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Chicano and Black families speak out at forum to stop Los Angeles Sheriff attacks

By staff |
March 31, 2021
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Los Angeles, CA - Centro CSO and Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles cohosted a March 27 Zoom forum to denounce the killings of Chicanos and Blacks by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, deputy gangs like the Banditos, Executioners, and 3000 Boys that terrorize communities, and against the harassment of families who speak out against Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell attended the meeting, listened to the families’ testimonies, and committed to work with organizations to fight back against LASD and its embattled leader Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

Sol Marquez of Centro CSO facilitated the first hour of the forum, which focused on the violence, harassment and crimes of the East Los Angeles Sheriff's station. Lisa Vargas, the mother of Anthony Daniel Vargas, who was killed by Bandito prospects Jonathan Rojas and Nikolis Perez on August 12, 2018, opened the discussion. “We families have been in solidarity with one other committed to getting justice for our children or loved ones. We have gone into our communities and fought vigorously to get simple requests such as autopsy reports, names of officers involved, and demands for justice yet they have gone unanswered,” said Vargas.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, who has publicly sparred with Sheriff Villanueva, remarked that LASD gangs, especially the Banditos in East LA, were one of the first issues she noticed when she joined the Board of Supervisors. “We’re trying to get the Civilian Oversight Commission more involved in many ways. We know that we have to have more teeth but we’re going through a process. It’s new. It’s kind of revolutionary that now after decades we’re able to get support from legislators in Sacramento and outside bodies helping us with inspections and investigations,” said Solis. She also noted that the LASD is violent and mentioned her early upbringing in La Puente, where she observed various LASD negative interactions.

Stephanie Luna and Valerie Vargas, aunts of Anthony Daniel Vargas, described the political repression they’ve received since they began fighting to win justice for their nephew. Luis Lukas Peña spoke about the killing of his brother Ivan Peña by East Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies September 24, 2018. Leah Garcia, the mother of Paul Rea, detailed how deputies have pulled her over and placed her daughter in their vehicle. Ashley Miranda, the sister of Jorge Serrano who was also killed by Deputy Nikolis Perez (Perez killed Anthony Daniel Vargas), called in from Utah and said how she would not feel safe visiting Los Angeles due to East LA Sheriff repression.

Although the families of Edwin Rodriguez and Fernando Cruz were unable to attend, Marquez highlighted their murders by deputies from the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s station. Leticia Vazquez, mother of Marco Anthony Vazquez, Jr. who was killed in Whittier on March 5, 2019, spoke about how the Pico Rivera Sheriff's station killed her son rather than delivering aid during his mental health crisis. Juan Briceno similarly described how ELA Sheriffs killed his brother Eric Briceno while he was asleep in their family home after their parents called 911 for assistance.

Carlos Montes, an organizer with Centro CSO, presented a list of demands, which included greater support for impacted families, an end to their harassment by deputies, and the disbanding of deputy gangs like the Banditos. He also called for greater transparency through the immediate release of deputy names involved in killings and autopsy reports as well as the creation of a civilian complaint repository. Additionally, Montes presented other demands like the prosecution of killer cops and at the very least the transfer of deputies who murder to other stations so that they cannot harass the families of those who they have killed. He said that the power of the Civilian Oversight Commission should be expanded and proposed community control of the police. Supervisor Solis then gave her final remarks and promised to keep fighting for reforms and greater sheriff accountability.

Black Lives Matter-LA facilitated the second half of the forum with County Supervisor Holly Mitchell of District 2 in attendance. Viewers heard testimonies from the families of Ryan Twyman, AJ Weber, John Horton, Dijon Kizzee, Mitrice Richardson, Fred Williams and Dana Malik Young, Jr. Their stories similarly highlighted the corruption of LASD, the gangs both on the streets and within prisons, and the harassment of families whose loved ones have been murdered by LA Sheriff’s deputies.

The families and organizations will continue to denounce and fight against the LA Sheriff's harassment and brutality by organizing protests and pressing for concrete reforms.

Click here to watch the forum: