One mild fall evening, two deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s gang unit headed into the streets of Carson, California, where palm trees are tagged with gang graffiti and street signs in some neighborhoods are turned around or removed to confuse outsiders.
The deputies, Jon Boden and Alfredo Garcia, had a big job to do. As part of the Operation Safe Streets Bureau, they were expected to get a handle on gang violence in the cities of Carson and Compton.
The intent of that evening’s patrol was to prevent shootings – but the deputies also were on the hunt for intelligence about gang feuds and activity. Several times during the 2014 patrol – with a Reveal reporter riding along – they stopped, searched and questioned young blacks and Latinos about drugs, gangs and what they were doing in a particular neighborhood.
About 10 minutes into their shift, the deputies spotted a young couple in a silver Chevrolet parked under a tree in a J.C. Penney store’s back-lot. Boden saw the man rolling a blunt of what he thought looked like crushed marijuana. Both deputies sprang out of the squad car and asked the man and his companion, a woman, to step out of the vehicle.
As Boden held the man’s hands behind his head and searched his pockets, the man started to struggle. The deputy forced him onto the hood of the squad car and handcuffed him. Boden pulled two bullets out of the man’s pants pocket; a search of the car yielded a gun safe with a .22-caliber pistol, several grams of marijuana, prescription drugs, a digital scale and two driver’s licenses that the deputies discovered had been reported stolen.