Part of A Tradition of Violence, an extensive investigation into more than five decades of abuse, terror, and murder carried out by gangs within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Content Warning: This series explicitly details acts of violence (including murder) carried out by law enforcement officials. Please exercise self-care and check in with yourself before choosing to read.
There are at least 18 gangs within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Officials at various government agencies, including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, the California Senate Senate Subcommittee on Police Officer Conduct, and the United States Commission on Civil Rights have heard testimony on the violence inflicted on communities at the hands of deputy gangs for decades. And yet, there have not been any internal investigations or significant policy changes to address the issue. Deputy gangs have killed at least 19 people, all of whom were men of color. At least four of them had a mental illness. Los Angeles County keeps a list of lawsuits related to the deputy gangs. Litigation related to these cases has cost the County just over $100 million over the past 30 years. Under section 186.22 of the California Penal Code a criminal gang is described as any organization or group of three (3) or more people that 1. has a common name or identifying sign or symbol, 2. has, as one of its primary activities, the commission of one of a long list of California criminal offenses, and 3. whose members have engaged in a "pattern of criminal gang activity" ... either alone or together. Sheriff's gangs fit the description. Despite requests, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department did not provide comment to Knock LA for the series.
By March 2011, Men’s Central Jail was synonymous with violence and torture. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2011 that the department routinely transferred deputies convicted of crimes or found guilty of serious misconduct to the County jail as a way to keep them away from the public. In the darkness, the 3000 Boys continued to unleash their wrath on their victims.
Around 7:30 AM on March 11, 2011, William Tillman says the sounds of a pornographic film coming from the deputy’s control booth woke him up, a regular occurrence according to Tillman’s complaint. Tillman saw Deputy Armando Ibarra step out of the booth and tell someone inside, “This is my favorite part. Pause it for me.” Ibarra completed a security walk of the floor and on his way back inside the officer area, someone shouted, “What y’all doing is gay. You guys are gay,” followed by a chorus of incarcerated people repeating the sentiment.
A few days later, Anthony Brown, who was acting as a federal informant for an FBI investigation in LA County jails, approached Tillman and told him that Deputies Lance Moorman and Ibarra believed Tillman had been “talking shit.” On March 25, Deputy Moorman told Tillman that he knew Tillman had been behind the comments stating, “We the 3000 Boys. The deputies on this floor let you guys get away with too much. The police here are too soft. That shit ends now!” Moorman beat Tillman while the prisoner was handcuffed and prone on the floor. Ibarra joined in by kicking Tillman and pepper spraying his face. Moorman directed Custody Assistant Engelbert Perez to “go get the taser,” which was then deployed on Tillman’s back three times. The beating stopped when Ibarra pulled Moorman off of Tillman.
Tillman was taken to the jails’ medical clinic, where a sergeant and lieutenant interviewed him on film. When he was asked what happened he said, “These 3000 Boys beat the shit out of me for no reason.” The lieutenant ordered the videographer to “cut the camera.” Tillman was taken to LA County-USC Medical Center and given 35 stitches to his forehead, leaving him with a permanent scar. Upon returning to the jail, Tillman was placed in solitary confinement. He filed suit with the County and settled for $100,000, paid for by taxpayers.
It could happen to you
Some people visiting MCJ found themselves locked up on phony charges, or with no charges at all. According to a federal indictment, an Austrian consul general and her husband were handcuffed and unlawfully detained by deputies when she tried to visit an Austrian citizen at the jail, despite the fact that she was immune from arrest and prosecution, as her actions were a part of her official duties. Another visitor was falsely accused of resisting an officer and disturbing the peace after Deputy Noel Womack fractured the visitor’s arm. The visitor was handcuffed, brought into an employee break room, and shoved against a refrigerator, cutting his face. He was held at MCJ for five days. No charges were filed.
Gabriel Carrillo, a father of two, came to visit his brother who was incarcerated on February 26, 2011. Immediately upon checking in, deputies examined his identification and began whispering, according to his complaint. Carrillo’s girlfriend dropped a cell phone on the floor, which, unbeknownst to her, were not allowed in the visiting area. She was cuffed and promptly escorted to the break room, where she was interrogated about who she came to the jail with and whether they had phones as well. She responded that they might.
