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Allegations of Child Abuse by South Gate and Huntington Park Police at San Luis Obispo Camp Being Investigated

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Staff Report

Several new media outlets are reporting that  San Luis Obispo County investigators are looking into allegations of abuse at a kids camp inCamp San Luis Obispo.

The LEAD camp is sponsored by the Huntington Park Police Department, the South Gate Police Department and the California National Guard.

The camp is a 20-week long program for at-risk children, they spend a week at Camp SLO.

Below is a statement from the law firm:

The law firm of Owen, Patterson & Owen represents seven of the 36 children who attended the LEAD program who described how they were physically and verbally abused during their week-long stay at the boot camp they attended in San Luis Obispo during the week of May 17 to May 24, 2015.

LEAD is a program sponsored by the Huntington Park Police Department, South Gate Police Department and the California National Guard where children between the ages of 12 through 16 were invited to participate in a 20-week long program. This program, designed to develop leadership and discipline in youth while offering guidance and support to reduce family conflict, costs $400.00, and includes a week-long camp, followed by 15 weekly sessions involving the youth and family. This fee, paid by some families in advance and by others pursuant to a payment plan, covers the cost of boot camp meals, uniforms, drug testing, workbooks and parenting classes.

OPO’s young clients report that from the moment they arrived, they were verbally and physically abused. They gave various examples, stating that the officers slapped, punched, and stepped on their hands and backs while doing push-ups, and even took them into a dark room where they were beaten if they did not meet the expectations of the camp supervisors. According to the teenagers, they were given towels to clean the blood off of themselves prior to exiting the room after the beatings. One child suffered broken fingers after an officer allegedly stood on the child’s hand. According to the child’s parents, they were not informed of how their child was injured.

Most of the children identified the “Gomez Brothers” as the officers primarily responsible for the mistreatment. Apparently, these officers have been suspended from the LEAD boot camp program but are still allowed to work on patrol.

In addition to the alleged physical abuse at the camp, the youths reported that the officers told them that they were going to the camp away from their families for three months, rather than the one-week duration of the camp, that their parents didn’t want or love them, and that they were worthless, among other things.

The children reported that they were threatened that they would be hurt if they told anyone what was being done to them at the camp but, fortunately, some of them did. Upon their return to the South Gate/Huntington Park areas following the week-long camp in San Luis Obispo and the disclosure to local law enforcement, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office began their investigation. Detectives Gower W. Slane, Sonja O’Donohoe, and Clinton Cole traveled to Salt Lake Recreational Park, located at 3401 E. Florence in Huntington Park, to conduct interviews of the victimized youths.  According to several of the children, the Gomez Brothers were also at the park and were within view of the children and were able to intimidate several of them to the point that they did not provide full accounts of what occurred.

Many of the children are suffering from nightmares and other emotional trauma because the Gomez Brothers are out on the streets. They are afraid the Gomez Brothers will come after them.

The week-long camp was only the first part of the 20-week LEAD program. The remaining weeks include a session every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., as well as weekly sessions involving the parents. For these families, their involvement in the program is over.

Gregory J. Owen, Esq., senior trial attorney of Owen, Patterson & Owen, will be holding a press conference with several of his clients’ parents at Salt Lake Recreational Park, located at 3401 E. Florence in Huntington Park, California, at 2 p.m. on June 3, 2015, and will be available for questions.