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Inmates laud sheriff's deputy who saved choking prisoner

September 14, 2013|By Kurt Streeter
  • The Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood.
The Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood. (Branimir Kvartuc / Associated…)

The relationship between inmates and guards at Los Angeles County jails has long been fraught with trouble. So much trouble, in fact, that federal authorities are investigating claims of abuse by prison guards. 

But this week dozens of inmates at an L.A. County jail signed a note praising a sheriff’s deputy for saving the life of a choking prisoner.

The note, signed by 63 female inmates at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, praises Deputy Kristen Aufdemberg’s response to a prisoner who began choking on food during a Thursday night dinner.

Aufdemberg ran to the inmate, whose name was not released by the Sheriff’s Department, stood behind her and performed the Heimlich maneuver.

“She was in a wheelchair, so I asked her if she could stand up but she shook her head no,”  Aufdemberg said in a statement released by the department. “I lifted her up, leaned her back, and after five firm thrusts, the piece of meat projected out of her mouth and she began to breathe again.”

The inmates praised the deputy by signing a note written by one of them. They also left individual comments.

“It was such a miraculous event that all the inmates were in shock,” one inmate wrote, “ ... thanks to our hero ... a dear life ... was spared.”

The praise comes amid a time of intense scrutiny for the L.A. County’s Sheriff’s Department, responsible for running the nation’s largest jail system.

Federal authorities recently opened a civil rights probe into whether deputies have engaged in a pattern of abuse of inmates. The jail system is also the subject of an ongoing FBI criminal investigation into allegations of misconduct that include excessive use of force. Moreover, internal sheriff's memos showed top supervisors were raising alarms about excessive force as far back as 2009.

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kurt.streeter@latimes.com

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