Law Enforcement

A Look at Police Shootings in LA……Supes Agree to Pay $8.85 Million for LASD Killing….Ix-Nay on Mass Incarceration for Kids…Another Alarming Wrinkle in Foster Care’s Group Home Problem

For some reason there is no official tally of police shootings in America, although it seems like an accurate and detailed tally would benefit everyone. For one thing, facts would replace the conjectures and generalizations that both activists and law enforcement spokespeople are too often prone to lobbing, grenade-like, into the public discourse. Several news organizations have attempted to take up the tasking of counting, most notably the Washington Post and the Guardian.

Even more recently, one of LA’s main NPR stations, KPPC, has stepped in with its own count. But in KPCC’s case, they are appropriately counting the police shootings in LA County.

The KPPC count is based on information from the LA District Attorney’s office, along with medical examiner data, all gathered between 2010 and 2014. The count has also resulted in a a series of excellent stories by Frank SToltz, Annie Gilbertson, Martin Kaste, Rina Palta, Chris Keller and Aaron Mendelson—and other KPPC staffers—that look a multiple sides of the topic.

For instance, Frank Stoltze reports on Eric Avendano and Miguel Ruano, two LAPD officers who received the department’s medal of valor last month.

Stolze wrote:

In the summer of 2011, Ruano shot a man who had stabbed his partner inside a church in Boyle Heights — and was charging at Ruano.

Avendano’s decision to fire was not to save his own life, but that of an innocent woman.

“Right here in this room are the human stories of bravery,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “It is an honor to come here.”

As for the stats: KPPC found that during those five years they counted, the Los Angeles Police Department, LA County Sheriff’s Department, and various other agencies that police in the LA County, shot 375 people, of whom, about one in four was unarmed. 148 people were shot for moving their hands out of sight or reaching for their waistbands; of those, 47 turned out to be unarmed.

In New York City, the ratio is slightly better, with one-in-five out of those shot found to be unarmed.

Among LA law enforcement, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department has the least comforting record, with one-in-three shootings involving an unarmed person.

In a related story, Annie Gilbertson, Frank Stoltze and Chris Keller look at those shootings of unarmed LA residents. .

Reporters asked LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell about LASD’s one-in-three ratio KPCC found, and McDonnell defended his troops:

Sheriff Jim McDonnell said that would be “troubling to anybody,” but maintains the shootings were unavoidable.

“You have to do what you have to do to be able to protect your own life and the lives of others,” McDonnell said.

There’s lots more in the way of breakdown of the numbers here, where you can view the data through various filters. For instance, you can find how many people during each year were shot while police were defending some other civilian or civilians, or when the shooting occurred during or after a chase or pursuit, and how many of the shootings were fatal, and so on.

No matter where you sit on the issue, there’s a lot in the series to look at and listen to. We at WLA recommend diving in.


On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted to pay $8.85 million to the family of Alfredo Montalvo, a fork-lift operator and married father of two, who was fatally shot in 2009 by nine Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies in Lynwood, CA, after a short pursuit.

The shooting took place after deputies in an an unmarked sheriff’s car started tailing Montalvo deciding he was drunk after he rolled over a curb while leaving a Circle K. parking lot. Trying frantically to escape the unmarked car following him, Montalvo eventually crashed into two cars. As more than a dozen deputies reportedly arrived for back-up, and Montalvo was told to exit his car.

Surrounded by multiple law enforcement vehicles by that time, Montalvo—who was, by the way, not drunk at all (his tox screen did not show alchohol)—reportedly tried to reverse his hemmed in car so he could open his car door and exit the vehicle as the deputies had demanded, and in so doing struck one of the sheriff’s vehicles.

Saying later that they feared for their lives, the group of deputies opened fire, and shot at Montalvo 61 times. The 29-year old Montalvo later died at the hospital.

The shooting was found to be in policy.

Nevertheless, in 2012, a Compton jury awarded Montalvo’s wife, Annette Montalvo, and their two children $8.76 million in a wrongful-death civil case.

Naturally, the county appealed, and, as the case made its way through the appeals process, the award gathered interest, plus attorneys’ fees. Thus now, in late 2015, if the county lost the appeal, it would have owed Montalvo’s family $11 million. So the Supes unanimously and wisely voted to settle for $8.85 million.

The LA Times’ Jack Dolan has more on the story.


Long admired juvenile justice expert, Vincent Schiraldi, has run two problem-fraught juvenile incarceration facilities—one in Washington, D.C., the other in New York City. Plus he has visited many more of the places in the course of his work in justice research and reform.

