more after Ochoa motioned, she said.
Soon after the incident, Ochoa looked at Lim through the window and signaled for her to move away from the window, she said.
During another visit the next day, she said, she recognized Ochoa and at one point noticed him “staring at me in an aggressive manner.”
Parker received stitches to his face, pain in his ribs and a swollen cheek and eye, according to the ACLU.
“This makes me feel even more strongly that these kinds of incidents go on a lot,” said Peter J. Eliasberg, managing attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “And every time we bring them to the Sheriff’s Department, they consistently say, ‘They’re all false, they’re all false, prisoners lie.’ ”
Whitmore said investigators will interview all the witnesses.
“It’s rare that you have a civilian eyewitness, and what we don’t understand is she never mentioned this to us,” Whitmore said. “Why didn’t she come forward? Why didn’t she talk to us?”
Eliasberg said the ACLU did not notify the Sheriff’s Department immediately because in the past officials there have been quick to deny any complaints.
A court declaration from the inmate who was meeting with Lim at the time of the incident also disputed the deputies’ telling. Lim said inmate Christopher Brown had seen the altercation develop before she did. Brown said Parker was not resisting.
“I saw him stumbling forward, towards me, falling to the ground,” Brown said in a court declaration. “He looked like he was knocked out.” After the incident, Brown said, another inmate had to mop up what appeared to be blood.
Brown said he was interviewed by deputies about the incident afterward. He said Ochoa was present at first. “As I was telling the sergeant that I saw Deputy Ochoa punching Parker, Deputy Ochoa stared at me in an aggressive manner, so I asked him ‘What?’ He aggressively said ‘What’ back at me.’ ”
Michael Gennaco, who heads the Office of Independent Review, the department’s official watchdog, said involved deputies should not be present during interviews. Whitmore said the deputy was not present and that Brown’s allegation was a “fabrication.”
After Ochoa was escorted away, Brown said, he saw the other involved deputy, Hirsch, who warned him not to get involved.
“My advice,” he said the deputy told him, “is to stay out of it. It doesn’t have anything to do with you.”
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and deputies union contended that the identities of officers involved in shootings should be kept confidential.
By Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times
January 29, 2011
Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies whose names have been kept secret amid litigation over whether the identities of officers involved in shootings are public information have been named in separate wrongful-death lawsuits, records show.
Deputy Sergio Reyes fired two shots on July 5, 2009, killing 16-year-old Avery Cody Jr., who deputies said was armed with a .38-caliber revolver and turned and raised the gun at Reyes. Deputy Kevin Brown shot and killed Darrick Collins, who was unarmed, during a pursuit of robbery suspects on Sept. 14, 2009.
Reyes and Brown were named in court records in wrongful-death suits filed by the decedents’ families against the county. Attorneys for Cody’s family have contended in court papers that Cody was holding a cellphone, not a gun, when he was shot in the back. An attorney for Collins’ children said the man was killed as a result of mistaken identity.
In a lawsuit filed by The Times to obtain the names of deputies involved in Cody and Collins’ deaths and in a third shooting, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the deputies’ union have contended that state laws protecting the confidentiality of police personnel records prohibit the release of an officer’s name after a shooting. That suit remains pending.
In the third case, surrounding the fatal shooting of Woodrow Player Jr. on July 10, 2009, attorneys for the county have refused to identify the two deputies in the wrongful-death lawsuit, saying the officers faced “credible threats” from East Coast Crips gang members and that one of the officers is working undercover.
John Sweeney, the attorney representing Cody’s family, said he obtained the names of Reyes and his partner, Deputy Dana Ellison, “through routine and perfunctory discovery” and that attorneys for the county never asked that the names be kept secret. Ellison did not fire any shots, and has been dismissed from the lawsuit. Attorney Brian Dunn, who represents Collins’ family, also said the county did not raise concerns in Brown being named in court filings.
Richard Shinee, an attorney representing the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs in the litigation over the release of the names, said Friday that he was not aware that the deputies were identified in the civil suits. He said the names being made public in any manner would threaten the officers’ safety.
“Consistent with our position in Superior Court, we believe the names should be protected and confidential, and a protective order should have been sought,” he said.
An attorney representing The Times, however, said the family’s cases illustrate why the officers’ names should be released at the outset to inform the public about the circumstances surrounding an officer’s use of force.
“There is no reason why the public should be kept in the dark about the identities of these officers when they’re going to eventually be made public in a lawsuit,” Kelli Sager said.
At least two other police unions and departments in the county have recently argued in court that the names of officers involved in shootings should be kept secret.
In one of those cases, a Pasadena police union sued the city to block the release of the names of two officers who fired 11 shots, killing a parolee armed with a gun. While that lawsuit was pending, attorneys for the city sought a protective order to keep the officers’ names sealed in a federal wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the family.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Walsh, in a hearing on the protective order, told attorneys he believed the public had a right to know the officers’ identities, saying he couldn’t “imagine another case where the public is more interested in and more entitled to know.”
Friday, January 28, 2011
Alex Galindo an attorney with the Law firm of Curd Galindo & Smith, LLP on behalf of his clients Ralph Noriega, Gloria Noriega, and Frank Noriega filed a $10,000,000.00 civil rights violation case with the United States District Court in Los Angeles against the County of Los Angeles (case #10-CV-09492SVW).
The claim alleges that Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies wrongfully shot 41 year old Ralph Noriega (who suffers from a mental disability) at a Canyon Country mobile home park where his mother, Gloria, resides.
According to court documents, on July 9, 2010 at 2:30 a.m., neighbors called the Sheriff’s Department to report that someone was yelling loudly outside of a mobile home. Sheriff Deputies arrived and confronted Ralph Noriega who was unarmed. Mr. Noriega did not drop to the ground and instead asked the deputies why they were there at all. He was subsequently shot and transported to the Henry Mayo Hospital. Mr. Noriega who is now confined to a wheel chair sustained numerous operations and still has a fragment of a bullet lodged so closely to his spine that doctors are reluctant to remove for fear that doing so may cause permanent paralysis.
