2022 Race for LA County Sheriff

Dangerous Games: The human cost of Alex Villanueva’s obstruction of the case of the head-kneeling deputy…and other questionable actions of the LA County Sheriff

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

The daily dramas created by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva continue.

We’ll have more news later in the week, but for now, here are some quickie updates on the actions of LA’s sheriff, plus some additional information on the cost of Villanueva’s alleged attempt to hide the case of the head-kneeling deputy

Dissing the Burbank Dems

When Villanueva ran for sheriff against then sitting sheriff Jim McDonnell in 2018, he engaged in a smart strategy, which was to seek—and in most cases get—the endorsement of every Democratic voting club in LA County, that would let him though the door.

Many of this year’s candidates who hope to unseat the present sheriff are trying to follow his lead on that game plan.

With this in mind, several of those candidates spoke to the Burbank Democratic Club on Thursday of last week.

According to the @Burbank Dem’s tweet on Sunday, which you can see below, things did not unfold in a felicitous manner.

Sheriff Villanueva, who was also scheduled to speak, evidently changed his mind about the need to show up. The sheriff instead sent his his campaign manager, Javier Gonzales, who, according to the @BurbankDems, “read a statement and then spewed profanities thinking he was off-camera.”

Still later that day, Gonzales and the sheriff reportedly followed-up with an additional communication to the @BurbankDems, wishing them good luck with “all the murders you support instead of the man who is cleaning up LA County….”

Interesting campaign strategy.

Fast forward to Sunday night, when our sheriff was featured by John Oliver on his show “Last Week Tonight.

“It is a damning story about abuse of power,” Oliver said of his report on Villanueva, then pointed to the recent behavior that has caused LA County’s Sheriff to appear in the national news, namely threatening journalists, and engaging in a criminal investigation to find out who leaked the video that showed a dangerous instance of deputy wrongdoing that the sheriff tried energetically to keep under wraps.

In addition, Oliver showed the incumbent sheriff’s bizarre new campaign video, which was released last week.

In the video, we see happy LA residents frolicking in slo-mo through their days to the music of Shubert’s Ave Maria, evidently unaware that respective California dreams are being wrecked. Then to further make the point, in another scene, a popcorn tossing couple are being robbed by an unusually clumsy pair of cat burglars.

In the final scene we view the sheriff, not in uniform, but wearing a dark green sweatshirt, perhaps in the hope of imitating the army green t-shirts and army green sweatshirts famously worn by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Finally on Monday, May 2, we learned from Kate Cagel of Spectrum that, according to the head of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department, the decision by some whistleblower or other to leak the video of Deputy Douglass Johnson having his knee on the neck and head of Enzo Escalante for more than three minutes, was far worse than the decision by Deputy Johnson to potentially cut off Escalante’s breathing, or cause him serious injury to his neck and or back, after the man had completely complied.

“The decision to do a leak, that’s a calculated, deliberate decision,” Villanueva said to Cagle on camera. “That’s the difference between mistakes of the mind and mistakes of the heart.”

This brings us back to the 27-page civil rights complaint filed by former LA County assistant sheriff Robin Limon late last week, in which Limon explores how, in the fall of 2021 she became increasingly concerned about the sheriff’s actions around the March 2021, head kneeling case, about which Villanueva spoke so dismissively to Spectrum’s Cagel.

According to Limon, by delaying or altogether blocking, the criminal investigation into the actions of Deputy Johnson, he was putting other jail residents and community members at frisk.

Specifically, Limon wrote, she believed that to fail to hold Deputy Johnson accountable for his actions, sent a message to other deputies that Johnson’s particularly risky form of use of force was perfectly acceptable, especially against someone who had assaulted the deputy.

Furthermore, if other deputies were using use-of-force actions that were anything at all like Johnson’s, the sheriff needed to institute training that insured that the practice would be stopped.

Otherwise someone was going to get hurt, or worse, according to Limon.

Instead, she said in the complaint, the sheriff made light of the incident, much as he did with Cagel minimizing its effect “since the inmate did not die.”

Meanwhile, Limon noted, law enforcement agencies around the nation were changing force policies now that they “recognized that this tactic could prove to be lethal.”