Deputy Pantamitr Zunggeemoge and another deputy cuffed Carrillo and escorted him to the break room. Once there, they removed his girlfriend from the room and then a group of deputies, including Fernando Luviano (who beat up Michael Holguin) and Sussie Ayala (who was present at the Quiet Cannon fight), threw him to the floor, kicking and punching him. One deputy held a knee on Carrillo’s back to prevent his escape. Zunggeemoge testified that he pepper sprayed Carrillo in the face. When the attack ended, Carrillo was treated by paramedics and taken to an interview room. ABC7 obtained footage of Carrillo speaking to deputies, saying he did not know who had hit him. Deputies Zunggeemoge, Noel Womack, Ayala, Luviano, and Sergeant Eric Gonzalez crafted a cover story, claiming that Carrillo tried to escape during fingerprinting and attempted to fight the group of deputies. Carrillo was charged with resisting a police officer and prosecuted through October 2011, when the Los Angeles County District Attorney eventually dropped charges.
Zunggeemoge and Womack took plea deals in exchange for their testimony about the Carrillo beating. Zunggemoge received six months of home detention while Womack got nine months of home detention and 640 hours of community service. Deputy Byron Dredd, who participated in the coverup, was retried on a charge of lying to FBI agents after a jury acquitted him of conspiracy and writing a false report. He was sentenced to one year in federal prison. Eric Gonzalez was sentenced in November 2015 to eight years in federal prison for his role in the case. Sussie Ayala was sentenced to six years in federal prison in 2019 for her role in the beating. According to the Los Angeles Times, she appeared emotionless as she was led out of the courtroom by federal marshals. Deputy Fernando Luviano was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for his role in the attack on Carrillo. When he was remanded to custody, the LA Times reported that he “cried softly as he emptied his pockets.” Carrillo filed a civil rights suit against the County and settled for $1.2 million, paid for by taxpayers.
But not even the U.S. Justice Department could stop the proliferation of deputy gangs. Vikings in leadership had given their blessing, and now different sets were working together to inflict violence and terror on both incarcerated men and any deputies who dared question the gangs.
The 3000 Boys meet the Vikings
In or around July 2011, Deputy Michael Rathbun was assigned to Operations Safe Jails (OSJ), a gang intelligence unit within the County jails. Rathbun worked with Deputy James Sexton, whose father served as a chief within the department. Rathbun and Sexton specialized in turning members of white supremacist gangs into informants. In August 2011, Lieutenant Greg Thompson, their boss and a tattooed Viking, ordered Rathbun, Sexton, and other members of OSJ to transfer and hide Anthony Brown, an incarcerated man acting as an informant for the FBI. The orders came directly from Sheriff Lee Baca and Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and years later landed them both in federal prison for obstructing justice.
In February 2012, one of Rathbun and Sexton’s informants told them that Deputy Joseph Britton was allegedly passing information to Charles “Fritz” Reimer, the top white supremacist shot caller in the County jail system. In exchange for information, Reimer promised Britton free tattoos at his shop in the West Valley from his partner, “Pest.” According to Rathbun and Sexton’s complaint, their suspicions were detailed in a memo to Thompson. Thompson promptly informed Britton, which gave him a chance to cover his tracks, blowing the informant’s cover. At the same time, Custody Assistant Remington Orr, who is Black, developed an inappropriate relationship with a Black gang – he was caught in a drug sting and fired. Afterwards, Deputy Mickey Manzo wrote an email, circulated among OSJ staff, disparaging Black people. Thompson did nothing.
Once Rathbun and Sexton’s informant’s cover was blown, he was moved out of protective custody and into general population, where he was vulnerable. Soon after the transfer, someone tried to shank him in the showers. The OSJ team had no explanation for why the man was moved, but Sexton was later told it was meant to be a “message” from Thompson, their boss, that bad things would happen if Rathbun and Sexton did not drop their complaint about the relationship between deputies and white supremacists. Shortly afterwards, a confidential interview featuring Sexton mysteriously appeared on Youtube. Thompson refused to investigate. Thompson also found out that Sexton received a call from the Los Angeles Times and told him and Rathbun there would be serious consequences for speaking to the press. The intimidation continued. Rathbun received white supremacist literature at his home, and another OSJ deputy told Sexton that he needed to keep his mouth shut about Thompson and Britton. Thompson’s son, who is also a deputy, repeatedly threatened them both.
The Department’s Internal Affairs began looking into the claims but the investigators maintained regular contact with Thompson about their moves. Sexton was contacted in May 2012 by Internal Criminal Investigation Bureau investigator Noe Garcia, a reported Regulator. Sexton says in his complaint that he believed this was retaliation for his whistleblowing. Sexton also learned that one of his informants was routinely beaten by Deputy Michael Camacho. Rathbun saw misdemeanor charges he picked up after a DUI increased to a felony. Sexton and Rathbun met with Sheriff Lee Baca as a final means for relief, which came to nothing. Baca once told KTLA that deputies facing workplace issues should “man up.”
