Lieutenant transferred to SCV after trying to warn public about shootings, sues LASD for alleged retaliation

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station can be reached by calling 661-260-4000.

A local sheriff’s lieutenant, who last year worked at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, alleging he was retaliated against for having tried to warn the public about shootings in Malibu Creek State Park in the days leading up to the murder of Tristan Beaudette.

Lt. James Royal, a 24-year veteran with the LASD, serves as watch commander for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.

Efforts Wednesday to speak to him directly were unsuccessful, prompting a response instead from the station spokeswoman.

“Unfortunately, Lt. Royal is not able to discuss any personnel matters,” said Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the SCV station.

According to the lawsuit, Royal was made the subject of a “baseless” Internal Affairs investigation, stripped of his detective status, denied overtime opportunities and transferred to another unit (the Santa Clarita Valley), which required driving 80 additional miles to work.

The lawsuit was filed by the law firm McNicholas & McNicholas LLP, as a government claim, naming as the respondents the county of Los Angeles, the LASD and Division Chief John Benedict.

This is how McNicholas lays out the claim filed June 6:

Malibu shootings

In January 2017,  Royal became aware of three shootings that occurred in Malibu Creek State Park. Royal immediately notified his supervisors and urged the department to issue a public safety statement. Royal was told by his superiors that it was the “State Park’s problem” and would not be handled by the Sheriff’s Department.

Between June 2017 and June 2018, four additional shootings occurred in the same area.

During this period, McNicholas alleges, Royal insisted that the Sheriff’s Department warn the public about the series of shootings. His requests to issue a public statement were again denied by his superiors, including Chief John Benedict, the lawsuit says.

On June 22, 2018, Tristan Beaudette was shot and killed while camping with his two young daughters in the Malibu Creek State Park campground.

After his murder, others came forward with reports of hearing gunfire in the area, resulting in a public uproar.

In August 2018, a town hall meeting was held to address the Beaudette murder, the other shootings and why the public was not warned.

Department position

Royal was told to attend the town hall to give the Sheriff’s Department’s official position that the prior series of shootings were unrelated to the Beaudette murder.

This, of course, was not Royal’s position, McNicholas said.

He was told the “department’s position” was the only position that mattered. Benedict, the lawsuit says, sat in one of the front rows at the town hall to intimidate Royal to stay on script.

In October 2018, Anthony Rauda, a vagrant living in the surrounding area, was captured and later charged with the murder of Tristan Beaudette.

In December 2018, Beaudette’s family — his widow, Erica Wu, and their daughters — filed a lawsuit for more than $90 million in damages against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and other state and local agencies, accusing them of failing to warn the public about the shootings in and around the area before the slaying.

In December 2018, the Sheriff’s Department obtained internal correspondence showing that Royal and his captain met with Benedict before the Beaudette murder, and that Royal requested that a public safety statement be released regarding the prior shootings.

With the awareness that the county was facing significant liability for the wrongful death lawsuit, individuals within the Sheriff’s Department began retaliating against Royal, according to the complaint.

In January 2019, Royal was transferred from his detective lieutenant assignment at Malibu/Lost Hills Station to the SCV.

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