Emmanuel Vega pleaded guilty Friday to voluntary manslaughter, shooting at a car and attempted murder, all felonies, and admitted a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm in the Nov. 2, 2011, shooting death of 36-year-old Juan Manuel Diaz in the 1600 block of East Edinger Avenue.
Vega also pleaded guilty to attempted murder for the Jan. 12, 2019, attack on a sheriff’s deputy, according to court records. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for that case, which will run concurrent to the manslaughter case.
Vega was given credit for 3,114 days in custody.
Vega was arrested in December 2013 in connection with the Nov. 2, 2011, shooting death of Diaz.
Co-defendant Steve Moreno, 31, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in January 2014 and has been awaiting sentencing. Court records in his case are sealed.
Vega opened fire from a Toyota 4Runner owned by this father into a blue van with Diaz behind the wheel, according to police testimony from his March 2015 preliminary hearing.
Roberto Diaz, who was a passenger in the van, was also wounded but survived.
Moreno told police he was a passenger in the SUV. According to the preliminary hearing testimony, Vega picked him up and they drove to a park in Irvine looking for members of a local gang.
They didn’t see anyone from the particular gang they were looking for so they played some basketball before Vega went over to a handball court to resume the search, according to testimony. They were about to leave when they saw Juan and Roberto Diaz and decided to follow them, according to the police testimony.
Vega produced a gun during the ride, but Moreno declined to use it, so Vega opened fire on the victims, who were cousins of Moreno’s wife, police said. It wasn’t clear what motivated the shooting.
Vega had been charged with murder with special circumstance allegations of shooting from a vehicle and murder by means of lying in wait. He was also facing charges of possession of a gun by a felon and attempted murder, with sentencing enhancement allegations for discharge of a gun causing great bodily injury or death and attempted premeditated murder.
In the attack on the deputy on Jan. 12, 2019, Vega used a metal shank, prosecutors said. He was also accused of attacking another deputy and a sergeant, according to court records.
SACRAMENTO — California police agencies should routinely review officers’ social media, cellphones and computers for racist, bigoted or other offensive content that contributes to disproportionate police stops of Black people, a state advisory board said Monday.
The controversial recommendation comes from community and law enforcement representatives who analyzed nearly 4 million vehicle and pedestrian stops by California’s 15 largest law enforcement agencies in 2019.
The Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board report was unveiled amid calls to defund police and promises from state lawmakers to renew efforts to strip badges from bad officers, make more police misconduct records public, and allow community groups to handle mental health and drug calls where police powers may not be needed.
People who were perceived as Black were more than twice as likely to be stopped as their percentage of the population would suggest, the board said in its fourth annual report.
Black people also had the highest proportion of their stops (21%) for reasonable suspicion, while the most common reason for stops of people of all races was traffic violations. Black people were searched at 2.5 times the rate of people perceived as white.
And the odds were 1.45 times greater that someone perceived as Black had force used against them during a traffic stop compared to someone perceived as white. The odds were 1.18 times greater for people perceived as Latino.
Reform efforts have often focused on increasing training to make officers aware of how their implicit, or unconscious, bias may affect their interactions. Starting this year, a new law also requires agencies to screen job applicants for implicit and explicit biases.
“Unchecked explicit bias may lead to some of the stop data disparities we have observed,” the board said.
Explicitly racist or bigoted social media posts by some law enforcement officers appear to be a widespread problem nationwide, it said, citing a study by the Plain View Project that examined the Facebook accounts of 2,900 active and 600 retired officers in eight departments across the country.
In California, current and former San Jose Police Department officers were found to have shared racist Facebook posts. Other agencies, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and San Francisco Police Department, have been involved in similar issues.
The board recommended that agencies review employees’ social media posts and routinely check officers’ department-issued cellphones and computers to make sure they aren’t showing racist or other problematic behavior.
Betty Williams, president the NAACP’s Sacramento Branch, said the recommendation doesn’t go far enough and should also include officers’ personal cellphones.
Police departments “demand fair and impartial police services for the communities they serve,” responded Chief Eric Nuñez, president of the California Police Chiefs Association. But he said checking officers’ cellphones, computers and social media accounts “would require a significant additional funding source, time and legal issues that have not been properly identified or researched at this point.”
The disproportionate numbers could be driven by demographics, not racism, the Los Angeles Police Protective League board of directors said in a statement.
“What these numbers don’t tell is that in Los Angeles, 70% of violent crime victims are either Black or Hispanic and that 81% of the reported violent crime suspects are either Black or Hispanic,” the league said.
Both the league and the state sheriffs’ association said the broader issue of racial bias must be addressed across society, not just law enforcement.
