Sheriff’s captain didn’t illegally influence probe of deputy’s crash in Lake Elsinore – San Bernardino Sun

An internal affairs investigation has determined that there is insufficient evidence to charge Michael Lujan, a retired Riverside County sheriff’s captain and now a candidate for sheriff, with witness intimidation after concerns were raised that he influenced deputies not to probe the possible intoxication of a sergeant who crashed his personal car while off duty in Lake Elsinore.

The investigation, according to a document obtained by the Southern California News Group, also concluded that Lujan and Lt. Aaron Kent failed to follow proper procedures after Sgt. Glenn Warrington damaged a light pole in the crash at 515 N. Main St. on Nov. 21, 2020. Specifically, Lt. Christopher Frederick wrote, Lujan and Kent “used bad judgment” by not requesting that a different agency investigate the crash involving one of the Sheriff’s Department’s own deputies.

The deputies who responded to the crash told Lujan by phone that Warrington had been drinking but did not show signs of impairment — though they told Frederick that Warrington appeared unusually standoffish and was popping breath mints. Warrington had just left a pizza restaurant where he had consumed four or five beers while eating dinner, Frederick wrote. Warrington was not given a field sobriety test.

As deputies waited for orders on how to proceed, a bizarre exchange unfolded among Lujan, Warrington and Cpl. Perry Willow, who was on scene investigating the crash and had suggested to Kent that the California Highway Patrol take over the probe.

“Willow’s phone rang and it was Warrington calling from the side of the road,” Frederick wrote. “Willow walked over to Warrington and Warrington asked Willow what he was waiting for. Warrington asked if Willow was scared. Willow responded that he was not scared, only waiting for direction. Warrington then called Lujan via the telephone. Warrington told Lujan ‘Corporal Willow is looking for direction’ and handed Willow the phone saying ‘maybe this guy can give you direction.’ “

Lujan then told Willow to investigate the crash only for the property damage and not as a possible DUI.

Sheriff Chad Bianco placed Lujan on administrative leave in December 2020, shortly before Lujan retired.

Lujan, in an interview for an SCNG story on his challenge to Bianco in the June 7 election, said he followed department policy.

Bianco, in an email Thursday, said, “Never in our department is it acceptable for a captain to call an investigator and tell them what to do without actually being on scene, especially with this type of investigation.”

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