The decades of LA County Sheriff's Department's "gangs"

A long form project into the deeply violent history of LA's deputy gangs and the destruction they wrought

We go to Knock LA for this weeks long read by Cerise Castle, read the whole project “A Tradition of Violence The History of Deputy Gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.” We include key excerpts below to convince you it’s worth your time! This is

The Foundation

“There are at least 18 gangs within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Officials at various government agencies, including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, the California Senate Senate Subcommittee on Police Officer Conduct, and the United States Commission on Civil Rights have heard testimony on the violence inflicted on communities at the hands of deputy gangs for decades. And yet, there have not been any internal investigations or significant policy changes to address the issue. Deputy gangs have killed at least 19 people, all of whom were men of color. At least four of them had a mental illness. Los Angeles County keeps a list of lawsuits related to the deputy gangs. Litigation related to these cases has cost the County just over $100 million over the past 30 years.”


The Lynwood Vikings sheriff’s gang began its reign of terror in the 1980s and harmed hundreds of people, killing several. But no individual story has captured the gaze of the media more than that of Francisco “Franky” Carrillo, who was framed for a murder by a Viking and spent 20 years wrongfully incarcerated. from The Miracle Trial

Bottom line

They beat Laffitte with their flashlights and then shot him execution-style in the back of the head. Immediately, several deputies descended on the scene and confiscated the cell phones of the witnesses to the fatal shooting.

The deputies later claimed Laffitte had a gun. However, Zabala said in his deposition that he never saw a weapon on Laffitte. A handgun was recovered from the scene, but it tested negative for Laffitte’s DNA, according to court documents. The testing did conclude, however, that at least two other individuals handled the gun. Shortly after the incident, Cotton said in a press conference, “I want revenge for my brother’s death. There will be no justice in Los Angeles until my brother’s murderers go to prison… I want them jailed for killing my brother and brutalizing my family.”

That didn’t happen. Laffitte’s family settled the case for $1,500,000 before it went to trial. Taxpayers, of course, footed the bill. But the deputies who killed Terry Laffitte were never charged, and it does not appear they were disciplined. It appears as if Barrios was still a member of the department as recently as 2019. Horrifyingly, Zabala went on to kill another man in front of his family.

  • Note: This journalism project is unique in that it is a non-profit community platform originally conceived by Ground Game LA, a grassroots organizing organization. Read the whole project here.

Also their reporters got arrested and then released covering protests in L.A. last night.

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