Crime & Justice

Family says Compton man beaten by LA sheriff's deputies

Barry Montgomery Sr. says his son, diagnosed with schizophrenia, was
Barry Montgomery Sr. says his son, diagnosed with schizophrenia, was "minding his own business," shooting hoops in the park, when sheriff's deputies confronted and later beat him.
Rina Palta (KPCC)

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Attorneys for a Compton man injured in a confrontation with LA County sheriff's deputies last month called for an investigation into the incident Wednesday--and for the LA District Attorney to drop resisting arrest charges brought against the man. 

Barry Montgomery is a skinny, "docile," 29-year-old man who's been diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to his attorneys.  He was shooting baskets at Enterprise Park on the evening of July 14--something he does every evening. 

Sheriff's deputies approached Montgomery, according to the sheriff's department's account, because they smelled marijuana. According to the official report, Montgomery "became verbally confrontational and subsequently attempted to punch one of the deputies. The deputies then struggled with the suspect and took him into custody."

He was taken to a hospital after for unspecified injuries.

The family's attorney, Martin Kaufman said at least 20 deputies were involved. 

The sheriff's department said three deputies were involved--and all have been reassigned to office/administrative duties while an internal affairs investigation examines the incident. Max Huntsman, the newly appointed Inspector General is aware of the allegations and could potentially review the investigation, when his authority takes effect next month.

Montgomery's family members and attorneys said he came out of the incident with cracked ribs, fractures in his eye sockets, and rips in the skin of his back--allegedly from Tasers. 

His sister, Ty Ellis, said Montgomery "does not talk" due to his mental health issues, and may not have responded to deputies who approached him. "He's been playing ball at this park every day for ten years with the same routine. Everyone knows him, no one bothers him. The worst fear that we had was for someone to come and do a drive-by. Not the sheriffs to hurt my brother."

The family's attorney, Martin Kaufman said the incident is part of a pattern of abuse in Compton by "rogue" deputies. 

"Barry was basically minding his own business," Kaufman said. "This would not have happened if this were West Hollywood or other areas. This happened because this is Compton. This happens every single week in Compton."

He also said District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who has been focused on issues of interactions between law enforcement and the mentally ill, should drop criminal charges against Montgomery.

The D.A.'s Office did not respond to requests for a comment.

Paulette Simpson-Gipson, head of the local chapter of the NAACP, said residents welcomed the sheriff's department when Compton was gang-infested and neighborhoods didn't feel safe.

Now, she said, the department's become more focused on stopping and questioning people like Montgomery instead of going after people committing serious crimes.

"Go where the gang members are," she said. "You don't want to deal with that, so you bother innocent kids.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department has patrolled Compton since 2000, when the Compton City Council disbanded the local police department and contracted with the sheriff. In that time, crime has dropped significantly in the city, as it has in other areas of L.A. County. 

In an email, a spokesperson for the sheriff's department said the department takes "all allegations seriously and they will be investigated appropriately."