The sheriff deputies contend that Ralph Noriega failed to comply with their orders to put his hands up, and instead placed himself in a shooting stance pointing a cell phone in their general direction.
The deputies mistook the cell phone that had its charging cord attached for a gun, and opened fire numerous times spraying bullets in and around the subject area.
The claim alleges that Ralph Noriega’s civil and constitutional rights were violated by the L.A. Sheriff Deputies.
For the original version on PRWeb visit: www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2011/01/prweb5009874.htm
(19) Steve Whitmore giving a story full of LIES regarding the disappearance of Mitrice Richardson during the first press conference after Mitrice’s Disappearance. (Part 1) September 24, 2009
(18) State Supreme Court Won’t Review Case of Ex-Sheriff’s Sergeant Convicted of Estranged Wife’s Murder
Posted Wednesday December 15, 2010 – 2:06pm
The state’s highest court refused today to hear the case of a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant convicted of the 1991 murder of his estranged wife, who disappeared four days after she left him and moved into a leased condominium in Newhall.
The state Supreme Court’s decision follows an Aug. 30 ruling by a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal, which rejected John Racz’s claim that there was not substantial evidence that he was the killer of Ann Mineko Racz In a 54-page ruling, Associate Justice Madeleine Flier wrote there was “overwhelming evidence of appellant’s guilt,’ and “ very strong evidence of motive here, including … revenge, jealousy and avarice.’
The appellate court justices also rejected Racz’s claims that a 15 1/2-year delay in his indictment for his wife’s slaying violated his constitutional rights, and that the trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to present statements from his estranged spouse to others that she feared him and that he had threatened to kill her.
The woman — whose body was never found — was last seen on April 2, 1991, driving away from her husband’s Fortuna Drive home in Valencia to go to a McDonald’s restaurant that was five minutes away.
Racz maintained at his September 2007 sentencing that he did not kill his estranged wife, with whom he had three children who were 7, 11 and 14 at the time.
But San Fernando Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen did not accept the defendant’s denial.
“This case is a horrible example of greed and control gone awry,’ the judge told Racz.
“You have made many victims besides Ms. Racz. You are a murderer. How tragic.’
Racz — who had retired from the sheriff’s department and gone to work as an elementary school teacher in Compton — was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
December 16, 2010 9:03 AM
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Internal and criminal investigations have been started into a brawl at a Christmas party that involved seven Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies.The fight broke out around 11:30 p.m. Friday outside Quiet Cannon in Montebello, according to sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.
Whitmore says the party was being held for deputies who work at the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles and only deputies were involved in the brawl.
He says two deputies were treated at the scene for mild or moderate injuries.
A source told CBS2/KCAL9’s Serene Branson that all the deputies were drunk and the altercation began when one of them began “talking trash, asking why it takes so long to escort inmates into the visitor’s area.”
The source also said some of the deputies involved sport tattoos that identify them as being from different parts of the jail.
“All of that will be contained in this investigation, and that very well may be true,” Whitmore said. “Is there a culture that’s endemic to this? Perhaps there is. Is it going to stop? Yes. It’s going to stop.”
Montebello Police say officers responded to a 911 call at the restaurant. In a statement, the department said a man who identified himself as a sheriff’s department captain told the officers at the door that everything was fine and that they would handle it.
Two deputies went to Montebello Police Department to file a report, but the sheriff’s department will handle those reports.
Whitmore says seven deputies have been relieved of duty while the department investigates.
(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)
Single mother alleges that a sheriff’s deputy touched her chest during a 2008 traffic stop, then followed her home and assaulted her in the driveway. The deputy faces a criminal trial in the incident as well as two others.
By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
December 1, 2010
A single mother who alleged she was sexually assaulted by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy during a 2008 traffic stop was awarded a $245,000 settlement Tuesday.
The Downey woman said she had been pulled over after midnight in Paramount, and told she’d be jailed for drunk driving. But when the deputy returned to her driver’s side window, he told her “she looked like a nice girl,” according to her lawsuit, and said: “What are you going to do for me in order for me not to bring you to jail tonight?”
What followed was an alleged sexual assault that began in the woman’s car and continued in her driveway. Deputy Mark Fitzpatrick is facing a criminal trial next year in connection with the incident and two others, according to interviews and records. He had a history of sexual misconduct accusations during his roughly two-decade career with the Sheriff’s Department, authorities said.
Fitzpatrick, 41, has pleaded not guilty.
The Downey woman was driving alone when Fitzpatrick pulled her over. The armed deputy allegedly asked her if she had children, reminded her how much trouble she would be in and began shining his flashlight on her chest.
“Let me see your breasts,” he said, according to the woman’s civil complaint.
Soon after the deputy began touching her chest, the complaint said, another patrol car pulled up nearby. Frustrated, Fitzpatrick allegedly demanded that the woman lead him to her home.
Once there, she said she tried to “scurry into the safety of her home,” but was cornered by Fitzpatrick. The deputy ordered her to pull down her leggings and raise her dress, so he could “get a better view,” before he allegedly began sexually assaulting her, according to the lawsuit.
A car passed by and he grabbed her close, whispering in her ear that he “really likes her,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit alleged that the Sheriff’s Department was “deliberatively indifferent” to past allegations of misconduct against Fitzpatrick.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore rejected those claims, saying Sheriff Lee Baca “is not indifferent to any allegations.”
Fitzpatrick has been relieved of duty pending the outcome of his trial, Whitmore said. Attempts to reach Fitzpatrick’s attorney Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter says he was ‘very clear’ in telling detectives not to move the skeleton before coroner’s investigators arrived. A sheriff’s official says that with nightfall approaching, detectives feared animals might get to the remains.
