A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy is facing two felony charges after allegedly lying on an arrest report, claiming a man had tried to free two other men from the back of a patrol car when video shows he did no such thing.
The allegations stem from a traffic stop in August 2012 that was caught on video by several bystanders. Chris Gray can be seen on one of those videos watching the arrest in front of his home, with his arms folded.
"At some point one of the deputies came to him and told him he had to get up on the sidewalk," Gray’s attorney, Olu Orange, said.
When Gray refused, he was handcuffed and walked to a patrol car.
"His arms were pushed so far behind his head from the bottom that you could see his fingers,” Orange said.
Orange said his client’s treatment led to serious injuries that required shoulder surgery. Gray was arrested and spent five days in jail. While behind bars, he lost his job. He was charged with a felony for allegedly trying to free the two men detained during the initial traffic stop.
In the report about Gray’s arrest, Deputy Gregory Rodriguez, 35, wrote that he had seen Gray walk toward the passenger door of the patrol car - an assertion the witness video appears to contradict.
"How is it possible for someone who holds the public trust, who swore an oath to serve and protect, to write down such lies?” Orange said.
Roger Clark, a police procedures consultant and former LA County Sheriff’s lieutenant says it’s clear in the video that the deputies did not like Gray watching their activities, and said falsifying a report is a crime that should have been prosecuted much earlier.
“It's (the department’s) responsibility to keep in place the culture of honesty and integrity of truthfulness,” Clark said.
Current Sheriff Jim McDonnell did not hold the position at the time of the incident.
“The Sheriff is aware of the case and does not tolerate any conduct which violates or erodes the public trust. He has been clear from the start of taking office that he will hold himself to high standards as well as his employees,” read a statement issued by the department.
“It is his view that lapses in judgment that reflect dishonesty are extremely serious and cannot – and will not – be minimized or tolerated. When an employee engages in acts of dishonesty, he or she acts contrary to our mission and violates public trust.”
The criminal charges against Gray were eventually dropped, and the county agreed to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit with him for $550,000 earlier this year.
Rodriguez has been suspended from duty since April 2014 while the case was investigated, and his pay was suspended last month. He was arrested May 28. He remains employed by the department pending the outcome of the trial.
Rodriguez’s partner at the time of the Gray arrest, Monica Farias, was named in the civil lawsuit, but has not been charged in connection with the incident.
He is slated to be arraigned June 18.
If convicted, he faces up to four years and eight months in prison.