Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials have responded after the department was accused by an L.A. City Councilmember of dropping off a mentally ill homeless man with an active warrant outside of their jurisdiction in San Pedro.
The alleged dumping incident was captured on video by a resident on West 25th Street Tuesday afternoon, and the footage sparked outrage after it was shared by Councilman Joe Buscaino on YouTube and Facebook on Wednesday.
But sheriff’s officials say the deputies were simply providing the man a ride from Rancho Palos Verdes to a bus stop, and he was not arrested despite an outstanding warrant due to jail overcrowding. “This call is not a case of dumping,” said Nicole Nishida, a public information officer with the Sheriff’s Department.
The video begins as the man, identified as 54-year-old Shawn Bryan, is ambling down the sidewalk away from the deputies’ vehicles in an unstable manner. The man recording the video can be heard narrating that the deputies had just dropped Bryan off, though that isn’t shown in the clip.
Buscaino, who represents Los Angeles’ 15th District and previously served 15 years as a Los Angeles police officer, introduced a motion in City Council calling for a “robust investigation” into the incident and saying the unloading of someone who “displayed characteristics of a person who may be experiencing homelessness and mental illness” could jeopardize the safety of area residents.
Sheriff’s officials insist they simply take a different approach in interacting with homeless individuals than Los Angeles police.
Deputies first made contact with Bryan after being called to Rancho Palos Verdes just after 4 p.m. Tuesday. He is “known to be a local homeless person” and had already interacted with authorities twice that day, according to Nishida.
“The deputies, recognizing him as someone who may need assistance, asked him if they could help,” Nishida said.
Bryan requested to be driven to Pasadena, where he said he lives, but after noticing he had an MTA pass the deputies agreed to take him to a bus stop on Western Avenue in San Pedro. During the ride, Bryan asked to be dropped off a few blocks away from the stop so he could stop at a convenience store.
He was dropped off 4:27 p.m., Nishida said. She called the incident “an act of compassionate service.”
About an hour later Bryan was contacted by officials with the Los Angeles Fire Department but they also released him without incident, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
It was some time after this that Los Angeles police took Bryan into custody on what deputies said was a $412 fare evasion warrant. Nishida said that “such a minor violation does not meet the minimum threshold for a Sheriff’s Department incarceration, due to jail overcrowding.”
Inmate records show Bryan was arrested around 9:50 p.m. Tuesday by officers in LAPD’s Harbor division. He was still being held Wednesday on $412 bail.
County Supervisor Janice Hahn also weighed in Wednesday, saying she thought the sheriff’s deputies could have done more to humanely handle the case.
“Mr. Bryan clearly needed help,” she said in a statement. “I question whether or not our sheriff’s deputies could have done more to get him the help he needed before they left him and drove away.”
Hahn said she requested L.A. County mental health and homelessness caseworkers be sent to visit Bryan in jail and assist him in obtaining services and shelter.