By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
November 7, 2010
Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said he was “very clear” with sheriff’s officials and could not think of another case in which a police agency had moved entire skeletal remains without coroner’s approval.
A sheriff’s spokesman acknowledged that deputies removed Richardson’s body from the scene without the coroner’s permission, but said they did so because detectives were concerned that it was getting dark and that animals might destroy the remains.
The 24-year-old Richardson drew national media attention in September 2009 when she disappeared after being released from the sheriff’s Lost Hills/Malibu station about midnight, without her car, purse or cellphone. Nearly 11 months after her disappearance, her remains were spotted in a remote Malibu Canyon ravine.
Initially, sheriff’s officials believed that only a skull and possibly a couple of other bones were there. Winter said that at that point, sheriff’s officials were told they could move the bones only after coroner’s officials reviewed photos of the scene and gave clearance.
After some leaves were brushed aside, Richardson’s entire skeleton was discovered, “at which time I told detectives not to touch it,” Winter said. “We’ve never given authorization to pick up entire skeletal remains.”
Winter said that sheriff’s officials consented and that he was shocked to hear just minutes later that the bones had been lifted into a helicopter and were headed back to the station.
Sheriff’s homicide Capt. Dave Smith disagreed, saying investigators had been given coroner approval to retrieve the skull and a couple of other bones. But when the skull was pulled up, the rest of the skeleton was unearthed. At that point, he said, detectives were racing against nightfall and could not risk staying overnight in the wilderness after human scent from his team and the remains was stirred up.
“Our main concern was the animals were going to get to her remains that night,” he said.
He said any pleas from coroner’s officials not to remove the entire skeleton did not reach sheriff’s investigators at the scene because radio and phone reception around the ravine was poor. Smith said that in dangerous situations, like the one that night, government code allows for removal without coroner authorization.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said that four minutes after detectives decided to put the bones into the bag, they received directions from Winter to put them back.
“We said, ‘We can’t do that and we’re not going to do that,’ ” Whitmore said. “Once you have moved bones or evidence … you can’t then put it back. That’s a manipulation and that’s not done.”
Whitmore acknowledged that detectives did not ask for clearance to move whole skeletal remains once they were discovered, and “perhaps we should have.”
“That’s something to look at,” he said.
Issues with the sheriff’s handling of the remains were first reported by the Malibu Surfside News. A recently released coroner’s report documented Winter’s account.
“Against the direction of Assistant Chief Winter, LASD Detectives collected the remains and air-lifted them,” the report reads.
Winter said state law may have been violated, pointing to a specific government code that describes the authority and responsibilities of the coroner in handling dead bodies.
An autopsy was unable to determine Richardson’s cause of death. Even if her remains had been recovered by coroner’s investigators, Winter said, the cause of death probably would still not have been determined. But he said the deputies’ actions may have affected the thoroughness of the coroner’s analysis.
Coroner’s investigators, he said, are trained in conducting detailed skeletal recoveries and keeping tabs on minutiae like nearby insect movement that might be factored into later analysis.
When coroner’s investigators were taken by helicopter to the area the next day, they could not find the site where the bones were discovered. It wasn’t until about two weeks later, he said, when coroner’s officials again searched the ravine, that they found several bones left behind by detectives.
Richardson was arrested at Geoffrey’s restaurant in Malibu after acting bizarrely and saying she was unable to pay her $89 dinner tab. Her family has repeatedly criticized sheriff’s officials for releasing her from custody in the dark without her car — which had been impounded — cellphone or purse. Investigators said she was spotted three times in the canyon area in daylight hours that morning. After that, she was never heard from again.
Winter said Richardson’s family has complained to him that untrained sheriff’s investigators were allowed to retrieve her remains.
“We’re in hot water,” he said. “We’re getting questions from her family.… What am I supposed to say?”
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
Such probes will no longer be delayed until the district attorney’s office has looked into complaints.
October 24, 2010
The allegations were serious: A group of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies escorted an inmate to a secluded spot in Men’s Central Jail, beat him, pulled down his boxers and pepper-sprayed his anus and groin.
The Sheriff’s Department waited to launch an internal affairs investigation until the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office decided whether it was going to press criminal charges. After almost three years, prosecutors decided not to.
That decision opened the door to the internal affairs investigation, which is still going on. Since the incident, two of the accused deputies continue to be paid.
For the cash-strapped department, that means shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for employees who weren’t working.
For years, the department had waited until criminal investigations into its employees were completed before launching the internal reviews to determine whether misconduct occurred.
In an attempt to avoid such long delays in internal investigations, top Sheriff’s Department officials recently changed course and decided to allow their own inquiries to begin immediately.
“There were significant investigations that were being delayed two, three years because the district attorney’s office wasn’t doing anything,” said department spokesman Steve Whitmore. Sheriff Lee Baca “wanted to make sure that practice stopped.”
That delay in action, officials said, could be particularly problematic after contentious deputy-involved shootings.
Michael Gennaco, who heads the Office of Independent Review, a department watchdog, said the delays left Sheriff’s Department officials “hamstrung.”
“It’s a change in the culture of the department,” he said. “There’s a new recognition that what the department does about its employees’ administrative pace should not necessarily be dictated by” the district attorney.
Despite the fact that the department is facing a $128-million budget cut, Whitmore said, the change is not about cost-saving but about transparency.
“The public would get frustrated with the delay,” he said. “The sheriff wants to be more accountable.”
Gennaco said the practice of waiting came from a 1991 settlement with the deputies’ union that stipulated that internal affairs reviews be done after criminal adjudication.
“They have decided it is time for an agreement that was made almost 20 years ago to end,” Gennaco said.
A representative for the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs declined to comment, but Gennaco said the deputies’ union is taking legal action to block the change in practice.
