The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a $2.75 million settlement with a Compton man who suffered from mental illness and was beaten by sheriff’s deputies who encountered him smoking cannabis in the summer of 2014.
Deputies confronted then-29-year-old Barry Montgomery in Enterprise Park about 9:25 p.m. July 14, 2014, after smelling what they believed to be marijuana, according to a sheriff’s captain at the time.
According to a summary provided to the board by sheriff’s deputies, Montgomery swore at the deputies, name dropped a Compton-based street gang, and then told them, “I’m going to kill both of you with my deuce-deuce.”
The alleged reference was to a .22 caliber handgun.
Montgomery then landed an unprovoked punch, hitting one deputy’s shoulder when the man ducked, according to the pair of sworn officers.
Montgomery told ABC7 shortly after the beating that one minute the deputies were telling him the park was closing at 10 p.m. and the next minute they were punching him.
His family said he suffered from schizophrenia and didn’t always understand what he was being told. His sister, Ty Montgomery, told NBC4 in 2014 that her brother lived in his parents’ home a few blocks from the park, and often walked there, bringing his own basketball.
“By him being schizophrenic and ignoring the officers, I guess they thought he was ignoring them on purpose,” Ty Montgomery said. “But … it’s not on purpose. He doesn’t communicate. He’s a paranoid schizophrenic, he just walks up the street. Walk back, play ball.”
When the two deputies called for backup, a third deputy arrived on the scene. All three admitted to punching Montgomery multiple times in a struggle they characterized as trying to get him under control while fearing he was reaching for a weapon.
Montgomery was ultimately handcuffed and taken to a hospital with several injuries. He suffered facial fractures — including a fractured eye socket — and seven broken ribs, among other injuries, according to Paulette Simpson-Gipson, then-president of the Compton branch of the NAACP.
In August 2014, the NAACP called for a federal investigation and alleged Montgomery was beaten for 25 minutes while handcuffed.
“We see no justification for the brutality inflicted to Mr. Barry Montgomery,” Simpson-Gipson said at the time. “The beating is a clear violation of his civil rights.”
Montgomery’s attorney at the time told ABC7 that Montgomery was a “little guy,” just over 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighing about 105 pounds at best.
In their suit against the county, Montgomery’s family alleged that the deputies fired their weapons, shot Montgomery with a stun gun and dragged him into a nearby restroom to assault him, according to the board summary.
Montgomery was charged with felony resisting arrest and misdemeanor marijuana possession. During a preliminary hearing, two of the three deputies offered conflicting testimony about their use of force.
The charges were eventually dropped after the court declared Montgomery mentally incompetent to stand trial and ordered outpatient treatment with the Department of Mental Health.
In 2015, the sheriff’s department Executive Force Review Committee found the three deputies’ actions were within department policy.
In addition to not recognizing Montgomery’s symptoms of mental illness, one of the root causes of the incident listed in the board summary was “the deputies’ inability to review their reports and properly prepare prior to testifying in court.”
Body-worn cameras were subsequently issued to all deputies at the Compton Sheriff’s Station “to ensure all public contact is transparent” and supervisors conduct “random daily audits” to ensure compliance with the body cam policy, according to the summary.