6 L.A. County Detention Officers Charged With Child Abuse, Assault After Allegedly Pepper Spraying 5 Teens at Juvenile Hall in Downey
Six Los Angeles County juvenile detention officers have been charged with child abuse or assault after allegedly using pepper spray on five teen girls at a juvenile hall in Downey, officials announced Friday.
The separate incidents occurred at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall between April and July of 2018, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors allege that the defendants, who work as detention services officers, were unreasonable when using the pepper spray, or prevented the victims from being decontaminated after the fact.
Marlene Rochelle Wilson, 46, was charged with five counts of felony assault by a public officer and three misdemeanor counts of child abuse. She faces eight years and eight months in prison.
Janeth Vilchez, 48, faces assault by a public officer and child abuse, she faces four years in prison.
LaCour Harrison, 53, was charged with felony assault by a public officer and two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a child by endangering her health. He faces four years in prison.
Claudette Reynolds, 57, was charged with assault by a public officer and cruelty to a child by endangering her health. She faces up to three and a half years in prison.
Maria Asuzena Guerrero, 28, faces one count of cruelty to a child endangering her health.
Karnesha Marshall, 28, was charged with cruelty to a child by endangering her health. Guerrero and Marshall face up to six months in jail.
In a statement, Terri L. McDonald, chief probation officer for Los Angeles County, said her department has a “zero tolerance” policy about improper use of force by staff.
“The alleged acts by the individuals charged today in no way reflects on the amazing work done by our staff who have dedicated their careers to helping youth and adults change their lives for the better,” McDonald said in the statement. “What this filing does demonstrate is that the excessive or improper use of force by our staff will be thoroughly and professionally investigated, with involved staff being held accountable for their actions.”
McDonald said the probation department had investigated the incidents for “months” before two separate cases were filed against the defendants.
The cases remain under investigation, according to the DA’s Office.
In February, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a “phased elimination” of pepper spray at juvenile detention facilities by the end of the year, after many states already ban it in juvenile facilities.