Los Angeles sheriff deputies frequently harass the families of people they have killed, including taunting them at vigils, parking outside their homes and following them and pulling them over for no reason, according to a new report from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The LA sheriff’s department (LASD), which has faced national scrutiny for its corruption scandals and killings of young Black and Latino men, has routinely retaliated against victims’ relatives who speak out, the groups said in the report released on Tuesday.
The authors collected detailed accounts of alleged harassment from the families of Paul Rea, an 18-year-old killed during a traffic stop in 2019, and Anthony Vargas, a 21-year-old shot 13 times in 2018. The report, also produced by Black Lives Matter LA and Centro Community Service Organization, alleges:
* LASD deputies regularly drive by or park in front of the Rea and Vargas families’ homes and workplaces and at times have taken photos or recorded them for no reason.
* Deputies have repeatedly pulled over relatives, searched their cars and detained and arrested them without probable cause, allegedly in retaliation for their protests.
* Officers have shown up to vigils and family gatherings, at times mocking and laughing at them or threatening to arrest them, and have also damaged items at memorial sites.
“Since my son’s death, we have been terrorized. Every day, we’re watching our backs,” said Leah Garcia, Rea’s mother. “We are scared because we know what their capabilities are.”
An LASD spokesperson declined to comment, saying the department was not familiar with the report. In response to family members’ formal complaints of harassment, LASD has frequently concluded that “employee conduct appears reasonable”, records show.
LASD, the largest county police agency in the US, has faced increasing backlash in recent years for alleged misconduct and abuse by organized gangs of deputies engaged in violence and civil rights violations. The NLG report alleges that stations with officer gangs have been responsible for some of the harassment.