Controversial Los Angeles Sheriff With His Opponent Over Law Enforcement Gangs

  • The Los Angeles Sheriff’s candidates took the stage in a heated hour-long debate Wednesday night.
  • Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his opponent, former police chief Robert Luna, discussed law enforcement gangs.
  • Villanueva dodged the question, accusing Luna of being one.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva dodged allegations from law enforcement gangs in the department during a Wednesday night debate at the Skirball Cultural Center.

“Deputy gangs have become a political buzzword and it’s like unicorns,” Villanueva said Wednesday night. “Everyone knows what a unicorn looks like, but I dare you, name one. Name a single deputy gang member and I haven’t heard that yet.”

Villanueva has previously been accused of engaging so-called aid gangs, or unauthorized groups within the department, some of which are accused of assault.

After reports and lawsuits, he has repeatedly denied their existence and attempted to disrupt an investigation into them, according to a lawsuit filed by LASD sergeant alleging that Villanueva was trying to avert a witness’s testimony.

The debate centered on the two candidates for sheriff, incumbent Villanueva, and former Long Beach Police Department challenger Robert Luna. The two emerged as the top two candidates after the Los Angeles County primary in June.

Luna, who has since been supported by seven of his former main challengers, argued that Villanueva’s comments prove his opposition to crackdown on aid gangs.

“You just heard, he doesn’t recognize they exist. Can’t solve a problem you don’t know exists,” Luna said.

He then referred to two subgroups within the department: The Grim Reapers and the Banditos.

Luna brought up Villanueva’s former chief of staff Larry Del Mese, now retired, who confirmed his involvement with The Grim Reapers in July during a public hearing for the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission investigation into the groups.

Luna also pointed to allegations made by retired LASD Captain Matthew Burson who claimed that Villanueva had asked investigators not to look inside the Banditos group.

Villanueva snapped back by saying, “Well, for starters, he’ll have to explain what the North Town Rangers are. Ring a bell, Mr Luna?’

Luna denied the accusation, saying NTR had since been wiped out. Insider could not independently confirm the existence of this group or Luna’s affiliation. Luna’s campaign denied the accusation.

Villanueva said the LASD “has taken all measures” that could be legally taken without violating “the rights” of the department’s employees. He then doubled down on his original request, asking people concerned about the deputy gang issue to “name just one.”

The heated hour-long debate ended with a series of light-hearted questions that exposed some of the similarities between the rivals: their love for the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” and the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.

“The debate contrasted with the current sheriff, who has caused chaos, dysfunction and scandal in the department, endangering our public safety and eroding public confidence. That is why 70% of voters voted in the primaries to remove him. as sheriff,” Luna’s campaign told Insider in an email.

Long Beach Police, the Los Angeles Sheriff and Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s reelection campaign did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.