A new report from the L.A. County Office of Inspector General provides an analysis of the criminal investigation into the Banditos, a gang or clique of Sheriff’s Department deputies that is said to operate out of an East L.A. patrol station. The report accuses the department of promoting a “code of silence” regarding sub-groups within the ranks.
While secret societies have existed in the LASD since the 1970s, a lot of attention has been brought recently to groups including the Banditos of East L.A. and the Executioners, which a whistleblower accused of calling the shots in Compton while sporting matching tattoos containing Nazi imagery.
This particular report focuses on a 2018 incident in which a group of older deputies, reportedly involved with the Banditos, allegedly assaulted a group of newer deputies at a party at Kennedy Hall in East L.A. According to the report, what began as insults and threats escalated to physical violence. One deputy said he was choked and began to lose consciousness. Another later required sutures to a wound on his lip.
A lawsuit alleging harassment, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress is still pending. That lawsuit alleges that the Banditos are 90 strong, with 30 members currently working at the East L.A. station, running it “like inmates running a prison yard.” The lawsuit also prompted the County Board of Supervisors to request a list of all lawsuits related to LASD cliques dating back to 1990. That report showed these sub-groups have cost the county $55 million since then.
After the party, the LASD Internal Criminal Investigation Bureau conducted an investigation, during which they identified over 70 witnesses. According to the inspector general report, 23 of those witnesses declined to make statements against other deputies.
“It should be noted that several of the deputies who declined to be interviewed have been alleged to be members of the Banditos,” the report reads. “At least one of these deputies has been promoted to a coveted position in the Sheriff’s Department.”
The district attorney’s office did not move to request or impel statements.
The report further alleges that the Internal Criminal Investigation Bureau did not appropriately investigate allegations of a sub-group, either by not asking questions about the Banditos to begin with or by not following up on them.
The inspector general report lists two recommendations. First, that the LASD thoroughly investigate internal criminal allegations using the same practices they would use if they were investigating a suspect who was not an LASD employee. Second, the LASD should compel statements from all witness deputies who do not invoke their right against self-incrimination.