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L.A. County to pay $2.75 million in deputy beating of mentally ill man

L.A. County sheriff's deputies
The payout settles the lawsuit brought by Barry Montgomery, who was confronted by Compton station deputies on patrol in a Willowbrook park.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to pay $2.75 million to a mentally disabled man who was beaten by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies.

The payout settles a lawsuit filed by the man, Barry Montgomery, who was confronted in a Willowbrook park in July 2014 by deputies from the department’s Compton station.

In a report recommending the board approve the settlement, county officials summarized the incident. In it, they wrote that deputies claimed they smelled marijuana when they approached Montgomery and asked him if he was smoking. Montgomery responded with profanity and yelled out the name of a gang, the report says.

After determining Montgomery had no warrants out against him, deputies asked if he was carrying anything illegal, but Montgomery didn’t respond, according to the report. One deputy then ordered him to turn around with his hands behind his back. Montgomery, the report says, did not comply and threatened to kill the deputies with “my deuce-deuce,” referring to a .22-caliber firearm. He then allegedly threw a punch toward the deputy.

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Deputies tackled him to the ground and beat him, leaving him with a broken nose and rib fractures, according to the report. Montgomery’s mother arrived and told deputies that her son was diagnosed when he was 14 with schizophrenia and Tourette syndrome.

Deputies found Montgomery was carrying less than an ounce of marijuana and no weapons.

Investigators could not verify claims made by Montgomery’s family that an unknown number of deputies fired their guns and used Tasers on Montgomery before dragging him into a nearby restroom to assault him. Investigators did not find witnesses or security camera footage, and deputies were not outfitted with body cameras at the time.

Montgomery was booked on suspicion of resisting a peace officer and possessing marijuana, and prosecutors charged him with two felonies. When two deputies testified at a preliminary hearing in the case, they gave conflicting statements about the force deputies had used on Montgomery, the county report says.

The charges against Montgomery were reduced after the preliminary hearing and ultimately dropped because he was found incompetent to stand trial, according to the report.

An internal Sheriff’s Department investigation determined the deputies had acted within department policy on the use of force. A department committee that reviews such cases recommended the deputies receive additional training, which the deputies completed, the report says.

Supervisors on Tuesday also agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Lyle Spruill, who alleged deputies from the Century station fabricated a story that he shot at them and then withheld evidence that contradicted their account of the 2019 incident.


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