Family Sues LA County Sheriff’s Over Treatment of Assault Victims

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Stafford Taylor (left) was assaulted while out walking in Malibu on the evening of July 4.

Last Independence Day, Stafford Taylor, 65, a 20-year Malibu resident, artist and master carpenter, was severely beaten over the head and robbed while walking back to his car after watching fireworks at a friend’s house. His wife, Terry, who used to operate a Malibu preschool, was out of state visiting grandchildren. Taylor’s head injuries are so severe that he remains hospitalized, suffers from aphasia—language impairment—and is learning to walk again. His wife said he appears to remember what happened that night, but is unable to communicate in a way that can be understood.

The family has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, alleging law enforcement failed to properly care for Stafford and “dumped him” at the Malibu Community Labor Exchange, rather than offering much-needed medical attention.

According to Terry, Stafford attended a Fourth of July party at a friend’s house on Malibu Cove Colony Drive. He doesn’t drink, and left the party on foot at approximately 10:30 p.m. Stafford was parked on Pacific Coast Highway quite a ways up—parking was scarce because of the holiday. As he was walking back to his car in the dark, he saw friends coming out of Geoffrey’s Malibu and waved to them. He was recorded on their security camera.

Stafford continued walking up the ocean side of PCH until he was assaulted some time after 10:45 p.m., between Geoffrey’s at 27400 PCH and where he was next spotted by security guard(s) at a residential property on PCH less than a half mile away. Robbery was a possible motive for the assault, because Stafford’s wallet, cell phone and money were later discovered missing.

Terry said when security guards spotted Stafford, “I think they called the sheriff [at 5:20 a.m., instead of an ambulance], and reported it as an attempted burglary, thinking Stafford was trying to break into cars.” Guards didn’t seem to notice his injuries, although she said his head probably would have been bleeding and he had a black eye. She said she feels they mistook him for a homeless person because of his long hair.

A recent report on KCAL9 said when the guard first spotted Stafford, he was “half naked on the side of the highway and he helped him get dressed.”

The sheriff’s car came with one deputy, and took Stafford directly to the Malibu Labor Exchange trailer and dropped him off—also not recognizing his severe injuries or calling an ambulance.

“It shocks the conscience. It’s clear that the deputy in this case thought that Stafford was homeless and thought it convenient to dump him,” the Taylor family’s attorney, Arnoldo Cassillas, told KCAL9. A case against the sheriff’s department was filed Oct. 29 in federal court, according to Terry.

LASD replied to the lawsuit in written statement sent to KCAL9 that said, in part: “We have been in close contact with the family and care about the well-being of Mr. Taylor. We have followed up with the family at the hospital and offered assistance to them during this challenging time. The investigation into the assault of Mr. Taylor is ongoing, and we are looking at everything surrounding this incident. We are also conducting our own review of the incident as it relates to policies and procedures, as we always do.”

When Oscar Mondragon, Malibu Community Labor Exchange manager, arrived there at 7 a.m., he said in a phone interview, he noticed Stafford sitting at a bench, but thought he was sleeping. He later noticed Stafford lying down near a tree.

“I thought he might be sick. I asked if he was feeling OK, and he said, ‘Yes.’ He definitely answered me back,” Mondragon said.

Mondragon left for a meeting, and three females waiting for work became concerned about Stafford. One told KCAL9 that Taylor appeared delirious.

“She said his body was ice cold and he was shivering, but when she touched his forehead, he was burning up,” KCAL9 described. They called 9-1-1 and an ambulance responded at 10:20 a.m.—almost five hours after the sheriff’s deputy first picked him up.

Stafford was admitted to UCLA Medical Center Neuroscience/Trauma ICU as a “John Doe” and his family was unable to locate him for 36 hours. His brain was bleeding and doctors had to cut off part of his skull to relieve the pressure. His rehabilitation could take up to two years, family described, and he may never fully recover. He is in physical therapy and speech therapy, and recent surgery to replace the bone cap was successful.

“For me, personally, the lawsuit is about shining a light on how people are treated,” Terry said in a phone interview with The Malibu Times. “It was assumed he was homeless, and for us as a family, no one deserves anything less than our best care always, and our best acts of compassion and empathy. No one should be discarded, and that’s what it feels like. He was in need of help, and the women who finally called the ambulance were a gift to my family.”

Stafford, a husband, father and grandfather, didn’t have medical insurance. The family is accepting donations to their online fundraiser at gofundme.com/staffords-recovery-fund.

Anyone with information can contact Detective Wheatcroft of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station at 818.878.1808. Anonymous tips can be called into 800.222.TIPS.