Widow Sues LA Sheriff's Dept. After Her 80-Year-Old Husband Is Killed During A Search For Drugs That Weren't Actually There

from the because-if-it's-drug-related,-shoot-first,-issue-denials-later dept

The War on Drugs is increasingly being fought in the courtrooms, but not in the way drug warriors prefer. A multimillion dollar lawsuit has been filed for civil rights violations, use of excessive force and wrongful death by the wife (Tonya Pate) of Eugene Mallory, who was 80 years old at the time sheriff's deputies ended his life back in 2011.

The lawsuit details the actions taken by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Dept., along with its alleged coverup of its misconduct proceeding and following the incident that saw Mallory shot six times as he was lying in bed. According to sheriff's deputies, the decision to enter Mallory's trailer was justified by Detective Toucan Sam Patrick Hobbs, who claimed he smelled "chemicals" while "downwind." This was further justified by an anonymous tip that Mallory was supposedly manufacturing meth on the premises. No spoiler alert is really necessary as I'm sure we can see where this is going. No meth or meth manufacturing equipment/chemicals were found. However, deputies did claim to find "marijuana and marijuana-growing equipment" on another part of the property.

But, as Reason points out, there were discrepancies between the deputies' first statement and the one released after they listened to the audio recording of the incident.

Deputies approached the house, and what happened next is where things get murky. The deputies said they announced their presence upon entering and were met in the hallway by the 80-year-old man, wielding a gun and stumbling towards them. [Note: I can't find any confirmation that the deputies ever made this particular statement.] The deputies later changed the story when the massive bloodstains on Mallory's mattress indicated to investigators that he'd most likely been in bed at the time of the shooting. Investigators also found that an audio recording of the incident revealed a discrepancy in the deputies' original narrative:

Before listening to the audio recording, [Sgt. John] Bones believed that he told Mallory to "Drop the gun" prior to the shooting. The recording revealed, however, that his commands to "Drop the gun" occurred immediately after the shooting.
The rest of the case, including the warrant and the anonymous tip, seem to be at least as suspect as the changing narrative, according to the allegations put forth in the filing. It doesn't take long for Pate's lawyer to start nailing the defendants (of which there are more than 50) to the wall. The second paragraph of the first cause of action runs as follows.
On or about June 25, 2013, in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, HOBBS filed with the Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, his sworn affidavit and statement attesting to certain facts in support of a search warrant for the residence and real property of DECEDENT located at 36644 117th Street East, Littlerock, County of Los Angeles, State of California. At all times stated herein, HOBBS either lied under oath making these representations, knowing that the material facts he stated to the court were false or were likely untrue, or were made by him with a reckless disregard for the truth, with the further intent to deceive the court and to intentionally deprive DECEDENT and Plaintiff of their constitutional rights under the law.
What did Hobbs allegedly lie about? Well, Mallory's supposed "clandestine" meth lab (which was allegedly used to "continuously manufacture" the drug) for one thing. Hobbs used an anonymous tip and his expert nostrils to make this call, both of which were proven wrong after Mallory had six bullets in him. Hobbs apparently felt Mallory had the ability to whip up a meth lab on the fly, as the filing notes that the property itself had been inspected several times by the LA Sheriff's Dept. itself, along with code enforcement officers, all without ever turning up evidence of drug manufacturing or storage.

The suit also alleges that the "secret informant" was unreliable, if he or she even existed at all. (The lawsuit then goes on to confusingly claim this possibly nonexistent informant "had reason to lie and fabricate false information about [Mallory].")

Further on, Pate's lawyer calls out the LA Sheriff's Dept. (of which a total of 50 'John Doe' officers are listed as defendants, which apparently was the total number of responding officers post-shooting) for failing to properly train its officers or even curtail their misconduct.
Failure to provide adequate discipline, training, control, and supervision to peace officers who themselves have either a propensity for lying and fabrication of evidence, for violence or a history of violence, and for engagement in other unconstitutional actions.
This isn't far from the truth. Reason points out the department has been "plagued by prison abuse scandals, questionable hiring practices, and allegations of racial profiling and harassment in recent years."

