LA sheriffs hounded the families of 2 police shooting victims in an effort to intimidate and ridicule them, says report

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A new report from activist groups released on Tuesday contained troubling allegations about how the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) mocked and harassed the grieving families of two men shot dead by officers.

The 37-page document, released by the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union, said the LASD would hound the men’s relatives relentlessly, particularly when they spoke up about their deaths. The groups interviewed the families of Anthony Vargas, 21, who was shot 13 times in the back during an encounter with LASD deputies, and Paul Rea, 18, who was killed in 2019 at a traffic stop. 

Rea’s family alleged in the report that several LASD patrol cars pulled up to the vigil that they organized for him in 2019, on the block where he was shot. 

“They drove by very slowly and rolled down their windows, laughing at the family and friends who were gathered honoring Paul’s life,” the activist groups detailed in the report. 

Both the Rea and Vargas families also alleged that members of the LASD would park in front of where they lived and worked, and would snap pictures and videos of them. In addition, it detailed an incident in February 2020 when the LASD approached Rea’s sister Janae, then 14, outside her middle school. 

“She was wearing a sweatshirt with her brother’s face and name on the front. As she was walking outside the school, two deputies stared at her and then started laughing,” the report noted, adding that one of the deputies got into a patrol car and pulled up beside her, following her as she walked down the street.

Deputy Trina Schrader of the LASD told Insider that the department was “unfamiliar with the report.” 

“Once we have had an opportunity to review the content, we will be better able to respond to your request,” Schrader said in an email response to Insider’s request for comment. 

A pattern of intimidating incidents

The two families also accused the LASD of pulling members of their families over, searching their cars, and detaining them without probable cause.

The Rea family listed ten separate incidents between June 2019 and September 2020, during which they say the LASD harassed them. The Vargas family listed 17 incidents that took place between August 2018 and March 2021.

“Since my son’s death, we have been terrorized. Every day, we’re watching our backs,” Leah Garcia, Rea’s mother, told the Guardian. “We are scared because we know what their capabilities are.”

In the wake of the report being released, two LA county supervisors, Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell, introduced a motion on Tuesday to push for accountability and transparency from the LASD.

“Unfortunately, for many families in Los Angeles County, the healing that should occur after the tragic killing of their loved one is often hampered and delayed by the continued harassment and retaliation by the LASD, which countless families face for speaking up on behalf of their loved ones,” wrote Solis and Mitchell in the motion.

“Families deserve the right to grieve and mourn without fear of retribution,” they added.

Families of those killed by the LASD band together to speak out against harassment

According to CBS Los Angeles, the families of Rea and Vargas, along with those of two other police shooting victims, Daniel Hernandez and Vanessa Marquez, gathered outside the Hall of Justice in downtown LA to talk about the alleged harassment. 

“We have video proof, we have pictures. We’ve taken them to the sheriff’s department, we’ve called the CLC meetings, we’ve done what we’ve had to do, and nothing’s gotten done,” Stephanie Luna, the aunt of Anthony Vargas told CBS.

“These families aren’t getting protected, my family’s not getting protected. Instead, we’re getting harassed,” Luna added. 

This is not the first time that the LASD has faced backlash. In January this year, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra announced that he would launch a civil rights investigation after reports surfaced of civil rights violations, misconduct, and the use of excessive force by deputies.

CBS Los Angeles also reported in January on research conducted by the Loyola Marymount University’s School of Law, which found evidence of some 18 secret gangs of deputies within the LASD — which included instances of members who sported matching tattoos of skulls wearing Nazi-style helmets.

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