Sheriff Baca’s not good, very strange week -- plus a snow leopard


It was a little strange altogether — considering that the overriding issue this week in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department was its abominable treatment of inmates in its jails — to note that Sheriff Lee Baca felt he needed to leave his personal stamp on the case of a group of miscreant teenagers.

About 100 teens are thought to have broken into a vacant La Habra Heights mansion for a wild party, and 16 of them have been charged with looting the place of pretty much anything that could be carried, including designer suits and a mounted snow leopard valued at $250,000. The place was also trashed, with total damage amounting to $1 million. It was definitely an oddball crime, but not a topic of tremendous importance to the county.

But Baca wasn’t inclined to leave this to his spokespeople — though considering the comments he delivered, he might have been better off doing so.


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The first question in many people’s minds might be why someone had a stuffed snow leopard, an endangered species, in his house and why such a thing would be worth actual money?

But Baca had other things on his mind. He noted that $1 million is a lot of money, and that it appears the teenagers were “kids of means,” which apparently was an attempt to say they didn’t really need a snow leopard anyway. He expressed befuddlement over the rudeness of people who want to have insanely wild parties for their failure to respect property. And then, he got to his strange key concern:

“The question is how are we going to pay back the owner for the loss?” Baca asked.

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Seriously? That’s the big question in his mind? And who’s “we,” sheriff? Are you planning a fundraiser, or are you suggesting that it’s the collective responsibility of taxpayers?

And are you thinking that someone who owns a $7 million house full of costly if occasionally tasteless tchotchkes lacks homeowners insurance and the wherewithal to sue the pants — designer or otherwise — off these kids?

At least we know that a quarter of the loss already has been made up. The snow leopard was recovered, unharmed — except for the fact that it was already dead.

The sheriff misplaced some of his priorities for sympathy this week. I imagine the public is a little more concerned about how the county will make up the damage done to the reputation of the Sheriff Department’s operations and to the people who were so badly mistreated in its jails than how this particular homeowner recovers from the crimes of allegedly thieving and vandalizing — not to mention rude — kids.


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