Mistakes Made in Handling of Probe of Deputy-Inmate Altercation – Los Angeles

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva admitted Tuesday that procedural errors had been made in an internal investigation into an altercation where a deputy kneed on a handcuffed inmate for three minutes. However, he stated that he ordered a criminal probe into his deputy immediately he learned of the error.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the altercation took place at the San Fernando Courthouse on March 10, 2021. Escalante, a 24-year old inmate, allegedly punched Douglas Johnson, sheriff’s deputy, in the face. Johnson and the other deputies wrestled Escalante down, with Johnson placing his knee on Escalante’s head.

A portion of The Times’ security video shows Johnson putting his knee on Escalante’s head for three minutes. He was not resisting and was being handcuffed.

According to The Times, the sheriff’s Cmdr. Allen Castellano claimed that officials from the department attempted to hide details and video from the altercation. “given its nature and its similarities to widely publicized George Floyd use of force.”George Floyd was killed after a Minneapolis officer placed his neck on the ground for eight minutes. This sparked national protests.

Eli Vera is a sheriff’s officer who is running against Villanueva during the forthcoming election. He told The Times that he had viewed the video of Villanueva’s altercation several days before it took place.

Villanueva, however, denied this accusation on Tuesday. He claimed that he only saw the video in November. Then, he ordered that the deputy responsible be relieved of duty immediately and that a criminal investigation is initiated.

The sheriff stated that such an investigation into internal criminality should have been initiated immediately.

“There was a use of force investigation, an administrative investigation,” Villanueva said. It was initiated in roughly the time it should have been initiated. But, it was not initiated in the time frame that was required. This was due to a vetting process of the case for possible criminal investigations. … That did not happen when it was supposed to happen.

“So this case lingered through the administrative process, but along the way, many people, including senior executives in my administration saw this. And what concerns me is they actually saw the information and they did not hit the stop button and say, ‘Hey, we have to take a look at this in a different light and the right light, and do both a criminal and administrative investigation.’ That did not happen.”

Villanueva claimed that an administrative investigator concluded that he was unable to complete his work without a crime investigation. He only learned of the altercation after the request was made. He stated that this occurred on November 18, 2021.

He claimed he had ordered the criminal investigation. The matter has been referred to District Attorney’s Office, where possible charges will be considered.

According to the sheriff, his chief of staff reviewed the way the case was handled at the outset and came up with the following: “administrative action”His command staff has been changed as a result.

“We have information that there was some efforts to try to suppress the nature of this investigation from being moved forward and being moved up the food chain for its proper disposition, and so we had to launch another investigation,”He stated.


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