Filed false report at Compton skate park
A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison this week for arresting a man at a Compton skate park for no reason and then filing a false report.
Christopher Hernandez, 37, who was a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Compton station, pleaded guilty in July to one count of conspiracy and agreed to cooperate in the investigation.
His former partner, ex-deputy Miguel Vega, 33, of Corona, was sentenced last month to two years in federal prison for his role in the incident. Vega previously pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law.
On April 13, 2020, Hernandez and Vega were on patrol in a sheriff’s SUV in the area near Wilson Park in Compton. The deputies saw two young Black males, one of whom Hernandez believed was on probation, outside a skateboard park enclosed by a tall fence within the park. Vega parked the SUV on the grass near the skatepark, after which Hernandez and Vega got out of the SUV and approached the men, whom they ordered to lift their shirts.
At that point, a third man, Jesus Alegria, identified in court documents by his initials, yelled at the deputies to stop bothering the youths. Vega then got into an argument with him, challenging the 23-year-old Alegria to a fight, according to papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.
Vega then pulled Alegria through an opening in the park fence and threw him in the back of the patrol SUV.
The skateboarder was not handcuffed, was not told he was under arrest and was not restrained by a seatbelt in the back seat of the vehicle, the ex-deputies admitted in their plea agreements.
Prosecutors said Vega again challenged Alegria to a fight after the deputies had driven away from the park. Hernandez and Vega both allegedly “taunted” the man, suggesting they were going to set him up by dumping him in gang territory.
Vega also said the deputies were going to falsely allege that Alegria “exhibited symptoms of being under the influence of a stimulant as a pretext to justify their false imprisonment” of him, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As Vega was driving the SUV with Alegria still in the back, he began chasing a group of young males on bicycles. Hernandez jumped out of the vehicle to pursue one suspect on foot, while Vega drove into an alley, where he crashed into a wall and another vehicle, causing Alegria to hit his face and head and sustain a cut over his right eye, according to the indictment.
After the crash, Vega took Alegria out of the patrol SUV and told him to leave, then reported over the sheriff’s radio that a suspect with a gun had run through an alley, and he described the suspect as wearing clothes similar to those worn by Alegria. Neither Vega nor Hernandez initially disclosed that they had detained Alegria or that he was in the SUV when the crash occurred, federal prosecutors said.
Alegria was subsequently detained by another deputy nearby, and it was only then that Vega admitted to a supervisor that the man had been in the back of the SUV. While Alegria was being treated at a hospital for his injuries, Hernandez told another deputy to cite him for being under the influence of methamphetamine, despite knowing it was a false accusation, prosecutors said.
In reports filed later that day, Hernandez and Vega “intentionally included false, misleading, and ambiguous information in the reports to justify and legitimize, and ultimately cover up, their unlawful conduct,” including that Alegria was under the influence of a stimulant and that he had threatened the deputies and other people at the skate park, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Alegria reached a $450,000 settlement with Los Angeles County over the incident, attorneys said.