Jesus Alegria was skateboarding with some pals at a Compton park on a day in April when Deputy Miguel Vega and his companion, Chris Hernandez, pulled up.
Arms on their holsters, the deputies approached a gaggle of teenagers. Alegria, 24, and his pals shouted at them to cease harassing the youngsters. The deputies, he mentioned, rounded on them and phrases have been exchanged. Vega immediately grabbed Alegria’s wrists and shoved him into the again of the patrol automotive. The deputy didn’t handcuff him and didn’t ask Alegria’s title.
The wild minutes that adopted ended with Alegria bleeding from the top and ultimately triggered a felony investigation into the deputies, who additionally face a civil lawsuit filed by Alegria that alleges they kidnapped him after which lied to cowl up their actions.
This account of what occurred relies on interviews with Alegria, his father and others, in addition to the lawsuit, video footage, and regulation enforcement and medical data. Attorneys for the deputies declined to debate the case. Los Angeles County sheriff’s officers didn’t reply questions on Alegria’s claims, leaving it unclear whether or not the division challenges his account of what occurred. A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Division confirmed Friday that Vega and Hernandez are beneath felony investigation.
Sheriff’s officers have additionally not defined why it took greater than two months to open an investigation into the incident and practically eight months earlier than Vega and Hernandez have been stripped of their badges. That timing meant Vega and Hernandez have been nonetheless on the streets one evening in June after they stumbled on 18-year-old Andres Guardado and Vega killed him in a controversial capturing that led to widespread protests and stays beneath investigation.
The Instances reported final month that Vega and Hernandez have been relieved of responsibility pending the result of the investigation into the incident, however the particulars of what occurred haven’t been reported.
As Vega drove off from Wilson Park, Alegria sat within the automotive’s laborious plastic backseat with out handcuffs and with out a seatbelt — a violation of division coverage.
The deputies taunted him. “We’re gonna get you arrange proper now,” one mentioned, telling him they have been going to kick him out of the automotive in a neighborhood managed by a gang and inform folks on the road that he belonged to the Bananas, a rival gang.
Concern churned with anger inside Alegria. “That is what you name justice? What is that this?” he requested.
The deputies unleashed a torrent of insults and threats from the opposite facet of a cage divider that separated the back and front seats. Alegria couldn’t inform who was saying what.
“Shut the f— up.”
“You’re scared now, huh?”
A couple of minutes later, the deputies noticed a gaggle of younger youngsters on their bikes. Vega hit the gasoline and steered towards them. The boys scattered.
Hernandez jumped out of the automotive to chase among the teenagers on foot. Vega sped off down an alley after one in every of them. Alegria seen the deputy didn’t broadcast something over the automotive’s radio concerning the chase.
The alley narrowed. Up forward, the biker threaded previous a parked automotive and a concrete wall. Alegria didn’t suppose Vega would clear the tight area. Vega accelerated.
The SUV smashed into the wall and the parked BMW. Alegria’s head slammed into the cage divider.
Unable to open the door, Vega climbed out of his window and onto the hood of the automotive, trying left and proper. Nonetheless, he mentioned nothing into his radio. The deputy jumped down and opened the again door. Alegria begged him to let him go away, promising to not inform anybody what occurred.
“Get the f— out of right here,” Vega mentioned.
As he walked away, Alegria realized blood was dripping down his face from a gash on his eyebrow. He pulled his shirt up over his face and pressed it towards the wound as he walked out of the alley and across the nook. A household unloading groceries from their automotive gave him water and let him use a telephone to name his father. His belongings have been in his backpack on the skatepark.
A California Freeway Patrol officer responded to the scene. Vega advised him he had been chasing a person with a gun on a motorcycle, however acknowledged he hadn’t activated his lights and sirens. The deputy estimated he had been driving 30 to 35 mph within the alley, whereas Alegria advised the CHP it was 55 to 65 mph. The CHP officer wrote in his report that Vega precipitated the crash by touring at an “unsafe pace” above 35 mph by way of the alleyway, the place the restrict is 15 mph.
By the point Alegria’s father arrived, deputies had blocked off the road and a helicopter hovered overhead. As Alegria walked towards his dad, a deputy grabbed him and put him in handcuffs. He requested why.
“I don’t know, I’m gonna discover out proper now,” the deputy mentioned, placing him behind one other patrol automotive.
Each 10 minutes or so a deputy requested if he wanted medical consideration and every time Alegria mentioned he did, however nothing was completed. After about 40 minutes, paramedics arrived and took him to a hospital.
