DEA

LAPD, DEA Find Themselves on Opposite Sides of Thin Blue Line

DEA drags feet as LAPD tries to investigate death of drug arrest suspect

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Too busy doing reality TV for to help police, sorry.

In July 2010 Albert Arriaga was arrested in Los Angeles in a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency meth bust and handed over the Los Angeles Police Department. Then he died. A coroner subsequently found that his ribs had been broken in 21 places.

Here's how the Los Angeles Times describes Arriaga's last hours:

The informant, wired with a hidden microphone, approached the suspects' car and received the drugs from Alberto Arriaga, who remained in the passenger seat throughout the exchange. Drug agents moved in and are believed to have pulled Arriaga from the car, laid him face down on the pavement and handcuffed him, according to the LAPD report.

Eventually, officers from the LAPD were called in to take Arriaga and the other suspect to a nearby station to be booked, the report said. A station supervisor asked the men if they had any medical issues. Arriaga complained of leg pain from a previous injury but mentioned nothing else, the report found. The men were then placed in a holding cell together.

Sometime later that night, after the booking process had been completed, detention officers tried to move Arriaga, 45, to another jail facility. He told the jailers he was having abdominal pain "and had been beaten up by the DEA agents who arrested him," the report said. Arriaga was taken by ambulance to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. There, according to coroner's records, he waited 16 hours without receiving medical attention despite his worsening condition and then died.

The coroner's autopsy revealed that Arriaga's fractured ribs had caused internal bleeding in his chest that led to respiratory failure. Because the ribs had been broken by "blunt force injuries" that came from the back, the coroner classified the death as a homicide.

The LAPD is tasked to investigate the circumstances behind the man's death. The problem?  The DEA has refused for more than two years to allow its agents to be interviewed by the LAPD to try to determine where exactly Arriaga's injuries happened and who is ultimately responsible for his death:

Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for the DEA, said the U.S. Justice Department's own Office of the Inspector General is conducting an investigation into the death to determine whether DEA agents broke federal civil rights laws by using excessive force when arresting the man. Dearden said the DEA has provided the LAPD with some information and documentation about the incident.

"However, it is not uncommon for an agent under multiple ongoing investigations to decline specific law enforcement interviews until an inspector general investigation is completed," she said.

The LAPD, though, are required to investigate any in-custody deaths and report their findings to a civilian panel. According to their report, no LAPD officers were present at Arriaga's arrest, so they have little information about how he was actually treated at the crime scene. Here's the reality:

Frustrated by the DEA's inaction, LAPD investigators went for assistance to local prosecutors in the district attorney's office, who concluded they did not have the authority to compel federal agents to cooperate with a local police department's investigation.

They can't compel federal agents to cooperate with the investigation even though the federal agents are actually subjects of the investigation.

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  1. I’m totally not following this. I’m not so much interested in why the locals can’t “compel” the feds to “cooperate”.

    I’m interested in why the refusal to cooperate didn’t lead the DA to go to a grand jury and ask for subpoenas. This is a murder investigation. The DEA agents are, at a minimum, witnesses. So subpoena their asses already. They aren’t immune to that, I am quite sure.

    1. But then the brave heroes may be unfairly vilified, and the damage to their heroic federal agency’s reputation could jeapordize their valuable mission.

    2. Or just file murder charges against all of the Feds who were present for the arrest…

      1. My thought is that it is “professional courtesy”. They still see the DEA agents as “brothers in arms” I would imagine, but they are required to report to a civilian board on an in-custody death. So the LAPD investigators are between a rock and a hard place (for a morally defunct person, that is).

    3. They aren’t immune to that, I am quite sure.

      How did the prosecution of FBI Agent Horiuchi go?

