Crime

L.A.-area cops convicted of child abuse at Camp SLO, but they’re still on the job

Camp San Luis Obispo, where at least one child was abused by Southern California police officers running a boot camp for at-risk youth. No camp personnel were involved in the abuse, which culminated in misdemeanor convictions for two officers last week.
Camp San Luis Obispo, where at least one child was abused by Southern California police officers running a boot camp for at-risk youth. No camp personnel were involved in the abuse, which culminated in misdemeanor convictions for two officers last week. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Two of three Southern California police officers accused of abusing at-risk youths at a boot camp held at Camp San Luis Obispo in 2015 accepted plea deals with San Luis Obispo County prosecutors, pleading no contest to roughly a dozen misdemeanors.

Both remain at their jobs, though it is unclear what maximum punishment they face when they are sentenced July 17.

The alleged abuse did not involve any local residents or Camp San Luis personnel, however, and the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted the cases because the crimes occurred in the county.

Officers Edgar Yovany Gomez, 37, and Carlos Manuel Gomez-Marquez, 33, brothers who both work at the South Gate Police Department, pleaded no contest on June 5 to more than a dozen misdemeanors charges of willful cruelty to a child and corporal punishment resulting in injury. Misdemeanor charges of battery against both men were dismissed.

South Gate Police Department Capt. Darren Arakawa declined to comment on the case Monday but said both Gomez and Gomez-Marquez are still employed by the department.

A third officer, Marissa Elizabeth Larios, 38, of the Huntington Park Police Department, has pleaded not guilty and is preparing to go trial on similar charges in August. A spokesperson for that department could not be reached for comment.

Larios, Gomez and Gomez-Marquez were arrested with a fourth officer in August 2015 and immediately posted $20,000 bail through their attorneys.

Officials have released few details of the alleged abuse, but an attorney for the alleged victims previously told The Tribune that their clients were slapped, punched and stepped on by drill instructors during L.E.A.D. (Leadership, Empowerment and Discipline), a 20-week program sponsored by both Southern California police departments and the California National Guard.

The abuse occurred between May 17 and 24, 2015. An investigation was launched after local authorities were contacted by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services about alleged physical and verbal abuse of one child at the camp. Investigators later identified 15 male and female victims, between the ages of 12 to 17.

Greg Owen, one attorney representing the children, previously told The Tribune that officers stepped on kids’ hands and backs while they were ordered to do push-ups. He said some victims who didn’t meet camp expectations were ordered into a dark room, held up by instructors and beaten in the face, head and stomach.

Following a hearing in September 2015, Larios’ attorney, Michael Schwartz, said the allegations against his client were “grandiose exaggerations or embellishments,” and suggested the alleged victims were motivated by financial gain and a pending civil lawsuit.

Information on whether a lawsuit has been filed was not available Monday.

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