A former sheriff’s sergeant is suing Los Angeles County, claiming his supervisors retaliated against him for trying to assist a lieutenant in informing the public about shootings that occurred in and around Malibu Creek State Park before a man was killed there while camping with his daughters.
Former Sgt. Tui Wright is the second member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to file suit alleging he experienced a backlash for coming forward. In September, Lt. James Royal alleged in another complaint, also filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, that he repeatedly advised his bosses to warn people about the shootings before Tristan Beaudette, 35, was killed at the park June 22, 2018, while sleeping in a tent with his daughters, ages 2 and 4.
Wright’s suit, filed Wednesday, seeks unspecified damages.
A sheriff’s department representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the Wright suit. After Royal sued, the department issued a statement saying the LASD is “committed to our responsibility of ensuring the safety of Los Angeles County residents.”
In January, 2017, Wright, a 31-year LASD veteran who worked the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station as a search-and-rescue team supervisor, and Royal, his detective bureau lieutenant, became aware of three shootings at the park, the Wright suit states.
According to the Wright lawsuit, the first shooting occurred Nov. 3, 2016, in Tapia Park; the second on Nov. 9, 2016, in Malibu Creek State Park; and the third on Jan. 7, 2017, also in Malibu Creek State Park.
Royal, a 24-year sheriff’s department veteran, told his supervisors that the agency needed to warn the public about the initial shootings, the Wright suit stated. However, no warning was issued and Royal’s bosses told him it was a state park problem and not theirs, according to the Wright suit.
Four additional shootings occurred in the area, including one just four days before the Beaudette killing, when a Tesla car was struck by a bullet at Malibu Creek State Park, the suit states.
“During the time period when these four additional shootings occurred, (Wright) told Royal that it was his opinion that the incidents were a series of serial crimes committed by a serial shooter and that the public needed to be warned of the danger before someone was killed,” the Wright suit states.
Royal shared the same opinion and recommended to a gathering at the sheriff’s headquarters in downtown Los Angeles that a public safety statement be issued, but his suggestion was denied, the suit states.
After Beaudette was killed, Royal was instructed by his supervisors to state at a town hall meeting that the official position of the sheriff’s department was that the prior shootings were unrelated to his death, the suit states.
Wright maintains that as punishment for coming forward with Royal about the lack of a warning to the public about the shootings, LASD management subjected him to retaliation that included a job transfer to a less prestigious position at the West Hollywood Station that forced him to drive a greater distance from home. He also maintains he was subjected to an unwarranted Internal Affairs investigation and that he suffered damage to his reputation, all of which forced him to retire earlier than he planned.
Royal similarly maintains in his suit that in retaliation for speaking out, he was transferred from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station to the Santa Clarita station, a less prestigious assignment, and was stripped of his detective status. He also was subjected to an Internal Affairs investigation under false circumstances that has damaged his reputation, his suit alleges.
On July 29, Erica Wu, Beaudette’s widow, and their daughters filed a wrongful-death suit against Los Angeles County, also alleging the sheriff’s department failed to warn the public about earlier shootings in the same general area.
Anthony Rauda, a vagrant who lived in the surrounding area, was arrested in October and charged in January with murder for the killing of Beaudette, along with 10 counts of attempted murder. Rauda is also charged with five counts of second-degree commercial burglary in the Calabasas area between July 2018 and October 2018.
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