“Law enforcement agencies across California have embraced change, participated in training, and engaged their local communities on this topic and we will continue to do so,” said Kings County Sheriff David Robinson, president of the sheriffs’ association.
“We’ve done all of the reformist things,” countered Cat Brooks, executive director of Justice Teams Network and co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project. “We’ve done trainings, we’ve done body cameras, we’ve done police commissions, we’ve hired from the community. All of these things to tinker around the edges of this very large problem, but really what we’ve been doing is putting Band-Aids on gunshot wounds.”
She said the report’s findings show the need for a “complete transformation” from an emphasis on police and prisons to one focused on addressing root community causes such as hunger and homelessness.
The report’s data is little changed from a year ago when stops involving the state’s eight largest agencies were studied for the second half of 2018, before the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other police killings of primarily Black and Latino men sparked nationwide protests and reform efforts last year.
It shows “there is significant work to be done to prevent further disparities in who is stopped, how they are treated when stopped, and the outcomes of those stops,” the board said.
Black people make up 7% of the population but were involved in 16% of California stops in 2019. Those perceived to be of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent accounted for 5% of stops and 2% of the population.
Whites and Latinos were one to two percentage points less likely to be stopped than their proportion of the population would indicate, while those of Asian background account for 12% of the population and just 6% of stops.
Newsom sought the more than three-dozen recommendations after months of nationwide demonstrations followed the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police. But California’s largest police unions called them unrealistic, and a legislator from the governor’s own Democratic Party criticized several of his recent police reform vetoes.
He in turn ordered California’s police training panel to update its standards to prioritize protecting free speech rights and focus on selectively identifying and detaining instigators and hate groups who officials say can turn an otherwise peaceful crowd violent.
Local agencies should require their officers to activate their body cameras during protests, Newsom’s advisors said. They should protect journalists and legal observers, several of whom were injured by police in recent demonstrations.
And they urged police to minimize a “militaristic presence” of armored vehicles or military-style helmets or weapons that “can be counterproductive … and may incite or escalate conflict.”
Rubber bullets and chemical irritants can not only injure and kill, they said, but can “rapidly escalate conflict, and … should be used as a last resort to protect life and repel assaults when other means have been exhausted.”
Brian Marvel, president of the rank-and-file Peace Officers Research Association of California, called the recommendations “a step in the right direction.” But police unions in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose said the report and Newsom’s announcement fail to address keeping officers safe and paying for the new training.
The report “pretends that violence and looting are brought on by police presence,” the unions said in a joint statement. ”We would welcome the authors of this research report to come stand the line with us during the next riot and show us how respecting ‘spatial boundaries’ and reducing the use of less than lethal crowd control devices will quell the looting, violence and injuries to officers we experienced during many of the so called peaceful protests.”
Newsom released the report days after eight police officers were treated for injuries and three demonstrators were taken to hospitals after they were hit by so-called less-lethal munitions. Los Angeles police said about 1,000 Lakers fans initially celebrated peacefully until “unruly individuals” began throwing glass, bottles, rocks and other projectiles at officers and damaged more than 30 buildings.
He said the recommendations will “reinforce the values of community partnership, de-escalation, and restraint.”
While most departments have behaved professionally during months of civil unrest, “there also have been disturbing and well-documented instances of unnecessary and counterproductive aggression, instigation, and over-reaction,” wrote former East Palo Alto police chief Ron Davis and Bay Area Rapid Transit president Lateefah Simon. They worked with Goldman School of Public Policy and Administration professor Jack Glaser on the report.
Their report is dated Sept. 28, two days before Newsom vetoed a bill that his advisors seem to support.
“Time and again, we heard stakeholders express a strong interest in shifting some funding away from traditional law enforcement responses to investments in communities and other types of first responders such as mental health providers and trained conflict resolution experts,” they wrote, saying they “wholeheartedly agree.”
Newsom last month said he supported the concept even as he vetoed a bipartisan bill intended to do just that, saying he disagreed with how the proposed grant program would have been administered.
“It’s unfortunate that when California had an opportunity to lead, we decided to step back,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager. “Everyone seems to be in agreement, so I look forward to him signing the bill next year.”
She said the recommendations often appear to be “a regurgitation of many of the bills that went through the legislative process last year,” including measures limiting the use of rubber bullets, protecting journalists and discouraging the use of militaristic weaponry, some of which failed to advance or were vetoed.
Dennis Cuevas-Romero, legislative advocate at the ACLU Center for Advocacy and Policy, was similarly critical of lost reform opportunities, adding that “police should not need costly additional training to understand that the First Amendment protects protesters and journalists from the widespread abuses we’ve seen.”
