Four California police officers have been arrested over claims that they turned a tough-love bootcamp for at-risk youth into a brutal, abusive hell.
Thirteen children, age 12 to 17, were allegedly slapped, kicked, stomped and beaten bloody by the officers, who worked a drill instructors at the camp, the Associated Press reports. One teen one suffered a broken hand, according to the AP.
Leadership, Empowerment and Discipline Camp is a one-week program at Camp San Luis Obispo, a California Army National Guard Military post. It is designed to foster leadership and help with discipline, with the goal of reducing family conflict at home, according to organizers.
The alleged victims attended the camp May 17 to 24.
The San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office investigated the camp and the officers for more than two months after the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services contacted authorities on May 28 with abuse claims.
Initially seven children came forward to report that they were abused, according to Greg Owen, a lawyer for the children and their families.
Owen claims his clients were given towels to wipe blood off themselves after beatings. He also said they were told they’d be away from their families for three months, not one week, and that their parents didn t want or love them.
Huntington Park officers Marissa Larios, 36, and Patrick Nijland, 47, and South Gate officers Carlos Gomez-Marquez, 31, and Edgar Gomez, 35, were arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office.
The release notes 13 victims – boys and girls – all ranging between 12 and 17 years in age; there were close to 40 children enrolled. A phone call to the sheriff’s office was not immediately returned on Thursday.
The four suspects posted bond and were released. It’s unclear if they’ve obtained lawyers.
“We really take no pleasure in arresting members of the law enforcement profession. But at the end of the day, we realize that no one is above the law,” sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla, told the AP.
The South Gate officers have been placed on administrative leave, according to a police department statement posted online on Wednesday.
All charges will be filed with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office.
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