Report Demands LASD End Harassment of Families Who Speak Out Against Deputy Killings

LOS ANGELES — Today, a group of prominent community and advocacy groups issues a report chronicling and demanding an end to harassment by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies of family members who openly protest deputy killings of their loved ones.

The report — “No Justice, No Peace: The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Targeted Harassment of Grieving Families” — is issued by the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, the Centro Community Service Organization, and the Check the Sheriff Coalition.

“Families deserve the right to grieve and mourn without fear of retribution,” said L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis. She authored a motion, being introduced today, which instructs the county office of inspector general to investigate incidents of LASD deputy harassment of families and report back with recommendations for forbidding them.

“The families whose loved ones were taken from them by LASD deputies need the space to process, heal, and seek justice,” Solis continued. “Being in a constant state of fear of harassment and intimidation by LASD deputies only worsens the trauma, hurt, and pain they feel on a daily basis.”

The report focuses on two families whose loved ones were shot and killed by LASD deputies who were reportedly prospective members of the Banditos deputy gang in the East Los Angeles LASD station. Although the killings happened as far back as three years ago, there have been near-daily instances of harassment by deputies aiming to shut down the family members’ freedom of speech.

Examples of the harassment include pulling family members’ cars over for warrantless searches, parking outside their homes and workplaces, taunting the family with rude comments, gestures, and laughter, even at a memorial site. Even the 14-year-old sister of a deputy shooting victim was followed by a patrol car as she left school until she ran inside a library and called her mother for help. Another sister was unlawfully arrested and kept overnight in jail shortly after speaking at a public town hall about the shooting of her brother.

“Because of the constant sheriff’s department harassment, we feel like we have no sense of security walking or driving in the streets that we grew up in,” said Valerie Vargas, aunt of Anthony Vargas, who was shot and killed by deputies in 2017. “We feel trapped with nowhere to go. It’s been relentless.”

The report calls on the L.A. Board of Supervisors to adopt recommendations listed in the report, including:

  • Create an independent office of law enforcement standards that would operate independently of LASD and would investigate all allegations of misconduct and impose discipline.
  • Create a reporting mechanism outside of LASD for incidents of family harassment.
  • Complete an independent investigation into LASD’s practice of family harassment.
  • Ensure that LASD adopts policies prohibiting harassing or intimidating conduct by LASD personnel toward families of people who have died in interactions with LASD, and requiring sensitivity and respect when interacting with these families and when present at memorial sites.
  • Ensure that LASD adopts a policy requiring the transferring of deputies involved in incidents of deadly force to different stations.

“The systematic harassment of Latinx and Black families who have lost loved ones to LASD’s brutal violence — often at the hands of deputy gang members — must stop,” said Rebecca Brown, a legal fellow with the National Lawyers Guild. “We urge the Board of Supervisors to immediately take steps to put an end to LASD’s harassment of families and hold LASD personnel who engage in this conduct accountable.”

Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell said, “No family should be mistreated or harassed for simply wanting answers for the loved ones they lost at the hands of sheriff deputies. This report captures real life experiences of the breakdown of community trust and it should not be taken lightly. The abuse of power documented in this report highlights the urgent need for transparency and accountability and must be met with corrective action.”

Sponsors and supporters of the report, including the harassed family members, will hold a press conference and rally at the Hall of Justice in downtown L.A. today at 10:30 a.m.

Read the full report

Learn more about the Check the Sheriff Coalition