In 2012, Rathbun and Sexton began working with the FBI to report LASD’s violations of both state and federal laws. Following their cooperation, Rathbun was suspended without pay, and Sexton was harassed by various deputies, including Viking-associate Gutierrez. Thompson was transferred to a coveted position in the Narcotics Division. The LA Times ran an article about the informant and the fallout. Shortly after, Baca summoned Rathbun and Sexton to his office. Both men expressed that they feared for their safety, which Baca minimized.
Rathbun, who is Jewish, was also subjected to antisemitic remarks. Multiple people have said, under oath, that Baca repeatedly made antisemitic statements, including referring to “Jew money” at a captains’ meeting. Sexton was harassed by Commander Paul Pietrantoni and threatened with bodily harm by Deputy Camacho. ICIB investigators later told Sexton that Deputy Camacho violated the Penal Code, but that the Los Angeles District Attorney would never file criminal charges.
In August 2012, Rathbun and Sexton testified before a grand jury in a case that resulted in charges against 18 LASD members for jail abuse. Following that, Sexton was advised by another deputy not to enter the Temple Station for his safety. Once again, he was cornered by Deputy Thompson, who was allegedly sent by Baca and Tanaka. Rathbun’s car was vandalized. Deputies Mazo and Gerard Smith told both Sexton and Rathbun that they would be physically harmed if they did not stop whistleblowing. Several high-ranking LASD officials expressed concern that Lieutenant Thompson would try to kill Sexton and Rathbun. Then their personnel files, which are generally only accessible by LASD officials, were publicly disseminated. Rathbun was also recommended for termination, despite the fact that numerous LASD employees have not been fired for receiving multiple DUIs.
Rathbun and Sexton filed civil rights complaints, which are still ongoing as of this publish date. Sexton was later convicted of obstruction of justice for his role in helping to hide federal informant Anthony Brown. Many of the people they reported continue to serve in the department as recently as 2019, including Deputies Joseph Britton, Michael Camacho, Matthew Thompson, Mickey Manzo, and Gerard Smith. Internal investigator and alleged Regulator Noe Garcia was promoted to lieutenant in 2013 following these incidents, and he held that position as recently as 2019. Lieutenant Gregory Thompson retired in 2013 and was sentenced for his role in obstructing justice in the FBI’s investigation. He retired from the department and appears to be collecting a pension, as is former Commander Paul Pietrantoni.
The 3000 Boys’ influence led to the creation of a gang beneath their noses: the 2000 Boys
According to the 2012 Citizens Commission of Jail Violence report, the 2000 Boys is a deputy gang based on the 2000 bloc of Men’s Central Jail. Like the 3000 Boys, they share a common tattoo on the calf depicting the Roman numeral “II,” earned by beating inmates in their custody and then filing false reports to cover up the abuse. One custody deputy on the 2000 bloc fractured the orbital bone of a non-combative inmate to “earn” his tattoo.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a federal civil rights complaint on behalf of two incarcerated men who were beaten and threatened by the 2000 Boys. Alex Rosas and Jonathan Goodwin also witnessed other men abused by the deputies. Several people working or incarcerated in the jail also reported years of incidents of violence they witnessed to the ACLU.
The following deputy abuses were brutal, and spanned nearly a decade. Knock LA is printing clinical terms described in the Rosas & Goodwin case to illustrate the severity of the jail gangs’ conduct.
On October 10, 2003, Mario Ochoa witnessed a group of deputies beating a man suffering from a mental illness, which left the man with his eyes swollen shut.
In June 2006 at Twin Towers, a deputy escorting a group of inmates, including Frank Mendoza, said to them “you all walk like girls.” Mendoza, a gay man who was incarcerated for public drunkenness, said to another inmate in the line, “There’s a male who’s unsure of his masculinity.” The deputy grabbed Mendoza, shoved him against the wall, and threatened him stating, “You better watch it. I will show you my masculinity. I will come get you.” Later that night, the deputy assaulted and raped Mendoza. He was found naked and shivering in his cell by another deputy who asked him what was wrong. When Mendoza reported that he had been raped by another deputy, the LASD employee responded, “I do not see anything wrong with you.” The Office of Independent Review (OIR), a civilian oversight group that monitored LASD from 2001 through July 2014, reviewed Mendoza’s case in 2013. According to the report, Mendoza filed an Alleged Use of Force complaint with a Watch Commander, who told investigators that she believed Mendoza had mistaken a routine strip search for a sexual assault. She did not conduct a sexual assault investigation nor generate a criminal report. Mendoza was not interviewed about the attack, and no forensic evidence was gathered. When an internal task force was launched in 2012 to investigate claims reported to the ACLU for criminal charges, the District Attorney declined to file. The case was referred to the Department’s Internal Affairs, but because it was reported after the one year statute of limitations for internal investigations, no disciplinary action was taken.
