LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – For the second time, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has controversially reinstated a deputy who was previously fired over allegations of misconduct.
Sheriff Villanueva confirmed Wednesday that he had reinstated Deputy Michael Courtial, who was fired in June of 2018 after it was determined that he used unreasonable force while arresting a man in Lancaster in 2016.
Courtial was not criminally charged in the incident, however.
The sheriff’s department found Courtial in violation of department policies, including one governing de-escalation and unreasonable force, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
However, in a statement provided to CBS2, Villanueva disagreed:
“The case was reviewed at the division level and they believed that the totality of the circumstances, coupled with the employment history of the involved employee did not meet the imposed outcome.
“The decision to come to a settlement agreement was made without my involvement and before it was scheduled to be heard at the Civil Service Commission.
“The Department followed a long-standing policy and had the input of County Counsel in the ultimate decision to reinstate the employee. While the video and actions of my Deputy Sheriff should have been more in line with the policies and standards that I expect, I believe that a fair review of the case was conducted and that the appropriate administration action was taken.”
Courtial is currently assigned to the Palmdale station, the Times reports.
In July of 2016, Courtial and other deputies responded to reports of a man trying to break into vehicles along Elm Avenue in Lancaster and located the man in a pickup truck, according to a memo by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office obtained by the Times.
Courtial charged toward the truck and kicked it as other deputies approached the truck, the memo said. He opened a door of the truck and ordered the man not to move, shouting he would shoot the suspect if he disobeyed. Courtial told another deputy to use a Taser on the man and the deputy complied, then Courtial dragged the man out of the truck and onto the ground, the memo said.
As Courtial pulled the man from the truck, he punched him several times and continued to hit him in the back and shoulders as the suspect was on his stomach with his right hand under his body, the memo said.
The suspect was hospitalized and treated for a traumatic brain injury, a bone chip fracture, Taser dart wounds and scrapes, the memo said. However, it was impossible to know whether all the injuries were caused by deputies because the man, who was found to have a blood-alcohol level of .209, said he had head-butted someone before the altercation with deputies.
Courtial was not prosecuted by the DA’s office because investigators said the man was resisting deputies when Courtial used force. However, the DA’s office did determine that Courtial’s actions were excessive.
“This is yet another concerning revelation out of our Sheriff’s Department,” L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement Thursday. :Rehiring a deputy who was fired for excessive force sends a disturbing message—that this type of behavior is tolerated. This erodes the public’s trust in those who are tasked with serving and protecting them. I hope this doesn’t represent pattern and practice for this Sheriff.”
This is the second deputy that Villanueva has controversially reinstated since winning election last November.
In 2016, Deputy Sheriff Caren Carl Mandoyan was fired by then-Sheriff Jim McConnell after a fellow deputy alleged Mandoyan grabbed her by the neck, tried to break into her home twice, sent her harassing text messages and admitted to listening to her conversations, according to the Los Angeles Times. A county appeals board heard evidence in the case and upheld Mandoyan’s dismissal.
Despite his firing, Mandoyan played a key role in new Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s election campaign last year in which he narrowly defeated McConnell. He served as Villanueva’s driver during the campaign and appeared on-stage at his swearing-in ceremony in December. Villanueva reinstated Mandoyan in his first weeks as sheriff.
Villanueva has since repeatedly defended the move to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, which in January passed a motion reprimanding Villanueva for reinstating Mandoyan.
Last week, Villanueva was grilled about the decision by the L.A. County Civilian Oversight Commission.
“It (Mandoyan’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend) was a relationship that ended badly. It did not stray into the criminal arena,” Villanueva told the commission.
However, on March 27, just one day after going before the commission, cell phone video emerged showing Mandoyan trying to break into his ex-girlfriend’s home four years ago.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)