Police

National questions about Mitrice Richardson and LASD

mitricerichardson.jpgIn a long piece for Newsweek, California correspondent Alexander Nazaryan pokes around the remaining questions about the death of Mitrice Richardson in the Santa Monica Mountains after she was released into the night from the sheriff's Lost Hills station. The story is pegged to a documentary on the Richardson case and the mysteries around official reaction to her disappearance, and focuses a lot on the station culture at Lost Hills and the context of larger questions about the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

There's also the state's decision last February to look into the Richardson for the first time. She died in 2009.

Here's a sample of Lie and Deny: Secrecy and Suspicion Surround the LA County Sheriff's Department:

Sometimes, the cultural divide between the deputies of Lost Hills and the citizens they policed showed itself in outright contempt. In 2009, Ed Meyer’s 15-year-old son was arrested for violating a curfew. Meyer, concerned with the boy’s treatment by deputies, went to Lost Hills to complain. The deputies grasped that he was of Jewish descent and, allegedly, began to make “Heil Hitler” salutes and speak in a mock-Yiddish accent. “Lost Hills can be compared to an ongoing frat house,” Meyer tells me.


Parallels between Lost Hills and Animal House suggest serious indiscretions but perhaps not felonious ones. The Hollywood Reporter offered a more disturbing cinematic comparison. “The Lost Hills station is just like the movie The Departed ,” an anonymous insider told the magazine, alluding to the 2006 Martin Scorsese film about corruption in the Massachusetts State Police. The Reporter ’s story was about Steve Henneberry, a bodybuilder who starred in the American Gladiators television franchise. Henneberry and his wife, the former actress Tracy Justrich, lived in Agoura Hills, where they were part of a “tightly knit community” that included many LASD deputies, according to The Reporter . That closeness proved a detriment when Justrich accused Henneberry of abusing her and their children. The deputies downplayed her complaints; “maybe it’s just his parenting style,” they allegedly counseled.

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The letter charges that Henneberry may have supplied steroids to Lost Hills deputies. Captain Christopher Reed, a spokesman for the department, tells me there have been “absolutely” no Lost Hills deputies caught using or dealing steroids, but I’ve heard whispers about it from others. Olmsted, the former commander, believes steroid abuse is “rampant” in the LASD. One former Lost Hills deputy, Edwin Tamayo, also found the allegations credible. “All I know is that some of the guys who were skinny twigs all of a sudden got huge,” he says in an email.


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