All this meant that Villanueva should have acted on this excessive use of force “immediately and protected” the county’s “residents.”

Ideally, Limon believed, the sheriff should have issued and “a warning and a reminder to deputies” on patrol as well as the jails. He did none of this.

So it was that, in April 2021, “another troubling use of force occurred against a disabled resident,” according to Limon

The former Assistant Sheriff was not the only department member having these concerns about the case being kept away from any kind of criminal investigation.

“The problem that everybody had initially with the use of force incident by Deputy Johnson,” one department source told WLA, “was that the force was good. The inmate assaulted Johnson,” so he was restrained and handcuffed.

“But once you handcuff him, and he’s no longer resisting, but you still have your knee on his neck it’s a different thing,” said A source familiar with the details of the case. “Then the communication is, ‘You f-ing f-ed with me. I’m going to f-ing put my knee on your neck. You don’t matter.”

And two supervisors, “who should have known better,” did nothing to intervene, the source added.

We also learned that the part of the video that most of us saw, shows Deputy Johnson kneeling on Enzo Escalante’s head, not his neck. But reportedly much of the time, said our sources, Johnson was kneeling hard on Escalante’s neck..

“And when [Johnson] was tapped out,’ said one source, “the inmate had big red marks on marks on his neck. In the photos of him you can see a big red contusion on his neck the size of an apple.”

The source agreed with Limon that the situation was indisputably dangerous.

“When you put pressure on someone’s neck for that length of time, you could cut off their breathing, or break their neck. Then they’re dead.”

Enzo Escalante reportedly still coping with injury

On, April 19, Escalante, the man on whose neck and head LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Douglass Johnson knelt, filed his own federal civil rights lawsuit against Sheriff Alex Villanueva and others.

Escalante is being represented by federal civil rights attorney Stephen Yagman, who was disbarred more than a decade ago for 2007 tax fraud and related charges, but who reclaimed his law license, re-passed the California Bar, and in the last year plus has taken on a string of cases he believes are important.

One of those cases, Yagman told WitnessLA, is that of Enzo Escalante, whom Yagman says was left with “abrasions and contusions,” to his ears and his neck, and is still suffering from “severe neck pain” and “unbearable back pain.”

According to Yagman, during some part of the neck kneeling, Escalante told Johnson he couldn’t breathe, but Johnson told him to “shut up.”

The sheriff’s actions then and now have effectively communicated a similar message to those who saw the head and neck-kneeling incident as important.

More soon on the issues of rigged promotions, favoritism, and ongoing corruption, especially in the realm of Sheriff Villanueva’s reelection campaign. .

17 Comments

  • Sad to say but the stark reality of Villanueva winning the next Sheriff Election will be based upon spanish surname recognition. It’s basically a no brainer and hands down win for Alex with the Los Angeles County demographics.

    Remember the dirty politics of posters placed in Los Angeles of Trump, Sessions and McDonnell?
    It doesn’t take much to fool the unknowing. Hunker down and buckle up for the next four years.

  • Alejandro your the gift that keeps on giving..

    Addios

    Gracias

  • The ROT is that when resistance ceases force ceases, and Deputy Johnson exceeded that limit by three minutes.

    Bad boy.

  • Witness la is of, for, and by the AWFL’s. (Affluent white female liberals). Celeste is doing everything in her power to rally the AWFL’s against the Sheriff, touching on their favourite tropes e.g. George Floyd and even the president of Ukraine, of all people. Pretty obvious Celeste really, really doesn’t like this guy, perhaps he reminds her of someone else she hates.

    But things aren’t as cut and dried as Celeste is trying to gaslight the AWFL’s into believing. The force used against the violent murder defendant in response to his unprovoked attack doesn’t seem to be getting the traction Celeste is pushing for. And the “cover up” appears to be merely an attempt to keep a story out of the media. Make of that what you will, but the media isn’t the FBI so this is a long way from Pandora’s box II.

    This is shaping up to be a political battle between the deep blue AWFL’s from the west side, and the up and coming Hispanic middle class in the rest of the county. The AWFL’s control the institutions so they do tend to punch above thier weight, It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top.

