Jail Surveillance Video Released by ACLU Shows Deputies Smashing Man’s Head into Concrete Wall

Still Image captured from ACLU of Southern California “Trigger warning: Abuse in L.A. Jails

By The Vanguard Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA – A jail surveillance video caught an incarcerated man’s head being violently smashed into a solid concrete jail wall by sheriff’s deputies at the Los Angeles Men’s Central Jail without any obvious reason, according to a newly released 15-second video obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. 

The Los Angeles Times said photos taken after the incident show the “unidentified man covered in blood with a deep, gaping head wound roughly 3 inches long and nearly half an inch wide.”

Corene Kendrick, deputy director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, said, “To call that video barbaric is an insult to barbarians. It’s a wonder that that man isn’t dead. I just lack the words to articulate how shocking this is,” the LA Times wrote.

The Sheriff’s Dept. told The Times the two deputies involved have been relieved of duty with pay, and the case is under investigation by the Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, which will present its findings to local prosecutors.

The LA Times said the “beginning of the video — dated July 4, 2022 — shows two deputies casually talking in a hallway inside Men’s Central Jail. There’s no sound, so it’s unclear what they’re saying, but it appears they’re waiting for a man to come out of his cell. About seven seconds in, a cell door on the right side of the hallway slides open and a man walks out calmly, his hands already restrained behind his back. 

“One of the deputies grabs him, and the man seems to pull away slightly as he tries to continue walking. Suddenly, a deputy slams the man’s head into the concrete wall, and both men tackle him. A third deputy comes running just as the video cuts off, so it’s unclear how long the violence continued.”

ACLU lawyers reported the incarcerated man survived, and they have not revealed the source of the video other than noting it is “jail surveillance video that did not come from the Sheriff’s Department directly,” said The Times.

Meredith Gallen of the public defenders’ union told The Times the video was both troubling and indicative of the brutality people face in Los Angeles jails, adding, “We continue to be horrified by the violence being perpetrated against our clients and community members by LASD deputies in the jails.”

The Times said “the photos and video offer a rare glimpse of the violence meted out by deputies that has been documented for decades inside the Los Angeles jails. Though that sort of violence behind bars is the crux of a decade-old class-action lawsuit against the county, it usually remains unseen by the public as most jail videos are protected from disclosure.”

The ACLU said Friday it has filed a series of court pleadings about use of force against incarcerated in LA jails. The original suits were filed in 2012 “when inmates filed a lawsuit alleging that “degrading, cruel and sadistic deputy attacks on inmates” had become a common occurrence — one that they said top Sheriff’s Department officials had known about and failed to address,” The Times writes.

The ACLU alleged many of the beatings by deputies were “far more severe than the infamous 1991 beating of Rodney King.” 

After three years of legal wrangling, in 2015 the inmates—represented by the ACLU—and the county came to an agreement about specific changes the Sheriff’s Department would make to reduce the number of beatings behind bars, said The Times.

“But now, eight years later, outside experts and ACLU lawyers say the department has still not fulfilled all the requirements of the 2015 agreement,” said The Times, adding, “A report written earlier this year by court-appointed monitors tasked with making sure the jails meet their end of the agreement offered stark findings, saying that the monitors had stopped seeing any progress.”

“It is time for the jail culture to stop supporting behaviors that are forbidden by policy,” the monitors wrote, and the inmates’ lawyers “asked the county to make some changes to its plan for improvement — such as creating mandatory minimum punishments for deputies who violate certain use-of-force policies and banning deputies from punching inmates in the head unless it’s a situation that could require deadly force,” explained The Times.

The county objected to both of those suggestions, arguing, as The Times writes, “Creating a stricter policy against hitting inmates in the head was an ‘extreme’ and ‘unwarranted’ suggestion, lawyers for the county wrote. On top of that, the department already tightened its policy last year — and now the number of incidents involving deputies punching inmates in the head is down to one a month at each of the three downtown jails, as compared with two a month at each facility two years ago.

There are, said The Times, at least “three major lawsuits involving the Los Angeles jails, the oldest of which has been ongoing since the mid-1970s. That case — which is also being handled by the ACLU — is currently focused on abysmal living conditions in the Inmate Reception Center, where last year lawyers discovered that severely mentally ill inmates were routinely being left chained to benches and chairs for days at a time.”

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