The widow of Deputy Arturo Atilano-Valadez has launched a staggering $20 million claim against the county. This bombshell lawsuit alleges that her husband was driven to deep depression, culminating in his tragic suicide last month, due to being overworked for twelve grueling years in a jail facility.
Filed on Friday, Dec. 8, the claim points an accusatory finger at the Sheriff’s Department for the untimely death of Atilano-Valadez, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home on Nov. 7. He is now the haunting face among eight current or former Sheriff’s Department employees to take their own lives this year, casting a dark shadow over the nation’s largest sheriff’s department.
Michele Atilano, the grieving widow, made a heart-wrenching statement at a news conference. “My husband is just one of many, many who are sick and are being forced to work in the jail all of the time,” she said, painting a bleak picture of the working conditions within the department.
As of now, the Sheriff’s Department, led by Sheriff Robert Luna, hasn’t officially received the claim. Luna described Atilano-Valadez’s death as “extremely tragic” and expressed the department’s commitment to the well-being and safety of all its employees. However, this sentiment clashes with the stark reality portrayed in the lawsuit.
According to the claim, put forth by attorney Brad Gage, Atilano-Valadez’s work schedule was nothing short of draconian, often extending beyond 12 hours a day. “He was locked in like a prisoner,” the claim states, alleging that his repeated requests to leave the jail environment were denied and that the forced overtime and “virtual imprisonment” were the direct causes of his demise.
The issue appears systemic. Four of the eight sheriff’s employees who committed suicide this year, including Atilano-Valadez, did so within a 24-hour period in early November. This alarming trend has raised serious questions about the mental health and work conditions within the department.
Michele Atilano’s comments add fuel to the fire, describing the deputies as “zombies” due to the exhaustive working hours. She warns that this not only affects the officers but also compromises public safety.
This lawsuit follows a similar claim filed by Gage last month on behalf of another L.A. County sheriff’s Deputy, Ryan Clinkunbroomer, who was ambushed and killed in September. Clinkunbroomer’s parents also allege that excessive overtime played a role in their son’s inability to defend himself during the attack.
The unfolding drama within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department paints a picture of a system in crisis, with overworked deputies facing unimaginable mental strains. As the legal battles commence, the spotlight is firmly on the department’s policies and their impact on the mental well-being of its employees. The question now is whether this $20 million lawsuit will bring about the much-needed change or merely be a drop in the ocean of a much larger problem.