Around December 30, 2007, a deputy repeatedly slammed 58-year-old Robert Powell’s head into a wall.
In February 2008, after Peter Johnson, who uses a wheelchair, complained about jail conditions, Deputies Ochoa, Reynoso, and Saldivar pulled him off his bed and kicked and kneed his ribs, back, and neck. The deputies later shot pepper spray into his face and knocked him out of his wheelchair.
In October 2008, Deputy Cinderelli handcuffed Drequinn Johnson to transport him to a legal visit. Cinderelli stopped Johnson in the hallway near Deputy Grant, who was considered a ”rookie” deputy. Cinderelli told Grant, “This is training, this is when you get your first force,” meaning his first use of force incident. Cinderelli then shoved Johnson against the wall and punched him. Johnson fell to the ground and Grant and two other deputies came over and joined the beating. The deputies also shot Johnson with a taser twice in the arm. After the incident, Johnson was unable to see out of his left eye for about two weeks. “It was not treated as a crime at all,” Mendoza said.
In February 2009, Jail Chaplain Paulino Juarez witnessed a beating on the 3000 bloc in Men’s Central Jail, where a man was knocked unconscious. One deputy noticed Juarez watching and motioned to the others to stop, but others arrived and joined the attack. Juarez wrote a report of the beating and passed it on to both a sergeant and his supervisor at the archdiocese. He was interviewed by the LASD, but didn’t hear back about the case for two years. In June 2011, Juarez attended a meeting with employees of the archdiocese and personnel from the Office of Internal Review and was informed the case was resolved internally. In July 2011, Sheriff Baca told Chaplain Juarez that his report was not included in the department’s file on the incident, which described Juarez as “exaggerating” the details of the beating. In 2016, two deputies were convicted for their role in the beating: Joey Aguiar was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and Mariano Ramirez to 13 months for falsifying reports with the intent to obstruct justice, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In March 2009, deputies beat Daysuan Rushing after he met with the ACLU saying, “You fucking whiners, tell this to the ACLU, I dare you.” Rushing received stitches on both sides of his face.
In May 2009, deputies sent another inmate to beat Emmanuel Benson after he reported that a guard assaulted him the day before.
Deputies pushed Darrell Garrett down a flight of concrete steps while he was wearing a restraint around his wrists.
In July 2009, Phillip Westby got into an argument with another incarcerated man in Twin Towers. Deputies pulled him out of his cell and slammed his head into the wall. Deputy O’Hardy handcuffed him and then slammed his head into the wall twice more. Deputies O’Hardy and Sandoval then took Westby into the Outdoor Recreation area, where they repeatedly punched him and then threw him to the ground.
In August 2009, deputies beat Gordon Grbavac during a weeklong incarceration at Twin Towers – all charges against Grbavac were dismissed.
In September 2009 at Men’s Central Jail, Deputy Navarro beat Eefrom Jones as he attempted to return to his cell following an attorney visit. Other deputies came over and joined in the beating, breaking Jones’s shoulder and repeatedly pepper spraying him in the face despite his asthma. After a lieutenant interviewed Jones about the incident two weeks later, Deputy Navarro came to Jones’s cell to escort him to the psychologist. In the hallway, Navarro ordered Jones to strip naked and bend over, then put his finger in Jones’ anus. Other deputies watched and laughed as Navarro yelled that this was his floor, and he would do whatever he wanted.
In October 2009, a Black inmate was called a “monkey” during a cell search and beaten. He was told by the deputies who attacked him, “We don’t give a fuck about the ACLU. This is our house. They don’t fucking live here.” Jonny Johnson saw deputies verbally abusing an elderly man who was known to be mentally ill. The man had a condition that made it difficult to follow directions. The deputies threw a sandwich at the man’s head and began to taunt him. Johnson told the deputies to stop picking on the man, and he was removed from his cell and beaten. Later that night he was forced to hand out bedding to other incarcerated men and say, “I’m a f*ggot and the deputies are the bomb.”
