Gordon Tokumatsu, Tom Bravo
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is facing allegations of gang-like crimes brought to the surface by a veteran deputy's lawsuit. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Beverly Hills for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 28, 2014.
A group of tattooed male deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who called themselves the "Banditos" allegedly sexually harassed female trainees and demanded sexual favors as part of initiation, according to a report by NBC News.
Guadalupe Lopez, who was assigned to the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s station in Boyle Heights beginning in 2011, is seeking unspecified damages.
She alleges sexual harassment, hazing and retaliation that included being run off the road by another deputy, being slammed into a wall while she held a loaded shotgun, and having a dead rat placed under her car after she reported objectionable behavior, according to the lawsuit.
Lopez's attorney Gregory Smith said the deputies involved were part of a gang.
"I see sheriff's deputies that are sworn to protect us acting like the people they're supposed to be putting in jail," Smith said, showing some of the "Banditos" T-shirts emblazoned with skeletons and one reading, "Wanted Dead or Alive."
Lopez alleges she was shown photos of other female deputies performing sexual favors for male deputies. She said she was nearly driven off the road by a Banditos member. She also said she was bumped up against a stationhouse wall.
She alleged someone dropped a dead rat near her car.
Ultimately, she said, she was given a less-desirable department job after she complained.
Interim Sheriff John Scott said the deputies involved were disciplined after an investigation was launched three years ago when the allegations first surfaced. He added, though, that a new investigation would be launched.
The legal challenge comes more than a month after a grand jury indicted two deputies on civil rights charges for allegedly striking a restrained inmate in jail.
The deputies allegedly covered up their actions by preparing false police reports, according to federal prosecutors.
The allegations are part of a larger investigation into the use of illegal force by LA County deputies in jails. The investigation resulted in civil rights and corruption charge again 18 current and former members of the department.
Sheriff Lee Baca has elected not to seek a fifth term.