Gonzalez's claim alleges the Compton station clique numbers about 20 deputies, while 20 more are prospects or associates. Many work at night, the claim says, and communicate through WhatsApp. Black and female deputies are not allowed in the clique, the claim says.
"Nearly all the CPT Deputies who have been involved in high-profile shootings and out-of-policy beatings at CPT in recent years have been 'inked' members of The Executioners," the claim alleges. "'Inking' refers to the act of each newly made member of The Executioners receiving a matching tattoo indicating membership in the organization. ... Members become inked as 'Executioners' after executing members of the public, or otherwise committing acts of violence in furtherance of the gang."
Retaliation against Gonzalez, the claim states, forced him to step down from his field training officer position. Deputies refused to partner with him, while an inked deputy in dispatch saddled him with calls.
For decades, a subculture of matching tattoos has been rooted in the Sheriff's Department, where secret societies have been accused of glorifying an aggressive style of policing. Sean Kennedy, member of the Civilian Oversight Commission and professor at Loyola Law School, said Thursday that he and his students have identified at least 17 gangs -- some of them historical -- in the department.
Defenders of the groups say they represent hard work and boost morale by fostering camaraderie.
The FBI, however, has been interviewing deputies over the last year about whether clique members are actively violating civil rights of the public with false reports or violence. The Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research agency, has also been studying the clique culture and plans to publish its report in January.
The new allegations out of Compton come as the station faces extra scrutiny recently because of a number of high-profile uses of force, including the arrest and beating in May of Dalvin Price, who was pinned to the ground and struck by three deputies at Rosecrans and Santa Fe avenues, and the fatal shooting last month in Gardena of Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old who was shot by a deputy five times in the back.
Details about the Compton clique were first revealed in a civil case brought by the family of Donta Taylor, a 31-year-old man who was shot and killed when deputies opened fire during a foot chase in 2016. Deputies claimed Taylor had a handgun, but no weapon was found.
One of the deputies, Samuel Aldama, admitted under oath to having ink on his calf depicting a skull with a rifle and a military-style helmet surrounded by flames, along with the letters "CPT" for Compton. Romero alleges that the same image was found on a mouse pad and pencil holder at the station desk of someone belonging to the Executioners.
The Taylor family lawsuit was settled for $7 million last year.