Former LASD deputy to plead guilty to false imprisonment of man at Compton skate park

A former deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has agreed to plead guilty to charges that he falsely imprisoned a man at a Compton skate park in 2020, and conspired to violate his civil rights by covering it up, the Justice Department announced Saturday. Another former deputy involved in the incident has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the same incident.

Christopher Blair Hernandez used to be a deputy assigned to LASD's Compton Station. According to his plea agreement, Hernandez agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy.

Back on April 13, 2020, Hernandez and his then-partner, former LASD Deputy Miguel Angel Vega were patrolling the Compton area and stopped at Wilson Park, after Hernandez saw a group of men, including one he believed was on probation. When the two deputies approached the men, another man started yelling at the deputies, asking them to leave the men alone.

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That's when, according to Hernandez's plea agreement, Vega challenged the man to a fight, pulled him through an opening in the park's fence, and put him in the back of their LASD cruiser. The man was never handcuffed, was never told he was under arrest, was never read his rights, and his seatbelt wasn't fastened, according to the DOJ. The plea deal said that Hernandez knew the deputies had no legal reason to detain the man.

The deputies drove away from the park with the man still in the back seat. While in the car, Vega allegedly challenged the man to a fight again. He also allegedly threatened to drop him off in gang territory, and make up charges that the man was under the influence. That's when the deputies got into a chase. During the chase, Vega, who was allegedly driving got into a crash with the cruiser, and the man in the back seat was injured enough to require stitches. After the crash, according to the DOJ, Vega finally took the man out of the cruiser and told him to go. 

According to Hernandez's plea agreement, that's when Vega reported a man with a gun, wearing clothes similar to those of the man Vega had just let go. Initially, neither Vega nor Hernandez mentioned that they'd detained a man at the skate park, or that the man was in the cruiser during the crash. They didn't tell other deputies or their supervisors about the detainment until after that same man was detained on a nearby street for matching Vega's description of a man with a gun, the DOJ said.

Later at the hospital, Hernandez, in his plea agreement said that he instructed another deputy to cite the man for being under the influence, even though he knew that to not be true. After that, both Hernandez and Vega allegedly wrote false incident reports, stating that the man appeared under the influence, that he'd threatened people at the skate park, and more, which Hernandez agreed in his plea were all untrue.

While Hernandez has agreed to plead guilty to the one charge of conspiracy, Vega has pleaded not guilty to five counts, including conspiracy, deprivation of rights under color of law, witness tampering and falsification or records. Vega is scheduled to begin trial on Oct. 24.