A video posted on YouTube shows a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy ignoring a call of a shooting while recording a personal message to his ex-girlfriend, sparking an investigation and condemnation from the sheriff himself.
The video, recorded several months ago, was made public last month by Priscilla Anderson, the deputy's ex-girlfriend, after she felt L.A. County sheriff's officials ignored her when she reported the deputy's misconduct in emails and phone calls.
"No one was doing anything; all the emails, phone calls — nothing. I just wanted to put it out there and let people know what was going on," Anderson said.
In the video, the deputy is in uniform, wearing sunglasses and sitting inside his patrol car, recording a message for Anderson when a radio call of a shooting comes through. The deputy, who has been identified by the Sheriff's Department as Jeremy Fennell, 26, pauses to hear the call before speaking to the camera.
"Someone is getting shot right now, damn…. I know I got to go, but I'm not going to go because you're mad. So I'm not going to go," Fennell says in the video.
"Someone's getting shot — oh well … oh well … because I want to make things right with me and you first. Because you're mad for no reason and you don't need to be mad."
Sheriff Jim McDonnell said that he was deeply concerned about Fennell's actions and that an internal investigation is underway.
"I am very disturbed at what appears on the video," McDonnell said. "The behavior does not reflect any of the department's values."
Experts in police training and tactics said ignoring calls for help is a serious violation of duty for law enforcement officers and should bring significant consequences.
"It is flat-out inexcusable," Ed Obayashi, a Northern California deputy, law enforcement attorney and training expert, said of the video. "There is no excuse, period. What you have here in our business is a gross dereliction of duty.… When someone is shot at and you don't respond, that is plain stupid."
Seth Stoughton, a former Florida police officer and University of South Carolina law professor, agreed, adding: "This is a shot-fired call … there are higher-priority calls by a dispatcher, but there aren't many more than this one."
In 2013, Miami-Dade police fired several officers and suspended others after an investigation showed they repeatedly ignored crime calls.
In one case, an officer was accused of ignoring calls for armed robberies and other crimes to meet his girlfriend at a shopping mall parking lot.
The L.A. County Sheriff's Department said Fennell was relieved of duty on Jan. 25 after being arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. He has not been charged with a crime, and the Los Angeles district attorney's office said it continues to review the allegations.
Fennell could not be reached for comment. His attorney's office declined to comment on either the video or the domestic violence allegations.
The video was first reported by WitnessLA, a nonprofit news site about criminal justice.
Anderson alleges that Fennell choked and hit her on Jan. 23-24. She also said he pointed his department-issued gun at her, then had her point the weapon at him as he stated, "I can't live like this."
"I was scared," Anderson said. "I felt very terrified. Everything was all over the place; my nerves, I was crying, I didn't what to do and how to react to it."
"After I was able to leave and go home, I knew he wasn't going to stop," she said. "He continued to call me after I had left, and I needed to go ahead and do something more."
Anderson's final restraining order was approved Feb. 23.
Anderson said other videos that she did not make public show deputies recording themselves while driving their patrol cars and responding to calls.
"You can hear them every time saying, 'We're not allowed to use our phones while driving,' and they're recording as they're driving or getting ready to pull people over," Anderson said.
The videos were mostly recorded while Anderson and Fennell were dating from September 2016 to January.
Ben Meiselas, an attorney with Geragos & Geragos who is representing Anderson, said the law firm is calling on the department for a robust investigation into the Sheriff's Department's Lakewood Station.
"We want to hear from the sheriff about what he's going to do about this, because this is one of the most despicable breaches of trust of the public at large and of Priscilla Anderson," Meiselas said. "If the sheriff is willing to cover physical abuse by their own officers, what does that say about other victims of abuse and within the community at large?"
The Sheriff's Department, addressing public outcry over the video, said in a statement that it was "very concerned" about it and was taking "appropriate action."
"Allegations of this magnitude are disturbing and disappointing," the department said. "They strike at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department at its core, as responding to public safety requests and calls for help is what we do."
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3:25 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from legal and policing experts as well as background on a case involving Miami-Dade police.