L.A. County will pay $4.75 million to Black man beaten by deputies during traffic stop

A man with dark curly hair and a beard, with his eyes closed and his face bruised and swollen
Christopher Bailey filed a lawsuit against L.A. County alleging that six sheriff’s deputies assaulted him during a traffic stop in May 2020.
(Toni J. Jaramilla)
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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to pay a $4.75-million settlement to a Black man who filed a lawsuit after he was beaten so badly by sheriff’s deputies that he wound up with permanent eye damage, missing teeth and facial fractures.

Christopher Bailey said he was driving home from work in 2020 when two deputies pulled him over in Inglewood, then dragged him from his car and beat him without any apparent provocation. Minutes later, four other deputies joined in and began kicking him as he lay on the ground, according to a federal lawsuit filed two years ago.

The deputies involved denied wrongdoing in court filings and the district attorney’s office ultimately declined to press charges, but lawyers for the county agreed to settle and this week supervisors approved the payment.


Toni J. Jaramilla, one of the lawyers representing Bailey, celebrated the conclusion to the three-year saga, telling The Times it would help bring “some measure” of justice.

“However, full justice in this case will be the immediate termination and criminal prosecution of each and every Los Angeles County Sheriff deputy involved who, as we alleged, beat, tasered, and tortured Mr. Bailey so badly that he was heard pleading for his life,” Jaramilla said. “The trauma he suffered is long-lasting.”

Lawyers who represented the county and the deputies — one of whom the Civilian Oversight Commission later identified as a member of the Grim Reapers deputy gang — did not respond to an emailed request for a statement.


The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said late Wednesday that it takes every use of force incident seriously and that in this case the force occurred because the driver resisted arrest.

“Any incident involving the use of force is unfortunate and not the standard of practice within the department,” the department said in a statement.

According to Bailey’s lawsuit, on May 4, 2020, he was driving home from work about 2 a.m. when he was stopped on Prairie Avenue for allegedly straddling the road’s lanes.


Two deputies pulled him out of his car, the lawsuit said, and “without warning, proceeded to assault and batter” him. The deputies later told investigators that they thought he was reaching for a weapon, and said that he hit one of them with his elbow — a claim Bailey’s attorney has denied.

One deputy put him in a chokehold, Bailey said, while the other punched him repeatedly — even though he was unarmed and had nothing in his pockets or hands, according to the lawsuit. Prosecutors later confirmed in a memo that authorities did not recover any weapons from the scene.

The deputies who pulled Bailey over called for backup, and four others arrived to join the fray. According to the lawsuit, they spent several minutes punching and kicking Bailey as he lay on the ground pleading for his life. One of the deputies used a Taser on him, they later told investigators.

A Black man has filed a lawsuit over what he alleges was an unprovoked beating by six L.A. County sheriff’s deputies during a traffic stop last year.

June 22, 2021

The district attorney’s office — then under Jackie Lacey — charged Bailey with three felonies for resisting arrest, as well as two marijuana-related misdemeanors. The felonies and one of the misdemeanors were later dropped. Bailey’s lawyers said he pleaded no contest and was found guilty of the other misdemeanor and a vehicle code violation. According to a memo authored by prosecutors, Bailey had 3 pounds of marijuana in the car, which he said was for personal use.

After they filed the lawsuit in 2021, Bailey’s attorneys provided to The Times video recorded by a bystander, which showed Bailey — his face bleeding and eyes swollen — being lifted into an ambulance in the aftermath of the incident.

“He doesn’t even look human,” someone can be heard saying in the video.

According to the suit, Bailey suffered permanent vision loss and had to undergo multiple facial reconstruction surgeries.


The lawsuit sought damages for battery, negligence and deprivations of civil rights based on excessive and unreasonable force.

“I want justice — to hold them accountable for what they did to me,” he told The Times in 2021.

It’s unclear whether the deputies are still with the department, but the district attorney’s office formally declined to charge them this year. The deputies did not have body cameras, so the only video of the incident was the recording captured by two “police watchers” who showed up at the end of the struggle after hearing chatter about it on their radios. In the video, prosecutors said, Bailey did not appear combative.

However, prosecutors wrote, multiple deputies testified that Bailey had violently resisted arrest and at one point reached toward his waistband. Bailey’s denial of those claims was “insufficient” to rebut the deputies’ accounts, prosecutors said.

“It is undisputed that the deputies punched Bailey numerous times to the face and head, which resulted in substantial injuries,” the memo said. “However, the non-lethal use of force and the extent of Bailey’s injuries, standing alone, does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the force was not necessary.”

The settlement in Bailey’s case is the latest in a long string of high-dollar payouts for cases involving the Sheriff’s Department. Last year, supervisors agreed to more than $47 million in payouts in a single meeting, the largest of which was an $8-million payment to the family of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, whose killing sparked protests in 2020.


This year, the county agreed to a hefty payout — a $13.5-million settlement in addition to a $15-million court verdict — for the family of Kobe Bryant, concluding three years of litigation that began after deputies shared graphic photos of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed the Lakers star, his daughter and seven others.