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators are looking into how a West Hollywood liquor store manager who called 911 to report a robbery was mistaken for a suspect and shot at by a deputy.
Authorities were called to the store near Crescent Heights and Santa Monica boulevards early Sunday. Suspect descriptions at the time were limited: a black man with a handgun, and a black woman.
Soon after, two deputies pulled in and parked around the corner from the store and the store’s manager ran around the corner to meet them, said Capt. Mike Parker. At least one of the deputies mistook the manager, who is also black, for the suspect, Parker said.
The manager began pointing his index finger behind the deputies in the direction the suspects fled, but the deputy mistakenly believed the man was pointing a gun at them, Parker said.
When the man ignored the deputy’s commands and continued gesturing, the deputy shot eight rounds in his direction, Parker said.
All of the gunshots missed, and the manager was not injured. No gun was found at the scene, authorities said.
Gennaco called the physical description of the male suspect as “not much of a description.”
“It’s a difficult assessment, but the deputies have to make the correct assessment whether someone is aggressing … or is just trying to point out the departing suspects,” he said.
Gennaco said the deputy’s relatively short experience in the field would be considered. The department has launched multiple investigations into the shooting, including separate inquires by internal affairs and department detectives.
Parker said the investigations would have to be completed before it could be determined if protocol was broken, but he defended the deputy’s actions.
“Here he is rolling into an armed robbery at a place that was robbed three weeks ago. Already tensions are high,” Parker said.
The street was dark, the limited physical description matched and the man was pointing with a gesture similar to children “playing cops and robbers” and miming holding a gun, Parker said.
“We don’t want to be critical of somebody when they’ve gone through this traumatic experience, but it’s really best if and when you call 911 and … you’re going to come outside that you keep your hands in plain sight,” Parker said. “We don’t know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. That’s what we’re coming to find out.”
The confusion was compounded by an apparent language barrier, Parker said. The shop manager is an African immigrant with a thick accent, he said.
Neither of the robbers has been arrested, and both were last seen fleeing south on Havenhurst Drive. Windows at a store across the street from the robbery site were said to be shattered by the gunfire.
Parker said the deputy would likely not be back on patrol immediately, as is customary after shootings.
Employees at the liquor store could not be reached Monday morning. Parker said the manager appeared shaken up after the shooting.
“But I think he was more shaken up by the robbery,” Parker said. “He wished [the shooting] didn’t happen, but I think he understood why it did happen.”
— Robert Faturechi
They plead no contest to charges in the 2006 beating and resign from the Sheriff’s Department.
By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
September 30, 2010
Three former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies accused of punching and kicking a jail inmate in 2006 were convicted of assault charges Wednesday.
The men were accused of attacking the inmate at the Men’s Central Jail after he made an obscene gesture to a custody assistant. While being transferred to a disciplinary area, he was beaten by the three deputies, resulting in a fractured cheekbone and injuries to his rib cage and ear.
None of the three defendants were sentenced to prison time.
Former Deputy Lee Simoes, 34, pleaded no contest to one count of felony assault by a public officer. He was sentenced to three years of supervised probation, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
The other two former deputies — Humberto Magallanes and Kenny Ramirez, both 30 — pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and were sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation. All three were also ordered to complete community service and anger management courses.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said the men turned in their resignations Tuesday night.
“They’re gone,” Whitmore said. “No process, no nothing. They are out the door.”
After inmate Gabriel Vasquez complained about the assault, sheriff’s investigators initially determined that his injuries were not caused by the deputies but by other inmates or were self-inflicted, according to court records. But the case was revisited when a fourth deputy, Ryan Lopez, admitted in a job interview with another police agency that he had lied about witnessing the assault.
Lopez had initially denied seeing any injuries. But in a second interview with investigators, he said the men had assaulted the inmate. Lopez was offered immunity from criminal charges in exchange for truthful testimony in front of a grand jury, according to records.
Whitmore said Lopez is on administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation.
Criminal charges against jailhouse deputies are rare despite a high number of complaints. Peter J. Eliasberg, managing attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said his organization fields three to five excessive force complaints a week coming out of county jails. He said that number would be higher but inmates fear retaliation if they speak up.
“I’m not saying every one is true, but the numbers are so high I feel very confident there’s a disturbing level of excessive force,” he said. “Even good or decent people will do bad things in conditions like that.”
Michael Gennaco, who heads the Office of Independent Review, a department watchdog, said all allegations of jailhouse assaults are investigated.
Such cases are “very difficult to prove because you have a controlled setting where virtually all your witnesses are either deputies or inmates,” Gennaco said. “You have an inmate that said it happened and you have a deputy who said it has not — what is a D.A. going to do with that? That’s a very high burden if the subject is a police officer who the public wants to believe is doing the right thing.”
Ramirez’s attorney, Vicki I. Podberesky, said the no contest plea was part of a negotiated deal in which the men avoided prison sentences but were forced to agree to resign. A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt but offers no defense. The principal difference from pleading guilty is that it protects the person from civil damage suits by victims.
“The deputies made a decision to take the offer for a variety of personal reasons,” she said, “though I would tell you I think it was a very tryable case.”
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
(11) Sheriff’s Officials Fail To Curb Deputy Abuse and Overcrowding At L.A. County Jails, Says ACLU/SC
Thursday, September 9, 2010
LOS ANGELES –The ACLU of Southern California (ACLU/SC) and the National ACLU today released a report documenting disturbing conditions and abuses in the Los Angeles County jail system, including excessive and unjustified force by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, retaliation against prisoners for communicating with the ACLU/SC, a lack of access to mental health care, and severe overcrowding.
