LA County Board of Supervisors LA County Jail LASD

LA County Supes Approve $5.9 Million Settlement for Mentally Ill Pretrial Inmate Who Sustained Brain Injury

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a $5.9 million settlement to Juan Isaac Garza, a schizophrenic man who sustained a reportedly self-inflicted brain injury while incarcerated at Twin Towers Correctional Facility in May 2012.

According to Garza’s complaint, because jail deputies and medical staff did not provide adequate monitoring and treatment while he was locked up, he had a seizure and suffered a serious brain injury. Garza was 22 years old at the time of the incident and was being held pretrial for attempted murder.

According to the county’s Summary Corrective Action Plan, the “root cause” of the incident was “the lack of an ‘Inmate Safety Check’ relating to the deputies’ responsibility to call for medical staff when an inmate is man down.” The deputy who found Garza on the ground reportedly only called for mental health staff.

Another inmate reportedly told Ellen Wong, a Jail Mental Health (JMHy Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Jail Mental Evaluation Team (JMET) supervisor who responded to the incident, that Garza was standing on the desk in his cell before falling backward and hitting his head. Garza reportedly repeated the action between 4-6 times.

Wong was asked to assess Garza. The mental health worker said that although she was told Garza had fallen, she saw no signs of injury, and felt that his mental state had not changed from her previous analysis the day before. Wong requested that Garza be moved into a single-man cell for his own safety, because of the young man’s suicidal ideations.

Within two hours of the evaluation, deputies found Garza unresponsive in his cell. According to a jail nursing note, Garza appeared to have trauma and abrasions on his face, and periorbital swelling on the left side.

The Summary Corrective Action Plan also determined that a secondary root cause of the incident was that there were no CCTV cameras installed in the jail in 2012. That was remedied in 2014. Since 2012, the medical and mental health policies and procedures have been clarified and consolidated.

The $5.9 million settlement amount will come from the sheriff’s department budget.

Los Angeles County’s litigation costs jumped 10 percent during the last fiscal year, 2016-2017, over the previous year, according to a January report from County Counsel. The largest payout was a $10.1 million settlement paid to Franky Carrillo, a man wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 20 years for a murder he did not commit at age 16. It was the largest per anum settlement for wrongful imprisonment in the state’s history. While legal spending was up 10 percent, there were actually fewer lawsuits filed against the county—707, compared with 749 during fiscal year 2015-2016. A total of 189 of last year’s lawsuits were against the sheriff’s department, resulting in $68.6 million in payouts.

Image: Twin Towers Correctional Facility by Basil D Soufi.


  • Seeing how Garza is now a multi millionaire I wonder if the guy he tried to kill can now sue him. I hope that guy isn’t just another hobo, how cool would it be if he (or she) was just some working stiff? I hope everyone who was ever victimized by Garza gets a piece, now that would be a cool story, how about it Witness la?

  • A person determined to self-harm cannot be stopped. It’s detestable that liberals worry so much about those accused and/or convicted of serious crimes who harm themselves, yet they are largely silent about the 22 vets who kill themselves every day. They have picked their heroes. And, yes, we get that those in custody are in our charge and depend on jail staff for all their needs. Inmates today are well taken care of, far beyond the minimums mandated by Title 15.

    BTW, never has there been such an abused process as the “man down.” Inmates in trouble with their fellow gang member inmates routinely feign suicidal ideation and medical conditions such as chest pain. Their faux pas range from hanging out with the opposite race to using to losing drugs without paying for them. When they know it’s their turn to get an ass whipping, a sudden medical emergency manifests. Untold amounts of public funds are wasted addressing these shenanigans. There’s a story that will never be pursued by the media, as it doesn’t fit the narrative.

    If only LASD’s overseers would take the time to don a uniform and really immerse themselves into the environment and observe, epiphanies would ensue.

    • Exactly how did you determine that “liberals” are “largely silent about the 22 vets who kill themselves every day”? I’d really love to hear how you came up with that grandiose conclusion. Feel free to include some facts and references while you’re at it. You may want to look at who is in charge of Congress right now and who keeps curtailing mental health expenditures over at the VA.

      • Interesting. Every time I call out liberals, you bang away at me. I’ll pass on your gracious offer to provide research about something we all know is true. Maybe you’d be so kind as to provide proof that I’m wrong instead.

        BTW, sorry your girl lost. 😉

        • @ D.O.R.
          “Passing” on providing your information after being called out is a lame excuse which actually means “you have no facts at all”.

