METROPOLIS LA

TROUBLE IN THE 'BADGE

& KHAKI CORPS'

LA deputy badge.jpg

INVESTIGATION INTO DEPUTY GANGS

Witnesses detail retaliation at

LA County Sheriff's Department

 

 

By ERIC HE
 
LOS ANGELES (CNS)
Dead rats have been left outside homes of members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department who are seen as being cooperative with investigations into the department, a witness testified at an oversight commission hearing Aug. 19.


The witnesswho called into the meeting anonymously out of fear of retaliationdetailed instances of retaliation that she and other employees at the East Los Angeles station faced from members of an alleged deputy gang known as the "Banditos." Friday's meeting was the fifth in a series of hearings by the Civilian Oversight Commission into allegations of deputy gangs in the sheriff's department.
 

As the commission displayed a picture of a dead rat outside a home, the witness testified that she was the recipient of a deceased animal on "more than one occasion."


The witness also testified that she was told ahead of arriving at the station of a culture of harassment and hostile work environment, where trainees were often hazed. Members of the "Banditos" would withhold requests for backup from deputies that they disliked, according to the witness.


"It was very difficult to work by myself in East L.A., and have to go to certain calls by myself having to worry about backup," the witness testified. "I felt tired, burned out. The point of the 'Banditos' was to make you
tired, burned out so that they could run you out of the station and force you out willingly."


Despite Sheriff Alex Villanueva's previous insistence that he cleaned house by transferring 36 employees at the East Los Angeles station as his first act in office in December 2018, previous witnesses have testified to the commission that the "Banditos" still essentially runs the station.


Neither Villanueva nor Undersheriff Timothy Murakami have appeared at an oversight hearing. A court hearing to consider holding Villanueva in contempt for allegedly ignoring subpoenas to testify before the commission is
scheduled for Sept. 7. Subpoenas to Villanueva and Undersheriff Timothy Murakami required each of them to appear and testify at the commission's July 1 public hearing, county lawyers said. Their alleged refusal to comply subjects them to the contempt procedures, according to the county's petition brought July 21.


Villanueva said he was prepared to testify before the commission in July, but "was deeply disappointed to learn the commission is unwilling to allow very basic and reasonable elements of a legitimate oversight meeting designed to understand the truth. It makes neutral observers question whether the commission's real agenda is to learn the facts or to put on a show." 

 

The commission rejected the sheriff's conditions for his testimony, in which he demanded the presence of a neutral hearing officer at the proceedings, an advance look at exhibits the commission intended to use and the
opportunity for the sheriff to make an opening statement and cross-examine witnesses.
 

Two in-person witnesses, both active members of the sheriff's department, also testified Friday after being subpoenaed by the committee.


Sgt. Jefferson Chow, who has been in the department for 26 years, was tasked with investigating a September 2018 fight between deputies at a department party at Kennedy Hall in East Los Angeles.

 

Chow testified that he conducted close to 90 interviews over a seven-month period, but was explicitly told not to ask about the existence of deputy gangs. In an accompanying exhibit, Chow's log from Nov. 27, 2018 stated that interviews were cancelled due to a request by Chief Matthew Burson, who has since retired.


"He wanted to make sure I did not have to ask questions about subcultures groups at ELA Station," Chow's log reads. The next entry, dated Dec. 7, 2018, states that Burson informed Chow that he didn't need to ask about "subcultures groups" at the station.


Chow testified to the commission that was the first time he had been given such a directive, which was why he documented it in his log. Chow acknowledged it felt "weird" to not ask about the existence of deputy gangs
during his investigation, but described the sheriff's department as a paramilitary organization in which employ- ees have to abide by the chain of command or risk termination.
 

Chow believed that criminal charges should have been filed in the Kennedy Hall incident, which left five deputies injured. "It was fighting amongst deputy sheriffs," Chow said when asked why he thought so. "We shouldn't be fighting our own."


The other witness, Capt. Angela Walton, testified that while she was a training officer at the Lennox station in the 2000s, she worked with members of an alleged deputy gang known as the "Grim Reapers" who were upset that she gave a trainee time to eat during shifts. Walton testified of instances where she was given an excessive amount of calls and had her business card being placed on a bulletin board with an "X" on it as examples of retaliation she faced.