The report, based on scores of visits to the jails and interviews with dozens of prisoners during the first eight months of this year, paints a stark picture of unacceptable levels of violence in the jails, with deputies reported to have beaten handcuffed prisoners, injuring some so badly that they ended up in intensive care. The report also shows that retaliation against prisoners is an acute problem. Several prisoners have been severely punished for meeting with representatives of the ACLU, which is the court-appointed monitor of conditions inside L.A.’s county jails. This pattern of retaliation results in prisoners being afraid to speak freely with the ACLU about conditions in the jails.
“This report makes clear that deputy abuse and retaliation is not limited to a few isolated instances, but is instead a significant problem that has developed over decades and characterizes Men’s Central Jail and other jails run by the Los Angeles County Sheriff,” said Peter Eliasberg, Managing Attorney of the ACLU/SC. “What is even more troubling is that the ACLU has been reporting these problems for a number of years, but they continue to fester or get worse.”
One prisoner reported being attacked by a group of deputies on his way back from church because he failed to put his hands in his pockets, though his jail-issued clothing had none. Deputies beat him so badly they left him with several broken ribs, a fractured nose and a swollen artery in his brain. Another prisoner told ACLU jail monitors that a sheriff’s deputy punched him in the face for having his shirt untucked and asking for a new pair of shoes.
“There is a strong link between the massive over-incarceration in the L.A. County Jails and the terrifying subculture of deputy violence and abuse at Men’s Central,” said Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “The cure will require finding safe alternatives to locking up low-risk detainees who are awaiting trial.”
The report follows a series of troubling outside reports of serious misconduct at the jail. Most recently, a former jailhouse deputy was sentenced to four years in prison for attempting to smuggle drugs inside the jail. And just a month ago, the Office of Independent Review for the County of Los Angeles issued a report(pdf) uncovering a deliberate and systematic cover-up involving at least 10 deputies who falsified
surveillance logs in part to hide the fact that John Horton, a twenty year inmate who was exhibiting signs of severe mental illness, hung himself in his cell while the supervising deputies were at the jail’s gym working out or at a nearby restaurant making a “chow run.”
Taken together with the ACLU report, these incidents paint a picture of a jail with lax deputy supervision and little accountability that gives rise to negligence, abuse and violence. Today’s report was prompted, in part, by the overwhelming response of former and current prisoners to the ACLU’s May 2010 report on conditions inside Men’s Central Jail. The May report, which covered 2009, provided a broad overview of the overcrowded conditions, woefully inadequate care of those with mental disabilities and deputy-on-inmate retaliation and violence. Today’s report provides an update on those conditions.
A $750,000 settlement was approved Tuesday for the relatives of an unarmed man shot and killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in July 2008 in front of his family’s home.
Christian Portillo, 35, was sitting in his car in the driveway of the Lennox residence when two deputies approached because they believed he was a drug dealer.
Sheriff’s officials said Portillo was startled and reached under his seat, prompting one deputy to fire two rounds into the suspect’s upper torso.
The killing drew outrage, particularly from Portillo’s family, which said the man had done nothing wrong. No weapons or drugs were found in his car.
On Tuesday, the family’s attorney said the settlement would offer closure.
“This has been devastating to the parents,” said attorney Franklin Casco. “They were present. They were running up to the driveway when the shots were being fired.”
The deputy who shot Portillo was disciplined for a tactics violation, not the shooting, a source with knowledge of the investigation said.Casco acknowledged the settlement was modest compared with that of other cases. A month ago the county doled out more than $2 million to a man who survived but was paralyzed after being shot by a deputy in Compton.
The attorney said Portillo’s prior drug conviction made them wary of taking a chance with a jury trial.
“Sometimes peace is better than war,” he said.
— Robert Faturechi
(9) Off-duty L.A. County sheriff’s deputy charged in O.C. with firing weapon, filing false police report [Updated]
August 30, 2010 | 4:35 pm
An off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with filing a false police report against her ex-husband and firing a weapon in her Westminster home that endangered nearby children, authorities said Monday.
Patricia Margaret Bojorquez, 43, is accused of falsely reporting to Huntington Beach police Nov. 18 that her ex-husband was sexually assaulting a 13-year-old female relative, the Orange County district attorney’s office said.
She allegedly lied about the incident because she was upset over custody issues.
[Updated: Bojorquez was a sheriff’s deputy at the time of the alleged crimes but left the department June 29, Capt. Mike Parker said. “This is a tragedy for everyone involved,” he said of the incident.]
Bojorquez is currently on probation for two DUI convictions in Orange County, the district attorney’s office said.
Bojorquez is charged with firing a weapon in her home Jan. 9. The bullet pierced a window and hurtled toward a frontyard where children were playing, prosecutors said. They allege that Bojorquez showed disregard for the safety of the youngsters, who were directly in the line of fire. Her brother and fiance were in the home at the time of the shooting and called police.
She was charged Thursday with a felony count of discharging a firearm with gross negligence and a misdemeanor count of filing a false police report, prosecutors said.
She is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 24 at the courthouse in Westminster.
— Robert J. Lopez
Photo: Patricia Margaret Bojorquez. Credit: Orange County district attorney’s office
Former inmate files $3-million suit, charging that officers struck him and pepper-sprayed him in an alleged sexual assault.
By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
August 26, 2010
The alleged attack inside the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles began with a simple request for a clean shirt.
But a former inmate told a federal court jury Wednesday that what followed was a degrading assault that ended with Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies pepper-spraying his anus and groin.
Alejandro Franco, who was 23 at the time of the alleged 2007 assault, is seeking $3 million, mainly for emotional suffering, in a lawsuit against the deputies.
Two of the three deputies have been relieved of duty with pay. The third is no longer with the department.
The three watched Wednesday as Franco testified that he had just received fresh laundry and was in line for medication when he noticed a foul smell from his pants.
Former Deputy Kris Cordova agreed to replace the pants. But when Franco returned to his cell, he noticed the same stench on his freshly laundered shirt. When he tried to have that replaced as well, he was rebuffed.
