2nd former L.A. deputy sentenced to federal prison for abducting Compton skateboarder

A line of sheriff's deputies
Sheriff’s deputies move protesters away from a picket organized by the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police at the home of Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Miguel Vega, who fatally shot Andres Guardado on Aug. 2, 2020.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy to 18 months in prison for conspiring to violate the civil rights of a 23-year-old skateboarder.

Christopher Hernandez is the second former sheriff’s deputy sentenced to prison in connection with the case of Jesus Alegria, who accused the two deputies of kidnapping and abusing him after he yelled at them to stop picking on teens in a Compton park. The deputies forced Alegria into the back of their cruiser minutes before crashing the vehicle while chasing another man, prosecutors said, then fabricated a drug arrest to cover it all up.

In December, Hernandez’s former partner — ex-deputy Miguel Vega — was sentenced to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. As a result of their criminal convictions, last month the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training deemed both deputies ineligible to work as police officers or deputies in California.


Though he did not speak in court on Tuesday, Allegria in a written victim impact statement described emptiness and anger that have haunted him since the false arrest. He said he still struggles to be comfortable in public places.

“I thought these catastrophes only happened in the movies,” he wrote, before going on to address the deputies: “What goes around comes around.”

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Prosecutors had recommended a year-long prison sentence, but U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said that was not long enough for Hernandez, who he said “undermines the public confidence in law enforcement, undercuts efforts to reform the department and harms the morale of the men and women who strive to serve and protect.”

Michael D. Williamson, Hernandez’s attorney, argued his client deserved a lighter sentence because his culpability was “dramatically less” than his former partner’s and because “he did not actively engage” in some of the crimes committed.

“He covered up, just like Vega did,” Anderson responded. “He had a chance to come forward on numerous occasions and refused to do that.”

When Hernandez spoke at sentencing, he offered an apology to Alegria.

“My actions that day in April of 2020 were reprehensible, wrong and illegal,” Hernandez said. “I hope one day Mr. Jesus Alegria can forgive me for my actions and or lack of actions that day.”


Both former deputies were relieved of duty in connection with their treatment of Alegria in late 2020, by which point they’d already both been involved in another high-profile case, the killing of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, who was shot in the back after a foot chase. Coming on the heels of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Guardado’s death prompted weeks of protests and eventually led to a hefty legal settlement.

In an emailed statement on Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Department said that it had cooperated with federal agencies investigating the Alegria case and condemned the former deputies’ actions.

“Actions that violate the public’s trust and our commitment to serving our community in an ethical and responsible manner are not acceptable,” the statement said. “The Department is dedicated to upholding the highest standards of integrity and accountability and will not accept anything less from our employees.”

Last fall, when the former deputies finally admitted in their plea agreements what they’d done to Alegria, their stories echoed the allegations detailed three years ago in a Times investigation.

On the afternoon of April 13, 2020, according to the plea deals, Vega and Hernandez pulled up to a group of young Black men outside a skate park in Compton. The deputies got out of their cruiser and ordered the men to lift their shirts.

From inside the skate park, 23-year-old Alegria yelled at the deputies to stop harassing the kids. But Vega — who court records show later admitted he was using steroids and “angry” — screamed at the skateboarder and challenged him to a fight.


Hernandez stood guard as Vega grabbed Alegria and pulled him through an opening in the fence, according to a recently filed sentencing memo. When incredulous onlookers asked what Alegria had done wrong, Hernandez claimed the skateboarder had challenged his partner to a fight, the memo said.

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“Defendant knew full well that his assertion was false, as, in fact, his partner Vega had challenged J.A. to a fight merely because J.A. (correctly) told the deputies to leave the young African-American males alone,” prosecutors wrote in the memo, referring to Alegria by his initials. “Defendant further knew that he and Vega had no lawful basis whatsoever to detain or arrest J.A. at that or any point.”

According to court filings and the deputies’ own admissions, Vega then shoved the skateboarder into the back of the cruiser as Hernandez watched. The two didn’t handcuff Alegria or even ask his name.

Instead, according to the memo, they “proceeded to taunt and terrorize” Alegria, threatening to beat him up, kick him out of the car in a gang-controlled neighborhood and tell people on the street that he belonged to a rival group.

Then, court records say, Vega hinted he and Hernandez would lie and say Alegria was on drugs to justify picking him up. In his plea agreement, Hernandez admitted that he did nothing to interfere, even though he didn’t believe Alegria had been using drugs.

“The deputies’ taunts, threats, and bullying were only interrupted when Vega saw and began pursuing a young male on a bicycle down a narrow alleyway in the SUV after the male purportedly had grabbed at his waistband,” prosecutors wrote in the sentencing memo.


When Vega started driving down the alley, he crashed the cruiser into a concrete wall, then climbed out the window and told Alegria to leave. According to the sentencing memo, Hernandez told Vega he was an “idiot” for letting the skateboarder leave, because it could mess up their cover story.

According to court filings, Vega then got on the radio and reported a man fleeing with a gun whose clothing matched what Alegria had on that day. When other deputies picked him up, they drove him to a hospital, where Alegria said they pressured him to sign a citation for being under the influence of methamphetamine — a drug he later told The Times he had “never even touched.”

In the plea agreement, Hernandez admitted he told another deputy at the hospital to issue the citation even though he knew it wasn’t true. Then, he and Vega wrote up false reports to cover up what had happened.

In early 2021, Alegria sued both deputies, saying they’d fabricated the drug charge and the arrest report to justify their reckless behavior. Last year, the county agreed to settle for $450,000.

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But it wasn’t until April of last year that federal authorities indicted and arrested the pair. At the time, attorney Humberto Guizar, who represented Alegria in his lawsuit, lauded the move.

“I’m very pleased to learn that these two corrupt deputies were arrested and charged with a federal crime,” he told The Times. “Hopefully that will be a deterrent.”


Prosecutors said they requested leniency for Hernandez because he did not “spearhead the violations” to Alegria’s rights to the same degree as Vega and cooperated after his indictment. But in court on Tuesday, Anderson faulted the former deputy for not speaking up sooner.

“He had numerous opportunities to come forward to display the courage to do what’s right, but failed to do so,” he said. “This is a startling example that the cover-up is worse than the crime itself.”

Afterward, Hernandez’s lawyer called the sentence “excessive.”

“To me, that takes away any incentive for future law enforcement officers to ever cooperate,” Williamson said.

Neither deputy has faced criminal charges in connection with Guardado’s killing, which happened two months after the incident involving Alegria.

In June of 2020, Vega and Hernandez were on patrol when they spotted Guardado talking with someone outside an auto body shop. The Sheriff’s Department said Guardado brandished a gun and ran into an alley, and the deputies chased him. An autopsy showed that Vega shot the teen five times in the back. Vega’s attorney said Guardado was reaching for a gun.

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The killing sparked outcry from activists and led to increased scrutiny of the Compton sheriff’s station, which has been plagued by allegations of a deputy gang known as the Executioners. A whistleblower later claimed that Vega and Hernandez were prospective members of the group. Their attorneys denied the allegation.


In late 2020, Guardado’s family filed a lawsuit that the county eventually settled for $8 million. In his victim impact statement, Alegria remembered the slain teen.

“I hope for change, I hope for justice to be served,” Alegria wrote. “Rest in peace to Andres Guardado.”