A Seal Beach police officer was hospitalized Saturday after a suspected drunken driver slammed into the officer’s patrol vehicle during a traffic stop, authorities said.
The officer had pulled over another vehicle in the area of Pacific Coast Highway and Mariner Drive about 3:15 p.m., said the Seal Beach Police Department in a news release. Sometime during the traffic stop while the officer was standing next to his parked vehicle, a Ford F-150 pickup truck rear-ended the officer’s patrol car, knocking him to the ground.
A volunteer with the police department had been driving by and witnessed the crash. The volunteer ran over to aid the officer and alerted authorities, police said.
Paramedics transported the officer to a local hospital with moderate injuries, police said.
Soon after the crash, the driver of the F-150 lost control of the truck and hit a wall, police said. The driver attempted to run away, but was taken into custody by Huntington Beach police. The driver was not injured in the crash.
Authorities later identified the driver of the F-150 as Kenneth Jacob Lopez, 30, of Huntington Beach, who was arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and felony driving under the influence.
About 100 protesters gathered in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign in Huntington Beach on Sunday, June 14 — also the day dozens of bicyclists rode from that city to Newport Beach to celebrate President Donald Trump’s birthday.
Both events were peaceful, and neither resulted in any reports of altercations or arrests, Newport Beach police officials said. The two groups did not gather at the same time.
Laurence Geronilla, 19, of Panorama City, takes part in a protest against racism and police violence at Huntington Beach Pier Sunday, June 14 (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Demonstrtors gather in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign at Huntington Beach Pier Sunday, June 14. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG)
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Michelle Hattersley, 18, of Huntington Beach, collects hand written letters addressed to Huntington Beach City Hall from demonstrators gathered in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign at Huntington Beach Pier Sunday, June 14. She said she believes counterprotesters opposed to the BLM movement present at earlier events “fly in the face” of the core values of her hometown. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG)
A Huntington Beach Police sergeant asks a man to walk with him and talk after he shouted “all lives matter” at a group of about 100 protesters gathered in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaign at Huntington Beach Pier Sunday, June 14. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Timothy Harvey, 31, of Aliso Viejo, joins a group of roughly 100 people demonstrating against racism and police violence at Huntington Beach Pier Sunday, June 14. (Eric Licas, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Demonstrators outraged by incidents of excessive force by police and the in-custody deaths of unarmed black people nationwide started gathering at Huntington Beach Pier at about 2 p.m. What began as a small crowd swelled to include about 100 people by 4 p.m.
The event was dwarfed by a protest held in Los Angeles County that had attracted thousands of people. It was also smaller than similar demonstrations held at Huntington Beach Pier over the past few weeks. However, some traveled more than an hour to take part in the protest.
“I feel like there’s enough people in LA now,” Panorama City resident Laurence Geronilla, 19, said. “My presence might make more of a difference here.”
Chris Pyon, 29, of Anaheim, holds a sign wishing a happy birthday to Bryce James, son of LeBron James. “I think we all know it’s someone else’s birthday too. But I think the James family has done more to uplift people than the current administration.” @ocregisterpic.twitter.com/59nVFWVSK4
Earlier gatherings at the pier had been accompanied by pro-law enforcement counter protests. However, those expressing support for the Black Lives Matter campaign did not encounter significant opposition on Sunday.
“There is nothing to counter-protest. There is nothing for them to be out here for,” Aliso Viejo resident Timothy Harvey, 31, said. “Because what we are protesting, is there are still people in this world that believe black lives don’t matter at all, and that’s not OK.”
Earlier, several dozen riders celebrating Flag Day and the president’s birthday assembled at Huntington Beach Pier at about 11:30 a.m., Newport Beach Lt. Eric Little said. American flags and banners bearing the words “Trump 2020” were hoisted onto poles attached to bicycles, and fluttered behind participants as they rode to Balboa Pier. Photos taken along the way at Newport Pier showed at least 40 people who had been a part of the gathering.
The Placentia, Corona and Riverside Police departments, along with the Orange and San Bernardino County sheriff’s departments, announced moratoriums on the use of carotid restraint control holds effective Tuesday, June 9, echoing similar policy shifts made by other Southern California agencies following the death of George Floyd.
The Orange, San Bernardino County and Riverside County-area agencies are some of the latest to prohibit the use of the technique, also called a sleeper hold, after Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody, resulting in widespread criticism of the use of force by law enforcement.
As of Monday, Anaheim police officers will be authorized to use carotid holds only in situations where lethal force is deemed necessary, Anaheim Police Department Sgt. Shane Carringer said.
