My name is De’Shean Villalpando. I am black, and I am writing this letter to make a complaint about my treatment by officers of Culver City Police Department on the night of Saturday, July 18, 2020.
I grew up here in Culver City (graduated CCHS in 2009) and my mother still lives in the home that I grew up in on Summertime Lane. I now live in Marina Del Rey and I work as a behavioral therapist for adults with disabilities at a group home in Los Angeles. I don’t have any kind of criminal record.
The night of Saturday, July 18th, I was visiting my mother. I left around midnight to walk home. My path home takes me over the pedestrian bridge spanning La Ballona creek behind CCMS and Farragut Elementary School, and then west along the bike path along the creek.
That evening as I reached the intersection of the walking bridge and the bike path, I noticed two police SUVs driving west on the bike path, without lights on. I had my earbuds in at the time, so I didn’t hear them coming. Fortunately I noticed the SUVs due to the overhead street lights before stepping in front of them.
To avoid possibly being hit by them I decided to go home a different route and to go through the parking lot between the middle school and Farragut elementary and over to Braddock instead. I hurried across the bike path to get out of the way and started walking up the little hill into the parking lot.
As I neared the top of the little hill, the police officers shone what seemed to be a spotlight on me from at least one of the SUVs. I tried to look back to see what was happening but was blinded and I had no reason to think that it concerned me, so I continued walking into the parking lot. But then I realized that someone was quickly coming up the hill behind me with a flashlight.
Frightened and alarmed, I turned back, pulled my earbuds out of my ears and tried to address the person coming toward me, asking “Is there something wrong?” Without responding in anyway or identifying himself, a male, Latino officer grabbed me from behind, pulled my backpack off my back, and grabbed my hands. My backpack was thrown on the ground. I said that my earbuds were in my hand. A female officer took the earbuds out of my hand, and tossed them on the ground.
As the Latino officer pulled my hands behind my back as if to handcuff me, he finally spoke, telling me to spread my legs apart. I stepped apart but apparently not far enough because he kicked my legs open wider. He then felt through my pockets and groped my groin.
Who I presume to have been the commanding officer there, instructed the Latino officer that was holding me not to handcuff me but to have me hold my hands together behind my back and to push me against the fence. I was then pushed so that my back was against the fence. I
found that I was surrounded by at least five CCPD officers, none of whom were wearing face masks.
Without reading me my rights, an officer asked me if I had any weapons, if I was on drugs, or had a syringe. I was asked for my ID and asked if the officers could search my backpack. It didn’t seem reasonable to me, but I also felt I didn’t really have a choice. I just wanted to get out of there, so I consented, and the police poured the contents of my backpack on the ground and took my ID information down. At this point, one of the officers told me that there had been a break-in at the high school that happened a couple of nights before. I asked what that had to do with me but was not answered.
One of the officers then proceeded to ask me many questions, none of which I felt should have been asked, but I tried to calmly respond to the interrogation: “Why are you walking at this hour?”; “Where are you coming from?”; “Where are you going?” All of these questions were asked only AFTER the police grabbed me, almost handcuffed me, pushed me up against a fence, physically searched me (including grabbing my genital area), physically removed my possessions from me, and physically removed my backpack from me. And only AFTER the police threw my air pods, phone, and the contents of my backpack all over the ground.
Having finally apparently decided that I was not guilty of anything, the officers then said they were going to “FI” me. They said to me, “maybe it’s not a good idea for you to walk around here,” or “Don’t walk around at this time of night.” The police then left me in the dark with my possessions scattered on the ground around me. They didn’t apologize or help me find my things which they threw everywhere.
I walked the rest of the way home shaken and angry.
Later I learned from CCPD that when these officers accosted me, the CCPD already had surveillance footage of the suspects in the CCHS break in. CCPD’s videos show these men were Hispanic. I look nothing like them. The CCPD had no reason to stop me at all.
I’ve heard stories my whole life from friends who were racially targeted and harassed by CCPD, but I had never personally experienced it myself until two Saturdays ago. I debated whether to share this experience but ultimately I decided that it is important for light to be shed on these incidents and for our community to be aware that this still happens in Culver City; that it happened to me just two weeks ago. Sure, anyone out walking that late at night might have been questioned by a passing CCPD patrol, but I don’t believe any white man or woman would have been treated this way; not for a second.
I request a copy of the Field Investigation card the officers filled out about me. I request the body camera footage of my detention to be provided to me. I also request the City Council watch the footage. Our community needs to see what is going on here.