Three Los Angeles sheriff deputies were convicted today for viciously beating a man who was trying to visit his brother in the county jail, then lying to cover it up.
Deputies were upset that Gabriel Carrillo had “mouthed off” to them after he had brought in a cell phone into the visiting lobby center, which is a misdemeanor.
One of the deputies snapped a photo of his bloodied face, texting it to another deputy, bragging and joking about the beating.
They would have gotten away with it had it not been for another two deputies who testified against them, telling prosecutors that after beating Carrillo, they all huddled together to get their lies straight about the February 2011 incident.
One of the turncoat deputies, Pantamitr Zunggeemoge, initially arrested Carrillo, taking him into a break room from the visiting room, which was where he handcuffed him, confiscating the phone.
He said he was annoyed that Carrillo had mouthed off to him, so he lifted the man’s arms behind his back after they were cuffed “so he could feel some pain,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Zunggeemoge then left the room to run Carrillo’s name in a criminal database, leaving him in there with other deputies.
When he returned, he found deputy Fernando Luviano struggling with Carrillo as Sergeant Eric Gonzalez and deputy Sussie Ayala watched.
Zunggeeemoge said he jumped in to help Luviano with Carrillo, bringing him to the ground and slamming his face against the floor, continuing to beat him even though it was clear the man was handcuffed.
Luviano pepper sprayed him and when Carrillo turned his face to avoid that, Zunggeemoge punched him twice.
Another deputy, Neil Womack, entered the room and began beating the handcuffed man, who was facedown on the floor. He also turned against his fellow deputies after initially going along with the lie.
Then, once they were content that they had taught him a lesson, the five deputies in the room gathered to concoct a story to justify the beating.
Sergeant Gonzalez, the supervisor, told them to say that Carrillo had only one arm handcuffed and was swinging it wildly, causing the deputies to fear for their lives, which is why they had no choice but to beat him to a pulp.
To complete the lie, they charged him with battery against law enforcement officers, a felonies that would have sent him to prison, but the charges were quickly dropped and Carrillo has since been awarded $1.2 million settlement.
Apparently, there are no cameras in the break room, which would have made it more difficult to create a false narrative.
Beatings like this were so common that the FBI launched an investigation against 18 deputies in 2013 who worked in the county jails, including the ones involved in this incident.
At first, Zunggeemoge remained loyal to the blue line, sticking to the lie that Carrillo was a crazed wild man swinging a handcuff at the deputies, who were only concerned for his safety.
They told the same lie to internal affairs, the district attorney’s office and Carrillo’s defense attorney’s during depositions.
But when the feds indicted the five deputies for assault and civil rights violations, Zunggeemoge and Womack decided to strike a deal, agreeing to plead guilty to criminal charges as well as to testify against the other deputies.
Under the terms of the agreement he signed last week, Deputy Noel Womack gave prosecutors a new version of the violent 2011 encounter in a windowless, secluded room in the Men’s Central Jail facility. Deputies, he said, beat the jail visitor even though the man was handcuffed and not resisting as he was held on the floor, according to a copy of the agreement reviewed by The Times.
Womack has agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge that he lied to FBI agents during an interview last month when he told them he did not know if the visitor was handcuffed, the agreement said. He admitted to lying again when he told the agents his supervisor had ordered him to punch the man and a third time when he said the strikes he inflicted on the man had been necessary, the agreement said.
The second deputy, Pantamitr Zunggeemoge, entered a guilty plea earlier this year, court records show. The agreement between prosecutors and Zunggeemoge, who faced several allegations of abuse and dishonesty, was sealed by U.S. District Judge George H. King, keeping its details secret.
But a court filing by another defendant last month said that Zunggeemoge, too, has told prosecutors that the visitor was handcuffed during the incident. In his statement to prosecutors, the filing said, Zunggeemoge said deputies had concocted a story that only one of the man’s hands was cuffed to justify their use of force. The filing also said that Zunggeemoge has agreed to cooperate fully and testify for the government if prosecutors call him as a witness.
The plea deals forbid the two men from ever working in law enforcement again, which is a given considering very few agencies will hire anybody who goes against the blue line of omertà.
Sentencing for the convicted deputies will be November 2. It has not been determined if they will remain in custody until then. They each face decades in prison.
Below is a video talking to deputies after the beating.