L.A. County to pay $47.6 million over alleged misconduct by sheriff’s deputies
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to pay $47.6 million to settle several lawsuits alleging misconduct by sheriff’s deputies. The payouts include $8 million for the family of Andres Guardado, whose killing prompted large protests.
The settlements resolve five cases. In three of them, deputies shot people, in one deputies failed to prevent a man from killing himself in jail, and in another a man, whose family said he was suffering a mental health crisis, died after being violently restrained by deputies. The board approved each settlement unanimously.
Lt. Lorena Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department, said: “When the Board of Supervisors directs County Counsel to do a matador defense on LASD lawsuits, this is what happens.” Asked to explain what she meant, Rodriguez said: “Ma’am, you figure it out.”
Sheriff Alex Villanueva in the past has accused county attorneys of sabotaging the department in lawsuits to drive up litigation costs and keep money way from the department’s budget.
Typically members of the Board of Supervisors do not publicly discuss proposed settlements before voting to approve or reject them. And it is unusual for the board to deal with several multimillion-dollar settlements in one meeting.
But on Tuesday, Supervisor Holly Mitchell said she was “astonished” by the sum of the proposed payouts stemming from just the sheriff’s department, and so requested a discussion.
She said the cases included “a range of extremely disturbing allegations. We are confronting deputy-involved shootings, in-custody death and excessive use of force claims.”
“I would hope that the department head would take a long, hard look at actions and policies of his department and the costly actions of his department before continuing to complain that this board is defunding said department,” Mitchell said.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl referenced her own run-in with the Sheriff’s Department, which raided her home in September as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
“I realized that it was a very small taste of what communities go through every day in our more impoverished communities and communities of color,” Kuehl said. “I feel like they are so deserving of these settlements. And yet they should never, never, never have experienced this behavior.”
The largest settlement Tuesday — $16.5 million — was awarded to Timothy Neal, who was shot by deputies in 2019 after they breached the door of his bedroom, where he was holding two knives, according to the district attorney’s review of the incident.
According to the district attorney memo, Neal’s mother had called the department the day before, saying that her son was psychotic and trying to kill her. Deputies responded, but left after an hours-long standoff during which Neal threw objects at them while refusing to leave his room.
The mother called deputies again the next day to get him out of the home. When they entered his bedroom, he threw a champagne bottle at them while holding the knives, the memo said.
Prosecutors declined to file charges against the deputies, concluding that they acted in self-defense.
Neal’s attorney, Dale Galipo, said that the shooting left his client paraplegic, which he said is partly why the settlement figure is so high.
“Because of that he’s going to need lifetime medical care — that played into the damage calculations, the past and most important, future medical expenses,” Galipo said.
A similar settlement amount — over $16.2 million — was approved for the family of Eric Briceno, who died in 2020 after being beaten and Tasered in his family’s Maywood home.
His mother, Blanca Briceno, has said that she called the sheriff’s department in hopes of getting help for her son, who was in the midst of a mental health crisis. At one point, she said, deputies grabbed her phone when she tried to record their efforts to restrain her son.
Coroner’s officials concluded that Eric Briceno, 39, died of cardiopulmonary arrest, resulting from neck compression and restraint with a Taser.
“They had a privilege of being out on the streets, going home seeing their families — they deprived me of all of that,” Blanca Briceno said Tuesday, referring to the deputies who killed her son. “These deputies didn’t just take my son’s life. ... They took a life of peace and tranquility of my family and mine.”
The county will also pay $8 million to the family of Andres Guardado, who was shot five times in the back by a sheriff’s deputy.
Sheriff’s officials have said Guardado displayed a handgun when two deputies spotted him outside an auto body shop, where Guardado’s family said he worked as a security guard.
The deputies chased Guardado down a driveway. He had surrendered, placed the handgun on the ground and was lying face down when one of the deputies, Miguel Vega, approached to cinch handcuffs around the teenager’s wrists, Vega’s attorney previously told The Times.
According to the deputy’s account, Guardado reached for the gun, prompting Vega to unholster his service weapon and fire six shots, five of which hit Guardado.
The district attorney’s office is still deciding whether to file charges against the deputies in the deaths of Guardado and Briceno, a spokesperson said Tuesday.
The county will also pay $5 million to the wife and daughter of a man, Pedro Lopez, who was struck during a shootout between deputies and a carjacking suspect, according to a County Counsel memo recommending the board approve the settlement.
In that case, the memo said sheriff’s deputies were chasing a carjacking suspect who ran into Lopez’s yard and got into a shootout with deputies. Lopez was shot and killed during the exchange of gunfire.
The mother and five children of Rufino Paredes, who died by suicide in the Sheriff’s Department’s custody, will be paid $1.9 million.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.