Sheriff Lee Baca and cohorts are continuing their cover-up in the murder of Mitrice Richardson and the role their agency played.
On the defensive after challenges and accusations were made, Baca and the Office of Dependent Review (and yes, I said Dependent Review), are now toting around a report to the media that says that deputies acted properly in the arrest and handling of Mitrice.
They are even putting the blame on the family saying that Mitrice’s mother, Latice Sutton, didn’t agree with Mitrice’s friends and wanted to teach her a lesson. A classic case of blame the victim.
So let’s address this.
Let’s say Latice Sutton did tell authorities that she didn’t approve of her daughter’s friends and wanted to teach her daughter a lesson. What does that have to do with her daughter ending up dead in a ravine decomposing for almost a year?
The only reason the Sheriff’s Department would go on the defensive citing this information would be to place doubt in the public’s mind and to take the focus off their mishandling of the situation.
It’s clear from the phone calls that Latice was willing to come pick up Mitrice that night but didn’t because deputies told her that she’d be staying the night at the Malibu-Lost Hills sheriff’s station.
What isn’t so clear is why Mitrice was arrested in the first place.
Los Angeles County has overcrowded jails. Its jails are filled with people who are charged with far more serious crimes than defrauding an innkeeper of $89 and possessing less than an ounce of personal use weed, which is what Mitrice is alleged to have commited. Not to mention, that Mitrice had no previous criminal record. Mel Gibson and other celebrities handled by the same sheriff’s station under similar conditions were booked and driven back to their cars. When Gibson acted a fool in Malibu, his car was not impounded like Mitrice’s car was. Bet the report didn’t tell you that.
Mitrice was arrested and detained by Deputy Armando Loureiro and Deputy Frank Brower of the Malibu-Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department.
According to the arresting officer, Deputy Frank Brower, a field sobriety test was given to Mitrice that indicated she was not intoxicated. See report.
According to the police report, the report was taken at 9:50 p.m. or 2150 hours. But on the same report, it shows that the initial call into dispatch was at 9:55 p.m. or 2155 hours. How can the police report be taken before the call to 911 and the dispatch of the officers to the scene? See police report here.
The Malibu Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department claimed they released Mitrice on September 17 at 12:38 a.m. See location of sheriff’s department via satellite.
Initial inquires about why Mitrice Richardson was let go included that the Malibu-Lost Hills jail was overcrowded, but it was later proven that it was nowhere near capacity. Then the story changed to “we let her go because we had no reason to keep her” and in the words of the jailer, “we are not a babysitting service.”
One deputy suggested that she caught the bus. The closest bus line is the Metro 161 servicing Agoura Hills, Malibu, Woodland Hills, and Thousands Oaks. Unfortunately the bus stops running eastbound after 8:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, and westbound at 7:34 p.m. Mitrice was allegedly released at 12:38 a.m. See Metro 161 route.
So in the end, even after her mother offered to come pick up the daughter whose friends she didn’t approve of and whom she wanted to learn a lesson, Mitrice was released without her car (which had been impounded),without a cell phone, and without any money.
The last confirmed sighting of Mitrice Richardson is at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department by way of her booking photo. Until I see a video of Mitrice walking out of the Malibu-Lost Hills Sheriff’s station, no one can tell me otherwise.
It’s interesting that the Sheriff’sDepartment had no problem releasing Mitrice’s booking photo to the media, but have not to this day publicly released any video of her in the station or exiting the station. This is a station that has numerous cameras doing video surveillance and recording 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Sitting in his car outside of the Malibu-Lost Hills station Michael Richardson was accosted by deputies who wanted to know why he was sitting in his car so long in front of the station noting that from the inside of the station on their video cameras, they could see him. Did the report mention that interaction.
The report also claims that Mitrice refused offers to remain jailed until daybreak or until she could get a ride, and that authorities made substantial efforts to find her in the months after she vanished.
First, authorities knew that Mitrice’s mother was willing and able to come pick her up. It was the sheriffs who told Latice Sutton that her daughter was going to be kept overnight, hence the reason she didn’t pick her daughter up.
Also it should be noted that it took 2 weeks for the family to receive a copy of Mitrice’s arrest report, a report that according to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is usually available in 24 hours but now has been changed to reflect one week. Click here to see police report Page One | Page Two | Page Three
When the family did receive the report, it was visibly altered and whited out.
The report also had discrepancies.
For example, it stated that Mitrice Richardson didn’t have any tattoos. Mitrice has two tatoos, one on her neck and one on her lower abdomen. See police report here.
The family was told by the sheriff’s department that Mitrice made two calls while in their custody. The family requested the phone records. The family, to date, hasn’t received those phone records but managed to catch a telephone repairman entering the sheriff’s department shortly after the request was made.
November 9, 2009 Sheriff Lee Baca issued a report to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors stating that his deputies followed current policy and procedure in releasing Mitrice shortly after midnight.
November 11, 2009, Detective Chuck Knolls, one of the lead LAPD detectives assigned to the Mitrice Richardson disappearance calls Mr. Richardson. Why is this significant? It was the first time he ever called Mr. Richardson in the 8 weeks the LAPD had had the case.
For eight weeks, the family repeatedly requested the video showing Mitrice either entering or leaving the sheriff’s department. On November 12, 2009 the sheriff’s department was quoted in the Malibu Surfside news as not having any video of Mitrice.
Capt. Tom Martin, the commander at Lost Hills, told the Malibu Surfside News on November 4, 2009:
“First, I can’t imagine how videotapes from the station, if they existed, would help find the missing person. The family asked for perimeter videotapes of the station that would show Mitrice leaving after being released from jail. We have no such tapes. We have cameras mounted at strategic points around the station which feed to monitors at the desk; however, they are live feed and don’t videotape.”
The sheriff’s department says they did the Los Angeles Police Department a favor by even filing the missing persons report and that now the case is the LAPD’s and the sheriff’s department has nothing to do with it because she lives in Watts even though she disappeared in Malibu.
It was only after many complaints of racism and mistreatment of Mitrice’s case that the sheriff’s department began conducting searches for Mitrice. However, it was too little too late. And, they never searched the area where Mitrice’s body was ultimately found - odd considering the sheriffs were aware of this area's notoriety for being a place where weed is grown.
Last Monday Mitrice was found.
And being consistent, the sheriffs even managed to screw that up by not informing Mitrice’s next of kin of the positive ID. Because they couldn’t reach Michael Richardson by phone, the coroner’s office chose to leave him a voicemail message then they held a press conference.
During this press conference, Baca all but alluded to the fact that Mitrice’s body may never tell how she died or if it was a homicide. But in the same press conference, Steve “witless” Whitmore told the press that where Mitrice’s body was found there are identifiable foot trails that one could use to walk to the location of her body but he didn’t want to speculate on whether or not it was murder.
Now, if Sheriff Lee Baca and the Office of Dependent Review claim that Mitrice’s handling and arrest was proper, they can start by explaining the numerous discrepancies found in the police report as noted above. They can then release the video of Mitrice leaving the sheriff’s station, that is if one exists and if one doesn’t they can publicly explain what happened to said video. Finally, if you know you’re innocent, take the polygraph.
With accusations as serious has the ones currently lodged at the Sheriff’s Department, if I were Baca, I’d do anything I could to clear my Department’s name, even if it meant subjecting my deputies to a polygraph for the sake of good faith and good will towards the community.
After all, everything was done properly, right?
Unexpected and unapologetically Black, at Jasmyne Cannick, is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com.