LA Sheriff's Dept. Faces Allegations of Misconduct, Racial Bias

Vivica Keyes, 54, alleges that a Sheriff’s deputy downplayed the severity of an incident that took place on January 23.

An Artesia woman says she is suing the LA County Sheriff’s Department on allegations of misconduct and racial bias.

Vivica Keyes, 54, alleges that a sheriff’s deputy downplayed the severity of an incident that took place on January 23, when Keyes said she woke up to find a stranger in her living room dripping blood after breaking into her home through the kitchen window.

"(Deputy Royo told) me that it was not a burglary because he hadn't stolen anything, it was not a forced entry because he was spooked, she put it, and it was not an assault and battery because, in her opinion, I wasn't hurt," Keyes said.

According to Keyes, the intruder, 29-year-old Long Beach resident Jason Damour, grabbed her and the two tussled “back and forth” until she was able to free herself and run to a neighbor’s house.

Upon deputies’ arrival, the man was handcuffed and taken by paramedics, Keyes said. Keyes adds that the responding officer, only referred to as Officer Royo, told her that she believed the suspect didn’t mean any harm to Keyes and that she was not really hurt.

Royo then brought the man’s parents to Keyes’ home, Keyes said.

"The parents come up and just immediately start asking me not to press charges. And saying, you know, my son has never done anything like this," Keyes said.

Keyes pushed forward with pressing charges and eventually misdemeanor trespassing and vandalism charges were filed against Damour, to which he pleaded no contest.

Keyes’ lawyer believes the system failed her client and that racial bias may have been a factor in the way this situation was handled. Keyes is a black woman and the intruder is a white man.

"Even if the deputy felt like, we should cut this person a break, that's not what you do. That is against the law. And that itself is a gross violation," Keyes’ lawyer Nana Gyamfi said. "When the deputy tells her, there's been no crime committed here, again, a complete violation."

The LA Sheriff’s Department issued a response letter saying that “it was determined the handling deputy (Deputy Royo) could have handled things better” but has disputed claims that racial bias had anything to do with the way the case was handled.

Keyes’ and her lawyer are expected to be in court Friday for a restitution hearing.

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