L.A. County to pay $47.6 million over alleged misconduct by sheriff’s deputies

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to pay $47.6 million to settle multiple lawsuits alleging alleged misconduct by sheriff’s deputies. The payouts include $8 million for the family of Andres Guardado, whose killing sparked widespread protests.

The comparisons solve five cases. In three of them, MPs shot people dead, in one MPs were unable to stop a man from killing himself in prison, and in another, a man whose family said he was suffering from a mental health crisis died after being violently assaulted by MPs had been detained. The board unanimously approved each settlement.

Lt. Lorena Rodriguez, a sheriff’s department spokeswoman, said, “When the board of supervisors directs the county counsel to conduct a matador defense in LASD lawsuits, here’s what happens.” When asked what she meant, Rodriguez said, ” Ma’am, you find it out.”

Sheriff Alex Villanueva has in the past accused prosecutors of sabotaging the department in court cases to drive up legal costs and keep money out of the department’s budget.

Typically, board members do not publicly discuss proposed settlements before voting to accept or reject them. And it’s unusual for the board to deal with multiple multimillion-dollar settlements in one meeting.

But on Tuesday, Supervisor Holly Mitchell said she was “amazed” by the total of the proposed payouts, which came only from the sheriff’s department, and so asked for a discussion.

She said the cases contained “a number of extremely disturbing allegations. We face proxy-related shootings, deaths in custody and calls for excessive use of force.”

“I would hope that the department head would take a good look at his department’s actions and policies and his department’s costly actions before he continues to complain that this board is defunding said department,” Mitchell said.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl cited her own run-in with the sheriff’s department, who searched her home in September as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

“I realized that this was just a very small taste of what communities are going through every day in our impoverished and communities of color,” Kuehl said. “I feel like they deserve these settlements so much. And yet they should never, never, never have experienced this behavior.”

Tuesday’s largest settlement — $16.5 million — was awarded to Timothy Neal, who was shot dead by lawmakers in 2019 after they forced open the door of his bedroom where he was holding two knives, according to prosecutors’ review of the incident.

According to the district attorney’s memo, Neal’s mother had called the department the day before and said her son was psychotic and was trying to kill her. The deputies responded but left after an hour-long pause during which Neal threw objects at them while refusing to leave his room.

The mother called emergency services again the next day to get him out of the house. As they entered his bedroom, he threw them a bottle of champagne while holding the knives, the memo said.

Prosecutors declined to press charges against the deputies, concluding that they acted in self-defense.

Neal’s attorney, Dale Galipo, said the shooting left his client paraplegic, which he says is partly why the settlement is so high.

“Because of this, he will need lifelong medical care — that played into the damage calculations, past and especially future medical expenses,” Galipo said.

A similar settlement — over $16.2 million — was approved for the family of Eric Briceno, who died in 2020 after being beaten and tasered at his family’s Maywood home.

His mother, Blanca Briceno, said she called the sheriff’s department hoping to get help for her son, who was in the midst of a mental health crisis. On one occasion, she said, MPs grabbed her phone as she tried to record her efforts to restrain her son.

Coroner’s officers concluded that Eric Briceno, 39, died of cardiopulmonary arrest resulting from neck compression and restraint with a taser.

“They had the privilege of being on the streets, going home and seeing their families – they withheld all that from me,” Blanca Briceno said on Tuesday, referring to the MPs who killed her son. “These MPs didn’t just take my son’s life. … You have taken from me and my family a life of peace and tranquillity.”

The county is also paying $8 million to the family of Andres Guardado, who was shot in the back five times by a sheriff’s deputy.

Sheriff’s officials said Guardado was showing a handgun when two deputies spotted him outside a body shop where Guardado’s family said he worked as a security guard.

The deputies chased Guardado down a driveway. He had surrendered, pistol on the ground and was lying face down when one of the deputies, Miguel Vega, approached to handcuff the teenager’s wrists, Vega’s lawyer previously told The Times.

According to the deputy, Guardado grabbed the gun, prompting Vega to unholster his service revolver and fired six shots, five of which hit Guardado.

Prosecutors are still deciding whether to bring charges against the deputies in the Guardado and Briceno murder cases, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

The county will also pay $5 million to the wife and daughter of a man, Pedro Lopez, who was struck during a shootout between deputies and a suspect in a car theft, according to a county counsel memo recommending that the board approves the agreement.

In this case, the memo said the sheriff’s deputies were pursuing a suspected stolen car that ran into Lopez’s yard and got into a shootout with the deputies. Lopez was shot dead during the exchange of fire.

The mother and five children of Rufino Paredes, who died by suicide in sheriff’s custody, will receive $1.9 million.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-01/sheriff-department-legal-payouts L.A. County to pay $47.6 million over alleged misconduct by sheriff’s deputies

Alley Einstein

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