California Funds Gun Research, LASD Mental Health Crisis Efforts, a Collaboration of Arts Groups in Juvie Camps, and Possible Settlement in Gabriel Fernandez Case


A pot of $5 million dollars for a gun violence research center at a University of California campus was included in the $170 billion budget California lawmakers approved on Thursday. The center, which will likely be established at UC Davis, will work to gather evidence that can be the foundation for sound firearm violence prevention programs and policies.

The original bill was authored by CA Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis). “Acts of firearm violence like Sunday’s horrific mass shooting in Orlando leave us searching for answers. California made finding those answers a priority, taking leadership once again where Congress has failed,” Wolk said.

In 1996, Congress banned funding for gun-related research by the federal government, because—said the NRA—gun violence is not a disease, and does not fall under the Center for Disease Control’s domain as a public health issue. Supporters hope California will set an example for the rest of the country.

The research center garnered the unlikely support of Jay Dickey, an NRA member and former congressman who authored the amendment that killed federal funding for gun violence research at the CDC. “It is crazy for any state to expect its legislators to vote on gun violence legislation if they do not know that it will be effective in both protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners and reducing gun violence,” said Dickey in a joint statement with his former adversary, Mark Rosenberg, CEO of The Task Force for Global Health. “California is setting a very good example by supporting the research that will empower their legislators to protect both its citizens and their gun rights.”


As the LA County Sheriff’s Department grapples with an increase in mental health emergency calls and use-of-force incidents involving the mentally ill, the department is working on ways to better serve the county’s mentally ill population (and keep them out of jail).

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of mental health-related calls to the LASD jumped by 55% from 11,660 calls to 18,061 calls. In 2014, 29% of uses of force by deputies on patrol involved someone with mental illness, and 47% of uses of force by deputies in jails involved a mentally ill person.

One focus is on increasing mental health crisis training for deputies. LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell wants to implement a new week-long training for department members, but must wait for the LA County Board of Supervisors to approve $2.8 million in funding to launch the project.

The sheriff’s department also deploys mental health crisis teams, each comprised of one officer and one mental health clinician. Unfortunately, the department only has eight teams, which are not all on duty at once, and are stretched extremely thin.

In a 2015 report on diverting the county’s mentally ill from jails into community treatment, LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey suggested boosting the number of teams to 23. This, too, requires county funding. (WLA will be tracking these issues.)

The LA Times’ Cindy Chang has the story. Here’s a clip:

The officer-and-clinician duos “take a step back and provide someone the space they need to feel safe. They take a slower approach,” said Mark Gale, criminal justice chair for the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Los Angeles County Council.

But there is a chronic shortage of teams.

Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said staffing reductions prevent him from expanding his mental health teams beyond the single one on duty each shift.

In sheriff’s territory, there are only eight teams, with fewer on duty at a given time, for the more than 4,000 square miles patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department. Often, deputies don’t bother to call because it can take hours for a team to arrive.

Last year in Lakewood, a federal law enforcement officer tried to summon a team to help his mentally ill brother, but all were busy on other calls. Sheriff’s deputies fatally shot the brother when he refused to get out of his car and drove it towards them.

In Long Beach, though, when a woman who had been brandishing a hunting knife locked herself in a McDonald’s restroom, Long Beach Police Officer Chris Costa spent 10 minutes coaxing her to slide the knife under the door. The effort may have avoided a violent encounter with other officers, said Costa, who has worked as the law enforcement half of a mental health team for nearly two decades.

The LAPD’s mental health teams are relatively well-staffed but still have only been able to respond to about a third of mental health calls, said Det. Charles Dempsey, who heads the department’s mental evaluation unit.

With a recent expansion from eight to 17 teams on duty, Dempsey anticipates that up to 70% of mental health calls will now be answered by specialists.

In August 2015, an advisory board convened by Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey produced a long list of recommendations to improve mental health care in the county, among them nearly tripling the number of sheriff’s mental evaluation teams to 23. Sheriff’s officials hope to reach that target by gradually obtaining more funding from the county, adding two additional teams this year and more in the future.

