California officers arrested for abusing kids at Camp SLO
August 6, 2015
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s detectives arrested four Southern California police officers who are accused of physically abusing a total of 15 teens at a boot camp held at Camp San Luis Obipso in May.
The arrests occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to a sheriff’s office news release. The teen victims are all from Southern California, and they range in age from 12 to17. Nine of the teens are male and six are female.
The news release did not provide details about the alleged abuse. But, an attorney representing most of the victims has stated the abuse included officers punching children in the head, stepping on their hands and backs during push-ups and beating them in a dark room.
“According to the teenagers, they were given towels to clean the blood off themselves prior to exiting the room after the beatings,” Southern Califonia attorney Gregory Owen said a statement released in June. “One child suffered broken fingers after an officer allegedly stood on the child’s hands.”
The Leadership Empowerment and Discipline (LEAD) Boot Camp took place May 17-24. It is an event conducted by the Huntington Park and South Gate police departments.
The boot camp began with one of the teens being placed in handcuffs for the entire 4.5 hour bus ride to Camp San Luis Obispo, Owen said at a press conference. Owen also alleges the children were threatened that they would be hurt if they told anyone what was done to them at the camp.
Two of the officers, known as the “Gomez brothers,” came within view of some of the teens while they were being interview by sheriff’s detectives after the boot camp. The Gomez brothers intimidated the children into not providing full accounts of what occurred, Owen stated.
Many of the teens were suffering from nightmares and trauma because the Gomez brothers were out on the streets, Owen stated in June. The children feared the officers would come after them, Owen said.
Most of the victims identified the Gomez brothers as the officers primarily responsible for the abuse, Owen said.
South Gate officers Carlos Manuel Gomez-Marquez, 31, and Edgar Yovany Gomez, 35, are two of the policemen charged in the case, according to the SLO County Sheriff’s Office. Gomez and Gomez-Marquez were arrested on felony charges of wilful cruelty to a child, criminal threats and criminal conspiracy, as well as on misdemeanor charges of criminal battery and abuse under color of authority.
Huntington Park officers Marissa Elizabeth Larios, 36, and Patrick Marvin Nijland, 47, are also charged with felony wilful cruelty to a child and misdemeanor criminal battery and abuse under color of authority. Larios additionally faces a felony criminal conspiracy charge.
Each of the officers posted bail before sheriff’s detectives served arrest warrants this week. The officers were released on $20,000 bonds.
The sheriff’s office began investigating the case on May 28. The investigation began after the sheriff’s office received a report of allegations from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
The bootcamp is part of a 20-week LEAD program that is marketed for at-risk youth, Owen sated. The program is designed to develop leadership and discipline, while offering guidance and support to reduce family conflict. It costs $400 per child.