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Ventura County Focus | West County / MEINERS OAKS

Report Absolves Deputies in Death

July 01, 1998|CHRIS CHI and HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

An internal investigation has cleared deputies in the death of a 21-year-old Ventura man at a raucous party in Meiners Oaks last year, a Ventura County sheriff's official said Tuesday.

Nicholas Dowey, a student at Cal State Northridge's Ventura campus, died last year after being hit several times in the head at the party, which was reportedly attended by skinhead gang members.

But witnesses have said that a sheriff's deputy arriving at the scene also hit Dowey in the head.

Sheriff's Capt. Keith Parks said an internal investigation prompted by a complaint from Dowey's family has cleared deputies of wrongdoing in the case.

All deputies who were under investigation are on active duty, he said.

Meanwhile, Investigators are still seeking one of the party-goers suspected of hitting Dowey in the head, Parks said.

Richard Hamlish, a lawyer representing the Dowey family in a federal civil rights suit against the county and 12 sheriff's officials, said he received a copy of a Sheriff's Department report on the case.

The report acknowledges that Deputy Donald Rodarte struck Dowey in the head but calls the action justified, he said.

Hamlish criticized the sheriff's findings and said the lawsuit, set for trial in the fall, will proceed.

"As far as the Sheriff's Department is concerned, they did the right thing," Hamlish said. "That's kind of astounding to me."

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