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Former LA County assistant sheriff sues Alex Villanueva over demotion

Former Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff Sues Villanueva
Former Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff Sues Villanueva 00:57

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has been sued by a former LASD assistant sheriff, citing that she was demoted in response to her complaint about a deputy's involvement in the beating of an inmate, just a year after allegedly taking photos of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash. 

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Former Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon filed the lawsuit against Los Angeles County and Villanueva on Wednesday, which alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation and violations of the Public Safety Officer's Bill of Rights. 

In a statement released in response to the allegations, Villanueva said, "The facts and evidence do not support the plaintiff's claims and this case will be vigorously defended in court."

Limon's lawsuit is the latest in a series of events circulating around a recently-released video from inside the San Fernando Courthouse, where surveillance footage shows LASD Deputy Douglas Johnson using excessive force against an inmate, Enzo Escalante. 

The lawsuit explains that, "Unfortunately, for about three minutes after Escalante was restrained and passive, Johnson held his knee onto Escalante's neck and restricted his breathing in a fashion like (former Minneapolis police Officer) Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd."

She believed that addressing the issue immediately would be the best for sake of the public, to which the suit claims Villanueva said, "We do not need bad media at this time."

Villanueva also reportedly blocked a criminal investigation into the matter, and according to several people within LASD lied about not having seen the video for months to "fit a fake timeline."

"Whistleblowers are supposed to be protected by state and federal statutes and are supposed to be safe from retaliation," the suit states. "However, the whistleblowers are not safe in LASD and are not protected by the county."

According to the lawsuit, Limon was told on March 29 to retire within an hour or face demotion. She is seeking up to $3 million in damages. 

She's the latest of a group of LASD employees to bring legal action against Villanueva for the retaliation they faced in light of the alleged cover-up. A similar lawsuit was filed by LASD Commander Allen Castellano in April. 

In addition to the San Fernando Courthouse video, Deputy Johnson has come under criticism several times during his tenure with LASD, most notably for allegedly taking photos of the helicopter crash in Feb. 2020 that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others. 

Instead of facing punishment, Johnson escaped discipline by deleting the photos after being instructed to do so by Sheriff Villanueva. 

Johnson was also investigated by the LASD Internal Criminal Affairs Bureau for his alleged involvement in a prostitution and gambling ring. 

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