“Our struggle has been we don’t have enough teams to handle the need, especially for the geography we serve,” said Chief Stephen Johnson, who heads the new mental health initiative. “The ones we have don’t have the capacity to move around the county and really be a resource to deputies.”


The Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network (AIYN) is made up of nine organizations providing arts education to kids locked up in 10 LA County juvenile lock-ups. These interdisciplinary groups are teaching kids skills like acting, African drumming, screenwriting, poetry, and painting.

The collaborative group model helps the network members to have a larger impact and cover more ground. The goal is to help kids heal their trauma, break away from destructive trajectories, and gain marketable arts-related skills they can use upon their release.

The AIYN is part of a larger effort, called the Create Economy Create Autonomy Project that aims to boost access to arts-focused employment for formerly locked-up young people in Southern California. Among the participating groups are the Unusual Suspects Theatre Company, InsideOUT Writers, The Actors’ Gang, and Street Poets.

AIYN’s governing council includes Homeboy Industries artist Fabian Debora, Alex Johnson of the Children’s Defense Fund, Janice Prober of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Melissa Denton of the Unusual Suspects Theatre Company, among others. Poet Luis Rodriguez has a seat on the advisory council.

Twenty-year-old professional actor Johnny Ortiz got his first lessons in acting at age 15 through a ten-week program run by the Unusual Suspects Theatre Company, held at Camp David Gonzalez, the juvenile probation camp in Calabasas where he was serving a sentence for robbery. Ortiz has since appeared on the shows “Southland” and “American Crime,” and McFarland, USA, a Disney Movie.

KPCC’s Priska Neely has more on the network. Here’s a clip:

Growing up in Highland Park, Johnny Ortiz always wanted to be an actor, but he had no idea how to get started.

At the age of five, he recently recounted, he called 4-1-1, asking for advice. The operator gave him a phone number.

“I called the number but it was a false number,” he said. “I guess she just didn’t want to break my dreams, you know?”

Instead of chasing his acting dreams, Ortiz ended up joining a gang at 10 years old. At 15, after being charged with robbery, he landed in juvenile detention.

But it was there that Ortiz was finally exposed to formal acting classes.

Four years ago, the Unusual Suspects Theatre Company came to do a ten-week workshop at Camp David Gonzales in Calabasas. Through the program, inmates learn about performing and write their own plays. At the end of the workshop, professional actors come in and perform what they’ve written.

This experience made Ortiz even more determined to turn his life around and pursue acting once he got out. When he was released, he started volunteering and taking acting classes through the Boyle Heights theater CASA 0101. And eventually started booking gigs – including on the TNT show “Southland,” ABC’s “American Crime” and with Kevin Costner in the Disney film “McFarland, USA.”


A $2.63 million dollar settlement is expected in a lawsuit against LA County following the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, who was tortured and fatally beaten in 2013 by his mother and her boyfriend in Palmdale, despite numerous reports to the Department of Children and Family Services that the boy was being abused. Gabriel died on May 24, 2013, from multiple injuries including burns all over his body, broken ribs, and a fractured skull.

Attorneys will appear in court Monday at a hearing to dismiss the case, pending the settlement, although the LA County Board of Supervisors has not yet voted to approve the settlement.

Back in April, LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced charges against four social workers involved.

City News Service has the story. Here’s a clip:

Two county claims boards voted earlier this month to recommend that the Board of Supervisors pay $2.63 million to settle the claim. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has not yet voted on the matter, but a Lancaster court hearing is set for Monday to dismiss the case pending settlement.

The plaintiff’s lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

Family members of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez — including his father, two grandparents, siblings and four other relatives on his father’s side — filed two separate suits alleging that the departments of Children and Family Services and Public Social Services were culpable in the boy’s death, the result of alleged serial abuse by his mother and her boyfriend.

