Villanueva, the Los Angeles Sheriff, Concedes After Combative Term in Court: ‘I’ll Be Back to Kill as Many as I Can’
‘I’ll be back to kill as many as I can,’ says Sheriff Alex Villanueva of California county prisons, during a fiery debate with a federal judge last month in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of California in Los Angeles. (Bob Riha, Reuters)
LOS ANGELES — When Sheriff Alex Villanueva was sworn in as the 34th sheriff for Los Angeles County in 2013, everyone expected him to be a relatively conventional Democrat with a progressive streak and an enthusiasm for using the force.
But the sheriff had a very different agenda. He was a former Navy SEAL with a master’s degree in police administration that he’d acquired during a decade of working in law enforcement.
And he was passionate about using the police to punish wrongdoers, particularly people in the criminal-justice system. In 2014, he led a jail riot after he arrested the man at a traffic checkpoint who had just killed his dog. The man was later found innocent.
Villanueva used the same kind of force — police arrest, search, and detain — that he had used to quell a jail rebellion in 2013, and it worked. His officers took a beating and lost some equipment in the process. Yet the jail riot didn’t foment anything like a nationwide revolt.
“There was no unrest,” Villanueva said. “There was no civil unrest. The jail’s population didn’t really step outside and start going back to the community and talking about it.”
But in 2014, after a year-long trial that cost nearly $1 billion, Villanueva was convicted on a federal charge of deprivation of civil rights based on the conduct of his deputies in handling an investigation of the fatal shooting of a black male by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
After the conviction was announced in December, Villanueva issued this statement through a spokesman: “I recognize that I am no hero. I am guilty of a crime. I am disappointed that I now face this trial, and I have no regrets about what I did or did not do. However, my actions on that day were necessary to protect the public and uphold the