Jim McDonnell LA County Board of Supervisors LASD Law Enforcement Mental Illness Reentry Rehabilitation Sentencing

The 22-Hour Standoff, Sentencing Videos, and a Promising Housing Program in SF


Last Thursday, beginning at 5:30a.m. in a mobile home park on the 4200 block of Topanga Blvd., a mentally ill 74-year-old woman armed with a revolver engaged members of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department in an intense standoff that lasted more than 20 hours.

On Tuesday, LA Sheriff Jim McDonnell called a press conference to lay out the details of the crisis situation, which would have tested “the resolve, training and tactics of any law enforcement agency.”

The woman reportedly brandished the gun at paramedics and officers who had responded to her distress call, as well as mobile home park residents (who were quickly evacuated), before taking over a neighboring mobile home. The LASD sent in its Crisis Negotiations Team, a Special Enforcement Bureau (SWAT) “Blue Team,” commanding officers, and special equipment.

The raving elderly woman reportedly shot at a robot sent in to negotiate with her, as well as at officers during the standoff. At one point, the woman approached officers, saying she had lost her gun, before pulling it out and firing two rounds.

Sheriff McDonnell said the incident “provided rare insight in to the continuum of decisions that our deputies make in life or death situations…decisions that balance the need for control in the name of public safety…with the safety and welfare of an individual.”

Officers deployed a great deal of less-than-lethal resources, including foam projectiles, tear gas, and even a fire hose, all of which failed to subdue the woman. Despite believing the woman had at least one live round left, a Special Enforcement Bureau (SWAT) “Blue Team,” stripped out of their gear, helmets, and vests. Five Blue Team members very carefully crawled under the house, and were able to take the woman into custody—all at great danger to the unarmed officers.

McDonnell praised the officers’ skillful handling of a situation that could have easily ended in tragedy. “It would be a mischaracterization to say that the SWAT team was ‘held at bay,'” said McDonnell. “The Special Enforcement Bureau’s SWAT team held themselves at bay of out an overriding desire to end the incident without having to resort to using deadly force.”

Sons of the elderly woman, who they said had never been in trouble or caused any disturbances before, expressed deep gratitude to the members of the Lost Hills Station and SWAT team: “…everyone we came into contact with exhibited the utmost in compassion, concern, patience, discipline  and restraint: for the residents of the mobile park, their fellow officers, our family and most importantly, for an elderly woman in need of help.”


It is becoming increasingly more common for defense lawyers to submit mini biographical documentaries during sentencing. The new defense tool, commonly called a “sentencing video” focuses on a defendant’s history, hardships and traumas, and potential, in an effort to humanize defendants and sway judges toward handing down lighter punishment.

Advocates are concerned, however, that as the trend grows, the use of often-costly sentencing videos will not be possible for indigent defendants using public defenders.

Silicon Valley De-Bug, a criminal justice non-profit, seeks to level the playing field.

The NY Times’ Stephanie Clifford has the story. Here’s a clip:

Even in cities with robust public defense programs, like New York, lawyers may be handling as many as 100 cases at once, and they say there is little room to add shooting and editing videos to their schedules.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that public defenders could possibly spare the time to do that,” said Josh Saunders, who until recently was a senior staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services, adding that lawyers there are often physically in court for the entire workday. He sees the humanizing potential of videos, he said, but “I would also be concerned that defendants with means would be able to put together a really nice package that my clients generally would not be able to.”

Mr. Jayadev’s nonprofit, Silicon Valley De-Bug, a criminal justice group and community center in San Jose, Calif., believes that videos are a new frontier in helping poor defendants, and is not only making videos but also encouraging defense lawyers nationwide to do the same. The group has made about 20 biographical videos for defendants, one featuring footage of the parking lot where a homeless teenage defendant grew up. With a $30,000 grant from the Open Society Foundation, De-Bug is now training public defenders around the country.

Given that a defendant has a right to speak at sentencing, a video is on solid legal ground, said Walter Dickey, emeritus professor of law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, “though the judge can obviously limit what’s offered.” Professor Dickey said that because, at both the state and federal levels, the lengths of sentences are increasingly up to judges rather than mandated by statute, it followed that videos that “speak to the discretionary part” of sentencing were having a bigger role.

Mr. Jayadev takes a standard approach to his projects: The producers identify the defendant’s past hardships and future prospects, then select supporters or family members to describe those, usually in a visual context, like a pastor in a church pew. Mr. Jayadev said he found it was more natural to have the defendant talking to someone off-screen, rather than staring at the camera.

For Mr. Quijada, “this story is around this young man’s transformation from a life that had sort of run its course,” Mr. Jayadev said.


Forty-two recently released low-level former offenders and more serious offenders who are currently on probation will soon move into their own studio apartments at Drake Hotel in the heart of San Francisco. Through a united effort between the SF Superior Court, Probation Department, and Tenderloin Housing Clinic, a single-occupancy hotel is being transformed to specifically house homeless former offenders who struggle with addiction.

The move is particularly meaningful in a city where the average apartment runs $3,458 per month. The goal of the housing program, which is funded with realignment money, is to help tenants find permanent housing within one year of living at the Drake Hotel.

Tenants will be given a set of responsibilities and a curfew and will be paired with case managers who will help them access public benefits and save up for a deposit and first month’s rent on their own apartment.

The SF Chronicle’s Heather Knight has more on the program. Here are some clips:

…asked why criminals should get free housing in San Francisco when law-abiding low-income and even middle-class families struggle to afford apartments, court officials seemed to be caught off guard.

