LOS ANGELES – Eight Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who allege they were pressured to quit their jobs by members of an internal group of mostly Latino deputies, won a round in court Thursday when a judge ruled they can have access to limited personnel information of four members of the clique.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Randolph Hammock’s order will give the plaintiffs a glimpse into any prior disciplinary actions regarding the quartet of alleged Banditos gang deputies, including an internal affairs investigation of the events during a September 2018 training session in which the plaintiffs maintain the defendants violently attacked them.
Deputies Art Hernandez, Alfred Gonzalez, Benjamin Zaredini, David Casas, Louis Granados, Mario Contreras, Oscar Escobedo and Ariela Lemus are seeking unspecified damages on allegations that include racial discrimination, harassment, assault, battery, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil rights violations.
Their lawsuit, filed last September, names as defendants Los Angeles County and Deputies Rafael “Rene” Munoz, Gregory Rodriguez, David Silverio and Michael Hernandez.
Amid the training session in East Los Angeles, the defendant deputies threatened the lives of Gonzalez and his family before attacking all of the plaintiffs, the plaintiffs allege.
Banditos gang members “sucker-punched” Art Hernandez and “knocked him out cold,” then kicked him while he was unconscious and unable to defend himself, according to the plaintiffs’ court papers. The suit alleges the assailants also grabbed Escobedo from behind twice and choked him unconscious in a manner that could have killed him.
The lawsuit alleges the plaintiffs were threatened and bullied in attempts to get them to conform to a “corrupt culture,” that they were denied needed backup help on dangerous calls, and that they were “shaken down” and ordered to pay taxes to the gang. Some alleged they were hit and choked unconscious.
The suit also criticizes Sheriff Alex Villanueva for rehiring Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan, who had been fired on domestic violence allegations, while also pledging to rehire other deputies fired for misconduct by his predecessor, Jim McDonnell.
“By trying to rehire all these wayward cops, Sheriff Villanueva attempted to erase any accountability for wrongful conduct over the last four years,” the suit alleges. “It is common knowledge that zero good deputies want to be transferred to and work at the East Los Angeles station …”
According to the lawsuit, Deputy Carrie Robles — who is not a named defendant — was responding to a report of a shooting when her vehicle was involved in a chain-reaction crash near Whittier Boulevard and Indiana Street in Boyle Heights that left 7-year-old Jose Luis Hernandez and his 9-year-old brother Marcos dead in November 2017. The suit alleges Robles, then a rookie, was a “Banditos associate” who was being supervised by a “shot caller” for the gang.
She was found to be at fault in the accident, but was not criminally charged, according to the suit.