Stay classy, Lynwood. The city manager of this Los Angeles suburb decided to use his Instagram account to weigh in on the ambush shooting of two deputies … and to more or less endorse it. Jose Ometeotl used a Malcolm X meme to argue that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and its deputies basically had it coming to them, calling the shooting “chickens come home to roost” (via Jeff Dunetz):
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) September 13, 2020
Ometeotl’s Instagram page has been moved to private, but Melugin shared a screenshot of the post, which was a graphic of Malcolm X. A Change.org petition was started demanding Ometeotl’s resignation. …
Ometeotl wrote with the graphic:
“The shooting of anyone is a wholly unacceptable occurrence in society. I do not condone the type of violence seen in the shooting of the deputies yesterday in Compton. I will say that communities like Compton have been plagued by deputy gangs that inflict fear and violence in the community. These deputies murdered, framed and stole from the community just because they could. Good deputies never turned on bad deputies for fear of retaliation and when caught most of these bad deputies kept their jobs and continued on their criminal career. The fact that someone randomly opened fire on deputies is to be expected in the society we live in today. The political climate and leadership of Sheriff Villanueva has only sowed the seeds of anger and frustration in the community. I pray for the deputies and their families while still demanding justice for Andres Guardado, Breona Taylor, Tamir Rice, Ahmaud Arbery…”
“Deputy gangs”? Heavy notes that Ometeotl seems to be referencing a Los Angeles Times report from two months ago about a complaint from a deputy in the Compton station. The deputy alleged that LASD deputies had formed cliques or “gangs” within the department, and that they operate as authorities within authorities, so to speak:
It was one of the first instances of retaliation that continued for months, exacted by the Executioners, a band of deputies with matching tattoos that wields vast power at the Compton station, he alleged in a claim filed against Los Angeles County. The claim says the group — sporting tattoos of a skull with Nazi imagery and an AK-47 — celebrates deputy shootings and the induction of new members with “inking parties.”
In recent years, the claim says, its members were involved in setting illegal arrest quotas and threatening work slowdowns — which involve ignoring or responding slowly to calls — when they did not get preferred assignments.
The allegations have revived long-standing concerns that inked deputy groups — with monikers such as the Spartans, Regulators, Grim Reapers and Banditos — operate out of several Sheriff’s Department stations and represent what many in the community see as criminal gangs within law enforcement. The existence of such fraternities has sparked multiple internal investigations and recently a federal probe by the FBI, but the groups have remained entrenched, with many civil liberties advocates accusing the Sheriff’s Department of turning a blind eye.
“We have a gang here that has grown to the point where it dominates every aspect of life at the Compton station,” said Alan Romero, an attorney representing Gonzalez in the claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit. “It essentially controls scheduling, the distribution of informant tips, and assignments to deputies in the station with preference shown to members of the gang as well as prospects.”
Sheriff Alex Villanueva denies that gangs run the Compton station, but ordered an investigation. The FBI is also conducting a probe to see whether this allegation is true and resulting in civil-rights violations, which would trigger action by the Department of Justice — especially these days. Worth noting, too: The commander of the LASD Compton station is Captain La Tonya Clark, an African-American woman.
None of this has been substantiated yet, however, and it has nothing to do with the ambush shooting that took place. The deputies got shot while sitting in their car, not out on patrol or committing some kind of civil-rights violations. With this statement, Ometeotl is tacitly encouraging open-season assaults on law enforcement and justifying them as “chickens come home to roost.”
The city council tried doing a little damage control late yesterday:
The City of Lynwood, which is just outside Compton, issued a statement that appeared to be in response to Ometeotl’s post, that offered prayers to the deputies and their families.
“There have been comments made today (Sunday) by our City Manager on his personal social media that are his personal opinions and don’t reflect the position of the Lynwood City Council,” the statement read.
There’s one sure way to deal with that, then. The city council hired Ometeotl as city manager; they can fire him as well, as city managers are appointed rather than elected. If Ometeotl’s public statements about law enforcement contradict the council’s view, then that kind of basic disconnect on the primary role of government — protecting its citizens — requires a change of personnel. If Ometeotl keeps his job, then it’s pretty apparent that his statement does reflect the city council’s true attitude, or at least doesn’t contradict it enough for them to do anything more than pay lip service to law enforcement. I wonder if Ometeotl will appreciate that chicken coming home to roost.
If the council doesn’t fire Ometeotl, the LASD could decide to terminate its services to Lynwood, which it provides under contract. Lynwood is an incorporated city, which means that the county sheriff only operates in that jurisdiction by mutual agreement. If Lynwood wants to call open season on LASD deputies, the LASD can pull out and leave Lynwood to stand up its own police force. That might be an instructive moment in 2020.