“The kind of housing these folks are getting is not something to be envious of, honestly. It’s just a room,” said Lisa Lightman, director of the Superior Court’s collaborative courts, which include special courts for drug-addicted people and mentally ill people and the Community Justice Center, which handles low-level crimes committed in the Tenderloin.

Asked the same question, Krista Gaeta, deputy director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, said the public will benefit if people who have committed crimes are living in decent housing and provided case management.

“You can’t let someone out of jail, give them $5 and say, ‘Good luck,’” she said. “The better plan is to do things like this so they can go out and get permanent housing, find work and not commit the crimes that got them in trouble in the first place.”


Fletcher said it has become increasingly difficult to help people on probation in San Francisco find any sort of housing because of the city’s sky-high rents. Last month, San Francisco landlords with available apartments were asking a record average rent of $3,458 a month.

The Drake Hotel will specifically serve people on probation who are homeless and are addicted to drugs or alcohol. The facility will be considered a clean and sober building, but tenants won’t be evicted for having relapses, Fletcher said.


  • I find it difficult to believe any SWAT Team would disarm themselves to take a armed mentally ill suspect into custody. The “fact” she may have only had one bullet left in the gun, doesn’t mean she didn’t have additional ammunition available to her. Glad no officers were hurt in the encounter.

  • Any guess as to the cost of those personnel for 22 hours? I doubt if sonny will have the same gratitude if he gets the bill. My bet is, that bill will be kept hush hush since the Sheriff got some good press out of it. The county will not survive on “feel Good” moments (22 hours) like these!

  • Good for the Sheriff’s Dept. getting some good press for not having to use deadly force during a precarious situation where it commonly and clearly would have been justified under these circumstances. The big however is that were this type of response utilized as a “model for how LE interacts with the mentally ill,” the number of LE officers killed will skyrocket. LE tactics have evolved over decades in response to methodical debriefings and studies subsequent to fatalities resulting from these volatile and deadly situations. The goal has always been to conclude these scenarios without loss of life. But feel good responses to mentally unstable suspects will mostly lead to tragic outcomes for LE on scene. This situation is the exception and should not be seen as a realistic approach to these extremely volatile situations.

  • Weigh the 22 hours of O/T vs. killing someone and the certain lawsuit and settlement that will follow .. This is , of course , not even talking about the fact that NO ONE got dead. You can love the job, but maintain a sense of humanity or you will never survive. Trust me.

  • I agree with you LTB. SEB should have killed the old woman early on and saved the county some money. Good thinking.

  • Well stated, Interested. As you, i would never advocate reckless tactics for the purposes of public opinion or praise. This is one case where time prevailed… not always.

  • Don’t know if the citations for ‘Commendable Restraint of Deadly Force ” are still on the books but they go back three Sheriffs. In fact I personaly gave several. Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot , consider this. If an unfavorable incident should happen, it would bode well to have been commended for prior incidents.

  • @10. No sweet cheeks not sarcasm but reality.

    I’m surprised you haven’t been indicted yet.

    You’re forever marked with the Scarlet Letter of T.

  • Dulce……You need a cup of S.T.F.U.

    Put away your bass drum and pom poms. Paul is gone.

  • Now if. I had been in charge of that element, that old bag would have been toast the instant she fired a weapon or pointed it in a threatening manner. Once again proof that folks want to keep their jobs and are avoiding anything proactive that may lead to bad press. And guess what, yup, I’ll be doing the lords work on a double tonite, sleeves rolled up, ink showing, chewing my favorite tobacco product. Thanks again to the old timers who were the foundation of this mess we are in.

  • Dulce is either a poser or off his meds , or both. Stupid is as Stupid does.

  • Wow….what a statement..”Thanks again to the old timers who were the foundation of this mess we are in.” Those “old timer” are why this country exists and the department has successfully served the people of Los Angeles County for over 100+ years. Those “old timers” fought the many wars that have kept the “kiddies” safe in bed and passed on their knowledge and experience as part of the continum of advancement, learning and improvement. Those “old timers” set the foundation for how we do things and oftentimes at the expense of their blood…their sweat….their tears. Don’t criticize the seasoned department members since the majority of them are hard working individuals and dedicated professionals who keep their heads down, dig in and get the work done. If you really are a member of the department, shame of them for allowing a “salt bag” like you to get through backgrounds, training and probation. The weeding out process didn’t catch you…but their’s still time. YOU don’t represent a good example of a “future leader” for the department. Hopefully you are just a “poser” and not a real LEO…Oh…Law Enforcement Officer in case you don’t get it.

  • So you know this “old bag”, personally and are second-guessing all the deputies on scene, SEB and the Sheriff, Is that it , TT ? You are one sick individual, whatever you real job is. I’ll save you the effort of a response. This is simply the opinion of an old , not as smart as you, had not spent as much time in the trenches as you, or worked a busy station…. Ole Retiree., Oh, to have your superior intelligence. My guess you are one of the chosen few who beat mentally ill who are in custody, for shits and giggles. You cannot be for real. If you truly have the stones, sign your name.

    John O’Brien

  • TT Bad Boy, when you used the word “Element” It revealed you are a booger eating moron that plays Call Of Duty you poser!

  • Stuff says dude I almost spit out my coffee lmao!!

    Oh yea one more thing

    NOMOREPPOA.COM Check it out!

  • @ anyone who gets agitated by or continues to respond to TT Bad Boy. I know who he is and it’s not my place to out him. Suffice it to say he is exactly what you all guessed and hardly worth the time.

  • You can’t hate TT Bad Boy that much. I’m not advocating his rants, however until public exposure recently that has torn LASD a new ass……that was the mindset of many deputies on this department.

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