The independent watchdog for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating allegations Sheriff Alex Villanueva lied about his knowledge of an incident in which a deputy kneeled on a handcuffed inmate’s head.
Inspector General Max Huntsman issued a subpoena Thursday evening ordering Villanueva to either testify or turn over records by April 22 about the kneeling incident and how the investigation into it was handled…
Eli Vera, a former top-ranking department official who is running to unseat Villanueva, told The Times that the sheriff was involved in the decision to cover up the violent detention and had viewed the video at an aide’s desk within days after it occurred. Villanueva denied Vera’s allegations.
Allen Castellano, the commander critical of the alleged cover-up, wrote in his report that at least one senior sheriff’s official with a rank higher than division chief was aware of the incident early on.
Only Villanueva, Undersheriff Tim Murakami and three assistant sheriffs are above the rank of chief. Villanueva has refused to answer questions about who was made aware of the incident and what direction they gave.
After The Times report, Villanueva announced that he had shaken up his “senior command,” but refused to provide specifics about whose jobs had changed and why.
Villanueva said a review done in light of Vera’s allegations uncovered evidence that members of his senior command staff had tried to cover up the kneeling incident. He said an internal investigation into the cover-up was launched. He refused to provide specifics, but said he had named a new assistant sheriff to oversee countywide operations in place of Robin Limon, who held the position at the time of the inmate’s detention.
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