The mistaken killing of a man by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy during a hostage standoff, the second such death in four months, has prompted a new debate over how much authority the department’s independent inspector general should have in investigating deputy conduct, reports the Los Angeles Times. Frank Mendoza, 54, was shot when a deputy mistook him for an armed suspect who had broken into the Mendoza home last Friday. The gunman, Cedric Ramirez, 24, took Mendoza’s wife captive and held her until a tactical team entered the house and fatally shot him eight hours later. The wife was unharmed.
The case is under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department’s internal affairs unit as well as the district attorney and coroner, as is customary in officer-involved shootings. Max Huntsman, the new civilian monitor in the Sheriff’s Department, said the case underscores the need for his unit to also review all records, including a deputy’s personnel files, in deciding whether the department does a thorough job investigating. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed Huntsman after a series of scandals in the department, which culminated with federal charges against sheriff’s officials over alleged inmate abuse in the jail system. The Sheriff’s Department and Huntsman are negotiating how much access the inspector general should have.