The boy’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, 32, and then-boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, 36, are charged with murder in Gabriel’s death and prosecutors announced last year that they would seek the death penalty against the two. Both are being held without bail and awaiting a pretrial hearing July 28.


  • 1. The gun study must include how to have minority sperm donors (fathers) stay home and mend families. The family component is broken with 75% to 80% babies with NO DADS around. Government makes terrible parents. Look at Obama!
    2. LASD and mental health. So, if McDumb keeps the mentally ill out of jail bc of their illness then BACA should not do any jail time? BS.!It’s a scam!
    3. How much will the so-called mother and boyfriend pay for murdering the kid? And doesn’t my third point reinforce my first point? yeah it does!

  • “Ultimate Responsibility”

    Behavior is

    Department Members need to exercise self-discipline and good judgement both in and away from the work environment.

    We should all operate in a positive and professional manner at all times.

  • Celeste, the LASD definitely needs mental health training and resources. I think we all agree on that. The true failure is with the city council and BOS. Collectively, they are totally void of any leadership in this arena. Their only answer is to saddle law enforcement with the complete burden of trying to help the people that need it most. Garcetti’s $100 million dollar plan is an unsustainable temporary band aid and a complete joke. Time for people in your industry to call them out. IMHO.

  • “Minority sperm donors stay home and mend families”….that’s the solution to all of societies ills. Hmmm…has a strong tinge of racism and makes for a nice, neat narrative with respect to a group of people to blame for “what’s wrong in the world.” I don’t think having a back and forth on this site…broadcasting people’s prejudices and misconceptions would benefit anyone and hope it doesn’t degenerate into that. There are numerous crimes being committed by people of all racial, socioeconomic, gender, sexual orientation, religion and professions. Currently, it seems mental illness is the common thread for much of the criminal behavior, which clearly doesn’t isolate itself to afflicting one racial group. Dads staying at home and a solid family structure is desirable but not a necessary condition to prevent crime. An abusive or violent father isn’t someone a child should be around. There are many instances of people gone bad who committed horrific crimes and we’re “fortunate” to grew up with two parents in the home. The problems we face are complicated, multifaceted and influenced by many complex factors. Let’s not try to oversimplify, scapegoat a group and think we’ve solved the unifying equation of how the universe was created.

  • Mental health professional and social activists need to realize and face the cruel reality that many of the mental I’ll are never going to be able to function in society. They will refuse to take their medications, leave out patient programs and commit crimes. The current method of dealing with them is burdening law enforcement with having to deal with the mentally ill once they degenerate to a point of being a danger to themselves and others, arrest them, force medicate them in jail, release them and allow the cycle to repeat. This band-aide form of care amounts to “cruel and unusual treatment” by the mental health and social activist who don’t want to take away the freedom of the mentally ill by “locking them up and throwing away the key.” Instead, let the mentally ill person be released back into society become homeless and commit crimes against society. With an increasing number of people getting arrested who have or claim mental illness, it’s a wonder anyone is actually responsible for their actions. Pretty soon, sane and normal will be “politically incorrect” referenced since those terms may offend the growing segment of our society of who are “mentally ill”.

  • 4: you haven’t a clue! Denial never solves any problem. The numbers are the numbers are your racist hate doesn’t help our kids without dads. Now does it?

  • Don’t Go There, you really need to do your homework. the majority of prisoners in ca. state prisons are not mentally ill. 87%. Out of those 87% 61% don’t have a male role model in the house. so please go work Compton, Newton, 77th st. or willow brook before you make ridiculous statements with no facts. Yes lets go THERE

  • Do the math, add up Samoan Society do the percentages of race in jail. Due white society and figure out percentage in jail. do chinese population and figure percentage of people incarcerated. Then do african americans and their percentage and the hispanics. those two races make up for 82 % 63 % no poppy at home. you must be a person ewho never worked the field i am inviting you to ride with me for a week and take copious notes that will prove my point, Its Time to educate a college boy who never been to a ghetto or played contact sports.

