Los Angeles Prosecutors Assembling Grand Jury In Sheriff Kneeling Case

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Los Angeles Prosecutors Assembling Grand Jury In Sheriff Kneeling Case
A deputy used his knee against the head of an inmate to restrain him, and internal documents show the sheriff's department tried to cover it up.

Los Angeles prosecutors are assembling a grand jury to investigate the sheriff's department's handling of an incident in which a deputy knelt on an inmate's head and kept his knee there for three minutes.  

"We don't have time for this internal, let-me-see-if-we-can-blow-up-the-sheriff-somehow nonsense," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

Villanueva insists he didn't know about the incident until months after it occurred, at which time he ordered a criminal investigation and relieved the deputy of duty.

But internal sources at the sheriff's department told the Los Angeles Times the sheriff knew just days after the incident occurred.

Internal documents show the department tried to sweep the incident under the rug to avoid bad press and public parallels to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Surveillance video the Los Angeles Times obtained shows what happened. 

Deputies walked two inmates through a hall during routine checks as the inmates await court appearances. One of the inmates punched a deputy, and several deputies swarm into a physical struggle with the man to restrain him.  

After the inmate is on the ground, a deputy placed his knee on his head.

He kept it there for minutes, even after the inmate stopped resisting, according to sheriffs department officials who viewed the video.

The incident and alleged coverup comes amid shrinking law enforcement ranks in Los Angeles. 

"A number of our specialized units have been either disbanded or significantly downsized as a result of the reduction in our workforce," Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel R. Moore said.

In Los Angeles County, it's another scandal for a sheriff accused of corruption, overseeing a department where deputies are accused of being gang members.

The assembly of a grand jury is no surprise for the sheriff.

"We're more than excited to actually have to testify under oath in any court of competent jurisdiction on this matter, in front of a grand jury, in federal court," Villanueva said. "In fact, we're more than excited to."

But it is a sign of the county's appetite for holding its sheriffs' feet to the fire on use of force.