Scott Budnick, a civilian volunteer who mentored young inmates, witnessed five deputy-on-inmate beatings at Men’s Central Jail between 2007 and 2009. Budnick reported a July 2009 incident to Sergeant Renfro, who promised to “get into this immediately.” Mr. Budnick, however, was never interviewed about the beating he witnessed. He never heard back from the sergeant, anyone else at the LASD, or OIR, about an investigation into his allegations of deputy violence.
In February 2010, deputies in the jails’ Correctional Treatment Center attacked Devon Mannings, who suffers from a seizure disorder. They beat him, used pepper spray, and tased him, causing him to have a seizure.
Deputy Jason Sather claimed he was forced to beat up an incarcerated person with a mental illness at MCJ in April 2010.
At Twin Towers, Deputies Bryant and Holland attacked a man after he complained to the ACLU about the lack of medical treatment for inmates.
For about a week in May 2010, deputies beat Walter Morales twice a day with flashlights, which he believes was the result of his charge: firing at a police officer.
On May 28, 2010, former cop Matthew Gjersvold, while housed in the Twin Towers, slept through a deputy’s call for a head count because of the sleep medication he was taking. Deputy Van Du told Gjersvold to stand facing the stairs, and then shoved him onto the metal steps. Du then handcuffed Gjersvold, brought him back to his cell, and yanked on the cuffs, causing Gjersvold to fall backwards and break his wrist.
A group of deputies beat Luis Bueno while he was on his way to church at MCJ, fracturing his nose, tearing a ligament in his ankle, and swelling an artery in his brain.
In June 2010, Deputy Carefoot beat Juan Diego Mares so violently during a search of cells that he suffered a fractured jaw, required multiple eye surgeries, and received eight stitches in his ear.
A deputy slammed Santiago Sanchez into a pole following a visit with his family.
After asking for a pair of shoes, Jimmie Knott was forced to strip to his boxers by Senior Deputy Sanchez and then beaten.
Joseph Hager was beaten while attempting to go to the law library by Deputies Chavez and Gonzalez. When it was over Chavez told him, “I tried to kill you. You are lucky you are still breathing.” The beating left him with a broken bone in his face. Afterwards, he was sent to disciplinary segregation and was told he was being charged with assault on a deputy.
A suicidal man who walked out of his cell asking to see a psychiatrist was mocked and shoved back into his cell by Custody Gonzalez. Gonzalez ordered the man’s cellmate, Gary Sanchez, to “regulate” the man, which he understood to mean beat him.
Robert Dragusica was repeatedly threatened by deputies after meeting with the ACLU and eventually sent to disciplinary segregation for a fabricated contraband charge.
In July 2010, Deputies Reza and Milpad beat Rashad Pilgrim as he waited in line for medication. The assault left him with fractures in his face, blunt head trauma, an injury to his right ear, and a chipped tooth. The same month, a group of deputies attacked Alex Krehbiel and placed him in segregation after returning from a visit with his attorney.
At Twin Towers, Custody Assistant Bernadino beat Cedric Smith. Deputies also beat Smith in 2004, which left him with a hernia and scar on his face.
In August 2010, Keith Nichols refused to discuss his legal case with a deputy at MCJ, who responded by repeatedly kicking Nichols in the lower back and kidneys.
In November 2010, Deputy Stevenson repeatedly punched and then forcefully pushed Darrell Rauls on an LASD transport bus, causing him to fall.
At Twin Towers, Deputies Ochoa and Paket beat a man, leaving him with a fractured nose, bruised kidneys and ribs, a two-centimeter gash on his forehead, and a swollen right eye. LASD then charged him with battery against a peace officer and resisting a peace officer.
A deputy at MCJ dragged a man off of his bunk to the floor then purposely stepped on his fingers. About this time, Steven Moore heard deputies beating another incarcerated man in the laundry room.
On November 18, 2010, in Men’s Central Jail, multiple deputies attacked Jonathan Dunlap. He received stitches on his eyelid and was later sent to the hole for 20 days, supposedly for assaulting a deputy.
On November 26, 2010, Deputy Pontonantos punched Erik Camacho, who was in a wheelchair. Camacho’s wheelchair collapsed in the midst of the beating and the deputies dragged him along the floor while Deputy Gomez kicked him. Deputy Pontonantos took one of Camacho’s shoes, slapped him across the face with it, and kicked him in the testicles.
