LOS ANGELES - A family filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County after mother Barbara Kappos said she watched "in horror" as LA County Sheriff's Department deputies held her daughter, Gabriela Koutantos, at gunpoint during a traffic stop.
"I thought they might kill her," said Kappos.
In September 2022, LASD deputies pulled Koutantos over while she was allegedly on her way to return a U-Haul van she rented earlier that day.
According to the family, Koutantos was surrounded by approximately a dozen sheriff's deputies, held at gunpoint, forced to kneel in the middle of the street, handcuffed and detained in an allegedly unventilated police car for approximately one hour in the "sweltering heat."
Koutantos' mother witnessed the incident and said she was forced to "watch in horror" as deputies allegedly pointed guns at her daughter. Kappos said she screamed at the deputies, begging them not to harm Kountantos.
After what the lawsuit alleges was a "lengthy detention," deputies released Kountantos, saying they had pulled her over believing that the U-Haul rental was stolen.
"I was terrified, I feared for my life. I had no idea why the police had pulled me over," said Kountantos. "When I was on the ground and heard my mother's voice, I thought I may never see her again."
The lawsuit alleges that LASD deputies used illegal and violent "high-risk" tactics when executing a "low-risk traffic stop" for non-violent potential property crime, as Koutantos did not have a criminal history, nor was she armed.
The suit also alleges that often vehicles stopped on the suspicion of being stolen are done so in error due to issues within police databases.
The family is suing LA County as the county is "responsible for assuring that the actions of LASD" comply with local and federal laws and regulations.
"The incident shows that the Sheriff's Department is completely out of control," said Koutantos' attorney Brian Oleny. "It's outrageous. They must be held accountable."
LASD declined to comment on pending litigation, but noted that they have not yet been served with a suit.