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Sheriff Candidate Rhambo Involved in Three Shootings Over Three Years, Newly Released Documents Reveal

One of the “incidents” involved Rhambo firing his service weapon at three dogs.

Cecil Rhambo during his 2019 swearing-in ceremony as chief of the Los Angeles Airport Police. (Source: Facebook)

On November 30, 2021, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department uploaded three new documents to a public police accountability database, detailing three deputy shootings that took place over three years in the late 1980s. This is noteworthy, as reporter Cerise Castle submitted a public records request for those exact documents one day before, and the department is notoriously unresponsive to requests for public information — even leading to a lost lawsuit with the LA Times in June 2020. It is also noteworthy because all three shootings involved Cecil Rhambo, a 2022 candidate for sheriff running on a platform of “real reform.” 

Rhambo stated in an interview with Castle that he had “been involved in shootings — the person just didn’t die.” In fact, he was involved in at least three shootings within a three-year period, injuring two other LASD personnel and one civilian. Rhambo did not respond to a request for comment for this article. 

Rhambo’s first reported shooting occurred on November 13, 1987, in Compton. That morning, he was part of a narcotics team assisting a six-man Lynwood Station burglary team with surveillance on what LASD documents describe as a “rock house.” After the law enforcement officers reported observing several narcotics transactions, they made the decision to enter the house. 

Sergeant Larry Crookshanks and his team of deputies — Ruben Mendoza, Ernest Ortega, and Rhambo — approached the building. Rhambo fired at three dogs in the yard, and missed. Deputies on the team approaching the house from the other side heard the gunshots, prompting one to yell to the others to move back. At this point, Crookshanks, Mendoza, Ortega and Rhambo began firing into a window of the home – Rhambo firing 18 shots to the other deputies three and six. 

Crookshanks was hit by friendly fire on his left side and went down. Crookshanks was later treated at a hospital and released. It’s unclear if any deputies were disciplined for shooting their superior, or firing at the dogs on the scene. At least one deputy present, Javier Clift, was an associate of the white supremacist Vikings deputy gang. Clift went on to participate in a botched raid where a family was held at gunpoint, and was named in a federal lawsuit charging systemic abuse at the hands of the Vikings.

Just over a year later, on December 20, 1988, Rhambo shot another deputy while on duty. That afternoon he was in South Los Angeles as part of a narcotics “buy-bust operation,” where undercover deputies purchase illegal goods then arrest the seller. Deputy Anthony Ward and his partner, Deputy Robert Taylor, were undercover and accompanied by nine other members of the Narcotics Bureau for back up. According to LASD documents, Deputy Taylor left the location and went to his undercover vehicle to alert the team to move into the house and arrest the suspects. 

As the backup units drove up to the front of the building, Deputy Ward moved to the rear. He was spotted by Deputy Rhambo, who yelled, “He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun,” referring to Deputy Ward. Rhambo, along with Deputy John Edner and Sergeant Richard Didion, fired at Deputy Ward, one of them striking him in the right leg. The report on the incident states that they did not recognize Ward as a deputy. Ward was hospitalized with a gunshot wound and fracture to the right femur, in serious condition. He later underwent surgery and was released. It’s unclear if Rhambo, Edner, and Didion were disciplined for the shooting. 

Rhambo’s next shooting, which he spoke about in an interview with Knock LA, occurred while he was off duty on October 20, 1989. According to Rhambo’s account and LASD documents, he was approached by one unidentified person and one teenager or young adult at a bank in Vermont Square. Rhambo says the person pointed a 6-inch blue steel revolver at him and demanded money. Rhambo pulled out his personal weapon and fired three shots, striking the person in the right shoulder, left arm, and buttocks. They ran away, sought treatment for their wounds, and survived. The district attorney’s Special Investigations Division declined to respond to the incident. Rhambo was never charged in the shooting, and it’s unclear if he was disciplined. 

After these shootings, Rhambo was promoted again and again within the LASD, rising to the third-highest rank in the department — assistant sheriff. After retiring in 2014, shortly after his former bosses were federally indicted, he went on to serve as city manager in Compton. In 2019, he became chief of the Los Angeles Airport Police. During his 2022 campaign for sheriff of Los Angeles County, Rhambo — who it appears was never disciplined for any of his shootings — told Knock LA he supports LASD’s current procedure for shootings. “There’s a process for that. What should happen is the process should take its course.”