Sheriff’s narcotics lieutenant charged with domestic battery

Sheriff Alex Villanueva
Sheriff Alex Villanueva holds a press conference earlier this year. In a lawsuit filed by a former senior sheriff’s official, Villanueva is accused of ordering the official to reinstate a lieutenant who was under investigation for domestic abuse. On Thursday, the lieutenant was charged in the incident.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s lieutenant was charged Wednesday with domestic battery and false imprisonment for an incident involving his wife in Beverly Hills a year ago.

Prosecutors charged Lt. Howard Fuchs with the two misdemeanor counts, after declining to file charges in January because his wife would not cooperate, according to a criminal complaint and an internal district attorney memo reviewed by The Times.

In a statement Thursday, the district attorney’s office cited video of the incident captured by security cameras and said that the decision to file charges was made after “senior managers reviewed previously unwatched footage and determined that we should file charges based upon the totality of the evidence.”

Fuchs did not immediately return a call requesting a comment Thursday.

The charges stem from an evening in September 2021, when Fuchs got into a “heated dispute” with his wife and grabbed her as she tried to leave, according to a Beverly Hills police report reviewed by The Times. They had earlier gone to dinner and both had been drinking alcohol, the report said. Fuchs had a firearm with him.


A witness called the police because he saw the pair arguing. The witness also heard the wife tell Fuchs to leave her alone. The witness said he saw Fuchs grab his wife aggressively “all over,” according to the report. When asked to elaborate, the witness told police to look at video from security cameras in the area.

A video reviewed by officers shows Fuchs “aggressively grab” his wife over the span of 10 minutes, the report said.

The wife told the police at the time that she did not believe Fuchs was trying to hurt her and that he didn’t do anything wrong. She didn’t have any visible injuries, the report said.

Fuchs has been a key member of the Sheriff’s Department’s narcotics team. After Fuchs was arrested and relieved of duty, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva pressured his command staff to bring him back to work, according to a legal claim filed by Robin Limon, a former assistant sheriff who is suing the department for retaliation.

Limon said in a legal filing that when it was suggested that Fuchs should return to work, she argued the department should wait until criminal and administrative investigations into the lieutenant were complete, according to the legal filing.

Villanueva dismissed her concerns, saying that his wife, who is involved in internal department issues, had “talked to the employee’s wife and it was now ‘a big nothing,’” the filing alleged. A few months later, the sheriff ordered Limon to bring Fuchs back, the filing said.

When asked in an interview about the alleged exchange in May, the sheriff’s wife, Vivian Villanueva, did not directly address whether she discussed the incident with the lieutenant’s wife.

She said: “I know the wife. ... I had a private discussion with my husband that I’m not willing to discuss. As far as I know, the whole legal process played out. I played no part in any criminal or administrative investigation.”


The lieutenant’s wife told The Times she did not discuss the incident with Vivian Villanueva. She said that she had a verbal argument with her husband, who never hit or hurt her in any way, and that he “never should have been arrested.”

The two couples appear to have a friendship outside of work. Months before the lieutenant was arrested, his wife gave the Villanuevas a dog tag for their new dog, Simon, that read “Deputy Simon,” according to a photo of the gift on Villanueva’s Instagram.