BELL — It began as a routine investigation of a complaint that someone was playing a stereo too loudly.
Within minutes after a police cruiser pulled up to the Carrillo home on Fishburn Avenue, however, a melee erupted between Bell-Cudahy police officers and three female members of the family, resulting in a few scratches and bruises and five arrests.
That was almost two months ago.
Today, the scratches and bruises are healed, but questions persist about the May 22 incident. And although police insist that the officers acted according to policy, city officials now promise that they will investigate charges that the police were to blame for the outbreak of violence.
Last week, four family members were arraigned in Huntington Park Municipal Court in connection with the altercation.
Three Face Hearing
Three of the family face a pretrial hearing Aug. 1 on various charges of resisting arrest and assaulting and obstructing the police officers who answered an early-evening call that a stereo was blaring from their property. They are Lourdes Carrillo, 23; Socorro Alvarez, 31, a cousin, and Sophia Carrillo, 39, Lourdes' mother. Ignacio Bonnilla Carrillo, 32, Sophia's brother-in-law, faces a charge of disturbing the peace.
Charges against Jorge Neri Garcia, 27, a family friend who was arrested with the others, were dropped.
Police contend that Officers Sergei Camacho and Steven J. Schultze were only trying to do their jobs when they went to the Carrillo home on Fishburn Avenue. and told Ignacio Carrillo to turn the music down.
While they were talking to Ignacio Carrillo, according to the police report, Lourdes Carrillo, Alvarez and Sophia Carrillo ran out of the house, knocked the officers down, then began kicking and scratching the officers and beating them with their own batons.
But lawyers for the family have a different story. They charge that Camacho and Schultze are guilty of police brutality. They contend that rather than being the victims, Camacho and Schultze provoked the three women into a fight by first pushing them and slapping them, shouting obscenities at them and forcing their way into the Carrillo home illegally.
The lawyers, who have demanded that the City Council investigate the police officers' conduct, said they plan to file a civil lawsuit against the Police Department--and possibly the city--within two weeks.
"The cop brutalizes a civilian, and yet the civilian gets charged while the cop appears as a victim," said Jesse Banuelos, one of three attorneys representing the Carrillo family, who moved to Bell from Guadalajara, Mexico, 10 years ago. "What kind of a joke is that?"
On June 20, about 25 family members and friends supporting the Carrillos turned out for a City Council meeting and demanded an investigation.
In response, Mayor George G. Mirabal issued a statement at last week's council meeting, promising action.
The statement said: "If it is found, after a full and fair investigation, that misconduct (by police officers) existed, then disciplinary or other appropriate action will be taken against the officers by the city's administrative officials.If there is no factual support for the allegations, no such action will be taken."
Mirabal, like other city officials, is reluctant to talk about the melee, citing a policy of not discussing pending litigation that might involve the city.
The incident, described by acting Police Chief Bill East as "regretful," began simply enough. "It was routine. They handle these things all the time," East said.
About 7 p.m., police received the complaint from a neighbor that Ignacio Carrillo was playing a stereo too loud, according to the police report. East said it was the first time police had received any kind of complaint about the Carrillos.
A later records search showed that none of the four family members arrested had any prior trouble with the police.
When Camacho and Schultze arrived at the Carrillo residence, they could hear the stereo coming from a small house at the back of the property, the police report said.
When they knocked on the door, Ignacio Carrillo answered. He refused to lower the stereo when ordered to do so by Camacho and Schultze, the officers wrote in their report.
Garcia, who was in the rear house with Carrillo, also refused to turn down the music, the report said.
While standing at the door of the back house, the officers suddenly heard loud screams from the house at the front of the property. They turned to see the three women rushing from the front house, yelling, "Don't let them in!" the report said.
"I was tring to be reasonable with the three ladies, but they continued to verbally insult me in Spanish and would not listen to what I was trying to tell them," Camacho, a 4-year veteran of the force, wrote in the report.
It was then, according to Camacho, that Sophia Carrillo grabbed his arm, scratching him, and ordered him to "get out of here."