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Prosecutors decline to charge deputies in alleged East L.A. Station hazing linked to Banditos

Prosecutors declined to file charges against a Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant and three deputies who were investigated for allegedly beating four other deputies at an off-duty East L.A. station party in September 2018, records show.

In a 28-page memo released Friday, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said there was “insufficient evidence” that Sgt. Michael Hernandez and deputies Rafael Munoz, Gregory Rodriguez and David Silverio committed battery or any crimes.

“The evidence examined in this investigation shows that all involved individuals had consumed alcohol, the area in question was dark and unlit, many contradictory statements were made by both witnesses and the parties involved, and everyone involved has potential bias,” the memo said.

The case was investigated by the Sheriff’s Department’s internal criminal investigations bureau. A department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The altercation happened toward the end of an off-duty party at Kennedy Hall, an event space near the East L.A. station, to celebrate the end of training for new deputies. It was shortly before 4 a.m. when a group of deputies ended up in a darkened parking lot next to the hall. By the end of the incident, one deputy, Art Hernandez, had a bloody lip and was possibly rendered unconscious and a second had a sore neck, the memo said.

Prosecutors said there were several different accounts of what happened. No surveillance footage or cellphone video was recovered. The subjects of the investigation declined to be interviewed by sheriff’s investigators. Several other off-duty employees provided statements and 21 deputies identified as possible witnesses declined to be interviewed, the memo said.

The incident also came up in a civil lawsuit filed against Los Angeles County in September by eight Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who said they were routinely harassed by the Banditos, a clique of predominantly Latino deputies who wear tattoos of a skeleton with a sombrero, bandoleer and pistol. Its members’ monikers include “the Godfather,” “Big Listo” and “Bam Bam,” according to the lawsuit.

The district attorney’s office’s memo referenced the Banditos, which prosecutors said was associated with a group of older, more senior deputies that ostracized younger deputies they felt were lazy.

“At no point in this investigation did any witnesses indicate that the ‘Banditos’ were equivalent to a gang or any type of criminal enterprise,” the memo said.

The civil lawsuit, however, has accused members of the group of repeatedly denying backup to the plaintiff deputies on dangerous calls, pressuring them to quit or leave the station, sending hostile messages on work computers, overloading them with calls at the end of their shifts and denying them overtime, going back to 2016.

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