LOS ANGELES — Lawyers uncovered more evidence of a cover-up inside the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Friday, as Sgt. Jeffery Chow swore to tell the truth about alleged deputy gangs in the fifth hearing held at Loyola Law School by the Civilian Oversight Commission.

Chow lead the internal investigation into a 2018 party at Kennedy Hall in East Los Angeles, where deputies claimed they were choked and beaten by the Banditos — alleged deputy gang members with matching tattoos.

“Why did you believe investigating the involvement of the deputy clique was appropriate?” asked lead counsel Bert Deixler.

“Sir, to find out the motive,” Chow said.

But Chow said orders later came from a superior officer, Chief Matthew Burson, not to ask questions about the Banditos. Sheriff Villanueva claims the internal investigation resulted in the firing of four deputies, but the department has declined to publicly share records to back up his statements, citing the deputy’s privacy. Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey declined to bring criminal charges against any of the deputies involved in the attack.

In 2020, Inspector General Max Huntsman slammed the investigation, saying 23 deputies were allowed to decline interviews in violation of the department’s own policy regarding criminal investigations.

The evening before the latest hearing, Villanueva and Undersheriff Timothy Murakami swore in a new class of recruits. Both have refused to testify at the hearings despite subpoenas.

At an earlier debate with challenger Robert Luna, Villanueva said the hearing is meant to undermine his reelection campaign. 

“We’ve been in front of the oversight commission. I’ve testified under oath to the Inspector General on the issue of deputy gangs four times,” Villanueva said, objecting to the public nature of the hearings.

A Spectrum News investigation found Murakami obtained a doctor’s note saying “excessive stress” caused by testifying at the hearings could exacerbate a medical condition. He declined to answer questions or elaborate when approached by a reporter after Thursday’s ceremony.

In contrast, Captain Angela Walton answered her subpoena Friday, testifying she faced harassment and retaliation from tattooed members of the “Grim Reapers” when she worked at the Lennox sheriff’s station.

“The message it sends is not a message of leadership,” Walton said after the hearing of the Sheriff and Undersheriff’s refusal to show up. “It’s basically that you can do what you want and you can avoid the law and following what you need to do.”

As for Sgt. Chow, he said, he argues when told not to ask about the Banditos. After all, the direction came from a superior officer and he was just following orders.