Tattooed cliques within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have been a problem for decades. These gang-like groups, primarily consisting of deputies who serve in black and Latino communities, have been repeatedly linked to allegations of police misconduct and excessive force.
The problem has resurfaced recently in Compton. In a deposition for the 50-million dollar claim filed by the family of Donta Taylor, gunned down in 2016 by Compton Deputies Samuel Aldama and Mizrain Orrego, Deputy Aldama allowed that the tattoo on his calf of a screaming death head wearing an SS-style helmet and surrounded by flames is associated with the Compton Station. Aldama got his tattoo two months before killing Donta Taylor.
Both deputies claimed that Taylor was dressed in gang attire and that he pulled a gun out before he took off running. They further claimed Taylor was holding a gun right before they opened fire on him after cornering him in a wash following a prolonged foot chase. However, no gun has been recovered.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
The LASD is the largest Sheriff’s department in the nation, and
- Runs the LA County jail system
- Provides security for LA Superior Court
- Patrols unincorporated communities in the county and 42 cities
- Provides contract services for Metrolink
And has several other areas of responsibility.
Unfortunately, police misconduct is an ongoing issue within this powerful organization, with LASD deputies
- Beating prisoners and leaving victims critically wounded
- Falsifying statements and evidence
- Sexually harassing prisoners
- Demanding sexual favors from female LASD recruits
- Sexual assault of minor child
- Brutalizing an entire community of people of color and trying to run them out of town
- Forming gang-like cliques with matching tattoos which glorify violence and excessive force
California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act
Even a cursory glance at the STEP Act Section 186.22 list, which enumerates criminal activities which constitute cause for gang-enhancement of a conviction, shows that LASD deputy sheriffs have themselves operated like a criminal street gang. Specifically, deputies have faced accusations of
- (1) Assault with a deadly weapon
- (3) Unlawful homicide or manslaughter
- (5) Shooting at an inhabited dwelling or occupied motor vehicle
- (8) The intimidation of witnesses and victims
- (12) Rape
- (18) Torture
The fact that deputies actually form cliques with matching tattoos is alarming. Tattooed LASD cliques have been found to be most active in stations located in non-white communities. If you ask an African American or Hispanic resident who they fear more, the street gangs or LASD deputies patrolling their neighborhoods you will likely get some disturbing answers.
Over the decades, members of LASD cliques have been accused numerous times of police misconduct. In most cases, after a lawsuit is filed by the victim or the victim’s family the department settles to put a stop to the bad publicity and avoid a public trial. LASD settlements have cost taxpayers over one-hundred million dollars since 2011!
LASD Cliques in the News
In 1991, during a class action Civil Rights Lawsuit filed by the NAACP and Lynwood residents against the LASD, Federal District Court Judge Terry Hatter wrote:
“The actions of many deputies working in the Lynwood substation are motivated by racial hostility… These deputies regularly disregard the civil rights of individuals they have sworn to protect. Many of the incidents which brought about this motion involved a group of Lynwood-area deputies who are members of a neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang–the Vikings–which exists with the knowledge of departmental policy makers.”
Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who rose to the powerful position of second in command of LASD, was a tattooed member of the Lynwood Vikings gang. Tanaka is now serving a five-year sentence in federal prison for conspiracy and obstruction of an FBI investigation of civil rights abuses within L.A. County’s jails.
Jump Out Boys
Seven LASD gang-unit deputies were fired in 2013 for belonging to a secret clique that celebrated violent encounters with suspects. The deputies sported matching tattoos with a red-eyed skull and a skeletal hand holding a gun. They enhanced the tattoos with smoke coming from the gun after officer-involved shootings. Although members of this clique weren’t convicted of any crime (law enforcement officers are rarely charged with a crime, no matter what they do), the clique glorified violence which, according to official department policy, should only be used as a last resort.
In 2016 Los Angeles County settled a lawsuit filed in 2014 by LASD deputy Guadalupe Lopez. Deputy Lopez’s lawsuit alleged female hazing and sexual harassment by a rogue clique of around eighty deputies, the Banditos, who sported matching skeleton tattoos and demanded sexual favors from female deputy trainees. Lopez alleged that the Banditos harassed her for not cooperating with their sexual demands and also for complaining about their illegal and predatory behavior. Lopez encountered the Banditos after she transferred to the East LA Sheriff Station to begin working patrols. She’d previously worked as a guard in the LA County jails.
Because of incidents like being run off the road by a fellow deputy, body slammed into a wall by an associate while she was holding a loaded shotgun, having her tires slashed and finding a dead rat beside her car door Lopez went on stress-related leave. The lawsuit alleged that this tattooed deputy gang asserted control of the East LA station. Members were supposed to have an easier career path within the Sheriff’s department.
The Compton Station Clique is the Latest Example of a Sheriff’s Department Run Amok
Deputy Samuel Aldama has been removed from patrol but is still with the Compton station. Mizrain Orrego, the other deputy involved in the Donta Taylor killing, has been fired for unspecified reasons. Both deputies were named in another lawsuit for a violent encounter which occurred just months prior to the Donta Taylor shooting, for beating and tasing Sheldon Lockett.
The lawsuit alleges Lockett was talking to a friend in front of his godmother’s house in January 2016. When Aldama and Orrego rolled up in their squad car Lockett ran from them out of fear, though he wasn’t doing anything illegal. The rogue deputies radioed in they were chasing a suspect wielding a gun, although Lockett was unarmed. Once they caught him they administered a severe beating and tasing, then rammed a baton into his eye socket after subduing him. Lockett testified that they were using racial epithets throughout the beating. Aldama admitted during his recent deposition that he harbors “ill-feelings” towards African Americans.
According to a recent LA Times article David Lynn, a private investigator who testified about the groups before a U.S. Civil Rights Commission has called for names of members of these tattooed LASD cliques to be cross-referenced with excessive force allegations.
The Sehat Law Firm Will Help You Fight Back Against Rogue Law Enforcement Officers
There’s nothing scarier than a law officer who terrorizes the community. These rogue officers are much worse than criminal gangs because they shield their actions behind the authority of the badge, frequently lying about circumstances to avoid prosecution. When they belong to the same tattooed clique, they cover for each other just like any other gang members.
Brutal and racist law officers rarely face criminal charges, no matter how much hush money California taxpayers wind up shelling out. However, these Civil Rights lawsuits have gained some attention in recent years, as the cost to taxpayers continues to climb steeply. Hopefully, by holding police and prison guards accountable for their unlawful abuse of power and of the public trust we can force change.
If you or a loved one has been attacked by a police officer, deputy sheriff, or another law enforcement officer contact Sehat Law Firm without delay. We must not give up fighting for our Constitutional right to live peacefully and walk free in our neighborhoods without fearing for our lives and the safety of our children. Together we can take back our streets from predators hiding behind the authority of the badge.