MONTEBELLO — Six Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies are facing termination proceedings in connection with a brawl among deputies at a Christmas party at the Quiet Cannon banquet hall, officials said Wednesday.
The six deputies are also under investigation for possible criminal charges, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said. Their names were not released due to laws protecting peace officer privacy.
Seven deputies were initially suspended in connection with the Dec. 10 fight at the Quiet Cannon, 901 Via San Clemente, however evidence did not support the firing of the seventh deputy, officials said.
“It was a thorough and massive undertaking that was done expeditiously,” Whitmore said of the investigation.
About 180 witnesses were interviewed as part of an internal investigation, he added.
Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman said the case was turned over to the District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division in February. Prosecutors had not yet decided whether to file criminal charges.
The firing of the six deputies is, “the largest mass discharge case that we’ve seen in 10 years,” said head attorney Michael Gennaco of the County of Los Angeles Office of Independent Review — a civilian oversight group designed to monitor the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Officials said the melee involved six deputies assigned to the jail’s third floor attacking two deputies assigned to the first floor of the same facility.
Deputies assigned to the first floor accused their third-floor counterparts of being slow in their duties, Gennaco said, and the argument erupted into a brawl.
A female deputy who tried to break up the fight was punched, he added.
Gennaco said the OIR supported the sheriff’s department’s decision to fire the six deputies.
He said his office also recommends rotating deputies’ posts inside jails more frequently.
“We also support this idea of rotating people so that deputies understand that they’re affiliation should not be to a particular floor, group, or deputy,” Gennaco said. Rotating assignments will also create better trained, more versatile deputies.
A photograph surfaced following the brawl, purported to have been taken at the party, shows six young men posing while displaying the number three — possibly alluding to the third floor, also known as the 3,000 floor — with their pinky, ring and middle fingers. The image is reminiscent of gang members flashing gang signs.
“The photo is another evidence of self-identification,” Gennaco said.
“I don’t know whether these six were the six that were involved in the assault,” he added, “(But) there’s likely some overlap.”
“There’s no evidence indicating they’re tied to any street gangs,” Gennaco said. Nonetheless, the photo, “doesn’t show deputies in the best light.”
Taking a departure from normal procedure, authorities said, sheriff’s officials did not wait for a criminal investigation to be completed before launching an internal investigation.
Officials began moving to fire the six deputies late last week, officials said.
“This could take a significant amount of time,” Whitmore said. Due to a lengthy appeals process, the deputies may not be officially terminated for several months.
In the meantime, officials said, they are suspended without pay.
About 100 people were at the party, which was held for deputies assigned to Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles, authorities said.
The days after the brawl, two deputies reported to Montebello police that they had been victims of an assault at the party, according to sheriff’s officials. They had suffered minor to moderate injuries but were not hospitalized.
Investigators said no weapons of any kind were used in the fight.
– Staff Writer Thomas Himes contributed to this report.