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Criminal Justice

Rep. Maxine Waters Asks Feds To Investigate Alleged ‘Executioners Gang’ Inside LA Sheriff’s Department

Congresswoman Maxine Waters speaking into a microphone at a lectern while seated in a black chair. She is wearing reading glasses that are halfway down her nose, a necklace, earrings and a white jacket.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-LA) at a 2019 hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.
(Zach Gibson
/
Getty Images North America)
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In the first formal request of its kind, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) Thursday asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a civil rights investigation into an alleged “deputy gang” known as the “Executioners” operating out of the Sheriff’s Department’s Compton station.

The move comes amid growing concern that Sheriff Alex Villanueva has done too little to address allegations his department is rife with violent deputy subgroups.

In her letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Waters cited a whistleblower complaint filed last year by Deputy Art Gonzalez, who said at least a dozen of his Compton colleagues wear matching tattoos that depict a skull wearing a Nazi helmet with a rifle, encircled by flames.

“The gang allegedly sets illegal arrest quotas, threatens and harasses fellow deputies, and holds parties after shootings, called ‘998 parties,’ which are in part a celebration that a new deputy will be inked by the gang,” Waters wrote. Gonzalez has claimed that the deputy who fatally shot Andres Guardado in 2020 was aspiring to be a member of the group.

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'White Supremacy And Right-Wing Extremism...This Must End'

“White supremacy and right-wing extremism tear at the fabric of our society,” Waters said in the letter. “When such hateful, racist ideologies combine with the power our communities delegate to the police, killings, death, unlawful arrests, and murder are the clear result. This must end.”

The Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Waters' request to the attorney general.

Waters also asked the Justice Department to conduct a “pattern and practice” investigation into the department. A similar investigation of the LAPD led to a 2001 consent decree mandating widespread reforms at that department.

The Sheriff’s Department is already under investigation by the California attorney general’s office, which opened a civil rights investigation earlier this year over allegations of excessive force and evidence planting.

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Villanueva did issue a new policy forbidding deputies from joining subgroups that engage in illegal behavior — though he’s said no deputy has been found to have violated it. Shortly after taking office in 2018, the sheriff likened deputy subgroups to specialized units in the military that have their own insignias. He described any misbehavior as little more than “hazing run amok.”

Earlier this year, Loyola Law School Professor Sean Kennedy, who sits on the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, issued a report saying over the years there had been at least 18 deputy “gangs” inside the department, with seven currently active.

Much of the concern about deputy subgroups has centered on an alleged group known as the “Banditos” at the East L.A. Station. An explosive lawsuit filed by eight deputies alleges members of the group beat up and harassed fellow deputies who refused to participate in illegal activity.

In 2019, two independent sources told us the FBI had opened an investigation into the group. The FBI would not confirm it.

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