  • Very interesting hearing the Sheriff talk about “Calculated deliberate decisions”

  • I was under the impression the Sheriff panicked based solely on optics. If what these sources state is in fact true, then the injuries the inmate sustained sound like excessive force that could have led to death like with Floyd. Damn. Now that is more than likely why the criminal investigation/monitor wasn’t done.

  • Help Javier, HELP!

    These tricky reporters keep asking me questions in person when I’m not ready. You know I need all questions to be prescreened and several handlers behind the camera to hand me prepared answers for me to recite like I’ve been doing for the past two years on my transparent Social Media Live sessions.

    https://twitter.com/katecagle/status/1521181169324240901?s=10&t=O-AVP1v2yT7xD0hP52Q42g

    They are trying to embarrass me and it’s not fair.

    Adios Alex & Sweatpee

  • Javier, how could you let me get trapped into doing this on camera interview with another meanie reporter? https://youtu.be/_hFskVOBcWk

    They keep asking me hard questions and making me look and sound stupid in my unprepared and rehearsed responses. This is not fair! I’m starting to hear whispers that even my faithful cowboy hat wearing lemmings are realizing that I have no leadership skills despite everything I let them get away with. From now on, only KFI’s Steve Gregory gets the exclusive access to me and the rest of the LASD.

    This can NOT happen again! https://youtu.be/_hFskVOBcWk

    Adios Alex & Sweatpee.

  • @ gj, totally agree and on point. What the AWFL’s don’t understand is that they live in privileged neighborhood’s and not blur collar neighborhoods. They do not feel the pinch at the gas pumps nor the daily noise of gunshots and robberies.

    @ Celeste, the murder defendant in this case was no ordained Saint like we Catholics would say. This guy was there because he was charged with murder or your types would call him a soul who needs help. You know some AWFL’s would want him as arm candy… you know what I’m talkin about 🙂

  • The Sheriff did not cover anything up. Its all on video…..there is no way for the Sheriff himself to cover it up. Weather it was delayed or not the outcome of tbe investigation will be the same. Does not matter when the Sheriff learned of the incident.

    Media needs to find something else to focus on. How about democrat/liberal policies that let violent offenders out of jail to victimize the public. My guess is that offender who assaulted that deputy is at court because he was let out of prison early. He is a repeat violent offender who should be locked up. Now that deputy is assaulted because liberal policies let him out.

    People need to understand. That deputy put himself in harms way to protect the public….despite liberal policies that allow this kid of violence to happen.

    Im sure district attorney george gascon will not file a criminal charge on that idiot who assaulted that deputy. Gascon is sworn to uphold the law. He is not doing his job. He should not be recalled. He should be fired.

  • The neweest lawsuit shood bee thrown ouut justt becausse of all the missspellings. I hope thiss is not an exammmple off the atttorneys cometency leveel. Iff itt iss, the plantifffss could be in trouble.

  • @AngryLA County Resident = You are spot on. Thankfully, most LA County residents feel he same. My neighbor, an extreme left progressive Democrat, is 100% on Villanueva’s side when it comes to the crime issue. She is beside herself with all the homelessness, crime and lawlessness. I saw her this morning and the first thing she said, “Did you see what happened to Dave Chapelle?” I just shook my head and said, “that’s all your party!” She laughed and said, ” We ain’t that stupid!”

    Villanueva is gonna win by a landslide.

  • Yea you and your neighbor who live in Easthell….hahahahahahahah I mean eastvale..

    Addios

    Alejandro

    Gracias & Happy Cinco De Mayo

  • @Facts Matter and Angry LA County Resident

    You must be one of BiBi’s homegirls.

  • Alex has the support of a lot of people for going to battle with the Board of Supervisors. But let’s be honest here. Alex was no ball of fire when he worked ELA. He worked day shift, answered his calls, and went home. To my knowledge he never worked any specialized units and had to sue the Department to make Lt. Years ago one commentator said Alex always thought he was the smartest person in the room, which is obviously debatable. I will admit he was always politically motivated and ambitious. When Ray Leyva left the Department the writing was on the wall. Ray was a man of honor and integrity and Alex’s biggest mistake was letting him go. Sad to see the Department in it’s current state.

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