A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy testified Tuesday that a colleague he was training in August 2014 became so angry about having to stay overtime for a call that he dangled his gun low in the patrol car and said he would shoot the suspect they were looking for and later claim the individual was armed.
“To me this was a very serious matter,” Deputy George Meza told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury, adding he had never experienced anything like it before or since from a trainee.
Meza’s testimony came during the third day of trial of 37-year-old Deputy Andrew Rodriguez’s lawsuit against Los Angeles County.
Rodriguez’s lawsuit, filed in October 2017, alleges he was subjected to a hostile work environment for speaking out against what he believed was wrongful conduct within the sheriff’s department while working as a patrol deputy at the Industry station, where he was assigned in December 2013 after earlier stints in the county jails and as a bailiff in Compton Superior Court and the Edelman Children’s Court.
Undersheriff Tim Murakami was a captain and the head of the Industry station at the time.
Rodriguez testified that his first two trainers at the Industry station engaged in what he believed were unconstitutional stops and detentions of potential suspects that could have led to both him and the trainers going to federal prison. He said that Meza was an improvement over the first two, but he vehemently denied during his testimony that he ever did anything like Meza described in his testimony.
In a sworn declaration in January, Meza said he “did not interpret (Rodriguez’s) statement about shooting the man as a joke, and even voicing that comment was wrong. It is never appropriate for a deputy to make these kinds of statements. Moreover, (Rodriguez) knew that I was still evaluating him at all times as part of his patrol training.”
Meza further stated that he pulled the vehicle over and he and Rodriguez had a “very serious conversation about why that sort of talk was extremely troubling and that as sworn officers, our roles were to protect life.”
Rodriguez’s lawyer, Alan Romero, repeatedly grilled Meza on the stand about whether he had actually waited until much later to raise the accusation that Rodriguez had threatened a member of the public with a gun.
Judge Susan-Bryant Deason later joined the questioning of Meza, which in return brought a protest by Christian E. Foy Nagy, one of the defense attorneys, that such inquiries should not have been made in front of the jury.
The jury was given Wednesday off so that a member can attend the funeral of a relative. Murakami, who Rodriguez alleges said he would “find something” to get the plaintiff fired, is now scheduled to testify Monday.
Rodriguez is currently an unpaid, inactive member of the department.
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