Children attending a boot camp for at-risk youth sponsored by the South Gate and Huntington Park police departments were physically and verbally abused by counselors, an attorney for some of the alleged victims said Wednesday as he called for a thorough investigation.
Attorney Greg Owen said he represents seven of the 36 children who attended the Leadership Empowerment and Discipline Boot Camp from May 17-24 in San Luis Obispo. He said the kids were slapped, punched and stepped on by camp supervisors.
Owen said kids who were seen as being uncooperative were taken into a dark room and held against a wall by their necks.
“They’d beat them in the sides, in the stomach, in the ribs and in the face,” Owen said.
If the kids got bloody, the officers “would throw them a towel” and tell them to wipe themselves off.
He said one of his clients had his fingers broken when a camp officer stood on his hand. He also claimed that the camp attendees were threatened with violence if they told anyone what happened at the camp.
Bridgett Salazar said her son came home from the camp crying.
“He just hugged me so tight and he just couldn’t stop crying,” she said.
Sheriff’s deputies in San Luis Obispo County are investigating the activities at the camp.
South Gate police Capt. James Teeples said officials at the South Gate and Huntington Park police departments “believe in complete transparency and take all allegations very seriously.”
He said officials from both departments met with parents “to provide assurance that any matters of concern will be investigated thoroughly.”
Teeples noted that the LEAD program has been in operation since 1998 and “has been very successful in affecting positive change in the lives of the youth of our communities.”
— City News Service