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Woman Alleges Deputy Misconduct, Racial Bias After Artesia Home Invasion

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An Artesia woman is alleging Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies violated the law after she fought off a man who invaded her home, attorneys said Wednesday.

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

KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports according to Keyes, the intruder, who was later identified as 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.

Woman Alleges Deputy Misconduct, Racial Bias After Artesia Home Invasion

knx logo black Woman Alleges Deputy Misconduct, Racial Bias After Artesia Home Invasion
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Upon deputies’ arrival, Damour was handcuffed and taken by paramedics, Keyes said. The responding officer, referred to only as “Deputy Royo”, said that she believed the suspect didn’t mean any harm to Keyes and that she was not really hurt, according to Keyes.

“[Officer 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 in a statement.

Keyes alleges that instead of filing a police report, the responding law enforcement agency, the Lakewood Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, brought the suspect’s parents to her home and “encouraged” her to not press charges and to work out an agreement to let the parents of the suspect pay for the damage done to Ms. Keyes home.

“A 29-year-old person was allowed to get his parents to my home within an hour of the incident,” said Keyes. “So my question is, who called him and how did they get to my house that quickly?”

That question is under investigation according to the Sheriff’s Department, which says deputies had permission to bring the suspects’ parents.

“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,” according to Keyes.

According to attorneys, Keyes pushed forward with the allegations, and eventually misdemeanor trespassing and vandalism charges were filed against Damour, to which he plead no contest.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said “the case was fully investigated” and presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, “and appropriate charges were filed.” She would not comment on any litigation.

Nishida also acknowledged that Keyes lodged a complaint with the sheriff’s Internal Affairs Department about its handling of the case, which prompted Interim Sheriff John Scott to initiate a formal investigation into the matter.

In a briefing with reporters about the litigation against the Sheriff’s Department, Keyes provided a copy of a March 11, 2014, letter (PDF) from Scott stating that “appropriate administrative action” was taken in response to a complaint by Keyes.

Keyes claims to have sustained over $20,000 in damages, was displaced from her home, and “suffered extreme severe trauma, anxiety and stress which resulted in her being unable to work.”

She released the following statement: “The only reasonable conclusion I can come to regarding the Sheriff’s Department’s behavior towards me is that it is because I am a black woman and the suspect is a white male. This is unacceptable and no other victim should have to endure what I have gone through.”

There was no immediate comment from Sheriff’s officials on the lawsuit.

Keyes’ attorney says a decision is pending on whether to file the lawsuit in civil or federal court.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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