Don't Call Sheriff for Help, LA Family Says
LOS ANGELES (CN) - Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies responded to a family's call for help by breaking into their home and beating the hell out of them, then lied about it in official reports, the family claims in court.
Jorge Cornejo and his family sued Los Angeles County, its Sheriff Lee Baca, and deputies M. Ortega, C. Rosales, and R.M. Gonzalez, in Federal Court.
"Plaintiffs are five family members, a husband and wife and their three children," the lawsuit states. "Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies broke into the family home, brutally assaulted the family members, who had done absolutely nothing unlawful, and then arrested three of the family members for resisting arrest. The deputies then wrote false police reports, which resulted in the wrongful prosecution and incarceration of the three family members."
Veronica Cornejo, one of the daughters, says she called the Sheriff's Department at around 2 p.m. in May 2012 because her mentally ill brother "had been acting in an agitated fashion."
Defendant deputies Rosales, Ortega and Gonzalez came and "immediately broke into the residence" without knocking and a warrant, the family says in the complaint.
Veronica told them she was the one who called for help, but before she could explain why, "Ortega grabbed her in a forceful manner and dragged her out of the home. Veronica Cornejo's father, Jorge Cornejo, saw Ortega using force against his daughter and stated, 'You see, why did you call the police? They don't help you,' the complaint states.
It continues: "Ortega and Rosales took out their weapons and pointed them at the family members. Then Ortega and Rosales grabbed Jorge Cornejo and dragged him outside as well. At the time of the assault, Jorge Cornejo was 53 years old and had a history of cancer, diabetes and heart problems."
Ortega re-entered the house and dragged Veronica's brother Joseph out of the shower: "Joseph Cornejo asked to be allowed to put his clothes on, but Ortega only applied more force to his body," the complaint states.
The family claims the deputies also "forcefully dragged out" Veronica's sister Sandra.
"As they dragged her out of the home, either Rosales or Ortega pulled down her shirt and bra. Both Joseph Cornejo and Sandra Cornejo were handcuffed, in public, and were not allowed to put on their clothes," the complaint states.
It continues: "Jorge Cornejo protested that Veronica Cornejo had placed a call for help and now the officers were mistreating the entire family. At this time, Ortega twisted Veronica Cornejo's arm forcefully, causing her to scream out in pain. At the time of the assault, Veronica Cornejo was 18 years old and was approximately 4 feet and 7 inches tall and weighed approximately 100 pounds. Ortega and Rosales were both males over a foot taller and more than twice her weight. After Veronica Cornejo screamed, Jorge Cornejo stated that he was going to sue the deputies for hurting his daughter.
"In response to Jorge Cornejo's comment, Ortega punched Jorge Cornejo in the face with a closed fist two or three times. Veronica Cornejo, in fear, began crying and asking Ortega not to beat her ill father. Rosales and Gonzalez then threw Veronica Cornejo onto the ground. Thereafter, Ortega threw Jorge Cornejo on top of Veronica Cornejo, and the deputies began beating Jorge Cornejo and Veronica Cornejo."
Veronica claims she told the deputies she had a heart murmur and recently had heart surgery, but they told her to "Stop exaggerating" and continued hitting and kicking her and her father. She says Ortega and Rosales "each grabbed one of Jorge Cornejo's arms and began twisting them in opposite directions."
The deputies dragged Maria Guadalupe Vaca, the children's mother, out of the house, "slammed her into a concrete wall" and handcuffed her, the family says. They claim that Veronica and Jorge "were obviously injured and in need of medical care as a result of the assault. Nevertheless, Veronica Cornejo was arrested, taken to jail and denied medical care entirely, while Jorge Cornejo was tightly handcuffed and placed in a patrol car for approximately thirty minutes without any medical care being summoned or provided before an ambulance was called and he was taken to a hospital."
The family claims the deputies covered up the mauling by writing false police reports accusing Jorge, Veronica and Joseph of being aggressive and resisting arrest. Due to these reports, the three family members "endured arrest, incarceration and seven months of criminal prosecution before their criminal cases were all dismissed by a Los Angles Superior Court judge," the lawsuit states.
The Cornejos claim the Sheriff's Department knowingly hires people who are prejudiced and prone to commit acts of violence and cruelty.
They seek reimbursement for medical expenses and punitive damages for civil rights violations.
They are represented by Elliott Tiomkin of Encino.