          • Hmm, Neither Left Nor Right…

            I think that means you are unable to analyze and process information and come to a rational conclusion. Your input is invalid, especially because you think his “callout” amounts to a reason for me to prove a negative.

          • My personal opinion is that no one side, is responsible for everything wrong in America.

            The unbiased fact is that Trump is way above his head, not to mention out of his league.

          • Dose of Reality, you just managed to bust yourself. This is pretty funny. When you make a claim and I ask for proof you can’t claim “prove I’m wrong” and pretend I’m demanding proof of a negative. You did that. Try to keep up.

            And I agree with Neither Left Nor Right, terms like “liberal” are merely an artificial construct that looms larger in the minds of a few than most others.

  • Horrible precedent(s) being set everyday by the weak LACO BOS and weaker County Counsel. To be clear, the inmate with a “mental illness” was arrested for attempt murder and did not get the care while in custody to properly treat his mental illness, prevent him from harming himself or post-injury aftercare.

    I’m sure when Mr. Garza was roaming the streets, he was dutifully taking his prescribed medication and living a full, wonderful, law-abiding and rich life.

    Too bad he was arrested and taken into custody in the first place, this would have never happened if he wasn’t in jail. I’m now a believer that everyone should get bail…no matter what the crime. This way, the tax payers wouldn’t be on the hook for this type of crap…let’s just let all the criminals roam free and send out friendly reminders letting them know when they need to come go court. This whole detention/jail stuff is too costly and risky.

  • LATBG. Fact-1. It’s the Dems that keep Fillibustering any movement forward. Just because the GOP controls both houses, doesn’t mean they can pass anything they want.

    Fact-2. Dems blocked moving forward on protecting Dreamers because they don’t want border security. They say they do until presented with a plan to provide it. They know border security will prevent future voters from coming in.

    Fact-3. The Bush/Obama Administrations allowed the VA to degrade to disgusting levels of service to our Vets. It’s the Dems that keep blocking bills that include additional resources.

    Fact-4. It’s our Dem Mayor who has allowed our homeless population to double during his tenure and shrink the number of nighttime public restrooms to 11.

    Fact-5. It’s the Dem Mayor in Oakland who acted like an Outlaw Biker Lookout guarding a Meth-House when she warned Child Molesters, robbers and rapists that Law Enforcement was coming.

    Shall I go on?

    • You’re not making a lot of headway, so perhaps you shouldn’t. What you claim are “facts” are merely your opinions, nothing more. I can’t seem to find a Dem who is against border security, but you seem confused with support for the wall. The GOP has been in control of Congress for close to sixteen of the past twenty years, but in your words it’s all the fault of the other guy, even when you’re in charge. Ok, got it. I think our mayor and BOS are incompetent fools for their approach on the homeless, no argument from me. I don’t disagree with you on #5 either, she had no business giving early warning. Pretty sure she wasn’t interested in shielding Chesters, but her conduct was inexcusable anyway.

      So of your five “facts” I give you a 1.5, which is a failing grade.

  • Kinda related NewsFlash….ALADS and LASD executives have finally woken from their self imposed haze of see no, speak, hear no evil and acknowledged the fact TTCF is not and has bit been safe for its employees….that’s right it’s EMPLOYEES due to faulty cell for blocks.

    ALDS the opportunistic union that it is has jumped on board claiming they were just made aware of the problem and vowing to seeing the county follows through on fixing the problem.

    PATHETIC, callous and apathetic sums up the behavior and response (or lack thereof) regarding all involved.

      • As long as “Agency Shop” is in place, ALADS will always play possum to the needs of deputies. It’s a long time con game with Bud Treece as he is still connected to ALADS. Of course, 95 % of membership is unaware of this person. So sick of the pompous ALADS Board of Directors. Do the math of monthly dues.

        • For once, I hope SCOTUS rules against employees being forced to pay union membership dues if they decide to opt-out.

          Clearly a case of collective bargaining gone bad as it relates to the weak LASD unions.

      • Hey Celeste…why don’t you or one of your reporters follow up on this serious issue. Or is it a non issue as it relates to the safety of Sheriff’s personnel and you find no interest in reporting about it.

        Oh… maybe the fact that INMATES housed inside their unsecure cells due to faulty door locks are at risk from other inmates might peak your investigative fancy.

  • I love the new Commanders list. This Sheriff has no clue. Maybe somebody could direct him and his staff to do some research on the people who “paid to play” and helped the little guy destroy LASD. And the Beat goes on.