In addition, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to support a statewide ban on carotid artery restraints. The county’s District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, also announced that her investigators would be prohibited from using carotid holds.
Earlier, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva declared Monday “an immediate moratorium on the use of the LASD carotid restraint in all situations which do not rise to the level of deadly force.” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore and Police Commission President Eileen Decker also reached an agreement at the beginning of the week that prohibits the city’s police force from using the maneuver.
A long-term decision regarding the change at the Riverside Police Department is pending the result of AB 1196, legislation supported by Gov. Gavin Newsom that would prohibit police from using carotid holds, department spokesman Ryan Railsback said Tuesday. A statement issued Tuesday by the Corona Police Department references the governor’s decision to order the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to cease instruction of the controversial technique as of Friday, June 5.
In compliance with that directive, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department will no longer teach carotid control holds at the academy it operates in Devore, SBCSD spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said. The department has also suspended the technique’s deployment by its deputies, effective Tuesday.
“The Department is currently reviewing its uses of force policy,” Orange County Sheriff’s officials wrote in a statement issued Tuesday. “Effective immediately, the Department is suspending the use of the carotid control hold and evaluating its use and effectiveness as a compliance tool.”
“Effective immediately, (the) Placentia Police Department will suspend the use of the Carotid Restraint Control Hold as a use of force option until further evaluation and assessment,” officials at that department said.
Recent scrutiny of carotid restraint holds comes on the heels of mass demonstrations held nationwide in response to the death of Floyd. He was the unarmed black man who said “I can’t breathe” while former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against the side of his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin and the other three officers involved in Floyd’s detainment have been arrested.
The former officer did not use specifically use a carotid hold, which normally involves using one’s hands to apply pressure to the sides of the neck. The technique restricts arteries that supply oxygen to the brain and differs from a choke hold, which is defined as a maneuver that pinches the front of a person’s throat to inhibit breathing.
A nationwide ban on choke holds, which were linked to the death of Eric Garner in 2014, is among the measures suggested in the Justice in Policing Act authored by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. The proposed legislation was introduced by Democrats on Monday.
Major law enforcement groups did not immediately say if they would oppose the move, which comes after a different restraint used by Minneapolis police was blamed for the death of George Floyd, triggering ongoing nationwide protests.
However, the Los Angeles Police Department announced an immediate moratorium on the training and use of the hold until the civilian Board of Police Commissioners can review the issue. Police departments in suburban Pasadena and El Monte and in Santa Ana in Orange County also have suspended use of the technique.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon endorsed legislation that fellow Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gipson said he will amend to make it illegal to use chokeholds and a carotid artery restraint tactic to forcibly detain a suspect.
“We … have to change a culture of excessive force that seems to exist among some members of law enforcement,” Rendon said at a news conference. “This bill will end one brutal method that police use for restraining people.”
The method, also known as a sleeper hold, involves applying pressure to the sides of the neck with an arm. It can almost immediately block blood flow in the carotid arteries and render someone unconscious, but can cause serious injury or death if the blood flow is restricted too long.
“These methods and techniques are supposed to save lives, but they don’t — they take lives,” said Gipson.
Colorado and Illinois allow use of the hold only if police deem lethal force to be justified, said Amber Widgery, a criminal justice analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, while Tennessee allows its use if other means of restraint have been ineffective. Washington, D.C., bans a similar trachea hold but permits the carotid hold under circumstances where lethal force is allowed.
Other states use more general legal language, she said, and it’s not clear if California’s proposal will allow any exceptions because Gipson did not release the actual language of his bill.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday said he would sign Gipson’s bill if it is approved by lawmakers, and ordered the state’s police training program to stop teaching officers how to use the neck hold.
Congressional Democrats on Monday also introduced legislation aimed at reforming police practices, including by banning certain policing tactics including chokeholds.
Although the Legislature is controlled by Democrats, Sen. Scott Wiener said law enforcement reforms “are incredibly hard to move forward.” He also mentioned proposed legislation that would restrict when police can use rubber bullets.
The sleeper hold ban was backed Monday by Black, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, Jewish and LGBTQ legislative caucuses. Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins said in a statement that “it is now time to have a conversation to ban chokeholds and carotid artery restraints on a statewide level.”
The proposal is also supported by the California Medical Association because the holds “can be misapplied and botched easily,” said incoming President Dr. Lee Snook.
One problem is the holds can fatally aggravate underlying health issues, Snook said, something police can’t know about on the spur of the moment.