Walton, a 27-year veteran of the department, filed a lawsuit against the department in May in connection with an alleged cover-up after a deputy knelt on the neck and head of an incarcerated man awaiting trial last year.
Sheriff Villanueva has denied that there was a cover-up.


During her testimony, Walton criticized the department's leadership and said the line between groups of friends and more ominous "cliques" within the department needs to be made clear.


"It's OK to party with your friends and clique off with certain groups of friends that you work with," Walton said. "But when that friendship or clique starts becoming nefarious behavior or starts becoming illegal or immoral, you've got to figure out who [you are] as a person. You've got to realize you're OK with your self-worth. You don't need to be accepted by the clique. You took an oath."

Sheriff's deputy indicted

Charged with sexually- related offenses with 4

girls between 2006-2022

By TERRI VERMEULEN KEITH
City News Service


LOS ANGELES (CNS)A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy pleaded not guilty Aug. 10 to a grand jury indictment charging him with sex-related offenses involving four girls from 2006-2022.


Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta ordered Sean Essex, 51, to be held without bail pending a Sept. 1 bail review hear- ing. The judge noted that Essex is facing "multiple life sentences" if convicted as charged.

The grand jury indictment, handed up Tuesday and unsealed Wed- nesday, charges Essex with 33 counts, including continuous sexual abuse, oral copulation with a child under 10, lewd act on a child and

seanessex2.jpg

Sean Essex. Screenshot

possession of child or youth pornography. The indictment refers to the alleged victims as "Jane Does 1,2,3,4."  

Three of the alleged victims are related to a woman Essex dated about 20 years ago, Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson told the judge in requesting that Essex be held without bail. 

 

The indictment also includes a lewd act charge involving a girl who reported the alleged crime in 2006 in a case that the District Attorney'sOffice said was previously declined by their office. The girls were between 7 and 13 at the time of the alleged crimes, according to the District Attorney's Office. 

 

"Sexually assaulting a child not only robs them of their innocence but leaves lasting mental trauma," District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement released shortly after the indictment was unsealed. "This is one of the most egregious crimes my office encounters and is made worse when the crime is committed by some- one who has been entrusted to protect them and our community from harm." 

 

Essex was initially arrested April 8 by investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Inter- nal Criminal Investigations Bureau and booked on suspicion of one count each of lewd/lascivious acts with a

child under 14 years and oral copulation with a child under the age of 14. He was released on bond that day, according to jail records. 

 

Essex was re-arrested about 7:40 p.m. Tuesday night, jail records show. His current status with the sheriff's department was not immediately available. 

 

"The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department expects all of its members to hold themselves to the highest ethical and professional standards at all times," the department said in a statement released in April shortly after Essex's arrest. "Department members who engage in misconduct, especially criminal misconduct that preys on a vulnerable population, will not be tolerated and will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," according to the statement. 

 

Essex's attorney had no immediate comment on the indictment.

20k reward issued in murder of South LA man

LOS ANGELES (CNS)Authorities announced a $20,000 reward for help in solving the killing of a man who was gunned down in January in a shopping center parking lot in an unincorporated area bordering South Los Angeles.


Reginald Thompson Sr., 33, was shot about 9 p.m. Jan. 11 in the 14400 block of South Vermont Avenue and died at a hospital, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles County  office. Thompson was in the parking lot with friends when four suspects got out of a black sedan, and at least two of them opened fire on the group, wounding Thompson and a man who survived, the sheriff's department reported.


Detectives and Thompson's family members held a news conference at the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau on Tuesday morning to seek the public's help in solving the crime.


Sheriff's Lt. Derrick Alfred told reporters that a motive for the shooting was not known.


"So far, what we're able to determine is it seems to be a random act,'' Alfred said. "Reginald and his friends don't appear to have any kind of gang ties. We weren't able to make that connection at allalthough the
suspects' actions do appear to be consistent with gang activity."


Alfred said the suspects may have mistaken Thompson or his friends for others.


"My son was a father, he was a brother, he was a friend," Caren Stephens said a the news conference. "He was fun, he was loving, and he did not deserve to be tragically struck. ...


"This could be anybody standing here, and I don't want to see other mothers suffer the pain and sorrow that I've had to endure with my family," Stephens added. "We are devastated, and if you saw something, please say
something."


The reward was offered by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Anyone with information on the case was urged to call the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500, or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.