“You trying to get over on me,” Franco recalled Cordova saying.
Franco swore at the deputy and returned to his cell. Later that night, around lights-out, Franco testified, Cordova and two other deputies selected his cell for a random search. They cuffed him, Franco said, and he was escorted to an empty recreation room.
There, Franco said, Cordova asked him why he showed disrespect by dropping “the F-bomb” in front of other inmates. Another deputy, Davie Chang, punched him in the face, Franco testified.
When he refused to apologize, Franco said, the deputies hit him repeatedly. He said a third deputy, Anthony Pimentel, stood back, activating his Taser.
Franco said he was flipped onto his belly. Chang, he testified, pulled down his boxers, spread his buttocks and used pepper spray on his anus and genitals. The South Los Angeles man called the incident a sexual assault.
“I felt hollow inside,” Franco said. “I felt as if I wasn’t there.”
The burning lasted through the night, he said.
Gilbert Nishimura, one of the attorneys for the deputies, said his clients are innocent. All three took the stand Wednesday but pleaded the 5th Amendment to all questions.
Felony charges of assault by a public officer are being considered against the three men, said a representative of the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. The Sheriff’s Department turned over its findings from the incident in 2008, spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
“The sheriff requires deputy sheriffs, especially those in custody, to be the civil rights leaders of that community,” Whitmore said. “Just because someone is in jail doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be treated with the utmost respect.”
The deputies’ attorneys argued that there is scant evidence to prove the allegations. They also tried to connect Franco’s emotional issues since his time in jail — bouts of depression and antisocial behavior — to a dysfunctional upbringing and drug abuse.
Franco said he often thinks about the alleged assault and has had trouble maintaining motivation or intimate relationships. His attorney, Arnoldo Casillas, blasted the deputies for refusing to answer any of his questions during testimony.
“Cops tell the truth,” he said. “Cops don’t plead the 5th.”
If the jury returns a verdict in Franco’s favor, it’s unclear whether any damages would be paid by the county or the defendants.
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy convicted of attempting to smuggle drugs into a Castaic jail where he worked was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison.
Peter Paul Felix, 27, mouthed “I love you, guys” to his sisters and girlfriend as he was escorted in handcuffs from the downtown L.A. courtroom. Felix, a two-year veteran, was arrested in October 2008 carrying 161.5 grams of heroin, 24.4 grams of methamphetamine and 51.5 grams of marijuana that authorities said he intended to bring into the North County Correctional Facility.
His attorney, Spencer R. Vodnoy, said his client deeply regretted his actions and cooperated with investigators. “This has been devastating for him and his family,” Vodnoy said. “Sometimes good people make really bad decisions.”
Also sentenced Tuesday was Terance Anthony Warner, who was an inmate at the North County Correctional Facility and allegedly helped arrange for Felix to deliver the drugs.
Superior Court Judge James Bianco sentenced Warner, 28, to two years in prison.
— Jack Leonard
A $2.2-million settlement was approved Tuesday for a man shot and paralyzed by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies last year in Compton.Deputies were on a routine patrol after midnight May 24 when they noticed Daniel Martinez and another man acting suspiciously, according to county records.
Believing Martinez was a lookout in a potential robbery, the deputies got out of their car and approached him. When they ordered him to show his hands, he ran, according to records.
While chasing him, the deputies thought they saw Martinez reach into his back pocket. One thought he was reaching for a gun and fired, according to records.
No gun was found on the scene, just a brown wallet, officials said.
“When you have a settlement like this, nobody is going to leave the table happy,” said Martinez’s attorney, Brian Dunn. “But the county has taken a step in the right direction at the minimum ensuring this kid is going to have the medical treatment he needs.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said the incident highlights the challenges of split-second decisions for deputies.“This just reminds us that when law enforcement tells you to do something, to do it immediately,” Whitmore said. “This situation is a tragic situation.”At least one deputy was disciplined after the shooting, he said.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which oversees the sheriff’s department, approved the settlement.
— Robert Faturechi
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday blasted the “horrific conditions and abuses” at Men’s Central Jail, following a report last week that exposed a system used by a group of deputies there to avoid making routine checks on inmates’ welfare.
The Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were using fake scanner codes to thwart electronic checkpoints the department had installed around the downtown jail. The county Office of Independent Review reported that the deputies had made copies of the codes on sheets of paper, and instead of doing their mandatory rounds, they scanned the codes at their desks.
A March 2009 suicide prompted an investigation that revealed the inmate had been dead for hours before his body was found, despite records appearing to show that a deputy had passed the man’s cell while he was dead.
The fallout from the scam’s discovery led to two deputies being fired and an additional eight sworn officers being disciplined, according to officials.
The ACLU called the deputies actions after the suicide a “cover-up,” saying they “engaged in a deliberate, systematic faking of surveillance logs.”
In its statement, the civil liberties organization said it received a letter from an inmate in a nearby cell, who described the inmate’s behavior before the suicide as “disturbed.”
“These findings underscore the urgency of the ACLU’s efforts to address the horrific conditions and abuses in Men’s Central Jail, where as many as 50% of the detainees are mentally ill,” read the ACLU release.
Sheriff’s internal affairs investigators identified the deputy behind the scheme, who according to the report admitted to using “widely available bar code replication software” to make the fake codes. They also found that the deputy on duty during the suicide had made a “chow run” to a nearby restaurant while he was supposed to be making rounds, according to the oversight report.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said changes had been made at the jail to prevent similar incidents.
“We investigated it. It was wrong. The Sheriffs Department took prompt action,” he said.
— Robert Faturechi
* By Raul Hernandez
* Ventura County Star
* Posted June 28, 2010 at 2:09 p.m., updated June 28, 2010 at 4:58 p.m.