  • WOW. Amaxing…not only have I lived and worked and gone to school in the “ghetto” or “hood” as you refer to it but my family has as well. My family and I are long standing residents of WATTS and Compton so don’t think you’re schooling me on anything. As a minority LEO I have real world experience from both sides….lived it, experienced it and worked it. So don’t think you’re an expert on a people or an area just because of an area you push a hoop in or do a shift in and then go home to a nice suburb.

  • #8, this is not us banging on the MDT/MDC or talking to the boys in the locker room.

    Did you step back and see how racist and how poorly written and how strident and how nationalist and how Trump you soundedand how busted your stats were…..QQQQQQ Cite me some sources and then defend those sources are accurate. I can find plenty of information on CA (it is a state in the Union so we capitalize the abbreviation) prisons and take the info either way for the sake of argument.

    I still hook and book. I still have a mouth piece in my war bag to go hard in the paint in the gym, but I don’t broadcast that hate on an open mic. It is a dogmatic thought process and behavior. You dis-serve everyone around you.

    Yikes brother; seriously. This job isn’t about what we think about society or even our own observations about its state of affairs. If you are thinking that way run for office or retire.

  • Go to the DOJ website if you want pretty much accurate stats about whose doing what. Sorry folks, facts are per their percentage of the population Male Blacks are responsible for a tremendous amount of violent crime and usually 40-45% of cop murders. I worked where I grew up once I moved here from Chicago as a kid and facts are absentee fathers have done grave damage to the Black community. It’s beyond sad and show me an inner city where that’s not easy to see. Chicago had it’s 300th murder a week or so ago almost two months ahead of last year and it’s mostly a Black issue. All over the news right, all over this site right? Nope, and not a word from the AG or POTUS, more important to enact more meaningless gun control laws, amazing.

  • I’m with comments #7,8 and 11. Hey Jack ,when you’re wearing your mouth guard and hitting paint at the gym ,you ever get the chance to meet up Ted and Jimmy Sexton? Give us an update.

  • @ Jack Dawson. You truly describe what a real LEO should do and what not to do. Most profound definition I’ve heard in a long time. Some of the young pups have to listen to the older dogs in the profession. I hate cats, but when taking a report from a household that has a cat, doesn’t mean that I kick it like a soccer ball. Professionalism should always reighn over personal feelings.

  • #15, the numbers haven’t changed give them a ring. I bet Jimmy would love to hear your voice since you are getting brave here. I too grow sick-of-cell warriors. Be about it.

    Sure fire, the stats are there and we all know it. I just don’t get excited and wear a hood and pajamas while spouting them. That’s not directed at you, but our friend has a little more than facts he is trying to sell. Sprinkle some hate on them and it becomes an entirely different solution domain rather than protect and serve. The BREXIT is great example of that methodology gone wrong. Can’t hate our way into security.

    Regardless, be safe gents. LKD gave us a solemn reminder tonight. Those two guardians are in my prayers.

  • Now,now Jack you know it doesn’t take any courage at all to be a keyboard warrior, you’ve been proving that for months. I don’t really want talk to your fellow bag of hot gas, Ted. I just figured maybe you and little Jimmy might be in touch , you know comparing mouth guards and such.

  • I’m sorry my posts have only been bothering you for months. I would hope the ones in the last few years would have gotten you too.

    Jimmy is doing well. Still in Los Angeles and not working at a hardware store.

    Everybody is “all in” and lets see how it plays out. It takes more guts than your IB and botox could handle. Tell your boys over at the 8th Floor and HOJ to keep praying they all stay down.

  • Hey Jack……. LMAO! @ #18. At least you know that, even the HATERS, have you embedded in their head. The relevance factor wears off when you are no longer mentioned.

  • To leave no doubt, my post was in your favor Jack, not the Hater who is hiding in the blogisphere.

  • Ah jack,a confession! I knew those other blowhards were you,only under a different name. Have fun visiting little jimmy in the federal joint, that is it you really even know him, because I’m pretty sure your delusional.

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