Sheriff Villanueva touts homeless outreach, deputy discipline


At a year-end news briefing Wednesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva touted his agency’s homeless outreach efforts, addressed an uptick in homicides and announced his move to discipline deputies who fired 34 shots at a car in 2019, killing an unarmed man.

Villanueva said one of the deputies who shot and killed Ryan Twyman was terminated, while the second was given a 30-day suspension. Dist. Atty. George Gascón is still reviewing the shooting, along with dozens of other on-duty shootings since 2016, to determine if it was justified, a delay for which Villanueva said there is “no excuse at all.” Prosecutors have not made decisions on one case from both 2016 and 2017, two cases from 2018 and 12 from 2019.

“They leave two parties on hold, their lives on hold,” said Villanueva, arguing that the shooting reviews should wrap up in 90 days. “The victims of the deceased, for example, they’re looking for justice, they believe justice needs to be served, they’re not getting it because it’s in limbo. The deputies involved, who believe they did the right thing, they’re in limbo forever until the district attorney comes up with a decision.”

The June 2019 killing occurred when deputies pulled up to a South L.A. apartment complex, stepped out of the patrol car and quickly drew their weapons. Within 20 seconds, they began shooting, firing 34 rounds at a white Kia backing out of a parking space.

Twyman, 24, was hit multiple times and died at a hospital. A passenger in the car was not struck.

Alex Bastian, a spokesman with the district attorney’s office, said in a statement that police accountability is a top priority for Gascón.

“He is working to restore the public’s faith in the criminal legal system by holding law enforcement officers who violate the law accountable for their crimes,” Bastian said, pointing to criminal cases filed against 21 officers from seven agencies for on-duty offenses. “The District Attorney also increased resources to investigate and prosecute police misconduct. We take these cases very seriously and conduct a complete and thorough review as expeditiously as possible, based on the totality of the evidence.”

The statement did not explain the delays.

Villanueva said homicides in the sheriff’s jurisdiction have nearly doubled in two years, from 145 in 2019 to 281 last year. Reports of stolen cars have also gone up dramatically, from 9,780 in 2019 to 15,591 last year. The number of robberies and burglaries reported, meanwhile, has gone down.

In his wide-ranging remarks, Villanueva touted his agency’s efforts to address homelessness on Olvera Street, along the Venice Beach boardwalk and near the Veterans Affairs building on San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood, and criticized L.A. Metro’s discussions about reducing law enforcement on the transit system after a nurse was attacked while waiting at a bus stop at downtown L.A.’s Union Station. The woman died of her injuries.

He also spoke about the Sheriff’s Department’s public corruption unit, which has been accused of targeting his critics with criminal investigations. Villanueva said since its inception, the unit has investigated 24 cases, 14 of which were closed because investigators determined “no crime occurred or there’s insufficient evidence to make a determination.” He said 10 remain open.

The unit pursued a long-running criminal investigation into allegations made by department officials that Inspector General Max Huntsman and others improperly downloaded confidential personnel records on Villanueva and other sheriff’s employees. Villanueva opted to pursue the case despite sheriff’s officials being told by the FBI and state law enforcement officials that it appeared no crimes had been committed, a senior sheriff’s official said.

The team also opened a criminal inquiry into a nonprofit that is run by a member of a county board that oversees the sheriff and is associated with county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, both of whom have clashed fiercely with Villanueva and called for his resignation.



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