Eight Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies have been fired after more than two years of official inquiries into the fatal 1990 shooting and beating of a black kidnaping suspect in North Long Beach, sheriff's sources said Friday.
State law prohibits law enforcement agencies from disclosing an officer's discharge. But a spokesman for Sheriff Sherman Block confirmed that six deputies, whose names had surfaced in a district attorney's investigation into the death of Arthur Jones, 32, left the force this month.
The spokesman identified the six as Jason Mann, Douglas Creighton, Douglas Gillies, Curtis Golden, Thomas Brownell and Timothy Running, who had each served six to eight years with the Sheriff's Department.
The names of the two other terminated deputies could not be learned Friday.
All eight had been placed on paid leave last summer during an investigation of Jones' death by the Sheriff's Department Internal Investigations Bureau.
Jones allegedly was beaten with a flashlight after being mortally wounded during a pursuit. Several deputies also were alleged to have concealed the amount of force used.
"The investigation has been completed and appropriate action has been taken," Sheriff's Sgt. Larry Lincoln said Friday in a brief statement. "We're not at liberty to disclose what that action is for fear of violating" state law.
Lt. Bill McSweeney of the Internal Investigations Bureau would only say that action had been taken against "a number of deputies" in connection with "an incident a couple of years ago."
However, other Sheriff's Department sources confirmed that there had been a total of eight firings in the case.
The deputies involved could not be reached for comment.
Richard Shinee, an attorney for the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, which represents the fired deputies, said:
"You have six names and I can't confirm one way or another the circumstances of why they left the service. But I can confirm that there has been disciplinary action against certain deputies associated with the arrest and capture of Arthur Jones."
The terminated deputies have the right to appeal their firings to the county Civil Service Commission.
There have now been at least 11 firings of deputies involved in three controversial shootings of black and Latino suspects in 1990 or 1991, when criticism has intensified over alleged undue use of force by Los Angeles County sheriff's officers.
A report on the department by retired Superior Court Judge James G. Kolts last July found a "deeply disturbing" pattern of excessive force and brutality by deputies. At the time, Block said he concurred that these were critical issues.
He also said that he embraced the spirit in which the Kolts criticisms were made. However, since then the sheriff has taken issue with some of the report's findings.
In the Jones case, the suspect was allegedly seen by deputies March 1, 1990, robbing and kidnaping a man at gunpoint in Compton.
In a 10-minute chase, deputies fired at Jones as he crashed through several blockades, ran stop signs and threw a shotgun out the car window. He was hit by a bullet that fractured a vertebra in his neck. An autopsy showed that this was a mortal wound, although Jones did not die for three days.
According to the report of a district attorney's investigation, Jones finally crashed his vehicle into a center divider in North Long Beach and stepped out with his hands raised. Deputies said he resisted, and that when he suddenly moved, as if to reach for a weapon, he was struck several times with a flashlight.
However, the coroner's report concluded the beating was so severe that it might have killed Jones had he not already been mortally wounded.
Although the district attorney's office concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the deputies, its report said "the injuries to Mr. Jones . . . may indicate that the force used was excessive."
The specific conclusions of the sheriff's investigation were not divulged Friday. But department representatives have often said that they require a much higher standard for employment of a deputy than simple non-criminal behavior on duty.
Although Jones' name was not used, the circumstances surrounding his death were also cited in the Kolts report as an example of questionable use of force.
The Kolts report noted that the coroner found "numerous horizontal welts on the suspect's back" and observed that sheriff's investigators had begun looking into the incident when they found "difficulty in reconciling evidence of a severe beating occurring after a fatal gunshot wound." It added that department investigators also were disturbed by "a significant underreporting of the force used" by deputies.
None of the deputies involved in the shooting were identified in the Kolts report. But the study referred to one of the unnamed deputies--an officer who fired six shots at Jones and hit him with a flashlight--as one of the department's "problem officers." The Kolts report gave the designation to 62 officers responsible for nearly 500 separate force or harassment investigations.
Mann, one of the deputies that the sheriff's spokesman confirmed Friday is no longer with the department, was involved in a shooting in August, 1991, that led to a five-hour standoff between officers and residents of a Ramona Gardens housing project.
In that incident, Mann fired three shots into the chest of Arturo (Smokey) Jiminez and killed the 19-year-old gang member during a confrontation.
After a months-long internal investigation, the Sheriff's Department cleared the deputy of wrongdoing and said Mann had acted within the department guidelines for the use of deadly force.
Investigators said the deputy was merely protecting himself after Jiminez, who allegedly had grabbed a flashlight from Mann's partner, knocked the officer down and was about to assault the pair when he was killed.
Witnesses disputed that account and said Mann fired for no reason and without warning. The shooting sparked a confrontation between hundreds of housing project residents and dozens of sheriff's deputies and Los Angeles police officers.