Gangsters With Badges Sheriff Alex Villanueva

Civilian Oversight continues to probe the toxic world of deputy gangs despite Sheriff Villanueva’s “tsunami of obstruction”

Anonymous Witness at Aug COC hearing on deputy gangs
Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

It’s been a scandal-filled week for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the LASD’s leader, Alex Villanueva.

Yet, apart from this week’s panoply of search warrants, and other disturbing events, according to Sean Kennedy, who is the chair of the Sheriffs Civilian Oversight Commission, the COC continues to make measurable progress in its investigation of the fifty-year problem of deputy gangs that continues to infect the culture of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department.  

Furthermore, said Kennedy, this progress is occurring in spite of a pattern of aggressive interference on the part of Sheriff Villanueva.

Since September 2021, which was when the LA County Board of Supervisors asked the COC to formulate a plan to address the LASD’s chronic deputy gangs issue, the commission has employed various strategies.

This year, the most dramatic of those strategies has been a series of public hearings that began on May 24 of this year.  

To date, the COC has held a total five of these special hearings, with a sixth hearing scheduled for next Friday, September 23, at 9 a.m.

“Given the enormity of the LASD deputy gang problem,” wrote COC Chair Kennedy in an email,  “the COC expects to hold at least four additional hearings.”

The hearings, which are both in-person and live-streamed, have prominently included a string of subpoenaed witnesses testifying under oath.   

During the previous five hearings, led by attorney Bert Deixler, a former federal prosecutor who is acting as the lead pro bono counsel for the COC’s investigative efforts, nine present or former LASD employees of various ranks have testified about their knowledge and personal experience regarding the department’s deputy cliques, in particular some of the most notorious of the groups, such as the Banditos, the Executioners, the Grim Reapers, and more. 

According to Kennedy and others who are part of the investigation, the testimony has not only re-confirmed that numerous tattooed deputy gangs or cliques have operated for years inside the LASD, the witnesses have also confirmed that these groups meet the definition of a “law enforcement gang” that are prohibited under the newly enacted California Penal Code section 13670. The witnesses have described the influence of gang shot callers who routinely act in such a manner that cannot help but “violate the rights of community members and other deputies, foster insubordination, and undermine fundamental principles of professional policing.”

In other words, the focus of such deputy cliques, which typically exclude women from membership, and often extend such exclusions along racial lines.

In addition, said Kennedy, and other hearings observers, such as civil rights attorney Vincent Miller, the testimony at the hearings has pointed to the fact that Sheriff Villanueva and his leadership team have “affirmatively hidden deputy gang-related misconduct from the COC and the public.”

Sources familiar with what the COC has learned from this year’s hearings, told us that some of the department members and others subpoenaed for the hearings still to come, will be “remedy” witnesses, who can address the question of where the department can go from here that would be curative.

Threats and attempts at intimidation

Since the hearings began, Sheriff Villanueva has engaged in what COC chair Kennedy described as a “tsunami of obstruction,” a storm that includes threats aimed at keeping department members, current and recently retired, from responding to the subpoenas they have received to testify under oath.

Matters have not been helped by the fact that Villanueva’s efforts to prevent subpoenaed testimony are now also supported by the LASD’s two main unions.

“LASD’s culture of retaliation and enforced silence have hampered the proceedings,” wrote Kennedy in an email to the LA County Board of Supervisors late last week.

“Numerous employees of the LASD and other County agencies who have personal knowledge of deputy gangs have refused to testify before the COC because they fear retaliation and physical harm from the department.” 

It has not helped, said Kennedy, that “Villanueva and other LASD leaders have instructed subpoenaed employees not to testify.”

When ordering people to ignore the subpoenas hasn’t worked, the sheriff and those who work closely with him, have reportedly used other forms of intimidation.

