Assault Raises Concern About L.A. County Jails

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A Los Angeles County jail inmate said he was summoned to a spot under a stairway where no jail guards or cameras would be able to see. There, three other inmates ambushed him, leaving him with a busted jaw and broken nose, a concussion, double vision and blood oozing from his face, the Los Angeles Times reports. Inmate Saul Steve Lira said the guard on duty deliberately ignored what was going on. Prosecutors have charged the guard with assault, accusing him of walking away at the request of another inmate so Lira could be beaten, and later refusing to assist Lira with medical help.

The case against guard Jonathan Grijalva is the latest in a string of criminal prosecutions that have roiled the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department since a jail scandal involving beatings of inmates erupted more than five years ago. The charge marks the first time since then that a guard has been accused of looking the other way to allow inmates to attack someone else. Jail experts said the Sheriff’s Department has made significant progress in reducing violence in county jails but that Grijalva’s case raises concerns about whether inmates feel safe enough to come forward with complaints about brutality or other jailer misconduct. Soon after the 2014 incident, Lira reported that his injuries were caused by a fall in the shower, not by an assault. Despite the seriousness of his injuries, no one at the jail appears to have questioned his initial account. The department didn’t launch an investigation for another two months, after Lira obtained a lawyer and detailed in a legal complaint against the county that he had been assaulted. He later said he lied because he feared retaliation by the inmates.

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