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Chicano and Black families denounce LA Sheriffs harassment and retaliation

By staff |
May 8, 2021
LA press conference blasts LA Sheriffs harassment and retaliation against famili
LA press conference blasts LA Sheriffs harassment and retaliation against families with loved ones killed by law enforcement. (Rayna Zemel)

Los Angeles, CA - A press conference was held in front of ‘Hall of Injustice’ office of LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva, May 4, to denounce the deputy sheriffs’ harassing of grieving Chicano and Black families who have lost their sons to LA Deputy Sheriff gangs killings, like those done by the “Banditos” of the East LA Sheriff Station. A grouping called Check the Sheriff Coalition united families and several organizations for the press conference. The coalition includes the local National Lawyers Guild, American Civil Liberties Union, Black Lives Matter-LA and Centro CSO. Press conference participants also backed a motion by LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell to establish a police complaint process separate from the LA County Sheriffs.

The Board of Supervisors then passed the motion unanimously - establishing a new and separate police (and sheriff) complaint process. Currently, the LA Sheriffs investigate their own complaints and the community has found that complaints are rarely well-documented and processed in any meaningful way. The various groups in the Check the Sheriff Coalition will continue to advocate for ongoing significant reforms.

Stephanie Luna, the aunt of Anthony Vargas, who was killed by East LA Sheriffs August 12, 2018, recounted how her family has been followed and harassed by East LA Deputy Sheriffs. In one instance, the sheriff who shot and killed her nephew stood outside their home smirking and staring at her on the street.

Leah Garcia, the mother of Paul Rea, killed by East LA Sheriffs June 27, 2019 after a traffic stop, talked of the harassment and detention her family has faced, including at a memorial event for Paul in East LA.

Chiquita Twyman, the sister of Ryan Twyman, who was shot 34 times and killed June 6, 2019, spoke of the trauma and ongoing sheriffs’ presence in the community. Helen Jones spoke about her son John Horton, brutally beaten to death inside the LA County jail by the sheriff’s deputy gang the “3000 Boys” on March 30, 2009.

Rebecca Brown of the National Lawyers guild gave a summary of a report documenting the harassment of the families by the East LA Sheriffs. Dr. Melina Abdullah spoke about how the LA Sheriffs not only kill family loved ones, but further do character assassination and then harass the families. Carlos Montes with Centro CSO denounced the harassment of the families by the East LA sheriffs and in support of the Board of Supervisors motion for a new separate police complaint process. He also accused Sheriff Alex Villanueva of being a member of the notorious Banditos sheriffs’ gang.

The Check the Sheriff Coalition gave some brief history and statistics during public comments to the Board of Supervisors, including:

-- Between November 2015 and November 2020, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) shot over 130 individuals. Some of the families of these individuals have bravely spoken out publicly against the killings of their loved ones. LASD deputies have responded to these families who are exercising their First Amendment rights by aggressively and continuously harassing them.

-- On an almost daily basis, LASD deputies try to intimidate these family members slowly driving by or parking in front of their homes; slowly driving by memorial sites; damaging items at memorial sites; taunting family members with rude comments, gestures, smirks, and laughter; following family members while they are driving; parking outside family members’ workplaces; and taking pictures of or recording family members. Deputies have also engaged in more serious and often illegal forms of harassment on a number of occasions, including targeting family members for arrest and detention without probable cause, frequently pulling over family members and searching their vehicles, and
harassing family members who are minors.

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