    • It definitely seems the key to promoting into the executive club is to: 1. Be sponsored, 2. Be morally bankrupt and willing to screw over subordinates or anyone else to make yourself look good 3. Have a total disregard for the welfare of your subordinates 4. Always deflect and place blame for your mistakes on others 5. Have delusions of grandeur and a god like complex 6. Be petty and vindictive and make it your goal to screw over anyone who either disagrees with, took your milk money or your buddies tell you to hate and 7. Shameless boot licker/brown noser.

      Wanted: LACO Sheriff who cares about the Department, is not oblivious to reality, will not keep head in the sand cares about it’s members and future direction.

      Regrettably, it’s already so far gone not much chance of righting it anytime soon.

      • Your observations are spot on. The executive club only accepts admittance to those it deems non-threatening to their insecure lifestyle. Ethics, good leadership skills, and independent thinking are problematic for this miserable self-serving crowd.

    • It is amazing that the Sheriff really does not know what is going on. His promotions seem to be made straight from the Tanaka coin holder/email list. If you look at all the promotions, Captain and above since he has been Sheriff, a large majority are previous coin holders. He either has no clue or does not care, because they now kiss his ring.

      • I have seen no shortage of comments on this website highly critical of the handling of internal personnel and promotions by LASD under the reign of Sheriff Jim McDonnel
        Many complain that deputies in the field are subject to unrealistic standards of technical perfection.
        Any deviation from textbook in performing their duties may lead to a relentless and unforgiving application of administrative discipline.
        Quality rookie deputies may get discharged or pushed to resign.
        Others remain on the dept., yet their pride has been crushed and their initiative drained away.
        Sheriff McDonnell’s handling of the upper echelon also draws negative evaluations.
        They say McDonnell fails to employ equitable standards in selecting among candidates for high level positions.
        McDonnell demonstrates a preference for promoting from the Tanaka circle, even if the candidate carries a blemished performance record.
        McDonnel’s tenure is a source of intense frustration for many who thought he could institute reform from the inside out.

        Although Sheriff McDonnel’s handling of personnel has left disappointment, his decisions may be understood as a conservative and pragmatic reaction to litigation initiated under Sheriff Baca’s term in office.

        Baca’s hold over LASD remained strong, even though reports of problems in the jail had been coming out for several years.
        That situation began to change when attorneys for former MCJ inmates won the right to include Lee Baca, in his personal capacity, as a defendant in their civil actions against LASD.
        Baca’s personal assets were placed at risk of damages awarded to plaintiffs prevailing in court.
        The legal argument said that Baca was made aware of ongoing and severe incidents which led to inmate injuries by jail deputies.
        Baca’s prolonged failure to attempt a correction of the situation rose to the level which exceeded the immunity provided by his position.
        The court could now find Sheriff Baca personally liable for actions of jail deputies who crossed the line.
        The courts did find against LASD and against Lee Baca in several inmate lawsuits.
        Tens of thousands of $$ from Lee Baca’s bank account must be paid to plaintiffs. The total may still be rising.

        No plaintiff will ever get the chance to sue Jim McDonnel under a theory of total neglect to manage or control deputies acting out of policy.
        McDonnel’s excessive microenforcement of rules on deputies working in the field may be counterproductive, but it protects McDonnell’s personal paycheck from Baca style damage awards.

        When selecting for promotion to the executive ranks, Sheriff McDonnell does a turnabout. He drops all the filters and becomes overly lax in vetting the promotees.
        Or he does even worse – by favoring Tanaka acolytes for promotion.
        But in doing so, Sheriff McDonnel eliminates any risk of employee harassment/discrimination claims like the lawsuit brought against LASD by members of the Tanaka faction shortly after the UnderSheriff was dethroned.
        That lawsuit was resolved favorably for the Tanakaites who banded together to sue Baca for employment retaliation.

        Sheriff McDonnel utilizes a promotion formula that prevents any further claims of persecution from this group.
        That is done by placing the Tanakaites first in line whenever a promotion door is set to open.

        • The end result is McDonnell’s first and hopefully only term in office was an absolute failure. His lack of understanding of the culture of the organization, and the symbolism involved by perpetuating the Tanaka clan, reveals that his “fresh eyes” was never an asset, only a liability. The public bought it once, hopefully they are not dumb enough to buy it twice.

