from the shootings-will-continue-until-morale-improves dept
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is home to several gangs. Even though the current sheriff, Alex Villanueva, thinks this is up for debate (via a threatened lawsuit against the LA City Council), enough evidence (anecdotal and otherwise) points to deputies forming cliques that turn the Thin Blue Line from defensive to offensive.
Like any gang, the LASD’s gangs subject participants to hazing and an unwritten code of silence. Loyalty to the gang is supposed to surpass loyalty to the sheriff’s department or the public these deputies are supposed to serve. As any gang member can attest to, there is strength in numbers and the LASD’s gangs have managed to survive both a federal investigation and public scrutiny.
And, like any gang, a failure to play by these rules is met with punishment. At best, breaking the rules will result in ostracism. In most cases, though, rulebreakers are subjected to violence. Apparently, LASD deputies who are members of LASD gangs aren’t immune from this immutable fact of gang membership.
And like many gangs, the retaliation is generally known for its brutality, rather than its creativity. Yakuza members lose a finger when they’ve fucked up. LASD gang members lose whatever’s handy when the shit goes down, as Cerise Castle reports for KnockLA.
Deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department attempted to shoot a deputy gang tattoo off of a man during a camping trip in Kern County in 2015. Department sources say the deputies shot the tattoo off because an unauthorized change had been made to the design. All deputy gang tattoo changes must be cleared with deputy gang leadership, several sources told Knock LA.
If you’re a fan of inter-agency ultraviolence, KnockLA has posted a photo of the resulting wound. (Content warning: jfc) If you’re a fan of torture porn, this might be your kink. If not, suffice to say tattoo recipients would probably prefer lasers or harsh acids to alter “unauthorized” tattoos.
Here’s what the much vaunted “training and experience” gets you when you combine camping trips (and, presumably, alcohol) with nonconformance to unwritten rules. The bullet to the ankle apparently followed less violent but presumably equally painful methods of altering the tattoo that had offended this deputy’s fellow gang members. ALLEGEDLY.
The shooting occurred when a group of deputies held down the tattooed man while another fired off several rounds of his off-duty weapon and attempted to burn the design off the man’s ankle with the hot barrel of the gun. When the deputy was unable to burn the tattoo off, he fired the gun directly at the other man’s tattoo, according to a source familiar with the incident. The injured deputy was transported from Dove Springs to the Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster in a private vehicle, according to lieutenant Bill Smallwood.
Lest we be sued by Sheriff Alex Villanueva for reporting on the gang members his department houses, we’ll be using the term “alleged” quite often. Allegedly, the deputy whose ankle was nearly removed by a bullet was allowed to access medical retirement, despite the fact the off-duty deputy had his ankle burnt and shot by other off-duty deputies during this ultra-bizarre, unofficial team-building exercise.
The trigger man, however, is ALLEGEDLY well-liked by the current sheriff — the one who insists there are no cliques/gangs operating under his allegedly inattentive nose at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
A source familiar with the incident identified Wyatt Waldron of the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station as the deputy who pulled the trigger. Waldron was promoted to sergeant in 2021 under Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
A true man of the (certain) people, allegedly.
Two years after shooting a fellow deputy in the leg, Waldron was given the “Lifesaving Award” by LASD.
The shooting happened in 2015. At that point, it was reported as an “accidental discharge.” The LA Times article is headlined “L.A. County deputy accidentally shoots co-worker during camping trip.” The investigation of this incident was handed over to the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, another agency that seemingly has no problem with deputies handing out extrajudicial violence whenever they see fit.
Investigative irregularities are the name of the game, according to this KnockLA report. According to the LASD Inspector General, evidence was mishandled. The gun used to shoot the deputy was transported back to LA in a compartment of a trailer owned by another deputy. This deputy then turned the gun over to a third deputy who finally turned it over to investigators. The deputy who transported the gun then claimed he “couldn’t remember” who handed him the gun or even putting it in his trailer. The deputy who shot Waldron was initially interviewed by the Kern County Sheriff’s Department shortly after the shooting but months later, his statements to the LASD’s Internal Affairs Bureau were inconsistent with his earlier statements. And, despite admitting he had misled Kern County investigators, the LASD’s Internal Affairs Bureau decided not to pursue its investigation into the deputy.
In the end, it’s all deference. Rather than rock the gang-infested boat, the LASD, along with its oversight, decided it would be better to pretend this didn’t happen. And the LASD decided to reward the alleged tattoo shooter with a promotion and a “lifesaving” award that made him appear to be part of the solution to LA’s crime problems, rather than just another criminal destroying what’s left of the Department’s goodwill and trustworthiness.