Video shows probation officers standing by as teen is beaten at LA County juvenile hall

According to The Los Angeles Times, the video of the attack was shown in court in Sylmar Thursday.

Saturday, April 13, 2024
Probation officers stand by as teen is beaten at Downey juvenile hall
Several L.A. County probation officers stood idly by while a series of youth detainees at a Downey facility attacked a 17-year-old fellow detainee, video shows.

DOWNEY, Calif. (CNS) -- Several Los Angeles County probation officers stood idly by while a series of youth detainees at a Downey facility attacked a 17-year-old fellow detainee, punching and kicking the teen in what appear to be coordinated assaults, according to video first obtained and published Friday by the Los Angeles Times.

The surveillance video from inside the Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall was taken on Dec. 22, 2023, and it depicts several detainees eating at tables. One youth is standing on the far end of the room, and in an almost coordinated fashion, multiple other youths run up to him one at a time and begin punching and kicking him, knocking him to the ground on at least two occasions.

At least five probation officers are in the room at the time. One occasionally steps in to break up the fights, but she appears to be smiling or laughing. By the end of the six-minute video, the victim teen walks to one of the tables and sits down with other youth.

The county Probation Department in January announced that eight probation officers had been placed on leave in response to a "significant incident'' involving them and detained juveniles at Los Padrinos, but the agency did not provide any specifics. Sources told The Times in January that the officers were disciplined for allowing a detainee to be beaten by other youths as they stood by and failed to intervene.

According to The Times, the video of the attack was shown in court in Sylmar Thursday, when the 17-year-old victim's attorney asked that her client be released due to unsafe conditions at Los Padrinos. The attorney, Sherrie Albin, said the teen suffered a broken nose in the attack, but was not taken for medical treatment by probation officers for several days after the beatings.

During Thursday's court hearing, Albin said one of the probation officers seen in the video "instigated'' the attacks, saying that officer told other youths that the 17-year-old was a racist based on his gang affiliation and where he lived, The Times reported. According to the paper, all of the assailants were Black, and the 17-year-old is Latino.

The teen's family has filed a damages claim -- a precursor to a lawsuit -- against the county, according to The Times.

The judge in Thursday's hearing ultimately declined to release the teen, noting that he has been transferred out of the unit at Los Padrinos where the attacks occurred, The Times reported.

A representative for the Probation Department told The Times that county Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa "took immediate action upon learning of the incident and observing the footage.''

Viera Rosa later released a statement:

"Now that the video has been released in the media, it should be abundantly clear why I felt compelled to take swift action once this incident was brought to my attention. I not only ordered those involved to be relieved of duty pending an investigation, I referred the investigation to an external law enforcement agency to ensure independence.

Because I was not satisfied with how this was reported internally, I have secured authority from the Board of Supervisors to restructure and professionalize Internal Affairs. This will make sure we conduct fair, thorough - and prompt - investigations in those rare cases where our personnel fall short of our core values.

We will not tolerate misconduct like that depicted in the video, nor will we tolerate a lack of urgent response, if and when these incidents happen."

On Thursday, the California Board of State and Community Corrections reversed an earlier ruling and found that Los Padrinos and the Barry J. Nidorf Secure Youth Treatment Facility in Sylmar were suitable to house youth. The facilities had been declared unsuitable in February, with the state board citing violations ranging from poor staffing levels to inadequate training, education programs, safety plans and disciplinary procedures.

Had the board not reversed the unsuitability finding, both facilities would have been forced to close next week.

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