For example, as WitnessLA reported last month, there is the matter of LASD Sergeant Vanessa Chow, who has become a whistleblower along with her husband, Sergeant Jefferson Chow, who was a critical witness at one of the COC meetings. On the day of Jefferson Chow’s testimony, after the couple returned from Loyola Law School, where the COC hearings have been held, they found that an LASD surveillance unit with tinted windows had pulled up in front of their home   The unit finally vanished when Vanessa Chow came out of the couple’s house and began recording the car and its occupant or occupants. 

Reportedly, however,  that one lurking car wasn’t the end of it.  Last Wednesday, two additional patrol cars showed up at the Chow’s house.  The cars arrived at two different times, and each reportedly stayed for around a quarter hour, as if engaging in surveillance.  Again, Vanessa Chow videoed the uninvited patrol cars, eventually causing each to leave.

In another recent tactic launched earlier this month, Sheriff Villanueva filed a lawsuit to disqualify pro bono counsel Deixler for “conflict of interest.”

No one we’ve spoken to expects the Deixler lawsuit to go anywhere, legally.  

Yet, the even frivolous claims of conflict of interest  reportedly have served to chill other lawyers from volunteering their time to assist the COC in developing the evidence of alleged deputy gangs.

Villanueva’s attempts to derail the investigation or any form of oversight, has also arguably included the tactic of criminally investigating those he perceives as his adversaries.

“The reality is that Sheriff Villanueva’s steady stream of public ad hominem attacks on commissioners,” and worse, has “made it very difficult to recruit new commissioners,” said Kennedy.

Yet, despite the obstructions, the COC hearings have continued to uncover “substantial evidence of deputy gangs within the LASD and the pernicious effects of deputy gang-related misconduct on the community and within the department,” Kennedy

 LASD Unions and the Board of Supervisors

As mentioned above, the LA Sheriff’s Department’s two main employee unions have also been obstructive of the COC hearings.

Specifically, the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) has attempted to thwart the COC’s hearings by commissioning a letter from a law professor, who supported Sheriff Villanueva’s claim that investigating whether his employees belong to a deputy gang would violate their First Amendment rights. 

(For its part, the Professional Peace Officers’ Association or PPOA, which is the supervisors’ union,  filed a complaint with the Employee Relations Commission claiming that the county was required to negotiate with the unions before the COC could issue subpoenas to their members. The COC respectfully disagreed.) 

The COC tried to factually refute this ALADS-commissioned letter by releasing a 2021 County Counsel legal memorandum, which concluded the exact opposite of the ALADS guy (as have a string of other high profile attorneys). Yet, when the COC asked to use the 2021 memorandum, the commission was advised by County Counsel “that only the BOS could authorize the release of the memorandum.”

 Inexplicably, requests from Kennedy and the COC to the board to release the First Amendment memorandum have gone unanswered for a year. 

***

Carefully disguised anonymous witness testifies at the August, 2022, Special Hearing on Deputy Gangs in Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

31 Comments

  • Nothing like kicking and screaming, knowing that you’re on your way out. Any future political aspirations of Villanueva ends this year.

  • I love the use of the word “gangs” , where are all the “gang” indictments or rico cases filed, there’s none because there isn’t any real “gangs” , bad behavior, yes , “ gangs” give me a break .

  • Sources say HOJ personnel below the rank of Captain are trying to bail in droves, putting in for assignments to non line positions. They see the impending doom of being associated with this Clown’s administration.

    As for the executives, they have been reaching out to Luna since the primary. The typical insulators, putting on their blinders to all the inequities the line have endured.

    Luna should do his homework and identify those with no backbone (we all know who you are), and ensure his transition team’s recommendations need to be vetted further to remove this quid pro quo, I’ve got dirt on you so you’re accepted culture.

    Then, let’s plan for the future with stated goals. This will take 8 years, but needs to begin now.

    Let’s start by turning MCJ into a mental health facility we can drop off a 5150 and save money spent elsewhere (at HGH, Centinella, etc…).

    Tear down Compton and East LA stations and start serving the community with Community Relations operations within the new stations.

    Be gone with the old school inner city snatch em up, stat driven (habeas grabas 4th amendment potential) anti cop strategy and work with the community to tackle the RD’s issues.

