Los Angeles deputy says colleagues are part of violent gang

National/World

Compton, Calif., Mayor Aja Brown, left, calls on the state attorney general’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s station at a news conference in Compton Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. A violent gang of sheriff’s deputies who call themselves “The Executioners” control a patrol station in Compton through force, threats, work slowdowns and acts of revenge against those who speak out, a deputy alleged in a legal claim. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)

COMPTON, Calif. (AP) — A violent gang of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who call themselves “The Executioners” control a patrol station in Compton through force, threats, work slowdowns and acts of revenge against those who speak out, a deputy alleges in a legal claim.

Austreberto Gonzalez, a former Marine and a sheriff’s deputy since 2007, said in a notice of claim ahead of a planned lawsuit that the gang retaliated against him for months after he anonymously reported a fellow deputy for allegedly assaulting a coworker in February “to further the reputation of the gang.”

Gonzalez later received a text message with a photo of graffiti at the station, he said. The graffiti allegedly said, “ART IS A RAT.”

On Tuesday, Councilwoman Michelle Chambers said she saw the graffiti at the station as recently as last week. It has since been removed, she said.

Chambers said at a news conference that it’s unacceptable Compton residents are still dealing with reports of excessive force in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody last May.

Chambers, as well as Compton Mayor Aja Brown and City Attorney Damon Brown and others, called on the state attorney general’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the sheriff’s station.

Other community members at the news conference told stories of their interactions with deputies, which ranged from disrespectful exchanges to motor vehicle stops to arrests.

Gonzalez’s June 23 claim was first reported by The Los Angeles Times on Thursday.

The allegations against the Compton deputies follow accusations of other gangs in the department — called the Spartans, Regulators, Grim Reapers and Banditos — that also share tattoos and a history of violence, the Times said.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said last week during a Facebook Live event that “there is no gang of any deputies running any station.” But he later issued a statement saying he takes the allegations seriously “and recently published a policy specifically addressing illicit groups, deputy cliques, and subgroups.”

The statement said the issue is being investigated.

Another departmental statement, issued after the Compton news conference on Tuesday, said multiple investigations are underway — including one by the FBI.

Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman, said she could not confirm or deny the existence of a potential investigation into the Compton sheriff’s station.

The state attorney general’s office also said “to protect its integrity, we are unable to comment on a potential or ongoing investigation.”

Compton has contracted with the sheriff’s department since 2000 to provide law enforcement for the city. The $22 million annual contract is in the third year of a five-year agreement, officials said.

Gonzalez estimates that there are 20 “inked” members of the Executioners gang in the station, and another 20 who are prospective members or close associates.

The “inked” members have matching tattoos — “a skull with Nazi imagery, holding an AK-47” — that indicate their affiliation with the gang, Gonzalez alleged in his claim. There are no Black or female members.

The deputy also accused the gang of threatening work slowdowns by disregarding radio calls or responding to them slowly, as well as instituting illegal arrest quotas, if they did not get their desired schedules or assignments.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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