LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A senior official in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced Wednesday that he will challenge Sheriff Alex Villanueva for his seat in 2022.
Eliezer Vera, chief of the LASD Technology and Support Division, announced his candidacy Wednesday in a news conference in Grand Park.
“I believe as law enforcement officers our mission is to bring calmness and civility and peace to very difficult situations,” Vera said. And what we’ve witnessed from the current sheriff is someone that, when someone disagrees with him, we see nothing but utter disdain and contempt.”
Vera, a former U.S. Marine, has been with LASD since 1988.
He was promoted to the rank of chief in December 2018, overseeing the department’s Central Patrol Division. In January, he transferred to the Technology & Support Division, where he oversees the Scientific Services, Data Systems, Records & Identification and Communications & Fleet Management bureaus.
He and Villanueva worked closely together in the past, when both were sergeants at the Lennox Station in the early 2000s. Vera also consulted on Villanueva’s campaign for sheriff in 2018, and praised his aptitude shortly after the November 2018 election.
“There will be a learning curve. But this is a man with a PhD. He is no dummy,” Vera told the Los Angeles Times at the time.
Since taking the reigns after his surprise win over incumbent Jim McDonnell in 2018, Villanueva and his agency have found themselves at the center of numerous controversies.
Immediately following his win, Villanueva controversially reinstated a deputy who had been fired over domestic violence allegations a few years prior. Caren Carl Mandoyan was reinstated after having worked closely on Villanueva’s election campaign. The rehiring was eventually blocked by a judge.
Last November, following several clashes regarding oversight issues, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to consider options to remove Villanueva from office rather than leave his fate in the hands of voters.
A month prior to that, the L.A. County Civilian Oversight Commission approved a resolution calling for his immediate resignation.
In March of 2020, as the pandemic was unfolding, the board of supervisors also removed Villanueva as head of emergency operations for L.A. County.
In May of last year, Vanessa Bryant sued LASD after several deputies allegedly shared graphic photos from the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
This past January, meanwhile, a report found that LASD has multiple deputy gangs in which members are encouraged to engage in violent behavior and misconduct.
There were also questions regarding how the sheriff’s department handled the investigation into the March crash which seriously injured golfer Tiger Woods.
Vera says that if elected, he would make it his mission to “restore confidence in the office of the sheriff by partnering with the Board of Supervisors, collaborating with oversight, creating clear channels of communication with all whom we serve, and setting aside differences for the fulfillment of one common purpose — serving the residents of Los Angeles County.”
Villanueva told a local media outlet Wednesday that he looked forward to the race.
“Everyone has the right to run for any political office in this nation, that’s what makes our nation great,” Villanueva said. “Wish him the best, but ultimately his record is going to have to be defended, just like I’m defending my record, and I look forward to the opportunity.”
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)