    Put true leaders loyal to the calling, rather than themselves, as Unit Commanders who set the standards.

    It’s a long road ahead folks, but we can do this.

  • @bereal

    You are hilarious. I haven’t seen anyone leaving HOJ. I think people leaving or trying to leave in droves would be visible. But I get it push the agenda! Your vision for the department is a joke. Who are you? Go be a social worker or DCFS help the community in that way. That’s where the problem starts not Law Enforcement.

    And tearing down stations , I wanna see where you’re gonna shit that money from lol. MCJ a hospital that laughable. It can barely pass as a jail. The medical staff can’t even handle pill call let alone 5150’s. Stop

    Also I agree with @stops GANGS in lasd stop it. All the whistleblowers are buffoons and clearly don’t know what gangs are or the definition. Is there a problem yes! But gangs no! I’ll wait for the Rico and federal charges on these gangs.

    I’m just sitting here with my popcorn for the entertainment! Can’t wait to see what’s next

  • @ Be REAL: We definitely share the same vision. Unfortunately, it all costs money and they will not rebuild. Remember they are trying to house the homeless population. Get rid of ELA & COMPTON and don’t promote the Reapers, Executioners, Bandidos and their spouses to LT or above. A Tradition of Sh** is what it is now! I feel sorry for all the good hard-working men and women of the LASD that paid their dues.

    The investigations into Deputy Gangs/cliques will continue until they rid the Dept of them. That will take about 10 yrs. or so if not more. The COC will not stop, they are here to stay. You can blame Tanaka and Baca along with the Pandora’s box defendants for that mess. The FBI will soon be involved too, now that President Biden has inquired about the search. If they did it to Trump, the ex-president….

    We all know who the players are, and heads are going to roll. Let’s see what November brings. I am sure when Luna steps in he will be well informed and will choose his staff carefully.

  • @ glass casa speaking like a typical leg humper. Hillarious! Another lawsuit yesterday submitted now that’s Hillarious.

    Adios

  • Close MCJ….turn it into a mental health hospital’ WOW! Why wasn’t this thought of before and why did the BOS approve and spend $80 million dollars toward this goal. Hell, they even thought of a name, The Mental Health Treatment Center once a last minute decision was made by the BOS to take the facility out of the hands of LASD and the newly elected Sheriff Alex Villanueva and put it under the Department of Mental Health. This all because the BOS didn’t get the Sheriff they wanted and was a first step in the contentious relationship between the BOS and newly elected sheriff. Ultimately the BOS 10-22’d the entire “reimagined MCJ” at the request of vocal protest groups (purportedly advocates) who were against putting people in large mental health treatment facilities . Here we are today. No better off!

    Yeah, a new Sheriff will solve all the woes plaguing LASD. GTFOH. Cynic that I am.

  • @b42long 100% regarding players heads rolling but you also have civilian workers who are married to brass and enjoying doing absolutely nothing while collecting a county paycheck. And then you have those female serial home-wreckers on the dept who will do whatever it takes to be in good light with management. ROTFL you know it’s true! How do you compete with that?

    Adios

    Alejandro villianueva

    Bibi

    Sleepy Tim

    Lying Blanchard

    Creepy Carl

    And all the other Boot lickers

  • Here are some other “gangs” according to COC , Navy Seals , Force Recon, Green Berets, PJ’S, Rangers, and everyone else with a unit/branch tattoo within the service. So guess we better fire 60% of the department. Can’t wait to get in a giant line for our body inspection. After all we are only approximately 1000 short , we can afford to fire hundreds of people right? What a joke , I love one of the COC witnesses admits to having a “gang” tattoo but he’s a hero because he came forward , no mention of his lawsuit because he didn’t get promoted. Don’t you know who my dad is ? I’m entitled to be a Captain , another young entitled brat

  • And the humiliation of AV, and by extension our Department, continues. When was the last time an investigation was so clearly political payback that the AG had to take control of the investigation?