After a brief hearing in court Monday, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant accused of grand theft and two misdemeanor counts of child endangerment was arrested again as he was leaving the courtroom.
Two Ventura County sheriff’s deputies dressed in plain clothes stopped Sgt. Steven Mark Flamm, a Simi Valley resident, as he walked out of the courtroom and led him to a small room used by attorneys to discuss cases with clients. Less than 10 minutes later, a handcuffed Flamm was put inside a detention cell in the courtroom to be booked into county jail.
Flamm, 44, who was free on $10,000 bail, was arrested Monday on felony burglary charges stemming from an incident separate from the theft-endangerment case, according to sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Ross Bonfiglio. Flamm’s bail is now set at $50,000.
Flamm was caught on video surveillance by a store security officer June 3 stealing several video games at the Sears Tire and Auto Store in Thousand Oaks, Bonfiglio said. The games had a total value of $900, and Flamm was arrested after a three-week investigation, he said.
Bonfiglio said the law allows officers to charge a defendant with burglary if he or she enters a structure with the intent to commit a felony such as theft.
Outside the courtroom, Flamm’s lawyer, Melanie Smith of Pasadena, declined to comment on the burglary arrest.
The two Ventura County sheriff’s deputies had been waiting in the courtroom for Flamm to arrive. They made the arrest after Flamm’s hearing, where Judge Bruce Young set a trial date of July 7 for the grand theft and child endangerment charges.
Last year, Flamm was accused of taking two jackets worth $790 from the Nordstrom store at The Oaks mall. Flamm was stopped by Nordstrom loss-prevention officers outside the store on May 1, 2009. The child endangerment charge relates to Flamm’s alleged use of his young daughter in the incident.
Authorities determined they had probable cause to arrest Flamm after reviewing surveillance video and the circumstances of the Nordstrom incident. Sheriff’s detectives have declined to say how the child was involved in the incident.
© 2010 Ventura County Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
There were 33 incidents from January through May, more than for the same period last year, including several cases in which deputies were found to be drunk on duty.
By Robert Faturechi and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
June 23, 2010
As L.A. County sheriff’s deputies evacuated residents during last year’s Station fire, a training officer with the department noticed a deputy acting strangely. He was stumbling, then he fell over.
The deputy later admitted he was drinking vodka concealed in a Gatorade bottle during the deadly blaze.
The incidents, and others, are detailed in an oversight report released Tuesday that highlighted the department’s struggles with employees who drink on the job or whose drunkenness results in problems off the job.
Alcohol-related incidents involving department employees have increased this year, according to findings released by the county Office of Independent Review. There were 33 incidents from January through May, more than in the same period last year, including several cases in which deputies were found to be drunk on duty.
Sheriff Lee Baca acknowledged Tuesday that the report shows the ineffectiveness of recent department efforts to crack down on drinking. In 2008, he announced plans to bar deputies from carrying firearms while intoxicated. But the deputies’ union is fighting the rule, with critics saying it infringes on the rights of deputies. Meanwhile the department has taken a softer approach, mandating that all employees involved in alcohol-related incidents meet personally with the department’s second-in-command.
The number of incidents dropped in 2009, only to pick up again this year. On Tuesday, Baca vowed to come down harder on the issue.
The sheriff said he was preparing provisions that would lead to dismissals for off-duty deputies who shoot their weapons or respond belligerently to law enforcement officers while intoxicated. He called on the deputies union “to do what’s right,” particularly to not hold up his restriction on firearms possession while drinking.
Among other incidents mentioned in the report:
• An off-duty deputy was arrested on suspicion of drinking and driving with her children in the car, and then arrested months later on another DUI charge. She was arrested a third time for allegedly shooting her gun negligently while off duty and under the influence of alcohol.
• An on-duty deputy was driving a county vehicle to an assignment while allegedly under the influence of alcohol. He ran a red light, hitting another vehicle and injuring two passengers.
• A deputy called in sick but was later found to be out of state. During the trip, she was kicked out of a casino while intoxicated for engaging in overly vulgar behavior during a “booty shaking contest.” The deputy was arrested on a trespassing charge after resisting removal.
• Last month, Deputy Randy Barragan, 25, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly fired a handgun in the air on the Redondo Beach Pier after drinking at nearby restaurants. Redondo Beach Police Sgt. Shawn Freeman said Barragan, an off-duty deputy, got out a revolver and fired the gun May 24 while hanging on the pier railing. The girlfriend of the deputy knocked the gun out of his hand, and nearby fishermen tackled him. They held him until officers who had already responded to reports of a man with a gun took him into custody, Freeman said.
• An off-duty deputy was arrested for allegedly driving with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit. When officers stopped her, she asked to be let off “since she was one of them.”
Baca’s plan to restrict deputies from carrying firearms while drinking is before the county Employee Relations Commission because of a challenge from the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said Michael Gennaco, head of the Office of Independent Review.
Brian Moriguchi, president of the Professional Peace Officers Assn., said the ban would infringe on employees’ constitutional rights by keeping them from drinking in their homes.
“We don’t promote deputies drinking and carrying their guns around and being reckless,” said Moriguchi, whose union represents sergeants and lieutenants. “Our objection is to an ill-conceived policy that is not going to accomplish what it’s intended to.”
But sheriff’s officials said the department plans to move forward regardless of union complaints.
“We cannot afford to have drunk deputy sheriffs thinking their weapon is in their full control,” Baca said.
He went on to connect the department’s drinking issues to a wider societal problem.
“Our entire nation … is socially tied to alcohol,” he said. “I don’t think anyone intends to start off as a drunk, unless you’re an alcoholic.”
Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times
A woman, whose drug case was dismissed last week, accuses deputies of lying about her arrest and seeking to have her prosecuted in retaliation for her filing a complaint against them.
