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Former San Bernardino Sheriff's Deputy Investigated For Use-Of-Force In Arrest Of Looter, Stealing From Looted Store

SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) — A former San Bernardino sheriff's deputy is under investigation in connection for using too much force to arrest a suspected looter, and then allegedly stealing items from that store himself.

Erdem Gorgulu, 46, of San Bernardino, was placed on paid administrative leave on June 3, just two days after the incident at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store, 2150 E. Highland Ave., in San Bernardino. He had been a deputy sheriff for 11 and a half years, but was no longer an employee of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's department as of Aug. 24, officials said.

"The criminal acts committed by Gorgulu while serving in his capacity as a deputy sheriff are inexcusable and undermine all the good, valuable work deputies do every day," San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said in a statement. "Although Gorgulu's acts were unacceptable and disheartening, this incident serves as an example of how deputies are willing to come forward and report unethical behavior."

Gorgulu was one of the Central Station deputies who assisted San Bernardino police in responding to a looting call at the sporting goods store on June 1, when recent protests became violent. According to San Bernardino sheriff's officials, Gorgulu used force when arresting Juan Martinez, who was later booked on suspicion of looting, burglary, and committing a felony offense while out on bail.

However, another deputy believed Gorgulu's actions in arresting Martinez were "unwarranted and unethical" and notified the watch commander, sheriff's officials said, touching off a criminal investigation by detectives from the sheriff's specialized investigation division. The criminal investigation uncovered that Gorgulu may have also taken property from the store, and a search warrant served on his personal vehicle recovered the stolen property, according to authorities.

"Mr. Gorgulu's conduct does not represent the vast majority of law enforcement officers throughout this country who serve with integrity, honor and uphold the rule of law every day," said San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Sheriff-Coroner, John McMahon. "It was a member of the sheriff's department who reported Mr. Gorgulu's conduct, leading to a thorough and objective investigation. We are thankful for this member's commitment to their professional duties."

The sheriff's department says the criminal investigation has been submitted to the county's District Attorney's office for review.

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