The actions of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials are coming to attention after allegations that the department attempted to cover up an October 2021 incident when a deputy was seen kneeling on the head of a a handcuffed inmate at the San Fernando Courthouse, have come to light. by a report from the Los Angeles Times.
The initial incident unfolded on March 10, 2021 when 24-year-old Enzo Escalante and another inmate were talking and told to be quiet by a pair of handy deputies. One of those deputies, Deputy Doug Johnson, allegedly told Escalante to face the wall moments before Escalante turned around and punched the deputy in the face several times before he was shot by other assistants.
The other inmate was removed from the scene at this time.
It was then that Johnson put his knee on Escalante – who was face down – for nearly a minute before being handcuffed by other deputies, then about three more minutes until deputies could lifting him onto a chair and immobilizing him, security footage obtained by the LA Times shows.
Escalante, who reportedly faces multiple charges including murder, suffered several minor injuries as a result of the altercation, including bruising to both ears and abrasions to his neck.
As detailed in their report, officials decided not to press charges against the inmate to avoid drawing attention to the incident.
An internal force review, led by Commander Allen Castellano – who was openly critical of the cover-up – said officials were concerned about the public awareness “given its nature and similarities to George’s widely publicized use of force.” Floyd”.
Apparently, Castellano was then targeted by an administrative investigation after criticizing the way the situation was being handled.
A LASD spokesperson released a statement to CBS Friday night after an investigation, which read:
“In October of last year, Sheriff Alex Villanueva became aware of this incident and immediately ordered a criminal investigation, as well as the release of the main subject. Upon completion of the criminal investigation, an administrative investigation will be conducted for possible violations of the policy, including, but not limited to, excessive force, duty to intervene, and failure to supervise.This incident also generated an administrative investigation into management personnel involved, who has concluded and appropriate administrative action has been taken.Due to the active criminal investigation, we are unable to comment further at this time, but we can say that Sheriff Alex Villanueva does not will tolerate no form of misconduct and will continue to hold staff accountable to the rule of law.”
However, according to a source within the department, Commander Eli Vera, Villanueva had seen the footage just days after it took place in March.
Apparently the use of force came under scrutiny in the following weeks, and several officials sharply criticized Johnson – and other MPs who did not intervene.
Castellano further noted in his report that “it was determined that the case should not be dismissed given the allegation of misconduct/unreasonable force and the possibility that this incident cast a negative light on the Department”.
According to the LA Times report, Johnson was also heavily implicated in the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash photo-sharing scandal.
The Ministry was also called into question at the beginning of March, when a real
Saturday marked the start of Sheriff Villanueva’s re-election campaign, where he joined campaign members, political figures and supporters at his campaign office in Santa Fe Springs for a rally.
CBS reporters on site detailed hundreds of supporters in attendance, where Sheriff Villanueva reportedly said, “We still have a lot of work to do. We have major threats to LA County, homelessness and violent crime. , and walking away in the middle of it won’t help anyone.”
When approached to comment on the situation, he noted that the timing of the story’s release could only be attributed to political sabotage by his opponents.
“Do you notice that all of this happened just before today? Do you have any new information?” he said. “No. It’s all a political game and they’re trying to influence the outcome of the election and they’re going to fail.”
Villanueva also lightly addressed one of his opponents in the sheriff’s race, Eli Vera, the same one who criticized the department’s handling of the case.
“If you look at the party trying to push the narrative, the LA Times and any of the other sheriff candidates, you have to take it with a grain of salt,” he continued.
Villanueva went on to note that Deputy Johnson has “been relieved of duty, as he should have been. Now we must conduct both the administrative and criminal investigation, and based on the outcome of both, we will make decisions.”
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station after Villanueva’s rally earlier in the day. The protest reportedly began at Belvedere Park following the conclusion of the sheriff’s event.