Lawyer Claims Understaffing Led to Sheriff Deputies’ Suicides

  • Four law enforcement officers killed themselves over a 24-hour period in November.
  • A former sheriff’s deputy spoke out after the deaths.
  • A lawyer is now blaming the deaths on staffing problems.
  • Those experiencing a crisis should dial 988 for help.

( – Just weeks before Thanksgiving, four families received the news that their loved ones were dead. Those who died were current and former employees of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and all of them killed themselves over a 24-hour span.

The news left the LA Sheriff’s Department and the community reeling. Now, a lawyer is blaming the deaths on staffing issues, and he’s not the only one who believes that.

The Deaths

On November 6 at 10:30 a.m., first responders in Valencia responded to a suicide call. A couple of hours later, at 12:53 p.m., authorities in Lancaster received a similar call. A third suicide call was placed at 5:40 p.m. in Stevenson Ranch. The next morning, at 7:30 a.m., another person took their own life in Pomona.

All of the victims were current or former Sheriff’s Department employees. Commander Darren Harris, one of the deceased, was a 25-year veteran. Retired Sgt. Greg Hovland and Deputy Arturo Atilano-Valadez, a 21-year veteran, also died. The name of the other individual hasn’t been made public.

Widow and Attorney Speak Out

Brad Gage, an attorney for widow Michele Atilano, has filed a notice of claim against Los Angeles County. Fox News Digital reported the filing alleges Atilano-Valadez spent the last 12 years of his career in the county jail, where he became “locked in like a prisoner.” Gage said the deputies who work at the jail are often forced to work 12-hour shifts, and the late deputy began suffering from depression. He repeatedly asked for a transfer, but his requests were not granted.

Gage stated that Sheriff Robert Luna has admitted that mandatory overtime has “caused employees to suffer post traumatic stress-like symptoms.”

During a news briefing, the late deputy’s widow said that she was at home on November 7 when she heard a noise. She found her husband on their living room floor, still alive but dying from a gunshot wound. Their daughters were in their bedrooms at the time, but they came out to see what was happening. She had to throw a blanket over her wounded husband to prevent them from seeing their dad.

Former LA Sheriff’s Deputy Saren Prime spoke out about working conditions in November. He said he left the force the previous December because the overwhelming work schedule left him on the edge of a mental breakdown.

Sheriff Luna has not responded to the allegations from the late deputy’s family.

If you or someone you love is thinking about suicide, please dial 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. There is help available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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