Tu Anh Tran, a college student convicted of manslaughter in the death of a friend who was shot by an off-duty security guard during a fight last year, on Monday began a campaign to educate youths not to get in trouble.
Tran, 22, launched his effort on public radio station KUCI-FM and KSCI-TV, Channel 18.
He told of the incident that led to his arrest and his treatment during his nine months in jail.
Tran was released from jail after he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Kinh Van Chu, 37, in a Westminster restaurant in April.
In exchange for his plea, he was given three years' probation.
"It was the last day of spring break when my friend got shot and I got shot in my back," he said Monday.
"I woke up in the hospital and police said, 'You are under arrest for murder.' But I never shot anyone. I didn't even have a weapon."
In his radio message and television interview, Tran said he was kicked and beaten by authorities in jail, was denied medical attention and was in so much pain from the shooting that he could hardly walk.
Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Darrell Poncy said he was not aware of Tran's case and that authorities treat inmates appropriately.
"I don't believe (Tran) was kicked and beaten, and we have emergency services 24 hours a day for people who complain of pain," he said.
Tran said that he contemplated committing suicide while he was in jail, because he says he is innocent.
"I thought about killing myself a lot of times," said Tran, who has enrolled again at Rancho Santiago College.
He said he will pursue a law degree to become a criminal defense lawyer. He said his dream of becoming a public school soccer coach was shattered because he has a criminal record.
Tran's case has captured the attention of a number of community groups who believe he is innocent and who have vowed to help him spread his message.
"My future is ruined and everything is gone just because I've been in jail. I never hurt anyone in my life, but now I have voluntary manslaughter over my head," he said.
"So I just want to tell kids to be careful of where you go (and) what kind of friends they hang around with . . . before it's too late."