The lawsuit also alleges that Mallory was "deliberately" denied prompt medical care by sheriff's deputies. Also of concern is the fact that Pate was unable to obtain an independent autopsy (although the county coroner's declaration that Mallory died from "multiple gunshot wounds" would seem to be accurate), as the county chose to contact out-of-state relatives rather than Pate, Mallory's wife, and cremated his body at their request.

This is America's drug war: a man killed in the pursuit of a drug manufacturing operation that didn't exist. After the news first hit, the sheriff's department used the discovery of marijuana as justification for its actions -- even though the failure to find the drug it was actually searching for turned both the anonymous tipster and Detective Hobbs' nose into liars.

Here are the statements made directly after the shooting.
During the June raid, Mallory raised a semi-automatic handgun in response to deputies, who fired on him, the sheriff’s department said at the time. Two guns were recovered at the scene, according to sheriff’s department spokesman Steve Whitmore.
Using the word "semi-automatic" makes the handgun sound more threatening, despite the fact that the majority of pistols sold are semi-automatic.
“Age does not preclude somebody from being aggressive toward deputies,” Whitmore said. “The lesson here is… don’t pull a gun on a deputy.”
That narrative is still being disputed.
Marijuana was found on another part of the property where Tonya’s lived, she said.

“There was a drug operation that was certainly going on in this house,” Whitmore said.
But not the drug operation anyone was looking for and not the drug operation cited by Hobb's nostrils and the department didn't release any specifics on what was recovered or how much, which means it could have been nothing more than a couple of potted plants and a grow lamp ("marijuana and marijuana-growing equipment"). It couldn't have been much of a "drug operation" because not a single person who was detained and questioned following the incident was arrested or charged.
There were no other occupants in the residence at the time of the shooting, but several residents at the multi-unit property were detained for questioning in relation to the deputy-involved shooting, Gomez said. All residents were later released.
Pin it on the dead guy, whatever they actually found. So, the Drug War rolls on, costing citizens billions of dollars, some of it in the form of lawsuit settlements. A dangerous 80-year-old alleged meth manufacturer was taken out, making the world a safer place, because eventual, alleged marijuana growers are apparently equally as dangerous and undeserving of due process.

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  • identicon
    Just Sayin', 14 Feb 2014 @ 5:28pm

    Cool Story Bro!

    Cool story, but I am not sure what it has to do with Techdirt, except to try to further some sort of outrage against government and law enforcement.

    This blog sure is starting to have a pretty clear (and ugly) agenda.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2014 @ 5:36pm

    could there also have been the possibility that the marijuana, if, like the meth lab, that indeed existed, had been prescribed medically? i am also assuming this was a 'no knock' invasion by the police, which has caused problems elsewhere. however, i somehow doubt that an 80year old person had the speed and dexterity of mind or body to have been any sort of major threat. this sounds more like a person who just wanted to shoot someone and is using whatever bullshit and lies he can dream up, along with whatever bullshit and lies he can get his colleagues to spin to try to get him out of this almighty pile of shit! i think one thing i would be looking at, if i were an attorney in the case was how many other shooting incidents these officers had been involved in and what the results were? could prove interesting!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Skeptic123, 14 Feb 2014 @ 5:53pm

    You Buried the Lede

    Ahh... There is this big hole in the middle of the story, to wit:

    Why had the LASD AND (County?) Code Enforcement repeatedly visited this person? What was going on before this 'meth' bust?

    Which leads to the second question: Who told/asked the Deputy in question to set up the fictional 'meth' bust?

    As crazy as it sounds, this does not sound like the typical police screwup, it sounds like a hit.

    A typical screwup would be they beat up an 80 year old (resisting arrest) who then has heart failure. Oops.

    But here, somebody put six(?) rounds into a 80 year old guy lying on a bed? On a blatently bogus 'meth' bust, where the facts on the ground prove the deputy's affidavit had to be knowingly false. And the cops had to know that the falsity of the affidavit was going to be exposed.

    This smells of corruption in some parts of the LA County government (at least LASD and Code Enforcement), and that makes this felony murder.

