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FBI to Probe Videotaped Confrontation

A Riverside County sheriff's deputy apparently struck a Mexican farm worker. Agency will forward findings to Justice Dept.

May 07, 2003|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

The FBI has launched a civil rights investigation into the videotaped confrontation that shows a Riverside County sheriff's deputy hitting a Mexican farm worker after a traffic stop last week, the agency said Tuesday.

"What we'll do is look at the facts of the case, gather what happened and forward it to the U.S. Department of Justice civil rights division, who'll determine whether federal prosecution is warranted," said Laura Bosley, a spokeswoman in the bureau's Los Angeles office.

Carlos Giralt, the Mexican consul general of San Bernardino, also met Tuesday with Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle for 90 minutes to discuss the case. Afterward, Giralt said he will ask the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to issue the farm worker, Francisco Padilla, 18, a special visa so he can return to the United States and provide statements about the incident. Padilla had been deported to Mexico after his arrest.

Doyle said he will support the request. "It's important that we interview Mr. Padilla as part of our investigation," he said.

The incident is being investigated by the Sheriff's Department's internal-affairs detectives. The officer involved, Deputy Alex Todd, remains on active duty in the Temecula-based Southwest station.

The FBI plans to interview Padilla, in consultation with the U.S. attorney's office, Bosley said. Agents are prepared to interview him in Mexico if necessary, she said.

The videotape was made by a farm worker who witnessed the April 28 traffic stop in the hills above Temecula, and was aired on the Spanish-language network Telemundo two days later. In the portion of the tape that was broadcast, Todd appears to punch Padilla three times in the head with his right fist. Todd also apparently holds Padilla's head down with his right forearm and appears to hit him again in the face with his left fist.

Doyle announced last week that his office would investigate the incident while keeping Todd on active duty. Doyle on Tuesday expressed dismay that his request for an unedited copy of the videotape has gone unanswered by Telemundo.

A spokeswoman for Riverside County Dist. Atty. Grover Trask said the agency has no plans to conduct an independent investigation or convene a grand jury for the case.

Montebello-based attorney Luis Carrillo said he and fellow attorney Gregory W. Moreno are representing Padilla and his aunt and uncle. Carrillo called the traffic stop unwarranted and the physical contact unnecessary.

Padilla is "a kid of 130 pounds, a sliced-up piece of spaghetti, and this gorilla, weighing close to 250 pounds, attacked him," Carrillo said shortly before holding a news conference outside the sheriff's office Tuesday afternoon. "It was completely out of line. I think this particular officer is a rogue officer looking to catch undocumented workers and turn them over to the Border Patrol."

Carrillo called for a federal investigation and accused the Sheriff's Department of racial profiling. Carrillo would not confirm Padilla's whereabouts.

A spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol said earlier that Padilla did not ask to speak with the consul general's office before being deported. Carrillo contends that a request by Padilla's aunt and uncle for intervention by the consul general was ignored.

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