[News] ‘We’re terrorized’: LA sheriffs frequently harass families of people they kill, says report

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 5 10:35:24 EDT 2021


https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/04/los-angeles-sheriffs-harass-families-of-victims-report
‘We’re
terrorized’: LA sheriffs frequently harass families of people they kill,
says report
Sam Levin - May 4, 2021
------------------------------

Los Angeles sheriff deputies frequently harass the families of people they
have killed, including taunting them at vigils, parking outside their homes
and following them and pulling them over for no reason, according to a new
report from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU).

The LA sheriff’s department (LASD), which has faced national scrutiny for
its corruption scandals and killings
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/01/los-angeles-sheriffs-department-reckoning-police-shootings>
of young Black and Latino men, has routinely retaliated against victims’
relatives who speak out, the groups said in the report released on Tuesday.

The authors collected detailed accounts of alleged harassment from the
families of Paul Rea, an 18-year-old killed during a traffic stop in 2019
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/01/los-angeles-sheriffs-department-reckoning-police-shootings>,
and Anthony Vargas, a 21-year-old shot 13 times
<https://abc7.com/east-los-angeles-deputy-shooting-anthony-vargas/5345736/>
in 2018. The report, also produced by Black Lives Matter LA and Centro
Community Service Organization, alleges:

   -

   LASD deputies regularly drive by or park in front of the Rea and Vargas
   families’ homes and workplaces and at times have taken photos or recorded
   them for no reason.
   -

   Deputies have repeatedly pulled over relatives, searched their cars and
   detained and arrested them without probable cause, allegedly in retaliation
   for their protests.
   -

   Officers have shown up to vigils and family gatherings, at times mocking
   and laughing at them or threatening to arrest them, and have also damaged
   items at memorial sites.

“Since my son’s death, we have been terrorized. Every day, we’re watching
our backs,” said Leah Garcia, Rea’s mother. “We are scared because we know
what their capabilities are.”

An LASD spokesperson declined to comment, saying the department was not
familiar with the report. In response to family members’ formal complaints
of harassment, LASD has frequently concluded that “employee conduct appears
reasonable”, records show
<https://oig.lacounty.gov/Portals/OIG/Reports/FatalForceHarassmentCOCReportBack.pdf?ver=epu1Kz8Opxxv7TCMhefoqA%3d%3d>
.

LASD, the largest county police agency in the US, has faced increasing
backlash
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/05/police-violence-cliques-and-secret-tattoos-fears-rise-over-la-sheriff-gangs>
in recent years for alleged misconduct and abuse by organized gangs
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/06/los-angeles-police-killings-dijon-kizzee-andres-guardado>
of deputies engaged in violence and civil rights violations. The NLG report
alleges that stations with officer gangs have been responsible for some of
the harassment.

Hilda Solis, an LA county supervisor, also introduced a motion
<http://file.lacounty.gov/SDSInter/bos/supdocs/158009.pdf> on Tuesday,
which unanimously passed, calling for an investigation into incidents of
harassment and for written policies to bar this behavior.

In August 2019, deputies drove by a memorial site for Rea and filmed his
14-year-old sister who was visiting, prompting the family to file a
complaint, the report says.

In another incident that year, seven of Rea’s family members, including his
grandmother, brought a cross to the memorial site. LASD allegedly showed up
with a helicopter above them and numerous patrol cars. A deputy told the
family that they were responding to calls that 60 people were gathered, but
when Rea’s mother went to an East LA station to inquire about the alleged
calls, the station told her that no calls or complaints had been made, the
report says.

At a memorial gathering on 30 October 2019, deputies showed up and moved to
arrest two of Rea’s friends, directing one of them to put out a blunt he
had been smoking, the report recounts. The friend handed the blunt to
Jaylene Rea, Paul’s older sister, so he could be handcuffed, and deputies
then detained Jaylene Rea, put her in their patrol car and later took her
to jail, where she spent the night, later citing her for “obstruction of
justice”. She had given a speech that day at a rally, and the family said
the arrest was retaliatory.
[image: Sheriff’s deputies drive by a vigil for Paul Rea in East Los
Angeles on 27 June 2020.]
Sheriff’s deputies drive by a vigil for Paul Rea in East Los Angeles on 27
June 2020. Photograph: Damon Casarez/The Guardian

The sheriff declined to comment on the arrest when the Guardian reported on
it last year
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/01/los-angeles-sheriffs-department-reckoning-police-shootings>.
Rea’s family also filed a complaint, and an inspector general report later
said it was reasonable to conclude that the “lengthy detention regarding a
marijuana cigarette at a memorial” was unjustified and a form of
harassment. The Guardian also witnessed
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/01/los-angeles-sheriffs-department-reckoning-police-shootings>
deputies slowly drive by and briefly stop at a small Rea family vigil over
the summer.

In August 2020, deputies also allegedly followed Garcia and her daughter
Janae as they pulled out of their driveway and later stopped them for an
alleged seatbelt violation, making both sit in the back of the deputies’
car for 45 minutes. They ultimately gave the mother an expired registration
ticket. The next month, Jaylene Rea was pulled over and forced to sit in
the back of the police car, and officers allegedly questioned her about the
possession of marijuana she had legally purchased. She was released without
a ticket.

On 12 August 2019, the anniversary of Vargas’s death, the family held a
tree dedication near the site where he was killed. A deputy allegedly
showed up and blocked the street by the tree and threatened to issue
parking tickets even though the cars were properly parked. The same deputy
showed up again on the anniversary the following year, making similar
threats, the report said. Vargas’s mother alleged that LASD later followed
her home after she left the memorial.

The LASD did not respond to inquiries about the specific claims of the
Vargas and Rea families on Tuesday.

The family members have reported suffering panic and anxiety attacks as a
result of these encounters.

The parents of Ryan Twyman, who was shot 34 times in 2019
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/15/police-shootings-los-angeles-sheriffs-department-ryan-twyman>,
have also alleged that deputies have shown up to their home and family
events for no reason.
[image: Ryan Twyman’s family in South Los Angeles.]
Ryan Twyman’s family in South Los Angeles. Photograph: Alex Welsh/The
Guardian

“It’s like they have nothing to do but harass families,” Charles Twyman,
Ryan’s father, said on Tuesday. “You never know when they are going to act
out. Every day in the news we see somebody is getting pulled over and
harassed and shot, and we never know when that is going to be us.”

“They are just purposefully making people angry,” added Tommy Twyman,
Ryan’s mother.

The report, which calls for an independent office to investigate misconduct
claims, also said some families are too afraid to speak out given these
reports of harassment. But Stephanie Luna, Vargas’s aunt, said she would
continue protesting: “We’re not going away. We’re not going to be
intimidated. We’re not going to be silent.”
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