L.A. Sheriff's department denies involvement in death of detainee they claim never to have arrested

When the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department makes headlines, it's never because of the great job they're doing. Earlier this week, we saw a deputy get busted for smuggling drugs into a jail as part of a larger operation to investigate "Operation Safe Jails". Today's headline is no different, and even more upsetting: "Francisco Nunez was last seen in LASD custody. He turned up dead five days later."

deputies spotted several men in the alleyway. It was Nunez and some of his friends hanging out in one of the men's cars, which was parked in its assigned parking space according to multiple witnesses. The deputies claim they were conducting an investigation for vehicle theft. Several people ran off as deputies approached, including Nunez. 

One of the men who ran off told LA Public Press that he watched Nunez run, and eventually become surrounded by patrol vehicles. Another witness watching from nearby the apartment complex also recounted watching Nunez run across Division Street into a field, where he was stopped by a deputy in a patrol vehicle driven by Deputy Noel Witty. The witness observed a figure, who they believed to be Nunez, being taken into custody, and overheard deputies saying "three is custody" over the radio of another deputy standing nearby. Another witness confirmed seeing Witty stop Nunez.

When his family tried to find him with LASD's own Inmate Locator tool, nothing came up. The sheriff's department denies that he was ever in their custody. In fact, the department vehemently denied the claim entirely. This is, again, despite a whole crowd of witnesses who say otherwise.

Five days later, his body was found in the same alley he had disappeared from. He was badly beaten, his pockets turned inside out, and yet the county medical examiner claims that the death stemmed from the effects of methamphetamine. 

Cindy Nunez, Francisco's sister, contacted Robert Fierro Sr., the coroner investigator assigned to the case. During a meeting at his office, Fierro told Cindy and another one of Francisco's sisters present that he was sure Francisco had been in a fight, and that he had not overdosed on drugs. The women both say Fierro also stated that Francisco had not died in the alley, rather he had been placed in there and moved twice. His conclusions had prompted the involvement of homicide detectives.  

An examination by medical examiner Dr. Sami Souccar concluded that Nunez died from the effects of methamphetamine. Souccar noted that Nunez had abrasions on his knees, face, and fingers. His wrist was also noted to have a large cut. In photographs of Nunez's body reviewed by LA Public Press, bruises and what appear to be burn marks are present throughout his torso and back. None of them were noted in the autopsy.
The sheriff's department has denied that there were any signs of trauma on Nunez at all. "A preliminary investigation at the scene revealed no signs of foul play (violence resulting in death), nor were any signs of apparent trauma found on Mr. Nunez's body," LASD said in a statement posted on its Nixle account. No mention was made of the blood on Nunez in the statement.

Cerise Castle, LA Public Press

The family was told of Nunez' death by a sheriff with known links to the Banditos sheriff gang. Since then, LASD has been steadily harassing the Nunez family.