Angie Crouch, Eric Trujillo
On the heels of a recent report that criticized the LA County Sheriff's handling of inmate abuse at county jails, a new lawsuit was filed by a former inmate who claims abuse he received in jail led to permanent injuries. Angie Crouch reports from Sheriff's Headquarters in Monterrey Park for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Oct. 4, 2012.
In the latest inmate-abuse accusation leveled against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, former inmate Ricardo Lara claims the injuries he suffered in the LA County jail system could leave him wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.
"I almost died because of what happened to me," Lara said at a press conference on Thursday to announce a lawsuit against Los Angeles County and Sheriff Lee Baca.
In the lawsuit 33-year-old Lara said he suffered the abuse at the hands of deputies at the Pitchless Honor Ranch in Castaic. Lara was there as a first-time non-violent offender serving 16 months for fraud, his attorney Hermez Moreno said.
Lara claims LA County Sheriff’s deputies at the facility ordered him to do 500 squats because they thought he was too skinny. He said they laughed when he collapsed.
He went on to contend that he spent two days crawling before deputies allowed him to see a doctor. He then had to undergo emergency surgery to repair the muscles in his legs.
"His legs had swollen to the point of nearly bursting through his boxers," Moreno said. "At one point, he began to urinate blood. His muscles burst through their casings."
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a scathing report by Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence which highlights alleged cases of inmate abuse and recommends reform in LA jails. On Wednesday, Baca accepted those findings, contending that "I do have deputies that have done horrible things" and vowing to implement the reform suggestions.
A spokesman for the department on Thursday said they had not seen the latest lawsuit, but issued the following statement:
"Everything will be looked at by La County Council. Lawsuits only tell one side of the story. We look forward to telling the whole story in the appropriate arena in a court of law."