        • Interesting analysis but a policy of excessive disciple, moral busting, “public floggings” and policy of “relieve of duty first and make them fight for their job through civil service” is short sighted. The Department has already seen several high level executives resign in lieu of firing, a luxury members of “the club ” are afforded.

          Many of the “Tanaka” loyalist are using the same playbook and running the same patterns that got the Department and many of its members in trouble. The Sheriff was not able to hide behind the excuse that “he did not know” that time, and I doubt if will work this time, unless he jumps ship just before the second sinking.

          If “fresh eyes” thinks he can just bury his head in the sand regarding the “small details” and just keep skimming the surface of the cesspool and never get his white shoes dirty, he’s in for a big fall.

          History has a way of repeating itself more frequently these days.

          • Electing a new Sheriff is possible. The impossible comes in the form of a “no holds barred” campaign which is not but should be driven by union leadership. A true example would be LAPPL who waved goodbye to Bernard Park. If stories re: LASD leadership are true, then shame on ALADS & PPOA.

    • I hear you…but…the incumbent always has the advantage as was the case of Lee Baca. Most of the voters are oblivious to the “real inner workings” of the LACO Sheriff’s Department, can care less and are wowed and dazzled by the Sheriffs self-serving, perfectly timed, scripted and choreographed media events.

      Unless there is a major scandal that comes up close to the time of the election, or the Sheriff jumps ship and goes home to lead the boys in blue, I have little hope he’ll be de-throned.

      But hey…who would have though “Banaka Gate” would have turned out the way it did.

      • Baca always won as an incumbent due to the fact that there were no formidable opponents. To save face, Ron Hernandez’s petty feud against Bob Lindsey, and Alex Villanueva’s past with LASPA, ALADS probaly will not endorse anyone. Trust me, they’ll blame the deputies survey or another B.S. excuse.

        • @unicorn
          Spot on. Alads is weak and so is ppoa. This is not hard. Send out a ballot, just like last time, and let the members vote who they want to endorse for sheriff. If only 500 deputies send in ballots, oh well. I say that because I heard the excuse Alads is using is that not enough members will mail their ballots back in . Tough cookies. Who has most votes, we endorse. Cause we all know it won’t be McDonnell and that’s why Alads and ppoa don’t want to do it. They are just like these weak captains, commanders and Chiefs… scared or weak to stand up.

          Bob Lindsey for sheriff!

          • Agreed! Bob Lindsey for Sheriff and hopefully he’ll bring in Alex Villanueva second in command.

          • @ Clam Chowder, Even more to add to the truth is that ballots are not mailed to LASPA members. Over 4 years ago, LASPA members were not invited to the Sheriff’s Forum. When there is no solidarity among ALL deputies, there will never be a unified voice or choice. ALADS always uses “Board’s Decision”


    Dear “Let’s Hear More,” we’d be very interested in any solid information about faulty cell door locks that endanger staff and inmates. Please email me privately if you have such information, and/or encourage anyone else you know to do so.

    “Dose of Reality,” we are a criminal justice news site. Nevertheless, we whenever we are able, we report on the difficulties that face our nation’s veterans both at WLA and in our weekly newsletter, the California Justice Report. In particular, we have reported on special Veteran’s Courts, and the painful number of veteran’s among California’s homeless population. No one could be more deserving of our care and attention.

  • I just saw the news story about the faulty locks at Twin Towers. One of the captains spoke about the problem, not the Sheriff or Assistant Sheriff and the media team? Oh….that’s right…they weren’t parading the head of a deputy for public consumption and to score political points by showing “see what I did to punish the staff”.

    It’s pitiful the staff at the jail can’t assume one of the most basic components work to keep bad people in…cell door locks… and have to work under the assumption these locks don’t work. Unreal!!

    The BOS settles the multi million dollar claims of inmates without hesitation but the Department and BOS baulk at spending money to fix the locks in a jail?

    Definitely gives you a reality check on the priorities regarding who the BOS and LASD executives value and care about…and it ain’t their employees.

  • My expectations and beliefs were meet with respect to Witness LA not wanting any part of a story relating to the dangers the staff faces in the LA County jails. I am surprised there was no interest regarding the risks posed to inmates by other inmates due to the problems though. I guess it’s just not “sexy” enough or in line with Witness LA’s reporting style.


    • Information in, information out. If you have any further or something worth addressing, please expound for the good of all.

  • I thought that was the job of an investigative journalist? Just as an investigator turns over rocks, looks for witnesses, talks to ci’s and connects the dots and so forth. As they say “detect”.

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