Deputies adopted the ambulance and crowded round as hospital workers tended to Alegria. As they put a number of stitches in his brow, docs and nurses appeared to sense one thing was off and wrote Alegria notes so the deputies couldn’t see. At one level, a deputy refused to maneuver when he was advised to get out of the best way.
A deputy pressed his ticket e-book towards Alegria, demanding he signal a quotation to look in court docket. Alegria requested what crime he had dedicated, however the deputy wouldn’t reply and saved the a part of the paper that famous the offense hid beneath the e-book’s thick band. He mentioned solely that he wouldn’t go away till Alegria signed it.
Alegria grabbed the e-book out of the deputy’s hand and noticed he was being cited for being beneath the affect of meth. Incredulous, he requested hospital workers for a drug take a look at however was advised they couldn’t carry out one.
“I didn’t wanna signal it as a result of I do know my reality: I’ve by no means even touched that drug in my life,” he mentioned. The paramedics who evaluated Alegria on the scene reported no indicators of him being beneath the affect of any medication.
Alegria referred to as his father utilizing a deputy’s telephone. He urged his son to signal the quotation. They’ll mess with you in jail when you don’t, he pleaded.
Reluctantly, Alegria signed the quotation and the deputies cleared out.
In an arrest report, Vega wrote that when he and Hernandez first encountered Alegria, he was performing erratically, swearing, sweating and grinding his tooth, and gave the impression to be beneath the affect of a stimulant. The deputy mentioned he and his companion had been unable to conduct a sobriety take a look at as a result of a “giant crowd” of 15 to 20 folks was advancing towards them and he feared the group would “try to help” Alegria. Vega wrote that they needed to flee with out handcuffing Alegria or securing his seatbelt so as to discover a “protected location” the place they may proceed their investigation.
A video recorded by one in every of Alegria’s pals calls Vega’s account into query. The temporary footage reveals a fence separated Alegria’s pals from the deputies. Within the video, Vega doesn’t rush as he closes the again passenger door and walks to the driving force’s door.
The video captures somebody within the group yelling on the deputies, telling them they need to spend their time on the lookout for gang members “who acquired weapons and medicines.” Earlier than driving off, Vega factors on the group by way of an open window. “It is best to know this system,” he says.
In his arrest report, Vega mentioned Alegria continued to be belligerent within the SUV and he and Hernandez determined to take him to a sheriff’s jail to finish the sobriety take a look at. Vega made no point out of chasing a bicyclist with a gun. As a substitute, he wrote that he merely crashed whereas transporting Alegria and added that the report the CHP officer filed concerning the crash had extra data.
Alegria’s lawsuit accuses the deputies of fabricating the drug cost and the arrest report back to justify their recklessness.
“It’s clearly a cover-up,” mentioned Mariam Danielyan, an lawyer representing Alegria.
The deputies “simply kidnapped him,” Alegria’s father mentioned.
A spokeswoman for the hospital the place Alegria was handled mentioned workers who tended to him have been too busy throughout the pandemic to be accessible for remark. Fireplace officers didn’t reply to requests for interviews with the paramedics.
Primarily based on Vega’s account, the Sheriff’s Division took the case to the district lawyer’s workplace, however prosecutors declined to file costs. In a memo explaining the choice, a prosecutor wrote that there was “inadequate proof to show identification” — an acknowledgment that they wouldn’t even have the ability to show in court docket that Alegria was the particular person allegedly excessive on medication.
For greater than two months afterward, Vega and Hernandez went about their jobs patrolling in and round Compton. On an evening in June, they stumbled on 18-year-old Andres Guardado as he was speaking with somebody outdoors an auto physique store. Guardado brandished a gun and bumped into an alley, in keeping with a Sheriff’s Division account of the capturing. Vega and Hernandez gave chase and Vega shot Guardado 5 occasions within the again, an post-mortem concluded.
An lawyer for Vega mentioned shortly after the capturing that Guardado had stopped, obeyed instructions to give up and positioned the weapon he was allegedly holding on the bottom. Vega opened hearth, the lawyer mentioned, when Guardado allegedly reached for the weapon as Vega tried to handcuff him. The capturing stays beneath investigation.
Days after the capturing, the Sheriff’s Division opened an investigation into the deputies for the incident involving Alegria. It’s not clear what finally triggered the investigation. Six extra months handed earlier than the deputies have been relieved of responsibility in early December.
Danielyan mentioned investigators with the division’s Inside Prison Investigations Bureau, which investigates felony allegations towards deputies, contacted her final month searching for to interview Alegria. She declined to permit the interview.
Alegria thinks again on the day with disbelief.
“I assumed it solely occurred in films,” he mentioned. “I’m simply glad I made it out alive.”
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