CERRITOS — Peter de Jesus has several souvenirs from a recent incident involving his unleashed dog: a 2-inch gash on his head, a smashed sliding glass door, color photographs of his blood-smeared garage floor and an arrest record.
De Jesus, an 18-year-old Cerritos High School senior, and Logan Ruru, a boarder in the de Jesus home on Rocky River Lane, were involved in a chaotic encounter with Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies earlier this month that has prompted charges of police brutality.
De Jesus and Ruru, 38, contend that they were beaten without provocation May 1 when deputies from the Lakewood sheriff's station answered an animal-control officer's call for help.
The station's commanding officer says a department investigation will be conducted in response to the allegations. However, he said it appears that the two arresting officers acted appropriately when they struck de Jesus and Ruru several times, using their fists, a police blackjack and a flashlight.
"The officers . . . tried to make an arrest, and are entitled to use the force necessary to overcome resistance to the arrest," Capt. Elmer Omohundro said. He said the officers have been directed not to comment on the incident while the investigation is pending.
Ruru and de Jesus, who filed a brutality complaint last week, insist that the deputies' account is studded with distortions and lies. "They have to do this to justify their actions," said Ruru, a New Zealand citizen who rents a room from de Jesus' mother.
Based on police reports and interviews, here is what happened:
The incident started when Ruru was out bicycling with the de Jesus dog, Kito. An animal-control officer, seeing the unleashed dog, took the animal. Police accounts differ from Ruru's as to what happened next, but at some point, the animal officer, Heather Smith, called the Lakewood sheriff's station for help in issuing a citation for a leash-law violation.
Deputy Robert Killeen responded, joining Smith at the de Jesus home, where Ruru had returned.
Killeen, in his report, said Ruru was belligerent, jabbing his finger in Killeen's chest and yelling. When Killeen grabbed Ruru's wrist, the officer said, Ruru responded by taking hold of his collar. By that time another deputy, Ralph Coundouris, had arrived, and Killeen reported, "Feeling I was being choked, (Coundouris) struck Ruru in the head with his (blackjack) two or three times until he released his grip."
Hit With a Flashlight
A powerfully built man, Ruru continued to struggle while one deputy hit him with a flashlight and the second deputy struck him with his fist, according to Killeen's report. Ruru yelled for help, and de Jesus, who had dialed 911 to complain that "there were a couple of cops in my garage beating up my friend," dropped the phone and walked toward them.
Soon, de Jesus was slumped on his garage floor, bleeding from a head wound that required a dozen stitches. The deputies maintain that Coundouris accidentally hit de Jesus with his baton while trying to arrest and subdue him as he struggled. De Jesus says Coundouris simply started pushing and striking him.
In the meantime, Ruru had escaped from the garage, locked himself in the house and called 911. More sheriff's units arrived, including a helicopter patrol that hovered overhead. The deputies smashed a rear sliding glass door to get into the house, and Ruru was arrested when he went out the front door.
De Jesus was dragged handcuffed over the garage floor and put in a patrol car, and both Ruru and de Jesus were taken to a local hospital. Ruru was not injured, but de Jesus' required treatment. Later that night, after he was booked at the sheriff's station and bailed out by his mother, de Jesus said he returned to the hospital for treatment of another head cut that required five stitches.
Police Report Rebutted
Ruru denies that he initially accosted Killeen or that he subsequently flipped Coundouris on his back and unholstered Killeen's revolver, as alleged in the police report.
"Totally, absolutely lies," Ruru said of the police account. He held a set of color photographs that he and de Jesus had taken of the smashed glass door, de Jesus' cuts and bruises and the trail of blood left when de Jesus was dragged across the garage floor.
Ruru, an independent health insurance agent, was arrested on four charges, including resisting arrest and assault with intent of doing great bodily injury upon a peace officer, a felony. De Jesus was charged with resisting arrest and attempting to help Ruru escape, also a felony.
Last week, the district attorney's office reduced the charges, filing two misdemeanor charges against both men--battery on a police officer and interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duties.
De Jesus and Ruru are free on bail and scheduled for arraignment early next month.