A man is suing Los Angeles County over the death of his 25-year-old son, who was shot to death in 2019 by a sheriff’s deputy alleged to be a member of the Banditos gang and involved in another fatal shooting a year earlier.
Jorge Serrano Sr., father of Jorge Jr., brought the complaint Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging wrongful death, negligence and constitutional violations. Also named as defendants are Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Deputy Nikolis Perez.
Villanueva is being sued for allegedly condoning the existence of the Banditos gang. The suit maintains he defied an order from the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission to check deputies at the East Los Angeles Station for gang tattoos.
The plaintiff seeks unspecified damages. An LASD representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Serrano was shot about 5:30 p.m. Dec. 16 in the 3600 block of Fourth Street and died at the scene, according to the coroner’s office and the sheriff’s department.
“Detectives have learned that deputies assigned to (the sheriff’s) East Los Angeles Station approached a pedestrian to make contact,” according to a statement previously released from the sheriff’s department. “Upon contact with the suspect, the suspect drew a firearm and a deputy-involved shooting occurred.”
A handgun was recovered and no deputies were injured, officials said.
But according to the suit, Serrano was “aggressively approached” by Perez and another deputy, and alleges Perez is a member of the Banditos, a clique of deputies mostly from the East Los Angeles station.
“The Banditos terrorize innocent civilians throughout Los Angeles County communities, the same community sheriff’s deputies are trusted to protect and serve,” the suit states. “Instead of protecting and serving the community, the Banditos unlawfully misclassify innocent civilians as street gang members, brutalize civilians and shoot and kill civilians under the guise of self-defense.”
Serrano was “shaken and shocked” by the deputies’ attitudes and ran, but he stopped about a block later, got on his knees and held his hands up, according to the suit.
Although Serrano was not a threat and was unarmed, Perez fired six shots and at least three struck Serrano, the suit states. He collapsed and was bleeding, but the deputies ignored his need for medical care and he died at the scene, the suit alleges.
“The delay of medical care to (Serrano) caused (him) extreme physical and emotional pain and suffering and was a contributing cause of (his) death,” the suit states.
Before August 2018, Perez was a “prospect” of the Banditos, but that day became a “full-fledged member” when he and fellow alleged Banditos member Jonathan Rojas shot and killed 21-year-old Anthony Vargas at the Nueva Maravilla Housing Community in East Los Angeles, according to the suit. Vargas was struck by 10 bullets, the suit states.
Vargas’ mother, Lisa Vargas, sued Los Angeles County and the two deputies in March 2019 for wrongful death. The case is pending in U.S. District Court.
Although both of the shootings involving Perez are still under internal investigation, he has since been promoted to the rank of training deputy, according to the lawyers for both plaintiffs.