New lawsuit filed against Calif. jail deputies convicted in inmate beatings
The suit alleges two former rookie sheriff's deputies, without provocation, brutally beat a former inmate and knocked him unconscious
By Joe Nelson
San Bernardino County Sun
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. — A federal lawsuit filed this week alleges two former rookie sheriff's deputies, without provocation, brutally beat a former inmate and knocked him unconscious at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.
It was the latest development in the inmate beating case of former San Bernardino County sheriff's Deputies Luke Van Ginkel and Arthur Michael Enriquez, who were both convicted for their roles in the crimes that already have led to a $250,000 county settlement with one of Van Ginkel's victims in November 2019.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, Nov. 4, in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleges Van Ginkel, now 24, and Enriquez, 34, beat former inmate Michael Flores so badly in his cell in November 2018 that he was briefly knocked unconscious and required a visit to the hospital.
Flores' attorneys, Jim Terrel and Sharon Brunner, are representing another former West Valley inmate, Alfredo Martinez, in another federal lawsuit against Van Ginkel and Enriquez. In that case, Martinez alleges he was singled out by Van Ginkel, who put a "green light" on Martinez and tried provoking other inmates to assault him, according to the lawsuit that was filed in October 2019 and is still ongoing.
"Improving the conditions at West Valley Detention Center, as well as other San Bernardino County jail facilities has been an ongoing focus and priority of both Mr. Terrell and I," Brunner said in a statement Friday. She and Terrell also represented dozens of inmates in lawsuits alleging a pattern of Taser gun torture and other assaults on inmates by deputies at the jail in 2014. The cases settled in July 2017 for $2.5 million.
"There has, yet again, been another situation where deputies have used excessive force and abused their power at West Valley Detention Center to the severe detriment of the vulnerable inmates," Brunner said.
In an email, Terrell said, "Nothing has changed since 2014, when Sharon J. Brunner and I started our first investigation."
Sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman declined to comment on the Flores and Martinez lawsuits Friday, saying the department does not comment on ongoing litigation.
Convictions this year
Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Van Ginkel, now 24, pleaded guilty on July 17 to one felony count of assault by a public officer. He was sentenced in August to six months in jail and three years probation. He was allowed to serve his time on weekends in a work release program at the Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center in Devore, and is scheduled for release on Dec. 8, according to online booking records.
Enriquez, also per an agreement with prosecutors, pleaded guilty May 15 to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing or delaying a peace officer. He was sentenced to three years probation, district attorney's spokesman Michael Bires said.
Asked why Enriquez's charge was reduced from felony accessory to obstruction, his attorney, Michael Schwartz, said in an email: "Suffice it to say there were strengths and weaknesses for both the prosecution and defense in this case, as well as mitigating factors."
Flores alleges in his lawsuit that on Nov. 4 or 5, 2018, Van Ginkel and Enriquez entered his cell. Van Ginkel immediately started punching Flores in the head, knocking him to the floor. He and Enriquez repeatedly punched and kicked Flores in the head, face, neck and back at least 20 times. Flores briefly lost consciousness during the beating, according to the lawsuit.
Flores was left to sit alone for hours before he was taken to see a nurse, and was threatened by Van Ginkel not to tell anyone what happened. Flores, suffering from head trauma and swelling, was taken to a hospital for treatment, where pictures were taken of his injuries, according to the lawsuit.
Van Ginkel and Enriquez, the lawsuit states, told their superiors a different version of the story, claiming Flores was resisting being handcuffed and had physically fought with the deputies, which Flores denies. Flores believes the attack was prompted by Flores calling a custody specialist at the jail a "bitch."
Martinez alleges in his lawsuit, filed in October 2019, that Van Ginkel and Enriquez encouraged other inmates to fight, that the protective custody unit at the jail had been become an "involuntary fight club," and that Van Ginkel and Enriquez would "intimidate and scare" the inmates.
Martinez alleges that on Dec. 16, 2018, Van Ginkel and Enriquez shut off the TV in the protective custody unit, and Van Ginkel yelled to the inmates, "No TV! Blame Martinez."
"(Martinez) was the target of every inmate in his unit and was petrified with fear," according to the lawsuit. "(Martinez) felt he was going to receive a massive beating by several of the other inmates, who told him Van Ginkel gave the 'green light' on him."
Martinez filed a grievance against Van Ginkel, which, after initially being found "frivolous" and merely an attempt to harass the former deputy, was subsequently found to be true in a follow-up investigation report dated Feb. 11, 2019 — more than three months before Van Ginkel was charged.
It was unclear Friday why the former deputy was not charged in the Martinez case. Michael Bires, the district attorney's spokesman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(c)2020 the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, Calif.)