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Criminal Justice

DA Gascón Charges 2 LA Sheriff’s Deputies With Lying To Cover Up Excessive Force

The entrance to the East LA Sheriff's Station. To the right is a sign that says East Los Angeles Station at the top, has a large sheriff's badge in the middle, with gold on the edges, a blue circle, with orange inside the circle and a bear on the orange background. Underneath the badge, it says "Sheriff." To the left of the sign are glass windows and double glass doors.
The entrance to the East L.A. Sheriff's station.
(Frank Stoltze/LAist)
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District Attorney George Gascón has filed criminal charges against two L.A. sheriff’s deputies, alleging they filed a false police report to cover up excessive force during an arrest in East L.A. in 2018.

Deputies Woodrow Kim, 39, and Jonathan Miramontes, 30, were each charged Wednesday with one felony count of filing a false report. Kim also faces one felony count of assault under the color of authority.

“Peace officers must do their job lawfully and truthfully,” Gascón said in a statement. “There is no place in law enforcement for officers who use illegal force and then lie to cover up their crime or the crime of another officer.”

The DA’s office says the incident involving Kim and Miramontes began when they responded to a call that people in a BMW had allegedly threatened another motorist with a gun. The two deputies were involved in a short pursuit with the car that ended in Ruben Salazar Park.

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When one of the men ran from the BMW, Kim and Miramontes allegedly pursued him in their patrol vehicle. Kim is accused of opening his door and knocking the man to the ground.

According to the DA's office: "Both defendants are accused of lying in their reports about what transpired."

Neither Kim nor Miramontes was immediately available to comment.

The Two Are Accused Of Being 'Banditos'

Both men also are accused in a civil lawsuit of being either members or associates of a group of deputies at the East L.A. station who call themselves the Banditos. The group is accused of harassing fellow deputies who don’t support them, creating a hostile workplace, and planting evidence on suspects.

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The lawsuit, filed by eight East L.A. deputies, accuses members of the Banditos of beating some of the plaintiffs up at a party because they did not agree with the group’s views. The lawsuit names 65 current and former deputies, including two commanders, calling the Banditos a “deputy gang” and an "organized criminal gang."

In May, another person named in that lawsuit was indicted for allegedly lying in a drugs and weapons case. Detective Noel Lopez, 41, allegedly lied when he said that deputies saw a man throw a case containing a rifle onto the floor during an arrest, according to the DA’s office. That incident also happened in September of 2018. Lopez has pleaded not guilty.

The FBI has opened an investigation into the Banditos and other alleged cliques within the department.

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Frank Stoltze covers a new movement for criminal justice reform at a time when not everybody shares the same vision.