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Why was Interim Chief Gil Carrillo Really Released From His Contract? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Diana Martinez | Editor   
Thursday, 19 July 2012 05:32

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

Gil Carrillo was brought in to run the police department four months ago.

The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol contacted former interim San Fernando police chief Gil Carrillo for comment following the council's termination of his contract.

Carrillo said he didn't want to speak on the record out of respect for Lt. Robert Parks, who is now sitting in the Chief's chair. Carrillo said he didn't want to contribute to the pressure, or create more controversy for the San Fernando Police Department. He was adamant in not wanting to compromise the integrity of the investigation. However, Carrillo did confirm information obtained from sources by the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol regarding the sequence of events that led to the city council's action behind closed doors on Monday, July 2. The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol spoke with various people close to the situation to confirm the information in this article. Some asked not to be identified while others agreed to be quoted.

On Thursday, June 28, after council members Mario Hernandez and Councilwoman Maribel De La Torre got into a physical altercation where, according to Hernandez, De La Torre choked him and told him she was going to "kill him," police were called to the house where Hernandez was renting a room.

Police saw evidence of the violence with glass broken in his room. Mario Hernandez also had scratches and injury to his neck. Police asked Hernandez if he wanted medical attention or to file a restraining order and Hernandez refused, saying that he was going on a trip for the weekend. A trip that, according to Hernandez, enraged girlfriend, De La Torre and caused her to make a beeline for his house demanding the iPAD that she had given him. According to Mario Hernandez, De La Torre told him that he wasn't going anywhere and when he failed to produce the iPAD, she smashed his laptop on the floor and attacked him.

After the fight, Mario Hernandez called police and sought advice from interim Police Chief Gil Carrillo, who recommended that he file a police report, which he did. Mario Hernandez outlines a vivid picture of the violence. But the very next day Hernandez called Carrillo again, telling him that he wanted to take the police report back.

As he's on the phone with Carrillo, Mario Hernandez tells him that De La Torre is standing next to him and is in his home. She's crying and begging him to remove the report. But Carrillo told him he's not impressed and refuses to relent. It doesn't matter whether they're council members or not.

Carrillo is aware that both De La Torre and Esqueda had called the police often and received special treatment. He had also heard, as many others had, that De La Torre had been violent with her ex- husband and a previous chief had made that report disappear. Carrillo explained to Hernandez that this report wasn't going anywhere.

The report was already processed - documented and photographed. He informed Mario Hernandez that since the O.J. Simpson case, police are mandated to take action when they see evidence of battery or domestic violence.

After all, victims often try to drop their reports; it's part of the cycle of abuse, according to those who work in the field of domestic violence. It's known as "victim's remorse," and often the abuser makes promises and expresses their apology and regret.

Unsatisfied with the response from Carrillo, De La Torre, according to police sources, showed up at the San Fernando Police Department herself to "plead her case," and talked to investigators who also refused to remove the report. She even sought the help of the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, but got no traction.

Mario Hernandez left for his trip and sent a text message to De La Torre, with the address and emergency phone number where he was staying. He was attending a religious retreat with other members of his parish from Santa Rosa Church. To his surprise, De La Torre showed up to the retreat house and made an embarrassing scene, still demanding that he do something to make it go away, according to those close to the investigation.

When Mario Hernandez returns from his retreat by Monday, July 3, he learns that De La Torre has a new strategy. He learns she is about to file her own restraining order. She now claims he viciously attacked her, and even knocked her unconscious.

Taken aback with her action, Mario Hernandez calls Chief Carrillo and thanks him [for refusing to remove the report,] and Mario Hernandez decides to pursue a restraining order.

On Monday, July 3, Hernandez is absent from the city council meeting. Residents are told that Mario Hernandez is "sick." The physical altercation between the couple is kept tightly under wraps. When it comes time to provide committee updates, De La Torre jumps in to offer a report for Mario Hernandez' budget committee, saying that she "can give the report."

Ballin and Lopez would later learn that Mario Hernandez was about to announce that he should resign.

The four council members exit the council chambers to go into closed session and to the surprise of many, when they exit, they have "reportable action." They have voted to terminate the contract for Carrillo.With three council members in support of the action. Maribel De La Torre's vote isn't needed. Always strategic, she abstains from voting.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this one out," a police insider would tell the San Fernando Sun/El Sol later. "Carrillo was canned because he wouldn't give in."

So many times before the council majority had interfered in police business and even interfered in police investigations.

But now, it was a different story. Carrillo wasn't going to be their 'Yes' man."

The council trio had come to expect and enjoy special treatment given to them by the police department. When Chief Eley attempted to draw the line in the sand, a YouTube video appeared online accusing him of "ticket fixing," and he was placed on administrative leave. Those that viewed the video suspected Sgt. Castellon, Mayor Esqueda's boyfriend, claiming they could see his face reflected in the monitor. There was a "push, pull" between city hall and power plays within the police department.

"I brought Carrillo in," Al Hernandez told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol. "I thought he would be good for the department and I thought he was doing a good job. He only had a six month contract. I had the authority and discretion to bring him."

