LOS ANGELES (AP) — A lawyer representing three teenagers who were detained at gunpoint by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies called for an investigation into the tactics and accountability for their actions on Tuesday.
Attorney Robert Brown said the teens — two 16-year-olds and an 18-year-old — were traumatized by their experience Friday. The mother of one said the teens had been threatened by a man holding a knife, but the deputies detained them instead.
“We want there to be a meaningful investigation, and we want some measure of accountability,” Brown told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “Without accountability, these things keep happening.”
Brown also clarified that two of the teens are Black and one is white, contrary to previous reports that said all three were Black.
Brown said the teens’ families are contemplating filing a lawsuit. He is currently trying to speak to people who witnessed the “life or death situation.”
“Had they made the wrong move” as the deputies pointed their weapons at them, Brown said, “this could have had a tragic outcome.”
Tammi Collins, one of the 16-year-olds’ mothers, wrote on Instagram last week that her son was sitting with friends at a bus stop in the Santa Clarita Valley when a man asked them if they had any drugs and then tried to steal their belongings. She said the man then pulled out a knife and tried to stab them.
Brown said the boys tried to keep the man at bay with their skateboards in self-defense.
Collins wrote that bystanders called police to help the teens, though she wrote that apparently one caller reported that the teens were attacking the man.
Deputy Juanita Navarro, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department, said a caller reported that two Black men in their early 20s had struck a man with a skateboard.
In an 11-minute video Collins posted, which Brown said had been taken by a bystander, at least three deputies are seen pointing their guns at the teens — including one deputy who had a long gun. The teens obeyed the deputies’ commands to back up with their hands up and knelt on the ground to be handcuffed.
Bystanders shouted at the officers that the teens didn’t do anything and documented the incident with cellphone videos.
Navarro said Monday the teens were not arrested and had been released at the scene.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a social media video posted Monday that after seeing the video of the incident, he had concerns about the deputies’ tactics. He also said the matter is being investigated.
Brown said a sheriff’s lieutenant emailed him Monday after the video went viral on social media and the sheriff only commented after it received media attention.
The timing of those actions leads Brown to “question their sincerity,” he said.