One deputy was driving to work – after a day of drinking four rum and cokes – when he rear-ended a car carrying a pregnant woman who later had a miscarriage. He drove away from the scene and was later fired.
Another was responding to a call at a Rancho Cordova motel when he saw a shadowy figure in a stairwell and fired a shot at it, nearly hitting another deputy who had come to help him. He ended up with a letter of reprimand.
Yet another was investigating a prowler call in Arden Arcade near the end of his shift when he decided to take evidence the prowler had left behind – car keys, a cell phone and some meth pipes – and throw it into a bowling alley dumpster rather than book it into evidence. He was later fired.
These cases against Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies are spelled out in a series of previously secret disciplinary files that Sheriff Scott Jones’ office has been releasing since May, when The Sacramento Bee won a court order seeking access to the documents under a new state law that took effect Jan. 1.
The law requires disclosure of files related to officer-involved shootings and use of force that causes death or serious injury, as well as records involving officers found to have engaged in sexual assault or dishonesty.
To date, Jones has released 18 files – 6,378 pages of documents, many of the pages redacted in part or entirely – involving 12 officer-involved shootings, three deputy firings and two suspensions, and is continuing to review files for release. More than 67 hours and 28 minutes of video and audio files have also been released with various redactions.
So far, the sheriff’s office says it has found 91 incidents involving deputies firing their weapons, four in which it found instances of dishonesty by a deputy and 35 involving a deputy using force that resulted in death or serious injury. No instances have been found where a deputy was determined to have committed sexual assault against a resident.
But, more than nine months after Senate Bill 1421 took effect, the release of all sheriff’s files has been delayed by the review of the files by nine full-time and one part-time employee Jones has assigned to go over the documents, videos and audio files before they are made public.
“We’ve tried to explain how time-consuming and complex this process is,” Deputy County Counsel James Wood said at a recent court hearing over the lawsuit filed by The Bee along with the Los Angeles Times. “The sheriff’s department has detailed how it’s going to roll these records out.
“We are trying to get these records out as fast as possible.”
Files heavily redacted
But that remains in dispute, as Karl Olson, The Bee’s attorney, has argued that Jones’ office is redacting material in the files that should be available to the public and is slow-walking the process by releasing its oldest files first, rather than focusing on the files sought through the lawsuit – ones stemming from incidents between 2014 and 2019.
Olson also has questioned the sheriff’s tally of cases affected by the new law, noting that Jones’ office initially said it had identified 106 instances of officer-involved shootings – instead of the 91 it now says have been found – and five cases involving sustained findings of dishonesty, rather than the four it now says it has found.
Proceedings in the lawsuit are continuing as The Bee challenges redactions to the files.
So far, only four of the cases released are from past five years; the others date back as far as 2005, and there is no firm timetable for when the sheriff’s office will release all of the files required to be disclosed under the new law.
In the past, law enforcement personnel files were shrouded in secrecy, protected by law from disclosure unless they were released by court orders stemming from lawsuits or criminal cases.
But the passage of SB 1421, prodded by public demand for more transparency about police use of force, is providing the first glimpse of how law enforcement agencies discipline officers.
The first file was released in May and involved the firing of a deputy after a 2008 traffic stop in which the department found he had been “either deliberately untruthful or woefully lacking in accuracy” in reports he filed on an arrest that day.
Since then, files released under the new law have revealed details on a number of officer-involved shootings that later were determined to be lawful, as well as the firings of two other deputies.
Deputy driving drunk
One of those firings involved Deputy Stephen Lomosad, who was driving to work at 5:28 p.m. on Dec. 8, 2011, when he rear-ended a car stopped at a stoplight on Elkhorn Boulevard.
According to sheriff’s files, Lomosad was on his way to his 6 p.m. shift “following a day of drinking alcoholic beverages.”
“Deputy Lomosad stated he began drinking at approximately 1000 hours and drank four 16-ounce cups of rum and coke over the following 4 to 5 hours,” the files say. “He estimated he poured ¼ of a cup of rum into each drink, which would result in approximately 16 ounces of rum consumed within hours of being scheduled to work as a patrol officer.”
Lomosad was texting when he hit the vehicle and pushed it into another car stopped at the light, the documents say. He then drove away from the scene, pulling into a church parking lot to fix some damage to his front bumper, the files say.
Lomosad, who did not respond to a request for comment, told investigators he planned to return to the scene of the crash, but was pulled over by a California Highway Patrol office responding to the incident.
He was charged with three misdemeanor counts and pleaded no contest to one DUI charge. He was sentenced to 180 days, with a recommendation he serve it on the sheriff’s work project, the files say.
“Regardless of the plea bargain, there is overwhelming evidence that Deputy Lomosad was guilty of all charges,” the files say.
A pregnant passenger in one of the vehicles – whose name is redacted – was taken to a hospital after complaining of abdominal pain and “eventually had a miscarriage and lost her baby,” the files say, adding that “the District Attorney was unable to ascertain from medical records if the miscarriage could be directly attributed to the crash itself.”
Lomosad’s attorney appealed his firing, arguing that he had an honorable 15-year career and “was a hard-working, dependable and honest deputy” who was planning to return to the crash scene when he was pulled over.
“There is little to no harm to the public service in this matter,” attorney Judith Odbert argued in an appeal to an arbitrator. “This case involves a deputy off duty who was driving under the influence and who happened to get into an accident.
“That accident caused minor injuries. This case was never in the news and the media did not report on it.”
Lomosad’s drinking stemmed from “multiple issues in his personal life” including “the serious illness and impending death” of someone “he cared deeply about,” his lawyer argued during the investigation.
The arbitrator rejected his defense, saying Lomosad “used bad judgment in even attempting to come to work.”
“The magnitude of a deputy sheriff driving to report to work under the influence of alcohol, no matter what the circumstances, cannot be overlooked,” the arbitrator ruled.
Deputy lied six times
The sheriff’s files reveal another deputy was fired after being summoned to a report of a prowler in the Arden Arcade area on May 16, 2014.
Deputy Matthew McKim and his partner went to the scene, where residents gave the deputies a cell phone and car keys they believed the prowler had dropped and pointed out a car they thought he had arrived in, the files say. McKim later took the phone, the keys to the car and some meth pipes from the vehicle and threw them into a dumpster in what he told investigators was a “short cut,” the files say.
The prowler later returned to the neighborhood – apparently looking for his phone – and was arrested, leading to an investigation of how the deputies handled the first call.
McKim, who could not be reached for comment, was fired after allegedly admitting to lying to a lieutenant six times during the investigation of how he handled the call, the files say.
“Deputy (name redacted) and Deputy McKim handled this call for service atrociously,” findings in the file conclude. “They did not hold to the standard acceptable to this department.
“They were neglectful in their duties and in the handling of evidence.”