An advocate for domestic violence survivors and her mother are suing Los Angeles County after deputies used “violent tactics” in a 2022 traffic stop in East Los Angeles, their attorney claims.
On Sept. 25, 2022, Gabriela Koutantos of Monrovia was driving a rented U-Haul van that she had used to deliver donated furniture to the East Los Angeles Women’s Center, a shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
L.A. County Sheriff’s Department deputies, believing the van was stolen, executed a “high-risk” traffic stop near Atlantic Boulevard and Hubbard Street, held Koutantos at gunpoint, handcuffed her and “held her in a lengthy detention in a police car,” according to her complaint.
All the while, Koutantos’ mother, Barbara Kappos of Arcadia, was driving her vehicle alongside the U-Haul, and when deputies pulled over Koutantos, Kappos lost sight of her daughter.
When Kappos saw her again, Koutantos was “on the ground with deputies pointing their guns at her,” the complaint says.
“Ms. Kappos got out of her car and ran up the street toward her daughter shouting, “What are you doing? That’s my daughter!” None of the deputies responded as they continued pointing their weapons at Ms. Koutantos. Ms. Kappos thought the deputies might kill her daughter,” the complaint adds.
Despite deputies seeing the rental agreement and having the legal rental confirmed by U-Haul employees, LASD deputies kept Koutantos in custody for “a considerable period of time,” the lawyer claims.
As it turns out, the van had been reported stolen a month earlier, but it was recovered a week after that.
The “terrifying and traumatizing tactics” threatened Koutantos’ physical safety and caused emotional distress to her and her mother, according to the complaint.
The women’s lawyer alleges that the “high-risk” traffic stops have already been declared unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal nearly 10 years ago, but “the Sheriff’s Department has defied the Court and continues to terrify and traumatize innocent Angelenos.”
“This incident shows that the Sheriff’s Department is completely out of control,” attorney Brian Olney said. “LASD is sworn to uphold the law, but they have a deliberate policy that violates the Constitution every day. It’s outrageous. They must be held accountable.”
The LASD did not return a request for comment before publication.