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County Civilian Oversight Commission Ends Abruptly When Audience Becomes Unruly

County Civilian Oversight Commission Ends Abruptly when Audience Becomes Unruly (06/25/19)

This story has been updated (06/26/19).

Officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Civilian Oversight Committee abruptly ended their meeting without discussing anything on the agenda when supporters of President Trump's policies to deport jail inmates from the United States clashed with members of Black Lives Matter and other social justice groups during the public comment portion of the session.

Hostility arose at the conclusion of about 90 minutes of public comment, where more than 20 people called for justice primarily in connection with the deputy-involved shootings of two men. Other speakers, including the last man to take the podium, addressed Sheriff Alex Villanueva's decision to not openly assist ICE in deportations of criminals from the agency's jails.

"He is allowing undocumented criminals to come out on our streets after they are done with their crimes, serving their time," said Greg Allan, holding a "Keep Americans Safe" sign. "He should deport them. Why are you allowing them to come onto our streets and causing more grief to America's families."

Allen’s comments drew some jeers, but it was his request to keep his full two minutes to speak that prompted an angry response from audience members who also wanted more time. One woman who had complained earlier that two minutes was not long enough said others also had been interrupted.

About 110 people attended the meeting at the MTA's headquarters in Los Angeles, some holding signs in support of President Trump and others from social justice groups, including Black Lives Matter.

The commission's agenda included a discussion of misconduct allegations at the Sheriff's Department's East Los Angeles station, and a presentation on the Office of the Inspector General's report on Sheriff's Department discipline of deputies. The agenda also included plans to talk about lawsuit settlements involving mental health services, suicide prevention and the use of force in the county's jails.

The panel never got to that. As is the case with every monthly meeting, it began with public comments, where each speaker could address the panel on any subject under its jurisdiction. Commission Chair Patti Giggans immediately reduced each speaker’s time from three minutes to two when faced with more than 20 speakers.

Most of the speakers addressed the June 6 shooting death of Ryan Twyman, 24, near 132nd and San Pedro streets in Willowbrook. Twyman's family contends a sheriff's deputy unnecessarily fired at Twyman 34 times during a confrontation, killing him. The Sheriff's Department said Twyman was at the wheel of a car and shifted into reverse to drive at the deputies when they approached him on foot. Video showed a rear passenger door hitting one deputy while the other fired.

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Twyman's family disputes the Sheriff's Department's account that Twyman used the vehicle as a weapon.

Other speakers at the meeting called for an investigation into the Feb. 4, 2018 shooting death of unarmed 16-year-old Anthony Weber, whose family was awarded a $3.75 million settlement recently approved by the county. Family members believe the deputies involved should be criminally charged.

Some residents spoke with anger, others with tears.

But it was the comments about giving Allan extra time as he spoke about deporting undocumented immigrants from the county's jails that brought the meeting to an end.

"Ok, I'm speaking now. I'm speaking now," Commission Chair Patti Giggans said, her voice raising over the angry audience. "Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to speak. But if you comment and you make all these remarks, it interferes with the person able to speak and for the rest of the people here to listen."

Giggans called for a 10-minute recess, suggesting "we'll come back and hopefully you'll all listen to each other."

“Then give us time, like you gave to him,” one woman yelled.

The meeting suspended, audience members directed their anger at each other, prompting deputies to clear the room. The dispute continued outside, where sheriff’s deputies called for help from the Los Angeles Police Department to disperse the crowd. There were no reports of arrests.

Jennifer Osborn, a spokeswoman for the commission, said Sheriff's Department officials made the decision to end the meeting.

"During public comment, the audience became disruptive, fighting amongst each other. There was lots of shoving and yelling and they ended up having to clear the room...At the suggestion of LASD, in an effort to preserve public safety, they advised we not reconvene the meeting,” she said.

 

The cancellation marked the first time a meeting ended suddenly midstream in the commission’s three years, Osborn said.

Osborn said it was unclear when the meeting would be rescheduled and whether it would resume where it left off. The agenda items might be placed on the July meeting's agenda, she said.

Commission members “very likely” will discuss rearranging the agenda, moving public comments from the start of the meeting to the end, so they can discuss business first.

 

Update (06/26/19): According to a county spokeswoman, the agenda items scheduled for the June 25 meeting will be discussed at the Commission's July 23 session. 

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