    I say corruption, because of the linkage between the previous government action, the knowingly false 'meth' bust, and an apparent 'bad' shoot.

    This is your lede:
    Killing Exposes LA County Corruption
    Film at 11

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      btrussell (profile), 14 Feb 2014 @ 8:01pm

      Re: You Buried the Lede

      ""Drop the gun" occurred immediately after the shooting."

      They call them throwaways.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        art guerrilla (profile), 16 Feb 2014 @ 7:12am

        Re: Re: You Buried the Lede

        NSA Intercept Program 122-235BAQ
        Sub-section 2011.a Compliant
        EYES ONLY

        1st Officer: I thought *you* had the meth to plant.

        2nd Officer: No, you said, you had enough in your locker, you could take some.

        1st Officer: Well, yeah, but I thought you said you already had some to drop.l

        2nd Officer: I did. Then after I hit it, I didn't.

        1st Officer: Oh.

        1st Officer: Crap.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2014 @ 7:33pm

    I wonder if someone wanted his property.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    zip, 14 Feb 2014 @ 9:36pm

    Assuming the cop's side of the story isn't a complete fabrication, it wasn't even close to a fair fight.

    The 80-y.o. victim supposedly tried to defend himself with a measley .22 caliber pistol (without firing a single shot) while the cops came armed with MP-5 submachine guns (which generally only police and military are allowed to possess).

    In the recording, the deputy saying "Drop the gun" AFTER the shooting may have been telling his partner to dispatch the "throw down" gun.

    BTW, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca is one of the most corrupt politicians imaginable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      piz, 15 Feb 2014 @ 8:32am


      "Drop the gun" indicates to me that one officer was telling another to plant evidence. Sounds like a planned hit to me. Killed him in his bed, then dropped a gun as part of their planned story to get away with the hit. The so called informant is probably the one who ordered it and I'm sure the officer(s) were paid well. Many cops are people who've "retired" from the military and thus have experience with killing people already, so something like this is no big deal for them.

      Marijuana growing equipment? Probably a grow lamp that was sitting in the corner lol. Equipment for growing vegetables and/or flowers look exactly the same, so how do they know it was used for growing marijuana? It says the officers found marijuana, but not the quantity. Could have just been a couple of joints lol. Probably planted as well since a meth lab would have been time consuming and too much trouble. Marijuana is much easier to "plant" as evidence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2014 @ 1:44am

    Until the cops themselves face jail time for this, instead of taxpayers always footing the bill for it while the cops walk away with a slap on the wrist, why should they care?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      btrussell (profile), 15 Feb 2014 @ 5:07am


      Making taxpayers pay ensures accountability.

      Hold the individual responsible and how can they change departments or get promoted? You want to label this man, who has devoted his life to protecting your life, a criminal?/s

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      robert spano, 15 Feb 2014 @ 11:51am

      Re: cops and jail time

      I say jail time with unfriendly inmates and any dollar settlement needs to come out of the pension fund not from the taxpayers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2014 @ 8:25am

    What does it have to do with technology?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      zip, 15 Feb 2014 @ 11:42am

      Re: 21st century cops, dressed to kill

      What does it have to do with technology?

      Police today - particularly tactical assault (S.W.A.T.) teams - use all the latest and greatest technology, much of it developed for soldiers on the battlefield -- or conducting a hostile occupation of a conquered nation. Police use high-tech body armor and high-tech weaponry. Bullet-and-bomb-proof vehicles designed for patrolling Baghdad's "RPG Alley" are now in the hands of many domestic "civilian" police departments.

      It's a great deal different from the typical policeman of say, 1960, 1970, or 1980, who had to make do with a .38 special 6-shooter -- a low-powered, slow-to-reload gun practically identical to his great-grandfather's service revolver. Also of note is that police back then didn't routinely shoot kids playing with toy guns -- which looked (and often sounded) EXACTLY like real guns back then.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Preston, 15 Feb 2014 @ 9:42am


    FucK that cop, I hope he dies and reads this that fat peice of shit cop, fat FucK can rot in hell and suck hitlers dick

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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