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Sheriff’s deputies accused of covering up on-duty assault in East L.A.

Deputies stand in a line in their uniforms
Two L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies face charges they lied about an assault on a suspect following a pursuit.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were charged Wednesday with lying to cover up an on-duty assault, prosecutors said.

Deputies Woodrow Kim and Jonathan Miramontes each face a felony count of filing a false report about an incident in which Kim allegedly knocked a suspect to the ground using the door of his patrol car, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said. Kim is also charged with assault under the color of authority in the incident.

“Peace officers must do their job lawfully and truthfully,” Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a statement. “There is no place in law enforcement for officers who use illegal force and then lie to cover up their crime or the crime of another officer.”

The deputies are due in court Thursday. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was not immediately clear whether they had yet retained attorneys.

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The charges stem from a September 2018 incident in East L.A. Both deputies responded to a report that the people in a black BMW had threatened someone with a gun.

The deputies briefly chased the BMW to Ruben Salazar Park. At some point, a passenger in the car fled on foot and the deputies went after him in their patrol car.

Prosecutors allege that Kim, 39, opened the driver’s side door and knocked the man to the ground. He and Miramontes, 30, are accused of lying in their reports about what happened. Details about what the deputies wrote in their reports were not available.

When Kim and Miramontes went in pursuit of the man, other deputies remained focused on the BMW. According to Sheriff’s Department and district attorney records, a man got out of the driver’s side and opened fire on the deputies. A shootout ensued, leaving the driver and another passenger who remained in the BMW dead. Two deputies, along with a law enforcement technician who was doing a ride-along, were injured.

Capt. John Satterfield, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman, said both Kim and Miramontes have been relieved of duty and have “no peace officer powers.”

The case, he added, was investigated by the Sheriff’s Department and demonstrated Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s “commitment to transparency and accountability.”

Villanueva “expects all of our members to hold themselves to the highest ethical and professional standards at all times,” Satterfield said.

Kim was previously investigated for a 2011 on-duty incident involving force used on a jail inmate. Another deputy and a custody assistant were also investigated in that case. Prosecutors declined to file criminal charges, saying the inmate’s statements were inconsistent.

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The charges are the latest in a string of cases Gascón has brought against law enforcement officers in the county since taking office in December, including other deputies from the Sheriff’s Department’s East L.A. station.


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