City calling for investigation into SCV Sheriff’s Station response to incident

A group of 5 protesters gathers at a shopping center near the intersection of Whites Canyon Road and Soledad Canyon Road Monday afternoon in response to a viral video circulating online depicting SCV Sheriff's Station Deputies detaining a group of Black teenagers at gunpoint. August 10, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.
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By Perry Smith and Tammy Murga

The city of Santa Clarita called Monday for a full investigation into a Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station response regarding an assault investigation and felony stop in Canyon Country on Friday in which three teenagers were detained at gunpoint. 

Mayor Cameron Smyth said he shared concern with city staff Monday morning after seeing posts that included a viral video on social media of deputies’ actions near the intersection of Soledad and Whites canyon roads, where deputies detained two Black 16-year-olds and a white 18-year-old during an investigation into a reported assault.

“After seeing the video this morning, I reached out to our senior staff (city) and asked for a status update about the incident,” Smyth said in an interview. “By that point, staff had seen the video, as well, and had initiated the conversation with the sheriff.”

City Manager Ken Striplin was in contact with senior officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department out of Downtown Los Angeles, with respect to a possible investigation, Smyth said. Striplin declined to discuss the nature of that call Monday. 

“We have spoken to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and we are aware that a full investigation is underway regarding the level of response by the deputies,” said a statement from Smyth that was released by the city. “We have asked that the review be expedited and any necessary actions be taken. In addition, we have asked that the deputy be removed from the field pending the outcome of the investigation.”

The statement did not indicate which deputy was being referenced. Multiple deputies were on the scene Friday.

SCV Sheriff’s Station officials deferred comment on the incident to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Information Bureau, which denied The Signal’s request for an interview Monday. In a video statement Monday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said: 

“I’ve seen the recent video involving the Santa Clarita incident, which has gone viral, and I have concerns regarding the tactics employed. A call for service was received regarding a felony assault, and the deputies detained those alleged to be involved. The matter is currently being investigated. Thank you for listening and please stay healthy.”

Possible lawsuit

A lawsuit may ensue as a result of Friday’s incidents, said L.A.-based attorney Robert Stanford Brown, who said Monday he is representing the two 16-year-olds and may also officially represent the 18-year-old. 

“Whether there will be a lawsuit, that’s a possibility at this stage. I’m gathering as much information and don’t want to be irresponsible,” he said in a phone interview. “(The teenagers) are shaken up. One of the kids has not been sleeping, but they’re very fortunate to have loving parents.” 

The incident

On Friday, deputies responded to initial reports about an alleged assault on Whites and Soledad canyon roads around 5 p.m., according to Sgt. Dmitry Barkon. At the time, he added that a witness reported an alleged assault with a skateboard. 

The viral online video shows deputies detaining the teenagers at gunpoint as a crowd gathered and objected to the deputies’ handling of the incident. Videos show bystanders telling deputies that the boys were defending themselves, using a skateboard, from a man who brandished a knife and allegedly attempted to stab them. Some can be heard saying, “They’re the victims.” 

Mother of teen speaks out online

Upon requests for comment Monday, Tammi Collins, who identified herself on social media as the mother of one of the 16-year-old boys, said she was focused on taking care of her son and referred comments to Brown.

Collins, who posted the video that went viral over the weekend, described the incident in her post as “something my son and his friends will never forget.” 

In her post, she said her son and friends waited for the bus to head home when a “homeless” man approached them and brandished a knife and whip, and attempted to stab them. The teenagers then used skateboards to cover themselves. Several bystanders called law enforcement, including “‘one’ caller (who) called the police and reported two Black guys are attacking a homeless guy. This is how the police responded.” 

Deputies later said no victim was found and no crime was committed regarding those detained. The three individuals who had been detained were released. Fire officials also confirmed there was no one treated for injury at the scene. 

“I think anyone who saw the video would find it concerning, and it’s appropriate for the city to ask for an immediate investigation and to ask for a deputy to be removed from the field while the investigation occurs,” Smyth said. 

On Monday afternoon, at least five people rallied at one point on the corner of Soledad and Whites canyon roads in objection to Friday’s incident.

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