    4. They aren’t immune to that, I am quite sure.

      After the fiasco I watched when two IRS agents were arrested by the State Police for trespassing, I would believe it. The case kept getting transferred to federal court (evidently they could do that because they were federal agents?!) where the charges were dropped. The charges were then reinstated at the State level. Lather, rinse, repeat.
      Meanwhile, I was audited three times for the same one year.

  2. Because the ribs had been broken by “blunt force injuries” that came from the back, the coroner classified the death as a homicide./i

    That was probably before the coroner knew that the DEA caused his injuries. I’m sure the report has been changed to classify the death as a war casualty.

  3. There is no such thing as murder when death comes at the hands of a man with a badge.

    1. All justice belongs to the throne.

      Obama Rex!

  4. They can’t compel federal agents to cooperate with the investigation even though the federal agents are actually subjects of the investigation.

    Remember this when DoJ begins their crackdown on rogue states’ marijuana laws.

    1. lol, that reminds me, I was walking through a grocery store at 1AM this morning (I live in WA) with a box of donuts, a box of donut holes, and a fat bag of doritos. I came around a corner and there was a black dude talking to one of the employees. As soon as he saw me he said “Woah, look that this guy! Looks like you’re takin’ that marijana thing a bit too far.” We laughed our asses off. I love how its all in the open now, and no one thinks its a big deal.

  5. He told the jailers he was having abdominal pain “and had been beaten up by the DEA agents who arrested him,” the report said. Arriaga was taken by ambulance to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. There, according to coroner’s records, he waited 16 hours without receiving medical attention despite his worsening condition and then died.

    So, wait, am I reading this right? That the DEA caused the injuries, and the LAPD allowed him to die of those injuries through negligence?

    So, who are we rooting for in this situation? And which one is investigating the other?

    The LAPD is investigating the DEA to ask them if they caused the injury which the LAPD failed to address…

    I’m going back to bed.

    1. Our best hope is for this to devolve into an open firefight between the two agencies.

      1. And they ALL die in a BOOMSTICK conflagration.

      2. The City of Bellevue recently disciplined some officers by removing them from the bombsquad. I was all like, “Wouldn’t the bomb squad be the best place for these officers?”

    2. Don’t forget the LAPD station supervisor who first took over custody of the man from DEA:
      “A station supervisor asked the men if they had any medical issues. Arriaga complained of leg pain from a previous injury but mentioned nothing else, the report found.”

      Did Arriaga not know at this point that he had been beaten by DEA? Are we expected to believe that he lied about those injuries, when asked? Or is it possible that the station supervisor falsified that report to cover the DEA’s misdeeds?

    3. As much as I’d like to hold the police responsible, the article states that they had him taken to hospital and the hospital failed to treat him. I’d say that’s on the hospital, not the LAPD

  6. A station supervisor asked the men if they had any medical issues. Arriaga complained of leg pain from a previous injury but mentioned nothing else, the report found.

    Eh, this is pretty fishy. Having 21 rib fractures would be extremely painful and make it hard to breath.

    1. I agree, the whole thing is confusing. I’m begnning to read the thing as if the LAPD may have broken the ribs and is putting the whole thing back on the DEA.

      Fuck which police agency do we believe is telling the truth? My head is going to explode!

      1. It’s safe to assume neither.

        1. OK then, the bogeyman did it.

          1. It was spontaneous auto rib fracture–common symptom of excited delirium. There’s no way that anything untoward could have happened with law enforcement’s new professionalism.

            /sarc

  7. The New World Order Obama Police State. Yeah, I know Bush, started it rolling big time, but fuck…..

    Like some ask, “This is America, right?”

    And they answer, “Not any more.”

  8. He was a drug dealer, I mean narco-terrorist so as an enemy combatent he has no rights. What’s so difficult to understand about that?

  9. Funny/sad thing:

    The coroner’s autopsy revealed that Arriaga’s fractured ribs had caused internal bleeding in his chest that led to respiratory failure.

    Yeah, that’s how Jesus died… basically drowning in his own juices… ugh… not a good way to go…

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