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LA Sheriff denies LA Times reporter subject of criminal probe

Villanueva backs off claims he ordered criminal probe of LA Times journalist after the LASD cover-up in abuse case is exposed

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Screenshot/MSNBC

LOS ANGELES – During a press conference on Tuesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva forcefully disputed allegations raised by a Los Angeles Times report that he ordered and orchestrated a cover-up of an incident where a deputy knelt on a handcuffed inmate’s head. The Sheriff noted that the reporter, who used leaked video and documents, was part of the LASD criminal investigation into the matter.

Reaction to Villanueva’s remarks was swift with the Times’ top editor condemning those comments accusing him of an illegal “attempt to criminalize news reporting.”

“Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s attack on Alene Tchekmedyian’s First Amendment rights for doing newsworthy reporting on a video that showed a deputy kneeling on a handcuffed inmate’s head is outrageous,” Executive Editor Kevin Merida said in a statement. “We will vigorously defend Tchekmedyian’s and the Los Angeles Times’ rights in any proceeding or investigation brought by authorities.”

Los Angeles NBC News affiliate KNBC 4 noted the Times’s general counsel sent a letter to the sheriff protesting the investigation. Hours later NBC4 reported that the sheriff backed off when he clarified in a series of tweets that his agency has “no interest in pursuing, nor are we pursuing, criminal charges against any reporters.”

“Resulting from the incredible frenzy of misinformation being circulated, I must clarify at no time today did I state an LA Times reporter was a suspect in a criminal investigation. We have no interest in pursuing, nor are we pursuing, criminal charges against any reporters,” the sheriff wrote adding;

“We will conduct a thorough investigation regarding the unlawful disclosure of evidence and documentation in an active criminal case.  The multiple active investigations stemming from this incident will be shared and monitored by an outside law enforcement entity.”

The he took aim at the Times writing: “What should be of interest is the fact the LA Times refuses to acknowledge their reporting, and the account of a disgruntled employee, were thoroughly debunked during today’s press conference.”

NBC4 reported the incident with the inmate occurred in a county courthouse on March 10, 2021 — two days after jury selection began for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murder for pressing his knee against George Floyd’s neck for up to 9 1/2 minutes.

A screenshot from a jailhouse surveillance video obtained by LAist shows a deputy identified as Douglas Johnson kneeling on the head of a man identified as Enzo Escalante.

The video shows Deputy Douglas Johnson directing inmate Enzo Escalante to move up against a wall in the courthouse. Escalante swings at Johnson and punches him repeatedly in the face. Three other deputies help Johnson wrestle Escalante to the ground and handcuff him.

The LA Times reported that Johnson had his knee on Escalante’s head for more than three minutes, even after the inmate had been handcuffed, placed face-down and did not appear to be resisting. Escalante — who was awaiting trial on murder and other charges — was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Johnson was removed from duty months later and is under criminal investigation, Villanueva said during Tuesday’s news conference. No charges have been filed against the deputy.

On Monday a 21 year veteran of the LASD, Commander Allen Castellano, filed a whistleblower lawsuit in which he claims that he immediately sent the video of the March 10, 2021 incident, which was obtained by media outlet the LAist, up the chain of command to Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon.

The suit says Limon watched the video with Villanueva and Undersheriff Tim Murakami on or about March 15 — many months before when the sheriff has previously said he viewed the incident. Castellano’s lawyer, Vincent Miller, said in an interview with LAist that Limon told Castellano she had watched the tape with the sheriff and undersheriff.

Villanueva, who oversees the nation’s largest sheriff’s department, is up for reelection and Castellano’s lawsuit claims the sheriff retaliated against Castellano the day after the investigation began by opening an internal affairs investigation into his handling of the initial administrative investigation into the video the LAist noted.

L.A. County Sheriff Targets Reporter After Cover-Up Exposed:

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Los Angeles County

Bruce’s Beach is returned to heirs undoing racially motivated land grab

Anthony Bruce, a family spokesman, said in a statement that the return means the world to them but it is also bittersweet

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"This is a day we weren't sure would ever come," said Anthony Bruce, a great-great grandson of Willa and Charles Bruce (Photo Credit: Mayra Beltran Vasquez/Los Angeles County)

MANHATTAN BEACH – In 1912 Willa and Charles Bruce bought two lots of land for $1,225 with the intent of creating a safe beachfront space for Black Angelenos. But their purchase was met with heavy opposition a July 27, 1912 Los Angeles Times article reported.

Undaunted the Bruce’s pushed ahead, “Wherever we have tried to buy land for a beach resort, we have been refused, but I own this land and I am going to keep it,” Willa told the Times.

For nearly ten years Willa & Charles’s property was a destination and haven for Black people coming there for recreation from all over the rest of southern California. But by 1922 issues with the local white neighbors and the police department began to mount, as the majority white population put pressure on the Bruce family to close down their enterprise.