In December 2010, Deputy Lyon attacked Michael Cervantes with a flashlight and taser.
In the Inmate Reception Center, Custody Assistant Martinez and Deputy Sims beat Stephan Teran during a search and again during processing.
A deputy in Twin Towers beat Derek Griscavage after Griscavage showed the deputy his middle finger.
On December 29, 2010, Deputy Gomel tripped a handcuffed man and slammed his head against the ground.
Deputy Vasquez pushed 60-year-old Michael Campbell’s injured back and punched his head multiple times while Campbell’s hands were restrained behind his back.
In January 2011, a group of deputies attacked Garry Crumpton at MCJ. Christopher Brown witnessed two deputies in Twin Towers punching a non-resisting incarcerated person who fell to the floor unconscious. While they lay there, the deputies continued beating them and shot them with a taser.
Two deputies assaulted Shawn Meyers in an elevator for his interactions with ACLU representatives and said, “That’s your warning.” Deputy Carbajal overheard Mani Sadri complain about being threatened by another deputy and said, “If you contact the ACLU one more time or if I see any letters being sent there, I can open up your cell and say that it was a mistake. I’ll have inmates come into your cell and have them finish you. Do your time. Don’t complain to anyone if you want to make it out of here alive.” According to the October 2013 OIR report, Sadri had already warned a sergeant that Carbajal threatened him in the past. Although Sadri filed multiple complaints, only one was investigated, and even then ultimately deemed unfounded. The internal task force in charge of reviewing incidents for potential criminal charges did not review this case. Internal Affairs investigators stated that they were unable to find the deputies or sergeants involved and closed the matter. OIR concurred, and it’s unclear if other action was taken.
On January 24, 2011, Esther Lim, the ACLU Jails Project Coordinator, witnessed the savage beating of an immobile unconscious incarcerated person in Twin Towers by Deputies Ochoa and Hirsch.
In February 2011 at Twin Towers, Deputy Hernandez forcibly shoved a flashlight one inch into Rodney Smith’s buttocks, resulting in bleeding. Smith also witnessed another incarcerated person being beaten.
Deputy Walker attacked an inmate in Men’s Central Jail after he woke up late for the morning count, causing a cut that required 40 stitches. A chaplain saw a group of deputies attacking an inmate.
On February 24, 2011, deputies savagely beat Cesar Mancilla in the Inmate Reception Center, causing a collapsed lung, two broken ribs, a nasal fracture, four broken teeth, and burns on his skin from pepper spray. Deputies also beat Stephen Teran at that time. He was left in a neck brace with a broken cheekbone and possible nerve damage. The case was investigated by the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney declined to charge the deputies involved, stating that the use of force had been necessary. The Custody Division found Mancilla’s charges to be “unfounded,” and OIR concurred. It’s unclear if further action was taken.
In March 2011 in Men’s Central Jail, Deputy Smith knocked a tray of food from Alberto Carreras’s hands, called him a homophobic slur, and beat him while focusing the blows on his genitals. Carreras later bled from his penis.
A deputy told a man “I can make it that you slip in the shower next time and need serious medical attention.” Another deputy at Twin Towers dug her nails into Anthony Penmik’s skin while another punched and hit him. The Department did not initially investigate the incident. Once Penmik’s complaint was presented in a case brought against the County by the ACLU, an internal task force found that his charges were “unfounded.” The District Attorney declined to file charges against the deputy. The Office of Internal Review concurred with the department. It’s unclear if further action was taken.
On March 16, 2011, Deputies Diaz, Rodriguez, and Owens pepper sprayed and brutally beat Lawrence Davis, an incarcerated Black man, until he was unconscious. Davis’s jaw was fractured and several of his teeth were knocked out. The deputies also carved the letters “MY” into his scalp, symbolizing a Spanish language slur for Black people referring to monkeys. Department investigators did not immediately interview witnesses to the event, nor review video surveillance of the incident. A criminal investigation completed by the department was sent to the District Attorney and United States Attorney. No charges were filed. The Custody Division reviewed the case afterwards, and ruled that the case was “unresolved.” The OIR concurred. It’s unclear if any further action was taken.
In April 2011, Carlos Cacique was beaten inside of Twin Towers.
In June 2011, a deputy at Men’s Central Jail called Michael Jefferson, who is Black, by a racial slur and said that he “can’t fucking listen” and instructed him to face the wall. Deputy Quintana then punched Jefferson.
