DA Won't Charge LA County Deputy in Kneeling Incident

Security video showed a deputy kneeling on an inmate's head in court lockup after fight; the DA says there's not enough evidence to show the force used was excessive.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday it would not charge a deputy sheriff who was recorded on security video kneeling on the neck of an inmate during a fight in a courthouse lockup.

The DA’s office said in a charge evaluation memo filed Nov. 15 that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove deputy Doug Johnson had committed assault under color of authority, and that the evidence, “suggests the amount of force used was not excessive.”

Johnson and other deputies pulled the inmate, Enzo Escalante, to the ground in March 2021 after Escalante punched Johnson in the face with a closed fist while Johnson was escorting Escalante to a cell inside the San Fernando Court building.

Escalante wasn’t seriously injured in the scuffle or as a result of the kneeling, and according to the DA’s memo, he later said of the minor bruises and scrapes: “it’s nothing major.”

The incident led to allegations in lawsuits filed by former members of Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s staff that Villanueva learned about what happened almost immediately, but allegedly directed others to "cover up" the case to try to avoid negative publicity and news coverage, an allegation Villanueva denied at a news conference in March, 2022.

The Johnson kneeling incident happened around the time the trial was beginning for former Minneapolis Police Dept. officer Derek Chauvin, who was later convicted of murdering George Floyd by kneeling on his neck.

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