By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
May 11, 2010
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating allegations of misconduct by deputies involved in a drug case that was dismissed last week after records appeared to contradict their account of a drug possession arrest.
Prosecutors said the inconsistencies prompted them to drop a felony charge Wednesday against Tatiana Anjuli Lopez, 26. Lopez’s attorney filed court records accusing the deputies of lying about her arrest and seeking to have her prosecuted in retaliation for her filing a complaint against them.
Lopez and her fiancé were arrested in Downey on Oct. 7 on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs.
In an arrest report, Deputy Francisco Enriquez said he drove Lopez in his patrol car to the department’s Century Station in Lynwood. When she got out of his car, Enriquez wrote, he noticed a plastic bag containing nine bags of methamphetamine on the floor near where Lopez had been sitting.
But radio communications show that a different deputy told dispatchers that he was transporting Lopez to the station, according to court documents filed by Lopez’s attorney, Thomas E. Beck.
“The crime report was deliberately falsified,” Beck said. “The whole case was fabricated against my client.”
The district attorney’s office initially declined to file charges against Lopez, concluding that there was not enough evidence. But prosecutors later charged her with possession for sale of a controlled substance after deputies wrote new reports that provided more details about the night of the arrest.
Those reports were written Nov. 17, a day after Beck said he and Lopez met with a sheriff’s lieutenant to discuss a misconduct complaint she had filed against the deputies.
“It was blatant retaliation,” Beck said. “They circled the wagons to cover up the behavior.”
Sheriff’s Chief William McSweeney, who heads the detective division, said a preliminary review conducted several months ago found no dishonesty by the deputies.
McSweeney said the deputy who contacted dispatchers about transporting Lopez did so on behalf of Enriquez as they drove in patrol cars to the station. The chief also disputed the allegation that deputies retaliated against Lopez, saying the additional reports were written after a prosecutor told sheriff’s officials he needed more details about the drug arrest before he could file charges.
Nonetheless, he said the department would investigate the details of the arrest but warned against jumping to conclusions.
“From what we currently know, our deputies acted honorably,” McSweeney said. “Accusations from defense attorneys are part of the law enforcement environment.”
Michael Gennaco, chief attorney in the sheriff’s Office of Independent Review, which oversees discipline of deputies, said the department was opening an internal affairs investigation.
“We’ll move forward in an aggressive way to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
Mark Ashen, the deputy in charge of the district attorney’s Downey area office, said he plans to review the case to determine whether it should be referred to the district attorney’s division that handles criminal prosecutions of police officers.
“There seems to be an inconsistency there,” he said, “but as to whether it was intentional or not or what the circumstances are, we don’t know at this point.”
Lopez was a student at Cerritos College and had no criminal record when she was arrested.
Her fiancé, Miguel Amarillas, 27, who said he once associated with a gang, was twice incarcerated, the first time for robbery in 2000 and the second for assault in 2007, according to prison records. He worked checking cables on oil rigs for a company in Long Beach.
On the evening of their arrest, Lopez and Amarillas were driving to her parents’ house in South Gate to pick up her 5-year-old son when they stopped for gas near their home in Downey. Lopez said deputies suddenly appeared in two patrol cars and ordered them out.
Enriquez, who was assigned to a narcotics strike team, wrote in his report that he stopped the pair after seeing Amarillas’ gold 1993 Lexus driving dangerously on Imperial Highway.
Enriquez said he spoke to the couple and noticed that Lopez was speaking rapidly and sweating, even though the night was cool. He suspected that she and Amarillas were on drugs, and the couple were taken to the sheriff’s station in separate patrol cars.
After he dropped Lopez off, Enriquez wrote, he and other deputies searched the couple’s home, where he found another bag with drugs in a bedroom dresser. The bag, he wrote, contained the same distinctive insignia as the bags found in the patrol car.
Enriquez said he gave Lopez and Amarillas a chance to provide a urine sample for a drug test, but they refused.
Lopez and Amarillas tell a very different story.
The couple said they were never asked to take a urine test and that they had not used drugs and did not possess any. Lopez accused the deputies of trying to pressure her into saying that the drugs belonged to her fiancé and said a deputy threatened to have her son removed.
Lopez was jailed for two days before she was released without charges, according to court records. Amarillas was also eventually released without charges.
Lopez said the episode left her traumatized and that she has had trouble sleeping since then.
“I’d seen it in the movies, but never in a million years did I think it would happen to me,” Lopez said.
After Lopez was charged, her attorney sought radio communications and other records of deputies involved in the arrest. A sheriff’s detective said in a report that he twice inquired about the records and was told there were none.
But Beck sent a subpoena directly to the Sheriff’s Department, which provided the radio recordings and other records that he said confirmed his client’s account.
On Wednesday, Lopez stood in a Downey courtroom next to her attorney as a prosecutor told Superior Court Commissioner Burt Barnett that the district attorney’s office was dropping the case.
“Good idea,” Barnett replied.
Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times
FULLERTON – A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy is behind bars, accused of assaulting an ex-girlfriend and making suicidal threats, police said.
A woman called police around 4:30 p.m. Sunday to the Streams Apartment in the 1300 block of Deerpark Drive regarding her ex-boyfriend, who had a gun and was threatening to kill himself, said Fullerton police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich.
“She was concerned for his safety and her own,” Goodrich said.
Officers arrested Sean Paul De Lacerda, 26, of Fullerton, near the apartment complex at Associated Road and Yorba Linda Boulevard, Goodrich said.
De Lacerda was arrested on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon, making criminal threats, burglary and false imprisonment, Goodrich said.
He is being held at the Orange County Jail in lieu of $100,000.
De Lacerda’s 26-year-old ex-girlfriend told officers he showed up at her apartment and an argument broke out. She said De Lacerda was armed with a handgun and made suicidal threats, Goodrich said.
De Lacerda’s ex-girlfriend was not injured.
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