June 20, 2011, Deputy Junenez dislocated the shoulder of Clydell Crawford, an incarcerated man who previously helped expose the Wayside Whities deputy gang.
On June 25, 2011, a deputy in Men’s Central Jail punched a 57-year-old inmate, who uses a wheelchair, in the eye and the mouth.
On July 12, 2011, a deputy in Twin Towers slammed Charles Celestine against a wall so hard during a cell search that his prosthetic eye popped out. According to the October 2013 OIR report, the department claims it was unaware of the incident prior to the ACLU filing a lawsuit on behalf on men incarcerated at the County jail. Following that, an internal department task force investigated Celestine’s claims and submitted the case to the District Attorney, who declined to file charges. Internal Affairs later found the allegations to be unfounded. OIR concurred, and it’s unclear if any further action was taken. Celestine’s eye was never replaced.
In July 2011, Deputies Chaves and Weiner attacked 42-year-old Macario Garcia, who is blind in one eye as a result of a prior deputy beating. When he attempted to go to a scheduled doctor appointment, the deputies punched, kicked, pepper sprayed, and beat him. Garcia was left with a broken collarbone, stitches, and charges for assaulting a deputy. Arturo Fernandez was attacked by Deputies Guerrero, Bearer, Ibarra, and Fernando Luviano, the latter of whom was convicted for his role in the beating of a jail visitor years later.
In August 2011, deputies grabbed Anthony Brown, a federal informant, by his windpipe, slammed him to the ground, and beat him. That month, Deputy Valdez was observed beating a Black inmate and yelling, “I hate you motherfucking monkeys. Damn n*****!”
On September 24, 2011, Deputies Alatorre and Ewell beat an incarcerated man after he asked for his prescription medication.
On December 6, 2011, a man was punched in the face by a deputy while being escorted out of a courtroom with his hands cuffed behind him. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance where a doctor stated that the man needed stitches. However, two deputies told the doctor that the man was fine and they left the hospital. A sergeant who filmed the man’s injuries later informed him that he could file a lawsuit, but that it would be a “waste of time.”
On December 13, 2011, Custody Assistant Martinez tased a 52-year-old man while a group of deputies kicked him.
In early December 2011, retired Commander Robert Olmsted, formerly the Captain in charge of Men’s Central Jail before a promotion to Commander in the LASD’s Custody Division, publicly disclosed that Sheriff Baca and other senior Department staff, including Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, long had knowledge of the pattern of widespread deputy violence in the County jails. Olmsted said that he repeatedly informed defendants Baca, Tanaka, and Custody Operations Chief Dennis Burns about deputy gangs in the jail. Burns told Olmsted that it was impossible to change the deputy culture in Men’s Central Jail. Sheriff Baca did not follow up. The ACLU’s case eventually settled with a sum of $950,000 paid to the plaintiffs by taxpayers.
3000 never dies
Not everyone who challenged the jail’s deputy gangs in court was successful. On December 11, 2011, Al-Quan Jackson was transported to a new module within MCJ and subjected to a property search where some of his belongings were unjustifiably taken, according to his complaint. After protesting this treatment, Deputies Patrick Rivera, Augustine De La Torre Jr., Samuel Aldama, Jason Rodriguez, and Kevin Ethridge beat him. Deputies Joshua Raniag, Salvador Valencia Jr., Lance Moorman, Shawnee Hinchman, David Navarette, and James Sharp stood by and watched during the attack. After the beating he was seen by doctors and then interviewed by Watch Commander Tracy Stewart, Lieutenant Edwin Alvarez, and Supervising Sergeant Nicole Zonver and taken to disciplinary detention.
The LASD personnel allegedly conspired to report Jackson for assaulting a deputy, despite the fact that video footage captured the incident. Eventually the charges against him were dismissed. Jackson filed a federal civil rights complaint, which was also dismissed. Many of the LASD personnel involved in the incident have gone on to receive promotions and awards: Ralph Ornelas, who served as a Commander, retired from the department in 2016 and was the Chief of the Westminster Police from 2017 to 2019. While in that post, he was placed on administrative leave after allegedly denying promotions to officers of color, hiring family members, and abusing public resources.
Jason Rodriguez was promoted to sergeant and worked in the department as of 2019. Edwin Alvarez appears to have been the East Los Angeles Detective Bureau Lieutenant as recently as 2019. Stewart worked as lieutenant as recently as 2019 and appears to have served at the Norwalk station in 2018. Hinchman appears to have been promoted to Lieutenant in 2020. De La Torre Jr., Ethridge, Raniag, Valencia Jr., and Moorman were all still deputies as of 2019. Sharp received an award from the department in 2017. Aldama, who was a deputy as recently as 2019, was filmed on tape in a deposition saying he had ill feelings towards Black people. Aldama killed a likely unarmed Black man in 2016.
