Four California police officers were arrested in early August 2015 for child abuse and related charges after a 2-month investigation of alleged improprieties at a children’s boot camp. The investigation was conducted by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.
Officers and brothers Edgar Gomez and Carlos Gomez-Marquez of the South Gate police department were arrested on suspicion of cruelty to a child, criminal threats, misdemeanor battery and abuse under the color of authority.
Officer Marissa Larios of the Huntington Park police department was arrested on suspicion of cruelty to a child, criminal conspiracy, misdemeanor battery and abuse under the color of authority.
Officer Patrick Nijland, of the Huntington Park police department was arrested on suspicion of cruelty to a child, criminal battery and abuse under the color of authority.
All four officers were released upon posting bail of $20,000 and all four are on paid administrative leave pending the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s review and decision of whether to file criminal charges.
The boot camp was “Leadership, Empowerment and Discipline” (L.E.A.D.) program, which operated for 17 years without any complaints. This year, the May 2015 program was attended by 40 children ages 12 – 17 whose parents paid $400 per child and sought training for problem children. The parents, some of whom reportedly begged to have their children accepted into the program, checked descriptions of their children’s behavior, such as: disrespectful; drug use; gang; bad grades; and runs away.
Nobody complained about this year’s boot camp until a 13-year-old boy with a bruised windpipe was taken to an emergency room by his mother. The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services became involved, interviewed the boy and he described his ordeal.
As the truth bubbled to the surface, more and more complaints arose, ultimately from 15 children – nine boys and six girls – who suffered facial bruising, bruised ribs, abrasions, broken fingers and damaged windpipes from being slapped, kicked, stomped and beaten.
The 2-month investigation, consisting of interviews and searches of cellphones, computers, vehicles, photos and personal belongings of camp leaders, supported the children’s abuse complaints.
As San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson stated about arresting fellow law enforcement officers, “When it involves a law enforcement agency, it gets a little awkward. The reality is that they’re no different from anybody else. If they did it, they need to be held accountable.”
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