In an Op Ed for the New York Times Schiraldi—who is now a senior research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice—says that horrific institutional conditions are “common, not exceptional,” in such facilities. He points out that, since 1970, “systemic violence, abuse and excessive use of isolation and restraint”s have been documented in juvenile institutions in 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Here’s a clip that gives a glimpse into what Schiraldi found in the D.C. kids’ lock-up that he took over in 2005:

Beatings of children in custody were commonplace, inmates stuffed clothing around the toilets to keep out rats and cockroaches, young people were locked up for so long that they often defecated or urinated in their cells. Youths who came in clean tested positive for marijuana after 30 days of confinement, suggesting that it was easier to score drugs in my facility than on the streets of the District of Columbia.

My staff and I quickly uncovered more abuses. Staff members were sexually harassing the kids and one another. One of my corrections officers married a youth shortly after the boy was released from custody. A teacher who had been confined in the facility when she was a teenager confided to us that she had been sexually assaulted by a staff member who was still in our employ years later. The female staff members widely complained that, if they didn’t perform sexually for their supervisors, they were threatened with finding themselves alone and unaided with the facility’s inmates in dangerous situations.

These abuses are not meted out equally in the United States, with African-Americans and Latinos incarcerated at far higher rates than whites. In my five years running the Washington system, I never saw one white youth (other than volunteers) in my correctional facility.

Cleaning this up was no mean feat. When a boy complained that he had been savagely and publicly beaten by a staff member (the medical staff said his bruising was consistent with his account), only a single corrections officer came forward as a witness. Because of the strong taboo against “snitching” inside correctional facilities, the witness was so harassed by fellow corrections officers that his testimony during an arbitration hearing was shaky and deemed not credible.

From what he saw in his ten years on the inside, Schiraldi says, he thinks all kids’ incarceration facilities should be shut down in favor of community-based programs, the sooner, the better. “Conditions [inside these facilities] poison staff members and kids alike and harm, rather than improve, public safety.”

Editor’s Note: Schiraldi was one of the juvenile justice reform experts who spoke eloquently at the Smart on Safety summit that WitnessLA attended last week.


Only those involved with the foster care system seem to be aware of California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 403, that was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown early this fall. The new law, that has been widely praised by child advocates, was passed in response to an increasing body of research, not to mention plain old common sense, that has found that long-term stays in group homes for foster kids is, almost without exception, really harmful to a kid’s emotional health, well-being and to his or her general statistical outcomes when the kid moves into adulthood.

But finding healthier substitutes for the hard-to-place kids who usually wind-up in California’s group homes is a challenging matter, as even the most ardent child-advocates will tell you.

The matter becomes even more complicated with the highest-needs kids in foster care who, as Jeremy Loudenback reports for the Chronicle of Social Change, “continue to face waiting lists and uncertain futures under so-called congregate-care reform.”

Here’s a clip from Loudenback’s story:

Located in Torrance, a mid-size town south of Los Angeles, Star View Adolescent Center is one of only two secure residential facilities in California, also known as community treatment facilities (CTFs). Originally designed as an alternative to out-of-state placements and the state’s psychiatric hospitals, CTFs provide mental health treatment to children ages 12 to 18 who are deemed seriously emotionally disturbed.

Nearly all of these children are involved with the child-welfare and juvenile-justice systems in California and have a history of severe abuse and trauma. The most common diagnoses include bipolar disorders, serious depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, along with substance abuse issues.

Youth in residential care at Star View also attend South Bay High School on campus, a learning institution that’s only open to the 40 youth in the program as well as the 16 youth who reside at the psychiatric health facility that’s part of the campus. The population is predominately female and is drawn from across the state, though most come from Los Angeles County through contracts with that county’s Department of Children and Family Services. About 30 percent of the youth have endured commercial sexual exploitation. [Our italics.]

But Star View is unlike other group homes in California designed to handle foster youth with the greatest mental health needs. All foster youth at Star View are confined behind locked doors, and the staff is authorized to use restraints and seclusion, though state law mandates that such measures must be overseen by a psychiatrist and a registered nurse….

Loudenback notes that there are many questions remaining as California officials gear up to reimagine the use of so-call congregate care, and dispiritingly few concrete answers, particularly when it comes to the state’s most traumatized children.

1 Comment

  • One in five is better than one in four which is better than one in three when you’re talking about found to be unarmed huh Celeste? More comforting huh? Social justice head hunters don’t care about ratios, who are you trying to kid? If the cop says the bad guy was reaching and no weapon is found you and everyone who thinks like you will want the family to be paid and you know it. It won’t matter what happened before hand and if you want to argue the point show me where you’ve ever taken the side of a cop shooting someone “reaching” and secreting themselves while doing it.

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