Former LA County Sheriff’s Department official admits to being in ‘Grim Reapers’ gang

 Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva speaks at a news conference on the helicopter crash that yesterday claimed the lives of NBA great Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, 13, and seven others January 27, 2020 in Calabasas, California. The group was traveling to Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball tournament when the crash occurred. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva speaks at a news conference in 2020. Photo credit (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

Larry Del Mese, former chief of staff for Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva admitted under oath Friday that he belonged to the “Grim Reapers,” an alleged deputy gang.

Other current and former members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department with close ties to Villanueva also testified about deputy gangs Friday, according to ABC 7.

According to a 2021 report from Loyola Marymount University Law School’s Center for Juvenile Law and Policy said that the press has reported about deputy gangs linked to the department for decades. However, it said there is no single comprehensive compilation of known subgroups or gangs.

“For decades, we have faced a crisis of deputy gangs among the ranks and management of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD),” said a message from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “Often adopting white supremacist and neo-Nazi ideologies and imagery, LASD deputy gangs have emerged in Black and brown communities, and members have hunted, framed, beaten, shot, and killed people of color for membership, better assignments, and prestige.”

Per the Loyola report, the “Grim Reapers” or “Reapers” gang appears to have originated out of the Lennox Street Station, which closed more than a decade ago. As of 2021 the gang was allegedly operating out of the South Los Angeles Station.

Members of the gang have a leg tattoo that is sequentially numbered and depicts a black-hooded skeleton holding a scythe. When asked if he had the tattoo, De Mese said yes. However, he said that he no longer has it.

“I was a member of the Grim Reapers,” he testified via video during a public hearing in the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission’s investigation on deputy gangs.

The Loyola Marymount report said that the Grim Reapers came under heightened public scrutiny after Villanueva reinstated Caren Carl Mandoyan, a former deputy with a Grim Reapers tattoo. Mandoyan had been fired in 2016 “because he had committed acts of domestic violence against a female deputy, stalked her, tried to break into her apartment, and then lied about his conduct,” said the report.

Villanueva has denied that deputy gangs exist, said ABC 7.
He also has defied subpoenas to testify six times, citing fears for his own safety.

“It literally is a political circus designed for political damage. It’s not designed to get anything of value for either the community or me as the employer,” Villanueva said Friday.

However, the ACLU claims that “Sheriff Alex Villanueva has enabled deputy gangs and problem deputies to engage in greater misconduct and excessive force,” and has called for structural reform of the department.

Apart from a possible association with the Grim Reapers, ABC 7 reported that when Villanueva was transitioning into office in late 2018, he gave instructions not to ask questions about the Banditos, another alleged deputy gang.

Follow KNX News 97.1 FM
Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok