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Criminal Justice

Lancaster Deputy Filmed Body Slamming Teen No Longer Works At High School

A sheriff's deputy wearing his Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department uniform stands beside a former Sheriff, who is wearing a business suit with a red tie. They are posing in front of the U.S., California, and L.A. County flags.
Deputy Daniel Acquilano, left, with then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell, right, in 2017.
(LASD Military and Veteran Affairs Unit Facebook Page)
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A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy who body slammed a 16-year-old student last year at Lancaster High School in the Antelope Valley has been put on desk duty and was also the subject of a harassment allegation from his ex-wife, according to internal documents and department officials.

The body slamming incident, which was caught on video, occurred while Deputy Daniel Acquilano was the school resource officer at Lancaster High. A Sheriff’s Department spokesperson confirmed that he is no longer serving in that position.

A Lancaster Station shift schedule from May reviewed by LAist showed Acquilano in an operations role with the words “DO NOT MOVE” next to his name. Sources inside the department confirmed that means a deputy must remain at his desk and is not allowed to go into the field.

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Lancaster Station Capt. John Lecrivain declined to comment on why and when Acquilano was pulled from his school resource officer role, and when he was put on desk duty.

Acquilano did not respond to calls and text messages seeking comment about his new role.

Lancaster High student MiKayla Robinson filed a claim last fall for damages with the Antelope Valley Union High School District and L.A. County in response to Acquilano slamming her to the ground last August.

The claim alleges that Acquilano body slammed and straddled Robinson after she refused to give her phone to him and walked away.

After the video, which has been viewed more than 9,500 times, sparked protests, the Sheriff’s Department issued a statement last September that said Robinson “physically resisted” the deputy. The department said it was conducting “an in-depth review of the policy and tactics” used and would “take appropriate action.”

An Ex-Wife Alleges Harassing Phone Calls

An internal department document reviewed by LAist shows that around 6 p.m. on Feb. 10 of this year, Santa Clarita Station deputies responded to a call for service from Acquilano’s ex-wife to her home in Santa Clarita. She reported harassing phone calls and a family dispute. The document also refers to “poss[ible] hacking of social media acct.” and “poss[ible] threats.”

Acquilano is listed as the subject of the inquiry and is noted as “off-duty” at the time. Three units responded to the call, including a sergeant, which is typical of calls involving an off-duty deputy, according to two department sources.

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Acquilano’s ex-wife is also a Sheriff’s deputy. The internal document shows that a lieutenant at her posting asked to be kept apprised of the outcome of the incident.

Court records show Acquilano and his ex-wife separated in 2019 and divorced last year.

Acquilano did not respond to calls and text messages seeking comment about the Feb. 10 call for service. His divorce attorney also did not respond to a message left at his office and an email.

Officials with the Antelope Valley Union High School District did not respond to requests for comment.

Acquilano also appears to have posted references to an ex-wife on a Pinterest page as recently as late May.

“You were a narcissistic wife. You’re now a narcissistic ex-wife,” one image posted on an account brought to LAist’s attention. “There’s someone for everyone, and the person for you is a psychiatrist,” another post read.

A Claim Of Ongoing ‘Mocking Teasing, And Harassing’

Robinson’s claim filed last fall alleged that when she returned to school in early September, Acquilano “continued to engage in highly inappropriate conduct by mocking, teasing, and harassing” her. According to the claim, Robinson spent just one day back at school, and is now too afraid and anxious to return.

“The conduct has deprived MiKayla of her right of equal access to educational benefits and opportunities,” the claim states.

Lisa Bloom, lawyer for the family speaks in front of press microphones at a press conference to remove LASD from Lancaster High.
Robinson family attorney Lisa Bloom speaks at a Sept. 2021 protest alongside MiKayla Robinson and her mother, Neesh Robinson.
(Emily Elena Dugdale

The complaint citesLAist and ProPublica’s investigation into Sheriff’s deputies on Antelope Valley Union High School campuses, which found that in 2019 they disproportionately stopped and cited Black students.

Several posts on that Pinterest account relate to Jiu Jitsu training in an album called “Becoming Unkillable.”

The account, which uses a profile picture that appears to be Acquilano, reposted quotes like this one: “I train because somehow choking someone out is the most relaxing part of my day.”

Robinson’s attorney, Lisa Bloom, said she filed a second complaint in May against both the Antelope Valley Union High School District and the Sheriff’s Department, alleging civil rights violations. Neither the school district nor the Sheriff’s Department has responded.

An image from the Pinterest account that appears to be Daniel Acquilano's, in an album titled "Becoming Unkillable."
(Screenshot from Pinterest)

“An individual who posts that he enjoys choking people should have no place in law enforcement, and should not be allowed to set foot in a school,” Bloom said in a statement after being contacted for comment about Acquilano being removed from his school resource officer job and the postings on the Pinterest account.

“That kind of person shouldn’t be responsible for the safety of high school children — that's the kind of person children need to be protected from,” she said.

In May, L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón announced that in the prior 18 months, he had filed criminal charges against at least 19 law enforcement and safety officers.

What questions do you have about criminal justice in Southern California? 
Emily Elena Dugdale covers smaller police departments around Southern California, school safety officers, jails and prisons, and juvenile justice issues. She also covers the LAPD and the L.A. Sheriff’s Department.