Carrillo, hearing the history, told members of the council that interference was going to stop.

That was a problem, especially for Esqueda who was looking after her boyfriend, Sgt. Alvaro Castellon. The Sheriff's Department has been investigating him, and if they determine that crimes have been committed, the case will be turned over to the District Attorney.

Now both De La Torre and Esqueda were in sync for needing him gone. Esqueda was looking for someone to soft peddle the Sheriff's report on Castellon if it was needed, and De La Torre wasn't fond of not calling the shots and being told the police report would stand.

However, In the closed session meeting that night, council members Sylvia Ballin and Antonio Lopez were oblivious to the big drama going on right under their noses. No one told them, which has been an ongoing issue for them about being kept out of the loop.

That night, Ballin was focused on her concern about impending city employee layoffs, and in particular was concerned about the noise to let long time Cultural Affairs Director Virginia Diediker go. She was pleasantly surprised to find that Mayor Esqueda, over recent days, seemed to have a change of heart about Diediker and other issues that Ballin supported.

Esqueda had told Ballin and others that she just "wanted to do the right thing." Ballin said Esqueda told her that "she knew that she was going to be recalled so she just wanted to do what was best for the city, and she also told others that her mother was ill and that was also driving her to do 'the right thing for the city.'"

Esqueda, over recent days, had shown up at a community rally to try to keep open the JCPenney store in San Fernando, and voted with Ballin and Lopez to keep Diediker, something that Ballin really wanted.

But Ballin and Lopez would soon learn that Esqueda had more motives, and had not "come to Jesus" as some had been led to believe.

In the closed session, Esqueda made a motion to terminate Carrillo's contract. Ballin was a bit perplexed; but considering the meager city coffers, perhaps a saving to the city would help. And both Ballin and Lopez were never pleased with the way that Carrillo was brought into the city in the first place. One day to the next, without informing the council, City Administrator Al Hernandez had brought him in.

To residents, it looked like one more backroom deal. With all of the musical chairs with the city's police chiefs and turmoil in the department, residents had expected that the next chief would be vetted and Carrillo didn't make an effort to communicate with Ballin and Lopez. He was viewed as playing the role of a big brother to Mario Hernandez, further giving the impression that he was brought in to do their bidding.

So, with three votes from Esqueda, Lopez and Ballin, it was done. Carrillo had been let go. Curiously, De La Torre abstained from the vote.

After the meeting, members of the police department called Ballin. "One caller told me that they would have never thought that I went to the 'dark side,'" Ballin said. "I didn't know what they were talking about."

She then learned of the physical fight between De La Torre and Mario Hernandez, and the pieces started coming together.

"Had I known what was really going on, I would have done things very, very differently," Ballin said. "I would not have voted to release him from his contract."

She now believes she and Lopez had been "duped...used."

"We weren't given any information [about the physical fight between Hernandez and De La Torre], we were kept in the dark," Ballin said.

The next day, Mario Hernandez showed up at City Hall and was fuming. City Administrator Al Hernandez confirmed that Mario Hernandez also didn't have a clue that Carrillo was going to be dismissed. In fact, the plan originally was to discuss what was going on with the situation with former interim Chief Lt. Jeff Eley, placed on leave following a controversial YouTube video and an accusation of ticket fixing.

Mario Hernandez was described by those who saw him at City Hall as being so angry he didn't know what to do with himself.

He used plenty of expletives, said a City Hall source. "He was angry, he said 'What have those f_____n' bitches done?"

He asked Al Hernandez if he could stay in his office when he told Carrillo what had happened. "Carrillo actually took it better than Mario," Al Hernandez said. "Carrillo said 'well, I always said if I'm not wanted, I'll get out of Dodge.'"

There are some questions now, however, on the impropriety of taking action on Carrillo when his name was not specifically listed on the council agenda.

Members of the police department have asked Carrillo to attend their annual barbecue to give him a proper goodbye.

He's been asked if he would consider coming back as Chief after the recall election. "While he may not have all the administrative skill, he's a cop's cop. He bonded with some of the officers, and they miss him," said POA President Irwin Rosenberg.

Each day this story continues to twist and turn. On Friday, July 13.

De La Torre is charged with two misdemeanor counts, one for battery and another for vandalism. She posts bail and makes a beeline for Al Hernandez' office.

"She wanted to vent her emotions," was the explanation given by the city administrator for their lengthy meeting.

On Sunday, July 15, to the surprise of the police department, Mario Hernandez announces that he wants to drop the restraining order filed against De La Torre, and accuses the police department of showing "bias" and not handling the investigation properly. He announces he will go to the District Attorney's office to attempt to get the charges filed against De La Torre dropped.

When he shows up at the District Attorney's office he is told that they would not drop the charges, just as Gil Carrillo had similarly explained. On Tuesday, July 17, Mario Hernandez continues his 180- degree turnaround by announcing that he plans to testify on her behalf.

"Victim's remorse or is there much more here at work?" Ballin wonders. "I don't think this is just a case of two people making up."

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Last Updated on Thursday, 19 July 2012 05:37
 






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