“It is a difficult procedure to do…but it is effective when applied effectively,” said Brian Marvel, president of the rank-and-file Peace Officers Research Association of California, which represents more than 77,000 individuals and 930 associations.
His association is likely to defer to organizations representing police chiefs and sheriffs that determine what methods officers and deputies are allowed to use.
The sheriffs’ association has not taken a position in part because it hasn’t seen the details, said spokesman Cory Salzillo. The chiefs’ association did not take a stance but said “painful examples” of use of force prompted chiefs across the state to in recent years “to develop strict guidelines on certain techniques, including the carotid restraint.”
Officers would still have a variety of tools to control suspects if the hold is banned, Marvel said, ranging from voice commands to night sticks, Tasers, pepper spray and firearms. Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, a bill co-author, said 23 California law enforcement agencies have already limited its use, several in the last week.
On Friday, San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said his department still allows the carotid hold as a last option before lethal force. On Monday he said in a statement that his department already bans chokeholds — which he said are distinct from carotid holds. Chokeholds apply pressure from the front and stop the individual from breathing, while carotid holds are from the side.
Garcia said the department is updating the department’s polices including by making it clear that chokeholds can’t be applied using pressure with any body part including the knee. Floyd died after prolonged pressure on his neck from an officer’s knee.
Marvel urged California lawmakers to make it clear that police still can “do what they need to do to save themselves.” He said lawmakers should consider allowing its continued use in certain circumstances, for instance where police or air marshals have limited options to control a suspect aboard an airplane.
Gipson, a former police officer, was among lawmakers who said they hope other states will follow California’s lead in banning the hold.
LOS ANGELES — Calling the curfews imposed throughout Southern California “draconian,” the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and individual journalists, protesters and others against Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and the city of San Bernardino.
The ACLU claims in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles that the curfews are a violation of the First Amendment because they suppress all political protest in the evening hours and restricting movement outside of working hours is a violation of the Constitution’s protection of freedom of movement.
“The city and county of Los Angeles are attempting to use these curfews to suppress Black Lives Matter-L.A.’s right to protest,” Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of BLM-L.A., said.
“They are attempting to suppress our ability to fully mobilize and focus full attention on the true issue of concern in the protests — police violence against black people.”
Enforcement of an L.A. curfew was seen Wednesday night in Grand Park, across the street from Los Angeles City Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
About 11:20 p.m., @LASDHQ deputies began arresting members of the group, several at a time, and walked them over into the theee Sheriff’s Department busses parked in front of City Hall. pic.twitter.com/O9730zGW9L
A small group of about 120 people had remained after a crowd of about 4,000 protesters gradually thinned out after the city’s 9 p.m. curfew had gone into effect.
The small group staged a sit-in at the park in protest of the curfew, arguing that they were only there to exercise their First Amendment rights and should not be subject to arrest.
By about 11:20 p.m., Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies closed in on the sitting group at Grand Park, which is owned by the county.
The group chanted, “Peaceful protest” with hands raised, as the deputies arrested the group, several at a time.
The ACLU lawsuit claims the curfews also prohibit journalists from being able to fully report their stories from the scenes of the protests.
“These unconstitutional curfews have suppressed a huge amount of important political protest activity and disrupted the lives of over 10 million people,” Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel of the ACLU SoCal, said. “The curfews must end now.”
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has said curfews in the county will remain in effect until the protests end.
A protest Thursday night in Fontana over the death of George Floyd resulted in several vandalism-related arrests, according to the police department.
Floyd, a 46-year-old man from Minnesota, died on Monday after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. Floyd’s death has sparked protests against police violence throughout the country.
Protesters gathered on Sierra Avenue, between Arrow Boulevard and Ceres Avenue at around 6 p.m., according to reports from social media. The protesters carried signs that said “Black Lives Matter” and signs with Floyd’s name.
SANTA ANA — A high-speed pursuit of a suspected drunken driver in a full-size pickup truck that traveled along at least two Orange County freeways ended Tuesday night with the driver surrendering to authorities in Santa Ana.
Officers responded to a suspicious vehicle call in a parking lot in the 5700 block of La Palma Avenue, just east of Imperial Highway, about 9:20 p.m., and the driver rammed into at least one of the officers’ vehicles, then fled, prompting the pursuit, according to the Anaheim Police Department.
The suspect drove at speeds mostly in the 80s and briefly topped 100 mph while traveling on the southbound Orange (57) Freeway and eastbound and the westbound Garden Grove (22) Freeway.
The driver exited the eastbound Garden Grove Freeway at Grand Avenue about 10:20 p.m. and pulled into a gated apartment complex, stopped the vehicle, stepped out and surrendered to officers. He was quickly taken into custody.