In his response to WeHo City Manager Paul Arevalo’s request for information on the status of investigations into two deputy-involved deaths of innocent men in West Hollywood, L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell essentially says no information can be released.
The first incident was the shooting of two young men fleeing a knife attack on April 7, 2014, at 939 Palm Ave. Several deputies fired their guns as the two men raced out the door, killing John Winkler and seriously wounding Liam Mulligan.
The second incident involved a patrol car swerving off Santa Monica Boulevard and onto the sidewalk on Oct. 12, 2015. The patrol car killed one young man and severely wounded another.
In his letter to Arevalo, McDonnell assured him that deputies in the West Hollywood Station had undergone training after the Palm shooting.
However, he said, “Because of the protections provided by state law, we are not allowed to discuss any disciplinary action that may or may not have been imposed on our personnel as a result of this incident.” McDonnell said he could assure Arevalo that the department “ensure(d) that the deputy’s physical and psychological needs have been addressed.”
The deputy whose bullet killed John Winkler was identified in an investigation by the L.A. County District Attorney’s office as Deputy Gerardo Valdivia. He is still employed at the West Hollywood station.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors settled civil lawsuits brought by Winkler’s mother and by Mulligan for a total of $7.5 million.
As to the October 2015 traffic accident, McDonnell noted that it is the subject of a lawsuit, which has been filed by the mother of the victim, who was Jonathan Peña. She is seeking unspecified damages.
Arevalo’s letter was sent after a request from City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, who questioned Sheriff’s Capt. Holly Perez, and her new replacement, Lt. Sergio Aloma, at last night’s City Council meeting.
Aloma described the complex process of investigating deputy-related shootings. He also made clear that the results of those investigations could not be made public under state law. California severely restricts making available information about misbehavior by public safety officers.
Sheriff McDonnell has been stymied by the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs’ (ALADS), a union representing deputies, in his effort to release a to the district attorney a database of 300 officers found to have committed crimes or otherwise misbehaved. The union has fought McDonnell’s proposal in court, saying the list would violate confidentiality rights of deputies. Horvath has pushed for support of McDonnell’s effort https://www.wehoville.com/2017/03/06/lindsey-horvath-presses-info-status-death-deputies-investigations/ from the California Contract Cities Assoc., on whose board she sits. West Hollywood contracts with the L.A. Sheriff’s Department for public safety services at a cost of more than $19 million a year.