Deputies claiming they were pressured to quit by alleged 'Banditos' can move forward with lawsuit, judge rules

Eight Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies who allege they were pressured to quit their jobs or leave the East Los Angeles Station by members of a clique of mostly Latino deputies known as the Banditos can move forward with their case with its current causes of action for now, a judge ruled Monday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco denied motions by attorneys for Los Angeles County and the four individual former deputies also being sued to dismiss portions of the case against their clients, saying the allegations at this point in the sixth amended complaint are meant to put the defendants on notice of what the plaintiffs are alleging. But she said the defendants are not barred from raising many of the same arguments later in a future motion to dismiss the case before trial after the completion of additional discovery.

Plaintiff Deputies Art Hernandez, Alfred Gonzalez, Benjamin Zaredini, David Casas, Louis Granados, Mario Contreras, Oscar Escobedo and Ariela Lemus are seeking unspecified damages on allegations that include racial discrimination, harassment, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil rights violations.

Jason Tokoro, an attorney for Los Angeles County, argued that the majority of the claims against the county should be dismissed. He said that the racial discrimination and harassment causes of action were unfounded because both the plaintiffs and individual deputy defendants are Latinos and that it is unlikely the latter were "racist against themselves."

Tokoro also said it was the unwillingness of the plaintiffs to conform to the alleged demands of the Banditos that brought about their alleged injuries, not their ethnicity. Some non-Latino deputies also alleged they were victimized by the Banditos, according to Tokoro.


However, plaintiffs' attorney Vincent Miller stated in his court papers that two non-Latino deputies testified in the litigation that they observed the Banditos only harassing Latino deputies.

The plaintiffs lawsuit, originally filed in September 2019, names as defendants Los Angeles County and Deputies Rafael "Rene" Munoz, Gregory Rodriguez, David Silverio and Michael Hernandez. In Monday's ruling, the judge also rejected arguments by attorneys for the quartet to dismiss claims against their clients for harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The suit deals in large part with the events that allegedly occurred during a September 2018 training session at Kennedy Hall, an East Los Angeles event venue, at which the plaintiffs maintain the defendants violently attacked them. The suit alleges the defendant deputies threatened the lives of Gonzalez and his family before attacking all of the plaintiffs.

Banditos gang members "sucker-punched" Art Hernandez and "knocked him out cold," then kicked him while he was unconscious and unable to defend himself, according to the plaintiffs' court papers. The suit alleges the assailants also grabbed Escobedo from behind twice and choked him unconscious in a manner that could have killed him.

The plaintiffs were threatened and bullied in attempts to get them to conform to a "corrupt culture," were denied needed backup help on dangerous calls, were "shaken down" and ordered to pay taxes to the gang, according to the suit. Some plaintiffs allege they were hit and choked unconscious.