A second wrongful lawsuit was filed against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department this week connected to mandated overtime requirements at LASD patrol stations and custody divisions.
The family of Deputy Arturo Atilano-Valdez, the fourth member of the LASD to die by suicide in a 24 hour period on November 7th, announced they will be filing a government claim, the first step in litigation, holding the department accountable for their actions that the family believes led to the deputy’s suicide.
The family is seeking $20 million in damages.
“This is literally a life and death situation,” attorney Brad Gage, who is representing the family, said at a news conference Friday. “Deputies are being forced to work overtime in an amount that is unsafe – unsafe to them and unsafe to others.”
According to Gage, Deputy Atilano-Valdez was working regular double shifts, arriving at home at 11:00 p.m. and getting up at 4:00 a.m. to repeat the grueling process. This and other factors, including being passed over for promotion multiple times, led to depression and despair and ultimately, taking his own life.
The morning of November 7th, Deputy Atilano-Valdez’s wife and daughter found him at the family home injured as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He died hours later at the hospital.
Deputy Atilano-Valdez’s wife allegedly confronted Sheriff Luna and Chief of Custody Division, Sergio Aloma, at the hospital blaming the demands of an under supported and understaffed department for her husband’s death.
To date, the total reported suicides at LASD this year is at nine, with four occurring in a 24 hour period, an unprecedented number in the department’s over 150 year history.
On November 27th, The Current Report broke the story of the Clinkunbroomer family’s wrongful death suit filed against the Department. Attorney Brad Gage is also representing the family who is seeking $20 million dollars in damages similar to the Atilano-Valdez claim.
Luna and his executive staff’s alleged mismanagement of the largest sheriff’s department in the country is being used as a basis for both wrongful death claims. Sheriff Luna was named in the Clinkunbroomer government claim as a “Public employee causing the injury, damage or loss…”.
“Sheriff Luna and the Board of Supervisors knew of the dangers to their employees as a result of intentionally forcing overtime, but intentionally pursued such actions in conscious disregard of the rights and safety of deputies. The result is that the Sheriff’s Department knew or should have known that deputies would be targeted for execution and needed sufficient rest in order to avoid foreseeable tragedies of death. Disregarding the safety of his troops, Sheriff Luna continues to force his deputies work mind-numbing overtime resulting in Ryan’s death and the likely death of other deputies. This Government Claim and subsequent lawsuit seeks justice for the family and to save lives of other deputies.”
Retired LASD Sergeant Danny Coons, author of the book “Bro;ken: Understanding the Effects of Post Traumatic Stress”, quoted data on sleep disorders from The Sleep Foundation on retired LASD Chief Pat Jordan’s show, “Briefing with the Chief” this week, discussing the debilitating work conditions, specifically sleep deprivation due to mandated overtime, and how it is potentially directly connected to the suicides:
“After approximately 18 hours of being awake, multi-tasking, and hand-eye coordination are comparable to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05% . After 20 hours awake, drowsy drivers are impaired on a level equatable to a 0.08% blood alcohol content, which is the current legal limit in most states. After 24 hours awake, impairment is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.1%.”
Similarly, Dave Grossman, a retired Army Ranger Lt. Col., psychologist, sleep expert says “sleep deprivation is the #1 reason officers commit suicide, make ethical mistakes and use excessive force”.
Ultimately, the responsibility rests on Sheriff Luna and the Board of Supervisors, whose concerted efforts to defund the Sheriff’s Department due to their contentious relationship with former Sheriff Alex Villanueva resulting in deplorable work conditions which has turned the rank and file into ticking time bombs.