Formerly homeless veteran claims he was beaten by O.C. deputies

Orange County sheriff's deputies in riot gear
Orange County sheriff’s deputies in riot gear in 2017.
(Photo by Spencer Grant )
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A formerly homeless veteran claims in a legal complaint that he was beaten and tased by Orange County sheriff’s deputies.

Jeremy Holloway, who now lives in Pennsylvania, is seeking damages to aid with his ongoing health costs allegedly exacerbated by the beating, his attorney Narine Mkrtchyan said.

The alleged incident occurred in January 2018, when Holloway was approached by deputies at his tent in O’Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon.


Holloway, who was 41 at the time, was awakened by the deputies, who were following up on a report of domestic abuse, the complaint says.

Mkrtchyan said the sheriff’s department received a call from someone who said a woman and man were involved in the dispute, yet the deputies zeroed in on Holloway, who’s only companion was his dog.

Deputy Chad Renegar and another deputy searched Holloway’s belongings in the tent without his consent, the complaint says.

Once the deputies left, Holloway spoke to the neighbors he believed may have been responsible for the domestic abuse.

City officials, who’ve focused on addressing historic homelessness, are now considering how to keep citizens afloat as pandemic job losses grow and fewer are able to make ends meet.

Sept. 23, 2020

Mkrtchyan said the department then received another call of a woman screaming at the campsite. However, a police report said the caller indicated that a man was walking around the campsite searching for whoever called the police on him.

The deputies confronted Holloway, who according to Mkrtchyan, was on informal probation for insurance fraud at the time. According to the complaint, Holloway complied with a deputy’s orders to step away from his tent with his hands up.

“Suddenly and without provocation, at least one defendant punched Jeremy on the left side of his face, causing him to fall to the ground,” the complaint says. “Immediately after his fall, he had deputies get on top of him while choking him and kneeing him in the temple, maliciously causing him pain and suffering. While on the ground already detained, he was shot with a taser approximately five times.

“As he lay helpless on the ground bleeding profusely, he was ruthlessly attacked from all sides, and could feel the right side of his face get kneed and his head get kicked multiple times ...”

Holloway was left with bruised ribs and legs, a head injury, a severely bleeding and swollen face, loss of vision, severe pain in his back and periodic loss of consciousness, the complaint says.

Holloway is receiving treatment at a Veterans Affairs hospital near him in Pennsylvania for vision loss, headaches, backache and severe emotional distress, the complaint says.

The police report describes a much different picture, with Holloway refusing deputies’ orders leading to the violent arrest.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carrie Braun declined to comment because the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Braun did confirm that Renegar is on administrative leave, though she declined to provide any other information. It’s unclear whether the administrative leave is related to an investigation or the incident with Holloway.

Mkrtchyan said that she is seeking more information on Renegar.

“While no citizen should be subjected to such inhumane treatment by officers, the sacrifices Jeremy has made to serve his country make the mistreatment he experienced all the more reprehensible,” the complaint says.

Mkrtchyan said Holloway served as a Marine in Iraq.

In a July 2018 letter sent to Mkrtchyan, sheriff Capt. Sheryl Dubsky said that an investigation was conducted by the department in order to determine whether the conduct of the deputies violated policy.

“While I do not believe the deputy violated any policy or procedure, I do feel the situation may have been handled better,” Dubsky wrote.

Mkrtchyan said the department said that Holloway provoked the attack by resisting arrest and making threats toward the deputies. She said the district attorney’s office decided not to pursue a case against Holloway.

When reached for comment on the case, a D.A. spokeswoman redirected to the sheriff’s department for comment.

Mkrtchyan said the case is set for a jury trial starting in January.

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