The price of disloyalty
Deputy Ronald Brock, who is Black, sued the Department in 2015, alleging that his superiors harassed, threatened, then fired him for protesting inmate abuse in the County jails. Brock had worked in law enforcement in Los Angeles County for 17 years by 2010, according to his complaint. When the Office of Public Safety was consolidated with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, he was forced to reapply for his job and demoted from lieutenant to deputy (the lowest rank in the department) and assigned to Men’s Central Jail.
In April 2010, Brock witnessed members of the 2000 Boys beat a 50-year-old incarcerated man in front of him and Sergeant Mark Renfrow. Renfrow said he did not want Brock listed as a witness to the incident. The next month he saw Deputies Juan Guerrero and Michael Rich beat a man with a flashlight out of view of the module’s camera. Brock says that Renfrow instructed him to taser the man repeatedly. Afterwards, Brock wrote a police report describing the incident and was instructed by his training officer, Deputy Eduardo Rodriguez, to lie and instead say the incarcerated man hit a deputy. Renfrow threatened Brock until he changed it. Brock transferred to Twin Towers as a result of continued harassment at MCJ. However he was still harassed: Deputy Mark Gregory told him to “watch himself” because deputies from MCJ had instructed him to “blackball” Brock.
In 2012, Brock was promoted to Senior Deputy and transferred to Century Regional Detention Facility, where he believed deputy gang members were transferred as a result of federal investigations. In January 2013, his supervising sergeant, Kimberly Milroy, instructed him to lie about the availability of deputies for medical transport, which he did not do. Milroy and Sergeant Daniel Chavez overloaded Brock’s work duties, which affected his job performance. In September 2013, Brock’s tires were slashed twice in one week. He reported the harassment in December 2013, then Milroy and Chavez showed up to his office and threatened him to “shut up,” “or else.” Later that day, Brock spoke to Lieutenant Mark Guerrero. Brock says Guerrero told him a story about North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un executing his uncle and the latter’s family members for being disloyal.
Brock continued to whistleblow. During a town hall at the facility in December 2013, Reina Salazar said she almost passed out after a deputy didn’t let her see a nurse during an asthma attack. Brock says he wrote a report about Salazar’s testimony and deputies began to harass him. When Brock complained to Guerrero about the harassment, Guerrero threatened Brock to the point that the deputy called 911. He left the facility and went home, then received a call from Guerrero ordering him back, or be charged with abandoning his post. When Brock returned he was led to a conference room guarded by armed sergeants, where Guerrero interrogated him and ordered him to write a statement. The next day Brock was relieved of duty with pay pending a psychological evaluation and approval.
He agreed to a 5150 hold for 72 hours. Brock wasn’t cleared for work until March 2014, after multiple medical evaluations. He contacted the FBI and local news channel KTLA about what he had witnessed and submitted claims to the LASD’s Internal Affairs and Equity Unit. In June 2014, he received a negative evaluation and was not recommended for promotion, despite scoring very well on the sergeant’s test. (Remember, Brock had previously served as a lieutenant before his demotion). In December 2014, he received notice that he was removed from consideration for the Sergeant Custody Career Track, because the department had classified him as “physically or mentally unfit.”
He filed his complaint on February 12, 2015, and received a summons to the Century Station two days later. During the meeting, he was surrounded by armed LASD agents as one read from a single document. On March 31, Brock received psychological results deeming him unfit for duty. He received notice that the department intended to place him on administrative leave. On May 24, 2015, he was placed on indefinite administrative leave. Brock’s case was dismissed. He was one of several other whistleblowers who attempted to challenge the department, only to be met with the full power of a department determined to keep them down.
READ NEXT: How to Get Paid for Being Fired
CORRECTION 4/7/2021: An earlier version of this story identified Deputy Michael Rathbun as a 31-year veteran of LASD as of 2009, and that was the year he started at OSJ. Rathbun actually started OSJ around July 2011.
Knock is able to produce series like ‘A Tradition of Violence: The History of Deputy Gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’ thanks to the support of readers like you who know independent journalism is a crucial component of transforming Los Angeles from a bastion of corruption to the city we all know it can be. Donate to our ActBlue or become a subscriber to our Patreon today.