In the 1920’s, like most of the rest of the United States, the Ku Klux Klan was very active in Southern California. Racially motivated animus was then in turn amplified by Klan activity and resulting press coverage, which according to some historians, had a bias towards white supremacist viewpoints.

In an interview last year a descendent of Willa and Charles told the BBC the local police department put up signs limiting parking to 10 minutes, and another local landowner put up no trespassing signs, forcing people to walk half a mile to reach the water.

Two Black couples on a walkway at Bruce’s Beach, ca. 1920; Charles and Willa Bruce, ca. 1886
Merriam Matthews Photograph Collection/UCLA; source unknown

After efforts failed to pressure the family into closing down their little resort, the Manhattan Beach City Council working with County officials seized Bruce’s Beach under eminent domain- laws designed to let the government forcibly buy land needed for roads and other public buildings. Officials claimed they planned to build a park which didn’t happen.

The city did nothing with the property and it was transferred to the state of California in 1948. Then in 1995, the state transferred it to Los Angeles county, with restrictions on further transfers.

California’s legislative leaders along with Governor Gavin Newsom passed a bill that removed the restriction on transfer of the property, making transfer easier, which was a result of Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn’s work to process the return the property to heirs of Willa and Charles begun in April 2021.

This week the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in approval of the plan to return the property to the Bruce family. The property will now enter escrow before officially transferring to the family. Once transferred, LA county agreed to rent the property back from the Bruce’s for $413,000 per year and will maintain its lifeguard facility there.

Calif. Governor Gavin Newsom signs bill allowing transfer of Bruce’s Beach to descendants of Charles and Willa Bruce on September 30, 2021 in Manhattan Beach
Photo Credit: Mayra Beltran Vasquez /Los Angeles County

Anthony Bruce, a family spokesman, said in a statement that the return means the world to them but it is also bittersweet.

“My great-great-grandparents, Willa and Charles Bruce sacrificed to open a business that gave Black people a place to gather and socialize, and Manhattan Beach took it from them because of the color of their skin,” he said. “It destroyed them financially. It destroyed their chance at the American Dream.”

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles
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Los Angeles County

Heat Advisory issued as temps expected to be in triple digits

LA County will see hot & breezy conditions Monday. High temperatures will reach 90 degrees. Temperatures at night will fall to 64 degrees

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory warning for most of Southern California on Monday. Temperatures while remaining lower in the 80s and 70s in the coastal areas are expected to exceed triple-digits for most of the inland areas in the region.

Los Angeles and Orange counties will see hot and breezy conditions Monday. High temperatures will reach 90 degrees. Temperatures at night will fall to 64 degrees.

The valleys and Inland Empire will be very hot and windy Monday as temperatures soar to 105 degrees. Evening temperatures will drop to 72 degrees.

Beaches will see temperatures rising to 78 degrees amid breezy conditions on Monday. Overnight lows will dip to 64 degrees.

Look for a 20% chance of thunderstorms in the mountain communities on Monday, with temperatures reaching a high of 89 degrees. Temperatures will fall to 55 degrees at night.

Desert conditions will be sunny and windy on Monday, with temperatures expected to rise to 104 degrees. Nighttime temperatures will drop to 69 degrees.

Detailed Forecast

Today

Sunny and hot, with a high near 106. East northeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming north northwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph.

Tonight

Clear, with a low around 69. Northwest wind 5 to 15 mph becoming east northeast after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph.

Tuesday

Sunny and hot, with a high near 104. Southeast wind around 10 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 15 mph.

Tuesday Night

Clear, with a low around 68. West northwest wind 5 to 15 mph becoming east southeast after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph.

Wednesday

Sunny and hot, with a high near 98. East southeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph.

Wednesday Night

Clear, with a low around 62. Breezy.

Thursday

Sunny, with a high near 94.

Thursday Night

Clear, with a low around 58.

Friday

Sunny, with a high near 92.

Friday Night

Clear, with a low around 57.

Saturday

Sunny, with a high near 90.

Saturday Night

Clear, with a low around 56.

Sunday

Sunny, with a high near 89.

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Los Angeles County

NBC News: LA’s DA Gascon under pressure from rising violent crimes

Violent crime is spiking in the streets of Los Angeles as robberies in broad daylight, heists on train tracks and homicides are on the rise

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Screenshot/YouTube NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt

LOS ANGELES – (NBC Nightly News) – Violent crime is spiking in the streets of Los Angeles as robberies in broad daylight, heists on train tracks and homicides are on the rise. Many long-time residents are more worried than ever. LA District Attorney George Gascon took office in late 2020, riding a wave of support for criminal justice reform but now, that support seems to have eroded as the crime surge continues.

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