    It would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. The depths to which this vindictive clown has dragged us is unreal. He showed up after a lackluster career in which he was his own worst enemy and proceeded to start his revenge tour for perceived slights, first by the wholesale firing of the execs, then by the ridiculous stripping of the brass of insignia. (“There’s a new sheriff in town and you’re all gonna recognize…”).

    Next, the blackballing of anyone associated with McDonnell, and the multi-level promotions of anyone on team AV, whether on the transition team, friends from back in the day, campaign contributors (seriously, check any Department member contributor – and there were quite a few – and their rank now versus 4 years ago) or acquaintances of the wife.

    But the real embarrassment has been the childish revenge investigations of this shady b/s unit, against the CEO (lawsuit settled), Huntsman (hasn’t sued yet to his credit, but maybe after he leaves this gig) CoC members (lawsuit to be filed), BoS members (ditto) and whoever else has irritated AV for whatever reason. He is drunk with power, and apparently too dumb to see how this is all going to come crumbling down, especially with the forthcoming lawsuits which will take up his second retirement since CC will be unable to get him out of depositions – an ex-sheriff doesn’t get the deferments that a current sheriff gets.

    The discovery on these cases is gonna be soooo much fun to watch. The testimony under oath about how “actually” removed from these cases AV was. Murakami is going to have to do some serious soul searching about how much he wants to try to cover, or whether coming clean is in his best interests. He thought testifying before the CoC was gonna be stressful? Wait until he has to choose between backing AV’s lies or admitting how things really went down… That captain to undersheriff pay bump may start looking like a bad bargain before all these lawsuits shake out.

    Here’s my favorite line from today’s LA Times article: “sheriff’s officials authorized investigators to log overtime hours over the weekend to cull through the electronic devices seized last week, a law enforcement source told The Times.” Oh, really? THIS investigation is so important that OT had to be authorized, as opposed to how many violent crimes at the same time had to make do with an investigator’s 40 hour week? Yet another fun question for the deposition, particularly while arguing with a straight face there was no political payback here.

    I weep for the Department, but I will admit to a certain amount of sadistic satisfaction for all the misery coming AV’s way. He has no one – literally, although God knows he will try – to blame but himself.

  • @Stop well these nincompoops will be having a “Come To JESUS” moment very soon. I pray for them because family’s will be wrecked for what ? money and power? SMH….

    Adios

    P.s. hey Alejandro is that bbq place u frequent any good? My pet Frenchy loves bbq ribs

  • @ Be Real, don’t agree with a lot of what you suggest, but one thing is for sure: IT IS A LONG ROAD AHEAD!

  • The COC uses the definition of a “law enforcement gang” set forth in Cal. Penal Code section 13670 (effective Jan. 1, 2022). That statute defines a “law enforcement gang” as follows: “A group of peace officers within a law enforcement agency who may identify themselves by a name and may be associated with an identifying symbol, including but not limited to matching tattoos, and who engage in a pattern of of on-duty behavior that intentionally violates the law or fundamental principles of professional policing.” Section 13670 defines law enforcement gangs using different criteria than the traditional definition of a “criminal street gang” in the more well known provisions of the STEP Act, such as Cal. Penal Code 186.22. A deputy does not need to commit crimes to be considered a member of a law enforcement gang. Deputies who associate together with common tattoos to violate “fundamental principles of professional policing” may constitute a “law enforcement gang” even though they woud not constitute a “criminal street gang.” The legislative history of section 13670 reveals that the Legislature wanted a different, broader definition of a “gang” for the purposes of prohibiting law enforcemnet gang-related misconduct that hurts the public.

  • @ Stops –

    Perhaps your comparison is true, it doesn’t necessarily make those groups any better because it is well known that military groups have ethical and legal issues within their elite ranks but have a long standing history of covering those incidents up. Including but not limited mysterious deaths of pledges, blanket parties, sexual assault (amongst each other and enemy non-combatants) and the discharge or transfer of those who speak up… at it since 1776 … anyhow…

    Let’s throw both subgroups into a series of Venn Diagrams.
    Here’s a good place to start:
    Do units, elite military groups and “subgroups” exclude women who are qualified to serve?
    Are there any special requirements beyond the training each subgroup provides to everyone to obtain access to the tattoo stencil or template with corresponding number?
    Can “Elite” military personnel who have not been deployed and/or have never been deployed into combat receive their unit’s tattoo?
    Do both groups engage in hazing activities

    Neat to see someone know chiming in, or are you?

  • @Really

    You nailed it precisely.

    That miserable Villanueva household is about to go into full time “Goblin Mode” in a couple of months. Couldn’t happen to a nicer couple.

    Adios “1 Term” Alex & Sweatpee,
    And Magoorakami & the Secret Hit Squad,
    and the few remaining Skippers,
    and Bigglesworth Burcher,
    and Baghdad Bob Satterfield,
    and the current SIB AV Propaganda Team
    And so many more trying to slither away into the shadows

  • Sean Kennedy , nice , so every Deputy at every station who has a station tattoo is in a “Law enforcement gang” great . Is it your intention to have all of those Deputies fired? Federalist 51 , your ridiculous statement “it is well known that military units have ethical issues” Is outrageous, in the military we fight to win , we fight to kill, so people such as yourself and sean kennedy have the freedom to disparage our country .

  • Thank God the men at Lexington and Concord were not concerned with “Venn Diagrams” or hurt feelings , they stood and fought knowing they would likely die a horrible painful death. Sean Kennedy I hope all of your anti law enforcement dreams come true , crime is already out of control, contrary to your belief and people of your ilk , criminals are more emboldened everyday and crime continues to get worse.

  • Alejandro? Bibi taught u about integrity ROTFL Lmao!! Good Lord please help us all!

    Adios

    Alejandro

    Bibi

    Sleepy Tim

    Lying Blanchard

    And all the seal clappers and boot lickers

    Gracias

  • Just watched the sheriff’s race debate. Alex, you are an idiot. You think you are high and mighty, and all ethical? You are a fraud and the most unethical sheriff in the history of LASD. I hope you end up behind bars. November can’t come soon enough.

  • Did our spittle flecked leader really say Mrs Sheriff is the most ethical person he has ever known. Really??
    Does he even know the meaning of ethical leadership all while he was pouring a constant drip of fear poison on homelessness and crime.

    Did AV, and his skipper Baghdad Bob Satterfield really not learn the meaning of Ethical Leadership when they completed their PhD’s at STARS. Yes the PhD they completed on County dime, on County Computers and County time. Embarrassing!!!!

  • After watching last night’s debate, it’s obvious to all that we witnessed an honest adult vs. a petulant lying child.

    Alex’s new campaign slogan is now: Cons, Coverups & Corruption

    November 8th is only weeks away. Tick Tock…..

    Adios “1 Term” Alex & Sweatpee,
    And Magoorakami & the Secret Hit Squad,
    and the few remaining Skippers,
    and Bigglesworth Burcher,
    and Baghdad Bob Satterfield,
    and the current SIB AV Propaganda Team
    And so many more trying to slither away into the shadows

  • LOL Mandoyan!! Appellate court sided with the County. You stay fired buddy. Is your self proclaimed savior AV going to call the appellate court corrupt as well? When’s the presser? Enjoy driving BiBi around ELA so she can act tough, remember, she thinks she is a celebrity, LOL. Your Armo buddies may have to rethink spending money on a loosing horse.

  • A great piece to accompany Anonymous’ comments.

    https://www.cbsnews.com/losangeles/news/appeals-court-rules-villanuevas-reinstatement-of-fired-deputy-was-unlawful/

    Sorry Alex, your PhD is obviously worthless. You must have finagled the degree just like any other obstacle in your way. Lie and cheat.

    You are reaping what you sowed the last 4 years and no person could be more deserving of this. Your entitlement being midguided is an understatement.

    It is beautiful to see your amateur, scandal ridden empire crumbling.

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